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8 mistakes CIOs make and how to avoid them

From driving transformative change, to sharing insights into the political nature of the role, IT leaders and advisors have weighed in on common first-time CIO stumbling blocks.

The first 100 days of leadership in a new role present an unparalleled opportunity to establish credibility, distill the most critical topics to address, formulate a compelling vision, confidently move the business in a new direction, breathe life into new realities and demonstrate leadership through viable results.

However, even the best-prepared leaders cannot know everything needed to effectively master a new role in short order. To cut the learning curve, we’re presenting you with 8 common mistakes made within the CIO role -as described by industry veterans- in order to communicate the dos and don’ts, accelerate learning, and to help you or your CIO secure early wins.

8 common CIO mistakes

1. Too much change, too fast.

Leaders must be even-keeled when it comes to change. While it’s not a good idea to avoid change where needed, it’s also not a good idea to change everything at once, a phenomena sometimes known as ‘change saturation’. Although an organization may have the capacity for change, sudden change impacts how an organization operates, and can lead to adverse outcomes.

One means of avoiding ‘change saturation’ is to map your portfolio of change. This requires evaluating change efforts, cumulative impact, risk factors, and analyses of how past business changes have resulted in decidedly positive outcomes. Address change saturation by applying a structured approach to change management.

2. Keeping everyone on the payroll.

New CIOs may believe that there’s no valid reason to clean house. In some organizations, it’s true that no one deserves to be fired. In other organizations, that may not be true.

As a new leader, the impulse to maintain the status quo is strong, but recognizing a toxic personality or serial under-performer and making decisions early can prevent a situation from deteriorating further.

3. Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

One common rookie mistake consists of failing to understand the business culture and the organizational fabric. Before attempting to drive fast-paced change, CIOs should be sure to understand their peers, their teams, and the overall organization. While there are an assortment of effective leadership styles, the organization’s culture is ultimately going to dictate what works.

If the culture does not meet expectations or preferences, there are ways to gently shift a culture.

4. Hyper-focusing on the internal landscape.

Many first-time CIOs focus extensively on the internal organizational landscape, but skip studies of the external landscape in which the organization operates, despite the fact that doing so is a key responsibility within any C-suite position.

Understanding how competitors operate can assist CIOs in determining which technologies will help create a competitive advantage. To obtain market strategy insights, experts recommend that CIOs join industry associations, attend executive events, and build professional networks.

5. Only building C-suite connections.

Another common mistake that some CIOs fall prey to consists of building connections with senior leadership and senior leadership alone. Executive-level IT leaders encourage CIOs to make the rounds and to talk to people at all levels of the organization, which will assist a CIO in determining what really matters to the people within the company, and will informally set second-order objectives.

6. Overlooking process and technology elements.

A core component of the CIO role involves knowledge and management of people, processes and technology. While building connections with executive colleagues and conversing with employees throughout the organization, new CIOs should also observe the processes and technologies that support both IT and the enterprise as a whole.

In some cases, this work is overlooked by new IT chiefs. CIOs should find out about what technologies are working, how the company does things, and whether or not those are the right things to continue with. Occasionally, a CIO will find that some systems are tied together with bubblegum and shoestrings, so to speak. Those CIOs who miss such blatant issues early on are unlikely to impress higher-ups.

7. Sans mentorship.

Studies show that mentors are effective in helping mentees achieve more and in helping them attain new goals. One mentorship-in-the-workplace study found that 76% of the 3,000 participants perceived mentorship as “important” or “very important”. A CIO can benefit immensely from having a mentor, despite the fact that few seek them out. CIOs may wish to identify a seasoned IT leaders who they can reach out to in order to obtain honest advice and strategic insights as needed.

8. Flying solo.

In addition to mentors, CIOs need allies. Newer CIOs commonly believe that they will succeed by bringing in the best technology and deploying top-notch solutions. However, they often fail to see that if they don’t bring everyone on the journey with them, their bright ideas might be perceived negatively. CIOs often miss the boat in persuading others of the fact that their ideas will reduce risk, decrease time to market, increase profitability or otherwise function as value-adds.

Too many CIOs inherently assume that an organization is aware of the value, but new CIOs need to work at getting buy-in from colleagues. While all CIOs want to show their value in today’s ever-changing environments, CIOs cannot be successful while remaining in their own silos.

For more insights into technology roles, see CyberTalk.org’s past coverage. Plus, read our exclusive, high-powered discussion of FOMO in tech. Are you familiar with it? If not, click here.

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