Realize that of all the professional relationships that can make or break your business, your relationship with your IT support staff is one of the most critical. In fact, it’s just as critical as is your relationship with your CPA, your banker, and even your attorney. When your IT staff feels supported and acknowledged, and when they’re armed with the proper technology, they can single-handedly keep your company from losing data, losing work time, and losing customer confidence.
Many CEOs believe their IT staff is intimidated by them. In reality, it’s simply that the IT professionals don’t know how to sell an executive on what needs to get done. Think of the typical IT professional as the antithesis of your star salesperson. Your star salesperson knows the art of persuasion and how to make something important and meaningful to the listener.
Conversely, your typical IT professional can’t always put into words why the new technology the company needs is important, even though it is very important. Rather than focus on the bottom line benefit the new technology will give the company, the IT professional drones on about its cool features. And what do you do as the CEO? Most likely, your eyes glaze over and your mind drifts to some other topic.
So what’s a CEO to do? Here are some suggestions to help you develop the relationship with your IT team and get them on the same page as you.
* Send your IT professionals to some communication training. I do a three-hour presentation about what the IT professionals wish the executives knew, and what the executives wish the IT professionals knew. It’s a real eye-opener for both IT professionals and the executives they work with. You can get more information at www.fosterinstitute.com. There is also an expanded workshop for IT professionals that shows them project management skills as well as many other skills at www.supertechevent.com.
* When you’re talking with your IT professional and she drones on about the features of a new item, ask her point blank, “What is the ultimate benefit of this technology for the company?” Get your IT professionals in the habit of thinking in this manner. Remind your IT staff not to try to impress you with big words and acronyms but instead focus on the bottom line result.
* Send your IT professionals to project management training of some kind. Often IT professionals have little formal project management training.
* Provide your IT professionals with some authority, but not too much. If the IT professional needs to tell someone, “I will fix your printer in a little while because the network server is about to crash,” then the IT professional needs the authority to make that decision without being reprimanded later.
* Hold the IT professionals responsible for their actions and provide measurements so that they can see how effective they are at their jobs. Some companies choose to measure down-time, help desk requests, or other values that are easy to track.
* When hiring your next IT professional, seriously consider the person’s people skills as well as technical aptitude. If his people skills are lacking, he won’t change until he reaches a hurt level in his life that is so bad that he decides to change.
As the CEO, it’s your job to initiate open dialogue with everyone on your team, including your IT team. If you don’t, you’ll end up in a situation where your IT professionals will believe they can’t come to you with issues that affect the company, and you’ll never know where your company’s weaknesses are until it’s too late.
What are your thoughts on this topic?