When my son was younger and enrolled in team sports, the equipment list came back with the requirement for an athletic cup. After his surviving the indignity of having his mother buy it for him, the protests started. "I don't want to wear it! It's uncomfortable!"
One day, during a game, it became absolutely obvious to him why such a device was required when a misplaced kick connected with the cup.
He never complained again.
What does this have to do with neckties? Glad you asked.
When I was younger and could grow hair, I did. Down to my shoulders. It matched my jeans, my van, my boots, and my t-shirts. (I'm actually surprised my wife's mother would let me near the house at the time). One of the vows I made to myself was that I would NEVER take a job where I had to get dressed up in a suit and tie. "I don't want to wear it!" "It's uncomfortable!"...I would cry. In my early career days, I wore jeans to work regularly, with khakis reserved for meetings.
Now scroll ahead a few years.
Here I sit as an IT leader, in what I think is the best IT job in Canada, if not the world. I'm wearing a suit, AND and tie. Why? Because in the world I work in, this is standard attire for leadership. I would be out of place without a tie. I realize that if I worked for a technology company or in other work environments, I would look completely out of place wearing a suit and tie. I wear it because it is culturally relevant, and when I approach the other executive and board with strategy, ideas, or requests for budget, I am wearing the team uniform.
I am part of them rather than an outsider.
It removes so many obstacles.
I meet many colleagues in IT leadership who complain that they don't have access to senior executives, and feel marginalized. There is often a correlation between how they are treated, and how they dress for work.
Wearing a tie won't get you a seat at the table, but understanding the corporate culture and wearing the uniform may help in removing some of the barriers. Look at what your team is wearing, and be part of the team.
BTW, the tie comes off as soon as I get home.
How much would you pay for this plate of bacon and eggs? (or substitute your favourite breakfast if you choose). I've paid anywhere from $2.99 to $15.00 for a breakfast that looks pretty much the same as the picture above. What made the $15.00 eggs worth that much? It certainly couldn't be the eggs themselves, since for the most part, there is not much differentiation in eggs. So what made the difference? Why would I willingly pay $15.00 for something I can get for $2.99?
It was everything that came with the food... the ambiance (and the cost of keeping up the premises), the skill of the cooks, the location of the restaurant, the people I was eating breakfast with, and most importantly, the service I received. The eggs themselves were not the sole measurement of value, but rather the whole experience of the breakfast. The total package was worth $15.00 to me.
If all I wanted were eggs, then I could head to the greasy spoon to get my $2.99 fix.
IT leadership needs to learn this lesson when we seek to communicate value to our executive leadership and customers. Too often we are focusing on the tactical deliverables our technology will provide, and as such we are granted the budgets to support buying "eggs". Why pay $15 when you can get them for $3? And so we are left to somehow provide support and implementation services on a lowest cost purchasing model.
If you have learned the language of the organization, and can frame your services in light of achieving institutional strategic goals, then the technology to support your services is a small part of the overall package. Your budget should be determined by services, not technology. This doesn't happen overnight, and will come as you have earned the trust of the organization that your IT department is fully aligned with supporting the organization's success.
It has been said (thanks Jerry Seinfeld) that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying. That would mean that the average person would rather be the one in the coffin, than the one delivering the eulogy.
There comes a time, ok, several times in the CIO's career where he or she will be called to present. This may be to the President, the board, peer groups, employees, users, media, etc. The list is endless. Since the role of the CIO is changing so dramatically to one of an influencer or catalyst, and less about being a technology expert, the skill to effectively communicate is essential.
This is not only about your career. How many of you have experienced Death by PowerPoint, or suffered through bad presentations? This is a skill that benefits everyone.
Here are a couple of resources I have found very useful:
- Ethos3 is a delightful, informative and incredibly company of professional presentation designers. If you can't engage them, then browse their website and view the free tips and resources they have available. http://www.ethos3.com/ View an interview with Scott Schwertly, the founder and CEO of Ethos3 on Michael Hyatt's blog here.
- Gar Reynolds (Search Google for his name) has authored a book: Presentation Zen. Well worth the read. Take a moment to view Gar's blog (here) and check out his presentation for John Medina's excellent book - Brain Rules. The excellent image above comes from this presentation.
There are scores of other excellent sites, but these will prime your presentation pump, and give you lots of ideas.
Self awareness... you hear it regularly along with words and phrases like "yoga", "holistic", "enlightenment", "inspiration", "finding yourself", "journeys of discovery", and "tofu". (OK, maybe not the last one)
Is there any place for self awareness in the life of the CIO? In today's world, the CIO MUST understand him/herself better than most everyone else in the organization. Since 21st century IT is about providing exceptional service, building a high performance team is critical. If the CIO doesn't understand their strengths, their passions, their "better done by someone else" skills, they will likely build a team of people based on resumes, rather than seeking and developing key complementary skills in their team.
I have been subjected (not always willingly) to a battery of assessment tests - Myers Briggs, Colors, Firo B, and many others, and if you asked me to define how instrumental they've been in changing the way I operate, it would be a very short reply... "I'm not sure".