For CIO headhunters, exposure to boards is often limited to a distress purchase of a new CIO. Perhaps something along the lines: “this one is broken, can we have another one, please?” It can be rather depressing, taking a briefing from an organisation which clearly sees the CIO as an extra role on the Exec rather than being fundamental to the effective working of the top team. When the briefings are challenging and, dare I hope, inspiring, our hearts soar; for here is a client the very best candidates will be queuing to join. I remind them, recruitment is a two-way sell.
When candidates aren’t overwhelmed by the quality and dynamism of the briefings they receive when meeting some clients, I gently remind them that this could well be due to the fact that few boards are exposed to CIOs other than the one they’ve already got. If s/he is a “safe-pair-of hands”, why would they expect more or even know they exist? You are suffering from stereotyping following decades of uninspiring, technical geeks and don’t pretend you’re outraged because we have all met them.
The very best CIO headhunters seek to educate boards as to what good looks like but the fear of technology and the low level of expectations can be deep rooted. We can tell them that great CIOs are highly commercial, with outstanding leadership skills, experts at building partnerships which deliver the goods, and sophisticated stakeholder managers who are also full of deep customer insight (and we do). Until they meet them (even better, work with them) they will still look at me sceptically.
If you are now wondering whether your own board sees you as true peer, a world-class business executive, I urge you to start by reading your own CV. This should be, after all, a mirror image of you, since it is your own description of you. Can you see the positive traits I describe above? Do you describe how you and your team have helped reshape your company or even better, your industry? Or just your own IT team? Have you measured the benefits of the projects you have delivered in terms of the impact on your company’s customers and thus the bottom line or focus purely on cost reduction? Do you come across as having mainly an internal or external focus? Does it portray you as a delivery guy or a thought leader?
The digital economy provides all CIOs with a window of opportunity. Now is the time for you capitalise on the opportunity to become that pivotal member of the Exec, the first to be consulted on strategic transformation; one of the inner sanctum. Which brings me to my final observation which is about bravery. The new worlds opened up by disruptive technologies bring new opportunities. Be brave, look for the gaps and ask to broaden your role. What’s it to be? GBS? Logistics? Process reengineering?
After all, he who dares, wins.