Do you have a leadership mantra?
A phrase or philosophy, passed down from a mentor or learned from experience, can help shape your actions and guide your decisions as a leader – and also serve as a helpful touchstone in times of uncertainty. We wanted to know – what are the useful pieces of advice that helped leading CIOs get to where they are today and sustained them over the challenges of the last year?
We caught up with CIOs who recently won the 2021 Miami CIO of the Year ORBIE Awards to learn about the best advice they have ever received – the words of wisdom they lead by, and why they’ve been so impactful. The awards were presented by the Miami CIO Leadership Association, a professional community that annually recognizes CIOs for their excellence in technology leadership.
From listening more to building trust and nurturing a strong network, these award-winning CIOs share the words of advice that have influenced their careers.
1. Listen more than you speak
Corporate CIO of the Year
Kim Jacques, EVP Operations & CIO, Technology Management, Sentry Data Systems: The best advice I’ve ever received was to listen more than talk. When you’re in leadership and people come to you with difficult questions, don’t just give them the answers. Instead, listen to their concerns carefully and ask leading questions that will help them reach the solution themselves. I find that when I listen more, talk less, and use the Socratic method to help incubate ideas and foster innovative thinking, my executives approach me with options and a recommendation, rather than questions.
As a leader at Sentry Data Systems, a fast-growing, highly innovative technology company, it’s imperative that I not be a roadblock and instead listen carefully to the people doing the work – because that’s where our growth, innovation, and great ideas come from.
I think this advice is even more important today than ever before. With the remote workforce we created due to the pandemic, you must master the ability to work through other leaders to get things done. People can get lost in a remote workforce, and you don’t have the ability to be right in front of them much anymore. It’s imperative that we listen to their voices even more carefully now.
2. Trust and integrity are key to results
Enterprise CIO of the Year
Darryl Maraj, CTO, Digital Solutions Group, GA Telesis: Building trust and developing strong relationships with high Integrity have significantly impacted my career. In my experience, relationships founded in trust allow for better communications, easier collaboration, faster decisions, and ultimately swifter results. In relationships where there is a lack of trust I am usually met with poor communications and many bureaucratic checks and balances that hinder progress.
Today more than ever I think trust and integrity are vital tools because so much of what we do is based on collaboration with others. The faster we can eliminate the things that stand in the way of progress, the quicker we can deliver astounding results.
3. Aim high – even when it makes you uncomfortable
Large Enterprise CIO of the Year
Jay Smith, CIO, Tracfone: The two best pieces of career advice I ever received are: “Be comfortable being uncomfortable” and “You only reach as high as you aim.”
To institute impactful change, everyone, including myself, has to embrace getting out of their comfort zone. When asking teams to get uncomfortable, you have to create a compelling reason why. As a leader, my responsibility is to create a culture founded on trust and empowerment, connect people to a grand purpose, and inspire others to pioneer transformation.
I’ve also learned to set ambitious goals for myself and those around me. Pursuing a moon shot should make you extremely excited and a little nervous. Following this advice has encouraged me to challenge my perspective and surround myself with people smarter than me. It has also allowed me to become a more authentic and transparent leader, who openly shares vulnerable stories and valuable lessons. With the right culture and talent, you can pull off anything.
4. Never underestimate the power of a strong network
Global CIO of the Year
Martha Poulter, SVP, CIO, Royal Caribbean Group: The most influential career advice I have received is to build a thoughtful and broad network across multiple dimensions of one’s life, including professional, friends, and family.
The strongest networks are ones where you both receive and you give, so that both sides of the relationship are nurtured. The network is most valuable when it is established and healthy prior to needing it. Visually mapping out your network in terms of different scenarios is a very helpful way to “see” who you might rely on for advice on an industry job move, feedback for the next career progression, finding a job during a time of crisis like company restructuring, or finding local providers in a new city.
I think this advice stands the test of time and one that I often share with others.
5. Lead with a people-first mindset
Healthcare CIO of the Year
Novlet Palmer Mattis, CIO, Orlando Health: Always make people the main priority, which means selecting the right leaders and team members, empowering them, and supporting their ideas and contributions toward the end goal. A people-first approach also extends to having a sponsor in the workplace, which I attribute to much of my success, and taking the opportunity to sponsor or mentor promising, high-potential talent.
A people-first mantra inevitably instilled important precepts for my approach to career advancement. For example, making your word “gospel,” or standing on what you communicate, are even more vital to making a difference. Also, in business, I’ve learned to not take things personally or jump to conclusions, which became character and leadership building attributes evolving from a people-centered mindset. Lastly, the commitment to people-first has led me to always strive for the best outcome.
These factors enable leaders to follow and adapt regardless of the situation, stable or unstable. Day-to-day, with the rapid growth of global business and engagement with widely diverse people, cultures and working styles, IT leaders have an opportunity to learn and become more effective in providing innovative and uniquely tailored solutions in this context.