Personal Ownership–The Vision Within

vision-imageIt has been said that the very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It has to be a vision you can articulate clearly and precisely on any occasion. There is a vast difference between a person that has a vision and what is called a visionary person. Think of it in this manner:

  • A person with a vision talks little but does much.
  • A visionary person does little but talks much.
  • A person with a vision finds strength from inner convictions.
  • A visionary person finds strength from outward conditions.
  • A person with vision continues when problems arise.
  • A visionary person quits when the road becomes difficult.

Some of my personal experiences have taught me the following:

  • The credibility of a vision is determined by the leader.
  • The acceptance of a vision is determined by the timing of its presentation.
  • The value of the vision is determined by the energy and direction it gives.
  • The evaluation of a vision is determined by the commitment we the people have.
  • The success of a vision is determined by its ownership by both the leader and the people.

Take a look around you; what is happening to others

A good idea can become great when the people are ready. The data professional who is impatient with people can become defective in their leadership. The evidence of strength lies not all the time in blazing a trail ahead but instead adopting our stride at a slower pace while not forfeiting the end goal. If you run too far ahead then you run the risk of losing your power to influence.

The ability to decipher the big picture

The ability to decipher the big picture is oftentimes what separates leaders. They are concerned with the shop’s basic purpose of why it exists and what it should achieve. Some things to think about that may hinder a vision:

  • Limited Leaders – everything rises and falls on leadership.
  • Concrete Thinkers – see things as they are and say why?
  • Dogmatic Talkers – to be absolutely sure about something one must either know everything or nothing about the problem. At times knows nothing but conventionally says something.
  • Continual Failure– many people look at past failures and fear the risk of pursuing future visions.
  • Satisfied Sitters – people who strive for comfort which sits on the heels of complacency, predictability, and boredom.
  • Census Takers – some people are never comfortable stepping out of the crowd.
  • Problem Receivers – some people can see a problem in every solution.
  • Self-Seekers – people who live for themselves.
  • Failure Forecasters – extract only discord; outlook is always gloomy and times are always bad.

Summary:

Spend some time and think about the dreams and vision you have as a data professional. Whether you are in an organization or a consultant I challenge you to consider the following:

Refuse to accept failure with self-worth.

Don’t restrict thinking to established, rigid patterns.

See the big picture.

Welcome challenge with optimism

Don’t waste time in unproductive thinking.

Don’t Duck On Responsibilities

ResponsibilitiesBeing a data professional you assume a certain amount of responsibility. It often requires having the right attitude and an action plan in place for finding the solutions to our problems at hand. Too many times we attack the symptoms causing the issue, but overlook the root cause. The quick Band-Aid fixes are found many times over, whereas our jobs should be identifying the real issues that lie beneath the symptoms. Now, don’t get me wrong – I understand at times you have to stop the bleeding. In the end though one should uncover the root cause and make the permanent fix.

Prioritize the issue at hand

Chances are you, dear reader, encounter many problems throughout the day. Never try to solve all the problems at one time; instead make them line up for you one by one. Might seem odd but make them stand in a single file line and tackle them one at a time until you’ve knocked them all out. You may not like what you find when uncovering the root cause issues, but that is part of the process. Be careful of this uncovering and be cognizant that what you find with the issues may or may not be the root to all the problems.

Take time and define the problem

In it’s simplest form, take time out and ask yourself this question – “What is the problem?” Sounds easy enough doesn’t it; you’d be amazed by the many accounts of knee jerk reactions data professionals make all over the world. You  may be thinking to yourself that there has to be more to it than that. Think about it in four easy steps:

  • Ask the right questions – if you only have a vague idea of the situation, then don’t ask general questions. Do not speculate but instead ask process related questions things relating to trends or timing. What transpired over the course of the week that may have led to this issue.
  • Talk to the right people – you will face people who inevitably will have the all-knowing and all correct way that things should be done. Heed caution to such as you may find resistant to change and blind spots by these individuals. Creativity is, at times, essential to any problem-solving skill.
  • Get the “set in stone” facts – once the facts are all laid out and defined you may find that the decision is pretty concise and clear on action that should be taken.
  • Be involved – don’t just let the first three steps define you; get involved in the process of being the solution.

Questions to ask yourself regarding the problem

  • Is this a real problem?
  • Is it urgent?
  • Is the true nature of the problem known?
  • Is it specific?
  • Are all parties who are competent to discuss the issue involved?

