The Mindful CIO Manifesto (as published at The Mindful CIO) is a fantastic set of
declarations I think should be central to anyone moving into or through technical leadership roles.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a CIONET presentation and workshop by
Nathalie Heynderickx, the author of the Mindful CIO Manifesto.
During the workshop one of the attendees mentioned that some of the declarations were too focussed on the negative.
Talking to Nathalie a couple of weeks after the presentation she mentioned the possibility of writing a second version
of the manifesto. I don’t believe a second version is warranted, instead I think there is some minor rewording to
frame it more positively, and use language that is more open and less likely to age.
In this article I will deviate from my normal style and I will simply make some revisions to the manifesto. My
intent is to frame the preamble and declarations in a more positive way whilst maintaining the values and intent of both
the individual parts and the whole. I will also remove the justifications from within the Manifesto as I believe
these should be documented separately to distinguish between the actions and the business benefits. I have also
changed the ownership of the declarations from the group to the individual; it is possible for individuals to embrace
and honour this manifesto, and if an organisation adopts it more widely then every individual should feel responsible
for each declaration.
The Mindful CIO Manifesto
industrial age is over; the digital age is here. Our work is less physical and more mentally demanding than
ever before, so we must be mentally fit. Forward-thinking organisations and leaders have realised this and are doing
something about it. Are you one of them?
Corporate mindfulness has been adopted by a range of industries for different reasons. From law firms and banks, to
start-ups, government agencies and
several Fortune 500 companies, the outcomes are broad and deep: improved
engagement, retention, wellbeing, safety, resilience, performance, creativity and innovation.
This approach is happening
whether you are on board or not. And it’s yielding results.
This manifesto contains 10 declarations of a Mindful CIO. It describes how successful senior IT leaders operate in the
It reveals Through the declarations strategies on how to lead high performing teams and deliver
outstanding results in a consistent and sustainable manner .
The path of a Mindful CIO, described in this manifesto, may not be your path. Not everyone has the courage to take
this action. It is up to you to decide for yourself if you will be an early adopter or if you prefer to wait and see
the IT Industry transform from a distance.
We bring humanity to the IT industry
We may be living a digital revolution, but we’re not robots. We leave behind the lack of appreciation for IT
professionals from our past and treat our people and teams with the respect they deserve. We acknowledge that the market
is competitive and bright individuals are not easy to attract or retain. Turnover is expensive. IT roles are highly
valuable and so are the people that perform them. We encourage our people to bring their whole selves to work.
We cultivate an environment and a culture that talented IT professionals individuals are eager to join
and proud to stay with. We understand that a healthy work environment has a direct impact on the bottom line. We know
it is our responsibility as senior leaders to set the direction and lead by example. This enables our business to grow
and improve our company’s reputation in the market. It helps us to attract recognized industry leaders and the best IT
brains. Our healthy culture and happy team also empower us to acquire and serve better clients. We care for our
people . This may have been endorsed by GREAT PLACE TO WORK awards we received in the past. We continue to
pursue such recognition of our efforts to offer our teams an environment that promotes wellbeing, ignites
collaboration and enables high performance.
We support our leaders’ growth
We are aware that todays’ leaders were often successful technicians who later moved into management.
We recognise that although they are experts in their field, they may have missed out on leadership skills
as part of their personal and career development . We
provide them with the support they need to grow as people- leaders and to learn more about human behaviour.
We recognise that relationships are important, and that they contribute to successful outcomes. We
empower our team to master human skills (aka soft skills). We equip them with
tools and techniques so they can grow, not just technically, but also emotionally and socially. This enables them to
enjoy themselves more and to experience higher performance. Achieving higher emotional quotients (EQ) enables our people
to provide better services to our clients and therefore has a positive impact on our business bottom line.
