Two-Faced CIOs: Dr. Jekyll, Meet Mr. Hyde

by drjim on December 2, 2009

Image Credit : To Be A Good CIO, You Need To Have Two Faces...

: To Be A Good CIO, You Need To Have Two Faces...

Just imagine the day that you become CIO: you’ll be able to shed all of those past associations and friendships that have gotten you to this exalted position and finally you’ll be able to focus on what really matters: forging strong links with your company’s senior management. Well, sure, if you don’t really need to get anything done…

The Best CIOs Are Two-Faced

It turns out that you’re not going to be able to get rid of everyone that you’ve known in the past — they’re still an important part of how you are going to be a successful CIO. The secret to being a good CIO that you need to find a way to simultaneously live in two completely different worlds: you’re going to need to lead the IT team and you’re going to need to be a member of the senior management team.

If you had to pick which one of these sides of your CIO personality was more important, I’d bet that you’d be torn: the old people that you’ve know or the shiny new people that you want to know? It turns out that your relationship with your IT team is probably more important— they are the ones who are going to allow you to actually get things accomplished.

Building An IT Team

Although building a strong and smoothly working IT team will be one of your most critical IT tasks, it’s also going to be one of your most difficult challenges. As CIO you are going to have step up and establish ground rules for how you want your IT teams to:

  • Communicate
  • Make decisions
  • Handle conflicts
  • Evaluate Performance

In order to get the highest level of performance out of your team, you are going to have to work with them to make some very basic agreements about what goals they should be pursuing, who has what roles, and the processes that will be used to achieve these goals.

Playing With The Big Boys

If all that a CIO had to do was to lead the IT team, the job would be much easier. I mean after all, that’s the world that you’ve always been living in, right? The other face of a CIO looks towards the company’s other senior management. Just as when the CIO is working with his / her IT team, there are a completely separate set of goals associated with this team:

  • Finding ways to share information
  • Building a common company culture
  • Creating strategy
  • Working together to solve problems
  • Aligning the company’s organization in order to realize its strategy

Much of your success in this area will rest on your ability to focus on what’s really important: how the overall business is doing.

What All Of This Means For You

When you become CIO, you will also become a split-personality. One part of you will be focused on creating and maintaining successful IT teams. The other part of you will be trying to work with the other senior executives at your company.

The one nice thing about these dual roles is that you’ll know that you are being successful when the same thing happens in both of your dual roles. When everyone feels that they are required to share their thoughts on what’s happening outside of their area, then you know that they really care and that you’ve done your job as CIO.

Which side of being a CIO do you think is the most important: IT team building or Senior Management strategy setting?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What makes you think that when you become the CIO that you’ll be able to run things better than the current CIO is doing? Do you posses some magical management ring or have a bag of IT / business alignment powder that you can sprinkle on your staff that will transform today’s issues into tomorrow’s pillars of success? I don’t think so…

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben Lucier December 2, 2009 at 7:09 pm

I don’t disagree with everything in this post, but it mostly misses the mark as it relates the dual personality of good vs evil to Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for a newly minted CIO.

A CIO has a responsibility to multiple groups, not unlike most other senior management roles. That doesn’t mean a successful CIO needs to “shed” friendships and past associations, it means she must recognize the different audiences and address them appropriately.

In the case of the CIO role, the incumbent almost always rises up the technical ranks and in my opinion often has greater challenges as their senior management peers as they enter a more politically charged environment.

That being said, it doesn’t mean there are two personalities at play, and it certainly doesn’t mean that one personality is good while the other is evil.

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Dr. Jim Anderson December 3, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Ben: ok, so if you can get beyond the “good vs. evil” part of the analogy, can I at least get you to agree that in order to be successful a CIO needs to live in two separate worlds at the same time? Hopefully we can both agree that there is no “shedding” going on here (that would actually be easier!) Instead, a CIO must retain his / her technical roots while creating a new business-side personality. My message here is that all too often, CIOs are not doing this. Now, I guess that it is possible that a CIO could have an “evil” side also, but that would just complicate things…!

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Ben Lucier December 4, 2009 at 11:49 am

Definitely Jim. 🙂 That was my only disagreement and I was a bit worried that you were telling your readers that it’s OK to have an ‘evil’ side as a CIO. One of the best ways to avoid that side by the way is too seek out a decent executive coach to help keep the personalities at bay. 🙂

Many large and some mid-sized corps have already used the services of such a service and it goes a long way to help get the CIO up to speed on the nuances of a politically charged environment where he may be judged by metrics he’s not even aware of.

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