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CIO insights on ways to help teams step outside their comfort zone

Award-winning CIOs share some of the key ways they encourage their teams to step outside their comfort zones and drive innovation and progress.

From encouraging teams to answer provocative questions to leading with transparency, award-winning CIOs share some of the key ways they encourage their teams to step outside their comfort zones and drive innovation and progress. 

1. Encourage a disruption mindset

Alan Cullop, SVP and CIO, DaVita: We try to encourage a mindset of “disruption.” For us, this means encouraging our teammates to take calculated risks. We want everyone to be comfortable with using mistakes as learning and growth opportunities, particularly as we explore new technologies and approaches. The disruption mindset for us also plays a role in recruiting and talent management.”

2. Uncover the “provocative proposition”

Brian Gabbard, VP of IT Services, Ball: “Provocative propositions, for me, are those uplifting statements that describe the end state – the “what” we are trying to achieve. When I think of the importance provocative propositions can play in the day and life our IT professionals, I am reminded of the story of the three stone cutters. I want our team to be like the third stone cutter, understanding and connecting with the meaning behind their work.”

3. Understand what makes you uncomfortable

Chandra Venkataramani, CIO, TTEC: “To be able to work outside your comfort zone, one needs to first understand what makes them uncomfortable. Then, I encourage them to seek a small task that they can take on, without fear of failing. It is important to start small and get a feel for the excitement and satisfaction of completing a task that you thought was outside your comfort zone… It is good to keep Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote in mind: “Do one thing every day that scares you.””

4. Be transparent 

Bill Case, CIO, WOW!: “One of the tactics I’ve found most successful with teams is to create a high degree of transparency with our strategy, our strategic initiatives, and the road map we have outlined to achieve our goals. We take the time to not only explain what we’re working to achieve, but we also provide a broad context and explain why the work is especially important to a thriving organization in a competitive environment.”

5. Create safety

Mike Bush, Senior Director of IS, Colorado Rockies: “A good tactic to help people get comfortable with being uncomfortable is to take the blame and give credit. That is, when someone is navigating uncharted waters and they make a mistake, a good leader will take part (or all) of the responsibility to upper management if things go wrong. Conversely, if the employee sees some success, a good manager deflects all credit and praise and makes sure it goes to that employee.”

Source: 5 ways to help teams step outside their comfort zone: Colorado CIO of the Year winners

An original thought leadership paper on unlocking innovation potential with technology is available as a free read here.

By Aleksandar Đorđević

I am an automation professional and enthusiast, living and working in London.
Helping organisations use automation safely, effectively, and responsibly is what I enjoy doing. I promote responsibly using technology to rehumanise the future.