The Invisible Department (Until There’s a Problem)

By Larry Bonfante  |  Posted 09-28-2015 Print Email

Much of IT’s work often goes unnoticed, which makes it that much more important for CIOs to recognize the great work accomplished by their teams.

Many of you know that this time of year is both exhilarating and exhausting for me, given the nature of my day job. Having just completed a marathon event which determines our financial success for the entire year (for those of you in retail, imagine it as 21 straight days of Black Friday!) the following are some thoughts for your consideration.

You cannot run a marathon the same way you run a 100-yard dash. While we constantly have to exhibit a keen focus and heightened sense of urgency, you need to be careful not to burn out your workers. If the team has nothing left in the tank in the fourth quarter you’re likely to lose the game. Therefore, as a leader, you need to balance getting things done with ensuring that your people are taking the time they need to get some rest and recharge their batteries with their loved ones.

Much of what we do happens behind the scenes. That means it isn’t on TV or always self-evident to everyone. This has a few unfortunate side effects. The 99% of the great work you do is often invisible to most people. Although it takes an enormous amount of planning, effort and acumen to make things appear effortless, this may not be evident to everyone. When things go smoothly it makes it look like it was easy! We all know that’s not the case, but the lay person may not understand that.

When things work…well, they’re supposed to work! On the rare occasion something goes slightly sideways, chances are that these anomalies will get far more focus and attention than the vast majority of what went right. Therefore we need to do two things. First of all we can’t expect or live for kudos because they are few and far between. Secondly we need to realize that our people are not receiving that positive reinforcement from others so we need to provide it ourselves. Just because excellence can be invisible to the masses, it should never be invisible or taken for granted by us as leaders. We need to share our appreciation and recognition with our people because in all likelihood that’s the only recognition they are likely to receive.

Finally, life has a funny way to remind us that we’re not always in control! I remember an incident years ago where I worked for a Fortune 100 pharmaceutical company. Our Latin American distribution center was located on an island that experienced a hurricane. This knocked out all our telecommunications capabilities. Once the hurricane passed, the local telco (which of course was a monopoly!) decided to go on strike. This rendered us out of the water for the better part of a week. One executive reigned terror on me about this unacceptable situation. While I shared her frustration, I also realized my total lack of ability to impact either acts of nature or civil unrest. “Stuff” happens and even though we’re accountable for certain things doesn’t mean we can always control them. Life can be humbling at times so always remember to keep a balanced perspective and to not allow the pressures of the day to wind your chain.

Larry Bonfante is a practicing CIO and founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. He is also the author of Lessons in IT Transformation, published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at


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