The Sky Isn’t Falling – It’s Just a New CIO

It happened again. Another CIO is named and those familiar feelings of uncertainty, change and job insecurity rush into your every thought and conversation. What are her priorities? Are layoffs coming? Will she bring her own team? What does it mean for me!?

Don’t hyperventilate. As the executive communicator for four Chief Information Officers in seven years, I’ve been there. Naturally, we all rush to the potential downside, but it is also an opportunity for you to take charge after the changing of the guard.

Make an impression, but be subtle. Don’t bury her in minutiae about what you do or look for ways to reinforce your value. Instead, help her navigate the culture, personalities and nuance that comes with all companies. Discuss employee sentiment, the company’s perception of the team, and current priorities or near term deadlines.

Get to know her. You won’t have time to play 20 questions, so be ready to observe and adjust to her expectations. How does she run meetings? What information is she looking for? Is she detailed oriented? What types of questions does she ask? This insight will help you anticipate her needs and enable you to have more productive conversations with her in the future.

Establish a rapport. In the early days, your new leader is still locating the café and restroom. Give her a sense of her new role by discussing executive perceptions and expectations, team’s dynamics, in progress initiatives, or even strengths or fallout from her predecessor. This helps you be seen as a trusted advisor and someone she can depend on.

Don’t overwhelm her. She’s in information and meeting overload, so don’t add to it. Find ways to make it easier – anticipate her needs, deflect unnecessary or lower priority requests, and proactively offer recommendations and alternatives to make decisions easier. This will help her acclimate faster.

Share your insight and opinions. She’s ramping up quickly and may turn to you for a decision or perspective on a situation. Not only does this strengthen your relationship, but reinforces your role as an advisor. Be honest, offer alternatives, make recommendations and even take on a new project when appropriate. There is no better way to showcase your strengths and potential.

Take your career into your own hands. Now’s the time to think about what you like to do, what the role needs, and how you can better advance your leader’s and the company’s priorities. While she may not have time to chat with you right away, doing the work in advance will enable you to explore new ways of doing things or even new opportunities. And, by helping your leader get acclimated, you could even gain mentor and advocate.

Most importantly, breathe deep. While unnerving, a new CIO doesn’t have to be a death knell. She needs to show value as soon as possible, so the more you help her hit the ground running, the more apt you are to make a good impression and lock in your role.

Read my other blogs about communicating for CIOs and IT at