CIO spotlight: eight top tips to being a good CIO

Former IT director Dr Robina Chatham gives CIOs eight top tips on how to be a good CIO

Eight top tips on how to be a good CIO

Robina Chatham, a former IT director and a visiting fellow at Cranfield School of Management, has carried out two pieces of research that bear on the role of the CIO in business today.

  •  She has studied CEOs who have made it to the top via a career in IT
  • She has asked CEOs what the look for in their CIO or IT director

The advice she derives from her research findings for CIOs or aspiring CIOs is:

1 - CIOs should become business people

Learn about general management, demonstrate enthusiasm for business matters and acquire knowledge of your industry sector. CIOs should talk business language not technical jargon. Focus on driving revenues up rather than cutting costs. And, don't forget you cannot network enough. My CEOs, when in the top IT job, typically spent over 50% of their time communicating with non-IT people both within and outside their organisations.

2 - CIOs need a vision

Find out what is going on in the outside world read, talk to suppliers and peers in other organisations, and know where technology is taking the world. CIOs should demonstrate original thinking and be bringers of change and inspiration and make things interesting. Grab the attention of your CEO. Lift horizons and excite the board with possibilities rather than portraying problems.

3 - CIOs must become a "can do" people

Learn the "art of the possible" think "out of the box", look for alternatives, never sit back, hold that failure is not an option, and learn to trust your experience and to deal with uncertainty. Also remember that in today's world, speed is an imperative so CIOs should learn to adopt the "80-20" rule. And above all, remember that it is better to ask for forgiveness than to seek permission.

4 - CIOs must be prepared to take risks

Be prepared to take a risk. Learn to trust your "gut" and your heart and go out on a limb for what you believe in be prepared to challenge accepted wisdom or authority. As one CEO succinctly put it: "If you are too cautious or conservative you will never achieve anything you won't even get noticed."

5 - CIOs must understand people

Do not underestimate the importance of people skills enough you need to understand what makes people tick and how to get the best out of them on an individual basis. Before you can do this you need to truly understand yourself. Don't recruit in your own likeness but do learn to value diversity. CIOs will need to weed out non-team players and ensure they place round pegs in round holes and square pegs in square holes. Praise rather than criticize, give credit and take the blame. Build relationships upwards, downwards and sideways and become "gossip central".

6 - CIOs must learn to trust and delegate

Learn to use and value the team to trust, delegate and let go. CIOs do not have the time to get involved in the day-to-day stuff. Your focus should be on the strategic stuff so you can contribute at the business transformation level. Have the courage to hire people better than yourself, and to nurture and reward talent. Take account of other people's feelings, and learn how to influence and communicate openly and honestly.

7 - CIOs need to get the "right" boss

You need the support of your boss. If you are not getting it, the advice is to "stop beating your head against a brick wall and move on to more fertile ground find a new job with a new boss who will support you."

8 - CIOs should develop a sense of humour

Humour is an essential ingredient in the workplace, it diffuses tension, bonds people, aids creativity and understanding and oils the wheels of conversation. It increases the impact of your words and it makes you "clubbable" remember we associate with, consult and confide in people we like being with!

Back to CIO: What it takes to be a good CIO>>

Related video:

Video: What headhunters are looking for in CIOs>>

Video: CIO strategy forum>>

Video: CIO interview series - The Changing Role of the CIO>>

Related stories:

The Difference between Last Century's CIOs and this One's>>

Are CIOs disappearing?>>

Related blogs:

Making IT happen>>

Confused of Calcutta>>

The IT leadership deal >>

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment