AIM IT Leadership Academy: Graduation


About 4:00 p.m. after the AIM IT Leadership Academy: Reality Based Leadership Session every was escorted to the atrium where we will meet any guests that will be coming. My accountability buddy along with other teammates from Farm Credit Services of America were down there waiting.  There were free drinks and light appetizers from Upstream Brewery served.

At about 4:20 p.m. everyone was ushered into the auditorium for a graduation ceremony.

Each member of the graduation class was called up one at time to say a few words. I was given a triangle plaque with my name and graduation class.

I spoke about being thankful for the opportunity to be in the program. I also mentioned how the interacting with different members in the capstone cup was eye opening to how other companies work.



AIM IT Leadership Academy: Reality Based Leadership Session

On Friday May 3rd the last AIM IT Leadership session was held at Omaha Public Power District located at in downtown Omaha  at the Energy Plaza at 444 So. 16th Street.

This session was on Reality-Based Leadership.  This is based on research and book by Cy Wakeman. This is a local speaker who wrote a book on the topic.

The principles of Reality-Based Leadership include:

  • Refusing to argue with reality
  • Valuing action over opinion
  • Leading first, managing second
  • Bulletproofing employees so that they can succeed, regardless of the circumstances
  • Working to be happy rather than to be right


The speaker for the day taking us through the course was Alex Dorr.


He started off with saying “I want to Thank you for being here and the opportunity to speak”

Here is a link to my notes along with the power point.

I can say this was my favorite speaker and session.

These were my three actions I took from the course today.

  1. Work on my personal happiness.
  2. Help others be accountable.
  3. Finding what great looks like at work.

AIM IT Leadership Academy: Trends in Business & IT/Executive Perspectives

This months  AIM IT Leadership Academy session was at Kiewit Business Center on Trends in Business and IT/Executive Perspectives.

The three goals of this session were:

  • Learn how to create a concise message to sell an idea to a group of executives in a limited window.
  • Practice Team work and presentation skills.
  • Achieve a clearer understanding of a executive’s point of view on an organization.


I was under the impression this day was about what was called our capstone presentation. My group consisted of a employee of Team Software and Werner Enterprises. We meet once Team Software, a few times at Farm Credit Services of America and the other times virtually through Zoom. I was extremely happy with the effort by the group and everyone being a good team member.

Our presentation was “Emotional Intelligence in Agile Teams“. Our hook for this presentation was this:

Our company can increase effective communication, engagement, and empower our employees through Emotional Intelligence education and the formation of teams based on complimentary thinking preferences.

We had about 8 to 12 minutes to give the presentation. The presentation was on a actually stage with a podium. The other members of the AIM leadership group were at their tables. There were three volunteers from different organizations who acted as our supervisors.


  • Words matter never use “We hope this will work because” instead say “We are confident this will work because”
  • Too much detail on Agile and Emotional Intelligence.
  • Measuring success over a longer period of time.

Executive Breakouts

We had three breakout session with leaders in executive roles from different companies.

EVP Operations Business Process

  • People vs Technology
  • You don’t know it all
  • Invigorating Culture
  • Listening and Framing
  • Develop Strong Team Interpersonal Skills

Field CTO

  • 12 steps to native cloud development
  • Strategy of a Team
  • Technical Management in leadership
  • Happy people are productive


  • We are in the business of IT. IT = Business
  • Measure Critical parts of business
  • It is OK to say I don’t know, Let me go find out.
  • Data centric based on information.

My three take a ways from this session were:

  1. Before presenting always ask about the environment.
  2. There is a breadth of Technologies to be educated on.
  3. The art of words when presenting.

I am excited that next months session is the last. I am hopefully graduating.

AIM IT Leadership Academy: Servant Leadership & Communication Skills

This months  AIM IT Leadership Academy session was on Servant Leadership & Communication Skills held at CSG International.

The schedule for the day was to work on Communications and Servant Leadership. The main concept behind Servant Leadership is a leader challenging teams to go farther, reach higher, innovate and have fun doing it. As we  learn concepts of being a servant leader, different communication skills will be introduced to support the various leadership styles of individuals.


The morning started off with the concept of Communication is a simple thing. In a organization it is how you communicate up and down that maters.

On the table were Agile Transformations Workbook and work sheet. This is the first time through the AIM program that we had a workbook to guide us along with the day of learning.