Build a repository

Once you’ve come to the conclusion and provided a solution to the issue – document it. I know I just lost several readers there. Believe it or not documentation will save your bacon at some point. Maybe not next week or next month, but at some point down the line it will. Some things to consider are:

  • Were we able to identify the real cause to the problem?
  • Did we make the right decision?
  • Has the problem been resolved by the fix?
  • Have any key people accepted the solution?

I am reminded by a saying I once ran across:

Policies are many, Principles are few, Polices will change, Principles never do

Summary

Each day we encounter issues and problems. Don’t let them define you but rather you define the issue. Often times we overlook the root cause; remember to go through your process, policy, and standards in rectifying the problems at hand. It is better to tackle the problems when they are known than to sweep them under the rug for the next data professional to come along and then they are faced with fixing them.

Hopefully this short post will provoke you to think about the issues you deal with on a daily basis and how best to tackle them.

Are You Wasting Energy?

Teamsuccess.jpgOften times we as leaders within our respective shops tend to waste our time focusing on the wrong things. Think about that for a moment and think about the team that you are on or that you are leading. I’ve seen it happen among some very talented teams where we (yes I include myself in this) are not tapping into the expertise of our teams bringing for the most potential out of each team member.

Over the course of time I’ve come across some things that have helped me in a leadership role that may help some other data professionals out there who are starting out or maybe even a season vet.

Want Results?

  • Eliminate those distractions – you have to define out what matters most. What are you or the team doing that may prevent you from focusing on the real tasks at hand.
  • Get Real – face it; there will be times when those awkward conversations are needed. Hold each other accountable if you are on a team, and if you are a lone DBA which some of my friends out there are then build a base in the community of trusted advisors. Bounce some ideas off them.
  • Point out what is not working – this may seem simple enough, but believe me it’s not always that easy to overcome it. Constantly review processes and procedures to make sure you are thriving forward; not drifting backward.
  • Set some goals – do this with your team, individuals, or yourself – put the emphasis on with.

Change is hard; change is never easy. That’s where coaching comes in; you have to stick with it. Trust me; if it were easy then everyone would be doing it.

What Are Some Ways To Define Success?

  • Respect and leverage – I’ve personally found that when teams respect each other and can strategically leverage each persons talents then watch out. You are about to witness something special take place.
  • Management has focus – as I typed this I had to take a moment and reflect on the team I’m blessed to lead. I’m I positively focused on leading the group – I do believe I have their best interest but that doesn’t mean “we” won’t make mistakes. I include we, cause dear reader, you may be in this category with me.
  • Does your team matter – your colleagues and teammates; the ones you get in the trenches with on a daily basis should feel like they matter.
  • Ability to be innovative – one of the key success points I’ve experienced is turning a team loose and just say, “be innovative”. End of day I got your back, and guess what you will fail. Let me repeat myself; you will fail. However, if you are not being innovative or your team or colleagues are scared to try anything new from fear of backlash then are you truly pushing forward?
  • Good enough isn’t really good enough – a saying that has stuck with me my whole life is a simple one. Somewhere someone is practicing getting better, and when you meet that person one on one will you rise to the challenge. It is okay to set the bar high and it is also okay to keep working hard toward and end goal. On the flip side to that it is also okay to learn from your mistakes and let that be the fuel to the fire to keep getting after it.

Summary

I challenge you to embrace your aspirations today. If you lead a team of data professionals then take a long hard look at how you are leading your group. Let innovation; collaboration, and engagement with others turn into respect, leveraging talent, and building on success. If we are bragging or dwelling on the past; then that may mean we are not doing enough in the present.

How’s that fuel in the fire; are you passionate about succeeding? These are just some thoughts in my own mind that I’ve jotted down over the years that may help you along your journey as a data professional. Time to get after it and make it happen ~ BE THE CHANGE.

A Letter To A Younger Yates

deskphotoHello much younger Yates. Hope you’ve been doing well. Why don’t you pull up a chair and stay for a few minutes so we can talk and maybe help another data professional that is just starting out on his or her journey. Nah, it won’t take us a long time to get through our talk, but I think it is now prudent more than ever to share with you some of life’s journey’s you are about to embark on.

I know you are starting out as a developer and you won’t know where your career will take you at this point; you are just happy to have a job out of college and that’s okay. One thing I do want to iterate to you though, when you see variables in the code that reference the Gilligan’s Island characters it is not okay nor best practice to do such, and while we are on this topic please line your code up – the future you being a DBA will thank you; trust me.

Life is going to throw you some curveballs along the way, both professionally and personally. This is part of growing on both fronts; what you need to know is to learn from them and not to be afraid to make mistakes in either scenarios. You will fail; you need to accept that. However you need to take solace in the fact that if you fail it means you are trying and never be ashamed to own up to anything you do. Don’t try to hide mistakes; address them head on and remember that if you get knocked down nine times you get up ten. Hard work will eventually pay off and you can take those lessons learned and teach them to others who are coming up.

Explore all avenues of learning, you’ll eventually get to know a group of people called SQL Family. They aren’t a perfect bunch, but then again neither are you. It is there you will find new colleagues, friends, mentors and heck you may even find yourself helping run user groups and help plan a SQL Saturday – – bet you didn’t ever believe that would happen would you?

You’ve come along way from the basketball courts where you poured your heart and soul into being the best you could be. Your dreams may have come up short in your mind but oh my friend you couldn’t be more wrong. The lessons and injuries you learned from that time were molding and making you into the data professional you will become. The discipline you had then will still apply even more so later on. That coach that entrusted you with the rock at the end of the game will again be the same in business. As you become a database administrator who will eventually lead and serve alongside a group of dedicated professionals in which you will find again the ball in your court. Attack it the same way with hard work and dedication; don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something….remember when someone did that to you – – you ended up with a triple double.

There will be naysayers and there will be harsh critics – – this is life. I wish I could tell you the world will stop for you and you can hop on. That’s not the case; you’ll find yourself having a great family which in turn will teach you more lessons. You’ll learn that you’ll have a new hero in your life in a son who has Type 1 diabetes. In him you’ll find how resilient a kid can be and realize that you will have nothing to complain about. Sure you’ll lose a step as you get a bit older, but what that kid goes through on a daily basis you’ll never have to endure, at least not as of today. You will have the roughest day and you will go home and see smiling faces. When you step out of that car make sure you touch the tree as you walk by to hang up all the work related activities – – you won’t get that for a very long time but when that light bulb goes off you’ll know what I’m talking about. As you left basketball on the court; you in turn will need to leave work at work sometimes. It will be hard…trust me on this ~ your family will need you.

When you get older I ask that you reflect on where you came from and realize how thankful and blessed you are. Investing in others like others have invested in you will be a key component in your future. Don’t let corporate politics detour your outlook that you started with. A passion to grow and also a passion for helping others grow.

As we end our conversation today remember one thing. You’ll never know what other people are going through. Your family, your team, your colleagues, or other data professionals. Win each day and make a difference in someone’s life. Set goals and dreams and never let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve them. If they do use that as the fire to motivate you to do the extraordinary. Be thankful for your mentors both professionally and personally and don’t ever be scared to use the words “Thank You” and “Sorry”. Those aren’t a sign of weakness.

Be humble yet assertive and when you give your word on something you follow through on it. You will have no idea how much communication will come into play – you got this younger Yates – Let’s Roll

**To the young data professional out there**

You may think you are all alone and in a big ocean swimming helplessly around. I want to assure you that you are and were not alone. Each day is a learning day and the lessons you learn along the way will be your story. You are the CEO of your career – – take charge of it. There will be others that come and go in your life professionally; I implore you to build a good base of about 5 data professionals that you can learn from and model your techniques after – – the best of the best if you will. At the end of the day you be the best you and when you get to your future self; take time to give thanks and reflect back on where you came from.

Thanks,

Older Yates

Hold The Fort

stressHave you ever heard the phrase “Hold The Fort”? Long ago in battle supply routes were targeted by enemy regiments that would cut off rations to fighting units. As the battle ensued the enemy had driven back their counterparts to a small area on a hill. They were being overwhelmed with many wounded and dying; that is until in the distance they noticed reinforcements were on the way.

How many times have you, as a data professional, been stuck wondering the same thing? Battered, worn down, and flat-out exhausted until you look and see reinforcements on the horizon. Sure, we’ve all been there, but to some it is a question of how do I call in re-enforcement’s or how do I even go about sending out a help signal? Below are some various ways you can tackle problems:

Forums

There are several forums out there that can provide some great insights into similar issues that you may be experiencing. To a certain extent I think forums are a great avenue to explore potential solutions. With that said however you cannot take every answer verbatim. There can be some off the wall answers out there that shouldn’t be followed. It is important to test anything you find on the web regardless of who it comes from.

You can find some of the forums I frequently attend here.

#sqlhelp

One thing that I’ve learned about the community is the willingness to help each other out. Remember above when I stated “Hold the fort, and reinforcements are on the way”; this is a good twitter hashtag to be familiar with. Professionals from all over the world take this seriously and it is not to be mistreated on how it is utilized. I have received great assistance in the past on issues I’ve been stuck with.

