10 Communication Mistakes CIOs Still Make

CIOs' communication skills have come a long way since the days of data processing. But they continue to make many communication mistakes that hamper their effectiveness on the job or hinder their relationships with staff and other executives.

For years, CIOs have been fighting the stereotype that they're weak communicators, unable to speak the language of business or relate to anyone outside of IT. But by using practiced communication skills, many CIOs are proving how convincing, credible and captivating they can be—in the boardroom and on the Web. (For evidence, check out blogs by British Telecom's JP Rangaswami, Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center CIO John Halamka and Mike Schaffner, the director of IT for Cameron International's valves and measurement group.)

Indeed, CIOs' communication skills—their ability to negotiate, build consensus, engage stakeholders and make business cases—have improved dramatically since the days they were in charge of data processing. Yet they still slip up occasionally, lapsing into acronym soup or erring on the side of hyperbole to sell an IT investment.

Such communication mistakes can impede CIOs' effectiveness on the job or hinder their relationships with staff and other functional executives. Craig Blad, a former SVP and CIO of North Star Financial who's currently seeking a new CIO role, says poor or jargon-filled communication creates misunderstandings between CIOs and fellow executives. If a CIO can't speak to the business value of a project, he says, it will never get approval.

In some cases, communication blunders can do serious damage to a CIO's reputation and career, since they reinforce those negative, geeky stereotypes about CIOs.

"Every time you screw up, you come off as less polished and less prepared," says Peter Kretzman, an IT consultant and former CIO and CTO. "When you descend into jargon or 'the-sky-is-falling,' you come across as not as capable, and that does damage to your career and to your department. It makes management think, 'We need to get someone in here who can talk to us and let us know what's really going on.'"

Here are 10 communication mistakes common among CIOs. Be aware of them so that you can avoid making them.

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