Divergent CIO

An innovative, transformative, and digital leader experienced in Technology and Executive Leadership

How Leaders Maintain Confidence During Uncertainty

 

Agility...patience...poise...unwavering strength...these are all qualities displayed by true leaders in times of uncertainty. There are many things that can contribute to uncertainty, from increased marketplace demands to competitive factors. Leaders must display confidence to minimize the impact of uncertainty; indeed, how leaders respond to growing pressures directly speaks to their leadership preparedness, maturity and acumen, according to Forbes.

Mental and Physical Composure

This composure can be seen not just in what leaders say but how they carry themselves. From attitude to body language, leadership in its most basic form is all about making colleagues feel safe and secure and not just about helping them increase their performance and effectiveness. Employees are sick of running on empty, trying to get ahead just to survive the jungle that is the workplace. They want to know they have a place in that workplace with a leader who will ensure their job security in tumultuous times. No one can do their best job during the day when they're constantly looking over their shoulders and fearing for their jobs.


Avoiding Crisis Mode

Too many CIOs and other leaders are thrown for a loop when difficult situations are presented to them. While they may have all the credentials and experience in the world, some simply can't handle the pressure of maintaining composure during times of crisis and change. This leads to ineffective leadership because those individuals can't adapt to the unexpected. A true leader can stand above the chaos, see it as a chance for opportunity, maintain composure, and overcome that adversity. They can see beyond the present, institute change, and see it through to the other side. Instead of panic, there is calm.

This doesn't mean the leader is a push-over. This doesn't mean he or she is lacking in temerity, steadfastness and grit. It means the leader pushes through the noise, sees it for what it is, and institutes a clear objective without backing down. There's no doubt that uncertain times can test the mettle of even the strongest of companies. This is precisely when solid leaders must act in a decisive manner, setting an example that all can follow with confidence. 

Tips for the Confident Leader

1. Keep emotions at bay: Wearing your heart on your sleeve may be good in love and romance, but it has no place at work in positions of leadership. Good leaders don't let their emotions get the best of them; they don't yell, panic, stress out, or cast blame. They keep their feelings in check, push through and channel that passion into a positive outlet of energy: solving the problem at hand quickly and efficiently. Expending all that emotional energy wastes opportunity and only tires you out for the real task.

2. Don't get defensive: It's natural for people to take things personally in the work place when things don't go their way, assuming the unfair reality of office politics is the culprit. But while office politics does exist, the true leader doesn't take a defensive stance; rather he takes a proactive stance. It's a simple reality that business decisions won't always go your way. That's part of living in a society. How you maintain composure and move on during those times of seeming unfairness will make all the difference. We all know people in our professional and personal lives who figuratively stomp their feet and say "that's not fair!" every time they don't get their way. Strong leaders don't waste time on taking things personally.

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Implementing a Successful Organizational Transformation

 

No one always likes change, but change is a necessary catalyst to improve the fundamentals of any organization. Transformation requires strong, authentic leadership in order to be successful; if not, failure is a very real possibility. CIO.com says that in many transformation programs, sufficient checks and balances exist so that failure does not readily occur; however, if not managed well, transformation programs can be delivered late, over-budget and far off the track of the original vision. Statistics show that less than 40 percent of transformation programs are successful, due to a disconnect that exists in the goals of such programs and the reality of resources that can be devoted to it (time, money, personnel, etc.).


Implementing a Transformation Office

That's where the implementation of a Transformation Management Office (TMO) comes in. Someone has to be at the helm of the operation who not only recognizes the inherent challenges that come with implementing enterprise transformation and the work that must be done to achieve it, but who also can guarantee streamlined, spot-on execution at just the right pace with all eyes on the finish line. Combining strategy with clear-cut goals for implementation is critical for the TMO.


What Does a TMO Do?

This part of an organization is the crux of any successful transformation, with the central duty being to implement the complex task of adding value and accountability to the process. In general, the TMO will:

  • Lead the charge in coming up with creative, workable ideas designed to fuel the transformation effort and ensure it has the steam to move forward.
  • Offer a simple yet detailed approach to the process so executives and other key personnel can take those ideas and run with them.
  • Analyze how the transformation will take place and align with corporate vision.
  • Ensure the program has clear objectives.
  • Utilizes a streamlined operating model where efficiency and cost effectiveness take center stage.

The bottom line is, organizational transformation is disruptive. It's uncomfortable for many, and it takes time. That's why a TMO must be brought on board to concentrate on the specific tasks involved in orchestrating this endeavor, following it through to its completion despite such roadblocks. Putting this task on front-line staff and executives too entrenched in the organization already is a recipe for disaster. This is why a traditional project management office (PMO) is not a good choice to lead such an initiative. They deal with administration and compliance on a regular basis, and therefore would not be a good fit for the challenges that are part and parcel of a large transformation initiative.

The difference between success and failure of an organizational transformation often comes down to action. Your TMO needs to walk a fine line between strategy and clear objectives on one side but also implementation and action on the other. Anyone can sit in a boardroom and contemplate goals. It takes a strong leadership team to take those talking points and apply them in a value-driven way for success. Which side of the line will you be on?

 
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Creating Highly Effective Teams

 

When you think of a team, you think of many different people working together to form a focused cohesive unit. Whether on the ball field on in the board room, teams are an integral component to success. And while individual performance does impact the outcome of the team's efforts, no one person should be greater than the sum of all parts. In a perfect world, this makes sense. In the real world, however, a lot of work has to go on behind the scenes to be the manager of such a well-oiled team. Personal agendas, misguided focus, and just plain laziness often get in the way that can derail the group and prevent it from reaching its goals.

