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Listening - The First Step of Many

When I was asked by EDUCAUSE to write a blog about the experiences of a first-time CIO, I was concerned that I wouldn't have enough to write about that would be of interest to the EDUCAUSE community. It then occurred to me that I'd like to approach this the way I approach many situations like this - ask and listen!

What would you like to see me write about in future blog posts? Please suggest topics that you'd like to see covered in the areas of being a first-time CIO and/or how to prepare to get a first CIO job in higher education using the "Post a Comment" button at the end of this post.
If I don't feel that I can adequately address a topic, I'll see if I can find guest bloggers to help. For example, I've already asked two executive search consultants if they'd be interested in writing on the topic of "becoming a CIO" from their perspective of recruiting individuals to fill CIO positions in higher education.
Speaking of listening...
I started my current position at the University of Oregon last September. A question I've been asked by CIOs who are even newer to the position is what I did in my first few months on the job to orient myself to campus and the new role. Among the many activities I've participated in during my first several months, I feel that two stand out as particularly important.
In my first month, I met individually with each staff member in the central IT organization. Although I provided a little general guidance on the purpose of the meetings ahead of time, I intentionally kept the topic open, preferring instead to let individuals choose to let the conversation go where they wanted. I really appreciate the time that each one of our staff took to meet with me, and how open people were with their ideas, thoughts and opinions. It was really valuable to me to be able to meet each person face-to-face and have time to listen and chat.
The second activity that was valuable was a three-month technology "Listening Tour" ( in partnership with colleagues in the University of Oregon Libraries. We visited as many stakeholder groups on campus that we could in three months (and would host us!) to listen and gather information about what they're trying to accomplish. This will help us "connect the dots" to identify how technology can help campus reach its goals. We still have work to do to document a more granular summary of the tour results with recommendations for priorities and directions. In the meantime, a high-level summary is available as a set of word clouds to show what themes dominated in responses to our questions ( There has been a lot of positive feedback on the tour, particularly in the context of how people appreciated that we took time to listen.
So if someone asked me for the three most important things to do when starting the CIO role, my answer would be:
  1. Listen
  2. Listen
  3. Listen
Listening will provide a firm foundation onto which everything else you want to accomplish can be built. You'll have a better understanding of what your campus' goals are, and you'll also have started to build buy-in with your stakeholders by taking the time to hear what they have to say.
I'm looking forward to "listening" to your suggestions for future blog post topics!


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Thanks Melissa.  Good words of advice.

Regarding listening... readers may enjoy this piece in McKinsey Quarterly:

The Executive's Guide to Better Listening

It was written by Bernard Ferrari in advance of his book "Power Listening" (  Incidentally, Dr. Ferrarri is now the Dean of the Carey Business School here at Johns Hopkins.


Geof, that's a great article on listening and its importance for executives. Thanks so much for posting it!