How to avoid being a lonely CIO

Collaboration Proves Good for Business, Good for Careers

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For people looking in from the outside, the job of a CIO or other top IT executive might look like a lonely job.

In my years as an executive, I’ve rarely felt that way. While a popular perception about CIOs, CTOs and other C-level executives is that they’re often alone in a room making decisions by themselves, in most cases, that’s far from the truth.

The modern CIO is a master of encouraging collaboration, both with other executives and among members of his or her team. A big part of the job of today’s CIO is fostering teamwork.

Most CIOs these days don’t make major decisions in a vacuum. CIOs need to involve other executives and other employees. The CIO manages a team of people, and in many cases, he or she will make the final decision, but only after considering the input from other employees.

We’ve observed that the market is rewarding CIOs and other executives who foster a collaborative environment. CIOs who focus on teamwork will have a better career arc, get offered more rewarding jobs, and likely make more money.

It appears as though the market also rewards businesses that create a collaborative environment. A 2017 study by NTT Com partner SAP and Oxford Economics found that the companies with the most collaborative work environment are 38% more likely than other companies to report strong revenue and profit growth. This confirms what many people already have suspected: Companies with a collaborative environment are successful.

How to encourage teamwork, however, is the million-dollar question. It’s not a one-size-fits answer, because the best way to foster a collaborative environment depends on a number of factors, including a company’s industry, size, and the personalities involved.

What’s clear is that CIOs and other leaders need to develop their people skills in order to make employees feel like they are part of a team. Part of these people skills is being open to input and showing employees that you are open to input. Good CIOs are approachable and embrace reasonable ideas.

Being open to input doesn’t mean you always have to accept everyone’s ideas, but you at least need to listen to ideas. If an employee pitches an idea that isn’t going to happen, a good executive is able to explain why the company can’t implement the idea. Maybe the timing isn’t right, maybe the idea just isn’t a good one, but the best CIOs will be able to explain the situation in a way that makes the employee feel valued.

To be a successful CIO, you have to be able to make decisions that you know will not please everybody. The good CIO finds a way to make difficult decisions and gets employees to accept them without breaking the team apart. In a collaborative environment, part of the job of a CIO is to convince members of the team that the final decision is the right direction.

This doesn’t mean a CIO needs to be soft. At times, a CIO will need to be provocative and rattle employees’ cages. The best executives know when to proverbially bang their fists on the table and when to ask nicely.

The key to building a collaborative environment – and not being lonely as a CIO – is acting in a reasonable manner, even in cases when you need to make people uncomfortable. A well-rounded manager can shake things up and still make employees understand where they’re coming from.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.