What Leadership Skills are Needed to Lead Your IoT Team?

Does the Internet of Things require a different set of leadership skills?Does the Internet of Things require a different set of leadership skills?

Does the Internet of Things require a different type of leader? How can you lead your IoT team to success throughout the IoT initiation and implementation stages and beyond? Will it require a different set of leadership skills than any of your other Information technology projects?

I’m at the IBM InterConnect conference this week meeting with both technology leaders and the people who are responsible for implementing IoT solutions. When I discuss these IoT projects with organizations, it becomes very clear that almost all of them are using a team based model to deploy their pilot programs and beyond. So, how do we make sure our IoT teams are performing at the high level required to be successful in their implementations?

I believe that successful technology organizations might want to borrow a page from some of the special forces teams I’ve worked with in the past. Here are several things to consider as you assemble your early stage IoT team. Today, we talk about IoT leadership skills for your team. In a future blog, I will share the qualities and technical capabilities needed by your key team members.

I believe a great IoT team requires both good management skills as well as true leadership skills if the project and, ultimately, the program is going to be successful. A successful IoT program requires strong leadership and execution skills to be successful.

I’ve taken my leadership framework from a great book on high performing teams called Team Secrets of the Navy Seals, written by an anonymous writer. It’s a great book and I believe it could change how you look at your IoT team’s success. I’ve had great success in helping clients deploy this style of leadership in both special projects and their cybersecurity efforts.

IoT teams have many challenges that are not within the scope of many information technology projects.  The first is they have many different professionals working on the team. Many of these individuals do not report into the CIO or one of their direct reports. Your IoT team should be composed of the best people in your organization.

Your IoT team members require both advocacy and influencing skills to be successful. The wide range of business and strategy implications on the technology side make it critical that you enroll people throughout the organization to support your IoT project.

You will be working with operations technology and engineering professionals if you’re working on IoT projects. Many of these people are huge fans of releasing control of their areas of expertise. I’m being polite since many of my best clients come from these areas of expertise.

The first IoT leadership skill required for your team is to understand who is on your team. Successful teams require many different players at different stages of your IoT project. You should know who is on your team and what strengths and experiences they bring to your team.

Since many of these projects start out as pilots, it is critical that you understand who and what individuals bring to your project.  You should consider who they are and how often you might require their expertise. Project management is a helpful skill to have in your IoT leader.

The second IoT skill required for your team is that you must be able to paint a bigger picture of the impact success in the project could have on your organization’s success. Great IoT team leaders understand they cannot micromanage an IoT project, so they need to help connect the dots so their teams can see the possibilities and impact of this IoT projects.

The more you can help your team members visualize the project’s impact, the more creative they can be in creating the right solutions for the project. You must be willing to challenge traditional thinking if you want your people to create an extraordinary solution. This means you must allow for incubation time for some of your ideas to become reality. Since many of these projects are pilots you may have several smaller failures before achieving the optimum solution.

Some IT project managers lack the creativity to be innovative in their IoT designs. They must be willing to not embrace the quick solution today while knowing their solutions will need to scale the enterprise later during the project implementation.

The third IoT leadership skill required for your team is faster failures while seeking larger successes. Good IoT team leadership requires a pragmatic way of looking at the world. The balancing act is enough to drive you crazy if the team leader fails to be realistic in their decision-making process. Make sure that your IoT team leader is comfortable working in ambiguous situations. They will almost certainly be put in this situation on a regular basis.

The fourth IoT leadership skill required for your team is an open-door policy among the different leaders in the organization. This open-door policy might also include a white board. I’ve found engineers and IT people love to work on white boards, so you might include them in your budget. Learning how to bring out the visual side of your technology can pay significant benefits during the technology implementation part of the project.

The IoT team leader must also know how to ask the right questions at the best time to their team members. This allows them to manage the projects without being overwhelmed by their daily interactions with team members. May I suggest another white board for your project plan. Just kidding, but it does make everyone more aware of tight deadlines and bottlenecks. However, don’t be a micro manager.

The fifth IoT leadership skill required for your team is that of being a good diplomat when your team steps on toes and bruises egos within your organization. IoT teaming can be messy. Your IoT team leader needs to know how to deal with the politics in the organization. It’s not if you’re going to step on toes, but when and how hard. Good leaders know how to diffuse a difficult situation before it explodes. Political and organizational skills are what help make a project a success.

Finally, the last IoT leadership skill required for your team is emotional intelligence. It’s critical that your team leader understand how to get the most out of themselves and others throughout the project life cycle.  The best IoT team leaders I’ve seen understand how to protect their people and clear the way to get things done. These individuals understand how to manage people and allow for others to be successful. They know their own limitations and are comfortable dealing in stressful work environments.

I believe every IoT team leader should receive emotional intelligence training. I’ve seen it shorten project times by 20-25 % when the emotionally intelligent leader uses different tools to get the most out of the people on their teams. It is amazing. Now let me get off my soap box.

I’ve shared what I believe makes a great IoT team leader.  Over the coming weeks, I’ll share examples of why I believe this and what we can learn from many early IoT successes.

See you next week when I return from IBM InterConnect with many great IoT success stories to share.

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