The CIO as a communicator: "If communication were to break down, it would be detrimental to the smooth functioning of the organization and to team morale"
The CIO of tomorrow excels in communication in every way. Being able to move and communicate smoothly between business and technology is key within progressive organizations. Steve Decroubele, CIO at Galloo, one of the leading recycling companies of ferrous and non-ferrous metals in Western Europe, confirms this. He explains why a good communication plan is essential for CIOs.
It's no secret that IT plays an increasingly prominent role in progressive companies like Galloo. CIO Steve Decroubele has been working at Galloo since 2018 and has seen the IT department gradually move from the back office to the front office. This migration did not happen overnight and still requires effort today, especially in terms of communication. "There are immense synergies within IT. To achieve this, a lot of consultation is needed. The entire organization must be and remain informed so that there is a positive vibe," he explains.
Communication is something you have to learn. How did you as a CIO search for a communication approach?
"With trial and error (laughs). A good way of communicating requires a personal approach, so I mainly searched for it independently. Especially when you have to communicate with your team, you want to be able to put your own spin on it and make sure that what you're saying is clear to everyone. Initially, it's a matter of trial and error, but I learned over time how to perfectly tailor what I say to my team. I also took a few lessons with a voice coach so that I learned to speak in front of a large group. I also joined various networks where a particular topic is discussed. This way, you build up knowledge about the role of IT within an organization, and you also learn from others how they deal with communication."
What is the importance of good communication?
"IT is deeply embedded in every department within an organization. Without IT, certain things would fail, but that is sometimes forgotten. That's why it's important to keep every department informed of ongoing projects. By making that effort, you encounter fewer questions or resistance during project rollouts. Broad communication may seem very time-consuming at the time, but on the other hand, it saves a lot of time afterwards. If that communication were to disappear, it would be disastrous for the organization's smooth operation and team spirit, and the recognition of the IT team's work would also be lost."
If communication were to fall away, it would be detrimental to the proper functioning within the organization and to the team spirit, as the recognition of the work of the IT team would also be lost.Steve Decroubele, CIO of Galloo Recycling
You come into contact with different profiles (IT specialists, customers, partners, etc.). Is your tone of voice unique for each of them?
"I wouldn't say unique, rather different. That is actually logical: when you have a consultation with a customer, you are in a completely different setting than when you communicate with your team, so you naturally adjust your way of communicating. In the first case, you have to be able to engage in dialogue, while within the organization itself, it is mainly important to be able to provide good information."
What does your tone of voice look like within the organization?
"I try to communicate as accessibly as possible. For example, I schedule a meeting with the entire organization every month, during which the IT team explains the progress, positive and negative points, and conclusions. Granted, it is not easy to translate that technically charged information into a universal language that everyone understands, which is why as a CIO, you should work as visually as possible. Experience has taught us that pictures and colors stick in people's minds much longer than a heavy explanation."
What do you do in case of miscommunication?
"Communicating is not just about telling, but also about listening. By listening carefully to questions, you avoid miscommunication and use a personal approach. This is appreciated. In addition, miscommunication is often a panic reaction. When your team or the organization is overwhelmed by a lot of and/or difficult information, you run the risk of them panicking. I try to avoid this by communicating in different phases, which are part of the communication plan for a particular project."
Do you emphasize good communication within your team?
"Absolutely. It is both the formal and informal communication within a team that can increase efficiency. Keeping others informed, passing on information quickly, informing each other, asking questions... That is pure profit that can be made within the team. Especially in the current landscape where you cannot expand your team as quickly as you would like, that is a great added value."
It is both the formal and informal communication within a team that can increase efficiency.Steve Decroubele, CIO of Galloo Recycling
How do you try to keep up with everything as the IT dictionary continues to grow every day?
"For a CIO, it's not a matter of trying, but of necessity. You don't necessarily have to know everything in detail, but I think it's important to at least keep up with the major trends. I do that by attending events and roundtable discussions, engaging in discussions, and listening to what other organizations are doing. That's also an important part of the communication aspect."
Do you experience communication pitfalls as a CIO in 2023?
"I personally don't always find it easy to prioritize communication. As a CIO, you have many different tasks and priorities, so communication can sometimes fade into the background. It is essential for a CIO to be mindful of this pitfall and put communication on the agenda. If you don't, you risk neglecting it without even realizing it."
Looking to the future, do you have any tips for the CIO of tomorrow?
"Listen a lot, especially if you are new to an organization. You come with a certain baggage, knowledge, and perspective into the company, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't listen to what's going on in the organization, where the priorities lie, what employees are struggling with, and which direction the company wants to go. As a CIO, it's then your job to roll out the right projects based on those answers and ensure that what the IT team does provides added value. Personally, I think that's also one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job: you can create an interaction that goes beyond technology.
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