Being CIO – What they don’t teach you in school…

“What does it take to be a CIO?” It’s a question I get asked alot. I could launch into why you don’t even want to know: the responsibilities, the politics, the hours. When you don’t know, it looks easy when someone else is doing it. “Walk a mile in someone’s shoes and you will know how difficult it is.” Not everyone is cut out to be a CIO and someone times you just can’t teach anyone to be one either.

Here’s what it takes…You won’t find this in a “How to Be Great CIO” book.

Have conviction

Nothing can be more detrimental to a CIO than a lack of conviction. If you start getting into the process of second-guessing yourself, it will only place you in a downward spiral toward chronic uncertainty. Conviction is a key component in what it takes to be CIO.

Ability to be rationale

Everyone thinks they are rational, but a strong sense of reason is less common than you think. I’m not talking about differentiating the basic rights from wrongs. I’m talking about being able to rationally weigh the risks and rewards of a situation that seems to have no right answer. It doesn’t hurt to apply some reason when looking to reach an answer.

Lead the troops

To be a good CIO you need the ability to set the tone of the organization. What does this mean? It means showing up first and leaving last. It means showing your PMs how to manage a project or where to cut costs. Roll  up your sleeves and get into it.

No one can discredit a leader who is willing to work harder than everyone else.

Listen, listen, and listen

Instead of rushing into decisions, a successful CIO tries to absorb as much information as possible. It’s amazing how many suggestions you won’t make if you spend more time listening than speaking.

Often the solution requires you to spend a great deal of time listening to other people’s points of view before forming your own. If possible, because it’s an effective way to project leadership, have the last word in the meeting once you’ve collected as much information as possible.

 Ask questions

A common misconception that many people have is that those who ask lots of questions must have the fewest number of answers. Not so. The smartest CIOs learn to ask lots of questions in order to get to the bottom of challenges. Most leadership decisions become very obvious when you dig deep enough into the problem.

Make firm decisions

A bold CIO makes confident decisions. Waffling on an issue is a horrible way to project the importance of your decision.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t change your mind, but if you do, be sure to make those changes few and far between and only in the most dire of circumstances. Every time you change your mind there is a ripple effect — it not only makes people question your current decision, it causes them to potentially question other decisions down the road.

Be the Disciplinarian

Someone has to be the bad guy. As a CIO, that role falls upon you and you alone. An IT department with structure but no discipline is like a boat with no oars. You need both to be successful. As the top dog you have to crack the whip and make your staff work to show value.


One thought on “Being CIO – What they don’t teach you in school…

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