Most C-level executives have ambition — otherwise they wouldn’t be at the top. But it sometimes seems that after struggling so long to get there CIOs don’t stay very long in one firm.

This may be for career reasons: Moving to a bigger, better paying company is always a goal. On the other hand, some argue that North American organizations change CIOs more often than is healthy.

As an article in Computerworld U.S. notes, a survey last fall of 484 CIOs and IT executives by the Society for Information Management found that the average CIO tenure was 5.2 years in 2013, down from 5.96 in 2012. A trend? Perhaps, although in 2011 the average CIO had spent 4.45 years in a posting.

Given the (traditional) rapid change in technology, high CIO turn over may not be a bad thing. On the other hand, one might argue that the most expensive place for an organization to change is in the data centre. If a CIO’s longer stay is beneficial for the health of an organization’s IT department, what does it take to keep up?

Computerworld talked to a number of long-time CIOs who offer solid advice, including getting to know what’s important to business users.

One also said that having curiosity is an essential trait. “You can’t tell me someone knows everything about their job,” said Brian Shipman, CIO of an auction company. “If I can ask questions, and ask how I can help and learn, inevitably something rises to the top.” A university CIO said it was important to get out of his office.

There doesn’t have to be a Macheavellian strategy to staying in your job. Doing what’s needed to keep users satisfied is the bottom line. As one person interviewed said, he used to be when he first arrived at an organization, people said “this is a business meeting, why is the IT guy here.” Now they say ‘this is a business meeting; where’s the IT guy?”