What’s The Best Way For A CIO To Communicate?

Communication is key to the CIO job
Communication is key to the CIO job
Image Credit:
Harald Link

When you hold the CIO position, because of the importance of information technology you have a great deal of responsibility. This means that you have to come up with ways to let everyone who works for you know what you want them to accomplish. In a word, you have to communicate. As easy as this may sound to do, it turns out that it’s actually quite difficult to do well. All too often we’ll think that we’re doing a good job, but then we’ll discover that the people that we’ve been talking to are confused and don’t understand what we need them to do. We need to become better communicators.

The Challenge Of Communicating Well

One of the biggest mistakes that I see CIOs making is that they believe that when they have an opportunity to communicate with a group of their staff, they need to impress them. The believe that in some way they need to justify the fact that they are CIO and in order to get everyone to agree that this was a good decision, they are going to have to say some very impressive things. It turns out that they are wrong.

In order to impress a group of IT professionals, CIOs generally like to pull out the complexity card. This means that what they are going to do is to create a speech that is dense with information and contains a lot of very complicated things. They believe that by delivering a complicated speech they will be seen as being a very smart person.

What these people in the CIO position are missing is that in reality complexity does not equal intellect. These CIOs fear that if they make something too simple, it will show a lack of intelligence on their part. In reality, their failure to simplify what they will be talking about shows a lack of confidence on their part. There is even a name for this: the Too Simple Syndrome.

How A CIO Can Communicate Clearly

If a CIO wants to clearly communicate to members of his or her department, then they have to avoid the Too Simple Syndrome, and show confidence in simplicity. This all starts by you deciding to not cover more than three major points when you are talking with a group. Within each of these three groups, limit yourself to providing no more than three pieces of information. If you find it hard to do this, then you need to take the time to better understand what you’ll be talking about.

One of the sad facts of life is that when you are talking with a group, they will not remember everything that you tell them. You need to realize this going in. This means that from the three main pieces of information that you are going to be providing them with, you need to pick just one of them as your “main point”. This is going to be the point that you’ll have to clarify the best.

Finally, it is possible to have too much to say. When you are planning out what you’ll be saying, you need to boost your credibility by limiting what you say. What this means for you is that you are going to have to learn how to be precise with both your words and any arguments that you make. The good news here is that the harder you work to simplify your presentation, the better you will come to understand what you’ll be saying.

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs are leaders. This means that we need to clearly communicate to the team that we lead what we need them to do for us. This is a challenging task and there are a number of ways to go about doing it incorrectly. We need to learn how to do a good of communicating.

The first thing that we need to realize is that a lot of CIOs do a bad job of communicating. In order to make themselves look good, they attempt to use any communication opportunity to make things complicated so that they sound important. What generally happens is that the people that they are talking with end up being confused and walk away not knowing what they should be doing. A much better way to go about communicating with team members is to limit yourself to just three main items. Pick one of these items and make sure that it will be the one that people will remember after you are done. As you review your material, feel free to eliminate material to make what you are saying more precise.

Good communication skills are never easy. However, all CIOs should realize that this is a skill that can be learned. Take the time to identify exactly what you want to say and then simplify it and limit your main points to just three. Carefully crafting what you want to say will yield dividends as the people that you talk with start to understand what you want them to do.

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

Question For You: What should a CIO do if they have more than three things that they want to communicate to their team?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

CIOs have discovered that they have a bit of a problem on their hands. The equipment that General Electric (GE) sells, power plant electrical gear, etc. to run factories is so big and so complex that nobody really understands how to use it correctly. The GE products can be tuned to run at a peak level, but nobody knows what controls should be set to what values or when. This is a problems that the person who has the CIO job is going to have to step in and solve.

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