CIOs adopt a variety of personas when they pitch ideas,
says Jeff Thull, author of Exceptional Selling and
president of the Prime Resource Group. Instead of helping to
prove their case, these personas often create barriers to
effective communication. “When you add in the IT
personality,” says Thull, “discussion can quickly
devolve to an ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’
Here, according to Thull, are five personas CIOs adopt that
can cause other C-level executives to react negatively.
Most of our behaviors are learned from interacting with our
families. If you ever watched an older sibling try to get Dad
to lend him the car, you saw a presentation that included
healthy servings of self-justification and whining. According
to Thull, the less sophisticated a person is about
communication, the more he draws on these learned behaviors.
CIOs should be careful to avoid the whiny note when explaining
their ideas, and they need to communicate the value proposition
for the whole business.
The flip side of behaving like a teenager is acting like the
parental unit. Do you remember how Dad and Mom either tried to
bribe you into cleaning your room or threatened you in the
thundering tones of absolute authority? CIOs need to remember
that a) they’re speaking to adults and b) they have no
special position or authority inside the boardroom. Neither
wheedling nor bribery nor thundering is going to work.
A lot of IT people assume the role of professor. They act as if
they have all the answers, and they get frustrated when the
student (say, the CFO) isn’t learning fast enough.
Impatience with your peers is always a mistake. If you’re
trying to convince someone that a new approach or project has
merit, present the value proposition, outline the risks
(fairly), and then shut up and let your peers connect the dots.
They’re usually just as smart as you are.
If you assume an accusatory tone when speaking with your peers,
at best they’re going to feel defensive and at worst
downright annoyed. If something is going wrong, start by asking
a question. What do they think is the problem? Making it a
conversation will prevent people from feeling attacked or
lectured. Remember: No one handed you a badge when you became
If you must assume a persona, this is probably the best one.
Prior to prescribing a course of treatment, a doctor makes sure
the patient understands what’s wrong. If your peers
aren’t aware that there’s a problem, they
won’t be receptive to the cure. Someone with high
cholesterol doesn’t know it until he sees the results of
the blood test, so it’s important that CIOs have metrics
to make their case. But don’t carry this persona too far.
Your peers will not wait months to see you or sit in your
waiting room while you practice your putting.
Margaret Locher is a freelance writer based in the