Monday, April 20, 2015

CIO as a New Leader: How can you Learn and Lead Effectively?

IT leaders should bring an outlier's view, learn with humility and lead by questioning.

When a new CIO just takes the role with passion and excitement to start an adventure, what's the good starting point, the first couple of months is also very critical time frame to use with due diligence to communicate openly, demonstrate strategic business & IT leadership, and make a plan accordingly. As a new leader: how can you learn and lead effectively?

What a new CIO wanted from the business or institution walking in the door. First, each of the senior managers must agree on what the job is, including: What exactly is the job description? What are the two or three things most critical for success in the first twelve months?; and how often will you evaluate progress against those goals? There are too many things new leaders need to learn:
-Learn about the culture of the place. Do you fit, or better to be “mistfit” to lead like a change agent?
-Know why the CIO is important to the CXO team. Are you on the same page?
-Are you on equal political and power position with the other C class senior officers?
-Are you a business process and institutional leader or technology manager only?
-How do other senior officers define your value?
-Are you being brought in as a change agent for the whole business? If so, does everyone understand what that means?
-What is the existing funding model for IT? Does the company understand its existing investment and what it takes to keep that going? Is it prepared financially and politically to implement the vision you have discussed with them?
-Why did the last CIO leave? Why was this position created?
-What about where you report, governance process considerations, collaborating on deriving a viable business-IT strategy…
-Is there any general agreement of staffing/resources/budgets for those items deemed critical for success in the first twelve months?

LISTEN to your clients, stakeholders, vendors, partners and staff. Be careful, you do not want to come across as having a solution looking for a problem, perhaps starting with some listening would help. Hence, ensuring that you have the commitment from the senior executives to engage in dialogue (formal and informal) to derive a viable business strategy that is enabled/driven by IT would be good. To listen, comprehend and understand the people and the business they are part of, before embarking on any new way of thinking to know where you have come from enables you to move to a new place even quicker. The institutional trust, support, power, and autonomy make your vision a reality. Everyone who is on your hiring committee is now responsible for helping you to be successful. You have laid out your vision, defined how you work and communicated a solid timeline.

Tie every single movement you make to the CXOs/Board's goals. Create your relationships at the peer level across all revenue generating departments, adopt the voice of the customer and make other executives work easier. Do all that while maintaining constant positive urgency and morale in your group. A CIO needs to be willing to hold their ground even while it’s falling out from under them. Be strong, be confident and be patient. The job is about making changes when people want things to stay the same, making rational decisions when others are rash, and responding quickly when others are slow. Once they believe all that, then, remind them to listen and get a complete picture before making decisions. Understand organizational mission, vision, goals, business, product, people, customers, vendors, stakeholders, and importantly business processes. and then, see where you can ADD VALUE to the business in terms of business growth and enter new market sector or product line.

Last but not least: Be genuine and let people know something about who you are and what's important to you. Give respect to everyone and don't tolerate technical arrogance. For a CIO to be effective, he/she needs to be an advocate of the business when talking to IT colleagues and an advocate of IT when talking to business colleagues. It is the bridge between the two trying to shrink the gap between the two. Develop your talented team with the right mix of technologists and strategist who understand the business environment and objectives, and some business staff that understand the value of the IT.

Bring an “outlier” view, learn with humility and lead by questioning. DECIDE if you are a going to be an innovative or a utilitarian CIO, a transactional or a transformational leader, and build/market your strategy accordingly.


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