Wanted: More 'Soft' SkillsStudy shows many CIOs lack ability to motivate others and build relationships
Edited by Marianne Kolbasuk McGee
Issue date: Dec. 16, 1996
Conventional wisdom says successful CIOs need a mix of technical, business, and people skills. But a study indicates that one-third of CIOs lack solid communicative, motivational, and other so-called soft skills, limiting their effectiveness as corporate leaders.
The findings are part of a 12-year study of leadership traits by Hagberg Consulting Group, a management consulting firm in Foster City, Calif. The ongoing study, which began in 1984, is based on data collected on 2,500 CIOs and other technology managers. The peers, subordinates, and bosses of the executives were asked to assess them in 47 skill and personality-trait categories.
"Many CIOs still move up the ranks based on their technical expertise, but later run into problems such as becoming the scape- goat when projects go wrong," says Richard Hagberg, president of Hagberg Consulting.
When technology initiatives fail to deliver anticipated benefits to users, it may be the result of poor communication between the CIO and others in the company. Part of the problem may be that the CIO lacks the ability to influence and motivate others and to create trusting work environments. The lack of these soft skills is a likely contributor to the high turnover rates in many CIO posts, Hagberg says.
"Many CIOs focus on a vision and managing the execution of a technolo gy plan, but fail in the steps needed in between," such as building alliances with co-workers and working to understand users, Hagberg adds. "When a CIO fails to build these relationships, there is no backlog of loyalty to leverage."
Larry Janis, a consultant at IT executive search firm Integrated Search Solutions Group LLC in Port Washington, N.Y., says his clients seek CIO candidates who have technical and people skills. But soft skills are more important in some industries than in others, he says.
"Certain industries, such as financial services, are very technically astute, yet are very aware of the need for good personal and business skills in the CIO position," he says. "That's because business groups within financial services companies allow IT to play a bigger role due to competitive necessity." In those situations, the CIO often reports directly to the CEO.
While training can help CIOs develop soft skills, Jeff Bruckner, partner in IT management consulting firm Business and Informat ion Technology Group LLC in Montvale, N.J., maintains that the knack for good management is inborn.
"Some people have it, and some people don't," he says. "For most, it's a God-given talent."
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