Leading by saying No - The New CIO Series

Yes, no, maybe.The New CIO is a weekly article about the challenges facing today’s CIO as well as what can be done to prepare for future challenges.

So you want to be a leader?  Great..hope you get there.  Will you be willing to do those difficult jobs a leader has to do? Will you be willing to say no?

When I talk about ‘difficult jobs’, I don’t mean the tough projects or difficult work…I mean the really hard tasks a leader has to undertake.  Things like saying no.  Giving feedback (the bad and the good).  Making decisions to cut budgets and staff.

Anyone can lead during the good times when you’re growing and able to say ‘yes’ all the time.  You remember those times when budgets weren’t so tights and your staffing levels were full?  They were good times weren’t they?  It was fun being a leader then wasn’t it?

Well….actually…it should be fun today too…but remember that you’ve got to take the good with the bad.  It might’ve been fun leading IT in the good days…but if it was all fun, you were doing it wrong.

The New CIO has to be able to lead during good times and bad.  The New CIO has to do the fun stuff and the not-so-fun stuff.  You’ve got to make those difficult decisions that make other people unhappy.

One of the most difficult things to do as a leader is to say no but it’s something you’ve got to do.  You can’t say yes to everyone and/or everything.  If you do, you’ll get a team and organization standing around wondering where they’re headed and why.

Saying No

Saying “no” is a powerful thing. No can mean rejection, disappointment, being wrong, being right and a whole host of things.  The one thing it doesn’t mean is ‘yes’….well…unless you or the person saying ‘no’ is a psychopath.

Even though ‘no’ can be a horrible thing to hear, it’s a word that must be used in order to lead.  It’s a necessary word for The New CIO. You’ve got to say no to those ‘cool’ projects.  You’ve got to say no to new staff.  Sometimes you’ve even got to say no to budgets.

Even more importantly, you’ve got to be able to say no to the organization.  This might just be the toughest thing of all You’ve got to say no in such a way as to help the organization understand your declination.

The New CIO has to help the organization understand what can and can’t be done.  We can’t do everything and can’t please everyone in this age of smaller budgets and staff.  Some things have to be passed over and The New CIO has to help the organization understand which technology projects should be undertaken and why.

Saying No is important for another reason.  Your staff needs to understand that you’re their leader and can make a decision. Saying yes to everything doesn’t engender respect for very long.  Your staff also needs to know that you’ve got a plan and can think strategically….you aren’t strategic or planning if you’re saying ‘yes’ to everything.

Saying no is hard…but necessary. Saying no helps the IT team understand where they are headed and it helps people understand priorities.

Saying no and making other difficult choices keeps your IT staff (and organization) from standing around wondering what they should be working on and where they are headed.

Stepping into any leadership role (IT related or not) requires hard work and difficult decisions. You won’t (and can’t) make everyone happy so don’t even try.  Make the decisions that are best for your team and organization…they might be tough decisions but you’ve got to make them.

The New CIO has to be willing to make those tough choices and to make those tough choices, you’ve got to say no.

Join me next week for another article in The New CIO series.

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