Skills That Every CIO Needs To Have

In order to lead an IT department, a CIO needs certain skills
In order to lead an IT department, a CIO needs certain skills
Image Credit: Gareth Williams

Congratulations on having your company make you the CIO. However, now what? As the person with the CIO job, you are going to have to use your skills to solve a range of challenging technical problems. However, you’re not going to be able to do this by yourself. You’ll need help from everyone who is a part of your department. Your big challenge is going to be finding a way to connect with them and motivate them to help you out. Just exactly how are you going to go about doing this?

Being The CIO Is Unglamorous

If you are like most of us, you view having the CIO position as being a significant career accomplishment. In all honesty, you are probably correct. However, if you want to be a successful CIO you are going to have to get over this. Sure, the title is nice and the office that goes along with it is also impressive. However, in order to be successful you are going to have to be able to convince people to do things for you and your title is not going to make this happen.

What you are going to have to come to an understanding of is the simple fact that you can’t be the star of the IT department. Instead, you are going to be the person who takes care of all of the unglamorous tasks. It’s going to be your responsibility to take care of the daily tasks that will be required in order to unify the IT department. It’s going to be your job to keep the department moving forward even when they’ve experienced setbacks and their spirts are sagging.

Break The Rules – For A Purpose

In every company there are a set of rules that everyone is expected to follow all of the time. In fact, as the company’s CIO one of your jobs is to ensure that the members of your department play by these rules. However, there will come times when your department runs into a problem that they just can’t seem to solve. When this happens, they’ll come looking for you to step in and lend a helping hand. You are going to have to evaluate the situation and determine if the company’s way of doing business is helping or hurting the IT department.

As the CIO you don’t always have to play fair. If the situation calls for it, you may be called on to do what some people would consider to be unsportsmanlike things. When you do this, you’ll be testing the limits of the rules that the company has set up. When you are dealing with a tricky business situation, aggressive tactics can be a valuable tool. You just need to remember that you’ll have to return to being the nice CIO once the situation has been dealt with.

Use Practical Communication – Not Big Speeches

One of the most important jobs that a CIO has is to communicate with the rest of the IT team. There are a number of different ways to go about accomplishing this. One of the most common ones that we CIOs tend to use is what I like to call the “big speech”. You know what I’m talking about here: we gather everyone together and then we spend an hour sharing with them why we’ll be doing something, or not doing something, or changing how we do something.

It turns out that this may not be the most effective way for us to get our message across. This is good news for those of us who don’t believe that we are skilled public speakers. It turns out that a much better way to get your message out to the rest of the department is to get out into your IT department and circulate widely. What you’ll want to be doing is spending your time talking with everyone about what is going on right now.

What All Of This Means For You

Because of the importance of information technology, every company needs a CIO. When we are placed in that position, we need to find ways that we can be successful. We’re not going to be able to be successful by ourselves, instead we are going to have to rely on the assistance that we can get from the IT department. However, in order to get that support, we’re going to have to develop the skills that are needed in order to connect with the people who work for us.

The first thing that we need to realize is that being a successful CIO is a very unglamorous job. We may be thrilled to have the fancy title; however, it turns out that the CIO is not the hero of the IT department. Rather, we are the people who make sure that the little things get taken care of each day, week, and month. We also have to understand that the company has established rules for good reasons. However, when the IT department runs into a problem, it’s going to be up to us to find ways to stretch those rules in order to find ways to allow our team to be successful. In order for your IT team to know what you want them to do, you are going to have to tell them. There are a number of different ways that you can go about doing this. The big speech is one way that we do this. However, a much better way is to circulate within your IT department and talk with everyone about what needs to be accomplished right now.

Success as a CIO is something that can only be accomplished with the help of your entire IT department. What you need to learn how to do is to connect with your department in a way that will allow everyone to understand what you want them to do and why. Use the three skills that we’ve discussed to do a better job of showing your team what you need them to do and then sit back and watch as they amaze you with what they are able to accomplish.

– 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 you should spend each day communicating with your IT department?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The reason that the IT department exists is to provide assistance to the rest of the company. A great deal of this assistance consists of background tasks such as keeping the email system running, setting up new servers, and protecting the company’s networks from hackers. However, there is another side to what the IT department may be called on to do and that has to do with making the company more competitive. It turns out that the company realizes the importance of information technology and knows that it needs the IT department’s help when it comes to setting prices for its products.