Start making deposits into your personal credibility bank account today.
Struggling to bridge the chasm between business and IT? You are not alone. This gap has been an issue for so long that you could be forgiven for wondering whether it would take some sort of super human to straddle it. In recent research, we set out to see if CIOs did need to be super-heroes to leap this gap successfully, and if so, what their super powers might be.
Yet after interviewing more than 30 CIOs from the biggest companies around the world, we found you didn't need to be a superhero after all. Instead what you had to do was focus relentlessly on building your own personal credibility and everything else followed from there.
Credibility is the currency of senior management. For a CIO, personal credibility is the state of mind you trigger in those around you. If you are widely trusted and respected for your ability to give good advice, known to keep your commitments (which, of course, means the entire IS organization too) and your executive colleagues know they can count on you to always deliver promised results, then you have personal credibility.
If you're a new CIO, and your predecessor did their job well, then you can reasonably expect to inherit some of their credibility like a dowry - especially if the handover was amicable and well executed. If, on the other hand, your predecessor had low credibility and came to be seen as the root of all evil, then the fact that you have arrived to save the day will give you instant credibility - albeit sometimes born out of desperation - even before your first actions.
However first impressions do not last and soon give way to a more measured response. This is where super-hero CIOs come into their own. They view their personal credibility as a valuable asset. And the building of their personal credibility is like paying money into a bank account.
Credits to the CIO's personal credibility account are made each time they deliver the results their business colleagues care about. Debits are made when deadlines are missed, things go wrong or differences of opinions erupt. In these instances, CIOs may find that their account has suddenly been emptied and they are politically bankrupted.
We learned from our research that the exchange rate between good performance by the CIO and the value of the deposit credited into the credibility bank account is far from fixed. This means, CIOs can do a lot to strengthen the performance of their currency and so build their credibility balances much more quickly.
The most common way of driving up the value of CIO credibility is to focus business executive attention on some aspect of their superlative performance. But gaining the attention of busy and distracted people is not easy.
The CIOs we spoke to frequently pointed to their relationship with their senior executive or other business champion as one of their success factors. The critical skill in this instance is the ability to anticipate business needs. Anticipation of business needs flows from an understanding of how the enterprise works, what it does for its customers and stakeholders, and even how your executive colleagues are incentivized.
A practical manifestation of this ability to anticipate might be something as profound as a willingness to shape business strategy. Another is getting actively involved with managing some key business issue, such as deploying an innovative stream of technology-enabled business solutions that reinforce IT's position as a source of good ideas.
This does not mean the CIO has to say "yes" all the time. In fact, if anything, the ability to be the lone voice saying "no", even in the face of considerable pressure, can be a positive source of credibility as it plainly demonstrates personal integrity.
Keep people informed. A good way to increase the value of the CIO's coin is to keep people informed. Open communication means you are valued as a source of insight. Open communication also allows you to overcome the "logic of resistance".
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