Want to build a relationship with your CIO? 5 things you shouldn't do

Don't stand out for the wrong reasons. To showcase your ability to handle responsibility and become a trusted partner to the CIO, avoid these five mistakes
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How you approach your job matters, and CIOs are looking for people who promote a spirit of collaboration and teamwork within IT. Equally important is building a positive reputation within the business as someone who takes a solution-oriented approach.

On the flip side, here are five characteristics that will make you stand out to your CIO – for the wrong reasons.

1. Lacking initiative

CIOs carry a heavy workload leading and supporting a multitude of technology and digital transformation initiatives. We are looking for individuals who are not only extremely dependable but also don’t need to be asked to go above and beyond.

I personally appreciate when an employee knows the right thing to do for the organization or a stakeholder and does it, whether or not it’s part of their formal job description. When I can count on an employee to simply do the right thing and trust they will handle something without me having to get involved, it is a huge help.

[Also read: IT leadership: 3 tips to nurture IT talent.]

Taking initiative also means being willing to go outside your comfort zone. When new opportunities arise to get involved in projects or committees, do you try to slide under the radar, or do you volunteer and step up? A CIO will notice both the individuals who routinely step up and those who never go beyond their main responsibilities.

2. Being a blocker

Increasingly, CIOs are tasked with the adoption and orchestration of many technology platforms that influence digital transformation and enable the business strategy. This adoption involves a delicate balance of ensuring adequate guardrails exist through technology and security governance, while at the same time striving for speed and agility.

When an employee develops a reputation for being a blocker, it starts to create an adversarial relationship between the business and IT. That often leads to shadow IT, in which employees start going around the IT or information security departments to get things done.

Certainly, IT and information security need to have a strong voice in highlighting risks or technical barriers, but it’s equally important that we do our best to be solution-oriented, finding creative ways to make technology work for the business and implementing it securely. When an employee becomes a chronic blocker to business objectives and every issue becomes an immovable object, it undermines the trust and collaboration that the CIO is working to promote with the business.

This is not to suggest that we blindly accept every idea that pops up, but rather that we advocate a partnership mentality.

3. Being complacent

There’s a danger in becoming too comfortable with familiar technology and knowingly or subconsciously becoming change-averse. This mentality can derail innovation and limit our capabilities relative to what other emerging technology or competitors may offer.

I always appreciate when employees have an open mind toward new technology and are willing to experiment. Even if we don’t adopt the new technology, experimentation brings knowledge, and we may end up with even more conviction that our existing technology is the right choice. That’s the worst-case scenario!

The best-case scenario is that we keep challenging ourselves and our partners to do better, and we end up with new or improved technology that solves major pain points, creates a better experience, or automates manual processes that take our time and energy away from more engaging tasks. I certainly appreciate and look for employees who are inclined toward innovating and aren’t overly attached to any one technology.

CIOs are always on the lookout for emerging talent, especially in high-demand areas like cloud, data, and cybersecurity.

4. Underestimating certifications

Professional certifications are an excellent way to stand out from the competition and increase your internal credibility for future promotions. CIOs are always on the lookout for emerging talent, especially in high-demand areas like cloud, data, and cybersecurity.

Occasionally throughout my career, I have interacted with employees who dismiss the value of certifications, perhaps relative to their real-world experience. However, instead of viewing it as an either/or scenario, consider how certification objectives could enhance your knowledge and expand your skillset to complement your experience.

5. Applying band-aids

One of my personal pet peeves is when an employee keeps applying a band-aid to a chronic issue that is causing frustration to our users.

In IT, it’s commonplace to apply temporary fixes and workarounds to help users get up and running as quickly as possible. However, when the underlying root cause goes unresolved and starts to get multiplied across many users, band-aid solutions become a huge detriment to organizational efficiency. User productivity is disrupted, which in turn results in more calls to IT for assistance. This domino effect hurts everyone’s efficiency and also detracts from the user experience with our technology.

Think of it this way: Would you want to bring your car back to the dealer for the same repair over and over? This might help you understand our end users’ frustration when repetitive issues derail their day. As a CIO, I always appreciate when our IT team members go out of their way to permanently resolve issues that have the potential to become chronic headaches for our users.

While talent alone will likely propel some individuals to their target career destination in IT, it is important for everyone in the profession to recognize traits that could hinder your advancement. Avoiding them can make a big difference in helping advance your professional journey.

[Where is your team's digital transformation work stalling? Get the eBook: What's slowing down your Digital Transformation? 8 questions to ask.]

Josh Hamit
Josh Hamit is Senior Vice President and CIO, Information Technology, for Altra Federal Credit Union, a not-for-profit financial cooperative serving nearly 120,000 members across 50 states, with over $2 billion in assets.