IT Leadership Is About Listening (How Our New Leadership Academy and Client Council Are Building the Future of Integris–and You Can, Too)

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September 18, 2023

Rashaad Bajwa and Leadership Development in ITAs I’m sure all of you know, I’m incredibly proud of Integris, and the strong, thriving company we’ve built together. But make no mistake—building this national network has been a major leadership challenge.  

After all, we’ve brought together several successful MSPs in their own right, then knit them together into a national network. It’s been a critically important directive, agreeing on common procedures, marrying messaging, and streamlining product offerings. We’ve worked hard on it every day and achieved a great deal in a short amount of time. Yet, we wouldn’t have been able to tackle it at all without the input we get from our Leadership Development Academy, and our new Client Council. 

 

Leadership development in IT starts with soft skills, not tech training

Our Leadership Development Academy has gone through several cohorts now, each group comprised of an invitation-only selection of leaders from throughout the company. These cohorts go through several weeks of classes on inclusive management, all while getting a c-suite level look at the company and its current strategies. Then, they break into smaller, cross-functional groups, each of them taking on an organizational challenge they’d like to see tackled. 

Our client council, on the other hand, looks at our initiatives once they’ve gotten through the concept stage, helping us align with what the market wants and needs. They also help us identify opportunities and issues, so we can “skate to where the puck is going to be,” in the immortal words of Wayne Gretzky. 

We’re still in the early stages with these programs—about a year in, in fact. They’ve already yielded tremendous benefits, such as building our Empower line of managed service packages, or standardizing our price adjustment process across regions. There’s many more leadership projects I can’t even talk about yet. 

While all these benefits are fantastic and easy to quantify, I think it’s some of the more intangible benefits that will keep us investing in these programs for the long term. Let’s talk about why. 

 

We’ve involved our clients in the future of our business

Want to know what customers want? All you have to do is ask. Or, at least, that’s what we’ve found with our client advisory council. This group has been a critical source of wisdom for us, meeting on a regular basis and also serving to help answer our direct questions throughout the year. Their insight helps us to better tailor our company to client needs. 

 This can take a lot of different forms. We ask their advice on product packages, pricing, and messaging. We also ask them about what needs they have upcoming, so we can focus our product development accordingly. After all, we want our clients to feel like they have a stake in the products we bring to them.  

 At the end of the process, we can take our service lines to market, secure in the knowledge that they are vetted, rooted in the real world needs of our customers, and competitive. That kind of assurance is priceless to a growing company like ours. 

 

We’re breaking down organizational silos

 The larger our organization grows, the more the danger of silos lurks. Our leadership development program is an important hedge against this. Our “graduates” of this program spend weeks together, working on different projects and listening to the subgroups and all their ideas. They learn a great deal about the inner workings of all the other departments—their concerns, their limitations, and their challenges.  

This makes it much easier for them to understand how work moves through the company. It also helps them build a tight, collegial network that spans locations and departments. When something goes wrong or they need some perspective, it’s so much easier for them to pick up the phone and collaborate. The road ahead has already been paved for them. 

 

We’re learning how to fail—and correct—fast

Ideally, of course, we want to vet our ideas well enough to guarantee success. But no company, no matter now well prepared, does everything right. A strong company is one that has the courage to call out problems and the channels to escalate them quickly.  Employees at any level should be able to speak the truth and call out the issues they are experiencing. We are training our managers to explore and assist, rather than block and defend. Finding defects and addressing them fast is the key to having a company that can iterate quickly and build on a secure foundation. 

 

We’re putting ideas into action

Lots of companies have leadership classes where people are encouraged to come up with ideas, and turn them in, like they’re stuffing a suggestion box. We’re taking a different approach. 

We believe if you have an idea, you should work across departments to put a plan behind it. When the idea finally comes in front of the rest of the group for presentation, it’s already been vetted, budgeted, and given a timeline for execution. If it gets past the presentation stage, it’s ready to start implementation. This shortens the timeline for execution. It also allows the participants to come out of the process with real results to brag about. That’s an accomplishment we’re happy to help them put on their resume. 

  

We’re building trust

“Reputation is your wealth.” It’s a quote I say often. But what does that even mean? In my mind, it means walking your talk, living your values, and being true to your word. As a company, we do a lot of talking about our corporate values, and these feedback programs are one way that we are living them out.   

We want to give our employees opportunities to grow with us, and advance into leadership. We want our customers to feel like empowered partners. And of course, we want all our constituents to feel heard and respected, always. 

Engaging feedback is the fastest path to that goal. We look forward to what we’ll learn when we keep that channel open. If you’re a current or potential customer of Integris, we’d love to hear your ideas.  Pass along your thoughts to [email protected]. We love to listen!

Rashaad is the Founder & CEO of Integris. In 1997, he founded Domain, an organization that merged with partners to become Integris in 2021. In his role, Rashaad has driven the vision and growth of Integris into the national IT provider it is today.

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