#1/10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO - Competence

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My dog Isabel and I are alike in the fact that neither of us enjoys eating tofu, and neither of us can remember too many things at once.

In her case, it is only one thing at a time. Her list goes like this: Food / Walk / Poop / Sleep / Play / Repeat. Occasionally a squirrel shows up which totally reboots her focus and she has to start all over again.

In my case, I do really well with useless trivia (What do you call it when bricks start crumbling? - Spalling See what I mean? ). I have more of a challenge with long lists of facts, or minutia of detailed documents.

This forces me to develop systems to remember things, and I do very well in synthesizing complex things down to a series of triggers that let me remember more details. As such, I'm a big fan of short lists, quotes, anecdotes, and stories. I remember these things well, and they in turn trigger, or unpack more and more details.

Which gets me around to the point of this post.

From the scars and callouses earned in my career, and based on the same from colleagues who have been highly effective in leading IT teams, I've distilled a list of the 10 competencies which are critical for IT leaders (CIOs, Directors) as well as anyone else in leadership in today's globally focussed, results driven environment. These postings are intentionally short. They are designed to stimulate additional thinking and conversation.  I'll unpack these ideas further in subsequent postings, as well as incorporate any comments you may add to the mix.

Without these competencies in action, IT leaders risk being relegated to the unrewarding mission of controlling costs, or watching IT services being outsourced (yes, that is still happening) to an IT provisioning company, or having your end users continually bypass your department and contracting for software, services and infrastructure in the cloud.

This by the way, is the complete essence of this blog. We need to do technology differently or risk obselecence.

The good news?

It is very achievable.

The bad news?

You are probably going to have to change... (and you know how much you like to do that).

A brief aside... Did you ever notice that IT folks are the most change resistant people in an organization? While they bring change into everyone else's life, they tend to dig in their heels when the change impacts them. But I digress.

I am in no way inferring that I have mastered these competencies. This is my list of goals and objectives that define how I know I need to operate in order to be successful as an IT leader.

Here is the first competency, which coincidently, is competence.

The 21st Century CIO must be seen as a competent leader. Think of a master musician that knows her craft so well that she makes it look easy. What you see is the result of sacrifice, focus, and practice, practice, practice.

Becoming a 21st Century CIO comes from being intentional about leading, learning from your mistakes, and practice, practice, practice. There is a reason most CIOs positions advertise for 10 or more years of experience. You need to have time to hone your skills.

Competence in practice looks like this:
  • You make the job look easy. Competence brings confidence (but not hubris). You don't get flustered easy and like the musician who can improvise, your mastery of skills allows you to adapt to the changing demands.
  • People choose to follow you. They trust your vision, your leadership and want to learn from you.
  • You know how to bring out the best results in your team. In turn, they outperform, out innovate, and outwork their peers in other organizations.
  • You recruit and attract the top talent. Hiring people who are more skilled, or smarter doesn't intimidate you. In fact,you know that bringing the best on board sharpens the whole team.
  • You are not so caught up in your skills that you have to do everything yourself.  You give your team plenty of opportunities to develop their own skills, and grow.

I'm not a big fan of the cliffhanger. As such, here is the list of all 10 competencies with links.

Yes, I know they all start with the letter C.  That's one of the tricks I use to help cement things into my brain. I'll present one competency per posting over the next while, and compile them into one big, long post when complete.

Next competency: Communication
How would you describe competence in action?


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