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In this guest blog, Paul T. Cottey, CIO of Water Street Healthcare Partners, says teaching others to do your job benefits the company and everyone's careers.

There is an old saying in the workplace:  "If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted." For CIOs, this has never been more true. 

Your job is just as important as ever—probably moreso. But you can't keep doing it yourself. You need to train your replacement so you can do all the other things that are required of a modern CIO.  (Think digital transformation, improved customer service, faster speed to market, cloud integration, and every other thing your CEO reads about on airplanes.) 

Whether it is written in your job description or not, a CIO's job responsibilities include developing a culture and plans that encourage and enable all IT team members to assume their bosses' responsibilities. That’s how your junior programmers learn to be senior programmers, your help desk level one analysts learn to be help desk level two analysts, and so on. But you're probably doing that already. 

It also means that your direct reports need to learn how to do your current job. 

It's OK.  Don't panic. Take a deep breath. In. Out. In. Out. No one is trying to get rid of you.

Professional Opportunities for Your Team 

It's different when it is your job, right?  But, think about it from the perspective of your direct reports:  They get to do part of your job, and that prepares them to take the next step in their careers.

Help your Implementation Director plan and track the budget instead of simply reporting against the schedule; help your Infrastructure Manager understand capital versus operating expenses; get your Help Desk Manager talking about customer satisfaction, and not just about ticket volume; send your trainers out on sales calls. You get the point. You will be surprised that they are not only excited to dig into something new, but that they can often build on what you've done and take it further than you’ve had the time to.

After a period of time, you will discover you are doing less in each of those areas and that you are able to expand up into your boss's role, and over to help out your colleagues. You will find you have time to go on the sales call with the Chief Growth Officer, to spend time with your Chief People Officer on recruiting needs, and to spend time talking to the Board about the value of IT investment. 

Wait. Aren't you already doing these things? Perhaps, but now they will not come at the expense of those other activities. When you are confident that your team can do far more than keep the lights on, you can safely grow yourself, and your career prospects, as well. 

Expand Your Own Career Potential

You may be thinking that this puts your job at risk, because your people will have stepped up into parts of your role. If you are in a shrinking company that is hurting for revenue, you may be right.  But, let's face itif you are in a shrinking company that is hurting for revenue, you are not going to make things better by hunkering down into your current role anyway.  

Assuming you are in a vibrant company that is at least holding its own in the market, moving your team up the learning curve actually frees you up to be what I call a "CIO slash." 

You can be CIO/Operations ("CIO slash Operations") or CIO/Sales or CIO/Value Driver or CIO/Logistics. Can you imagine a better message to send to your boss than that you have the IT department running so well that you are able to drive other areas of value for the company? 

The upside to training your replacements is that you get to add to your responsibilities or that you prepare yourself for a bigger role elsewhere. The downside is that it is a little scary to discover that your direct reports can, with your help, often times bring new perspectives and improved outcomes from tasks you used to do yourself. 

Will every one of your direct reports want to take on more responsibilities? No. Will there be cultural changes that you need to make to encourage people to come to you to say, "I can do that part of your job”?  Without a doubt. Is the effort to train everyone to be your replacement worth it in the long run? In my experience, yes. 

Get going. Start small if you have to—it is still a start. Train one person to do one thing that you do, and encourage that person to train someone to do a part of his or her job.  After all, it is better for you to be thinking about your replacement than for your boss to be doing so.

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