Many CIOs have spent a great deal of time and energy trying to get the proverbial seat at the table. They want to have the opportunity to be an active part of their executive leadership team and a presence in the boardroom. While many of them have gone to great lengths to try to secure such an opportunity, fewer have given thought to what they should (and shouldn’t!) do once they secure this prize.
First of all, it’s important to remember that many board members are not comfortable with the technology vernacular that we bandy about. Part of our job is to educate our stakeholders in laymen’s terms so that they both understand what we are trying to share as well as feel comfortable when we engage them. People who function at a board level are usually very successful and accomplished individuals. No one likes to feel stupid so make sure that you don’t inadvertently make them feel that way by using language and discussing topics that are alien to them. Translate technical issues into their terms and make them feel comfortable instead of in the dark. And don't leave your own appearance of comfort out of the equation, either.
Years ago there was a TV commercial for an antiperspirant. The tag line of the commercial was “never let them see you sweat.” It’s normal to be nervous in the boardroom, especially if it is a new experience for you. However, it’s critical that your nerves manifest themselves on the inside and that your audience doesn’t pick up on your emotions and view them as fear or lack of confidence.
People want to do business with leaders who are confident in their talents and their positions on important topics. Remember to project that kind of confidence to your audience. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to spend less time trying to impress people, and more time trying to educate and support people. Be passionate about what you hope to share with this audience and focus more on assisting them understand what you can offer to help them succeed and less time worrying about how brilliant they think you are!
Next, watch your language (and I’m not talking about cursing!). Words have power. Are you using descriptive and positive words that inspire bold action and articulate opportunity? Are you framing the money you are asking for as an investment or as a cost of doing business? If it’s an investment, are you articulating both a quantitative and qualitative ROI? Are your proposals aligned with the major issues that truly matter to your board members and your senior executives?
Remember, every dollar spent on IT can be viewed as a dollar not spent on the organization's mission. That's how it will be viewed unless you help people connect the dots between your proposed investment in technology and the outcomes that matter most to them and the organization.
What are your lessons learned in the boardroom? What are your best-practices? What mistakes have you made that you are willing to share with our community? Let’s keep the conversation going.
Technocrate, the best lesson I had learned from my past experience is, you should be a good listener and show the patience to listen to others. Finally we can narrate the story with our own suggestions, which will be get more visibility and acceptance.
I was just having an email discussion with someone today who swore that decisions should be made by strong leaders, without the consensus of their subordinates.
@Broadway, that is dictatorship and not leadership. A leader is one who considers all the opinions and tries to reach consensus. I know some times its not possible to reach 100% consensus but atleast majority will agree with the decision.
It is one of the best tactics to delay and slowly kill a resolution, decision, etc. in a meeting.
@Broadway, I totally agree with you. Its like if you can't convince others confuse them by talking all minor aspects. I think its very important that such persons should be adviced strictly to talk on relevant topics so that decision can be derived at the end of the meeting.
@Broadway I would argue your colleague is operating under an old definition of leadership. I cannot imagine working in an environment were there is little consensus. I know this is rare and I might just be very fortunate, but I have for the most part always been in this type of structure.
I have had to endure to "old form of leadership" during that period as well, and I quickly got myself ... shall we say reassigned ? ; )
Of course someone must make the decision, the buck has to stop somewhere. But in my opinion it is incumbent upon the "leader" to surround themselves with individuals that they don't necessarily need to lead. You see FB and Google do this very successfully, and maybe now that Jobs is gone we will be able to include Apple as well.
I work for a mid-size creative based company so it is easier and essential that a " group think mentality" exists.
But in a more traditional enterprise setting where there are thousands of employees I can understand this is not so easy, but companies are no longer constrained by size, you can communicate just as effectively now in a large enterprise as you could in a smaller one and I am speaking about the wonders of social media. Companies can create a atmosphere of "respected consensus" but they must hire people who fit the roles I described earlier. Maybe it is easier to hire unqualified people and worry about leading them than it is to hire "problem solvers" who are proactive ?
But as far as leadership is concerned, honestly there are many who think they know what leadership entails, when in reality they have never understood leadership or they are using an out-dated definition, which appears to be the case with your colleague.
@Technocrat, it is funny that you say that decisions should be made through consensus. I was just having an email discussion with someone today who swore that decisions should be made by strong leaders, without the consensus of their subordinates. To do that would be to show weakness on the leader's part.
For CIO's not used to the board room they might want to take a class in public speaking. The sheer act of practicing and getting feedback that isn'r ending up on a performance review can be extremely helpful for those of us that don't naturally like crowds or have a hard time breaking down jargon into everyday terms.
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