Tuesday, November 28, 2017

CIOs, Are you the Fiercest Critic to Yourself?

Digital CIOs need to be the fiercest critic to themselves for improving their leadership maturity.

Due to the disruptive nature of technology and exponential growth of information, the role of CIO has to be reinvented for adapting to changes and re-energized for leading digital transformation. Digital CIOs are not just tactical IT managers, they are strategic business executives and inspirational digital visionaries. To lead effectively, the CIO should have both self-awareness and digital awareness: Knowing who you are and how you react and respond to different situations can help you discover the true self, present authenticity, understand leadership substance, stimulate creativity, and build differentiated professional competency. It takes cognitive understanding, courage, and practice. CIOs: Are you the fiercest critic to yourself?

Highly qualified digital CIOs are the fiercest critic to themselves, and they are also actively looking for constructive criticism and smart skepticism like the hidden gems: The CIO is one of the most sophisticated executive roles in modern businesses because they have to wear multiple hats and practice the situation leadership all the time. Thus, digital CIOs need to do self-reflection periodically for clarifying their leadership focus and improving their leadership maturity. They should continually ask themselves: Am I a tactical IT manager or a business strategist? Am I a technology specialist being perceived as a geek or a specialized generalist being profiled as a T-shaped business executive? Is my IT organization only an order taker or a trustful business partner? Etc. Digital CIOs are the fiercest critic of themselves, they need to have the willingness and ability to learn and then apply those lessons to succeed in the new situation. Nobody is perfect, we should always self-aware, including our flaws and shortcomings. Digital CIOs have self-awareness of cognitive, relational, and assertive actions they take on a day to day basis. They show learning plasticity, continuously seek new challenges, solicit direct feedback and constructive criticism, self-driven and get works done resourcefully.

Constructive critics are like a mirror - it not only shows our lacuna but also gives an alert of forthcoming challenges we are facing:  The CIO as IT leader must practice critical thinking to make sound judgments and effective decisions at the daily basis. The CIO should also actively look for constructive critics from internal users or business partners for improving IT performance and customer satisfaction. The best thing about the constructive critic or the negative feedback with positive intention is that it calls to make a person or an organization much more self-aware and can fuel professional progress or business growth.  Increasingly, the CIO looks to play a role in supplementing the business vision with technology as the accelerator and innovator, the constructive critics help them think further, broader and deeper to keep alert of forthcoming challenges they are facing in the “VUCA” digital new normal. Change is a gradual process and digital transformation is a long journey, CIOs as change leaders and managers with self-awareness can ride learning curve smoothly, and there is a high level of trust within the upper rankings of the management team, to overcome roadblocks to changes. The growth mind with self-reflection, egoless adaptation is important for improving CIO leadership maturity.

The feedback gaps can only be closed when the working environment is diverse, dynamic, energetic, and innovative, and leaders are open and inclusive: Leadership is the state of the mind. The excellent feedback offers you the clue to see things you might ignore; gives you invaluable information to improve, triggers great questions to self-aware, and also provides you good intention to understand other parties with empathy and keen insight to help you grow and mature. When people in the organization are too “fit in,” they think the same and act the same, without challenging each other’s point of view; no wonder that the feedback gaps are enlarged, more blind spots are created to cause decision ineffectiveness, and communication bottlenecks stifle the speed of changes. In these change lagging business environments, people are used to getting stuck in the comfort zone and often make the compromise to be the “team player,” to keep” the old way to do things” mentality. In an innovative work environment, there is an integration of thinking, learning and doing, people enjoy the creative tension and constructive feedback. The constructive criticism and honest well-wishes provide you excellent advice or feedback to make continuous improvement.

Digital CIOs need to be the fiercest critic to themselves for improving their leadership maturity, they should also be the constructive feedback providers to the business and ensure the company as a whole can achieve much more than the sum of pieces. They need to be the honest well-wisher to their IT teams for encouraging innovation, unlocking talent potential, and amplifying collective human capability. So, CIOs can truly become the change agent and transformational leader.


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