Can’t a CIO just rise above all of the politics? I mean really, with all of the technology decisions that need to be made along with the IT department business processes that need to be streamlined, can’t we all just skip the politics and get down to business? It turns out that we can’t and that means that as CIO you’re going to have to make sure that your team is good at playing the office politics game…
Why Politics Matter
So let’s get to the heart of the matter right off the bat: the political skills that your IT department members have will be key to their ability to build successful IT careers. You didn’t become CIO by chance, but rather by skillfully navigating the political maze that is your company – almost a part of the definition of information technology. Your IT staff needs to learn how to do the same.
Office politics has a bad name – it’s often viewed as using deception to get things done. Nothing could be further from the truth. What’s really going on here is that your IT staff is combining their knowledge of what the IT department needs them to do with an ability to actually get things accomplished. When they can do this, the IT department will benefit.
Politics And Your Staff’s Careers
Having political skills means that your staff will spend their time building personal networks (not the IT kind!) so that they can get both the information the help that they need, when they need it. It also means that they need to be smart enough to not pick fights that just don’t matter. They need to be able to decide if they always want to be right, or they want to get something done.
All too often we IT folks don’t exactly know how to maintain the support of both the folks who work for us and for whom we work. A lot of what it takes to be successful in the world of office politics is for IT staffers to find ways to inspire confidence in others and to build support for their ideas. This means that they need to project self-confidence and a certain amount of force behind their ideas. The last thing that anyone wants to do is to come across as being remorseful – nobody is going to support you if you do.
Finally, winning the office politics game often comes down to how other perceive you. It turns out that if others are able to view your IT staff as being very focused and clear about what they want to accomplish, then they’ll be successful. They won’t be successful if they seem tentative or unclear about what they are trying to do.
I almost hate to pass this final bit of advice along, but studies have shown one key characteristic of how IT staffers can project power. Those who interrupt signal to others that they have power. Those people who allow themselves to be interrupted are signaling that they don’t have power.
What All Of This Means For You
Due to the importance of information technology, as a CIO, you are going to need to become politically savvy as well as taking steps to make your team politically savvy. Don’t think for a moment that this will be an easy job. You’ve got to do it right or else you risk losing staff to other players in the IT sector.
There are points in an IT staffer’s career where having political skills becomes very important. If they’ve taken the time to develop their political skills, then they’ll be able to continue to rise in the company. If not, then they’ll find their careers being derailed.
CIOs need to take the time to teach their staff how to negotiate the political challenges that every IT department faces in a modern company. Only by doing this can you ensure that they’ll be able to accomplish the things that you need them to get done. CIOs who can teach their IT departments how to use politics to their advantage will become successful CIOs.
Question For You: Do you think that formal training on office politics is needed or just constant on-the-job training?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
There you are, a CIO trying to run an efficient IT department. All of sudden — wham! One of your key IT employees comes and tells you that he or she is leaving. Time to go back the bus up because you’ve got another soon-to-be-former employee who deserves to be thrown under it. Or maybe not. That definition of information technology doesn’t contain the answers that you need here — what’s the best way to deal with employees who break up with you?