As I reflect on the evolution of the role of the CIO over the past 15 years, I see that a lot has changed.
I recall when the CIO role was in its infancy and was pretty much nonexistent in healthcare, where you probably had a director or manager of data processing who resided in the basement of the hospital and oversaw a staff of people who functioned as data entry clerks, keying in hospital charges or dealing with other areas of the mainframe.
Fast-forward to the digital world of today, where arguably every company is a software company because there is at least one enterprise application system that drives the organization. In healthcare, the main applications driving the business are EMR, ERP, Radiology PACs, etc.
Here are my top tips for future CIOs. They all reflect the fact that the CIO is now a leadership role and the main focus is to lead.
1. Deliver value — in other words, be a problem-solver: The CIO must deliver value to the organization and serve as the key resource in solving problems by leveraging technology. When I think of the impact that I have on my organization (and let’s focus on the healthcare vertical), I touch every department on campus. It is critical for me to understand each department’s business processes and to help them solve problems that they’re facing. The CIO has the only department on campus with that responsibility, so we have to deliver solutions to solve business problems. Work on becoming a problem-solver for your organization.
2. Don’t let people call you the “AV guy”: I’m sure this happens all the time to CIOs in board meetings or executive leadership meetings: When the projector doesn’t work for a presentation, everyone in the room turns and looks at me, expecting me to fix the problem. My response has always been, “I’m not the AV guy,” but I always try to help if I can. We must try to remove the label of being the break-fix executive. The CIO’s brand has to be more strategic, and that’s a big shift in the traditional CIO image.
3. You can’t please everyone: One of the most important lessons in management is that you just can’t please everybody. When you try to please everybody, it just doesn’t work. We have to make a decision that is best for the organization and there will be lots of tough decisions, but that is why they hired you in the first place. I have seen too many leaders fail in this area when they are unable to make the tough call because their goal was to please everyone instead of making the right decision.
4. Team chemistry is important: It’s really important to understand the capabilities of your people. You have to understand their strengths and weakness and never give them something they’re just not capable of doing. If necessary, change your approach and work at knowing your team’s capabilities, and then communicate your style and core values to your team. If you understand your team’s skill sets, you’ll be able to put your people in the best position for success.
I have just finished my first 90 days as a new leader in my organization, and those 90 days involved and lot of listening and stakeholder meetings. Now is the time for me to focus on my team and work on getting to know them better.
If you take the time out to talk to your employees, you will learn a lot about what’s happening — that’s something that I have to remind myself about on a regular basis. It’s tough with the 10-to-12-hour days that we have in IT, but set aside some time to just walk around and connect with people.
Those are my four tips as a leader. What are yours?