IT leadership: 5 ways to energize teams in 2021

Are you worried the momentum you felt at the start of the New Year is waning? Check out some ways to energize yourself and your team for the months ahead
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It seemed like everyone was excited for 2021 to arrive, as if the start of a new year would wash away the challenges we experienced last year. But here we are, almost two months in, and that New Year shine is starting fade. And while the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter, we still have to keep moving to get there. 

We asked our community of IT leaders and experts to share ways CIOs and IT leaders can keep their teams focused and maintain momentum in the months to come. From streamlining your focus to creative writing, here are a few ways to help energize your teams for the months ahead. 

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1. Make OKRs your new mantra

“Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs, are not only a great way to align priorities with passion and purpose, they’re also a great mantra to fall back to when we all get lost in the fog of a typical Blursday in the middle of the week. OKRs for your team and supporting OKRs for their teams provide a constant reminder of what everyone agreed is the most important for the quarter and for the year ahead. As leaders, repeating and providing status updates on your OKRs at every chance reminds employees that they should fall back to their OKRs whenever they reach a crossroads as to what to focus on next.” David Egts, Chief Technologist for North America Public Sector, Red Hat

2. Help your teams feel in control

"Aren't we all tired of being reactive? Of being pushed into defensive mode for a year now? We were forced to react to health concerns, to business emergencies, and to the trauma of cocooning at home."

The cliché of 'empowering teams' is more relevant than ever before.

"For a change, your teams would love to feel in control. The cliché of 'empowering teams' is more relevant than ever before. Involve them in charting out the coming months and give them the satisfaction of deciding for themselves. Give your teams more room and let them take charge."

"This will be a welcome change that will motivate your teams like no other remote-team-building session can." Ganes Kesari, co-founder and chief decision scientist, Gramener

3. Write your team's narrative

“Beat the doldrums with a new approach to casting vision. If your current techniques are feeling stale and the team needs something bigger to believe, try bringing it to life with a two-page narrative that casts a huge vision for the world in five years. Often told as a “day-in-the-life,” these narratives paint a detailed picture of what life is like when you succeed at your mission. In addition to the business outcomes, be sure to add sights, sounds, and smells to make it real and help people see it. The more creative and boundary-pushing you are, the more likely you’ll win their support and boost their energy for the year.” Rich Theil, CEO, The Noble Foundry

4. Bring more visibility to IT's wins 

"Many CIOs have proved they are more than capable of rising to the challenge of the pandemic. They have been forced to fast-forward initiatives and juggle constant change. Some CIOs have been viewed as heroes for pulling off near overnight shifts to remote working at their organizations. The truth though is all of their successes would not have been possible without the amazing teams supporting them."

"With the long year ahead, CIOs should be having (at the very least) monthly all-hands meetings, providing updates and guidance, while also taking the time to call attention to their great work.  Highlight the great work teams have done and are still doing, and emphasize the value it has brought to the organization. This offers CIOs a great opportunity to build on momentum and energize everyone.”  – Cedric Wells, Director, IT Infrastructure Services, The Gorilla Glue Company

5. Prioritize training and development beyond 2021

“CIOs should help their team members find balance – not just work-life balance, but also the balance of input and output, short-term and long-term goals. When we’re struggling with external stimulus and uncertainties, it is difficult to think beyond the immediate challenges. But an organization can only thrive if its leaders always have the bigger picture in mind. Your team’s long-term effectiveness relies on their ability to learn and absorb new information, especially in the ever-changing IT world." 

"Ask yourself, how are you planning for training and upskilling your team beyond their 2021 KPIs? In addition, what long-term personal and professional goals do your team members want to achieve? How can you make sure these goals are aligned with the direction you have in mind, and that they feel supported by you and the company?" 

"Asking these questions at the beginning of the year is one of the most important actions any C-level leader can take to continue growing a high-performance team.” Kate Yuan, independent startup consultant."

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Ginny Holden is an independent consultant who brings the practice of IT to life through memorable storytelling.