Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Mindful Digital CIO’s Leadership Dilemma: Shall you Put Hands-on or Keep Hands-Off?

Being strategic CIOs doesn’t mean that they couldn't be the handy tactical manager when needed.

Today’s CIOs have multiple roles to play and take broader leadership responsibilities in transforming their organizations. Being strategic or transformational means CIOs should always stay focus on the big picture of the business, ensure IT effectiveness and reach high performance. There is no doubt that CIOs need to be mindful and innovative, but their management dilemma would be: Shall yo put u hands-on or keep hands-off - when shall you focus on the strategic IT movement and where shall you put hands on some significant management disciplines?

Put hands on key IT management processes: For most of the enterprises, the true focus of a CIO is the strategic vision, not the day to day operation as this should be delegated. However, CIOs should have the hands-on key management processes that feed them the facts upon which to make better strategic decisions and measure how well they are doing, and how to unlock IT performance, as well as the digital potential of the entire company. Being strategic CIOs doesn’t mean that they couldn't be the handy tactical manager when needed. The important management processes such as planning, leveraging and prioritizing enable IT to well align the resources and talent with the long-term goals as well as the bottom line IT efficiency. The other critical "hands-on" piece needs to be executed through the CIO appointing the right leadership team who can deliver well, commit time and attention to performance check, portfolio management, and effective governance. In order to get the right “hands-on,” IT leaders should understand both business and IT puzzle pieces, have a medium/long term IT investment and performance horizon in mind, know what are critical business problems, so they can put more energy on them, and be able to “pick the right team,” - knowing what you need, why and then who, for solving them.

CIOs need to be “hands-on” for building trust: Trust means how to strike the right balance upon what CIOs can give up control, and what they need to control. CIOs do need to be tactical when necessary, know IT inside out and outside-in to a certain degree, without getting lost or burned out in continuous IT overload. So they don't see the need to change. CIO should be a strategic leader with the ability to have hands-on control of situations. CIOs shouldn’t ignore key details or measure results. They need to see around the corner, and make the necessary “5W+1H” IT navigation via asking why, who, what, when, where, how, etc, in order to capture a comprehensive picture about IT performance. Establish credibility, demonstrate that you understand the business, and you can act, not just plan the future

Pay more attention to ineffective hands-on or micromanagement pitfalls: Pay more attention to “micromanagement” pitfalls. Ineffective “hands-on” means they are interfering, undermining their people and therefore inhibiting the decision-making processes and stifling innovation as well as the execution of the required deliverables. Micromanagers are often seen by the organization as detail oriented, this can be very perplexing sometimes because managers suddenly find themselves more worried about some routines, not laser focus on the top priority. CIOs need to be hand on for leading, coach for a finite period of time because there is a deficiency of skills that need to be developed or barriers that need to be overcome. It’s important to "hands-on," but "fingers out." Empowerment, empathy, and enablement are all crucial for executives to lead effectively, to well engage and motivate the team to take extra miles and encourage creativity.

CIOs need to be strategic to focus on the most important issues without missing the “big picture.” The dangers are getting too involved in the technologies and losing the sight of the real goals. But when necessary, they are able to dive into technical know-how, to enforce communication with the staff and putting attention to the important details. Mindful CIOs know when they should get hands-off to run an autonomous IT organization, and where they need to put hands on for either pulling the team together or giving a necessary push to unlock IT performance. The key point is to manage their time and energy effectively and run IT effortlessly.


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