Communicate by vision and strategy is Servant Leadership. The facilitator asked the question “What makes your investment today worthwhile?” “What is your focus today?”If we do “X” then we achieve “Y” The same level of tasks are communicated each direction in an organization just communication is different.

Why do Strategic Initiatives fail?

  • No buy-in from teams
  • Not well defined
  • Too large – not sized correctly
  • Acceptive to change

The goal of leadership in an organization is to communicate in a way:

  • Vision
  • Strategy
  • Execution

Conceptual Thinker are Dot Connectors. If you dig deeper in opportunities.

My Strategic Challenge/ opportunity: If I have someone to explain my problem then I understood my problems in the vision. The group did a exercise were we went to the hall way and told there people in 3 minutes our problem.

How do I become a strategic planner?  A way to start a vision is doing a exercise called Force Field Analysis.


Force Field Analysis

Communicating Up

When you communicate up how much is said. Who has a leader that wants details? Summary Form. C Suite Communications is a thing. Communications across the peers:

  • Present with Confidence
  • Tone and Actions on how you would want to be presented with.

Great Companies = Great Teams =  Great Leaders

Reflection Time: What are the traits of influential change leaders?

  • Attitude
  • Positive Energy
  • Listen to Understand the response
  • Appreciate of what you are told
  • Story of doing it for themselves
  • Am I influential person?

Organizations are changing: Does Big Eat Small? No, Fast beats Slow. Which really mean Innovation plus Creativity will equal Fast!

What is Inspiring for the Team you could lead. Is it a leader who get in the trenches? People want to know what Impact they have on company. For what I am doing, does matter?

Does my communication strategy builds better relationships with the team? There are verbal, visual boards, and communication strategy for peers. Should a person give Specific Feedback or as a group. How does a leader talk non technical to technical and not feel bad.

When you receive new information. Learn how to listen. Recap Conversation to confirm discussion. Verbal into information in some kind of document.  If you got something wrong in a conversation then we have something  to agree with what’s wrong.

There is always a story that not everyone one is part of or know about. Is your engagement authentic? Is there something else I can help manage?

Saying “Thank you for telling me, but it help me understand” start the process of how to ask questions without Assumptions?  Keep asking questions to find out what people are thinking? The reason being is building trust with someone:

  • Speed to Trust
  • Trust is a business enabler
  • Faster Efficiency is base on TrustWhen we trust our team or other people, it is actually acknowledging that we know what’s wrong and working on it. Trust is earned through actions of those conversations. Always value trust over command and control.

Toward the end of the communication section we watched this video Conscious Leadership Group

Also doing the break one of the students talked about a book he is reading called Radical Candor.


Servant Leadership

Unhealthy Leader vs Healthy Leader Exercise

This exercise was breaking out into groups. One group did Unhealthy and the the other did healthy.

A term used during this time was plant seeds to grow. If you plant weeds then you are spread out to thin.


Best Leaders say ” I have so much more to learn!”

  • Focus on Value
  • Recognize Others
  • Foster Teamwork


Learning to give feedback takes time and is a skill. When ever giving feedback identify 3 things going well, and 1 not going well.

A person is hired to be a talented team member. Leaders provide guidance to those team members and let team do what is best. This is when our leadership style matter?

How do you go from solving problems to facilitator coach. How do you break cycle to be a coach? Are you a great contributor or Coach/Facilitator?

  • What does success look like this week?
  • Outcome vs Output of a team or person.
  • Success is to measure!
  • What does Done look like?
  • What do we do well?
  • Learn to Listen genuinely
  • Create a safe environment
  • Give team credit before yourself in this coaching
  • Stories are filled in what makes sense at a point of time.
  • Focus on Growth of People

This was a mentally challenging session. I believe I learned the most of this session in regards on what I need to work on for my leadership style.

AIM IT Leadership Academy: Self-Management & Empowerment

This months AIM IT leadership Academy was held at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska. This was a my first time at this building.


The session was in the Aksarben room. The room had pictures of when Aksarben had horse racing.

The topic was Self Management & Empowerment. The facilitator of the session was Randy Roberts. She talked about how this day would be packed with information.

Do you believe you are a extraordinary person outside of work?
Some people can’t just turn it one and be Amazing. A person has to have standards to who they want to be in life.

