Having a clear vantage point within the organization, CIOs play a vital role bringing together engaged and motivated employees to work toward a common outcome, increase productivity, and achieve better business outcomes. Many CIOs know that a high-performance team is usually greater than the sum of its parts, comprised of talent with highly complementary skills, a broader set of objectives than other teams, and fine-tuned approaches to collaboration and communication. Parallels with sport are often drawn in that simply getting the greatest players together doesn\u2019t guarantee the greatest team because each member has a different function, and each function requires different competencies. The key is understanding where the opportunities lie and how varying strengths can dovetail with each other. That\u2019s when a high-performance team takes shape. \n\nHere\u2019s a look at some of things that modern CIOs do to assemble a high-performance team to maximize potential.\n\nFocus on the human element\n\nAccording to Robert Brine, director for cyber and intelligence solutions at Mastercard SA, many businesses focus too much on the technology and struggle with the human element. But if business leaders want to attract and retain talent, they have to think about people. If you have a Formula One team and you spend all your money on the car but your data analyst working in the background has to use an old, beat-up laptop, they\u2019re going to struggle to deliver the insights the team needs to perform optimally.\n\nPrioritise culture\n\nWhen talking about people, you have to think about business culture, so approach it with the same care and dedication you would developing any other asset, says Seugnet van den Berg, founder of South African IT and management firm Bizmod. \u201cIn the new world of work, companies with an attractive culture have a strategic advantage over companies without one,\u201d she says. Culture is not a one-off activity, she adds, it\u2019s a journey and should be maintained and reinforced regularly over time.\n\nAlso, take a look at some of your most recent projects and do a critical evaluation of how well you fared, advises Brine. \u201cIn asking how well different members of your team were able to handle different tasks, you can develop a list of skills shortages that need to be addressed right away.\u201d And then do the same exercise with an eye on the future, he adds.\n\nFuture fit your employees to retain them\n\n\u201cKeeping the right people in a very competitive job market is a challenge we share with many tech companies today,\u201d notes David Cohn, CIO at supermarket retailer Shoprite Checkers. This situation has become exponentially more challenging with the explosion of investment in, and use of, technology since the start of the pandemic.\n\nAccording to Cohn, addressing this starts with knowing your people and understanding what different individuals want from their career. \u201cWe encourage our employees to take ownership of their career paths and empower themselves,\u201d he says. \u201cIt\u2019s up to them to determine what training they require and then we work with them to make it available.\u201d As part of this, Checkers\u2019 management and leaders do their best to ensure that various structures are in place to allow for successful learning. Again, it comes back to listening to people, he says.\n\nEnable room to grow\n\n\u201cPeople want to grow and change, and good business leaders are willing to give them the opportunity to do so,\u201d adds Cohn. Here, you can get HR involved, encouraging them to bring their expertise and ideas to the table to help you come up with the right approach to training and employee development.\n\nIn addition, it\u2019s important to remember that an empathetic leader understands that people come from different places and therefore won\u2019t grow and develop in the same manner. Modern CIOs must approach upskilling and training with this reality in mind, advises Benjamin Marais, CIO at financial services company Liberty Group SA.\n\nYou also need to create opportunities that expose your employees to what\u2019s happening outside the business, suggests van den Berg. This is especially true where it pertains to future technologies and skills because if teams know what\u2019s out there, they better understand what they need to do to keep up.\n\nPut your best foot forward\n\nGiven the rise in competition for skills in the market, you have to demonstrate your best when trying to attract top talent and retain them, stresses Cohn. Today\u2019s candidates aren\u2019t only looking for an employer who will help them achieve their career goals, they also want their work to align with their personal values and beliefs, adds Fred Swanepoel, CIO at Nedbank. \n\n\u201cObviously, people are looking for a competitive package,\u201d he says, \u201cbut we believe people are equally attracted to purposeful growth and meaningful work.\u201d Prospective employees want to know what the organization does, so you need to talk about and promote the exciting projects being worked on so they can get a glimpse of what they\u2019d do if they join the business. They\u2019re also interested in what other talent is joining and the type of talent that already works for the business. \u201cThey want to know what the organization looks and feels like to decide for themselves if it\u2019s a good fit,\u201d he adds. \u201cThis is why diversity, equity and inclusion\u2014a key focus area for most businesses\u2014is so important.\u201d\n\n\u201cWith the CIO being promoted from the basement to the boardroom, we now have a seat at the leadership table and must transform the information we have into something the business can use to learn, grow and make better decisions from in the future,\u201d says Swanepoel. \u201cToday, you can\u2019t pass yourself off as a CIO if you\u2019re not central to how the organization operates. And as such, I think the CIO is equally responsible for an organization's mindset, behaviour and culture because they have all the data around how the business has been doing in these areas in the past.\u201d\n\nTurn failure into a positive\n\nIf you want to build a high-performance team, you have to not only embrace failure but encourage it. This mindset is essential so you can use each setback as a learning opportunity. \u201cYou have to be okay with making mistakes, with failures and with pushing each other harder so you can turn stumbling blocks into successes,\u201d says Swanepoel.\n\nIf you aren\u2019t sure about something new, don\u2019t be afraid to ring-fence it as an experiment and give it a try, adds van den Berg. \u201cEmployees love being part of something new when it\u2019s framed as an experiment and when they understand that the purpose is to see how it works, to determine if it will work for us and to decide what we can learn from it,\u201d she says. \n\nEmbrace fusion teams\n\nGone are the days when IT was a standalone department not integrated within the rest of the enterprise, outlines Marais. As a result, the role of the CIO is to foster new ways to work and build fusion teams so ideas flow. Fusion teams are multidisciplinary that blend technology and business domain expertise and share accountability for business and technology outcomes. \n\nA typical fusion team may include roles such as product owner, scrum master, developers and domain experts. These cross-functional teams not only help the business think more broadly, but bring new ideas and solutions to the table in times of crisis. Swanepoel agrees. The new world of work is all about multidisciplinary interaction, he says. This makes it important to rethink how we organise our business\u2014moving away from grouping people by business function and instead grouping them based on shared outcomes. This also means putting a greater emphasis on soft skills.