Phone a friend

We all have our “go to group” we bounce ideas off of. Sometimes it is helpful to bounce ideas off of another data professional. You may surprise yourself and actually start talking through your problem and come to an answer you may not have arrived to had you not initiated the conversation.

Old Fashion Testing

As a data professional you cannot be afraid to get your hands dirty. Prove your theories and test the scenarios as you run across them. One should be doing this anyway, but in doing so a wealth of knowledge gained is at your fingertips. We stop learning when we stop trying; just because you encounter one failure doesn’t mean you stop. You keep fighting and beating down that door until you make it through the other side. How bad do you want it?

Is It A Vendor Product?

I have the opportunity to work with a plethora of vendors. Maybe your issue revolves around a vendor product and you are not able to make any changes. Great, this happens all the time to data professionals. Some questions I’ll throw out there are:

  1. Have you opened a dialogue with the vendor about the issue?
  2. Have you documented the issue; not just call and say I have a problem?
  3. Have you tried to reproduce the error?
  4. It it already a known bug?
  5. Is it something that we can address internally before we talk with the vendor?

I’ve worked with a couple great vendors in Red Gate and SentryOne over the years. As a data professional I’ve seen vendors (not all) take pride in a quick response time. If there is an issue with a product they will want to take care of it in a swift manner or provide feedback as to why, when, and what to expect.

Internal Resources

I’m going to say this here, and it may shock some of you. No one knows everything; there may be some who elude or perpetuate appearances that they know everything there is to know,  but that is not the case. Whether you are in a shop or maybe a consultant (who can tap into their contact base) there are internal methods to maybe approach a different business unit or tech unit on an issue to get an outside perspective. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes goes a long way.

Technical Blogs

There are many great technical blogs out there; I have listed some in my DBA Blogs section to the right of this page. Each person is different and has their own go to Blog for review. I receive questions all the time from readers and other data professionals; being respectful is key but I have not seen one data professional out there who would not extend a helping hand if presented in a respectful manner. DO NOT TAKE this as one will provide an answer. We may show you how to connect the dots, but it is important one takes the necessary steps to get to the answer on their own. Nothing is given….work hard for it.

User Groups

Maybe your issue is not a hot ticket item and it can wait to a user group meeting. These are great places to bring up questions and issues in a local environment with some pretty stellar professionals. I guarantee that if you ask a question and no one knows the answer then someone will do their best to find out that answer and further the discussion. An example of a user group can be found here.

PASS Summit

Perhaps your issue is ongoing and you are at the PASS Summit. Great, besides being at a conference with over 6k of our closest friends I would take advantage of the SQLCat and AzureCat Team’s hours. It is a great way to tell Microsoft of your issues and get advice from some of the top-tier people in our industry.

Conclusion

I don’t know what your situation is or will be. Obstacles will come from all angles this year; it is up to us on how we deal with them. I would be amiss if I sat here and didn’t tell you that it won’t always be easy. Nothing in life is easy; some days you will have to work and grind your way through until you get to an answer for an issue. In the end though, when you do find that answer (and you will) you will be able to learn from it and move on. It is part of a data professionals journey.

Keep fighting and keep working toward your end goals. Never stop learning; never stop gaining knowledge.

Leadership and the Data Professional

 

Leadership

Many traits make up data professionals and the many who find themselves in leadership roles. The traits being shared in this blog post are ones that have helped me on my journey not just in a leadership role, but from a data professional perspective as well.

I debated often on sharing these; maybe even turning them into a session somewhere down the road. Also knowing that these are not set in stone traits for others; each data professional has their own thoughts and the way they conduct themselves on a day to day basis, but if someone can glean any insight or help by this post then it would be worth the share.

Jumping right into it then shall we? Many of you know my sports background; it is something I am not ashamed of nor try to hide. A lot of traits have carried over from my sports background into my career and as I go through these traits you will see some similarities shine through.

The Base – Industriousness, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Enthusiasm

Building a house means you start with building a solid foundation. These traits are ones that stick out to me as building part of that solid foundation:

  • Industriousness – “Success travels in the company of very hard work. There is no trick no easy way.” – put forth that effort
  • Friendship – “Strive to build a team or be part of a team that is filled with camaraderie and respect: comrades-in-arms.”
  • Loyalty – “Be true to yourself. Be true to those you lead.”
  • Cooperation – “Have utmost concern for what’s right rather than who’s right.”
  • Enthusiasm – “Your energy, enjoyment, drive, and dedication will stimulate and greatly inspire others.”