What are my standards vs Accomplishments? Who do I need to be at work vs life? Is my life better than before? As a person I need to find Source of what makes life better?

  • Self-Awareness: Environmental to live life.
  • Responsibility of Leader is dual for self and others.

Any result in life is based on actions. As individuals we go straight to actions. Should we look at more. Organization entrenches the culture of action, but else is there besides action in a organization.


Convinced of a belief is the truth to most of us. How to agree something is Real? Reality exists and persists without us. To find the difference between something real? A person needs to find secondary Decisions: Collect data to be right? That is real.

Opinion, Assessment comes from speaking?
Language over belief. Powerful Reality will cause results to go up.

Describe Self
1) Consistent
2) Creative
3) Reliable

A adult only has to hear 3 things to be influenced. We have behaviors to act certain way. Don’t stand a chance unless we resist of lure to full fill a role
There is a time in our life that something was said that shaped our life: Mine is “When you are tired you have to work the hardest”

When a person makes stuff up: Everything goes wrong, things you do will go wrong. You see this in opinion vs reality. A opinion is that “Technology People are not good at working with people” People say crazy things if you let them. People make things up to force a story. The Behavior allows people to  get stuck.

People take extraordinary when given option. There is a capability


you can be right, but both are not right
When you lead with a story and believe you are right it leads
Behavior Address
top person who give permission to act this way are they broken and not acceptable.

The Line

Randy talked about a line. It is how much are you above something vs how low will you keep yourself.

In an conversation with someone. How long can you stay above or below line? How long to be relevant?

90% Awareness: Where you are at the moment. Recognize are you above or below the line. When Awareness is below the line 10% of are not aware.

Get focus and take a minute to get back
Adults lead better before than after a conversation.
People need to recover when things don’t go their way. Leaders forgive people fast. How do I recover personally? I breath, stand and shake head.


In life you don’t generate promise of who you will be.
Well meaning, promise. Life by Design

Who am I committed to be in the future?

My bold statement: “Who am I in this world. I am a confident person who is committed to encourage the people closest to my heart.”

Hero’s are everywhere. Be a hero to others.  Listen powerfully to others. Listen with heart. Let them know you are there.
Creativity = listening
Don’t hijack conversation to interject your thoughts.
Emails are for information not communication. Don’t hide behind your computer. Who do I have to be to make this happen. Fear is a good thing. Over promise is growth. Deepest fear is that we are powerful. Liberate fear.

Saying right thing, but not acting a certain way is not the way to live. Can’t speak powerfully but have behavior.

Love your people so they can become fierce.

When you give people  a choice they become extraordinary. People want to be amazing. Love shows up in Reality.

What registers for people to respond? Contribution of someone letting you in. Hire Expert People. Relate to powerful people. That is leadership.

AIM IT Leadership Academy: Creativity and Innovation

Friday January 4th was the third session of the AIM IT Leadership Academy on Creativity and Innovation. The session was TD Ameritrade Headquarters.


Started with ice Breaker trying to have each table get as many of the same color candy.

What is Innovation

Innovation is about scope. Before you start tackling a task. Do you ask questions? Remember you will always need help to make something happen.

When it comes to communicating:

  • Talker says about 130
  • Good Listener hears 400 to 600
  • Distracted Listener misses %45 of words

How to put Value on Something? Someone has to want the product or idea. 

Is value Subjective? What determines something value or cost?

Types of thinking:

  • Boundary
  • Lateral 
  • Backward-Forward 

Types of Value: 

  • Sentimental
  • Monetary 
  • Cultural 

Define what Innovations is to you or the company?

Understanding the value of a innovation idea? Do you have the mindset for Innovation. Does you company have the mindset? Do you have the Tools and space have innovation. 

You can spin anything from innovation to iterations. Step back and ask someone to be innovative? What’s there response. A  better person should make the team better? What is a person motivation to Innovate. A person may be a visionary but not at executing that vision. 

The team may be more innovative then the company. I truly believe that, but is this a team that gets more done for the team or causes change in the company because of what they do. 

