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Being a CIO

By David Banger, CIO, John Holland


David Banger, CIO, John Holland

This is a short story. The story of being a CIO in a new industry at a new organisation. This is all about being something somewhere. What is being something? Below are eight things that have contributed to my being here within this story. There are some logical interdependencies, although there is no clear sequence.

"The most rewarding experiences are those that have a development opportunity within them"

Transparency of our team and what is expected has been the foundation of how we have operated. As exciting as it would be to create something significant like great technology companies, many of us don't have that broader responsibility and by sharing our initiatives these can then be shaped by those who will use them. Be honest and transparent within your organisation and invite constructive contributions. Listen to these, challenge the contribution to evolve thinking and check for alignment with broader objectives.

Storytelling: How do you explain the broader context you are a part of? What is your team’s story, can you tell this and do you hold an audience’s attention? Consider three simple stages of storytelling, 1. What has happened the past? 2. What is the present? 3. Why the future is exciting? When telling the past, be positive and make a point of identifying foundations here now for the tomorrow. Seek to build on something rather than demolish. Make yourself available to tell the story, again and again to many audiences, perfect it.

Learning from the business, with partners, from each other and after every key meeting is fundamental. Things are never "sorted" - they may be agreed, however there is always an opportunity to do things differently. Seek feedback and get comfortable with being uncomfortable - this is the scene setter for you to expand your thinking, adjust and potentially evolve your style. Today’s efforts are the seeds of the future. Always look at yourself first, seek to utilise your strengths and mitigate areas of vulnerability by surrounding yourself with a diverse range of capabilities and thinking. What is your unique gift? Find this and give it away. 

Energy: Make it a priority to create the team of tomorrow today. The most rewarding experiences are those that have a development opportunity within them. Are these earned or simply presented to your people? Earning things makes people respect them, how do your people earn opportunities? Previous experiences shape who and what we are today, be grateful for those opportunities and the people who did (and continue to) take a genuine interest in you. These are special relationships, cultivate and cherish them. Be generous of your time with your people. Consider how genuine your interest in your people is, does it energise them? Be in a state of constant learning; learn from and with your people. Encourage people to learn from others, when this is combined with experiences it multiplies capabilities.

Inspiration: Search for inspiration that motivates considered action. You are a reflection of what you consume. Little consumption may result in poor or pointless actions. Be careful of becoming a consumption junkie. Avoid being somebody who knows something about everything however has done little about anything. Consumption overload can lead to fragmented thinking, so consider what information you consume and when you consume it. Appropriate consumption can create insightful perspectives, who inspires you and look at what they are consuming? Equally, who are you influencing and how? 

Community: The speed of change makes it virtually impossible to keep abreast of how value can be achieved from the latest innovations. Working with external organisations is a great way to hear how they and others are realising these opportunities. Take time to build relationships today and consider what value you can bring to these interactions as they could be the bridge you cross tomorrow. Think of what you have and be a giver and not a taker. Think we and not me, try never to say I. Share perspectives with communities without an expectation; offer others insight into your organisation and challenge your partners to bring greater value.

Relevance: Seek to be in a constant state of transition to avoid or moderate the need for transformation. Be obsessed with the potential of tomorrow and take accountability for transitioning to this. Avoid over dependence on external parties, consider your partners very, very carefully and qualify them definitively. Piloting and prototyping are critical. Partners consider what you are prepared to risk for earning the trust. Partners, move from transacting to being a true partner. Lead partner transition activities with your people; it’s an extremely valuable experience.

Abundance: Look at the abundance of opportunities for your organisation, your people and true partners. Don’t become stuck doing what you have always done or hoarding knowledge (it’s soon outdated). Examples of the consequences of this are everywhere. With a mindset of transition, create a sense of anticipation for your people. Explore the potential of tomorrow by embodying the intent of all of the above. This is not a checklist, nor a project plan, activities are not linear, nor are they something to do, it is a state of being.

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