Are You A Confidant CIO – Or An Overconfident CIO?

The line is easy to cross and hard to recognize
The line is easy to cross and hard to recognize
Image Credit: Miki Jourdan Follow

So just exactly what does it take to be a successful CIO? I think that we can all agree that one of the key traits that the person in the CIO position needs to have is the self-confidence to deal with issues related to the importance of information technology. If we don’t believe in ourselves, then who will? Self-confidence is how we make decisive decisions and support and challenge the members of our team. However, if we have too much self-confidence, then it can turn into overconfidence. When we are overconfident then the person with the CIO job can become arrogant and alienate the members of our team. How can we tell if we have too much of a good thing? Simple – by answering some important questions.

How Much Time Do You Spend Listening?

So here’s the big question: do you like to hear yourself speak? If you are like most of us, the answer to that question is “yes”. However, the problem is that overconfident people are people who really like to hear themselves talk. They think that they have all the best ideas so why waste time listening to other people?

You probably don’t think of yourself that way. However, you may be overconfident. What you need to do is to ask the people that you work with what they think of you. One clever idea is to occasionally video record meetings that you are participating in. Once the meeting is over, take a look at the recording. Are you the one who is doing most of the talking? Do you give others an opportunity to talk? Do you shut other people down? If any of these are true, then now is the time for you to change your behavior.

Do All Good Ideas Come From You?

When you are in meetings, do the other people make suggestions? Or are they mostly silent? It turns out that people tend to shut down when a leader is being arrogant. Why bother making suggestions when they’ll just get shot down and you may get jumped on by the leader for making the suggestion? If you are not careful, you’ll end up with a room full of yes men and women.

One way to stay on top of this issue is to occasionally pull your team together. Do what some people call a “creativity audit”. What you want to do is to take a look at all of the work that your department has been doing and determine where the ideas for those projects came from. If it turns out that you are the source for most if not all your department’s good ideas, then something is wrong. A good way to solve this problem is to appoint a member of your team to act as a devil’s advocate and push back when you make idea suggestions. Allow them to have other team members contribute their ideas.

Are You Always The Smartest Person In The Room?

So just how smart are you? Do you think that you are the smartest person in your department? When you are in a situation where either a coworker or a customer contradicts you, do you automatically think “I’m right, they’re wrong”? No matter if it is in public or in private, do you hate it when someone contradicts you? The problem with this type of thinking is that you may be downplaying risks and dismissing inconvenient facts.

So what can you do about this? One solution is to take time at the end of each work day and give some thought to what new ideas and criticisms came your way during the day. Were you as open minded about these new ideas as you should have been? Can you remember any times that you have tried something new and failed? Take the results of these thoughts and share them with your team to let them know that although you may be smart, you are not the smartest person at the company.

Are You A Critical Part Of Your Business’s Success?

Do you feel that your department could be successful without you? Overconfident CIOs don’t believe that the company could keep moving forward if they were not on board. The result of this is that this type of CIO tends to play down the contributions of others and instead highlight their own accomplishments. The result is that the rest of the department ends up feeling devalued and, over time, most of them will generally end up leaving.

What you can do to deal with this issue is to start to keep track of people who leave your department. Why did they leave? How long were they on board? Why are they leaving? If the department has become a revolving door for professionals, then perhaps you are the cause. If this is the case, then you need to take time to allow other members of your department to stand in the limelight. Give credit for new ideas to the team members who come up with them. Allow other people to speak first at meetings. Allow others to have increasing levels of responsibility.

What All Of This Means For You

Having self-confidence is a key to being a successful CIO. However, even though self-confidence is critical, it turns out that we can have too much of it. When this happens we turn out to be overconfident. An overconfident CIO can antagonize the rest of the IT department and may even end up driving some of your best workers away. In order to determine if you have become overconfident, you need to ask yourself a set of questions.

How much time do you spend listening to other people? If you spend more of your time talking than you do listening, you may be overconfident. Back off and give other people in the department a chance to speak up. Are you the source of all of the good ideas in the department? If so, you need to start to draw more ideas out of other people in the department. Are you the smartest person in the department? You probably are not, no matter what you think. Give other people a chance to offer up their ideas and you just might be surprised at how creative they can be. Are you a key part of the business’s success? It turns out that it really does take a village and you need to start to share the limelight with the rest of the department.

Becoming overconfident is an easy thing to do. The tipping point from self-confident to overconfident can be a difficult thing for most of us to see. We need to take the time to ask ourselves these questions in order to determine if we’ve gone too far. If we have, then it is going to be up to us to bring ourselves back. Take the time to do a self-evaluation and get your self-confidence back.

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

Question For You: If a CIO discovers that they have become overconfident, what steps can they take to undo what they have done?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’m pretty sure that I don’t have to tell CIOs that they have a real problem on their hands. Due to the way that demographics work, there are a lot of skilled IT workers who are just about ready to become eligible to retire. When this happens, all of sudden a great deal of the knowledge that allows the IT department to run smoothly is going to walk out the door. When that happens, the CIO has to have a plan to keep the lights on and the databases up. What will you do?