7 CIO resolutions for a successful year

Brandon Germer, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner explains that this is a time to focus on professional self-improvement. At the beginning of every year, many of us (try to) commit to making positive changes. And because work is such a huge part of our lives, that often includes setting professional development goals.

This is why our analysts have nailed down the seven ideas below specifically for CIOs. We recommend you select and commit to two to four of these resolutions, collaborate with a mentor to explore and adjust them, and dedicate time to true habit-building.

This year, we’ve broken down the list into five themes for better performance: steer, stifle, style, stretch and study.

  1. Conditions will be unforgiving yet in some ways more predictable than in the recent past. The icebergs may be difficult to navigate, but at least we know what they are: recessionworkforce issuesinflation, etc.
  2. Resolutions should always include things to avoid and reduce. Make space and perform better by stifling the activities and behaviors that might be holding you back.
  3. After experiencing the intense turbulence of the crisis years, find your rhythm and start performing more elegantly, fluidly and sleekly.
  4. The scope and impact of technology-enabled change has never been greater, but that means you must personally understand and reach further onto the grand stage on which it plays out.
  5. There are many new technologies that you can read about — or ask your team to read about. However, there are also some technologies that you have to touch or observe in action to truly understand.

7 Resolutions for Superior Performance

No. 1: Steer smarter — Deploy friction intelligently
“Friction gets a bad rap. It’s considered, rightly, a barrier to adopting new technology and behaviors, because it makes things harder than they need to be,” says Gabriela Vogel, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner. “But making some things harder than they need to be can be a good thing.”

Friction can be a gift if deployed intelligently. Consider the behaviors that you want to stop and start:

  • List them out. Add ideas for creating friction for those you would like to suppress; remove it from those you wish to encourage.
  • Make your commitments public. Compete with colleagues on adherence to a new behavior.
  • “Habit stack” a new behavior onto one you already do, like completing 15 pushups with every cup of coffee.
  • Use technology to add friction, such as shortening your screensaver timeout, to help you to look away.

No. 2: Stifle weakness — Anticipate your greatest mistakes of 2023
At a time when CIOs are driving digital transformations and many have gained a more influential seat at the C-suite table, ask yourself, over the past year: What decisions didn’t work out? Which projects failed? What relationships and partnerships did I mismanage? What were the near misses that were too close for comfort? Once you’ve reflected:

  • List all projects, objectives, people and interactions you see as high risk for 2023 — think moonshot projects and strained stakeholder relationships. Dedicate at least one hour to this exercise early in the year.
  • Imagine the worst-case scenario for each item on the list. Do this alone if the mistake is one that you would fully own and control and with key team members if the mistake would involve others.
  • For those mistakes involving others, select team members with diverse perspectives. Groupthink and in-group bias are root causes of failure. Include junior people, awkward and irreverent people, and outsiders.
  • Develop an action plan and assign an owner to prevent each future mistake. Make doing so a weighted goal for these individuals (and for yourself) for the year. Consequential accountability is key.

No. 3: Stifle fearfulness — Scare yourself into growth
Resolve to actively seek opportunities that fall outside of your comfort zone. Allow yourself to be scared so you can push to progress your leadership:

  • Do something you’re physically afraid to do like going on a roller coaster or donating blood when you hate needles.
  • Accomplish something you’re mentally scared of like presenting to the board or at an industry conference.
  • Tackle something you’re emotionally weary of like sharing a story that makes you vulnerable.
  • Be open about these challenges so as to set a strong learning and growth example for those around you.

No. 4: Style your flow — Adopt fluid thinking in talent management
External and internal talent pools are merging as the line between work and life becomes increasingly blurry. Hiring based on critical skills, rather than educational background, is increasing. There will continue to be more fluidity around how we acquire, manage and develop talent as we explore alternative talent sourcing, attract talent from alternative talent pools, hire more contractors and share talent throughout the organization. In 2023:

  • Stop hoarding talent. Transition from “owning” talent to “accessing” it by letting your internal partners capitalize on your team’s skills. Start by offering a few hours a week of your team’s time to other leaders. Then ask for reciprocity.
  • Maximize available skills. Start small by building a network with your partners.
  • Experiment with new sources of talent. Hire contractors, freelancers and outsourced, temporary or borderless workers. Expand your reach to untapped talent sources, such as neurodivergent workers and self-taught technologists, among others.

No. 5: Style your leadership — Seek a mentor from a board of directors
Finding time and opportunities for growth can be difficult. Where can you access a wise, respected and trustworthy mentor to help you think about and accelerate your professional development?

  • Ask your CEO to help identify a board member to act as a development mentor.
  • If none of the serving nonexecutives are appropriate, see if a board advisor can step in.
  • If there are no tech-savvy board members or advisors, suggest reverse-mentoring one.
  • Alternatively, look for a mentor from a board of directors outside your organization.

This is especially important now, as today’s CEO often needs their CIO to take on a more proactive, business-shaping, executive team role. Being a good IT service delivery partner isn’t enough. You must also acquire some characteristics of a digital, strategy and operating officer.

No. 6: Stretch ambitions — Challenge talent like an elite sports coach
CIOs must learn to think like elite sports coaches. Create a mental picture of each team member and their distance from what you believe they are capable of, if pushed. With resources constrained, bringing in fresh top talent might be difficult in 2023. So encourage your teams to outdo their previous performance. Ensure each person always has a development challenge in view. Your action steps include:

  • Don’t waste the time of the truly talented on improving mundane skills.
  • Identify an excellent capability in each person, and drive them to turn it into something extraordinary.
  • Look for ways to expose your team to examples of elite-level performance in their roles.
  • Use data and analytics to find newer, more insightful measures of performance, and set tough targets.
  • Be prepared to “bench” even your best player if arrogance, team disruption or indiscipline arise.
  • Ask each individual to call out one of their weak spots, and task peers to coach them to improve it.
  • Push for endless 1% gains in high-value, repeatable skill areas.
  • Avoid possible burnout by carefully ensuring that the team takes breaks and has adequate downtime.

No. 7: Study the future — Experience new technologies
This final resolution is the only one that we include almost every year because there are always exciting new technologies CIOs need to experience for themselves, especially if those technologies fall into new categories. We recommend you:

  • Set aside time to see demos or personally try out new technologies. For example, mint your own NFT, generate art with DALL·E, or try out the “Matter” standard for IoT device interaction in your own home.
  • Protect a small budget to purchase pivotal new technologies for your office or home.
  • Try scheduling “play sessions” for your IT leadership team to interact with new technologies directly.