With 2013 just around the corner, and your batteries recharged after the holiday season, now is the perfect time to consider how to become a better IT leader in the coming year. Here are a few suggestions:
Learn a new aspect of your business
I'm often amazed at the detailed knowledge many IT workers have about some aspect of their company's business, yet even at the senior leadership level there are often gaps. One CIO I know mandates that every IT employee spend a day in the field, donning a call center headset or working a register at a retail outlet. This is a perfect way to reconnect with your company, its products, its customers, and its people.
Broaden your knowledge base
The most effective leaders in any business function have a broad array of knowledge from which to draw, far beyond the rudiments of business. Sports, military tactics, art, history, nature, and the entirety of the human experience help make you a well-rounded individual and offer lessons about effective management and leadership. While it may be tempting to become a deep subject matter expert, temper that depth with some breadth and you'll be better prepared to deal with those outside your domain and, if nothing else, become a more interesting and dynamic human being.
IT is rife with missed opportunities to delight. From following up on a request that was tabled eons ago with a solution, to contacting a customer with the status of a support request, we're often remembered in IT for these relatively simple acts. There's also a direct financial benefit, as many of the requests shoved aside in the heat of battle during an implementation or busy season offer compelling benefits with minimal cost. If your pile of "to-dos" is empty, consider drafting a quick executive briefing on a new technology, which could be anything from clouds to iPads. Provide a summary of the technology, its impact on your organization, and how that impact is being considered by IT.
Start a fitness regime
I have wrestled with my weight and fitness my entire life-and find I feel physically better, but also have greater mental clarity, stamina, and performance, when my health is at its best. I won't belabor the benefits of diet and exercise, but will suggest The Hacker's Diet, a free downloadable book penned by the lead engineer and founder of AutoCAD, and Couch to 5K, the free running program that took me from someone who absolutely detested running to a moderately capable half-marathoner. Both are free and easily found with your favorite search engine, and both also have a slew of related apps for the various smartphones and tablets to help you along your way. I'm a fan of "MyFitnessPal" and will happily join anyone who wishes (email me at the address below) in using social media to burn off some post-holiday calories.
Build on a strength
The barrage of New Years-related "self-help" often suggests spending your time correcting an innate deficiency. In the case of health this may be worthwhile, but in most areas I would rather build on my strengths. If you're an exceptional engineer, add some new tools to your belt. If you're an exceptional speaker and writer, produce a new monthly communication reviewing the capabilities your IT organization offers, etc. Rather than slogging through development that takes you from inept to incompetent, focus on areas in which you can excel with the least amount of additional effort.
While we never know what a New Year will bring, I wish all of you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013!
Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.