How to Identify Bad CIOs in Their Natural Habitat

Bad CIOs are a blight on the IT profession and on the organizations that employ them. The following list of behaviors common among bad CIOs will prevent you from hiring them into your organizations. If they're already there, it will give you good reason to eliminate them.

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Fri, February 22, 2008

CIO — And now, for a special, executive edition of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom: "CIOs in the Mist."

Today we're studying the technologious variety of the species nocens executor, more commonly referred to as the bad CIO. The nocens executor remains a mystery to many observers. He lacks distinguishing physical characteristics, and, chameleonlike, he quickly adapts to new surroundings. This makes him difficult for certain headhunters, hiring managers, CEOs, CFOs and boards of directors to identify.

The elusive nocens executor—or bad CIO—stealthily migrates from habitat to habitat. He lays waste to business and information ecosystems. He destroys tribe morale, pillages budgets and imperils shareholder value. His destructive actions can go undetected for many months, often long after he's left his last conquest.

Nevertheless, the experienced observer can spot a bad CIO as easily as he can smell the pungent aroma of hippopotamus dung. Often, the staff that works for the nocens executor is even more adept at detecting his waste. Observers of bad CIOs at all levels of business ecosystems have identified a long list of behaviors common among bad CIOs that recruiters, hiring managers, executives and IT staff can use both during and after the trapping (i.e. recruitment) process to determine what species of CIO they're dealing with. If they manage to discover the bad CIO before making the fateful hiring decision, the delicate ecosystem can be saved. But if they don't, the staff under him can use this information to determine whether they want to blow the whistle on the charlatan or simply find a new job working for a bene executor, or "good CIO."

How to Recognize Bad CIOs.

There are a number of behaviors observers can zero in on before hiring a bad CIO.

They migrate quickly from habitat to habitat.
A sign that a CIO is of the nocens executor species is a pattern of rapid job transitions on his résumé, according to Shawn Banerji, a recruiter with Russell Reynolds Associates in NYC and an experienced observer of the species.

"When you see people leaving in 18 months, 24 months, south of three years, you have to scratch your head and wonder if they were in their jobs long enough to be successful given how long it takes to execute and see results in IT," says Banerji. Quick turnover in jobs could indicate a lack of performance, that the individual is not able to deliver, he says.

Banerji recommends that individuals hiring the CIO should ask why the CIO has not lasted long in his positions, look for a solid answer and then vet what the CIO has said with his references. If the CIO cites statistics that say that the average tenure for CIOs is two to three years to back up his turnover, don't buy his justification, says Banerji. Research from the 2008 "State of the CIO" survey shows that the average tenure for IT executives is four years and four months.

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