Staying Power

Staying Power

Forty percent of new executives fail. Executive coach and author Scott Eblin talks with CIO about how first-time CIOs can avoid the hotshot-to-has-been trajectory

How does becoming a CIO change the way one communicates?

CIOs are charged with influencing lots of different audiences. Those audiences could be board members, market analysts, other senior executives, customers, front-line employees and everyone in between. CIOs need to understand the objective they have with their communications and their audience. So they should customize their communications accordingly.

I encourage clients to ask themselves the following questions before delivering any important communication: What am I trying to accomplish? What do I want this person or audience to know? Why should they care about what I'm telling them, and how do I help them understand why they should care? What do I need them to think or do as a result of this communication?

Give an example of how a CIO's communications might change depending on the audience.

Let's take a re-engineering project. In speaking with board members and shareholders about it, you're going to focus on how the project will enhance the company's profitability. For front-line employees, you need to address how the project will affect their jobs. If you go to a town hall meeting and all you speak to your employees about is the money the company is going to save and the efficiencies it's going to gain as a result and you never explain what it means for them or ask them what they think, you're not going to connect. You're going to be another talking-head executive who doesn't have a lot of credibility on the front line.

Identifying what's important to different constituents and communicating with them about those topics will help you connect to them and boost your credibility.

What advice can you give to new CIOs about influencing others, particularly their executive level peers and the board?

Look for opportunities to create some small wins that solve a particular problem for line executives. The more long-standing and annoying the problem, the better. If you can fix something that people hate in three to six months, that's a credibility builder. You'll be seen as the person who came in, listened to them, and came up with a creative solution to the problem that's been bugging everyone for years. Then leverage that small win into credibility and influence when it comes to leading larger initiatives.

What to Pick Up and What to Let Go

Pick Up

  • Confidence in your abilities
  • Regular renewal of your energy and perspective
  • Custom-fitted communications
  • Team reliance
  • Defining what to do
  • Accountability for many results

Let Go

  • Doubt in how you contribute
  • Running flat out until you crash
  • One-size-fits-all communications
  • Self-reliance
  • Telling how to do it
  • Responsibility for a few results

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