That's why a leader is needed to help hone and create an effective team through a variety of approaches, from clear communication to engagement. Let's take a look at some of those in more detail.


Engage Your Team

As leader, your job is to guide your employees in their overall mission, then step back and let them mature as a solid entity as they take on new and expansive roles and responsibilities. Giving each person his own responsibility and vision empowers individuals, which benefits the team as a whole. Your employees crave the feeling of being valued and challenged, and they are eager to be trusted with the freedom to explore and learn while on the job. A few things you can do:

 

  • Detect and encourage the most positive capabilities in each person.
  • Stop micromanaging and start empowering teammates to discover their full potential. Micromanagement leads to disengagement.
  • Stage them in a position of influence.
  • Share your successes while making them feel an integral part of that accomplishment.
  • Ditch the mind games and be consistent with your approach and style. Have your employees' backs.


Stay Connected

One big reason teams fall apart and lose focus is that they feel disconnected from each other. Fortunately, it's easier than ever to keep people connected, via internal social networks and video conferencing solutions, so team members can get a better sense of how their individual contributions impact their team and the organization as a whole, says Forbes. That's why an investment by your company in these technologies is crucial in an effort to offer flexible work environments that further foster employee engagement.

Know Each Team Member's Strengths

An added benefit of the above-mentioned technology is that managers and leaders can more readily keep their fingers on the pulse of the organization in an effort to stay on top of what motivates and inspires employees. However, all the technology in the world won't help you really get to know what makes each person on the team tick. That comes from one-on-one observance, open collaboration, and a healthy rapport between yourself and each team member. 

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What is True Leadership?

 

Integrity...credibility...respect...these are just a few qualities of a true leader. Anyone can be in a position of leadership, whether at work, school or peer group, but this isn't just a title, lip service or a delegation. It has to come from within. True leaders know who they are and what they stand for; they know their values and the rules they will abide by; and they know and communicate their values openly with those they lead, creating an atmosphere of certainty and trust, says Forbes.

True Leader

A true leader also:

  • Lives the values they profess to believe
  • Leads by example
  • Works side by side those they lead in order to get to know and care about them
  • Inspires their team
  • Listens without being condescending
  • Is willing to hear what others have to say without judgment
  • Is patient and genuine in their thoughts
  • Communicates openly and often
  • Disciplines with a desire to help others improve rather than from a place of anger
  • Gives feedback in a respectful way
  • Doesn't use sarcasm to communicate; this makes others feel uncertain or belittled

True leaders never back down from a challenge. Yes, everyone has to pick their battles, but when their instincts tell them something is or isn't right, they’ll defend their position succinctly and thoroughly. True leaders also have empathy. That's because they're genuine and sincere, allowing them to understand innately what another is going through because they've been there themselves. This stems from being true to oneself. Not everyone has empathy just like not everyone has respect. It has to be earned.

Thought Leaders

People also ask me, "What is a thought leader?"  A thought leader is an informed opinion leader who is the top resource in their field of expertise. They are trusted leaders who inspire people with innovative and unique ideas; but they don't just talk about it -- they turn those ideas into reality. It's actually a big part of content marketing where you can convey your talent, experience and passion about what you do. Answering questions your readers need to know doesn't stem from a fancy degree. It relies on a differentiated point of view that rests with being an authority in your industry. 

Thought leaders don't just talk the talk -- they actually inspire change in meaningful ways and encourage others to join their efforts through evolutionary advancements in their fields. Yes, they encourage others to be open to new ways of thinking, but they also create the map by which people can achieve it. This set of best practices creates a foundation for others to build on.

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How to Create an Innovative Workplace

 

Fostering a culture of innovation begins and ends with an open mind about change. In order to promote an innovative workplace, no matter what the sector, there should be a continual exchange of ideas to result in the right balance for your company. Yes, you need creativity at the forefront of it all, but this isn't something that can be forced. However, positioning your firm to achieve a successful approach to innovation takes a few key motivators, from flexibility in the work environment to hiring team members for a vision that aligns with yours. Let's take a look at some of the best ways to foster an innovative workplace.


Building a Creative Mindset

This all starts from the ground up with the people you decide to bring on board to take this journey with you. The wrong employees can prove to be toxic to your overall vision of creativity, change and flexibility in the work environment. It doesn't mean you have to only hire people who agree with you all the time; it's more than that. You want to encourage different perspectives by hiring people who are passionate about what they do, with the flexibility to spur on productivity without being hampered by rigid thoughts, ideas or scheduling parameters, says Forbes



Here are some tips to achieving that sought-after creativity:

  • Give employees incentives to care and thus share your company vision
  • Involve your employees in the process, listening to their ideas and getting them pumped about a new project, company direction, etc.
  • Brainstorm to help new ideas emerge
  • Broaden perspectives and encourage change through practices like short-term job swaps
  • Encourage trying new things, tweaking them to make them fit, discarding them or embracing them as a result
  • Avoid penalizing those whose ideas don't end up working out
  • Reward and encourage the flow of ideas and new thoughts

 

Does Technology=Innovation?

There's no denying technology is a big piece of the innovation puzzle. After all, how can you expect to compete in today's global market if you're not on board with the latest technology? Innovation often goes hand in hand with technology, but it doesn't have to. In fact, you can be innovative at little or no cost. Innovation, at its very core, is something more than that. Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, put it best in Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance: "In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value." You can have all the strategy, marketing, technology and financial management skills in the world, and although all those things will help get you on the path to success, it may not necessarily keep you there. Bottom line is, you won't get far if innovation, flexibility, and creativity aren't ingrained in the company's soul.

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