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Five things you should always tell your boss

Here's the information he's relying on you to provide.

By Mary K. Pratt
June 20, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - As an IT professional, you know the basic rules of office politics, the simple do's and don'ts that govern life at work. Adhering to these standards -- the ones that tell you to be proactive and a team player -- will help you keep your job. If you really want to advance, though, you need to know which types of information your boss relies on you to provide.

We asked a group of Computerworld's 2008 Premier 100 IT Leaders to talk about the kinds of messages they need to hear loud and clear from their staffers. Here's what they said you should always tell your boss.

1. The real story. "Sugarcoating problems, holding back information, overpromising and consistently underdelivering are all reasons why IT has a bad reputation. We do this so well, we don't even realize there is a problem," says Robert Strickland, senior vice president and CIO of T-Mobile USA Inc. in Bellevue, Wash. "To lead effectively, I need the complete picture, as do our customers and our suppliers. When information is withheld, you are protecting no one."

Neal Puff, CIO for Arizona's Yuma County, agrees, but with the caveat that this not a license to vent. "People sometimes confuse the truth with their opinion," he says.

2. Your ideas. "Bring me ideas to improve the business, even if they're outside of IT," says Kumud Kalia, CIO and executive vice president of customer operations for Toronto-based Direct Energy, an integrated energy company and part of Centrica PLC. Sounds simple enough, but Kalia says workers are often reluctant to do this, thinking they have to go through established chains of command. But that's not necessarily the case. Bringing ideas straight to the top can help get initiatives going. "I can help get things launched and broker the appropriate conversations," Kalia says.

3. What you want. Ted Maulucci, CIO at Tridel Corp., a condominium developer in Toronto, tries to shift his workers into the jobs that they enjoy most. It helps with employee retention, office morale and productivity. He points to one employee who loves working on hardware so much, he'll come in at 3 a.m. to tackle a new project.

That's why Maulucci wants to hear what his staff members want from their jobs and for their futures.

4. No. It takes courage to tell the boss that you don't agree, but it's better for all involved when you say no to suggested projects, timelines, budgets or technologies that just aren't going to work, says Michael F. Williams, executive director of IT for the Immune Tolerance Network of the Diabetes Center at the University of California, San Francisco, and CIO for the Department of Neurology's Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project.

But saying no to ill-conceived ideas isn't the same as obstructing an entire project. "After you say no, don't make it impossible," Williams says. "You have to provide various alternatives and let me know the pros and cons."

5. Your successes. No one wants to spend each day hearing only about project setbacks, failed servers and unexpected downtime. Good news is welcome too. Yet IT workers seem reluctant to promote the positive, Kalia says. "The thought process doesn't take place in their heads, or maybe they think that what they're doing isn't that special," he says.

Whatever the cause of such reticence, Kalia says IT pros should change their mind-sets. He wants to hear about accomplishments so he can recognize them and offer pointers to do even better next time.

"But it's not only about learning what you've done so we can apply best practices," he adds. "It's about celebrating success so everyone can share in that."

NEXT: Five things you should never tell your boss

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

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