Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Being a great leader — whether you’re already in an executive position or looking to be promoted to one — requires strong emotional intelligence. And an important part of emotional intelligence is the ability to keep negativity out of your communication and interaction with other people. Negative thinking and emotion prevents you from getting results both for yourself and with others. What’s more, negativity can spread stress like it’s contagious — studies have shown that negative thoughts transmit stress-producing hormones that affect those around you.

Even if you have high emotional intelligence, you may be putting out negative vibes without realizing it. Here are five subtle but common ways you might not know you’re being negative, and what to do if you spot yourself engaging in them.

Not accepting compliments

For many people, responding to compliments with a demurral is an instinctive reaction. If you’re told you did a good job, your instinct may be to downplay the sentiment by crediting someone else, insisting it wasn’t that hard, or even saying you were just lucky. You may think you’re being humble — but this type of reaction actually undermines your confidence and makes it harder for other people to trust your skills or abilities.

Instead of demurring, learn to accept compliments with grace (and a dash of humility). Own your positive actions or accomplishments, even if your response is a simple “thank you” with no further discussion on the subject of the compliment.

Negating a positive

Negative inferences happen when you make a positive statement, and then follow it up with something negative that undermines the effect. For example, you might say, “My last performance review was fantastic, but I’m still not making the salary I should.”

The first part of this statement is positive and worth both consideration and discussion. But when it’s followed immediately with negativity, the positive value goes out the window — and suddenly you’re one of those people who always sees the glass as half empty. Negative inferences crush enthusiasm and prevent others from taking your side.

Instead, keep your positive statements positive and focused on your options. For example, you might say, “My last performance review was fantastic, so now I’m going to work on presenting my accomplishments better so I can negotiate a higher salary.”

Reacting too quickly

When something goes wrong, people have a tendency to react — and in the heat of the moment, your reaction might be less than emotionally intelligent. For instance, if a team member says something unfortunate during a meeting, you might approach them after the meeting with a comment along the lines of, “That was a stupid thing to say!” This type of reaction is not constructive, and can quickly break down relationships.

A better way to handle moments like these is to focus on responding, instead of reacting. When you respond to a problem, issue, or negative situation, you give yourself time to consider what really happened and why it might have happened — and then formulate a thoughtful reply that is constructive and considerate.

“Yeah, but…” mode

Everyone’s said it from time to time. Someone makes a suggestion, and you want to agree, but you immediately calculate the problems with the idea and your response sentence starts with “Yeah, but…”

This opening is a blocker. The word “but” dismisses anything positive that came before it, and makes collaboration with other people difficult. If you find yourself saying “Yeah, but” frequently, people will lose interest in listening to you.

Instead of agreeing, and then immediately disagreeing, focus on validating ideas that you believe are worthy, and offering possible changes or alternatives for those that don’t quite seem there yet. Keep the “but” out of your responses.

Bringing others down to raise yourself up

Emotionally intelligent people understand that the path to success is not forged by blatantly stepping on others along the way. However, you could be engaging in a more subtle form of diminishing other people, through statements that contain gossip or put-downs — even if they seem innocuous.

Besides the risk of having these negative comments get back to the people you’ve made them about, the person you’re talking to may wonder what you’re saying about them to others. If you’re tempted to put someone else down in order to feel better, ask yourself what your real motivation is for making these damaging statements. It might be insecurity about your own performance, jealousy of someone else’s abilities, or simply just a bad habit of engaging in gossip.

This type of negativity can be the most difficult to overcome — but it’s also the most rewarding. When you have genuine respect and kindness for others, they’ll reciprocate, and you’ll be better positioned for leadership.

