A few years ago I wrote a piece for InfoWorld called "The 30 skills every IT person should know". Well it's been a while and I thought I'd update it and make it tips for CIO's. Frankly having been to a lot of CIO events, we all seem to have the same problems, so here is what I think we need to do to get better.
1. Over communicate. I can't think of any exceptions, as an industry IT stinks at communicating. Our previous CEO used to say you need to tell people 150 times before they remember. I think he was exaggerating, but too many times we assume since we emailed out an announcement for a new system to the company, that suddenly everyone is aware of and fully using it. They aren't. Let's not kid ourselves, maybe 25% of the people even read the emails. If you announce it at an all hands event, you might get 30% that remember. We need to get a lot better at this. All of us....
2. Live the real experience. I know as the CIO it's real easy to get the latest toys. Heck as an IT Director I get a lot of cool toys too. Unfortunately we also need to realize what our users are actually using. I used to make a point of always having one of the slowest laptops in the company. Any time someone would complain about an application being too slow on their machine, they would look at mine, and apologize. It's really easy to get so wrapped up in the latest and greatest gadget that we lose touch with our users. Once we do, we become targets.
3. "Undercover CIO" for a day. The CIO, to those that have never been a CIO, seems to have the best job in the world. Nothing gives you an appreciation for the other guy as actually seeing what it is like. Take a day and work the helpdesk, or test code, or fix a PC, or troubleshoot the network. Unless you are a big IT shop, the employees will probably recognize you and that's OK. You can try to wear a fake mustache, but those never fool anyone. The goal is to really see what it is like. If it's reasonable, bring one of your developers, administrators or help desk staff along with you on one of your days. If spending 4 hours in a budget review meeting doesn't get you some sympathy, nothing will.
4. Walk a mile in another C-levels shoes. It's real easy to point out all the things the other executives are doing wrong, especially if you don't really understand what it is they do. Spend enough time with them to really understand what it is they do and what problems them have in their area. Not only will you get kudo's for listening, you very likely will find ways to help them and gain a supporter as well.
5. Solicit feedback. One of the hardest things in the world is to ask people what you are doing well and not doing well, and then listen to them tell you all the things you're doing wrong. I've learned my tolerance for constructive feedback is ten negative comments. After that I have to really concentrate on biting my tongue and not getting defensive. But, once you get all of that out on the table, you can then work together as a team to resolve, or at least understand why things are the way they are. Generally though we try to hide our flaws behind metrics and spin the number to make us look better, but let's cut to the chase, if you stink, people know it, no matter what the chart says.
Now I can't say if you do these ten things (the other five are here ) you will be a rockstar CIO or that you will never get fired but I can say it will probably make you a better CIO if you do follow these steps.
If not feel free to let me know and I'll gladly refund any money you paid to read this.