When you think a well established company and innovation:

  • Change is Incremental 
  • Less disruptive
  • Less Risky
  • Moving Forward
  • Enticing

Business Life Cycle

  • Birth
  • Growth
  • Maturity
  • Delcline or Rebirth

Quote: Everything arises and everything falls: Buddhism

Customer Naturally migrate away from a product. Something  about a product needs to change. Do you take a Defensive Strategy? Innovate to be successful for a Offensive Strategy. In a offensive strategy 

  • Incremental Strategy
  • Feature Improvements
  • Business Transformations

Profound or radical Change is an entirely different level of change. Strive for a basic change of character has no resemblance with past configuration or structure

Transcendent Brands

  • • Innovation 
  • • Lifestyle
  • • Emotion
  • • Differentiation

People Perspective

There is a cost of Innovation: Does it equal monetary cost? Is there a change mindset when doing Innovation? Change Management deals with people in most business. 

Most people have skill set to get something done. Most people problems happen when a person is not to sure of the process to get something done. How can I show my value to helping people? How can I make people better Do people connect to innovation? What keeps people from being innovative?

Agile is about communication and collaboration. The tenants of Agile deal with all discuss of innovating. 


Vertical thinking is using obvious choices Select & reject versus Lateral thinking which is as many solutions and different perspectives. 

  • Write down initial statement
  • Underline keywords in problem
  • Throw out words

Backward and  Forward Planning

  • Visual Desired Result
  • List task & times
  • Plan supporting Tasks the same
  • Assign Responsibilities

LATERAL + BOUNDARY + backward forward thinking are building blocks of innovation. The follow are some characteristics  of a company that embraces innovation. 

  • Top Leadership supports innovation
  • Diverse set of Personalties and skills
  • The workforce & culture with innovation connect
  • Failure is expected and OK
  • Employees have time to innovate

What this session taught me is Innovation without value is a gimmick. If the correct influence is not done. Then passionate thoughts are really just opinions on what should be done. 

We did an exercise on what is a Innovative space. The outcome of exercise didn’t set well. It should have been what is the ideal work space a person needs to work. 

No one wants to fail at something, but we don’t innovate because it is a time issue. Is it a time issue or really a focus issue. That you don’t want to focus on things that you might fail at. 

The last exercise and part of the class was our table was to think of a innovative way to save a dying company. We grabbed Napster and our idea was passionate, but no next steps to do anything. 

Overall this was a good session. The facilitators were excellent. My take away is in some area of Information technology the work we do is really innovative.   Innovation happens every day.  We don’t call it that, but that what I got our of this session. 

AIM IT Leadership Academy: Strategic Planning

Friday December 7th was the second session of the AIM IT Leadership Academy on Strategic Planning. The session was the AIM institute downtown building.

The meeting was on the second floor Combine Community Meeting room.

Like the first meeting. I had an assigned seat with the agenda for the day was laid out at the table.

Strategic Planning

The morning started off with a talk about, What is Strategic Planning?

The three things the presenter wanted us to know:

  1. What is Strategic Planning?
  2. Tell how you would do it?
  3. Motivate to develop and Embrace.

Today’s IT Leader is similar to other roles in leadership.

Relationships & communication give you a credibility mindset.

Having a vision of Operational Excellence starts with Strategic Planning.

We teams are:

  • Visionary + builds operational plan
  • Communicator + own the numbers

Don’t break what works today?

How do you measure? Which is hard?
Is what you are changing a strategic enabler?

  • Know the Business
  • Know your business
  • Create a plan & effectively communicate that plan
  • Execute, measure, adjust

Employees want to know how to help the plan?
What do I do with the plan?

IT can help:

  • Grow Revenue
  • Reduce Operating Expenses
  • Manage Risks

Know the business:

  • Read company newsletters
  • Read announcements
  • Read about industry
  • Face to Face with business
  • Business Initiatives

Know your business

  • Products and services
  • Assets and Resources
  • Talent Development
  • Technical Investments

How to communicate a plan?

  • Obstacles and how to overcome them
  • Timeline
  • Measure Success

Why we choose to “not” be strategic?

  • Not good
  •  To busy
  • Value in it
  • Not my job
  • Nothing to show

Why to embrace Strategic Planning?


  • Career Advancement
  • Work life Balance
  • Budget Done
  • Happy


  •  Limit Career
  •  Up late at night
  •  Budget issues
  •  Not happy

Omaha Companies

The rest of the day involved hearing strategic plans from different CIO’s of Omaha based companies.

