What does a CIO need to be successful? We each have our own answers. Some may say that technical excellence and knowledge count most, others might place the emphasis on business awareness, relationships or just hard-core ambition. Certainly, all of these are necessary to reach a certain level in an organization. But to take the final step and be accepted as someone who is truly a member of the C-suite, you need one more thing: influence. This is the fourth in a series of articles on how to position yourself as an influential leader in your organization. The first installment was CIO Career Killer: Lack of Influence; the second was CIO Careers: Why IT Gets No Respect; the third was "Winning Over Business Users When You Don't Have a Dime."
As you work toward attaining the level influence with your business counterparts that you need (and deserve), you'll encounter what may be the greatest test of your commitment. This test will require a strong heart and a tough stomach, because your ego is likely going to take a bruising. Have faith, because the rewards of getting over this hurdle will pay long-term dividends.
I'm talking about the challenge of establishing credibility with your entire IT organization, from the top of the IT org chart to your network administrators and support technicians. While it may be obvious to some, this concept of organizational credibility bears clarifying. Before you can expect to have credibility and influence with the executive suite, you absolutely must have genuine and real credibility with your own people.
Your IT organization doesn't have to love you. They don't have to think you are the most brilliant leader in the world. What they must do, however, is believe is that you have a good plan. They need to believe that you know where you are going, and that you know how you are going to get there. They need to be able to articulate and support your basic vision and strategy for IT.
Some of you reading this are likely thinking: "What is he talking about? Of course I have credibility with my people. They all work for me. They are part of the IT organization." Well, here's a reality check: You may think you have credibility with your people, but the facts tell a very different story.
Over the course of the past 18 months, I asked 150 IT professionals (from networking managers to business analysts to senior directors) a set of questions with the purpose of uncovering whether or not their boss has real credibility with them. Here are highlights of what I found:
- 70% of respondents could not articulate the IT strategy and vision
- 54% didn't think there was an overall plan for IT
- 60% felt that the IT leader was too caught up in
- 57% said that the IT leader was focused on the wrong issues for the business