In Order To Be A Good CIO, You’re Going To Have To Know How To Have A Good Conversation

by drjim on February 12, 2014

CIOs need to know how to have good conversations with their staff

CIOs need to know how to have good conversations with their staff
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More and more CIOs are finding themselves in charge of global IT departments. This is posing a unique problem for them: given the importance of information technology, how can they connect with the members of their IT department in order to determine what is really going on and what really needs to be done? It turns that the answer is both simple and complex: CIOs need to learn how to master the power of having a good conversation.

It’s All About Intimacy

At many of the companies that I’ve worked for, as the company grows from being small to being large, everyone, including the CIO, regrets the loss of interaction that the small company had. CIOs who can learn how to have effective conversations with their staff will have found a way to step away from being seen as the person who issues orders and now being viewed as being a person whom the staff can engage with in a normal, everyday conversation.

It is not always possible for the CIO to be physically present with the employees with whom you are talking. The good news is that this really doesn’t matter all that much. Instead, what really matters is your ability to gain the trust of your employees and to show them that you are listening to what they are saying.

Listening is all about having the CIO be quiet – not always an easy thing for any of us to do. You need to take the time to truly listen to what your employees are trying to tell you. By showing the other person in the conversation that you are willing to listen to them, you are showing them respect no matter what their role in the organization is and you are expressing a curiosity in what they have to say.

A Good Conversation Is All About Interactivity

The tradition forms of communication that a CIO has had have all suffered from the same problem: they were one-way. The best kind of conversations are two-way – both parties feel that their thoughts can be heard. A good conversation is both open and fluid.

The arrival of today’s social media tools has changed everything. All of sudden CIOs everywhere now have a wide range of tools available to them that will allow them to engage in two-way communications with their staff. Although this is a great first step, it’s not going to completely solve the problem of how CIOs can have effective conversations with their staff.

It can be all too easy to treat every new communication channel that becomes available to a CIO as simply a new version of the old channels. This means that we can view new social media tools as simply new ways to help us get our message out. We need to resist doing this. Instead, we need to use them to create a genuinely interactive culture that allows our employees to respond to what we share with them.

What All Of This Means For You

Gone are the days in which the person who has the CIO job could just issue another memo and it would be sent out to everyone in the IT department to act upon it. The globalization of today’s IT departments and the importance of creating a workplace that employees want to remain a part of means that CIOs need to learn how to connect with their employees and the answer is that we need to learn how to have a good conversation with our staff.

CIOs need to understand that a good conversation will allow them to create a level of workplace intimacy with their employees that will allow for the free flow of important information and ideas. In order to do this successfully, CIOs need to learn how to listen well and gain the trust of their workers. Good conversations are not one way. Instead, the best conversations are interactive and allow ideas and comments to be exchanged.

In the 21st Century with all of the social media tools that are at a CIO’s disposal, you’d think that the best way to keep an IT department connected would be high-tech. However, it turns out that mastering the art of the conversation is what the person in the CIO position needs to be able to do. Take the time to master this skill and you’ll have found a way to transform your IT department into a smooth running machine.

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

Question For You: What is the best way for a CIO to determine if he or she has the ability to conduct an effective conversation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

You might be having the best day that you’ve ever had since you accepted the CIO job and then all of sudden it hits you: what am I doing to protect the company from the risks that it faces? IT, of all departments, poses one of the biggest doorways for risk to enter your company because of the importance of information technology. As CIO, what do you need to be doing in order to help the company prepare for the things that might happen?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Douglas Brown February 13, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Two-way conversations are important. But a workplace is going to be dysfunctional if it can’t even handle one-way communication. I’ve always been astonished at the results of the following test: in any open meeting, have people fill out a blank 3×5 card (no hints) with what they think the CIO’s top 3 priorities are (this works for any leader, really) . Then have the CIO reveal what he thinks they are. Then reveal what the people thought. The revealed gaps – if any – tell you all about whether the communications work in ANY direction. I suppose one could vary this to test for upward communication too.

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drjim February 13, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Douglas: That’s a fantastic idea! If we can’t even align what we are working towards internally, then how can we ever hope to reach our goals as a company?

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