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Most CIOs probably like to think of themselves as “high performing,” meaning they are among the most effective leaders in the IT field. But as reported in a new Alsbridge white paper, “What Makes a High Performance CIO – Are You One?”, only certain CIOs that follow certain steps generally earn the “high performing” grade.
Alsbridge cites a 2011 study of CIO effectiveness by the Corporate Executive Board that only rated one in four CIOs as high performing. The study examined aspects of each CIO’s professional activities such as how they spent their time and engaged with the business, and also obtained CFO report cards. The study found high performers shared six characteristics – significant management experience in non-IT functions, maximization of limited engagements with core business executives, understanding of the broader business strategy, having formal objectives, dedicating the largest share of their time to talent development, and preparation for broader non-IT opportunities by learning about company operations.
However, Alsbridge finds that even more significant to CIOs achieving a high level of performance are seven behavioral patterns and key leadership skills first identified in a 2010 book from Harvard Business Review Press, “The CIO Edge – Seven Leadership Skills You Need to Drive Results.” These seven steps to CIO success are:
1. Commit to Leadership First and Everything Else Second – High performing CIOs understand that all success in the realm of IT is ultimately produced by people, not technology. Thus leading people takes precedence over maintaining and operating systems.
2. Lead Differently Than You Think – High performing CIOs are creative and complex thinkers, but do not excessively rely on themselves or their superiors for ideas. Instead they take a collaborative leadership approach that leverages “best ideas” from all available sources inside and outside of the company.
3. Embrace Your Softer Side – The most effective CIOs are those willing to let go of control and show a certain amount of vulnerability. This shares the risk of performance among colleagues, developing deeper relationships and levels of trust in the IT department and across the business.
4. Forge the Right Relationships to Drive the Right Results – CIOs ranked at the top of their profession spend a great deal of time and effort developing and managing relationships with peers, suppliers and customers. In addition to further extending the risk of performance to a wider group, this builds a mutual foundation of success with internal and external partners.
5. Master Communications – Communication goes well beyond “official” communication in conversations, meetings and memos. The best CIOs realize people watch as well as listen to them. Mastering communications therefore requires consistency in action and adherence to stated goals, objectives and values in order to demonstrate the kind of commitment and authenticity that builds trust in leaders.
6. Inspire Others – Rather than simply give orders, high performing CIOs inspire employees to be part of something greater than themselves. This involves the CIO connecting their vision to larger company goals and successes and convincing individuals through example to join the team effort.
7. Build People, Not Systems – By increasing the capabilities of their employees, CIOs increase the value delivered by the IT department and also help develop the next generation of corporate leaders.