The Second Layer – Self-Control, Alertness, Initiative, Intentness

  • Self-Control – “Be disciplined” – enough said.
  • Alertness – “Constantly be aware and observing. Always seek to improve yourself and the team.”
  • Initiative – “Make a decision! Failure to act is often the biggest failure of all.”
  • Intentness – “Stay the course. When thwarted try again; harder, smarter. Persevere relentlessly.”

The Third Layer – Condition, Skill, Team Spirit

  • Condition – “Ability may get you to the top, but character will keep you there – mental, moral, and physical.”
  • Skill – “What a leader learns after you’ve learned it counts most of all.”
  • Team Spirit – “The star of the team is the team. ‘We’ supersedes ‘me’.”

The Fourth Layer – Poise, Confidence

  • Poise – “Be yourself. Don’t be thrown off by events whether they are good or bad.”
  • Confidence – “The strongest steel is well founded self-belief. It’s is earned; not given.”

The Final Layer – Competitive Greatness

  • “Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required each day.”

Do I follow these principles every day? I wish I could say yes, but nevertheless I do not. I strive for these as in my heart I believe them to be solid foundations for me as a data professional, but I am human.

With success does come failure, but what defines you as an individual is not how many times you get knocked down. Instead it is how many times you get back up from the knockdowns that you will receive on your journey.

I’ll leave you with these lessons I’ve learned both in sports and being a data professional:

  • Good values attract good people
  • Love is the most powerful four letter word
  • Call yourself a teacher
  • Emotion can be your enemy at times
  • It takes all team members hands to make a team; not just one set
  • Little things make big things happen
  • Make each day your masterpiece
  • The carrot is mightier than the stick
  • Make greatness attainable by all
  • Seek significant change
  • Don’t keep a scoreboard of who is right and who is wrong
  • Adversity is your asset

Whatever you build your foundation on as a data professional make it yours and own it. You are the playmaker of your career, and orchestrator if you will.

Coach John Wooden is behind a lot of these thoughts in which I have built these foundations on. A statement he made resonated with me when I heard it, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

I ask you, are you becoming the best of which you are capable of?

Addicted To Busy

payattentionOur world is made up of technology and being plugged in 24/7. As you walk down the street you may notice on either side of the sidewalk people walking and looking at their phone. Texting, emailing, social media, and the like is all the buzz. I fall victim to this very thing quite often; so much so that I will admit running into people and then having to apologize for not watching where I was going.

It reminds me of the movie I saw with my kids, Wall-E, where all of a sudden their screens go down on their motorized vehicles that takes them back and forth, and they see the swimming pool for the first time. They had no idea it was there, oblivious to the things going on around them.

In reality, we find ourselves in this same mindset whether it is with work, family, or friends we are plugged in 24/7. Have you ever been talking to someone, a colleague for example, and while talking you or them are answering emails – I have. Have your kids been running up to you in your house to ask a question, and you are half listening because you are answering a text you got from a family member or friend – I have.

Listening

I heard this statement last week and it got me thinking about this topic, “Wherever you are, be there”. Simple enough statement; being the analyzer that I tend to be I had to study that and think on it over and over again. As I type this my mind even wondered to the daily activities I need to get done at work, the 2 articles I am behind on in writing, and the countless blog posts I want to get out the door.

Am I addicted to busy?

 

Application

John Sansom (B|T) gives a good example of character traits of what an Outstanding DBA looks like. It is a great interpretation of my mindset with one I’d like to add as a bold point – listening. This past week I realized that it is okay to put the phone down, to spin the chair around from your busy day and have a conversation with others. When you are approached at work with an issue listen to that issue. It is then when you can apply some of these character traits to the conversation and be a difference to someone.

Wherever you are, be there

phoneCall it the “aha” moment or something else, but I’ve come to realize that having meaningful conversations with colleagues, family, and others is just as important in cultivating relationships on all levels. There of course will be times when we all will stumble – heck I do it daily; in the end don’t be so addicted to busy that you miss opportunities.

Now don’t take this blog post and twist it in a way to say we shouldn’t be responding to SLA’s, or if you are on call not answering alerts in a timely manner. That’s not my point and hopefully that comes across. It’s okay to step back from time to time, re-evaluate, and make adjustments.

 

Addicted To Busy

It’s hard not to be this way; I encourage you to cultivate those relationships and pick up on some of those missed opportunities that might have passed you by before. A fine balancing act it will always seem to be; being involved on a call the other day for work the person on the other end told me that they were so glad I took 15 minutes out of my day to call them to discuss the issue without sending an email.

Be that difference maker; be that game changer.