The following are CIO-specific suggestions for dealing with on-the-job stress, not including taking up yoga. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
1. Accept the unfairness
There are a lot of unfair things about being a CIO – for instance, trying to get people to use new systems without having any authority over them. It can all cause stress. Try to put the job in perspective.
2. Level with people
In a previous job, Carlos Covarrubias, now CIO of Dole Fresh Flowers, avoided going into detail when business people asked him technology questions. It angered the business people, who regarded the lack of detail as evasiveness. Now Covarrubias addresses the deeper technology issues. “It lowered my stress level,” he says. “It allowed me to have a different type of conversation with executives.”
3. Take five
Breaks during the day can turn off the fight-or-flight response, at least temporarily. Shutting the door for five minutes and taking a few deep breaths helps, as does visualizing something nice, such as a vacation.
4. Control what you can and delegate the rest
Increase your control where you can and shift accountability for things you can’t control to those who can. For example, giving business people responsibility for technology projects is an alignment best practice. It’s also a good way to lower your stress level.
5. Build a support network outside of work
Join a CIO peer group or a softball team. Keep in touch with friends. Talk to them about what you’re experiencing. CIOs should avoid unburdening themselves to subordinates or colleagues.