We focus on critical projects
We are strategic with our projects and apply the 80/20 rule. We know less is more, so we are selective and thoughtful
about projects we choose to engage in. We are laser-focused while maintaining the open awareness to identify and respond
to strategic opportunities. We do not succumb to Shiny Object Syndrome. We avoid firefighting. We provide our teams with
the conditions and support they need to thrive and strive in today’s fast paced, distracting and complex world.
We respect healthy boundaries
The IT industry tends to attract left brain introverts who struggle to stand up for themselves. They may lack
assertiveness and avoid confrontation. Typically, they are afraid of saying “No”, can find it difficult negotiating a
reasonable workload and can become easy prey for abusive managers in toxic environments.
We acknowledge this is detrimental for team morale and our credibility with clients. We encourage assertiveness and
honest conversations about unrealistic deadlines and workloads. In our team it is okay to say NO to excessive workload
without guilt. We recognize that extra effort is occasionally required when approaching project deadlines, however we
aim for a sustainable and consistent work rhythm.
We discourage long working days
Historically IT professionals have been expected to consistently work long and odd hours. We know that end of year
holidays are key times for IT projects to go live. While everyone else is out having a good time, the IT folks are
working hard behind the scenes so we can all enjoy the benefits of the digital age.
Whilst we still ask that from time to time our team will go that extra mile to “get the job done”, this is not the
rule. We do not expect our highly skilled digital team to work for long hours in return for a symbolic gift voucher or
an occasional pat on the back. We know this is not a sustainable approach in the long run. Balance is what we seek.
We minimise multi-tasking & action addiction
We are aware of scientific research and evidence that multi-tasking is a counter-productive myth. We avoid
multi-tasking whenever possible . We consciously aim to focus on
one task at a time and choose our distractions mindfully .
We practice mindfulness in action. We are conscious of the dopamine kick we get from handling emails. However, we do
our best not to be carried away by them. We discourage the need to be perceived as busy . We know that busy does not mean productive. We
believe in speeding up by slowing down . We leave behind
restlessness and spinning wheels ++and take . Instead we value mindful breaks, time and space for
We ++I+ prevent burnout
We are proactive in monitoring, detecting and supporting of those at risk of burnout . We I enable our leaders and team members by providing the environment,
strategies and coping mechanisms to handle pressure with ease and grace. We speak openly about mental health
. Having a mental health day due to stress is not a taboo in our organization. Sometimes it’s the best solution
We cultivate presence with people & tasks
We know our presence is the best gift we can give anyone. We practice mindfulness
and do our best to be present with the task at hand and the people with whom we communicate.
We know the quality of our presence has a direct impact++,++ not only on our
productivity, but also on our relationships with internal and external stakeholders , including our
clients. Presence is power.
The Mindful CIO Manifesto: Justifications for the Declarations
1: I bring humanity to the IT industry
Since the mainstream adoption of computers in the 1980s, many IT professionals have been treated with a lack of
appreciation. By treating IT workers with respect, displaying empathy and allowing them to bring their whole self to
work we can ensure they feel appreciated. This is not only the morally right thing to do, but it will also lead to a
decrease in staff turnover and savings in expensive IT recruitment.
By cultivating a healthy environment and establishing a culture that people wish to be a part of we can not only improve
productivity, but can reduce the time-to-hire and attract a greater number of highly sought-after employees. Many
studies have shown the direct correlation between a healthy environment and healthy culture, and performance at both the
individual and team level. Additionally, being recognised for employee well-being and culture can increase the employer
brand of the organisation and make it easier to attract talent.
3: I support our leaders’ growth
Many of today’s IT leaders have progressed to management through a technical path. The skilled required to be a
successful people leader are significantly different to those required for technical prowess. By supporting the growth
of our leaders, providing them with training and mentoring we can ensure that they can help their team to perform at an
As our people move from individual contributor roles to leadership the importance of human skills increases. By
providing tools and techniques we can help our leaders to achieve higher EQ, leading to better interactions with their
teams, co-workers and clients, and ultimately improving the outcomes they facilitate.
