Surviving CIO Regime Change

The average CIO stays on the job around four years. So chances are you'll live through at least one changeover. Here's how to make sure it doesn't derail your career.

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It's likely that the CIO is facing pressure to cut IT costs, Watson points out, so you're better off looking for creative ways to reduce your expenses. "That's a mindset that rising stars ought to have," he says.

Misstep 3: Offering Too Much Information

Unless a new CIO was promoted from within your organization, he or she will know little about your IT projects or teams. So you'll need to provide a report about your duties -- and that's where many IT managers go into overdrive.

"Everyone else will snow the new CIO with 20-to-30-slide presentations and organizational charts, trying to justify their existence," McDonald says. "But if you lay out a lot of slides, that makes you seem big, which equals expensive." He recommends a briefing that's no more than 10 minutes long. "CIOs appreciate anyone who recognizes that they don't have a lot of time," he says.

Another good approach is to ask the CIO what information is wanted, and in what form. "You can say, 'Please explain to me what your communication style is, and here's what mine is,'" says Ken Maddock, vice president of clinical engineering and telecommunications services at Baylor Health Care System.

At the same time, be sure to let the new CIO know about any obstacles you're facing. "People have a tendency to try to hide problems," Maddock says. "They think they have time before the new CIO learns that something is going on, and that they can get it fixed. Then, when it does come up, it looks even worse."

Being very open about problems is the strategy Maddock pursued when a new CIO arrived at Baylor. The department had faced some uncertainty and had suffered some staff reductions, and many of his co-workers either laid low or planned their departures. But Maddock's policy of honesty paid off. He was previously director of biomedical engineering but was brought into a departmental leadership council and was eventually promoted to his current position by the new CIO.

Misstep 4: Trying to Be Inconspicuous

Many employees believe that the safest course is a wait-and-see approach, keeping a low profile until they can get a feel for how the new boss works. While this may seem logical, it can be bad for your career.

"There are two dangers to laying low," says Larry Bonfante, CIO at the United States Tennis Association. "First, if you're one of the nameless, faceless masses, it's easier to think of you as expendable. Second, if I'm in that position, I'd rather know sooner than later where I stand, and whether I'm going to be part of the solution here or need to go on to a new opportunity."

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