IT management: How to maintain your leadership edge

Tips and tricks for getting your objectivity back.

by Amy Bennett - In your first 30 days as CIO you have "acute and objective vision of all that is wrong and can see underlying root causes," says Paul Irvine, Founder of pCapacity LLC. But after 300 days, when you are part of the fabric, it gets tougher to be be objective.

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How do you get back those "first 30 days eyes"?

As someone who recently made a transition from the IT service provider side to the corporate IT side, Ram Ramanathan, Senior Director, IT Governance at Warner Music Group, finds the biggest challenge is finding a balance between acclimatizing to the corporate IT environment and getting institutionalized. Here are his top tips for maintaining your "edge" as an IT leader:

  1. Document your strategic goals, vision and roadmap in those first 30-90 days. It's always a useful document to refer back to and measure yourself.
  2. Build and empower a team that will always keep you honest and give you fresh perspective.
  3. Get constant customer feedback.
  4. Work in a healthy mix of industry events, speaking engagements, and networking so you don't get too sucked into the day-to-day demands.

For Michael Walter, Chief Technology Officer at UT Medicine San Antonio, certification offers a good way to refocus and stay up to date. "Certifying on a product or concept forces you to see its usage as the vendor or standards organization envisioned it semi-ideally and gives you the opportunity to review the enhancements, changes and vision," says Walter. "Take notes while you are certifying on the gaps, opportunities and risks as they apply to your current implementation and then use those notes to revisit. I find this leaves me with a good breadth and depth of knowledge (particularly in the advanced certifications) and benefits my employer with a continuous (and, when necessary, focused) gap analysis."

Warning signs

For Irvine, one of the signs that things were going wrong was when he started getting deliverable items for any given project. "As leaders, we all bring a background expertise, and that means it's very tempting to plug a gap with your own involvement," says Irvine. "And of course the net result is you are 'on the beaches' with your team instead of analyzing why you had the gap, what you should have done (hired, reorganized, rescoped, etc.)." As an IT leader your expertise area is irrelevant, says Irvine, "your job now is to organize and effect accomplishment through others."

Paul Irvine, Ram Ramanathan, and Michael Walter are members of the CIO Forum on LinkedIn.

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