One of the most imminent trends facing CIOs today has nothing to do with technology, but rather the importance of CIOs evolving in their roles as leaders.
The CIO Advisory Council, comprised of CIOs across the globe brought together by Experis, chose to discuss leadership in its inaugural CIO Advisory Council forum. Right Management VP Rob Kjar moderated a panel titled “Transforming IT Talent… and Yourself,” featuring Teena Piccione, Managing Director Telco, Media & Entertainment at Google Cloud, Vyana Lafland, Chief Technology Officer at Dynax Capital and Mark Murphy, former VP and CIO at Abbott. The panel offered CIO Advisory Council participants with valuable perspective on how as CIOs we need to change to fit the needs of transforming organizations, and how we can better identify, develop and retain our best talent as future leaders.
A different type of CIO
In some organizations, the CIO rises through the ranks having learned all aspects of the function (programming, project management, system architecture, etc.) but lacks the broader exposure to the customer, sales organization and some aspects of operations. The consequences of this upbringing are prevalent in many organizations today, where the CIO is brought significant challenges and asked to invent a new solution out of thin air with little collaboration or ability to shape the solution. To be effective, CIOs must shift their mindset from viewing themselves as a tech leader to a business leader.
Mark cautioned that while many CIOs have been groomed to operate in a customer service role, falling into the role of “order-taker” is a trap and can limit influence. Operations can handle email troubleshooting, but the CIO needs to pull up a chair alongside the rest of the executive team and become a marketer of how IT can support business objectives. Teena shared how in a previous role she rebranded IT as Global Technology Solutions to further position the team as a transformative business partner.
Retaining top talent
The mark of a strong leader is the strength of the team they leave behind. CIOs, like all leaders, must develop up-and-coming talent to grow as successors. However, CIOs have the distinct challenge of retaining talent with a highly in-demand skill set. Vyana revealed the secret to keeping the best and brightest is to create a sense of ownership. “People want to feel ownership. Whenever I can find opportunities for people to stretch and I put trust in them, they want to rise up and do a good job.”
Teena echoed support for providing opportunities for ownership. One of the ways she does this is by stepping aside to let her team give executive presentations. She believes the job of the CIO is to let her team shine and be their cheerleader - which builds a culture of respect. She also credits building a robust mentor-based intern program infuses contagious excitement and reignites a passion for the job among seasoned professionals.
Aligning priorities with the C-suite
Organizations have an insatiable demand for IT. Across industries we’re noticing a trend of project lists that continue to grow as project completion lags significantly behind. While an increase in resources can serve as a bandage, the panel agrees that it is the CIO who must disrupt the pattern to stop the bleeding. You must practice goal-setting and secure alignment with fellow business leaders on how to prioritize IT projects based on larger goals.
“Focus is the single most important thing we bring to our organizations,” Mark implores. “If we are order-takers, our organizations will whiplash all over the place.”
If you are an Executive leader and would like more information about joining the CIO Advisory Council, please contact Cesiah Kessler.