You can "soar like an eagle" on soul-power, says guru

The IT Directors' Forum annual meeting was held aboard the cruise ship Aurora last week. In a relaxed atmosphere the most senior...

The IT Directors' Forum annual meeting was held aboard the cruise ship Aurora last week. In a relaxed atmosphere the most senior representatives of IT users in the UK attended discussions, workshops and seminars, and talked candidly to Computer Weekly.

If IT directors ignite the "soul-power" of their organisations they can build on the pleasure they take from working life and the success of their businesses, according to a leading guru in human development.

Belief, a sense of identity and passion can do more to instigate a successful working life in IT than a detailed knowledge of object oriented programming, argued Adrian Gilpin, chairman of the Institute of Human Development, during his energetic presentation at the IT Directors' Forum.

IT directors could "soar like an eagle" once they realised their true identities, Gilpin argued. He conceded that his philosophy could seem like the ideas of a "tree-hugging Californian motivational guru" but said IT leaders must change their approach if they want to influence the board. "It is not what you do, but who you are that is important."

Despite the pressures of the economic slowdown, his views were well received. "I found it extremely inspiring," said Andrew Halstead, chief information officer at the Football Association. "To a certain extent he is putting clever labels on the blindingly obvious, but within a corporate structure it is sometimes difficult to feel inspired and it's good to know that you are not alone."

"Inspiring the workforce is part of what we have to do," said Simon Clark, Ford's European manager of IT information systems. "It is also important to identify the natural talent that lies within your team and to help them develop and exploit that."

"It is vital to be passionate about your work," said Rob Neil, head of corporate IT at Ashford Borough Council. "I like to lead from the front but also empower my team to do things. I have one golden rule - people can do what they want and they can make mistakes as long as they only make them once."

"The themes in Gilpin's speech are always in the back of my mind but it takes talks like his to bring them out," said Farid Motamed, IT manager at paper distributor Antalis. "Positivity and self-belief are very important.

"These things have a tendency to have an impact for a while and then people forget about them. As a leader it is important to recognise what your strengths and weaknesses are. The most important thing for me is to get my people to do what they are good at," Motamed said.

After his presentation Gilpin conceded that away from the conference it is harder to interpret abstract terms like passion in IT department life. He said IT directors could take practical steps to lead their teams to a more productive, inventive and enjoyable working life.

"Build a community of people around you - those who are interested in testing new ideas and moving forward. It may be just three or four people," Gilpin said.

Because of the current "frustration and restlessness" in IT, new ideas will get a hearing, he said. "When you offer solutions people will listen - sometimes sceptically and cynically, yes - but they will listen."

Gilpin's final advice was, "Take your career into your own hands - this is not a dress rehearsal."

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