Facing Current IT Challenges and Leading with Empathy with CTO at Smart Financial Credit Union

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In the wake of the pandemic, the remote work boom, and The Great Resignation, retaining and developing top talent is more important than ever in any industry — and IT is no exception.

You want to ensure you can adapt to the rapidly shifting work landscape.

You need to lead with empathy.

That’s how Marcus Manning leads as Chief Technology Officer at Smart Financial Credit Union, where he is learning new strategies for accommodating the post-pandemic professional world.

Join us as we discuss:

  • How to decide between an office, remote or hybrid environment
  • Why leading with empathy is so important
  • How to build trust across your organization

Everyone is re-evaluating their career choices these days, so how can your business attract and retain the best? Let’s drill deeper.

“IT has really become the backbone of any organization. IT is no longer just nice to have, it is a necessity.” — Marcus Manning

A problem-solving foundation

Marcus has been in IT since his college days at Texas State. “Coding is great,” he jokes, “but I need some people interaction.” He deftly blended his technical expertise with the more ephemeral skills needed to build and lead successful teams.

He started out in the petroleum industry, spent time with Continental Airlines prior to their merger with United, and then the Texas Children’s Hospital before spending over eight years in the credit union field.

These well-rounded experiences prepared Marcus for his elevation to the C-suite at Smart Financial. A coding background enhances your ability to solve problems with an analytical mindset.

In the midst of this digital transformation, every business is a technology business now, no matter what your main product might be.

Crafting the perfect culture

Marcus points out that your people are your most important asset right now. You can spend a lot of money on advanced tech solutions, but you also need skilled workers in place to ensure those systems are running as efficiently as possible.

“Having the right people in the right seat” might be a hot catchphrase right now, but it’s actually crucial to creating a healthy company culture. People, process, and technology are the three pillars.

Offering flexible schedules is just one way to keep your employees happy, but it does have a big impact. It’s a challenge to foster an in-person team atmosphere when everyone is working remotely.

“Once we have set clear expectations with our teams, we hold them accountable.” — Marcus Manning

Current challenges

Marcus believes that leading with empathy is the number one thing you can do to take care of your people and your organization.

There is so much going on in the world today. Markets are literally changing by the minute. The pandemic is still causing shortages, supply chain issues, and uncertainty all over the world.

Taking the time to actually have deeper than superficial discussions with your team members is vitally important to being a respected leader. Marcus is having those empathetic conversations with his team and really understanding “how his employees are doing not only professionally, but personally as well.”

Asynchronous success

In the old days, everyone had to work the same “9 to 5,” because that’s the only time business could be taken care of. The boss was able to walk around and monitor what each worker was accomplishing. This restrictive framework was not great for those who wanted to spend more time with their families.

But now we have real-time worldwide communication and the cloud. Clear, consistent communication and setting clear expectations let your staff be more flexible and productive without having to be micromanaged.

To be an amazing leader, you have to know what’s going to be the most suitable solution for every person on your team. Accommodation leads to more robust results.

“Failure is OK as long as you fail fast and learn from your mistakes.” — Marcus Manning

Finding your niche

“What do you want to do, and how do you want to get started?” That’s the first question Marcus would ask someone who wants to break into cybersecurity. The most important thing to do is educate yourself about your options.

Once you “get your butt in the seat,” you can absorb valuable skills and boots-on-the-ground experience.

Marcus also recommends that you find a mentor, someone who can share their successes, failures, and recoveries with you. It also takes plenty of commitment, dedication, and perseverance.

Learning from your mistakes is a key element of staying agile.

The rising tide

The IT staff shortage is such that increasingly, hiring managers are becoming more flexible in their requirements. The perfect employee might be a rapid learner who adapts to change and performs exceedingly well in this new career path.

An empathic leader helps people thrive. Marcus emphasizes that it’s “the responsibility of any good leader, if you see potential there, to open those doors for others.”

Getting the best out of your team takes adaptability as well as empathy. We all have things going on outside the office — but giving someone a chance can make a huge positive impact on their life.

Truly caring about your employees builds trust and fosters the kind of supportive work environment that’s in high demand.

Still itching for more IT strategy and tactics? You can find this interview and many more by subscribing to Groovers Talk Tech on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or here.

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Groovers Talk Tech in your favorite podcast player. 


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