CIO, Opinion

Four Activities Every CIO Should Embrace

Good CIOs are far more than just good technical people or good business people. Good CIOs also need to be good leaders. In this article, I describe four activities that CIOs should embrace.

Communicate… Then Communicate Some More

It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. The ability to communicate is key to your personal success, your organization’s success, and the morale of the people on your team. Many people considering good communication as simply being able to work with the executive leadership of the company, but good leaders understand that communication both up and down the org chart is the real marker of success. Just like you want to make sure you never surprise your boss (in a bad way, anyway), you should hold a similar standard for your staff. Obviously, there will be some confidential items that can’t be shared, but when there is no such restriction, share and share freely.

I’ve always been a stickler about communication. In fact, I’ve always had a standard about communication to which I held fast: if the recipient of your communication can’t understand what you’ve said, communication did not take place. Talking did. A big part of ensuring good communication is tailoring your message to your audience. By doing so, you demonstrate respect for your audience while also demonstrating understanding of business reality.

Don’t Work Around Problems… Address Them

If you have a problem handle it. Don’t try to find ways to work around the system in an effort to avoid confrontation. If you’re not able to solve a situation on your own escalate it to someone who can help. If he or she is a good leader and you can demonstrate the impact of the issue, he will help you work through the issue.

If your staff is trying to work around an organizational issue, help them address it. If you have a problem employee in your ranks, address it, whether that’s through coaching, a performance plan, or termination. Your staff knows when things need to be addressed, so stay ahead of things and help keep morale high by taking swift action when reasonable and necessary.

Let Your People Thrive: Get Out Of The Way

Does it seem like no one on your staff can actually do anything unless you’re actually present and involved? Doesn’t that just drive you nuts?

Before you blame them for their incompetence and lack of initiative, take a long, hard look in the mirror. Are you the common denominator in everything? If so, it’s more than likely that you’re getting in the way. Your staff people are probably quite smart and really good at their jobs… as long as you let them actually do their jobs.

Your job is to guide, advise, and roll up your sleeves when it’s necessary and helpful. If you attempt to insert yourself into every task in every project, your staff members will not have the confidence to act on their own, will not like their jobs, and will not be able to grow as quickly in their positions. If you have staff that legitimately can’t do their jobs without you around, you need new staff. Otherwise, you need to provide your people with guidance and direction and then get out of the way and help them clear any hurdles that might arise.

Don’t Fear Change: Lead It

Too often, IT leaders get stuck in a rut, but it’s often with good reason. We become risk-adverse and don’t want to touch the house of cards that make up the environments we manage. Maintaining a stable operating environment is one of the prime responsibilities n the CIO portfolio. However, as we so often hear, there remains a disconnect between IT and “the business”, a situation which is often the result of the very systems that we’ve built over the years.

In IT, even in the case I described above, we demand that users constantly adjust to new things every day, whether that’s small stuff like a new version of Windows or Office or even a whole new ERP. However, many don’t hold themselves and their departments to this same expectation. The world of the IT staffer is one that should be defined by ongoing change and improvement of the very same variety that is pushed into users.

Rather than trying to stall or slow change, look for ways to get in front of it and lead it. IT departments remain well-positioned to drive useful change through the company, but CIOs must first be willing to push change onto their own staff members and departments.

Don’t wait for change to come to you. Lead it.