The 7 Habits of Highly-Performing CIOs
Specialization often gets us noticed in the workplace, but to deliver on the promise of that knowledge requires leadership. And that’s a different mindset. In The CIO Edge
, authors Graham Waller, George Hallenbeck and Karen Rubenstruck, look at the challenges facing the chief information officer. It’s a another case of what got you here won’t get you there. They write:
Focusing on leadership and people skills—the “soft” things that many CIOs tend to minimize in their quest to keep up with their day-to-day responsibilities of managing IT—is in fact the biggest determinate of their success, or failure.
In other words, your job is to deliver results through your ability to influence people. As CIO you will ultimately fail is you can’t inspire others to get the right work done. You can’t do it alone. They have found that the highest performing CIOs have these seven traits in common:
- Committed to being a leader first and delivering results through people.
- They lead differently than they think—they think analytically while acting collaboratively. A highly-performing CIO is an incredibly smart, technologically savvy professional who also has the critically important, highly developed interpersonal skills required to do the job effectively.
- Connect deeply with people by cultivating their “softer” side. They are good at relating to people and making connections through three particularly important competencies: Openness and being receptive, caring and relating (being approachable).
- Forge winning relationships—up, down and especially sideways with internal peers, with external suppliers and with company customers. Having good relationships makes it far easier to get things done.
- Master communication so that messages not only are understood but also compel needed action. Leaders are always communicating. People process information in different ways and therefore they are skilled in communicating their message in different ways.
- They spend an inordinate amount of time and energy to inspire others to follow them. They get people excited to accomplish things via IT on behalf of the enterprise.
- They build people, not systems. By developing people to the fullest extent possible, four things happen: you unleash the power of the organization, you increase the power of IT, your job becomes more fulfilling and you build a sustainable legacy.
In their research, the best CIOs told them that business acumen trumps technical knowledge. “The point is not to have superior business knowledge in each function area (logistics, finance, marketing, etc.), but rather to know how all these things come together.” Then you can see better where IT fits in and can add value.
Business acumen is an incredibly important trait to possess. There isn’t anything you do in corporate IT that you can’t buy somewhere else.
–Randy Spratt, CIO, McKesson
You need to be a good business leader first, and a technology leader second. I would say that you probably need to spend somewhere around 60 percent of your time on the business and, you know, 30 percent to 40 percent dealing with IT-related matters.
–Robert Runcie, chief administrative officer, Chicago Public Schools
As CIO, what matters is “understanding that your number-one job isn’t mastering the technology. It is providing collaborative, participative leadership through which you can create the relationships, commitments, shared visions, and common purpose that enable success.” Leadership amplifies your value.