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7 Qualities CIOs need to succeed

MG Raghuraman, ex-CIO, Mphasis, and leadership coach, tells us how CIOs can unleash their potential. By Pooja Paryani

In the 32 years that he was in the IT industry, MG Raghuraman was instrumental in driving the automation of business processes, designing and implementing integrated technology architectures, modernising legacy systems, and creating robust IT systems that reduced costs and increased company profitability. During the last six years of his career at Mphasis he headed the IT function as the CIO. For his achievements in the field, MG, as he’s popularly known, was recognised as a BPO and ITES Icon in CIO Power List 2016.

Post Mphasis, MG has delved into executive coaching and leadership consulting where he helps CXOs discover their true potential. “All through my career, what kept me energised was the process and joy of learning,” says MG Raghuraman. “I was always looking for ways to add value to myself for growth.  Yes, learning on the job and in the trenches surely helps, but I would have perhaps had a faster learning curve if I had reached out to to someone who could have guided and coached me. Success would have come in lesser time. So after I retired, I have embarked on a coaching journey to help other CIOs achieve to their potential in lesser time. I firmly believe that all of us have the potential to succeed, but we feel disempowered for various reasons, thus limiting our ability to live up to our own potential. Often, at some stages in our life, a temporary dullness of vision or lack of clear definition of a meaning and purpose in life can dampen our drive and enthusiasm. This is the dangerous period, when we decelerate into a plod-along speed and wait for things to happen. Net result would be yawning gap between achievements and capability. That’s where I’d like to step in and help to enhance self-awareness, which can catalyse performance.

“I got interested in learning and development programmes during my stint with EDS and Mphasis. I had the opportunity to create content and deliver training workshops for managers, and was greatly encouraged by the positive feedback I received. That’s when I developed the passion for helping others to hone their leadership skills. I’ve now founded a consultancy named IPAUSE. The name comes from the fact that we are all running a rat race whether we like it or not. So it is necessary to sometimes pause, take a breather, spend time and effort to find out more about yourself, and use that enhanced awareness to find newer solutions, newer skills and make better choices. And through my intervention as coach, I am convinced that I could help executives tread the journey of self-discovery and awareness.

“While CIOs are well-versed with technology, they need to realise that leadership and other skills matter too. Here are a few ways CIOs can fine tune their skills to achieve success and be better leaders. I also focus on these during my leadership sessions.”

1. A strong belief system
“CIOs should find ways to learn more about themselves. The better they know themselves the easier it will be to weed out the bad habits and inculcate good ones. This can be done by delving into one’s belief system. What defines you? What are your beliefs and value systems that guide your behaviour and actions? What can change your behaviour? What new options can be found for the same situation, which you now get to see more clearly? And once you have those answers, your foundation becomes rock solid. Your belief in yourself and your abilities grows. You then race towards your goals.”

 2. Positive behavioural patterns
“Finding mistakes in others is very easy but self introspection is very difficult. So take a step back. Analyse what makes you tick. What sets off certain behavioural patterns that you want to avoid or want to encourage? Do you see yourself becoming predictable? If there’s a situation that went horribly wrong, analyse it from all angles to see how a change in your behaviour could have changed the outcome. Make a note of habits that reduce your daily productivity and try to systematically phase them out. The more constructive your behaviour the more success you will achieve.”

3. Good relationships with peers
“CIOs work with large teams and have many people reporting to them. So it’s very important they learn how to maintain a good relationship with peers—within and outside the organisation. Therefore, CIOs need to have good communication and networking skills. Focus more on ‘we’ than ‘I’ while networking. Share and seek information. It is a great idea these days to partner with the world!”

4. Upgrading skill sets
“It isn’t enough to be good at your job. CIOs are important leaders of change in an organisation and it’s important that they realise it. What they do influence and affects all departments, so they need to be conscious of their role in shaping the company business. IT strategies and road maps should be firmly aligned with business goals. Though this is easier said than done.  This calls for CIOs to continuously learn to stay relevant for the business and climb the ladder of success.”

5. A catalyst for change
“Everyone wishes to change the world but they fail to change themselves. This is true of all of us. So CIOs need to be conscious of the change needed in themselves and be humble about it. In these days of disruption and the pace of technology changes, CIOs must change track towards partnering, connecting, and co-creating rather than focussing on becoming technology experts. Innovation need not always be with your own idea. Any idea from wherever can be crafted and tuned, and used for delivering value to the benefit of the company’s business; this is still innovation. Instead of focussing on your own individual performance as a leader and feel like a hero, you should shift the focus to garner improved perfromances from your team, and make more heroes in your team.”

6. Positive reinforcement
“CIOs have a lot of work pressure, due which they overlook several things in life, and this may lead to low confidence or morale. It’s important for CIOs to pause every once in a while, and take stock of where they are and what they’ve achieved. Make note of the positive changes and achievements. This will bolster positivity and productivity.”

7. Introspection
“At the end of the day, you will perform better only if you’re happy. So consciously make note of the things that bring you joy at work. Look for challenges that will bring job satisfaction. Break long term goals in to shorter milestones; strive to achieve each milestone and enjoy the sense of accomplishment. Success will become a habit.” 

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