The Art of Communication

If there’s a chance you’ll be moving on to a new CIO position in the future, I recommend that you read this month’s CIO Executive Council Forum (page 38), which provides lots of good advice around what to do in your first 90 days on the job.

Prominent among the suggestions are communications and relationship building, which pretty much go hand in hand.

For as long as I’ve been talking to CIOs – and that’s getting to be a very long time – the subject of communications has come up time and again. No matter what aspect of IT we’re talking about – aligning with the business, implementing projects, keeping IT staff happy and motivated, change management, security, outsourcing, you name it – communications always seems to be a critical component for success.

Savvy CIOs rarely underestimate its importance and take advantage of whatever resources they can bring to bear on improving it, such as in-house communications departments, outside professionals, sympathetic peers, and IT staff with a gift for plain speaking. They take every opportunity to get the word out, through newsletters, corporate Web portals, presentations, awards programs, town hall meetings, open door policies, targeted tutorials – whatever works.

Some CIOs have raised the more subtle forms of communication to a high art: the not so random ‘pop in’ on a line-of-business colleague, the casual lunch with a hidden agenda, the ‘accidental’ encounter with a key stakeholder at the coffee station/fitness club/magazine stand. Such Bondlike ingenuity! We should be thankful you’re all on our side.

Most of the CIOs I’ve come to know over the years have been good personal communicators, at least from a verbal perspective. They know how to say what’s on their mind and they’re usually not shy about saying it.

Some of you are quite good at the written word as well, and probably wouldn’t have much trouble slipping into the editor’s chair at this magazine. But writing isn’t everyone’s forte, and there are also those who flip a mental coin when deciding if it’s ‘there’, ‘their’ or ‘they’re’.

Unfortunately, with the advent of email it’s almost impossible to escape having to write these days. So if you fall into the latter category, I offer three small tips: be concise; make the spell checker and grammar checker your friend; and when it comes to important communications with senior management, find yourself a good editor.

Talk to me [email protected]

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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