IT Takes Real Leadership

I always find this to be an interesting and useful time of year for reflection, both personally and professionally.  It’s an important opportunity to assess what we’ve done well and where we need to do more and be more effective.  It’s also an opportunity to think through our passions, where and how to make some personal developmental changes as well as to further influence organizational change around us.

The constant velocity of change and real time dynamic nature of the world we live in can wreak havoc with the best of plans, but that challenging reality should never deter us from focusing on our future and how to be better leaders, both short and long term.

I’ve decided to write about some important leadership themes that should apply to all of us as we embark on a new year of change and growth.  I will cover topics such as implementing purposeful and intentional organizational change, some key banking and insurance industry trends, the gains that come from leadership influence and coaching, building resilience into our firms and being a whole person by contributing outside our business world in the local communities.  Hopefully, all of us are kindred spirits in appreciating the value of focusing on these topics.

I would enjoy getting your thoughts on the content below, so please comment and engage in the discussion to keep it going.

Purposeful and intentional organizational change – How effective have you been at assessing our technology and business organizational landscape,   identifying change areas requiring investments and then “bringing them to life”?   As leaders,  this requires us to be sufficiently engaged with our teams and “in the weeds” at times to methodically assess and understand their pain points, be they systems, skills/behaviors or project delivery processes.    It also requires us to then sift through, harvest and translate the assessment data into focused opportunity areas and actions.   How critical is it to your organization to ensure that your focus areas are aligned to your business imperatives and is there good synergy there? Is your team (business and IT) “with you” on the changes you need to make?  How do you know? What does YOUR action plan look like and will it get you the right outcomes in 2014? Our clients consider this key assessment and alignment planning process to be job #1.

Industry trend focus and technology enablers – As part of your purposeful organizational change, how closely do you follow industry trends and leverage best practices?  With banking, are you focused on building scale and branch office optimization?  Do you have acquisition or consolidation plans and know how they impact your technology strategy?  How much focus will you have in 2014 on differentiating your platforms customer experience?  Is your core banking platform architected to enable the kinds of improvements you know you need to make? With insurance, how focused are you on leveraging the combined power of policy, claims and social media data or other new sources of data?  Will this be the year you truly have an insurance business/IT aligned investment roadmap?  How about portfolio governance and agile delivery improvements  that just about every firm benefit from?  All of our clients, in one form or another, are looking at these industry strategies and initiatives. The more purposeful your focus in these areas, the more probable your success will be to enable your organization to take technology enabled business change to the next level. You will then finally be able to align your business imperatives with your technology roadmap.

Influence through coaching – This key leadership responsibility and competency could potentially be one of the most “talked” about and have the most potent and lasting impact on organizational change.  I am speaking to coaching at all levels, upward, peer and within our teams.   There are lots of confirming books written about this, with no shortage of material on LinkedIn and other social media websites and an abundance of executive coaches.  Sadly, industry and firm studies have shown that as leaders influence by coaching remains a lot of words and insufficient action.  We all face accelerating velocity of change, recognize that human capital is our most valuable asset in that regard but still have subpar focus here. So how do we address this shortfall?  We achieve that by first being more aware of ourselves.  I continue to see and believe that the higher our individual emotional IQ and “self-awareness”, the more apt we are to apply intentional and purposeful coaching “in the moment”.  With our organizational change and transformation work with our clients, we place a lot of weight on the leadership competency of coaching.  How do you see it?

Building organizational resilience – Despite well designed plans, none of us have crystal balls and that predictability of change remains elusive.  To be prepared, every well run firm needs to ensure they are intentionally fortifying all dimensions of their organization.  By dimensions, I mean the people/skills and having well engineering processes and systems (applications, tools and infrastructure).  What is your organizations “toughness” factor or how deep is its “bounce back” bank to recover from the challenges and issues which WILL occur?  How well does your organization assess and manage risks?  Do you have a decision path approach that helps to keep you prepared? When we are constructing or updating our client roadmaps, we ensure that all aspects of it are being assessed and not simply the “technology” componentry.  One of the most critical elements of infusing and strengthening is institutionalizing the right organizational culture, leadership and team behaviors.  We are helping more and more of our clients do that proactively.   Is that behavioral element part of your thinking and what mechanisms are in effect to improve them through your coaching influence?  Is your team prepared to respond to challenges and opportunities in the way you need them to?

Making a difference – To me, being a whole person means contributing and making a difference on all of life’s dimensions.  This means prioritizing the use of my time, for business and clients and absolutely to family first, but also to give back to the local community, charities, schools and universities, churches and other non-profit organizations.  I can see through my LinkedIn connections that many are deeply involved in giving outside of their immediate business, which is great.  I can tell you that part of that annual reflection that I personally do, is to assess how my time is being used and ensuring that the use of my 24/7 week is not tilted too much in any one direction.  Holding myself accountable regarding how my time is used is the next step and a critical success factor in my life.  Open and direct feedback from others around coupled with time management self-awareness helps me to keep it all in balance.

Summary – Whether you are addressing large scale banking platform transformation, enabling achievement of insurance business imperatives with business/IT alignment, coaching and mentoring your teams or building a stronger organizational backbone, no doubt your 2014 will be nothing less than excited.  The opportunities for us to excel and make a difference in our industries are endless.  The question for all of us as leaders is how will we best approach harnessing the full power and potential of our organization and teams and be able to achieve outcomes that not only get us to the next level, but keep us there by building a sustainable capability.