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CIOs Share the Best Advice They were Ever Given

What’s the most useful advice you’ve even been given in your career? A CIO must absorb no small degree of experience in order to effectively lead the IT function of an organization. Mark Samuels interviews four CIOs to discover and share the most eye-opening pearls of wisdom they ever heard in an article for ZDNet.

Admit Defeat

For Right Group IT director Sean Harley, the most important aspect of being a CIO is delivery. Harley received advice from a former boss to “admit defeat” and move on. This advice has kept Harley on track, keeping customers and board members happy rather than defending one’s pride by “holding onto” mistakes:

“Say ‘sorry’, move on, and deliver something that’s better for the business. It’s better to admit defeat than to have hundreds of unhappy and unproductive users. Be prepared to change and deliver quickly what the business needs.”

Keep an Emotional Distance

Emotional involvement in one’s work can be a great motivator, but it can also cause problems when we’re under pressure. That’s what legal firm director Bruna Pellici learned from a helpful colleague. The ability to set one’s emotions aside, to take a deep breath and question your gut reaction, that is invaluable when dealing with associates and customers.

You Own the Business Outcome

The IT leader and consultant Alistair Behenna received the advice that, when faced with any colleague who “must have an immediate answer to a funding question, then the default will always be ‘no’.” This simple advice came from a financially-focused CEO and turned out to be widely applicable for Behanna who, in a chaotic business environment, maintains a clear vision of the future and anticipates the challenge of managing complexity on a daily basis.

Understand the Operating Model

Former CIO Ian Cox credits his best advice with a financial director who taught him how important it is to learn the mechanics of business. Though this advice was indirect, Cox maintains that a firm understanding of the business’s operating model is essential to the CIO position. How else does one manage at the executive level?

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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