Want to learn more about being an emotionally intelligent leader? Contact the staffing and recruiting experts at The Armada Group. We can help you find – and retain – the best in IT management and professionalism

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Wednesday, Nov 12 2014

Fact vs. Fiction: Driverless Cars

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Fact vs Fiction- Driverless Cars

Driverless cars have been a dream for decades — but these days they’re moving from science fiction to science fact. The first self-driving vehicles have already been developed, and while they’re not on the market yet, researchers are working toward the glorious day when cars drive themselves, and humans can sit back and enjoy the ride.

Because driverless cars aren’t in widespread use, there are plenty of rumors surrounding this technology. Here are some of the top myths about driverless cars, as well as some truths that may shape the self-driving future.

Myth 1: Driverless cars eliminate the risk of human error

In a utopian world, self-driving cars would completely eliminate accidents because machines don’t sleep, text, get drunk, or stop paying attention. However, driverless cars do contain room for human error in their programming and design.

This could be a positive or a negative. On the positive side, the ability to program a self-driving car in a non-stressful environment — rather than while it’s being driven — can lead to significant increases in safety. But there is also risk with programming driverless cars, which must be ready to handle any situation. If the developers haven’t envisioned a particular scenario, the car won’t be equipped to handle it.

Myth 2: Self-driving cars can drive anywhere

It’s nice to envision driverless cars able to take on any road, anywhere, in any condition. But the fact is that at least for now, self-driving cars are extremely limited on where they can go. Because they rely on GPS for direction, these cars can only operate in very good weather conditions and can’t navigate in places like tunnels or parking garages, where there’s no GPS signal.

Myth 3: People are bad at driving

Anyone driving in rush hour traffic would disagree, but the idea that humans are inherently poor drivers is a myth — especially when compared to machine drivers. Experience and intuition go a long way toward making human drivers superior to mechanical ones. People also have the advantage of being able to understand their environment, and factor context and perceptions into their driving reactions.

Myth 4: Driverless cars are hands-off driving

The idea of climbing into a car, programming your destination, and curling up to sleep in the back seat isn’t possible with current driverless technology. The human owners of self-driving cars still have to pay attention during the drive, and keep a hand on the wheel and a foot near the brake. In fact, driverless cars have safety features that require at least one hand on the wheel at all times — because the car could fail at any point.

Fact 1: Self-driving cars can be more energy efficient

Cars require a lot of energy to move — but a majority of that energy is used to move the car itself, rather than the person inside it. Modern cars contain thousands of pounds of steel, which is primarily for crash protection. But if driverless cars moving at lower speeds remove the possibility of deadly collisions, they can be designed with more energy- and fuel-efficient materials.

Fact 2: Driverless technology is steeped in ethical debate

The ethics of allowing self-driving cars are a major hurdle for the automotive industry. Questions that must be answered include how conservative these cars should be in the interests of avoiding accidents, whether cars should be programmed to break laws and speed limits if required to keep passengers safe, and how much control the car’s programming should have over the driving process.

Fact 3: Experts disagree whether cars should be connected

Connectivity may seem like an obvious good feature for driverless cars, and many feel they should be connected. Allowing self-driving cars to communicate with each other may make driving more efficient, and provide enhanced safety. But others feel this level of connectivity is unnecessary — because human drivers use only their eyes, driverless cars should in theory be able to rely on camera vision alone.

Fact 4: No one is empowered to decide these issues

Even if the ethical and connectivity debates could be settled, driverless technology has no centralized governance that is able to enforce decisions. While states and government agencies are working with the issues, and a standards committee with the Society of Automotive Engineers is developing voluntary standards for driverless vehicle design, there are currently no decision-makers to guide the industry into consumer markets.

Want to learn more about the cutting-edge of IT innovation? Need top IT candidates to fill open positions at your company? Contact the experts at The Armada Group today!

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What Makes a Successful IT Professional

With the demand for skilled tech workers increasing, many of today’s IT professionals are able to enjoy challenging and lucrative careers. Of course, in every industry there are some pros more successful than others. So what’s the recipe for IT success?

