The last few years have changed the work landscape dramatically. Inflation, supply chain strain, and a continuing pandemic are just a few of the influences today on how work takes place and how often roles are turned over. Over 25% of jobs are predicted to be remote by the end of next year, compared to 4% before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

While the flexibility of remote and hybrid work has boosted productivity for some businesses, the challenges it’s introduced for many are still being resolved or even uncovered. The remote dynamic itself isn’t problematic, but has shined light on what is critical moving foward for a productive business and a healthy work environment. CIOs lead more than just IT teams, and the influence they hold on company culture and individual contribution throughout an organization make it critical now they use the skills that lead, motivate, and grow in the face of any challenge. We’ll share our input on traits vital for successful leadership now.

 

Flexibility

 

2022 is an opportunity to prepare for all kinds of definitions of “the unexpected.” To be ready for change is now the norm. A successful leader should understand both the current state of business technology and what new is approaching on the horizon. This enables them to position:

 

  • Their team
  • Their tools, &
  • Their technology 

 

for operations ready for the present, and ready to adapt to industry trends, evolving threats, growing competition, and all unexpected changes we’ve learned can be just around the corner.

 

Threats to the security and operations of the business should continue to be a primary concern for technology leaders. When you find out your sensitive corporate data is leaked, or your assets are held hostage in a ransomware attack, correcting course and minimizing impact are first priority. Incidents of this nature, even if not identified early through a monitoring solution, for example, become obvious quickly. Yet, a silent killer remains capable of crippling your business slowly and making it difficult to trace what could be stunting your growth, demotivating your team, or stagnating sales—complacency. 

 

More important than following any particular leadership method is that you readjust based on your success and your failures. What has worked for you before? What kind of changes were successful, but have outlived their usefulness? By analyzing what about your workplace dynamic (from the method of leadership to the schedule of work and relationship between teams and leaders) proves effective, and making this assessment a consistent part of your leadership, you will build a robust toolkit of knowledge and practices suited for any team.

 

Preparation

 

Digital transformation is accelerating the pace of business, and keeping up requires more than responding to change. Modernizing your technology and upskilling your employees are no longer proactive practices—they’re required to navigate business competition, support your teams, and protect against evolving security threats. Your IT team should be versed in new and emerging technologies like AI and BI, business automation, big data, mobile technologies, and the list goes on. The best way to stay ahead of the game is to ensure that your team understands the leading way to play.

 

The war on talent remains stronger than ever, too. A Gartner survey conducted in September of 2021 revealed that about 50% of employees hired in the year prior had two additional job offers they considered simultaneously. Regardless of industry or size, attracting and retaining talent is a big challenge right now. Yet, while employee turnover is at its highest, you can position yourself for it to work in your favor. Hire for potential and avoid experiential qualification alone. Pitch the skills that your department nurtures and the careers it helps build together. Allowing prospective employees input on how, when, and where they best contribute to your business goals signals the intention for long-lasting and fruitful relationships, rather than mere qualified workers. 

 

Sustainability

 

In a time where adaptability is the best asset your business can have, IT must also be closely aligned with operations. Speed—the rate at which you can get done what needs to be in a limited amount of time—is key. Yet, the structure of your team workflow should enable sustainability so your business can champion the marathon, and isn’t exhausted sprinting week after week.

 

Eliminating any confusion, vagueness, or disorganization in your workflow is vital for a smooth and productive employee experience. Harvard Business Review projects “More than 90% of employers are planning to adopt a hybrid working model for their knowledge workers in 2022.” With many employees’ primary concern being how to maintain a healthy work-life balance, the most competitive businesses now have no choice but to support and enable productivity without inducing burnout.

 

Compassion

 

Create trust. An emotionally intelligent and compassionate CIO is most approachable. When your team can trust and turn to you with difficult or personal issues that can otherwise get in the way of work, you will be able to help them navigate roadblocks and minimize the impact of those issues. 

 

CIOs also hold strong influence over company culture. From instilling cyber hygiene to facilitating digital literacy and engaging team members with one another—the ways you influence and shape a team culture should fit with your leadership style. With internal social networks largely separated or disbanded altogether in many cases, it has become vital for IT professionals to communicate effectively with their peers the ways technology contributes to the advancement of the company’s objectives.

 

Communication is also key to assess your pace. Burn out is unfortunate, but avoidable. If your team members fail to understand the big picture impact of their contribution, work becomes a hamster wheel. A focus on what motivates each team member will drive the most fulfilling and efficient work for them. If your employees’ goals don’t align with your leadership vision, your motion as a team will feel the friction, and some may pursue another professional path as a result.

 

Despite shifting preference to remote work for many, people still want to engage with other people. Office relationships and support networks are important to maintain. Understanding how to do so both in-the-office and over Zoom will enable your team the most engaged workflow.

 

Clarity

 

Measuring productivity can be complex. While it can seem obvious to a leader or manager what success looks like for a particular role, these expectations aren’t always translated into clear instructions.  “Be a team player” or “Go above and beyond” are vague, and might more likely confuse a team member who needs to hear “We need you to attend more of the meetings you were invited to.” Clarity not only ensures the right work gets done, but also helps build rapport and trust between team members. The most effective way to establish and measure this is through objective metrics the team members responsible for them can understand and can deliver on. 

 

The Takeaway

 

The digital world moves quickly. Between cyberattack activity, business innovation, and employee turnover, the ways we work, whom we work with, and the challenges which threaten work are all changing faster than ever. Yet, the past two years have been especially educational for businesses who are now, particularly through technology and the leaders and teams who drive impact with it, learning to be ready for truly anything. At the end of the day, a foundation for scalable, adaptable, and efficient systems, and support for the people ultimately responsible for delivering business value through it, is the best investment that can be made. When your employees feel the impact of their contribution reflected back at them, it fuels

Learn more about how we empower technology leadership and make IT simple at Blue Equinox

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