CIO by Committeepost by Chris Curran on November 23, 2009
We’ve had some good discussion on this blog, on LinkedIn IT Leadership groups and my CIO.com blog about the requisite skills and experience for a successful CIO. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to hear two talks at a CIO conference Diamond sponsored that I’d like to combine into some observations about building teams and specifically, the CIO’s leadership team.
The first speaker was Bill Rollwitz, an organizational psychologist and leadership coach who spoke about emotional intelligence. Along the way he spoke about the need for leadership teams to understand and balance the strengths of each. One thing he said really stuck with me:
Our performance reviews and development plans should focus more on improving strengths than on improving weaknesses.
Supported by research, his point was that since each member of a team may not be the best public speaker, for example, figure out what they ARE good at and maximize that. So, help the person or two who is good at it get better and let the others develop their core skills in analytics, design, modeling, recruiting - whatever. As much as this makes total sense, it is still not done in most organizations with whom I’ve worked.
The second speaker was Rollin Ford, Wal-Mart’s CIO. He is an excellent speaker and storyteller and I encourage you to hear him speak if you get the chance. Rollin comes from a supply chain background rather than growing up in IT. While I feel pretty strongly that a CIO must have a deep understanding of technology and its business impacts, its clear that there are many out there, including Rollin, who have been successful without a long career in IT (interestingly, Rollin interviewed for an IT job but chose working in a DC instead). The backstory of his remarks was that their innovation and management of the technology to support over 8,000 stores is a team effort.
CIO by Committee
In keeping with the idea that the operation of IT is a lot like a complete business, it is important to think about the various types of skills and management styles beyond the typical functional areas, like apps and infrastructure. For example, some of your team will be better suited to drive the analytical thinking required to measure IT’s effectiveness, while others will be better fits for broad communications to customers and business leadership. Configured properly, the set of complementary strengths represented by your leadership team are very powerful - but you have to know who is really good at what.
You can either guess at your team member’s strengths or you can use a more scientific method. I’m a big believer in the uncanny accuracy of the well-established behavior tests, such as Kolbe A and Myers-Briggs. With a formal or informal view of your team, there are two questions to ask:
- Is the team balanced across leadership and behavioral traits?
- Are the roles each member is performing a good fit with their inherent behaviors?
I’m reminded of an old friend who would always tell me “You’re a better creator and I’m a better editor.” We arrived at a comfortable working relationship through trial and error. While it may be good enough to develop a perspective on your team’s strengths organically, a more measured and proactive approach should yield a higher-performing team.
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