If you happen to be one of CIO Ken Grady\u2019s 3,280 followers on LinkedIn, his New Year\u2019s message may have already struck a chord in your heart -- as it did in mine.\n\n\u201cThe most important intention I have for the new year is a very firm resolution to be more gentle with people, including myself,\u201d he wrote. \u201cMy 'driven' instincts don't always translate to 'helpful.\u2019 Being kind does not mean being unwilling to do the hard work. Being gentle does not mean being unable to step up.\u201d\n\nGrady is the technology leader of Maine-based IDEXX Laboratories, a pet healthcare diagnostics company serving veterinarians and customers in 175 countries. His IT career trajectory has taken him through leadership roles from small start-ups to Fortune 500 global companies across life sciences, R&D organizations and supply chain operations.\n\nAs I read his thoughtful, uplifting message to fellow CIOs about facing yet-another pandemic year of continued uncertainty, what resonated for me was his advice to look at 2022 as \u201ca blank page, waiting for us to write our own intentions.\u201d\n\n\u201cYou will have more to offer others, if you make sure that you support your own space to make mistakes, learn, and thrive,\u201d he advised. \u201cBe good to yourselves. 2022 needs us.\u201d\n\nGrady is the only CIO I know who creates his own brief TikTok videos \u2013 every week since the pandemic began -- to update his globally dispersed team about company news and to share his thoughts. I caught up with him recently to hear more about how he\u2019s putting his 2022 intentions into practice. \n\nMaryfran Johnson: CIOs talk about empathy as a crucial leadership skill much more openly today than ever before, but you\u2019ve added a kindness dimension to that. Why does that matter?\n\nKen Grady: I actually want to be a kind leader and creating empathy means putting yourself in other's shoes and being kind. I know it sounds very aspirational, but with everything we\u2019re all going thru with Covid, the world needs more kindness. The CIO job is very people intensive. Our job is to deliver and create change \u2013 by changing the way people work, or engage with customers, or determine how employees work. If you're not people-centric, it\u2019s hard to create change.\n\nTalking about it may sound soft and squishy, but I have specific sets of goals around the employee experience, to make it business-centric. Talking about it out loud is also important, otherwise they won't know. You have to model it out loud.\n\nWhat made you think of creating TikTok videos? It\u2019s hugely popular with Millennials and GenZ, but for a GenXer CIO like yourself, it\u2019s a bit unexpected. \u00a0\n\nThat first week of lockdown, we all went home and just kept working. It was such a white-knuckle time for everyone, and I thought \u2018I gotta say something to the team!\u2019 So I pointed the phone at my face, and did a kind of \u2018We\u2019ll get through this\u2019 video.\u2019 Every Friday morning since then, I do a wrap-up video for my team. I\u2019ve always had a very global team, with people in China, Brazil, all over the place, and they didn't hear from me very often. Now they hear from me every week.\n\nWas it easy to become such a TikTok-friendly CIO?\n\nNo, it was super awkward at first! But after 40-50 times, less so. I\u2019m usually on TikTok every day and creating my walking videos that way is super effective. The internal videos are about 10 minutes long, but my external ones are much shorter.\n\nA big part of the reason I\u2019m creating content to post out in the world is that we can\u2019t get out in the world much anymore. How will talented IT people know they want to work for IDEXX? I want them to google us and find stuff that looks interesting. Anyone can work anywhere these days, so it\u2019s key to create a culture that makes anyone want to stay \u2013 or to join us. It\u2019s been a very deliberate strategy.\n\nWith your decade of CIO experience now, between IDEXX and New England Biolabs, what has changed in your own career strategy?\n\nWhat nobody realizes about being a CIO (or those aspiring to be CIO) is that it\u2019s the only job in IT where you\u2019re *not* being hired by someone in IT. You have to be a business leader and an expert who understands tech. The biggest change for me was realizing I needed to become a commercial CIO. I used to be one of those CIOs who avoided sales and marketing. I didn't want to work with those guys, yet the entire company depends on them. So I pivoted into working and collaborating with marketing and sales. It was a career-changer. And I tell the tech people that I mentor today that nobody else owns your development plan. There\u2019s no roadmap to becoming a CIO, no boxes to tick. Of course, there are tools and resources to help you, but it\u2019s best accomplished if you\u2019re intentional.