Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach: If You Listen to Your CEO's Views, He Is More Likely to Listen to Yours

Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach: If You Listen to Your CEO's Views, He Is More Likely to Listen to Yours

Article excerpt

Q: I've recently been promoted to CTO of the organisation. I was pleased with the career advancement, but I'm not enjoying the role. The new CEO is more concerned as to whether he should have a BlackBerry or an iPhone than whether we should make a big investment in digital outsourcing. How can I make him see the importance of IT and my role?

A: As a rule, the more senior the role in the organisation, the less are specific technical skills the key to success. The qualities that mark out successful leaders include the ability to influence others over whom they have no direct control. However brilliant you are technologically, your knowledge and skills will count for little if you can't communicate the significance of your ideas and strategies to other members of senior management in a persuasive way. This is the true challenge of your new appointment.

The first step is to understand your CEO and the other members of the senior team, their ambitions, their preoccupations and their interests. It seems laughable to you that your new CEO is obsessing about his choice of smartphone, when matters of much greater importance to the function of the department and the success of the organisation are at stake. But put yourself in his shoes: he doesn't know much about IT, finds it scary to have to make decisions with enormous consequences but no guarantee that he's making the right choice. The one bit of technology he's mastered is his mobile phone with e-mails: it's user-friendly and helpful day-to-day.

Besides, he knows that if he makes the wrong choice on this vital bit of kit, he'll personally get it in the neck from his executive team colleagues in a way that he won't if he endorses a recommendation to choose Hyderabad over Bangalore. For the large-scale decisions, he can blame you.

So accept his disproportionate interest in this small matter and help him make the choice that suits him and the organisation, so that he feels kindly disposed towards you. But if you men-tally dismiss him as an idiot, he'll sense it and you'll have an uphill job in persuading him to accept your more heavyweight recommendations.

The next step is to work out how he likes to be communicated with: big picture or lots of detail? In writing or verbally? Supplement your own observations with first-hand accounts from IT people who have worked with him previously. …

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