How Bad CIOs Can Become Good CIOs

The pandemic has the ability to create good CIOs out of bad ones
The pandemic has the ability to create good CIOs out of bad ones
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So would you say that you are a good CIO or a bad CIO? If, somewhat oddly, you answered that you are a bad CIO, I may have some good news for you. As we are all very much aware, the past year has been completely upside down. However, despite creating a great deal of uncertainty about what everyone should be doing and making the job of being a CIO that much harder, it may have also created some opportunities for us. What this means is that if you went into the pandemic looking like a bad CIO, you just might be able to come out of it looking like a good CIO.

Mistakes That CIOs Make

The job of a CIO is simple and clear: create an environment in which IT employees can do their best work. Sadly, too few CIOs can pull this off. CIOs are prone to making the mistake of “managing” for “control.” However, here’s the good news: the pandemic made it much easier to become a good CIO. To understand why, it’s important to first recognize why there are so many bad CIOs. For too many CIOs, there is just one truth, just one way of doing things—their way.

But think about it for a moment. It turns out that we’re all different, with our own skills and abilities and imperfections. We all have different ways of achieving the results our company needs. But most CIOs fail to recognize that. Instead, they try to impose their way of doing things on their IT workers. In other words, the most important relationship in any organization – between a CIO and an IT worker – is too often a farce. It too often isn’t, “How can we work together to get results?” Instead, it’s “How can I, the CIO, force you to become more like me, even if we all have to suffer because of it?”

The cost to doing this is incalculable. It will include unhappy employees who feel their skills are wasted and voices unheard, CIOs who never understand why others are failing to live up to their expectations, and companies whose results aren’t nearly what they could be. Now enter the pandemic, and specifically remote work, and everything has the potential, the imperative, to change.

The Pandemic Changes Everything

Suddenly, the way that we used to manage – by controlling how employees work – has become impossible. That’s because CIOs now have no way of knowing the individual workplace and environment in which each of their employees operates. As they are confronted with more variables than they can possibly control, the fallacy of the old way of managing will be inevitably exposed. Even the most stuck-in-their-ways CIOs in these difficult times have to admit they don’t know anything about where any employee is coming from or what that individual faces at home. All they know is that they better find out about any obstacles that are preventing each employee from working at his or her best.

What this means is that managing can no longer be about whether the employee is doing the job the way the CIOs thinks it should be done. Instead, the focus shifts to results, however they are going to be reached. The focus switches to providing the IT worker with what they need to get the end results the company requires so everyone can keep their job – the CIO as well as the IT worker. For CIOs at a loss as to how to proceed, the key is to begin with one basic question for their IT workers: “What do you need from me, and how can I be of help?”

Such active inquiry and active listening, which CIOs have been able to resist for so long, changes the dynamic between employer and employee. Asking focused questions and shutting up long enough to hear the answers is the only way for CIOs to get the information they need to manage effectively for results. It allows CIOs to determine which employees need their presence and who works best on a “don’t call me, I’ll call you when I need your help” basis. It allows CIOs to focus results and not so much on the path individual IT workers take to get those results. This is why the pandemic could be the best managerial-improvement training program ever imagined. It has thrown a lot of IT departments into managerial turmoil. It may turn out that that turmoil is just what a lot of CIOs needed.

What All Of This Means For You

Not all CIOs are perfect. In fact, some of us are probably really not all that good at managing our IT workers. The result of this is that our IT departments are not able to accomplish as much as they should be able to. I’m pretty sure that all of us would like to find ways to become better. Perhaps the arrival of the global pandemic is going to be exactly what we need.

Many CIOs try to “manage for control”. Too many CIOs don’t realize that their workers may have their own unique ways to accomplish the work that needs to get done. When this happens, workers are left unhappy and CIOs are confused as to why people are unable to do things “their way”. The arrival of the pandemic sent all workers home and all of sudden CIOs had no idea the type of environment in which their IT workers were operating in. Now CIOs need to start to reach out to their IT workers and find out what they can do to help them to be more successful. This will help CIOs to start to focus on results.

Making the shift from spending our time worrying about how our IT workers are getting their work done to what results they are producing is not going to be easy. However, by making this change CIOs now have a way to boost the productivity of their IT departments. It seems like making the effort is going to be well worth what it is going to cost us. Take the time to find out what your IT workers now need from you and perhaps you can become the good CIO that you have always wanted to be.

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

Question For You: What would be the best way to determine a remote worker’s current needs?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Right now every CIO seems to be talking about the customer experience (CX). What CIOs have been told is that if you don’t get customer experience right, you may leave yourself vulnerable to competitors who do. However, CIOs who focus only or mostly on customers are forgetting something just as important: the employee experience (EX) . The basic formula is: You can’t have customers that are happier than your employees no matter how well you understand the importance of information technology. Here’s how CIOs can fall short of providing employee-facing technology that helps rather than hurts productivity, morale and the bottom line.