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.