Avoid Costly Career Mistakes

Reading about the errors made by technology leaders can be as valuable as all those articles on how to succeed. The key is to learn from the unfortunate missteps of those that came before you – so you don’t repeat them. No matter how many things you do well, making one or two critical mistakes can derail your career, and the missteps of CIOs, as described by Linda Tucci in her article on Search CIO.com, aren’t the exclusive domain of executives. Any techie can damage his or her career by committing one of these blunders.

  • CIO management mistake No. 1: Failing to generate any immediate gratification. CIOs who fail to offer any quick results and instead tip the balance too far in the direction of long-term change can run into trouble.
  • CIO management mistake No. 2: Failing to react quickly enough to a market, especially at moments of change – such as now. As the economy starts to shift from cost reduction to growth mode, CIOs need to be ready to respond.
  • CIO management mistake No. 3: Failing to speak enthusiastically. CIOs must be salesmen, and salesmen know how to sell their ideas.
  • CIO management mistake No. 4: Failing to keep an open mind. Although CIOs are hired based on their extensive experience, it can be dangerous to make assumptions based too closely on what has worked for you before.
  • CIO management mistake No. 5: Conveying an arrogance and an inability to listen to what the business problems really are.
  • CIO management mistake No. 6: Failing to build accountability into the IT organization. CIOs who act as if IT can set and follow its own rules have another thing coming.
  • CIO management mistake No. 7: Noisily trumpeting your need for business approval, in the manner of an insistent toddler. Yes, it may be true that IT gets no respect (yet) – but again, it’s about delivery.
  • CIO management mistake No. 8: Losing sight of the big picture. It’s easy, of course, to get mired in the details: the technology itself, the processes, the resources.

I’ve seen many CIOs who thought they were doing a great job, when in fact, they were really out of step with expectations of the enterprise, and they were shocked to find they were held accountable for something that ultimately didn’t line up with what they were supposed to do.

You can learn valuable lessons by observing senior leaders; so be sure to note their good and bad moves when navigating your own career.

Leslie Stevens-Huffman