How CIOs Can Build Human Networks

The challenge of making connections when you can't meet face to face
The challenge of making connections when you can’t meet face to faceImage Credit: Dean Shareski

Although we like to think of the CIO job as being a technology job where we spend our time trying to communicate the importance of information technology, there is a lot of human contact required. With the arrival of the Covid-19 virus this part of the job, which was never easy, has all of sudden become that much harder to do. In this new era of social distancing, how can CIOs build the human networks that they need?

Quality Of Contacts Takes Priority Over Quantity

All too often we can believe that in order to be successful networkers we have to get in contact with a lot of people. With our new online only environment, we need to start to think in terms of quality, not quantity. What this boils down to that we need to pay attention to people whose work interests or inspires us, whose posts resonate with us, or whose professional experience gives us a fresh perspective. A CIO can use lists to focus their attention on the small number of people that they find most interesting or valuable. It turns out that it’s easier to form new connections by interacting with 10 people on a regular basis, rather than 100 people very occasionally. The person with the CIO job should aggressively unsubscribe from email lists so that the emails they get from colleagues don’t get lost.

Make Sure You Network In A Way That Works For You

CIOs need to understand what they can do to get people to respond to them. As they go about trying to build their human networks, they need to be able to connect with people. CIOs who usually work their way through a cocktail party or networking lunch by introducing various sets of people can pursue that same strategy in the online world. They need to be careful to make sure that they ask both parties before making an email introduction.

If a CIO prefers to build relationships through recurring gatherings, like monthly networking lunches, they can look for standing social-media chats that take place at a regularly scheduled date and time, and make a point of participating on a continuing basis. They might begin with the online groups/channels/hashtags that connect with their favorite offline networking groups; that way they’re building on top of existing relationships.

Find Ways To Let Other People Shine

What the person in the CIO position needs to understand about the online world is that it can feel like a bunch of people shouting for attention. Once this is understand, they will stand out if they’re amplifying other people’s voices instead of just competing to be heard. A CIO needs to share what other people have said, maybe adding a comment of their own, and make that at least half of what they share. It will make them more appealing to engage with, too.

As a CIO starts to follow and engage with people who have a big professional presence, they’ll probably notice that generosity fuels generosity. People who share their knowledge and insights generously tend to build and engage bigger followings. So, along with amplifying others, a CIO needs to be prepared to share their own ideas in updates, blog posts, videos and conversations.

CIOs Need To Look For Ways They Can Be Of Service

Just exactly how to present ourselves online can be a key factor in our ability to build human networks. Currently many people are struggling financially, professionally or emotionally. What this means for CIOs is that cold calls or sales-y emails which we are using to network may come off as insensitive. A CIO may fare better by reaching out around a community-service project.

CIOs need to realize that desire to be of service should guide as much of their online networking as possible. In face to face meetings, they can get away with some pretty direct requests for favors, if they’re delivered with tact and charm; online, it’s easy for incoming requests to feel like an attack on their inbox.

Rather than thinking in terms of putting favors in the bank, think about how a CIO can be the most helpful; the kind of person others feel grateful to know and eager to connect with. That means that a CIO needs to look at their skills, knowledge and relationships, and think about where they can be uniquely valuable.

What All Of This Means For You

The Covid-19 virus has turned everyone’s world upside down. CIOs understand that in addition to the technology part of their job, they also have to take the time to build human networks in order to be able to get things done. Covid-19 has made this tough task even more difficult to do. It still needs to get done, we just need to learn how to adapt to this new world.

It can be all too easy to think that in order to build a human network, we need to go online and meet as many people as possible. It turns out that this is the wrong way to go about doing things. A much better way is to focus on quality over quantity. When you are networking online, you need to do it in a way that works for you. You need to connect with people online in the same way that you do when you are meeting them face to face. When we are building our human networks, we need to give other people a chance to shine. How you choose to present yourself online can determine how successful you will be. If you offer service to those around you, you’ll be more appealing and will have an easier job of building your network.

Even though everything has changed, CIOs can still build their human networks in this time of lockdown. They need to go online and use the connecting skills that they use when meeting people face-to-face to make new connections. Take the time to do this correctly, and your CIO network can grow online and become even more useful to you.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How much time do you think that CIOs should spend working on their networks online?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the CIO, you have the responsibility to make sure that the company’s technology is made available to everyone. This can be fairly easy to do when you are considering the needs of your workers. However, things can start to get a bit trickier when you have to take into account all of the firm’s customers and the people that you do business with. This issue can come to light when you realize that the company’s website may not be usable by people who are colorblind.