You’re sick, never mind the details…

Rod of Alsclepius, from Wikipedia

Rod of Alsclepius, from Wikipedia

As a manager, I occasionally hear variations on the “I’m sick and not coming in today” statement from my employees. Sometimes it’s a simple cold, other times it’s not.

Sometimes it comes with much too much information.

I’m not sure if it’s a need to prove that they’re really sick, that they’re not slacking off at home binge-watching Sherlock, or if it’s some form of exhibitionism.

I used to tell my employees I didn’t want to know. But they told me anyway. So now I skip that and just nod, express whatever awkward sentiment seems appropriate and let them know I wish them the speediest recovery.

Once in a rare while, it becomes important that I’m told. Those chronic things that start impacting performance. That’s when it’s very important because I can then refer my employee to  Continue reading

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Vendors: Superheroes or Villains?

Super Hero Flying

Superhero or Villain? (from

As the lead IT guy in a small engineering firm, I get to deal with a lot of vendors. Vendors fill in my gaps: things like knowledge, skills, tools, hours and expertise. Really good vendors become my partners, my superheroes.

I have a rule of thumb about vendors—I just about always call them back. As distasteful as it can be to talk to a salesperson (if you’re a vendor or salesperson and that offends you or you don’t understand, just quit your job now), I call them back. Vendors and salespeople are in the business of selling stuff but some employ tactics that I just don’t enjoy.
Continue reading

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Classical or Jazz?

Classical? Jazz.


I have long wanted to write a post on leadership using elements from Chain of Command, a pair of episodes from the Star Trek: The Next Generation series, but have struggled on where to start1—there’s just so much material to choose from.

One of the central conflicts of the story is how (and by whom) Captain Picard is replaced as captain of the Enterprise. Even before the change of command takes place, Captain Edward Jellico lists a series of orders, changing the Enterprise and how it functions in several significant, even dramatic ways. There’s no discussion, no explanation, no time for a period of adjustment, just his curt (and unfriendly) “get it done”.

Here’s where we could get distracted from this post’s topic. We could cover how Jellico’s assignment throws the Enterprise back into a Storming stage of team formation, how Picard graciously and effectively becomes a follower when necessary, how Jellico was effective despite his run-ins with the crew or a half-dozen other leadership topics of note.

But I want to focus on a single scene, a single pair of words. Continue reading

  1. And in some sense, where to end.
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Why? — a short follow-up

5 whys

Asking “Why?” a number of times can help lead to a problem’s root cause

I successfully finished a ISO 9001 class last week on being a lead auditor and during the training was reminded of an easy technique for getting to the root cause of some types of problems we face, including as systems administrators.

Related to another post a while back, the idea is to explore the reasons for an outage or a problem by asking “Why?” a number of times (five appears to be a good number), usually focusing on a process that failed (or doesn’t exist). Continue reading

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On Walking as a Leadership Trait

Walking Stick Figure

A walking stick figure, the letter “N” from Nancy Blackett’s Semaphore Font

One of my favorite leaders during my time at KeyCorp was a walker. He’d catch us early in the morning as he walked around the 6th floor. There were certainly faster or shorter ways to get to his office, but he’d take a little bit longer route in the morning just to see what was going on.

He wasn’t spying on us or checking up on us, just walking around. Most of the time he didn’t even stop and chat, just smiled, said “good morning” and walked the aisles to his office.

Occasionally he’d bring something up, but more frequently, we’d flag him down and give him an update on something, a problem or solution we’d been working on that we knew he’d be interested in. Continue reading

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Crabby Managers

Make a guy a manager, and right away he turns into a crabby old man!

Make a guy a manager, and right away he turns into a crabby old man!

I’ve been a bit crabby at work recently so when I saw this classic Peanuts strip from June 13th, 1965, I had a flash of insight into my own situation.

Lucy, wearing dark shades, walks first into a fence (wump!), then into a tree (klunk!) and then finally, up the pitcher’s mound and into Charlie Brown (bump!) at which point Charlie Brown tells her to “Take off those stupid glasses!!!”

Lucy complies and heads out to her position in the outfield where she jumps to the conclusion that when you “make a guy a manager”, “right away he turns into a crabby old man”.

It’s not being a manager that makes me crabby, but the repeated wumping, klunking or bumping into things.

I get particularly crabby when the wumping, klunking or bumping isn’t necessary. Continue reading

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Worst Organizational Announcement email

Mixed Emotions email

"Mixed Emotions"

At a previous employer it was not uncommon to send out “Organizational Announcement” emails from time to time. Sometimes it was a re-org, others a promotion, but frequently it was a resignation or transfer.

In these cases it was customary to send an announcement to the various teams and management groups that would be impacted.

About ten years ago Continue reading

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Escalate early, Escalate often

ITIL Escalation Definition

ITIL Escalation Definition

Coworkers and colleagues might remember one of my phrases: “Escalate early, Escalate often”.

Today I got to use it anew and explain it to my current group of coworkers and colleagues.


In short, escalation gets you needed resources when you’re having troubles meeting your customer’s expectations.

Continue reading

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Think about the next three

Plan Ahead

Plan Ahead

My company recently purchased three shiny new 1U1 servers, some new network and SAN equipment and a new rack to house everything.

Just about as close to a true greenfield situation as you’ll find.

And while it’s easy to install three new servers in a brand-new rack, it’s harder to develop and implement a process that accounts for these first three and leaves you ready for the next three. And the next three.

Slow down

One difficulty is in overcoming the intense desire to rack them, cable them, and power them on. Oooooo…Shiny! New things just beg to be played with. Now. Continue reading

  1. A “U” is a vertical unit of measurement for racked equipment: 1.75″ tall.
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Be Curious

why and how

Why? and How?

Unless it’s incessantly coming from the mouth of a two year-old, “why?” is one of my favorite questions. And “how?” is right up there with “why?”—they’re practically cousins.

Why? How?

Why was it set up this way? How does this work? Why did you (or it) do that? Why is DHCP doing this? How does DDNS work? Why is the network set up with three subnets separated at the second octet (and not the third)?

Why does this work? Why does this not work? Is there a different way? Why are none of the PCs showing the same time? Why do the phones show the right time? How is that set? How do we make them the same? Where are the local NTP servers? (oh, wait…) Continue reading

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