Editor’s note: The following is a guest post from Christie Struckman, VP analyst at Gartner.
The CIO’s world continues to change at an ever-increasing pace, as the democratization of digital delivery, new business economics and increased customer expectations require CIOs to be strong executives.
Significant leadership opportunities exist for the CIO beyond IT. A Gartner survey found that in the past three years, 83% of CIOs have contributed significantly to enterprise executive initiatives that are beyond the traditional CIO role.
This year, 73% of CIOs expect to contribute to at least one initiative outside the scope of their IT departments.
CIOs must take the next step forward to expand their impact across the enterprise by focusing on executive leadership skills. CIOs can amplify their influence by focusing on a set of 14 power skills that improve effectiveness with their peers.
While 14 skills may seem like a lot, it starts to explain why the C-Suite role is so challenging. Often referred to as “soft skills,” these interpersonal competencies are critical for CIOs to get the right seat and remain at the C-suite table to impact business results.
1. Business acumen
CIOs have always had to understand how business capabilities work to apply the right technology. Moving forward, the challenge increases as the executive team is focused on digitalization of products and services, customer engagement and experience and the need for new employee value propositions. CIOs must fully master the business model and develop acumen on how to drive improvements in the model to increase revenue, decrease costs and reduce risk using technology.
2. Market intelligence
In a fast-moving world, CIOs can pick up signals from their environment to support decision-making – once they know how and where to look for those signals. Leaders who anticipate change are better able to prepare for it and take effective leadership actions as a result. CIOs must be able to detect and synthesize market signals into actionable insights for the future. As a part of their executive leadership development, CIOs should cultivate a process to detect, interpret and act on market signals, translating intelligence into actions.
3. Social intelligence
Social intelligence refers to a person’s ability to understand and manage interpersonal relationships. As technology investments create seismic shifts, CIOs need to support their C-suite peers through these transitions. To improve and strengthen their social competencies, CIOs must focus on developing their social awareness, building their relationship sensitivity and forging strong bonds across the C-suite. CIOs that can nurture these sociorelational competencies will develop an emotionally dexterous edge.
4. Strategic thinking
CIOs must become outcome-focused, training their minds on new ways to create and deliver value with technology. Strategic thinking focuses on finding and developing unique opportunities to create value by enabling a provocative and creative dialogue among people who can affect an organization’s direction. CIOs earn their seat at the strategic planning table by bringing insights to planning sessions.
5. Brand and presence
Executive presence has a surprising degree of impact on one’s ability to influence. Personal brand is how CIOs will be remembered. In combination, brand and presence impact the CIO’s ability to influence their peers on investment opportunities. CIOs who want to evolve their role should develop the image, impressions and impact to improve stakeholder perceptions, modeling presence through an intentional personal brand.
6. Conflict management
Conflict is healthy for organizations, but managing conflict is difficult for most CIOs. Conflicts are constructive when they stay focused on the issue, invite discussion and create a clear path for resolution. CIOs that can “farm for dissent” knowing they can allow disagreements to lead to a better result for the organization will thrive. CIOs working to develop conflict management skills should explore a structured constructive confrontation approach, which decreases conflict and increases accountability by connecting the dots between what people want and what organizations need.
7. Executive communications
Effective communication is at the core of relationship building and the channel to drive change, secure resources and deliver results. To influence and inspire the IT organization, C-suite peers and the board, CIOs must improve their communication skills to amplify and refine messages. Communications must flow in four directions to be effective — up, down, across and out.
Influence is the CIO’s primary tool to inspire change and procure technology investments. Negotiations are almost always required to successfully influence peers and executives. To be a successful negotiator, CIOs must cultivate relationships and influence among C-level executives and vendor leadership, before they are needed, and tap them at the right time to produce results in low-leverage situations. Learn to identify what is most effective when influencing different audiences through negotiation.
9. Politics and political capital
All executive relationships involve the exercise of power and authority. Power and authority come with the CIO role, but to develop the executive relationships needed to pursue new opportunities, CIOs must actively and strategically acquire and grow other forms of power and authority. They must learn to build and use political capital as it is the currency of executive relationships.
10. Cultural intelligence
CIOs, as executive leaders, are responsible for shaping and guiding enterprise culture. With digital becoming the core of the enterprise, it becomes even more imperative for CIOs to develop and inspire a culture that serves the business strategy and enables achievement of the strategic outcomes. CIOs must become experts in the current culture of their organization and understand strategies for effectively shifting culture and organizational mindsets.
11. Change leadership
The new opportunities for the CIO to expand their impact are tied to major changes in business design and the IT delivery model. As part of this evolution, CIOs will need to help the organization understand, embrace and navigate changes in team structures and new ways of working. With the pace and volume of change increasing, CIOs need to develop a robust, dependable capability to help the organization through change.
12. Decision making
Digital business requires fast decision-making and adoption. Decisions are often undone due to organization members disagreeing with the decision and insisting on revisiting it. To avoid poor, slow or not-bought-into decisions, CIOs need decision-making processes and practices that ensure the best decision is made as efficiently as possible. This can include providing good research tools, simpler collaboration methods, as well as effective decision-making practices.
CIOs who think they can and must do it all will not succeed. Advanced delegation tactics are a must for CIOs leading major business and IT transformation initiatives. Instead of spending time “putting out fires” and running IT operations, CIOs must restructure their bandwidth to drive these strategic endeavors. Intelligently shifting the right work to others (internal and external) will enable CIOs to focus on what matters most.
14. Prioritization and focus
Personal effectiveness means getting the best out of yourself as an executive leader. CIOs are challenged to lead in many directions and attend to many possible priorities. Success begins with focusing energy, skills and experiences to set and reach goals for performance and career attainment.
Executives with high personal effectiveness tend to constantly strive to improve the value they deliver, advance their careers, and grow in both a personal and professional sense.
To achieve personal effectiveness, CIOs must master proven tactics of goal setting, prioritization and time scheduling to fully leverage all strengths and achieve outcomes that matter.