When most people think about a company’s C-suite, roles like CEO, CIO, and CMO come to mind. The average person isn’t conditioned to think about CTOs. However, as you and I know, CTOs are becoming increasingly integral to the strategic leadership of today’s fastest growing organizations.
It can be frustrating then, as a CTO, to feel like your voice isn’t being heard in the C-suite. If you believe this is true in your company, it’s time to proactively do something about it.
4 Signs You’re Not a First Class Citizen in the C-Suite
Oftentimes, CTOs think they’re the CTO, but really they’re just being treated like the “IT person.” They might even have the title of CTO, but fellow C-suite members and even lower-level employees see them as the “computer guy.” Sound familiar?
If you’re a CTO but don’t feel like anyone else in the C-suite treats you as a first class citizen, you’re likely frustrated, miffed, and confused. But before you start making accusations or bold decisions to “prove” your membership in the C-suite, let’s get real clear on some of the typical things that CTOs experience when in a situation like this.
You’re Not an Active Participant in Business Objectives
The C-suite is the strategic hub of the company – the visionary heartbeat of the organization. Every person in the C-suite should have a say in the decisions that are being made. This includes setting and identifying business objectives for the company.
If you’re not being asked to actively participate in setting business objectives for the company, but are simply being told to carry out the objectives, this is a sign that you’re not a first class citizen.
You Get Left Out of Budget Discussions
As CTO, you should know the budget of the company. In fact, you should be involved in setting the budget and ensuring money is allocated properly across each department (including your own).
If you find that you have to ask for money each time you need it – or you have to beg for extra resources to make something happen (even when it’s clear how important it is) – this is a sign that people aren’t properly recognizing your leadership or valuing your input.
You’re Not Consulted in Company Offsite Events
What happens when your company has an offsite event? What about when your company attends a conference or is asked to lead a presentation for a group of stakeholders?
If everyone else in the C-suite is given an opportunity to speak or lead discussions, yet you’re relegated to standing in the back of the room, this could be another sign that you’re not being valued as an integral member of the C-suite.
The C-Suite Doesn’t Attend Your Meetings
Let’s say the CEO calls a meeting and asks everyone in the C-suite and upper management to show up. Guess who is going to show up? Every single person who was invited. And what about if the CIO or CMO were to call a similar meeting? You can bet that there would be almost perfect attendance. Now consider what happens when you call a meeting. Are there last-minute scheduling “conflicts” and no-shows? Do people ask you for justification of the meeting and what it’ll be about so they can determine if they “need” to be there?
As a true member of the C-suite, you shouldn’t have to justify calling a meeting. People should show up simply because you deem the meeting important. If the rest of the C-suite sends secretaries or asks for meeting minutes, something is off.
How to Regain Your Executive Presence in the C-Suite
By this point, it’s pretty clear that you’re not being treated like the CTO in your organization. And as frustrating as that is, you can’t sit back and fume. You have to be proactive about reestablishing the respect and authority that’s supposed to come with your role. Here are a few suggestions:
- Use the right currency. Every organization and C-suite has its own “currency” for making things happen. It’s important that you find out what the currency is and to embrace it when pitching an idea, giving a presentation, or trying to rally people around something. Sometimes that currency is saving money. In other companies, the currency is minimizing the impact on the environment. There are other companies that care about customer experience above all else. Identify your company’s currency and leverage it.
- Ask for feedback. Always ask for feedback after giving a presentation. Find out what you could have done better, what you did well, and where there were weaknesses or knowledge gaps in your discussion. This will help you improve.
- Work on your soft skills. As a CTO, it’s easy to get so caught up in the technical skills required to stay competitive and up-to-date that you forget about the role of soft skills. In order to get the respect you want in the C-suite, you must have the ability to listen, relate, communicate, etc.
- Get CTO coaching. Finally, you might need some outside coaching in order to improve in your role as CTO. Don’t be afraid to find a mentor or join a coaching program. Sometimes having a fresh voice from the outside speak into your role can give you the tools needed to thrive in your position.
You can’t walk into the office one morning and go on a rant about how mistreated you are. The “woe is me” speech won’t go over well in a situation where you’re trying to establish respect and authority. Instead, you must insert yourself into scenarios where you can show your authority and establish your role as a first class citizen of the C-suite.
Apply for 7CTOs Today
As mentioned, coaching and leadership play a critical role in helping CTOs blossom into their positions of leadership. If you’re looking for mentorship, peer feedback, and support from other CTOs, apply for membership with 7CTOs.
At 7CTOs, we place CTOs and VPEs in forums of seven peers so you can work together to solve problems, identify solutions, share goals, and hold each other accountable. We also offer 1-to-1 coaching programs for even more specific feedback and leadership.
Want to learn more about either of these programs? Apply today!