You get one chance to make a first impression.
It is a saying that often refers to a sales professional or someone seeking a job during an interview. However, the timeless saying has special relevance for professionals assuming the responsibilities associated with a new position. For executive-level professionals such as CIOs, making the first impression means also making a positive impact in their first year on the job.
Orla Daly, who joined Skillsoft as its CIO in March of 2022, says making an impact in the first year on the job meant improving operational efficiency and becoming the driving force behind the company’s technology transformation. Daly created a list of the tasks she needed to complete to meet the goals established by her new employer.
“It’s really about learning where we were at, so I could formulate a plan forward,” Daly said in a recent interview. After understanding where Skillsoft sat operationally, Daly launched a series of training programs to close the skills gap Skillsoft had dealt with over the previous several years. She also developed a list of prioritized projects based on the impact the list had on operational performance.
How CIOs can make an impact in their first year depends on following a few tips that form the foundation to meet the goals established by their new employers, as well as from the insights gained during the first few weeks on the job.
Listen to the Members of Your New Team
Taking over a C-Suite position such as a CIO can make it tempting to hit the ground running with plenty of momentum. Nonetheless, making an impact during the first year requires a certain level of patience that involves listening to the input of team members before taking action on most IT projects. Chapman University CIO, Helen Norris, exemplifies taking the patient game plan approach that includes spending time listening to feedback before embarking on a strategic course of action.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing to just jump in and say what needs to be done,” Norris emphasized. “You have to listen to what people across the organization are saying, hear their priorities. People really welcome it, the chance to be listened to. And you have to give people the opportunity to be really frank with you, and you have to steel yourself to hear complaints, and then build a strategic plan out of what you learn.”
Develop Working Relationships
Listening to team members not only helps CIOs chart a course for the IT department, but it also allows the new leader to gain insight on how to develop working relationships moving forward to create and implement a compelling operational game plan. Executives such as CIOs often lose sight of the importance placed on building trust before they can implement their game plan for organizational success. To build trust, CIOs must demonstrate they know how to work with other members of the team. “All executive roles are about people and relationships, and it’s particularly important for a CIO to think in that way because we come from technical backgrounds and some people still think it’s a technical role,” Norris said.
Address the Technical Skills Gap
Many CIOs have to face a skill shortage caused by a variety of reasons, one of which is the amount of time it takes to fill a CIO position after a former leader leaves the C-Suite position. The longer the search for a new IT leader, the larger the IT skills gap faced by an incoming CIO. As the IT leader of your new organization, you must have the right team members in place that possess the proper skills to meet the new initiatives set by your vision.
As the new IT leader, you have to analyze each team member early into your tenure to identify skill gaps, and then decide how to quickly close the skill gaps to meet the growing IT issues that your organization confronts on a daily basis.
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Move Quickly from the Get-to-Know-You Stage
New CIOs cannot afford to take too long to get to know their new IT team, as well as the entire organization. They must quickly assimilate the information provided in a relatively short period to develop and implement a sound IT strategy that matches organizational goals. You probably have heard about the importance placed on the first 100 days on the job put in by the President of the United States. One hundred days is a good measuring stick for new CIOs to create a central theme for the IT department to use for achieving certain objectives.
After meeting with other executives and team members, as well as reviewing the IT department based on several operational criteria, the time quickly arrives to put your vision of operational success into motion.
Choose a Partner
Any leader who takes over an executive position like a CIO cannot expect to succeed with a do-it-all-by-yourself mentality. Delegating important tasks to a team member that you trust goes a long way toward helping you steer the IT department according to your vision. If you try to handle daily IT tasks, you can expect not to have enough time to implement strategic plans of action.
You can formally announce the appointment of a partner to assume some of the responsibilities on your plate or decide to work informally with a team member that helps you manage time to meet your organization’s stated goals and overall mission.
For more, check out our article: 6 Mistakes to Avoid as a New CIO.