What’s Preventing You From Becoming A Better CIO?

CIOs need to learn to listen to what their employees are trying to tell them
CIOs need to learn to listen to what their employees are trying to tell them
Image Credit: Benson Kua

Hopefully we’d all like to become better CIOs. This is a great goal, the challenge that most of us are facing is that it just is not clear exactly what we need to do in order to make this happen. The good news is that researchers have been talking to the people that work for us and what they have found out is that we are pretty good at sharing information, but we’re lousy listeners. You can’t be a good CIO if you are a poor listener. It turns out that doing a good job of listening to the people who work for us is seen as being a complement to them. When we listen to them we’re telling them that we care about them. So now the big question is how can the person with the CIO position become a better listener?

Don’t Be A Mind-Reader

CIOs who spend their time trying to read the minds of their employees are not going to be good leaders. The reason for this is that reading minds is actually quite hard to do. You’ll spend your time working to figure out what you think that the person that you are talking with is currently really thinking and feeling. This will take up a lot of your time and this means that you’ll have less time to pay attention to the person. You are going to be missing such things as words, how they are being said, and all sorts of subtle cues that the other person may be throwing off.

Don’t Filter

As a busy CIO, sometimes you may feel as though you simply don’t have enough time to listen to everything that people are trying to tell you because of the importance of information technology and the attention that it requires from you. When this happens all too often we then start to filter what we are hearing. We’ll end up listening to some things that we are being told, but we’ll skip other things. This filtering thing can take on a whole new nasty characteristic if people are trying to share bad news with us – we’ll filter it out and if asked about it later on we’ll claim that we were never told about it.

Stop Judging

We all have our own set of opinions about the people who work for us. I’m sure that we like some of them, don’t like others, think that some are smart, think that some are dumb, etc. However, as the person with the CIO job you need to learn to not prejudge people before you start to talk with them. This can be especially hard to do if you are talking with someone that you view as being a problem employee. If you prejudge somebody in a negative way (they are stupid, they are boring) then when you talk to them you’ll end up not paying very much attention to what they are telling you. You can determine if you are doing this if you find that your mind is already made up on a topic even before you talk to somebody about it.

Stop Giving Advice

So just exactly how do you see yourself CIO? If you are like most of us, you see yourself as a person who has worked their way up through the ranks and has a ton of practical experience. Unfortunately, what this generally means is that we are more than willing to share our experience with just about anyone that we encounter. You are always ready to help someone with the problems that they are dealing with. This means that all they have to do is share a few sentences with you about a challenge that they are facing and you’ll be willing to jump in with some advice for them. The problem with this is that no, you don’t know everything and while you are busy offering your helpful advice, you might be missing something important about the challenge that you didn’t know.

Stop Always Having To Be Right

I have to own up to this one. I hate to be wrong. I’m not sure just how bad I am at this, but some CIOs are willing to go to just about any lengths to not be shown to be wrong. These CIOs are unable to listen to anyone criticize them or correct them. They are unwilling to take suggestions on how something can be done better or changed. The way that they see the world it is something that simply cannot be changed. The problem with this is that just like all of us, they may be completely wrong but they don’t want to hear that.

What All Of This Means For You

Ok, so now like the rest of us hopefully you can admit that you have a bit of a problem. You are not the best listener. What you are going to have to do is to change things by starting to become an active listener. An easy way to go about doing this is to use something that the experts call “paraphrasing”. All that this requires you to do is to listen to what someone is telling you and then echo back to them, in your own words, what you think that they just told you.

So when should you be doing this paraphrasing? The answer is pretty much all the time. You are going to want to do is each time something is said to you. By doing this you’ll find it much harder to mind read, filter, judge, advise, or even hold on to being right. The end result of this new way of listening to the people who work for you is that they will start to believe that you are really listening to them and your attention will be appreciated by them.

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

Question For You: How often during a conversation do you think that you have to paraphrase back to the other person?

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