CIO in the Mirror

Larry Bonfante, Founder, CIO Bench Coach | 1/2/2013 | 6 comments

Larry Bonfante
In the late 1980s, Michael Jackson had a hit song called “Man in the Mirror.” Over the past few weeks, this song has taken on new meaning for me, as I have had to do some soul searching regarding some professional challenges I've been dealing with.

Just because I’m an executive coach, and provide people with insight and advice, doesn’t mean that I don’t have to take a dose of my own advice from time to time! Here are three litmus tests that I had to hold up to my own mirror, and that you may want to use as well.

The first test is a simple but crucial question each of us has to ask ourselves. Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution? When things don’t go the way you feel they should, it’s very easy to get knocked off center and feel sorry for yourself. It’s easy to see the mistakes other people are making and the way they are contributing to a challenging situation.

However, as I often tell my clients, there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth that usually lies somewhere in between. I’ve found myself struggling with a professional issue lately and had to take a step back and see how I had contributed to the issue. This was very hard to do, as I was very clear on how I had been negatively impacted.

Truth be told, I had unfortunately (without malice) added fuel to the proverbial fire. Before you get frustrated with other people, it's always important that you ensure you're part of the solution, and not inadvertently contributing to the problem.

The second question is around alignment. Organizations make decisions for many reasons. Some of the decisions they make we may agree with. Others not so much! As a leader, it’s important that you contribute as decisions are being made. Once a decision is made, you pretty much have two options:

  1. Align around the decision. Even if this is not how you would have done it, or even if you don’t think this is the best decision, as a leader, your responsibility is to give 100 percent to make the decision work for the team.

  2. Take your ball and go home! If decisions are made that you simply can’t align around, either due to issues, ethics, or morality, you need to leave and find a new place to contribute.
The one thing you can’t do as a leader is stick around and whine profusely about how badly you’ve been treated, and how stupid the decision is! Leaders support the team, regardless of whether or not they fully agree that a decision is optimal.

Finally, I leave you with the question a leader should always ask his or her constituents: How can I help? People need to know that you care about their success and that your focus is not on your own agenda, but on helping them accomplish theirs.

These are not easy things to do, and they've been a personal struggle for me lately. However, I would be a hypocrite if I offered up this advice to others and wasn’t willing to take it myself. As the old saying goes, ”Physician, heal thyself.”

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
soozyg   CIO in the Mirror   1/7/2013 9:08:01 PM
Re: good-bye and good luck
Sometimes the best thing for you (and maybe for your company) is to take your talents and ideas elsewhere.

I have never had to do this with a company, but I did have to say sianara to a client a few years back. He was a novelist. His writing was...well....pretty bad and I did as well as I could with the material and was as supportive as I could be...until he sent me a list of possible titles for the novel and...I don't if it was meant to be a joke or not...but they contained curse words. So I gave up putting all my energy into massaging him and said goodbye.

But it is a difficult decision. I had no other clients at the time so it could have been more $ for me to stick with it.
Sara Peters   CIO in the Mirror   1/3/2013 3:27:19 PM
Re: good-bye and good luck
@Curt @Larry In the spirit of this conversation I have to share this. Now this song is running through my head endlessly. (which isn't a bad thing).
Sara Peters   CIO in the Mirror   1/3/2013 3:22:59 PM
Re: good-bye and good luck
@Larry  I couldn't agree more. That kind of acceptance is unfortunately hard for some of us to learn.
CurtisFranklin   CIO in the Mirror   1/2/2013 4:15:27 PM
Re: good-bye and good luck
Larry, I think it's great that you lay out the only two real possibilities in this manner. I've seen far too many cases in which someone doesn't agree with the direction of the organization, doesn't respect the decisions of the chief executives, and sticks around as a poisonous influence on everyone they touch. That particular feedback loop -- the destructive, corrosive loop -- harms both the organization and the individual locked into the loop in terrible ways. Better, as you say, to decide that your career goals can best be met in a different organization.
Larry Bonfante   CIO in the Mirror   1/2/2013 2:45:42 PM
Re: good-bye and good luck
I agree that most leaders find it difficult to admit defeat. However acceptance is not defeat! It is a level of maturity of knowing when the "fit" between your approach and the culture of your organizaiotn will preclude you from being as effective as your organization needs you to be, and as happy & successful as you deserve to be.
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Sara Peters   CIO in the Mirror   1/2/2013 1:00:03 PM
good-bye and good luck
Larry that second suggestion -- to take your ball and go home -- is a tough one for a lot of us to make. Partly because leaving a job may be seen as giving up or admitting defeat -- and those aren't the kind of things that most good leaders do. Nevertheless, you're right. Sometimes the best thing for you (and maybe for your company) is to take your talents and ideas elsewhere.

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