Being a CIO is not just about information technology—IT is a service. The real job of a CIO is truly understanding the IT needs of their customers (those who actually carry out the mission of the organization) and leading the IT people to fulfill those needs.
In essence, the CIO leads his IT staff to deliver on the mission needs of the organization. So being the CIO is far from being just a technical job; it is very much a people job.
To deliver IT then, the CIO must understand how to effectively lead and motivate his people.
There is a terrific book on this subject called “What People Want” by Terry Bacon that identifies 7 primary needs of people in work relationships and particularly how an effective leader can fulfill those needs and in so doing build a high performing workforce.
Here are the primary people needs in relationships:
TRUST—“the most fundamental relationship need. Without trust, there will not be much of a basis for a relationship at all.”
CHALLENGE/GROWTH—“with rare exception, people are not content in trivial, boring, or stagnant jobs…they need to feel that their work is challenging and that they are developing their skills, capabilities, and possibilities.”
SELF-ESTEEM—"appearance, intelligence, talents, autonomy, integrity, awards, titles, positions, job responsibilities, memberships in special groups, acceptance or recognition.”
COMPETENCE—“people want to be expert at something.”
APPRECIATED—“feel pride in who they are and be genuinely accepted for what they contribute.”
EXCITED—“people want to be energized and enthused…it’s more fun than the alternative.”
RELEVANT—“contributing to something they believe in.”
You’ll notice that monetary compensation and benefits are not mentioned here, because that’s not what this is about. Yes, we all need to be able to pay our bills at the end of the month, but beyond that we have basic human needs (trust, challenge, self-esteem…) that are fundamental to people being effective on the job through their interactions with others.
And indeed, every leader can become a better, more effective leader by understanding these relationship needs and developing their abilities to genuinely help people feel fulfilled on these.
For the CIO, I think it is very easy—too much so—to focus on technology. The field is technically intriguing, quickly changing, futuristic, and fundamental to mission. Intentionally or not, the CIO can easily overlook the people that are behind the technical solutions—those that he/she depends on to really tech-enable the organization (it’s not the systems, stupid).
CIOs, take care of your hard-working and talented people—develop their trust, provide challenging work, grow their self-esteem, help them to mature their competences, appreciate them, inspire and excite, and show them they are contributing to something important. And you and they will be more than the sum of the parts and deliver IT solutions to the organization that will truly amaze!