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A positive influence

Rob Livingstone

Rob is a respected and experienced CIO, with more than three decades of industry and ICT experience. Over the last 16 years he has held the CIO role at several multinationals, most recently Ricoh. He is the owner of Rob Livingstone Advisory and a Fellow of University of Technology, Sydney. Rob delivers the Pathways Advanced and Business ICT leadership programs in conjunction with the CIO Executive Council.

For those of you in the earlier stages of your IT management careers, consider this: What has brought you this far may not work for you in the future. Repeated behaviours may have historically worked for you, but they do not guarantee future success. The rate of change for those in, or associated with the IT industry is unprecedented when compared to other professions. If industry analysts have a hard enough time predicting the future, what chance do you have?

Equipping yourself with the skills and experiences that improve your adaptability, resilience and hence marketability, is an effective insurance policy against being the victim of change.

The voice of experience

Some career IT professionals are uncomfortable about displaying their own strengths in a positive way, but in this context the word ‘marketing’ merely means an expression of consistent quality and value. Adaptability and ‘having valued and well considered options’ are crucial to your continued success in your choice of career. Will working hard and achieving results automatically result in the sort of recognition that you need or want? Many IT folks are somewhat reluctant to trumpet their successes but others — especially sales folks — don’t have the same qualms.

Anybody with a mother-in-law will tell you that opinions are often freely offered. (Only joking in my case, of course!) The challenge is finding an independent, objective and trusted opinion on issues that are relevant to you.

My advice is to seek out somebody who has preceded you in your chosen or targeted area of expertise. Otherwise, it’s all theory — just like someone sitting in the lodge describing how you can climb the mountain having never done it themselves. Most experienced managers are glad to offer comments, observations or assistance, although time limitations (or conflicts of interest) can be limiting factors.

Soft skills for soft people?

Modern, thriving and vibrant organisations require confident, competent, high-performing career professionals and managers in their core service support functions. Imagine a working environment where people ‘did their job’, but could also:

  • See both their jobs and their own contribution from the perspectives of others
  • Professionally handle objections from senior or influential non-IT stakeholders
  • Demonstrate confidence, resilience and capacity to thrive in stressful situations
  • Effectively handle ambiguous or uncertain environments
  • Work more collaboratively with stakeholders outside their own area of expertise who may have challenging personalities
  • Communicate more effectively in a range of unfamiliar situations and communicate complexity effectively to non-IT stakeholders.

It not only contributes to a positive working culture, it is the key to the elimination of wasted effort.

Developing influence

Technical specialists are increasingly expected to interact with others outside their immediate team, driven in part by the organisation’s desire to transform its key IT staff from inward to outward looking.

Influence is all about being able to deliver positive change across an organisation, without requiring a great deal of work. It is not just about having good ideas or delivering technical expertise. It’s a bit like gravity — you know its effects but you’re not always able to explain precisely what causes it.

Individuals who work at the intersection of different teams, departments and functions can have a positive multiplier effect through the organisation, and have the greatest opportunity to garner personal influence as they have to deal with others across multiple disciplines and types of roles.

Successful, thriving organisations have an abundance of people with well-developed and effective interpersonal skills.

Tags: IT management, business success, IT professionals

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