Farm Credit Services of America
Werner Enterprises
Nebraska Furniture Mart

The presenter would take time telling the group about their company. Then tells us about that companies strategic plans. The final part of the their presentation was to tell us a strategic problem their company would like each table to attack. The table would then spend 30 minutes to build a 3-minute presentation using what we learned from the first presentation of the day.

The 30 minutes was challenging. The ability to get our table to gather ideas, create a solid talking point, then determine how it would be presented.

After each table gave their presentation to the board which were the three CIO’s. The board would ask questions.

How do you measure you request?
What’s going to go wrong?
Where did you get a proposal?
What is your contingency plan?

Years ago, Information Technology was seen as overhead. The current state of a business is IT is core to the business. How will your language have IT engage in a recommend when presenting a strategy? Are there ever objectives to educate other parts of the business? Are there costs to get up and running? Then be careful in numbers? What is a timeline to the proposal?

Awesome ideas start with words that get to the point.

If you did a good job in presenting your strategy. The response to your proposal should be “What do you need from me?”

Presentation Skills

The last hour of the day was working on Presentations Skills. Members of the Omaha Chapter of Toastmasters International.

Tips for presenting or speaking:

  • There are no rules
  • Let things go
  • Talk about self
  • Prepare
  • Transitions
  • Remove distractions
  • Audible Level
  • Eye Contact
  • Visual Aids
  • Tell the best story, then keep telling the story.


This class made me get “It” when looking at levels of leadership. I know grasp the roles of different levels of leadership in terms of planning and leading an organization. The acts of planning are the same at any level, but it is the breadth of responsibility of the planning on why people are chosen to lead from a organizational level.

AIM IT Leadership Academy: Leadership & Teams

Friday November 2nd was my first session in the AIM IT Leadership Academy at CSG International.  

When I arrived to the conference room, I had an assigned seat. The Agenda for the day was laid out at my table.  

The class started with Introductions. I told everyone my name Anthony Carlson. I work at Farm Credit Services of America. I shared that I am the person who responds to messages at strange hours.  

The first exercise we did at our table was designing a leader. The hard part of this activity was determining if the traits we talked about should apply to everyone or just a person we wanted to exist.  

After this activity we dived into Emergentics. Emergenetics is a response profile tool that helps you and your team to understand yourself and each other. A folder was handed out that had our group information and personal information.  

There are 4 ways of thinking in my profile. If you think like this you will always be like this is a wrong approach to thinking. Learn to separate different ways of thinking out.  

In looking at the behaviors the questions were asked. How much energy do you put into things? The words your using to talk to others, are they close to your heart? The willingness to accommodate the thoughts and actions of others.  

People will observe behavior before the see the way you are thinking. The social response is to ask what you are thinking and not see your behaviors.  When you read a audience you are in conceptual and analytical mindset which happens more in IT related functions.   

Intent Impact Model:

Is the intention getting the impact. The common theme is the message you send is interrupted in different ways.  

How do you want to be treated over How I treat everyone. If you think only one way you might miss something.  

What motivates you to learn? It is not that you cannot do different aspects of your profile. It is exhausting to do things that do not come naturally.  

Capstone Project

In the middle of the day we were put in groups of 2 to 3 individuals. I was partnered with a employee of Team Software and Werner Enterprises. Our group is to deliver a 10-minute presentation related to Emotional Intelligence on Agile Teams. A one-page document was given with guidelines to follow. The date of the project delivery will be in April.  

Project goals : 

  • Research and data 
  • Proven metrics 
  • Pace and flow of what we think is considered Agile 
  • Try to be visionary: How we think the future of Agile will look.  
  • Include everyone 

Ending Thoughts

The first session was well done. We had a great facilitator and the pace was just right. I look forward to sharing all the information from the session with my accountability buddy and my leader at work.

These were my three actions I took from this course.

  1. Find empathetic ways when working with others I don’t understand.
  2. Practical thinkers are predictable that is ok, make connections.
  3. Try to appreciate how different everyone is.

AIM IT Leadership Academy: Orientation session

On Thursday, October 4th, from 4pm-6pm, at DJ’s Dugout,  located at 777 No. 114th Street. I met up with 27 other IT professionals from the metropolitan Omaha community that were selected for the 2018-19 AIM IT Leadership Academy


The purpose of the meeting was to review the AIM IT Leadership program. There were past program graduates there to explain the expectations for each participate.  Each participant has a accountability partner to help the candidate through the program.