It’s exciting when you start a new job, once you’ve had the interview you may have to have a national police check, and subject to that, you might be offered the role which feels like you’re starting a whole new chapter of your life. But then there is nothing worse than seeing the signs your new CIO job may be a disaster, especially if you realize it within the first few days of starting. If you have made big changes to your life to get this job then it can be gutting, all that effort you put into selling your house, relocating and choosing a moving company feel like it was all for nothing. The job of a CIO is tough enough without having to deal with showing up for your new CIO job full of raw excitement in your new suit only to find you have a knot in your stomach as you begin to see the signs taking this new job was probably a mistake.
Starting Your New CIO Job
There are two things that bring this to mind for me. First, two announcements about CIO’s leaving their jobs caught my eye this week that you may have also read:
- CIO of Cornell’s $4.4 billion endowment, Michael Abbott, has suddenly resigned from his post over “inconsistent” business styles
- Sally Jackson, CIO of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign resigned her post over a change in her reporting to the state system rather than her campus provost.
Second, I am currently offering some support to a new Director of IT who is starting a new job as the senior IT role at what is his first college. All of which made me think of the:
5 Signs Your New CIO Job May Be A Disaster
#1 There is no definition for success
I placed this one first because it is perhaps the most troublesome warning sign. Consider the institution has just completed a relationship with the previous CIO, gone through an extensive interviewing process and selected you, all without having a clear idea of what they believe makes for a successful CIO or which candidate to select. If you see this sign, focus your 90 Day Plan on determining what success would mean near term and farther out. For you and for your role because they may be different.
#2 You don’t have a 90 Day Plan, not even a 60 day plan
Shame on you. And shame on your new boss if they don’t have one either. No worries, it is never to late to address this by using the example provided in the next post or pulling one from any number of online resource sites. You must have a plan if you are to succeed. Having a plan gives you structure when everyone else is winging it for your on-boarding. Most important, it ensures you make the right impressions day one.
#3 Your boss hasn’t set aside time for a strong start
I don’t care how much experience you have at executive levels, it is imperative you and your new boss establish a good rapport right from the start. You will have lots of questions some that will not be comfortable for the boss to answer or you to ask, so getting comfortable with each other early on is essential. It is also essential that your boss help you understand the organizational context in the early days to help you get the most out of your Phase 1 activities in your 90 Day Plan.
#4 There is no formal on-boarding process
Filling out your HR forms, reading the employee handbook, and getting walked around for introductions with people who don’t appreciate the interruption doesn’t count as on-boarding. If your boss doesn’t think enough of making a good first impression by being prepared for the first day of your new job that is a big red flag. Some informality is nice and you do need to know where the restroom and coffee pot are located. If you find yourself faced with an unstructured on-boarding, you will be glad you have your 90 Day Plan to guide yourself. All you need is an organization chart to set up your meetings and maybe a floor plan.
#5 Your office, phone, computer, UID, and email are not ready
This is one of the most unforgivable sins for welcoming new employees no matter what level they at in the organization. As CIO this should be a wake-up call to what every new hire and student’s first impression is of your department? Since I am a firm believer in eating my own dog food, I am almost always the user with the highest call volumes to the help desk in my organizations. If you have issues, don’t bug your direct reports, start your Phase 1 assessment by calling your help desk just like your customers have to.
Surviving Your New CIO Job
It sounds elementary to point out that every new CIO job has its bumps in the first 90 days or so. But, few people understand how critical a good start is to long term retention of top talent. Most employees that leave within two years make that decision within the first few days of their new job largely because of the on-boarding process of lack thereof. Given the tough economic and labor market conditions employers need every edge in attracting and retaining top talent.
So now what do you do if you didn’t listen to your gut when the warning signs were popping up in your hiring process? Maybe there is a chance you can get the old job back even though many experts advise against it? If you’re like most of us, the only real choice is to find a way to salvage a year or two and move on?
But there are some signs of trouble that may not be worth trying to overcome. And, sticking out a bad situation isn’t always wise either. Your best safeguard is to have a 90 Day Plan ready to go on day one. As a CIO and executive, this should be automatic. But starting new jobs with new institutions isn’t something most people do very often so I have included a sample 90 Day Plan with supporting materials in my next post to help you with your new job or with on-boarding someone to your team.
PS – HR departments should never be afraid of a little quality control for on-boarding or reaching out for some outside support to help new hires hit the ground running.