Leadership

Highest paid CIOs spend more time relationship building than team management

According to a recent survey, the highest paid CIOs value building relationships with top executives over managing their teams. What does this mean?

Regular readers know that on Fridays I often part from my regular semi-practical advice format and just talk about something in the news that just catches my fancy. This week it's a poll from SearchCIO (conducted among 875 senior and mid-level IT executives across all markets) that bears out the following:

CIOs who earn the highest salaries make building relationships with top executives more of a priority than managing projects the IT team is doing.

TechTarget's senior news writer, Linda Tucci, wrote a piece about this part of the survey.

She said,

"High earners appear to enjoy better relationships with their bosses and the business than do those who make less. They get strong support from executive management, and their IT teams are praised by the business. Despite the good opinion they say the business has of IT, however, these earners tend to judge their own IT teams more harshly than do their counterparts earning less."

I have to admit that, upon first reading, the phrase "enjoy better relationships with their bosses" stuck out and not with a positive connotation. I think we've all seen our share of superficial managers who make more of an effort to look good for their boss and their boss's bosses than they do making their own team an efficient and workable unit. God knows I've heard enough from disgruntled IT pros who are stuck doing impossible projects because their managers have signed them on in order to look good to the CEO.

But then I think this is really a matter of business/IT alignment coming to fruition. (A couple of years ago that phrase was used so often that if you'd been playing the drinking game with it, you'd be in rehab right now or living in a van down by the river.) The phrase and its ilk ("strategic alignment," "Getting a seat at the C-table," etc.) were all that anyone talked about for a while.

But you know what? Being batted over the head every day with the concept doesn't take away from its importance. You have to break down silos of information between IT and the rest of the company.

And the part about being the highest paid CIOs being harder on the IT team? It's easy to think that a CIO is harder on the team because he or she doesn't gain anything by "winning it over." And in some instances, I'm sure that's the case. But I suspect that it can also come from an understanding of what the business needs and then trying to enforce it. If a CIO is more judgmental toward his team, then it might be because he sees what has to be done and is not seeing that his team is producing what it should.

The problem comes when the CIO has expectations that the team cannot meet, and he or she refuses to see that.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

11 comments
ceso_softdev
ceso_softdev

Once we got one such CIO. smooching all the time to top management. His paycheck was of course ridiculously fat. He spent so much time in the CEO's office you would think he was his personal secretary. needless to say, he had no idea what the team did on a daily basis, what each team's function was or how they connected with each other. He didn't knew the names of IT people whose cubicles he walked by on a daily basis; usually on his way to the CEO's office. He earned no loyalty nor respect among us poor IT troopers. The good thing is that his "pals" in top management let him go within a year when he was not able to deliver on all his fancy talk. Sure, he was "harder" on the team, but not because he had a better understanding of what the business needed, quite the opposite. His detachment from the team lead him to ruin the careers of the very people who kept the IT operation smooth and functional. By firing the hard workers and bringing on board smooth-talkers such as himself this guy paved his way to unemployment. I can tell you that no IT professional will shed tears over such a judgmental, kiss-up/kick-down CIO.

cougar.b
cougar.b

"If a CIO is more judgmental toward his team, then it might be because he sees what has to be done and is not seeing that his team is producing what it should." The science of positive psychology--a funny talk with very important truths for all of us: http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work.html I think that the information in the SearchCIO poll may simply reflect that we live in a country with one of the highest income disparities in the world, and that quality creates dysfunction at all levels of society. The following talk is also both fascinating and illuminating. http://www.ted.com/speakers/richard_wilkinson.html Let's not try to put lipstick on a turnip. This poll is about a problem, a dysfunction. CIOs should be building relationships, but their most important relationships should be with their teams. Yes, relationships with other parts of the company are also important, but not at the expense of the team.

