CIO Leadership

What You Must Undo To Do Better

Big deals like attraction, retention and engagement, as well as succession, success and sustainability, all hinge on two letters: D and O. What we must undo and really do.

Scott Smeester


May 23, 2024

Photo credit:
Melissa Askew

This week, Tom Quinn posted a question on LinkedIn: “Can insurance be cool?” Then he wrote:

“I told my kids I was meeting a fellow technology leader for dinner. He works in a different industry than I do. My kids’ response was, “Oh, that’s the guy with the cool job!”

He then asked this question: “How do we make our industry more attractive to younger people?’

I love Tom’s honesty, and I love his question even more.

Because It Goes Even Deeper Than That

When was the last time someone asked you, “What do you do?” You likely told them you were a CIO for such and such a company.

People respond with titles or roles - police officer, counselor, circus clown - when asked about their work.

But that’s not really what you do, is it?

Try to answer the question again. This time, think about the personal difference you make in the lives of people who benefit from your work.

Go ahead, take a minute.

Tom works in the insurance industry. Only he can answer for himself, but here are a few things he does:

“I save people who face an unexpected crisis.”

“I help people sleep at night.”

“I alleviate the fear that comes when your worst fear comes true.”

“I give people what they need to rebuild from a hard loss.”

What do you feel when you read those? I’m proud of Tom, that’s how I feel.

For fun, let’s expand it. Tom works in technology for the benefit of insurance agents. He could also say, “I give people cool technology so that they can build the career of their dreams.”

What will Tom’s kids feel about him now?

I Will Take Noble Purpose Over Grand Title

Lisa McLeod is the author of Selling With Noble Purpose, and Leading With Noble Purpose. 

Noble Purpose is a great phrase.

Summer camps are coming upon us. One day, when my children were in camp, I visited. I saw a friend of mine there leading some kids in an activity. He was a university president. I asked him what he was doing. He didn’t say, “I’m volunteering as a camp counselor. He said, “I’m building future leaders.”

Let’s undo our tendency to talk about our titles and roles. 

Let’s connect with people, and motivate people, and cause people to think, and attract people, and retain people by talking about what we really do. 

I used to want the people at my funeral to be as many as possible who admired me from afar. How ridiculous is that? Now, at my funeral, I want those there for whom I brought out the best.

Because that’s what I do for people and organizations and my family and my friends.

The Questions Worth Answering

Lisa asks three questions. 

How do you make a difference? Go beyond simple things like “make processes faster.” Think deeply about the larger implications. How you contribute.

How do you do it differently than your competition? Are you more fun? Do you provide greater expertise? Name the tangible and intangible ways you stand out.

On your best day, what do you love about your job? 

The other day I looked a young leader in the eye and I said to her, “You have a voice worth hearing.” It was a tender moment that touched her, the tears pooling in her eyes evidence enough that she needed to hear it.

That same day, I confronted another young leader on a series of mistakes he had made, and called him to a crossroads moment to choose to recommit and move forward positively, or consider a transition. The conversation was not as fun, but just as meaningful.

Consultant is a description, a how to what I really do - lead people into positive change. That’s why I wake up every morning.

What do you do?

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