What CEOs are looking for in their CIO

During the CIO-Dialogue 6 held in Brighton in November 2012, I had the privilege to listen to Simon La Fosse presenting. Simon, CEO of LaFosse Associates, is a specialist technology executive search and head-hunter with 25 years experience in the recruitment market.

What does a CEO really want from his CIO?… Simon presented the head-hunters perspective followed by a lively discussion. This presentation had a profoundly positive impact on my confidence especially after pondering on the key aspects that was highlighted (listed below) and measuring yourself to identify areas of strength and where I can improve.

What I took away from the interaction…

The CEO is looking for a CIO that he can build a professional relationship with. Someone they can trust to help them through the disruption technology is continuously causing in business.

The CIO must not be too involved in the daily operations as they have to see the bigger picture and spot opportunities through interaction with peers and bring those to the CEO in clear, concise, precise and commercial terms. To be able to do this the CIO needs a fantastic leadership team in place. Smart people that know how to do their job (see ‘Success?… People Come First’) and bring valuable feedback and management information to the CIO in support of the business. A leadership team that will give the CIO the time to focus on the bigger picture. Measuring your management team with the same criteria is important as your team in essence are the channel that will get the job done.

Key aspects that are personality trades and skills

that the CIO must possess to satisfy the CEO’s requirements…

  • Emotional Intelligence – Someone that understands and who can manage emotions. Emotions bridge thought, feeling and actions and affect many aspects of a person and hence teams. There are three aspects of the effect of emotions: Physical, Behavioural and Cognitive. How tuned in is your intuition to understand and manage emotions? Emotional intelligence is about two key principles: firstly it is about awareness, identifying and understanding emotions and secondly it is about using and managing emotions. Emotional intelligence is a key trade in the success of influence and motivation of people. How emotionally intelligent are you?
  • Ambition – CIOs have to have a desire for achievement, success, honor and the willingness to strive for it’s attainment. Ambitions drives change for the better which is should be a constant in any CIOs strategy and objectives.
  • Advocacy – Supporting the CIO in his business vision, mission and strategy and continuously recommending technology innovative ideas and plans in support of the his technology team to drive the success of the CIOs objectives.
  • Influence – Gravitas within his personality to be a compelling force in the organisation that effects peoples actions, behaviour, opinions, decisions for the better good of the business.
  • Assertiveness – Be confidently self assured and positive in his communication, strategy and decisions to build the confidence in others that the right things are going to happen. Someone that can stand his ground without being aggressive.
  • Authenticity – You get hired for the person you are. Be truthful to yourself and others and do not wear a mask at work.
  • Results – CEO are looking for results, getting the job done by not taking too high risk.
  • Simplicity – Do your thinking before hand and present to the CEO in a compelling way. Exercise the art of taking a complex subject and present it in a simple compelling way that enable the CEO to make knowledgeable and quick decisions.
  • Commerciality – Continuously keep an eye on the business commercials. Look for ways to improve the bottom line. How can you improve the revenue and reduce the cost? Question if the status quo are still relevant. Constantly drive improvements. Keep coming back with savings.
  • Dissatisfaction – Always look for ways to improve without demoralising your team. Evaluate and embrace innovative ideas.
  • Leadership – Leadership is the art of leading a group of people or an organization to execute a common task by providing a vision that they follow willingly through the inspiration received from the leader’s passion , knowledge, methodologies, and ability to influence the interests of all members and stakeholders. (see ‘Leadership by Definition‘) Do not just lead your technology team – lead from the top, also lead your piers – lead sideways. Be accountable and responsible.
  • Values – The basis for ethical action and believes. Values defines your sense for right and wrong. Values influence attitudes and behaviours. Ethical personal and cultural values are very important. Understand the business ethics and the values of your CEO.
  • Culture fit – Specifically referring to organisational culture which is the behaviour of the people working within the organisation. You must be getting on with people. Understand when the culture is changing and influence the change to the desired outcome.
  • Sector Knowledge – Know your subject (technology) in relation to the business but more importantly know your organisation’s product, their market and the opposition.
  • Supplier Relationships – Know the industry to bring options in supplier selection. Understand how the CEO wants this to be managed. Build meaningful and, more importantly, business valuable relationships. Aggressively manage the suppliers by always comparing and looking for the best value delivery – this is not always the cheapest option…
  • International Experience – We live a multi-cultural society where a dynamic mixture of races, languages and culture are working together in a global environment. The CIO must be confident and at ease in his environment through cultural understanding, exposure and experience gained through international exposure.
  • Agility – You must ensure that you and your organisation have the ability to rapidly respond to change without disrupting the stability to operations on a continuous basis.
  • Trust – The CEO is relying on the CIO and visa versa. Trust involves two parties with a ‘trustee’ and a ‘trustor’ – The trustor is reliant on the actions of the trustee. In the CEO and CIO relationship the trust is mutual to each other. Trust is the believe that the other will do as expected to ensure a positive outcome of a situation with an unknown outcome in the future. Trust is so key that if you loose the trust of the CEO, move on.
  • Accountability – According to Wiki is Accountability the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences. The CEO has to know that the CIO will take accountability for the actions of his devision. CIOs have to take accountability with comments like: “leave this to us/ IT”, “it is our issue, we’ll sort it out”.
  • Complexity – Technology is complex but the CEO relies on the CIO to keep things simple. The CEO has lots on his mind and relies on the CIO to be short, precise and to the point explaining a complex situation or proposition in simple terms.
  • Surprise – Most CEO will agree with this, they just do not like surprises! Keep them informed so no situation or communication turns into a surprise.

A view additional trades and skills – from my perspective…

  • Visionary – Have the ability to read the current trends and envision the future. Have a clear and specific view of the future incorporating the advances in technology and social or political arrangements. Bring those views to the CIO to incorporate in his vision for the business.
  • Motivator – The ability to get the best out of people through your ability to understand, manage and work with people. This links in closely with Leadership and Emotional Intelligence. You must be able to motivate and keep your teams motivated to ensure optimum productivity and delivery to expectations.
  • Coach & Mentor – Build a relationship with your staff and piers to help encourages the lending of assistance, guidance and help. Nurture relationships of learning, open dialogue and challenge to drive towards greater knowledge, experience that ultimately leads to increased wisdom which in turn achieve the goals of the business.
  • Catalyst for Innovation – Encourage and reward the continuous renewing, changing and creating of move effective products, operational processes and business models to adapt to a changing environment. This links in with agility mentioned above.
  • Integrator – Be the person that ensures the forming components of an organisation, for example the different departments, sub systems, infrastructure, governance groups and teams, etc. sufficiently integrate with each other forming a single unit driving towards the same business objectives. Technology can and should provide the glue between the different components. To accomplish this, a very good understanding of the bigger picture of the organisation is needed. Innovation with different parts of the business will not deliver it full value without effective integration into the revenue streams of the business.

What other trades and skills do you feel is key for a CIO to fulfil the expectations of the CEO?

Let’s Talk – Are you looking to achieve your goals faster? Create better business value? Build strategies to improve growth? We can help – make contact!

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