I had the pleasure this week to meet with a CIO at a large financial institution with the sole purpose of asking him for his leadership perspective. We met for 30 minutes that flew by as we greeted each other (we’d never met before), discussed all the people we knew in common and commented that we were “1 degree of separation” from each other many times over, and then discussed the questions on my mind.
Namely, his thoughts on raising the profile of technology teams with the business partners they work with, and how to measure the effectiveness of the actions you take.
He shared many thoughts and illustrated with examples and stories that brought it to life. You can be sure he didn’t say “here are 6 lessons for you”, but I took notes on the key points and it would be harder for me to share the details of the stories. I’ll share these key points with you:
- Technology teams need to create system stability as the foundation. Without this, there is no trust. (So logical and yet many companies don’t get this right.)
- Use business terms instead of focusing on the technical terminology and actions.
- Direct all actions and conversations toward the desired business outcomes.
- Ask for feedback, and sometimes filter it because the feedback isn’t always a priority to chase.
- Do something with the feedback.
- Do a ‘progress feedback’ report back to them on a routine basis. After all, if you asked for the feedback and did something about it, you need to tell people.
My specific questions were answered, but the value I got from this conversation was much greater than that. I came away impressed and inspired by the person and the conversation. I am always inspired by a person who is in a senior role, and dealing with a million priorities on their plate that takes the time to talk to me just because I asked. I gave context on why I wanted to meet, and went into the discussion prepared, and learned a lot. I look forward to another discussion with this person now that we no longer have a degree of separation between us. 🙂
I also came away proud of myself for taking the chance. I asked this virtual stranger for some of his valuable time, and he agreed to meet with me. As a self-proclaimed geek and introvert by nature, this was no easy task for me. I’ll share one last lesson with you that occurred in my life 8 years ago. I was in a similar situation wanting to ask someone someone I didn’t know for their time and advice. I was paralyzed and unable to even pick up the phone. I met someone (initials are HM) who literally changed my life.
I’ll repeat the conversation for you word for word as it stuck in my head that clearly…
- Me: I can’t make the call. I pick up the phone and then place it back down again.
- HM: Why do you think it’s so hard for you?
- Me: I don’t know what will happen. What if the person spits on me and hangs up?
- HM: Does this happen to you often?
- Me: (half laughing) No. I mean… No. It never has happened but you know what I mean.
- HM: No, I don’t know what you mean. But I do know you can do it. Why don’t you try and if anything bad happens, just call me and you can tell me all about it.
I did it. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t easy just because he said I should do it. But I pushed myself. And the person was so nice. And they agreed to meet with me. The conversation with that person wasn’t life changing, but the act of asking for the meeting was. And every time I start to feel those nerves and that paralysis of asking for something I want, I think of HM. And smile as I get a vision of someone spitting on me. How ridiculous was that thought I had?
Girl Geek – I hope nobody ever spits on you. And I hope if you have that moment of paralysis, you find your HM to help you through it. Go Girl Geek! I’m counting on you.