Reporting to the CFO rather than the CEO is different. And once you swallow your pride, it can be better - for you, for your enterprise.
You've been demoted. The CEO called you into his office, sat you down and told you that after a great deal of careful thought and consideration, he's decided that you will now report to the CFO. Everyone agrees this makes the most sense. IT doesn't need to report to the CEO, so IT shouldn't.
Don't worry, he says, IT is still perceived as a strategic asset. But, your CEO insists, IT is best overseen now by the executive directly accountable for assuring that the firm gets maximum feasible returns for its capital and operational investments. That's the CFO.
Yes, the CEO fully understands your disappointment. But he also wants you to know he completely supports your work and wants you to succeed. He thinks IT will have a greater impact on the firm by reporting to finance. What's more, he adds, the CFO is world-class. He stands a better-than-even chance of ultimately succeeding the CEO or being headhunted to CEO at another firm. This new move could be great for you. Really.
So step up and be a team player, damn it. Your CEO is counting on you to sell this reorg to your people. This move is great for them too. Honest.
Who knows? Maybe the CEO is right. However, it sure doesn't feel that way. Let's be honest: There's no way this doesn't send a signal to the world that IT now matters less. Your vendors, for example, will know instantly. Perhaps your most important customers and clients will too. Certainly your colleagues - the C-level folks who used to be your peers - will know it. How can this not dramatically reduce your professional effectiveness?
The answer to that is simple: It depends on what you mean by "professional effectiveness". When the CEO says he no longer wants or needs you as a direct report, that means one of two things: that things are going so well that he really doesn't need to have direct interaction with you about current and future initiatives; or that, frankly, your interactions really aren't worth his time and attention relative to the other issues on his plate. Therefore, you should be interacting with someone else.
Care to guess which of the two is likelier?
While being demoted is undeniably a blow to one's pride, I strongly believe it can — if managed with shrewdness and guts — reinvigorate IT and reposition the CIO as a paragon of effectiveness within the enterprise. Post-demotion success, however, is predicated on a single mission-critical imperative: Are you willing to go the extra mile to help your new boss succeed?
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