By Sue B. Workman, VP University Technology and CIO, Case Western Reserve University
As we flip the calendar from 2016 to 2017, it’s time to consider making resolutions - personal goals- that will support a productive and fulfilling new year. As CIOs, prioritizing a few personal goals can help us be prepared for all the challenges in this profession. These goals have more to do with preparing ourselves to be extraordinary leaders than with technology. We need resolutions that will most effectively serve the constant, fast-moving demands of the CIO job which often involves leading a large group of people. To accomplish our jobs well, we need to have almost unlimited stamina and must also set an example at all times. People typically will follow their leader, so if the leader is enjoying working hard and is productive, the staff are likely to do the same. In order to motivate a high-functioning staff, a high-functioning leader is needed to model the way. A prerequisite to being able to achieve and sustain the necessary high productivity and competence is to take very good care of yourself. You wouldn’t expect a race car to compete without fuel, a tuned engine, inflated tires and a very clean windshield. Leaders must also have fuel and be well prepared physically and mentally to get the job done. While many of these resolutions I share are traditional for other reasons, they are most applicable to those of us in the C-suite as well.
1. Take care of our health - The CIO job takes a great deal of stamina, energy, and mental strength. We must be healthy to be the best CIOs and leaders we can be. Too often, the time bomb will keep us from doing the right things to keep our bodies and brains healthy. So this year, resolve to:
• Exercise. (Don’t almost all resolutions include exercise?) Exercise to keep your body strong, and also raise the spirit.
We must invest in our own training as well to maintain growth and keep up with the ever-changing landscape of the CIO position and perhaps prepare for our next challenges
• Eat right. Another time bomb risk. Too often we grab and eat on the go.
• Sleep. The most successful people also get enough restful sleep.
2. Take care of our spirit – Related to health, care of spirit can also support being a good CIO. A meditation/prayer practice can calm even the most hectic of days into a manageable pace, and nurture emotional acuity for better performance serving to also relieve anxieties that we might inadvertently pass along to our staff. Even a brisk walk between meetings - take the outside route - can renew our spirit and brighten the day.
3. Keep a strategic focus – Think big picture, think innovation, delegate all you can to keep that high-level, strategic focus. Scientists have discovered that decision-making power is a depleting resource. Ever wonder why you get home in the evening and don’t even want to decide what to eat? There’s a reason. Protect your decision bank for strategic decisions, and let others make the smaller ones.
4. Professional development – As a CIO, I know how important it is to make sure my staff has the technical knowledge to perform their jobs. It is also my duty to make sure they have adequate professional development to perform their jobs and also grow into future careers. If we promote a really good and successful technician to be a manager, or promote a manager to a more senior level position, we must make sure at the same time to create a training plan to guarantee their success in new roles. Delegate tasks to stretch your staff letting them show off their talents and grow. But do not limit professional development only to staff. We must invest in our own training as well to maintain growth and keep up with the ever-changing landscape of the CIO position and perhaps prepare for our next challenges.
5. Build and renew relationships – Take a moment to review your strategic plan and your goals and create a stakeholder mapping of those who will be key to achieving success, then plan how you can reach out to them and build necessary relationships.
It may be coffee with faculty, sharing a ride to a meeting with a dean, or simply inviting students to an ice cream social. Get out of your office to build relationship capital and trust - before you need it. It will do wonders in the long run.
6. Build trust – Always do what you say you will do, when you said you would do it. Be trustworthy: simple.
7. Walk around the building – Instead of heading straight into the office and staying in there except to go to meetings, take a different route, tarry a little. By checking in with your staff and giving the present of your presence, you will get to know them on a personal basis and enjoy a more fruitful partnership.
8. Get out of the comfort zone – You can’t live in the CIO world all of the time, or you will become stale, and even a bit boring. Try something new - yoga, horseback riding, wine and art, travel to a new location, or even try a new cuisine.
9. Ask for volunteers – Most of the time we assign projects. For at least one project this year, ask for volunteers who would like to do this project. See if the outcome is different, or faster, or there’s more satisfaction of the team members if it is their idea to participate instead of yours.
10. Create a culture of “Accountable but Fun”– We all spend much of our lifetime working. We should enjoy this time, and feel like our work contributes to the greater good. Enjoying our work does not alleviate accountability or responsibility, it’s simply a different frame of mind.
I strive to be the best leader I can be. I want to set high goals and achieve them. I want to support the mission of my university and help faculty teach, students learn, and researchers succeed. Yes, I have to know technology and the political, cultural, and strategic landscape. But first, I must make sure my body, brain, and spirit are in the right place to make it possible for me to achieve these goals. Join me in making these resolutions this year!