anonymous99
anonymous99

This remind me that it's called i"KISS ASS" as many incompetent managers are. Don't get me wrong that they are entirely wrong, because they need to understand how to align IT project to business need. Of course, if they hire the right lieutenants, they don't need to "micromanage" any project in details. However, it's their job to spearhead the IT's to meet organization constant needs not just at the moment but also down the treacherous road ahead. I used to know incompetent helpdesk guys kissed asses to become helpdesk managers, and low and behold, they become IT infrastructure manager who still has no clue how to network a copy/fax/printer to email the scanned page to user's mail box. This is still corporate governance where many companies still surfer. If we think that the last downsizes, reorgs, and etc... should weed out those, than I are still wrong. This also relates to family and friend connections, where people have no skill at all. Not wonder why we have disgruntled employees. I say that there should be policies against playing politics at work beside measuring one's performance and skills. The worse part is that many companies start outsource HR staffs which would be worse for the grunts, (i.e. no police = deregulations).

MyopicOne
MyopicOne

"The problem comes when the CIO has expectations that the team cannot meet, and he or she refuses to see that." Aaaaannndddd who's responsible for proper staffing and skills alignment based upon what direction the business wants to go in? Isn't that the CIO? So isn't a CIO beating on his/her staff sometimes symptomatic of a CIO failing at their job?

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

As positions rise in the hierarchy they become increasingly outwardly focused. In part, this is because they have have increasingly reliable staff -- quite capable of managing themselves. So I'm not at all surprised that the most outwardly focused are the most highly paid. Similarly, as their focus shifts to external relationships, the level of feedback from internal relationships begins to decrease. And attitude is shaped by the feedback received. So naturally, the more outwardly focused the more harshly they judge their own teams -- if the feedback is negative (which it tends to be with IT and any group which has to say "no" or is percieved as an overhead). Accounting suffers the same issues. Nor does the fact that the highest paid have the highest opinion ratings amongst their peers, clients and bosses. That's something that doesn't change from the lowest levels to the highest. What surprises me is that the article didn't indicate that the highest earners are focused external to the company. After all, that's the next step after focusing on other parts of the business. Going back to the original article ... what surprises me is that over 41% of the highest earners time is spent in applying technology to business goals which is a reversal of the trend. (29.6 for mid, 35.4 for low). Not to mention the fact that is the biggest use of their time. Glen Ford http://www.vproz.ca

sissy sue
sissy sue

CIOs who are more interested in playing politics and cultivating the boss earn more money than those who are more interested in managing their teams, cultivating a relationship with their team members, and inspiring them to give their best. Upper management operates on a country-club mentality. You don't get anywhere unless your greatest objective is joining the club. So it's not about how good you are or how productive you are, but how well you play up to your superiors. How well you do your job has little to do with your success. And then we wonder why there are so many businesses that are run so badly.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

You don't break down the silos just because you build a catwalk from the top of one to the top of the other. Those silos never disintegrate, or merge, unless it's pervasive throughout the organization.

Zorched
Zorched

It's not about what you know, but who. People who are buttpreys (think lampreys for the rear ends of higher-ups) are just as good at hiding their inabilities as they are kissing up to their superiors. So, executives are unlikely to see how bad things are until the whole house of cards collapses, taking major parts of the company with it. The only "outward looking" that a CIO needs to do is to look and see what's working for other companies and to implement that if it applies to their own company, or so implement new tech that might work for their company. You really don't need to schmooze with anyone outside the company except for that. All the rest of "looking" better be within their own department and making sure the employees can effectively do their jobs without obstructions. Too bad so few are able to do this and end up spending more time trying to buttprey their CEOs.

mdwalls
mdwalls

Or I'd be giving a definite plus!

mdwalls
mdwalls

... and they are real assets to the organization. Smart managers know they look good only as long as they can deliver -- and other than brown-nosing, that takes the hard work of their staff. But, I've seen too many senior managers who'd gut the teams they are "responsible for" just to satisfy some whim of an executive.

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