Make the Leap From Director to CIO

Michael Beck, Executive Coach & Business Strategist | 10/7/2013 | 26 comments

Michael Beck
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:

Delegate effectively
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.

Think strategically
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.

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Michael Beck   Make the Leap From Director to CIO   10/10/2013 5:15:25 PM
Re: Good concepts
@kstaron - Good point, Kate. I have my thoughts on this, but I'd be interested in hearing what others have to say about their experience with this.
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kstaron   Make the Leap From Director to CIO   10/10/2013 2:19:59 PM
Good concepts
Good concepts to work on as you are proving yourself CIO material. I imagine though it may be harder to put into practice when you are still in the thick of things, making it hard to step back and think more strategically. For those who have made the leap from director to CIO (or hope to), what things did you do?
Henrisha   Make the Leap From Director to CIO   10/10/2013 5:05:17 AM
Re: Delegation is the hard part for me
True, Progman, there really is a very fine line. Lazy supervisors choose to "delegate" everything to people below them, and that can be a huge problem. 
Michael Beck   Make the Leap From Director to CIO   10/9/2013 11:09:40 AM
Re: Delegation is the hard part for me
@SaneIT - Good lesson learned!  A key to effective leadership is to choose the right people for your team.  That's an art in and of itself.

Most people choose others just like themselves, but a great team is made up of diverse skills and talents.
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ProgMan   Make the Leap From Director to CIO   10/9/2013 9:04:29 AM
Re: Delegation is the hard part for me
Thanks @MS.Akkineni , good to hear.  It seems like there is a fine line sometimes between delegating and 'dumping stuff off to everyone else' - I know it's just a mental hurdle that needs to be cleared though.
MS.Akkineni   Make the Leap From Director to CIO   10/9/2013 8:47:56 AM
Re: Delegation is the hard part for me

You just read my mind.

Mine was the same story in evolving days of my career. Every small obstacle while getting something done use to bug me exponentially. Over the years I learnt dealing with those kind of situations and finally getting over that phase. But one thing about delegation though, right skilled people just isn't enough to get the job done on time. We need people that have accountability, who could own a task, deliver on time and be there when needed. 
adil   Make the Leap From Director to CIO   10/9/2013 7:16:42 AM
Re: Great Article
@MS.Akkineni: I have seen cases where the senior resources have been hired on the recommendation of vendors. If a vendor has a better experience with a resource in some organization, he normally suggest the other company to hire him as this would be a win win situation for all three of them. Company would get an experienced resource, vendor will have to work with the guy with they have already worked and the guy will get a better package for the new job.
SaneIT   Make the Leap From Director to CIO   10/9/2013 7:12:12 AM
Re: Delegation is the hard part for me
I've had to learn this over the years.  When I first started in IT i felt like everything sat on my shoulders and if I couldn't get the job done then I was a failure.  Now I'm to the point where I have to delegate tasks and trust that they'll get done in a manner that I'm not embarrassed to explain later.  Luckily I've become good at finding people who not only have the skill sets to do the job but are also team players and will keep me from having those uncomfortable conversations.

MS.Akkineni   Make the Leap From Director to CIO   10/9/2013 3:19:39 AM
Re: Great Article
 Especially vendors are the one who carry yours and your company's image to others in the industry.


Absolutely. Vendors: At times they become a channel of marketing for you. They usually deal with N number of companies and they pass general information of companies knowingly and unknowingly as well. This just happens like a word of mouth campaign  and this could happen either to build positive image of you/your company or could be negative too. So, it's always wise to be aware and deal with vendors with a knack.
MS.Akkineni   Make the Leap From Director to CIO   10/9/2013 3:10:49 AM
Re: Delegation is the hard part for me
Part of the curse of being a perfectionist I guess :)


You got it !!!   That's where the real problem is. All of us have an underlying common intention, that is wanting to be a perfectionist/HERO in every possible thing in the world. This is just because we are humans and it's our tendency. We just need to slow down a bit and practice 'It's ok sometimes to be not so perfect' attitude. By this, Please don't get me wrong or misunderstand this as de-motivating and/or not being enthusiastic. All that can happen, but we all should know where and how to draw a line before we stress ourselves so much.  
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