5: I focus on critical outcomes
By acknowledging the Pareto Principle (aka 80/20 rule) we acknowledge that 80% of outcomes come from 20% of inputs. We
use this principle to ensure we are selecting the right projects and tasks to deliver the best outcomes, leading to a
maximisation of return on investment in our people. An awareness of Shiny Object Syndrome ensures we are not always
chasing the “next big thing” and that we make conscious decisions about project choices, this leads to a reduction in
wasted work and effort. Avoiding firefighting may invoke a short-term negative impact, but will enable the team and
organisation to establish patterns that will create medium and long term success in a sustainable manner.
6: I respect healthy boundaries
The IT industry has attracted a high percentage of left-brain introverts; these people often lack assertiveness and
tend to avoid confrontation. By respecting healthy boundaries, ensuring that workloads are realistic and sustainable,
and that work rhythms are consistent we enable our people to find and maintain work/life balance and reduce the
likelihood or burnout or staff turnover.
7: I discourage long working days
IT professionals have been expected to consistently work long and odd hours. Holiday periods are often key times for IT
projects to go live. While everyone else is out having a good time, the individual contributors are working hard behind
the scenes so others can all enjoy the benefits of the digital age. Often, this is rewarded with a symbolic gift
voucher or time in lieu; neither of which recognise the value that has been provided to the company. This approach isn’t
sustainable. By recognising this, providing balance and, on occasions when we request extra, providing appropriate
compensation, balance can be somewhat restored to the lives of our most important assets, our staff.
8: I minimise multi-tasking and action addiction
The pressures on teams to stop work mid-flow to execute other tasks is often immense. This not only reduces quality,
but also productivity. The reduction in productivity can then be interpreted by senior management as
under-performance. By reducing multi-tasking requirements, individual contributors can gain more than just a
productivity increase, they can increase job satisfaction and take more pride in their work to result in a higher
Throughout human history, there has been a direct correlation between time invested and outcomes. In the
information age this is no longer true. Our bodies and minds have been wired to equate busy and productive, but by
actively working against, reducing the perceived importance of busy work and focussing on outcomes over outputs we
can increase the delivered benefits. By encouraging ourselves and our teams ot take mindful breaks, reduce
spinning wheels and creating time for reflection we not only allow individuals and teams to improve, but we increase
the value being created.
9: I prevent burnout
Many developers have focussed on gaining technical skills; to be successful in a highly competitive career, their
learning has been driven by passion. This focus on technical skills has often come at the cost of self-awareness.
As leaders, it is our duty to help these skilled professionals to monitor and detect signs of burnout. This
requires us to be proactive, to provide support, and an environment which discourages behaviours that can lead to
burnout. We encourage our teams and ourselves to take a mental health day without fear. We discuss mental health to
improve our recognition of factors that can impact the individual, team or organisation. We support our people in
their times of need.
10: I cultivate presence with people & tasks
With all the advances in technology, especially those that enable our work to be portable, it is difficult to avoid
distractions. When interacting with others we need to be mindful that we are completely present and not distracted
by happenings around us. When in meetings (either video or in-person) we need to be aware of the impact
distractions such as phone calls, notifications and messages can have on the relationship with our stakeholders. By
recognising that our presence is power and giving our presence to others we can not only ensure that others feel
valued, but we can increase the likelihood of us absorbing all the information they are relaying to us.
The Mindful CIO Manifesto: Self-assessment
After reading the first version of The Mindful CIO Manifesto, I had a desire to show to others that I value these
declarations highly. I also wanted to be able to demonstrate that I embrace these values in my work. With this
desire, I decided to develop a self-assessment; ideally this would be turned in to a system that can be used to gain
a digital badge, perhaps with a more comprehensive test for a Certified Mindful CIO badge.
The following items would require a 100% success rate to self-assess as a Mindful CIO.
I bring humanity to the IT industry
I support our leaders’ growth
I focus on critical outcomes
I respect healthy boundaries
I discourage long working days
I minimise multi-tasking and action addiction
I prevent burnout
I cultivate presence with people & tasks