CIO Leadership

What Effective CIOs Think About As A Year Nears Its End

CIOs benefit from periodic resets. Approaching the end of a calendar year is a great time to reset for a new beginning in the new year. Reset to three essential needs.

Scott Smeester


November 9, 2023

Photo credit:
Jose Antonio

It’s crazy to think that we are almost too late to do good end of year work that will set up the best start of a new year.

But we still have time, and given the value that time represents, this is great news.

Let’s not waste our time.

I am a reader. I have believed for years that leaders are readers (and viewers and listeners). For some reason, six different sources that I read this week addressed different topics that boil down to one shared theme: The need for a reset.

  • One article discussed greater employee attention in IT.
  • Another spoke of the dynamic of resistance in our work.
  • A third told of how Walmart is doing a makeover.
  • Still another was a simple blog encouraging patience in the beginning of a project.
  • A fifth was a plea to never hold onto a process because we have always done it

All of them, in their own way, were talking about how to reset yourself or your team or your organization for greater effectiveness.

And we know what it is to need a reset:

  • Sometimes I need to organize my office
  • You know what it is to clean up your files and photos and anything collected over time
  • A relationship is feeling tense
  • A project is over-budget and missing deadlines
  • A worker is sowing discontent and negativity
  • The competition is winning
  • Key players and/or leaders are gone
  • Goals were not reached

Resets are only as effective as our knowledge of what needs to be reset. Though those areas will differ for a leader or a team, my research continues to reveal three areas that beg for your attention as a CIO or technology leader.

The First Area Has Only Been The Number One Need For Thirteen Years In A Row

Yes, thirteen years. According to the annual report of the Work Institute, career growth, especially employee development, has been the number one reason that people leave or stay at their place of work.

It’s not as if we aren’t trying to develop and train employees. The fault lies not in our lack of effort but in our approach. 

Today’s development is cookie-cutter. You have been saddled with formula strategies that have soured.

You will not lose people when they believe that you see the best in them and seek the best for them.

You will not lose people when they believe that you have their best interest at heart, their best future in mind and their best experience in the forefront of all you do.

It’s time for a reset.

Cookie cutter development doesn’t work. It neither sees nor seeks the best in your employees. Customized development does.

Customized development is informed by assessment. 

You have the opportunity to reset to a better way of development by conducting assessments among your team. I consistently use the following tool:

Four Question Assessment (courtesy of Tom Paterson)

What is Right that we want to Maximize?

What is Wrong that we want to Improve?

What is Missing that we want to Add?

What is Confusing that we need to Clarify?

CIO Mastermind serves leaders by crafting with them the customized development that best serves to engage and retain your employees. 

It’s Not The Job I Hate, It’s The Work

Work characteristics, including stress, remain the second most reason people leave.

A word about stress. There is a difference between stressors and stress. Stressors happen to us. Stress happens within us. The difference is that stressors have an end to them - a deadline that will or won’t be met, a conversation that will or won’t be had, and bad news that we will respond to.

Stress is a cycle we must complete and end. We carry stress. We can let go of stress. Stress is a physical and emotional reaction. We can bring our body into a state of calm; we must bring our emotions into a state of rest. We tell ourselves “the stress-event is over.” We acknowledge the response we had, the concerns we felt, and the thoughts we believed. Then we reset.

Most employees do not work in an environment where the cycle of stress gets to be completed. 

We call people to be strong. We rally them to be resilient. We proclaim a season we will all get through. 

All of which leaves stress in our bodies, emotions and beliefs. Employees don’t get to say, “It’s over. I’m safe.”

If the key to development begins with assessments, the key to building a positive work environment and overcoming stress is coaching. 

People must have the opportunity to process, to be taught how to bring tension to completion, and to reset their physical, mental and emotional self. I’m not writing about counseling, though that can be a part of a healthier work environment. I am talking about coaching which helps a person process and then move forward around action steps that bring resolve.

Who is coaching, training and mentoring you to have an effective coaching strategy within your organization? I’m happy to help, of course.

How Can One Word Have So Many Different Meanings

The third reset needs to be around culture.

That word. Tossed around more than a good, green salad and interpreted in a way that is far less satisfying. 

Culture is the expression of your values. Values are the non-negotiable behaviors by which you operate.

Fail to communicate values, celebrate values, audit values and correct around values, and you will suffer a mash of controlling behavior, passive-aggression, manipulation, whining and drift. You must establish and guard values.

Values are audited by the time, energy, ability and money that you have put to them; values require evidence not just aspiration.

Values are guarded by confrontation, course-correction, and reward.

Are you exceptionally clear on your team’s values? Can you gather your team and prove that you have lived out the vallues over the past year? 

If you feel any fracture in your people, your process, or your technology success, I’m pinning the responsibility on unclear and unguarded values.

This is where training comes in. 

How do you communicate values when you onboard employees?

How do you check-in on values regularly?

How do you correct behavior by aligning to values?

How do you celebrate when someone models your values?

Effective leaders understand the rhythms of a year. You are nearing an end, which is always time to prune and cultivate. 

Reset by:

Assessing development.

Coaching stress.

Training values.

Walmart is spending 9 billion dollars to modernize the look of their stores and the experience of their customers. It’s time for you to do the same - to reset your look and feel - without significant cost but certainly with great return.

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