CIO Leadership

Why You Are Not Invited

There are two reasons you are not invited to significant meetings and it isn't because you don't know what you are talking about.

Scott Smeester

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September 21, 2023

Last week, all of our senators were invited to meet with nearly a couple dozen tech executives, tech advocates, civil rights leaders and labor leaders. The goal was to get a broad consensus on regulating technology, and specifically, A.I. Maybe you were invited; I wasn’t.

We know some of the names, of course: Gates, Musk, Zuckerberg. Each participant was given three minutes to speak on a topic of their choice.

Which struck me as odd and telling. First of all, Gates etc doesn’t need to go anywhere in which he is given only three minutes to speak. That means there were meetings other than the “meeting.”

On the other hand, what do you say when given three minutes?

But the more pertinent question is “Why were you not invited?”

Or, even better, we can all guess as to why you were not invited to meet with the Senate, but why are you not invited to your own board meetings or critical thought meetings?

Two reasons:

  1. You can’t say what you need to say in three minutes.
  2. People who schedule the real meetings - which is not the published meeting - don’t know that you know what you know.

Let’s look at that second one first. It’s conference time again, and I’ve been making the rounds to different events. I’ve noticed two critical changes CIOs and technology leaders must make.

One - Shed humility, or better, understand what true humility is and lose the pretender. I’m watching leaders, in the name of humility, self-deprecate. That means you are playing down your strengths, contribution and value. It’s dishonest, and to your team, it’s discouraging.

Teams want strong leaders. True, they don’t want to be overlooked, and yes, they want credit where credit is due. But if you self-deprecate, you leave them in a position of having to inflate you; and they don’t like doing what they shouldn’t have to do. Who you are should speak for itself. People follow strength.

Humility is strength under control. You exercise the power to give credit, and you accept only the credit you know is right. Humility treats people and processes with dignity, and says in private what it says in public because humility is something you express, not something you put on. 

If you are humble, I know what you bring to the table and I will actually enjoy having you there. If you self-deprecate, I don’t know what is real or not. Hence, you are not invited, which is sad, because I could have used your strength.

Please, be clear to others on what you know (and what you don’t). What strengths come to mind when people think of you? 

Some pointers:

  1. Tell stories about what you and your team did highlighting the competencies you and others exhibited. 
  2. Utilize testimonials, and never waste one - if you receive one, don’t retire it in your inbox. Consult with your marketing team on ways to make them known in-house and in-market.
  3. Make bragging normal, as in, you brag about your team and they brag about you; you brag about your peers, and they return the favor.
  4. Use LinkedIn and other platforms to share your expertise.
  5. Self-promotion is not a sin. Pride, arrogance, etc, yes. But people have a way of chopping that down for you, so I wouldn’t be too concerned. 
  6. When you seek help, be clear as well on what you don’t need help on.

Two - Three minutes is a long time to speak. You can accomplish a lot in 180 seconds. But most don’t. And that’s the reason they are not invited to speak. Because three minutes is a very long time to listen to a very pointless speaker.

Training beats trying. The next time you have an opportunity to speak to others - even if it’s a staff meeting and you give the usual introduction - limit yourself to three minutes, but a powerful three minutes.

  1. Get rid of the litter. When people speak - publicly or in an elevator ride with the CEO - they litter their talk with needless things to say. Watch out for:
  • Phrases like “in my opinion” - I know it’s your opinion. You just wasted two seconds.
  • Preamble: “Others may not agree with me” or “I’ve been thinking about this for awhile” or “it’s hard to explain” - consider all of that to be assumed and unnecessary (or waste 15-30 seconds).
  • Personal neediness - “Sorry I was late,” “I’m a little nervous,” or credentials language like “When I worked at_____” or self-puffing “I’ve been the CIO of three Fortune 500 companies”
  • Unnecessary detail - “As founder of CIO Mastermind, a major provider of peer groups, executive coaching and customized employee development strategies….” 
  1. Avoid the side trails
  • “Which reminds me of a time”
  • “Perhaps we can talk about that later”
  • “I guess there is another consideration”
  1. Connect with a need they have, not just information you have. (If you talk about me and my needs for three minutes in a helpful way, I’m all ears; if you are teaching me something of questionable value, you could lose me in thirty seconds).
  2. Don’t speak slowly. Whoever tells you to slow down is naive or trying to drag you into the pit of speaker hell. People listen faster than you can talk. The only time you slow down is if you are addressing something technical or that is tough to comprehend. The average TED talk is delivered at a rate 10-25% faster than normal rate of speech. 

I don’t like being left out. I would like to have been in that meeting with the senators. I won’t sleep over it though. But I do get concerned when I’m not invited to the meeting down the hall that I should be at.

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