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Inside the minds (and personalities) of CIOs and CMOs

Tom Kaneshige | Jan. 30, 2014
The fight between CIOs and CMO for control of IT dollars is well-documented. The battles are real and heated, but how different are CIOs and CMOs? For a deeper look inside the personalities of these tech and marketing leaders, we turned to the definitive source -- Myers-Briggs -- for a detailed breakdown of their traits and tendencies.

But how are they going to work together?

Are CIOs and CMOs Really That Different?
For CIOs and CMOs to work well together, perhaps the first step is to understand how the other side thinks. It will also help if these C-level executives look inside themselves. One of the foundational ideas behind the Myers-Briggs personality system is to help individuals better understand their own personality tendencies and potential differences with co-workers and, ultimately, find common ground. The 16 personality types in the Myers-Briggs system are not stereotypes nor written in stone, rather they are merely natural inclinations toward particular preferences.

That said, many CIOs fall into Myers-Briggs defines as personality type ESTJ:

Practical, realistic, matter-of-fact. Decisive, quickly move to implement decisions. Organize projects and people to get things done, focus on getting results in the most efficient way possible. Take care of routine details. Have a clear set of logical standards, systematically follow them and want others to also. Forceful in implementing their plans.

CMOs tend to have the personality Myers-Briggs classifies as ENTJ:

Frank, decisive, assume leadership readily. Quickly see illogical and inefficient procedures and policies, develop and implement comprehensive systems to solve organizational problems. Enjoy long-term planning and goal setting. Usually well informed, well read, enjoy expanding their knowledge and passing it on to others. Forceful in presenting their ideas.

Sherrie Haynie, organizational development consultant at CPP, publisher of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, is quick to point out that the CMO and CIO share more similarities than differences, which makes sense given that both hold executive leadership positions. Common ground includes a need to be decisive and efficient and, perhaps most relevant, the ability to solve problems.

Then there are the opposing letters in the personality acronyms. For the CIO, there is the S, which stands for sensing. For the CMO, there is the N, which stands for intuition. "Sensing relies more on taking historical significance into account versus intuition, which may be following a hunch," Haynie says.

In the practical world, this difference can translate into variations in the perception of speed and willingness to fail, says Cochrane. When a CMO sees a change in consumer behavior or the competitive landscape, he wants to react very quickly. Marketers often come up with creative ideas on a gut feeling, and the CMO throws some money at it, assigns a couple of marketing people for a few weeks, launches, fails fast, and moves on to the next thing.

CIOs are more diligent and need to think through a project proposal from start to finish. More resources will be at stake, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars. The CIO must commit servers and developers for a month or more. "If you fail, you don't just walk away," OpenText's Cochrane says. "You iterate, iterate, iterate until it works."


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