What Should You Never Tell the CEO?

Are there words that can get a CIO kicked to the curb? What sort of things could come out of a CIO’s mouth to really disappoint the CEO? Mark Samuels explains for ZDNet what are the right and wrong things to say to the CEO. It is not a matter of telling people what they want to hear; it is a matter of saying the right things for the right reasons.

Watch Your Words

For starters, one thing that may not upset the CEO but might bore him or her is getting too technical in one’s explanation of the technology being used. Most CEOs just want the Reader’s Digest version, so that they can keep broadly abreast of the situation. What CIOs generally want to do is be upbeat but honest in their assessments of IT. However, when things are actually going wrong in IT, sometimes it really does pay to go straight to the top for help. If the CIO really believes the only way to fix a sudden IT problem is for someone to write a fat check, then the CEO is the person to ask, and to ask directly.

Getting back to the heart of the conversation though, Samuels lists five things, derived from CIO Richard Corbridge, that CIOs should never say to the CEO:

  1. “Can you give me some clarity on my role?”
  2. “I can guarantee you that this will never fail.”
  3. “This project is technical, and I don’t need you to be involved.”
  4. “I don’t need to be part of the board.”
  5. “I’m here to make sure IT is up, not to deliver profit or avoid loss.”

It is pretty obvious that CIOs should not say some of these things, (Nobody says they do not need to be part of the board.) but others warrant elaboration. About the first statement, it is explained:

“As a CIO you are a member of the executive of the organisation,” says Corbridge. “Use that role to clarify what is needed from you by the organisation, get closer to the business and then become part of it, rather than waiting for the boss to provide detailed direction.”

Additionally, since the only constant in technology is change, it is unwise to ever promise something cannot fail. Instead, educate the CEO on how and why some things fail, and discuss strategies to mitigate failure when it occurs. If the CIO is an open book, the CEO will be happy to read him or her.

You can read the original article here:


John Friscia

John Friscia was the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success from 2015 through 2018. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and grew in every possible way in his time there. John graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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