#7/10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO - Community Builder

This is the seventh article in the series of 10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO. If you haven't read the earlier postings, start your journey here.

Take a look at your office chair.

Is it well worn?

Is it familiar?

Do you spend most of your day sitting in it?

If so, then I would suggest that you need to work on this next survival skill - community building.

It's time to write your office chair a 'Dear John' letter.
IT departments spend a great deal of energy and resources building firewalls and security infrastructure to support critical data.  Unfortunately this bunker mentality can sometime carry over in how IT relates to the broader community - other departments in the organization, colleagues in industry, and anyone not in the inner circle.

In his great book on the not so subtle nuance of leading technical people, author Paul Glen discusses the tribal mentality of highly creative technical people and how they can trend towards exclusion of outsiders.  (The book is called Leading Geeks).  Many of today's IT leaders have come up through the ranks of technology, and there is a very real possibility that this tribal attitude came along for the ride.

If I'm talking about you... you know you need to change this.

Community Builder

To be successful as an IT leader today, you need to get out of your office, and start interacting with the greater community around you.

This is more than just hanging out with non-IT people.

It's more than schmoozing (although that's not a bad thing to learn).

This is about being the instigator.  This is about being the one who takes the first step to connect with people and maintain these relationships.  (I can feel many of you squirming in your office chairs right now).

This is about being a community builder and not a community consumer.

This is about seeing the value of interaction between bright minds - both IT and non IT.

It's about taking a leadership role in making it happen.

This is about getting involved in peer communities.  There is no shortage of organizations and events to participate in, and contribute to.  (Hint: Here's a good place to start: CIO Association of Canada )

If this is a little too much for you, and the separation anxiety with your chair is starting to set in...I have some good news.

In today's world, you can work at building a community online. In fact, because you are in IT people already expect you to be active in Social Media.

Are you on Twitter?, LinkedIn?

Are you blogging?

You may feel you have no time.

You may feel you don't have the talent.

These are valid points, but in today's environment, your engagement in building community is a crucial skill.  It supports many of the other necessary survival skills you need to thrive.

The Community Builder competency in practice looks like this:
  • You are well connected inside and outside of your internal IT department.
  • You are actively engaged in online communities and have built a network of colleagues, associates, and thought leaders.
  • Your office chair has that 'barely used' look and feel, since you take every opportunity to engage with others within your organization.  You are out meeting them where they are, in their environment.
  • You are known as a connector of people, and your network of connections allows you to find solutions that were previously unavailable to you.
  • You have worked hard on prioritizing your calendar to allow time to build this skill.
  • People describe you as a 'contributor' and 'builder'.

How would you describe community builder in action?

I'll be presenting one competency per posting over the next while, and compile them into one big, long post when complete.

Next posting: Current


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