Below are some of the characteristics shared by successful IT professionals across many different fields and career paths. Cultivate these qualities, and you can enjoy a long and rewarding career as an IT pro.

Successful IT pros love technology — and share the love

It’s a given that everyone performs better when they’re doing what they love. The best IT pros have a demonstrable passion for technology, and it’s often contagious. If you’re excited about your work, that excitement rubs off on your co-workers, your supervisors, your customers, and everyone you engage with professionally — which means they enjoy working with you and want to get involved.

As an expansion of passion for technology, successful tech professionals are happy to share their knowledge and skills with others. IT pros who believe their knowledge is too valuable to share aren’t going to get very far — but those who share and help others are able to build loyalty, enhance their professional reputation, and win promotions.

Successful IT pros understand the business

With the world relying more on technology every day, you can find IT professionals in just about every industry — from tech companies to retail, finance to food service, manufacturing to education. One of the key aspects shared by successful tech pros is a thorough understanding of not just IT, but the particular industry they work in.

One of the most sought-after qualities in IT pros is the ability to break down concepts to a non-tech level, and communicate the value of IT services or solutions to key people who don’t work in IT, such as customers, shareholders, and other departments. This requires a strong business understanding and knowledge of how your work relates to other functions of your industry.

The top IT pros are skilled business professionals who know a lot about technology. With a comprehensive knowledge of your industry, you can deliver superior solutions and more innovation, which enhances both your reputation and your value as a professional.

Successful IT pros know (almost) everything, but specialize in something

One of the most effective paths to IT success is specialization. Regardless of your actual position, if you’re the best in your field, you’ll find greater success than a well-rounded tech generalist. So if you’re a data communications pro, your focus should be on knowing everything about the hardware and software that sends and receives data. If you’re a project manager, you should be exceptional at leading projects and people.

However, no IT position functions in a vacuum — so it’s equally important to be proficient in the areas that relate to your expertise. For example, a successful top Java programmer will have a strong working knowledge of database design and stored procedures. The best project managers will understand software development and testing. With the complexity of modern business, IT pros must understand all the components that feed into their specialties.

Successful IT pros love a good challenge

Technology can be extremely complex, and every IT pro faces challenges and problems on a regular basis. Rather than letting themselves become frustrated and stressed, the best tech professionals view problems as learning opportunities, and face new challenges with excitement at the possibilities.

Even technical problems that appear impossible at the start can help you broaden your horizons and increase your skills, knowledge, experience, and problem-solving capabilities. Continual learning is an important part of facing challenges — with the rapid pace of IT evolution, there is always some new platform, language, or tool that can impact your job and your industry.

To be successful in IT, keep learning and loving what you do — and share that passion with others. Employers will notice your skills and enthusiasm, and you’ll find yourself cultivating a rewarding career in technology.

Want to find out more about what it takes to become a successful IT pro? Or need a top industry professional to fill a position within your company? The Armada Group knows what – and who – it takes to be the best in the business. Contact us today

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Friday, Nov 07 2014

Securing Your Personal Data Online

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Securing Your Personal Data Online

Throughout the digital shift, data breaches have been a serious and ongoing problem. Recent large-scale attacks resulted in malware-infected payments terminals and tens of millions of stolen card numbers from chain stores like Home Depot and Target. Part of the reason for these thefts is that, with the current magnetic stripe system, card information is stored inside payment terminals in an unencrypted form.

But technologies like tokenization and near field communication (NFC) are making secure data possible — and Apple may be leading the way to substantially heightened online security with the launch of their new mobile payment system.

How Apple Pay works

The latest phones from Apple, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, are equipped with a mobile payment system that lets users pay for purchases in stores quickly and conveniently, right from their phones.

This payment system uses multiple security features to protect payment information. The first is Touch ID, Apple’s biometric identification system already used in previous iPhones that identifies users by thumbprint. The second is NFC communication, which eliminates the magnetic stripe interface that is one of the leading reasons for security breaches.

