CIOs Must Learn the Politics of No

CIOs may have good reason to reject a proposal or nix a technology request, but an inept or frequent 'no' will get you sidelined.

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Delivering Bad News to Your IT Staff

Saying no to your staff produces a ripple effect much different from that of saying no to peers. A CIO must avoid demoralizing a staff member who won't receive a desired promotion or can't be given a raise.

In such serious conversations, CIOs should be authentic about the reasons for the decision, says Jackie Sloane, an executive coach at Sloane Communications. Reveal what you can about the tight budget that doesn't allow for a raise, Sloane says.

If someone isn't ready for a promotion, use the meeting to outline clearly the actions he can take to earn one, she says, and in what time frame. The idea is to say no, but offer suggestions or options. "When you lay down the line with people, it can be amazing what you see," she says.

Especially with staff issues, avoiding the "no" just brings trouble, says Becky Blalock, former CIO of Southern Co., and author of Dare: Straight Talk on Confidence, Courage and Career for Women in Charge, in which she tells the stories of 28 women in C-level positions. A common mistake they cited was not firing someone soon enough, she says.

These managers knew the person wasn't performing and had tried to bring him up to speed, but could see it wasn't working, she says.

"If he's not competent, he drags the team down." Still, the managers were reluctant to deliver the ultimate bad news. Looking back, Blalock sees that she also made the same mistake during her career as a CIO. "It's very difficult to say, 'No, you're not doing the job,'" she says, "but those things are easier to see in hindsight."

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