Communicating the Climb From CIO to CEO

Communicators are increasingly being tapped to elevate a CIO’s presence and thought leadership internally and externally. Not only does it help today as IT is increasingly intertwined in all aspects of a business, but CIOs may also have aspirations of becoming CEOs. Don’t just take my word for it. When discussing this progression with CIO Magazine, Puppet CEO Sanjay Mirchandani said, “To me that makes the CIO job the perfect place to groom your next CEO.”

In full disclosure, Sanjay was the first of four CIOs I supported. From early on, he recognized the value CIOs and IT bring to the business and was determined to showcase the team’s successes internally and with customers. And, he’s since transitioned this experience to his role at Puppet.

While not all CIOs want to be CEOs, IT communicators have a role to play. To help, here is some advice for working with CIOs (and other executives).

1. Build a rapport. Spend time getting to know them. Understand their interests, goals and aspirations. And, most importantly, look for ways that communications can help advance their cause.

2. Understand the ecosystem. What is the CIO up against? How is IT perceived? Is she or he stepping into a supportive IT environment or a viper pit? Your experience and counsel can help them navigate the calm or choppy waters. And, this candor and insight will help them see you as a trusted advisor.

3. Listen. How do they speak? What topics do they gravitate to? What are they passionate about at work and outside? How can you capture their passion, empathy and drive in your communications? And, what aren’t they saying that may shed some light on their challenges?

4. Show your CIO how you can help them. Regardless of their aspirations, a CIO needs to communicate to motivate teams, communicate successes and at times, deliver bad news. Be available when they need you, anticipate their needs and proactively recommend solutions. And, their time is valuable, so be selective and ensure you are bringing them the most impactful opportunities.

6. Communicate. Seems obvious, right? Whether they are happy where they are or dream about the corner office, CIOs need to regularly communicate the value IT is delivering for the business. Look for ways to partner with corporate communications and others to extend your reach and impact.

I’m sure there are plenty more..what did I miss?

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