But the most important security feature for Apple Pay is tokenization. The technology stores a 16-digit proxy number on a security chip inside the phone, rather than your actual payment card number. This “token” number is given to the retailer at the point of sale, and the retailer sends the token to the card issuer. Then, a trusted third party converts the token to the payment card number and sends it to the issuer — meaning the retailer never receives the actual card number.

The tokens also incorporate unique, transaction- and user-specific data, which prevents them from being reused even if they’re stolen.

Simplifying the user experience could lead to widespread adoption

In a recent keynote speech, Apple CEO Tim Cook demonstrated how easy it is to pay with this solution: Users simply hold their thumb on the Touch ID sensor and tap the phone against a payment terminal. The entire transaction takes only seconds, and is substantially more secure than magnetic stripe transactions — or even other mobile payment solutions.

Apple has always excelled at ease of use for its technologies, and the company’s entry into the mobile payment market could prompt the competition to step up their games. The more mobile payment providers offering easy-to-use solutions, the more retailers will adopt systems that accept these types of highly secure payments. In the time since Apple Pay was launched, competitor Google Wallet has already seen significant growth in usage and adoption from both customers and retailers.

Contactless NFC payment systems could provide the level of security required to make data breaches a thing of the past, especially if other providers adopt tokenization technologies to enhance security. Consumer data will be safer online, and the cumbersome and risky magnetic stripe system may be headed for obsolescence.

With Apple leading the way, widespread adoption of mobile payment solutions has a real chance of occurring — and the competition is sure to follow suit. If you want to know more about the future of personal data security or how it applies to your company, contact the IT experts at The Armada Group.

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3 Career Tips for all IT Professionals

Information technology is a highly competitive industry. But rapid developments in tech and the steady global transition to digital mean that the demand for IT pros is high — so it’s a great field to work in, now and in the future. Still, those who work in IT can’t afford to rest on their laurels, especially since technology changes so quickly.

Perhaps more than any other industry, IT pros must work hard to stay in the game. And while there are many career paths and ways to succeed, some IT career strategies are universal. These three tips will help you stay on track and enjoy a long, fulfilling career, no matter where your IT trajectory takes you:

Be proactive in professional development

Keeping up with the pace of technology is vital to your success as an IT professional. If you’re not staying actively informed about changes in the industry, new platforms and applications, and other changes that could affect your role or career, you will fall behind — and other IT pros will be waiting to take your place.

When it comes to professional development in your current career, don’t wait for your employer to offer opportunities. Stay informed about major updates or replacements for the tech you’re currently using, and when they roll out, get dates and costs for training programs and make a proposal to your supervisor to enroll you.

Many employers will appreciate the initiative and pay for part or all of the training. But if yours refuses, it’s a good idea to get the training on your own dime, if you can. Community college classes and online courses are often affordable. Why should you pay to benefit your stingy employer? Because you’ll need to stay up-to-date on your skills, so you can look for a better job.

Choose to be friendly — even when you “shouldn’t”

Nearly every IT professional has faced a situation like this. You get a request for something that is clearly impossible to accomplish with your current resources — and you find out that the person who made the request is a clueless executive who gets paid six figures to make ridiculous demands that can’t be met.

Should you:

  1. Calmly explain why the request can’t be met (in non-tech terms) and offer an alternative that will accomplish something similar, or a list of resources you’d need to get the task done as requested
  2. Rant and rave in private, and then send off a tech-term-laden email that basically says no, but in fancier words, and hope it confuses the exec enough to either think something will happen eventually, or drop the issue
  3. Quit on the spot and find employment in a company that isn’t run by clueless, overpaid non-technical people

You probably know that the answer should be A (and that C is hard to come by), but it’s not always easy to be nice in this type of situation — and you may not know why you should. The reason to always take the friendly and approachable path lies in the importance of soft skills to your career.

