Advice for Aspiring CIOs, Leadership and Problem Solving Skills From Metcalf & Associates

Advice for Aspiring CIOs, Leadership and Problem Solving Skills From Metcalf & Associates

Mike Sayre

President, Chief operating Officer & Organizational Transformation Practice Lead

Formerly Metcalf & Associates (Now known as The Innovative Leadership Institute)


Ryan Deal

Regional Account Executive


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RD: We're here today with Mike Sayre, who's the President and COO at Metcalf & Associates. They are a leadership development and transformation consulting firm and it's based in Columbus, Ohio with 20 employees. My name is Ryan Deal and I'm with Expedient, and I will be your guest moderator today. Let's get started. Mike, how you doing today? 

MS: Good, thanks. 

RD: Excellent. Excellent. 

MS: Thanks for having me. 

RD: Absolutely. So, just to get you started here, you know, we're talking about innovation and uh, being in a leadership role, what advice would you give an aspiring CIO?

MS: I would say, go broad. And by that I mean, really understand your business and the business that you're in, and then use a technology and data, you know, to help build that business and feed that business.

RD: So, with aspiring IT leaders, what do they need to do and prepare themselves for that next step as they're looking at moving along in their careers?

MS: Yeah, sort of similar to the CIOs, cause I think this is where it starts – aspiring IT leaders need to get out into their organizations and really learn about the rest of the business. It's so easy for us to sort of get tied up with what we're doing. We don't go out, and then we don't always understand what the real needs are, you know, of our customers, who are the other people in the company and the customer customers. Um, and so I would say, get out and understand the business and what's going on in your business and, uh, and then you'll, you'll be able to apply, you know, your craft if you will, um, much better every day.

RD: Absolutely. Absolutely. That's one thing I've noticed is a lot of leadership roles in IT are filled by IT professionals with highly technical backgrounds. You know, uh, having a technical background is a bit different than the background of running a business. So, I guess what I'm hearing you say is, understand the business. Get a better understanding of how business works and that way you can be fully rounded when leading that IT department.

MS: Yeah, and talk to your peers in the organization. That, you know, they, they love to talk about what they do, and they probably want to know more about what you do too. So, it's, so it's not that hard. The other thing that I would say is, um, walk towards major challenges. Don't retreat. So, if there's a major challenge and you believe that you can help, or even if you're, you know, you're a little on the edge, you know, jump in. I mean, that's how you, that's how you really learn and that's what will really move you ahead in your organization. You are adding so much value when you take on a major challenge that maybe nobody else is really equipped or, or not maybe not even quite ready or wants, is willing to do so.

RD: Absolutely. And those are recognized by leadership as you look at your career. 

MS: Absolutely. 

RD: Because you’re taking on those challenges and when they turn out well for you…that's, that's really great advice. Uh, what is the best attribute that you personally bring to your organization?

MS: It's consistency. So, it's consistency and purpose. What are we here to do? Is consistency in focus? We're here for a purpose, right? So, if you start going too far out of bounds, let's pull it back. And the third would be consistency on how I operate every day. I, I respond the same way to, you know, the same kinds of challenges and, you know, and uh, and try to remain pretty, pretty even, pretty level. Um, so that people know what to expect out of me. They may not know exactly what answer I'm going to, you know, come up with, or what ideas I'm going to come up with. Um, but they know that it will be thoughtful and it will be in the best interest and focused on our purpose. 

RD: Absolutely. No, consistency is extremely important, you know? So, I guess I just want to ask you if, if something comes up that isn't your daily, uh, daily norm, how do you handle that with, you know, what, what's your way of handling that? You know, or the recommendation you can give to someone to handle it consistently rather than just, you know, acting as if they have no idea how to handle those kind of fire drills?

MS: So now you're going into leadership development, which is what we do for a living. So, um, I would tell you, the first time I became a CEO, uh, I had to figure that out really quickly. And so, um, so over probably a couple of weeks, uh, I, I really did a lot of self-reflection about, you know, my purpose, how that tied into what, what our company does. And then in addition to that, how do I operate? So, I wrote down, like, 10 things that I do, right? Uh, that, they're pretty broad. They're not that specific, but they cover just about any challenge in terms of how you approach it. They aren't the answers, they’re, how do you approach it? And, and that's where the consistency comes in as well. Because I could always go to those 10 things, and I didn't even have to go to them. They're in my head. But, um, yeah. And, and that's how I approached things.

RD: And then you go through the process. No matter how, how difficult the situation might be, you, you know how to handle it from a mental perspective, and then you break it down until the problem is solved.

MS: I am, I am aware of timing issues. So, if, uh, if the process is taking too long or it's going to take too long and we have to make a quicker decision, we'll make a quicker decision. If I have to make the decision, I'll make the decision. That's not my preferred method. You know, I like to get more people who are more experts. Right? And what we're talking about involved. But uh, yeah. 

RD: Oh no, absolutely. No, I, I think that's great advice. And it's something that I think, for leaders, the importance of making a decision is what makes someone a good leader. If, sometimes coming up with a decision can be extremely difficult. But when you're going through a step by step process and you come to a decision, whether or not you're ready to make it or not, but you know it needs to be made? That's a, that's a good piece of advice for leaders out there or aspiring leaders. Uh, okay. Now you are exceptionally involved here in the Central Ohio community. Why do you invest your time? What, what's your, you know, what, what do you get from that, that is so important to you?

MS: You know, it's sort of the give back thing, right? The, the community here has invested in me. You know, I went to Ohio State, have two degrees from Ohio State. You know, all of my, my whole career has pretty much been based out of Columbus. So, I've had a lot of opportunities here. Uh, I've done a couple startups here, That takes a lot of support and takes community. And so, you know, the community has been good to me and so I want to, I want to continue to be part of that and invest my time there.

RD: Perfect. I'm newer to Central Ohio. I've been here for three years. And, uh, the, the growth, the people, the business, you know, the work ethic, it's amazing. And, you know, hearing that and people that are willing to invest their time, it's highly important in, in creating where I think the, the future of Central Ohio lies. So, uh, that's, that's great because I think Central Ohio needs people like that to just invest their time. So, uh, you know, so I guess in closing, I just wanted to ask, uh, who's gonna win this weekend? Ohio State or Penn State?

MS: Hahaha! Go Bucks! 

RD: Of course, that was a silly question. I know. I already knew the answer. 

MS: Well, thank you, Ryan. I appreciate your time. 

RD: Thank you, Mike. I appreciate it as well.

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