What about other C-level peers?

By Brian P. Watson  |  Posted 07-13-2009 Print


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So your CEO is tech-savvy, but what about your other C-level peers?

Kubacki: It varies. We have four main businesses within Kroll, some of which have very technologically savvy executives. With them, it's very easy to have a discussion around storage or server virtualization. But you never lead in with that. You never say, "Hey, I'm going to do virtualization." Then they say, "Good for you!"

As long as you start with the business problem you're trying to solve and explain it in nontechnical terms, they'll buy in easier. Then you mention, "By the way, we're going to get an enterprise license agreement with X company, and we'll run our data centers with less power and less cooling, etc.," and they see the value proposition.

That's what it's all about. You have to understand that it's pure situational leadership, understanding how savvy the person you're dealing with is, and how deep you can go in technical terms. You end up having different types of conversations.

That can be pretty challenging for CIOs.

Kubacki: It's back to the old-fashioned situational leadership of knowing your audience.

I remember back to 1985, when I did my first board-level presentation. I was only five years into my career, and I was selling a global network investment. I told the board I was there to talk about a very technical issue, but I wasn't going to use technical terms. And the COO said, "Yeah, that's because you know we're a bunch of idiots!"

That broke the ice. It was all about the business benefits of investing in a global network and what we could do in the future that we couldn't do at that point.

IT leaders also have to try to make their staffs understand the business. How do you do that at Kroll?

Kubacki: I'm looking for a new IT director for our business in Nashville. When I sat down with the recruiter, I told him I was looking for three things, in this order: First, I want someone with business acumen and business skills. Second, I want someone who can communicate effectively with the business and bring that back to IT to articulate and develop a good vision of what we want to do. Third, since we're in IT, I want someone with technical skills.

I'm not looking for someone who can install a server. I want people who can not just deliver what the business wants, but who also knows the business, the technology and the capabilities of the team so well that he or she can actually push further with what IT can do. That includes building relationships with the business and their IT peers.

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I have a sales job. I'm constantly trying to convince people to do what I want them to do. We're influencing people to make the decisions we'd like them to make. We're constantly in sales mode.

That means you've built the relationships. You can understand the objections to any plan and be able to work with them. In my years here, I've had to make changes to the leadership team to get the types of people who can do all that.


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