Balancing the demands of the job, career, and the self is always a delicate dance. It requires managing the competing priorities of each day, the dynamic pace of change and the constant fear of not being ready for the future. As CIOs, we are always on. The challenge is to ensure that in the midst of routine chaos you continue to transform yourself and remain relevant at your company and in your profession. This competency takes concentration, requires trade-offs and intentional focus on where and how you spend your time. The challenge is to ensure that in the midst of routine chaos you continue to transform yourself and remain relevant at your company and in your profession.
At the foundation, a great CIO must be resilient and nimble. This requires both physical and mental health. Keeping a regular exercise routine, getting good sleep and eating healthy are table stakes to survive and excel as a leader. This takes an intentional effort to change your daily behaviors and routines.
Find ways during the day to increase your physical fitness such as taking the stairs, parking longer distances from your building and walking through airports versus taking trains or people movers. Schedule meetings away from your office to provide you walking time and more visibility, do yoga in your hotel room and take a five-minute break between meetings to breathe and stretch. Also, build fitness into your schedule by blocking time during the day to ensure you don’t have “time creep” and forfeit your health to an ever increasing demand for your time and attention.
Staying relevant means staying informed. Leverage your LinkedIn network as the tool to reach out to connections on emerging subjects. Make sure you don’t dilute your network with names of people you don’t know. Managing your personal internal and external networks requires prudence and cultivation.
A good rule of thumb for me is whether or not I can pick up the phone or drop an email to a contact with the confidence that they will make time to talk, offer career advice, or willingly share their thoughts on topics. The goal is to build your own knowledge base of experts that you can tap into for new ideas, opinions on thought-leading topics and expand your free sources of expertise. Keeping a regular exercise routine, getting good sleep and eating healthy are table stakes to survive and excel as a leader.
Block out time on your calendar to read whitepapers, stay informed and explore new topics. If you don’t put it on the calendar, you will never find time. Make sure you attend at least one to two seminars, conferences and summits each year to add to your portfolio of new ideas, new learnings, and new connections.
Staying resilient requires you to periodically recharge your batteries. Here are five tips on how to remain energized:
1. Combat fatigue with the 3-plus-1 challenge
A few years ago I wanted to find a way to leverage the gamification concept to help combat my team’s fatigue. The 3-plus-1 game is a simple concept of challenging each individual to take some uninterrupted time off and do one new thing. The challenge: take 72 hours (3 days) off from checking email, no peeking, no checking in, no reading but not responding to emails, etc. You either pass or fail. Check email at the 71-hour mark? You fail.
During the disconnect time, the requirement is to do one new thing. Whether it is binge watching a favorite show, zip lining, trying a new restaurant, going to a new park, the goal is to change the routine and experience one new thing, to help refresh and revitalize yourself.
I usually try to issue this challenge during a long weekend or over a holiday so that people can feel like they can check email on the last day before coming into work. Note: anyone on your team can escalate an issue by calling or texting without failing the challenge. This is the equivalent of the safety valve.
At the end of the 72 hours, everyone reports back to the team on their rating and the one new thing that they did. It’s been great fun and holds us all accountable for keeping resilient.
2. Take your vacation
Find new places, new people and new experiences to help change your perspective. Get out of your own head and increase the chances that you will learn something new. As CIOs, we are always on. The challenge is to ensure that in the midst of routine chaos you continue to transform yourself and remain relevant at your company and in your profession.
3. Turn off the phone
Create distance at a set time each night. Don’t recharge the phone in your bedroom overnight. Allow for physical separation from the urge to check emails.
4. Maintain maniacal focus on what and where you spend your time
Re-plan every day (if you only have one thing you can pick to focus on, pick this one, it is the core dependency for everything else).
5. Build your bench aka your next level leaders.
In order for you to spend your time on the highest business priorities and emerging trends, your team must be able to deliver on critical initiatives. They must be able to spot issues, have difficult conversations, and speak the language of business. In short, complete with all the levers that drive value in terms of customer experience, value, profitability, risk, etc. Find these people and nurture them.
However, you choose to spend your time, keep working to ensure you can build the competency of transforming as a leader even with today’s pace of change!
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