Transitioning from director to CIO means moving from a role as manager to one of leader. And although logically we all know that, the realities of what that means are a different story.
As we rise in scope of responsibility, our focus needs to shift in a number of ways. We need to increasingly focus on strategy in addition to our focus on tactics. We need to shift from getting tasks done to getting others to get those tasks done. And we need to inspire and motivate, instead of being inspired and getting motivated by others.
Let me offer some tips on how to develop the skills you'll need, not only to do well as CIO, but also to be considered for the promotion:
Delegating to direct reports is a great way to both improve productivity and develop others. But if it's done wrong it causes problems. Poor delegation habits cause deadlines to be missed, mistakes to be made, effort to be wasted, and people to disengage.
In order to delegate effectively, you need to choose the right tasks, choose the right people, communicate effectively, hold people accountable, and provide useful feedback. Good delegation requires practice. Start now. An effective CIO should be masterful at delegating or he/she will get bogged down in managing rather than leading.
Strategies address specific problems or challenges and offer a general direction. Tactics are the specific steps to take in order to execute those strategies.
In order to develop strategies, a CIO needs to first identify the problem (so you don't end up "solving" a symptom). The challenge is that if we're always busy in our day-to-day activities, we never get to step back and see the bigger picture. The key to achieving this perspective is taking the time to reflect.
You need to get away from the demands of everyday tasks so you can more clearly see the situation, gain insight, and develop vision. An effective CIO must take time to reflect and to develop strategies. An effective CIO knows that he/she can be productive even when they're away from their desk.
Be a leader
What makes someone a leader? A person is a leader when people choose to follow them. And people will not follow someone they don't trust and respect.
How do you gain the trust and respect of others? You do it by being honest, by doing what you say you will do, by respecting others, by standing for something, and by being the person you claim to be. An effective CIO has established him or herself as a person other are willing to follow. Start acting like the person you want to be known for and stay consistent.
You'll note that I never mentioned technology or engineering. That's partially because your technology chops have already been tested when you've reached your position, but it is also because the role is such a major change. If you're not ready to change your mindset and the scope of your thinking, there's no way you can make the leap. Gaining the position of CIO is a wonderful opportunity and opens doors to an expanded future. The time to start preparing for it is now, and the best way to change is through your point of view.