by David L. Whicker

Why CIOs should be called ‘Chief Influence Officers’

Jul 21, 2015

The IT executive today is one of the most important roles within an organization. Debates around exactly what the CIO acronym should morph into have been interesting to say the least. Although this may be settled for now in some organizations, there are others that still wrestle with the glorious possibilities of what the "I" might stand for.Although it's entertaining at best, this distracts from what is required to truly lead.

leadership circle
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The Chief Influence Officer

No doubt you’ve heard and even partaken in debates over what the title, typically represented in the acronym form of CIO, should stand for as the top IT executive in our organizations. In fact, we’ve actually seen a trend in changing the “I” from information to innovation in some organizations. Where it gets really confusing is when an organization has multiple CIO’s and even a CTO.

Each of these roles, along with clearly defined responsibilities, most certainly have an intended purpose depending in large part upon the organization. The debate of whether they are in fact separate roles, where each should report to, or even if one or the other should exist is not what we’ll be covering in this post. In fact, don’t be fooled by the title of this blog post as I have no intentions in creating yet another option for the “I”. However, if I were to offer one up, it most certainly would stand for Chief “It doesn’t matter” Officer.

So what am I trying to get at? Leadership is influence and without this key trait you cannot lead. I spoke at a conference last year and I found myself trying to drive this point home in an a format that was easily digestible. I was able to see it so clearly as a formula and quickly jotted it down on my notes before speaking. As a side note, I take great pride in trying to simplify key concepts so I often use formulas or phrases as key takeaways. The formula I jotted down in this instance is as follows:

Time = Relationships = Trust = Influence or put another way: you must spend time to build relationships which require trust and ultimately lead to influence. As leaders, we must be able to influence those around us and I would argue that you will find this to be much easier when someone truly trust in what you are trying to do and where you are trying to go. This may sound impossible and quite frankly unattainable when considering the size of the team, department, or organization you’re presently tasked with leading but before becoming too discouraged, allow me to elaborate on how this concept can work given the situation and not the size. Consider the three sections that follow as your actionable items, because after all what good is advice if only theory without practice.

The 80/20 rule

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Pareto Principle also known as the 80/20 rule. The Pareto principle is the law of the vital few and simply states that 80 percent of an effect, outcome, or result comes from 20 percent of the cause and can be applied to many areas in life. For example: 80 percent of a nonprofit organization’s revenue come from 20 percent of its contributors; or, 80 percent of a company’s profits come from 20 percent of the effort its employees make.

Once you accept and understand this principle you must apply this to your leadership role. Your time is scarce but it is absolutely essential that you invest and coach key talent. Therefore I would recommend that you spend the majority of the time you do have focusing your efforts toward developing the top 20 percent of your team. Determining just who falls into this category is a task in and of itself, but most leaders have an “A Team” and therefore more than likely already know who these individuals are.

Every interaction matters

I always say, never waste an opportunity and in some respects you should treat each encounter as your last. As you walk around your organization, head to the next meeting, or bump into someone on the elevator; consider this an opportunity to stop staring at your phone and strike up a conversation. There is no better way to market your message or “keep an ear to the ground”, than by conversing with those you normally do not come in contact with. You can learn a lot by simply asking someone if they read the last newsletter or correspondence that went out and maybe how they felt about it. You might be surprised at their response but more importantly there is a face with a name and now its become more personal. When someone feels as though they have been heard they are far more likely to be receptive to what they in turn hear themselves.

Mathematical power

Exponential interaction is what I am speaking of here. Much like investing, exponential returns are the key to reaching the masses. Those key relationships that you build throughout the organization more often than not are walking defense mechanisms. You would be surprised at how often both positive and negative comments are made while you’re not around…or maybe not. The larger your team, department, or organization – the more important this mathematical concept becomes. Your greatest voice of influence could very well be that of someone else.

So to sum things up here I will leave you with this quote: “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” Napoleon Hill