Early IT professionals could get away with being antisocial, perpetually late, and confusingly eccentric, because no one else could fix the mystical computer problems. But today’s professionals are more tech-savvy overall, and IT pros who have great soft skills — in other words, the ability to work with people just as well as machines — are highly valued and sought after. They earn more money, too.

Never stop networking

Networking is something you do when you’re looking for a job, not when you already have a healthy career with plenty of opportunities for advancement, right? Afraid not. If there’s one secret to long-term success as an IT pro, it’s continual networking.

The more people you’re connected with professionally, the easier it is to find opportunities, or take advantage of them as they arise. If nothing else, a thriving network will help you get that next promotion, or make a lateral move within your organization when you discover a better career choice. Worst case, maintaining an updated network is a safeguard against downsizing, business failure, or unexpected personal disruptions.

At the least, make sure you’re active on LinkedIn. Keep your profile current, and update your online presence and your working resume whenever you have something new to add. You can also network casually through other social networks, business events, or even informal online gatherings with your IT peers.

No matter what type of IT professional you are, follow these tips to keep your career healthy, thriving, and moving forward. If you want to learn more about how to boost your career, or be placed in an new position within a top IT company, contact The Armada Group today.

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 Bridging the Gap Between Your IT Department and End Users

The role of the IT manager is changing as rapidly as technology itself. And while the normal mode of operation for IT concerning internal end users used to be rigid control over technology choices, many of today’s CIOs and other IT leaders are realizing the benefits of saying “yes” to user requests for new technologies, while finding ways to maintain standards and mitigate risk.

In the past, IT managers were able to tell employees and end users that they had access to the best technology available — even if it wasn’t completely true. But today’s employees have access to the latest apps and industry information. They’re savvy, they know what’s out there, and they want the right tools for the job.

On the other hand, allowing access to any tool your employees want to use can create security risks and productivity issues. Here’s how to balance end user demands for new technologies with best practices and a degree of control, so you can bridge the gap for end users across departments.

Give end users tools that work

Many CIOs are realizing that when employees use tools they don’t have permission to use, it’s not because they’re contrary or looking to break the rules. They just want to get their jobs done — and if a tool helps them accomplish that, they’re going to use it. Often this means the tools IT has made available to them simply aren’t working well.

It’s important to make sure you’ve authorized tools, apps, and services that help employees do their jobs. You may have enterprise solutions in place that are confusing, or that don’t integrate well with existing systems. This is when employees start to look for workarounds in the form of easier tools that may or may not be authorized.

How can you figure out what users want? One strategy is to use a cloud visibility solution like Skyhigh to see what services employees are actually using — and instead of restricting usage, look for common needs and deploy solutions that address them. For example, if a lot of end users are engaged in file sharing, look into the app or apps that would work best for them without risking security, and authorize its use.

Collaborate on tech budgets

Even as technology expands and advances, many IT budgets are shrinking. The primary reason is that other departments are receiving higher budgets for technology investments — marketing, for example, typically invests heavily in analytics and Big Data strategies. For many organizations, marketing departments are becoming the largest software centers.

Rather than fight this shift, CIOs and IT managers would fare better by cooperating with other departments and gaining a say in how technology budgets are allocated across the organization.

Separate departmental decisions on IT spending can fragment an infrastructure and cause more headaches for IT. Instead, tech leaders should focus on working cross-departmentally and acting in an advisory capacity for marketing, sales, HR, and others with budgetary discretion. It’s easier to create a unified solution that successfully integrates with multiple systems from the start, than to throw a bunch of disparate systems together and try to patch things over after the investments have been made.

The new role of the IT manager is to bridge technology gaps for end users throughout the organization, and keep things running smoothly, efficiently, and securely. Being open to saying “yes” more often, and willing to cooperate with other departments, is the key to success in today’s business IT landscape. For more information on how to use this knowledge to benefit your organization, contact the IT recruiting experts at The Armada Group.

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