You would think that the executive who consumes, on average, nearly 50 percent of the capital invested by businesses would have a lot of power. You would be wrong. CIOs are basically powerless and they know it. Yet some CIOs get a little cranky with their Rodney Dangerfield role and parlay themselves and their organizations into a power deficit.
How else to explain CIOs who lash out at business partners for trying new technologies, who create byzantine processes that block access to information and technology resources, or who seem to extort funding by hiding behind policies like Sarbox and mergers and refusing to articulate what comprises "keep the lights on" expenses?
Smart CIOs lead from the back by creating partnerships and alliances. Picture Survivor without all the dirt, bugs and voting, and you have a mental image of the skills required for success. I'm not a big fan of the reality television series, but I am impressed with CIOs who understand how to get things done through others and, in doing so, are able to create a powerful role for themselves, their organizations and technology.
First things first: Powerful CIOs get out of their offices and spend the majority of their time within the business and with their business partners. This is a principle known by many but acted on by few because most CIOs don't know what to do when they leave the safety and comfort of their department. While it's easy to identify whom you need to get closer to, it feels awkward to reach out and say: "I would love to spend more time getting to know you and your organization. How can we spend more together?"
I don't have any magic pill here. I do suggest that you talk to two stakeholders on a one-on-one basis once a week and to make sure that by the end of the discussion you have put another meeting on the calendar. This one will be to provide help to these stakeholders, solicit their feedback, attend a staff meeting, or travel to a field or customer site of theirs.
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