Davis knows that his boss, Bowdoin President Barry Mills is an ENTJ, according to the Myers Briggs personality type index, which means that Mills is quick to grasp complexities, absorb large quantities of information and make decisions. Thus, Davis knows to be succinct with his explanation of projects he thinks the college should pursue. He also knows to address Mills' specific concerns about IT, which are, what effect will the project have on people; will it enable the college to move faster; and will it enable the college to make more money.
Rosenthal, the communication consultant, says he once worked for a boss who said no to everything. The boss, it turned out, said no to filter people who weren't serious about their ideas or requests. "I realized over time that to be persuasive, I had to accept two no's to get an audience," says Rosenthal.
3. Speak in business terms. Nick Goss, CEO and managing consultant of Polardene, says the arguments he's observed between CIOs and CEOs and that he's had as a former CIO and CTO stem from a failure to speak the CEO's language.
"If you're couching any IT expenditure or effort in non-business terms, two things are going to happen," says Goss. "One is, you're not going to be understood. Second, you're not going to be relevant to the CEO's agenda because CEOs are worried about growing top line revenue, expanding into new markets, increasing the stock price, reducing operational risk and improving the public perception of the company. When you're talking to them, you have to couch your objectives in terms of their objectives."
For example, if you're making a case for a bigger IT budget, Goss recommends breaking your various IT costs down according to the business activities they support. "Typically, an IT budget is couched in terms of IT silos: The data center costs this many millions of dollars. Application development costs this many. Staff development that many. Maintenance costs that many, etc.," says Goss.
Instead, show what percent or amount of data center costs support a particular business activity or outcome. Do the same for the other elements of the IT budget, such as maintenance and application development. Goss knows this is difficult but he says activity-based budgeting will prove to the CEO that IT is not simply a cost center.
4. Be brief. Ouellette & Associates' Wentworth says one of the mistakes CIOs make when trying to persuade the CEO is being long-winded. "CIOs don't get to the point," she says. "They go on and on, and CEOs don't have the time to listen to them."