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CIOs: Don’t let this failure derail your career


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By Joel Dobbs, CEO and president, The Compass Talent Management Group LLC

Want to guess the top reason executives’ careers derail? Most will guess ethical problems, costly mistakes, or incompetence. In fact, the failure to build and maintain constructive working relationships with peers and colleagues is consistently number one or two in studies on the causes of executive career derailment.

The further we climb in our careers, the more important relationships become. Most people enter the workforce in “sole contributor” positions, where their day is task focused, and relationships at work are mainly superficial or social. As you advance in your career, that begins to change. You spend more time working on teams, on task forces, and—as you move to the vice president level and above—in board and executive committee meetings.

Many senior-level interactions occur over dinners or at sporting events where, without well-established relationships, interactions can be awkward. At the C-level, members of the executive team, as corporate officers, may share responsibility for the overall management of the organization. This requires close coordination and communication.

The foundation for being able to work constructively in this environment is the establishment of open, trusting, and productive working relationships. Failing to develop and nurture these is frequently a one-way ticket out of the organization.

Relationships are crucial for people in IT, especially senior leaders. The level of coordination and dialog required for success has increased exponentially, and will continue to do so. IT executives who fail to recognize this, and who don’t engage in building and maintaining effective working relationships with their peers in other parts of the business, will likely soon find their careers on the wrong track.


A retired pharmaceutical industry executive who spent 15 years as a CIO, Joel H. Dobbs is CEO and president of The Compass Talent Management Group LLC, a strategy and leadership development consulting company. Read the article “7 strategies for connecting with the C-suite” for more on the importance of executive relationships.


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