Dear CIO, You Have All You Need. Sincerely, Your Team

When an IT leader needs help or advice, the first place s/he should turn to is their own team – whether it is day 1 or year 10+.

  • You and your company hired people for a reason. You probably directly hired some % of the team. Presumably you hired people whose intellect, opinion and work ethic you wanted to have in the organization. Ask them first.
  • The team knows what is going on. They know the portfolio of projects and technology in place today, warts and all. They know the biggest pain points and what should be done to get rid of them.
  • The team knows how to collect & analyze data. You have people who know how to put stuff into Excel and see patterns, and talk about it to you and other leaders intelligently.
  • You have people who know your market – what’s going on in your vertical and the related technology. They read the trades and get information from research firms. They know what solutions you should or shouldn’t pursue.  They know what processes are broken and how to fix them.
  • Your most senior and experienced people have relationships with other leaders in your company. They get coffee and lunch together, may even be FaceBook friends. They know the struggles and wishes of others in your company.
  • You have existing partners you hired to do stuff. Maybe you outsourced your IT customer service desk. Maybe you are using near- or off-shore development services. Your company chose these partners and are paying them for a reason. They have data and information about what you are sourcing from them. Ask them about it; leverage the partnership beyond the paper contracts.

Here’s what leaders need to give their teams:

  1. The gift of time. They have knowledge, but probably not enough time in the day to do everything they need or want to get done. Hire or contract additional capacity to free them up to do the work you hired them to do.
  2. The gift of real prioritization. As with #1, time is not an expandable commodity. If it’s not possible to get additional resources, identify the true priorities and stop piling on the projects.
  3. The gift of working help. Your team probably sees the forest for the trees, but maybe needs coaching or support with the actual creation of the pathways – the strategies and roadmaps. They don’t need lengthy PPTs that gather virtual dust. They need people who care more about their success than their own (like you ostensibly do) and will roll up their sleeves and get stuff done.
  4. The gift of up-skilling and re-skilling. There are discrete capabilities that people need or want to acquire. A new development language. An additional business intelligence tool. How to deploy and operate effectively in the cloud. It is more effective to train the team you have than forego training and have to hire or contract for specific skills. If you do have to source a skillset you don’t have, at least bring in people who will train and coach the appropriate IT personnel as part of the engagement.
  5. The gift of your trust. When you bring in outside expertise to produce work that your teams already know how to do, they will understandably feel anxious or even irritated. Ask your team what expertise and support they need.
  6. The gift of making the tough decisions. Do true prioritization. Hold your vendors accountable. Decide to take accountability and give praise every day. Get rid of the ineffective people that are dragging the organization down. 
  7. The gift of transparency and honesty. When the reality of outside expertise that may not sync up with the above gifts, be frank and truthful. Don’t sugarcoat or dissemble. Your team are adults; give them the respect of providing as much information as you can. And if you don’t know – say you don’t know. Don’t hypothesize or hyperbolize.

Putting others’ success first does not mean putting your own second. You need to curate your own success in order to effectively support others’. This includes seeing if your leadership (CEO, Board) is giving you what you need. Success should not be a zero sum game; leaders should be creating a flywheel affect through their own and others’ gains.

In order for a CIO (or any CXO) to have what they need, they need to give their teams and themselves the ingredients for success.

Worth considering:

The best recommendation can be derailed by bad writing. Always a good idea to have a colleague who excels at written communications take a look at important presentations. Simple things like spelling out acronyms on first occurrence, avoiding jargon, good punctuation.

Great article in The Atlantic on WeWork and the “unicorns” of consumer-driven technology. Key message: “Magic made them. Only math can save them.”

First day of fall this weekend. Twice a year the whole world has the same amount of daylight, from pole to pole.



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