10 CIO Resolutions for 2021

January 25, 2021

Contributor: Kasey Panetta

In the wake of 2020, CIOs must consider a new kind of new year’s resolution.

In January of 2020, New Year’s resolutions could not have taken into account the rollercoaster of events that year would bring. As the world enters 2021, leaders need to evaluate how the year ahead will be different from others, and how to incorporate a restorative approach to leadership in the coming months. 

“ Leaders should not try to tackle all 10 of these resolutions, but rather focus on two to three ”

“There is a lot of rejuvenation and rebuilding to be done. All of that impacts the way you do the work of technology-related business leadership and how you personally show up,” says Daniel Sanchez-Reina, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner. 

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Gartner has created a list of 10 resolutions for CIOs in 2021. Leaders should not try to tackle all 10 of these resolutions, but rather focus on two to three for the year. Nine of the resolutions fall under three themes of being more:

  • Effective
  • Progressive 
  • Self-aware 

All of the resolutions for 2021, including a perennial 10th resolution, are focused on soft skills to reflect the challenges of the previous year and specific skills for the next year. 

No. 1: No-regrets doer

2020 will be remembered by all the things we didn’t do. For 2021, business leaders should think about post-COVID hopes and dreams. It’s okay to include both dream items and concrete plans, just acknowledge that the world will be different moving forward. This exercise can also contain things that your team can stop doing or get rid of to make space for things you need or want to do. Once you have the list, pick one item and set a date to make it happen. 

No. 2: Virtuality virtuoso 

The massive and sudden shift to remote work left many people coping with the change but not embracing it. CIOs need to lead the charge for the best way to lead virtually. Make sure you’re always dressed well, that your video background is uncluttered and that you are well-lit.

Read more: How to Lead Better Remote Meetings

Most likely, remote work will be around for a while, so invest in things that make you look professional. When it comes to whatever virtual platform you’re using, make sure you’re exploiting all the tools and options that virtual work offers, whether it’s using virtual breakout rooms or polls.

No. 3: Offensive player

Despite what’s going on in the world, CIOs need to manage internal politics and be on the offensive — especially when it comes to high-visibility projects. Learn to recognize common political attacks and establish relationships with the C-suite to cultivate better relationships and allies. You might also consider taking some media training courses to learn the most effective techniques for deflection and bridging. 

No. 4: Impressionist thinker

It’s easy to throw away ideas for being too crazy. But instead of dismissing these ideas completely, try to frame them in a sentence and carefully articulate potential benefits to colleagues. When you’re done, ask listeners to wait on reacting. Have them sleep on the idea and come back with an argument that destroys the idea, an alternative idea that makes it more doable, or a high-level plan. 

When these options are presented, ask the destroyer to find an alternative option to reap the same rewards. Ask the alternative plan offerer for a high-level plan that can be  carried out. And for those who propose a high-level plan, ask them to start planning and resourcing. If there is no feasible alternative option and the original idea won’t work, withdraw the plan, but use the idea as a springboard for innovative thinking. 

No. 5: Neurodiversity builder 

Though many CIOs  are aware of the importance of diversity in gender, race, ethnicity, ability and other areas, neurodiversity is often overlooked. However, this type of diversity could be key to accelerating digital business. CIOs should champion neurodiverse teams and dedicate time to learning about neurodiversity, creating a policy to encourage neurodiversity and focusing on making changes in the IT team. 

No. 6: Sustainability shifter 

The Gartner 2021 CIO Agenda found 62% of CIOs had some involvement in their organization’s environmental sustainability agenda. Look at how the IT team can support these initiatives — from changing how you assess digital transformation and asking sustainability-first questions to  getting up to speed on the data and arguments related to environmental sustainability. 

No. 7: Conscious leader 

2020 was a hard year for all, and as CIOs enter into 2021, it’s important to reexamine why organizations operate in certain ways. Consider, for example, why organizational charts aren’t that different from what they looked like 200 years ago or why it took a pandemic to move to hybrid and remote workforces.

Begin by questioning and being more authentic about your own struggles and stories. This will establish a culture of trust and safety. This is also a good time to consider other ways of doing things instead of having a “my way is the right way” thought process. 

No. 8: Resilient griever

There are many kinds of grief, from the loss of a loved one to the loss of a job. Each of those is a primary loss, which is the term for the main reason you’re grieving (e.g., the job). But each primary loss has secondary losses associated with it. For example, the loss of a job might have secondary losses of professional identity, a work routine or time with colleagues. CIOs should learn how to recognize secondary losses in their own lives and in their teams.  

No. 9: Self-kindness practitioner 

It’s possible the unknowns and ups and downs of 2020 have sapped your emotional and mental abilities. It’s also possible you’re still holding on to mistakes made in the past year. Now is the time for some self-kindness and acknowledgement. Don’t let 2020 mistakes block successes in 2021. 

Try listing out your mistakes alongside the successes you had within the same period of time. Think about each of your mistakes and how you would act differently if faced with the same situation today. This will highlight what you have learned from your mistakes. Consider writing a sincere letter of apology if your mistakes are related to how you acted toward someone. 

No. 10: Make time to directly experience new technologies

This is a perennial on the CIO top resolution list because it is easy for CIOs to get lost in the business of being a CIO. Despite their focus on meetings, governance, compliance and other important responsibilities, CIOs also need to be able to speak to futuristic business ideas and emerging technologies. 

Read more: Gartner Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021

This means setting aside time specifically to see demos or try out new technologies, keeping a small budget to purchase new technologies for the office and giving your team “play time” to interact with the new technology. Finally, use these experiences to create business cases for worthy technology. 

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