The Mindful CIO Manifesto - How I Would Revise It

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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

The 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 and it’s yielding results.

This manifesto contains 10 declarations of a Mindful CIO. It describes how successful senior IT leaders operate in the 21st century. It reveals Through the declarations strategies on how to lead high performing teams and deliver outstanding results in a consistent and sustainable manner are revealed.

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.

# 1: We I 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.

I strive to appreciate people and teams; to treat them with the respect they deserve; and to display empathy in my interactions with them. I acknowledge that everyone has had a unique journey and that their journey will continue to be unique; I encourage them to bring their whole selves to work; and I actively prevent others from discriminating against any person.

# 2: We I promote a healthy culture

We I 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 I care for our people . This may have been endorsed by GREAT PLACE TO WORK awards we received in the past. We continue to and pursue such recognition of our efforts to offer our teams an environment that promotes wellbeing, ignites collaboration and enables high performance.

# 3: We I support our leaders’ growth

We are I am aware that todays’ leaders were often successful technicians who later moved into management. We I recognise that although they are experts in their field, they may have missed out on leadership skills training as part of their personal and career development is both important and beneficial. We I provide them with the support they need to grow as people- leaders and to learn more about human behaviour.

# 4: We I promote human skills & EQ

We I recognise that relationships are important, and that they contribute to successful outcomes. We I empower our team individuals and teams to master human skills (aka soft skills). We I 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.

# 5: We I focus on critical projects outcomes

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.

I understand the impacts of firefighting and shiny object syndrome and actively work to focus on value delivery. I enable provide teams and individuals with the conditions and support they require to thrive whilst actively assisting them to remove impediments to the realisation of valuable outcomes.

# 6: We I 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.

I respect that every individual has different boundaries, different cultural influences, and different levels of assertiveness. I use my empowerment as a manager and leader to aide those who have difficulty being assertive and ensure deadlines and workloads are realistic. I aim for a consistently sustainable work rhythm that enables others to implement the work/life balance that is optimal for them and ensure work does not negatively impact their personal life. I respect the individuals choice to bring as much or as little of themselves to work as they deem appropriate.

# 7: We I 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.

I help my team to understand that their workload should be achievable within standard hours of employment and that overtime is not expected. On occasions when overtime is requested I ensure that appropriate compensation is linked to acceptance of the request. When overtime is required I ensure it is voluntary and not required.

# 8: We I minimise multi-tasking & action addiction

We are aware of scientific research and evidence that multi-tasking is a counter-productive myth. We I avoid multi-tasking whenever possible and actively guide others to do the same. We I consciously aim to focus on one task at a time and choose our distractions mindfully both for myself and when interrupting others.

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 I discourage the need to be perceived as busy and help others to better understand that busy does not mean productive. We know that busy does not mean productive. We I believe in speeding up by slowing down and demonstrate this in my ways of working. We I leave behind restlessness and spinning wheels ++and take . Instead we value mindful breaks, with time and space for reflection.

# 9: We ++I+ prevent burnout

We are I am proactive in monitoring, detecting and supporting of those at risk of burnout or who may be at risk of burnout in the future. We I enable our leaders and team members by providing the environment, strategies and coping mechanisms to handle pressure with ease and grace. We I 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 and promote the use of both sick/personal leave and annual leave for mental health days.

# 10: We I cultivate presence with people & tasks

We I know our that my presence is the best gift we I can give anyone. We practice mindfulness and do our I do my best to be present with the task at hand and the people with whom we I communicate. We I know the quality of our my presence has a direct impact++,++ not only on our my productivity, but also on our relationships with internal and external stakeholders , including our clients. Presence is power. I recognise my presence is powerful.

# 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.

# 2: I promote a healthy culture

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 optimal level.

# 4: I promote human skills & EQ

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 quality product.

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 promote a healthy culture

# I support our leaders’ growth

# I promote human skills & EQ

# 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