Imagine you’re sitting at your desk, squinting at your computer screen, brow furrowed. In walks one of your peers?say, the vice president of marketing.
“He asks you, ’What are you working on?’” says Robert Rubin, retired senior vice president and CIO of the Philadelphia-based Elf Atochem North America, a global chemical company. “And you say, ’I’m trying to figure out how to get more credit for what I do.’”
Wrong answer, ego boy. Don’t pass go.
CIOs are good at taking the blame when things go wrong. That would be OK if they got credit when things went right, but often they don’t. Either other executives are so far removed from IT that they don’t know what’s going on, or business leaders don’t know when a success has been achieved (or even what should be considered a success) because the CIO is fearful of appearing boastful.
“Certain people go into
certain fields that are a fit for their personalities,” says Mitchell Marks, a San Francisco-based organizational psychologist. “I don’t want to generalize, but technology attracts more of an introverted type of person.
For a lot of CIOs, just getting the job done is what turns them on, and they don’t need all the ballyhoo and pats on the back.”
But if people don’t know what’s being achieved in IT, they’ll think nothing is. IS will be undervalued, budgets will be cut, and you might even be let go. So without further ado, we offer five tried-and-true tips on how to get the credit you and your staff deserve, discreetly and without alienating the rest of the company.
1 Talk up your team
Getting credit is a sensitive issue. “I’d love to be able to talk openly and publicly about our successes, but certain parts of the business would view that as me fanning my own career,” says the CIO of a large hospitality company who believes that having his name
associated with this story would be his ticket out the door. Instead, he focuses on flagging the successes of his team through memos and employee newsletters. Maybe other departments will pay attention, maybe they won’t. At least he’s trying.
2 Give Credit to Others…
Publicly And speaking of giving credit where credit is due, you should be lobbying other executives to recognize the work of your employees. Marks says this is an especially useful tactic for CIOs who shy from the spotlight. If the IS team has had a big win, try to get the individual members noticed. Nominate staffers for companywide awards. Ask the CEO to acknowledge a successful project team at the next town hall meeting. The bonus? “It looks good because you’re the leader,” Marks says.
3 Keep Everyone Informed… Constantly
In his 15 years at Elf Atochem, Rubin learned to make sure business leaders knew what he was working on. “You don’t say ’We did this,’” Rubin says. “You say ’Here’s what we’re doing.’” As a result, he remembers more than one occasion when someone at a meeting was trying to hog credit for a completed, successful project. But because Rubin had been so communicative about what IS had been doing all along, somebody at the meeting interrupted to ask, “Didn’t IS work on this?”
4 Find a Cheerleader
Of course, having someone else volunteer the kudos before you have to ask for it is ideal. Companies often call Marks in to troll for feedback on how IS is performing. Sometimes, the simple act of asking questions sparks a new appreciation for IS. Marks recalls one user telling him, “Come to think about it, I never thanked the CIO for that.”
5 Do a Good Job
What all this boils down to, though, is doing a good job. “The bottom line is that if you really want to be successful, the way to achieve it is by making others look good,” says Rubin.
Have buy-in from a senior businessperson on every project, and make that person glad to have worked with you. “People work best when you give credit away. I don’t mean fawning over them. People like to work with people who make them look good.”