The Connected CIO

This is a scary blog to write.  This will be one where I will receive comments that refer to babbling nonsense, or perhaps give me a “good girl”, or perhaps to say, gee, I loved your post or maybe nothing.  But in reality, it doesn’t matter much.

We marvel at the amazing capabilities that these Web 2.0 tools give us.  As the so-called “social CIO” I lamented that blogging wasn’t as interactive as I thought.  I found the reason why in a mirror.  Oh, yes, we can write blogs; we can speak to the world; we have a global reach; blah; blah; blah.  But do we listen? Do we connect?  And what happens when we do?

I wanted to find the answers; therefore I did something in a recent blog.  Don’t really know if anyone noticed, but I noticed.  I actually replied to every comment.  So what could possibly happen?  Oh the questions we ask … the answers we seek. Yes, Linda, things actually happen when you listen. Listening changes the listener.

One of my reasons for blogging is to use this Web 2.0 capability as a leadership tool.  Perhaps this introverted hermit can use this technology to connect to people in unique ways.  I must admit that as a technologist, I find some amount of comfort in hiding behind impersonal technology.  As if, I can only reveal certain parts of me.  As if I can allow some people in … and dare others to tread.  But, the fallacy of it all has struck me recently and prompts me to summon the leadership courage to blog about it.

An Oscar Wilde quote is probably most applicable here:

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

In hiding behind this mask of technology, I find that I have revealed more truth about me as a leader, a woman, a daughter, a granddaughter, a wife, a friend, a public servant, and as a CIO than I ever dared reveal even to myself.  In the miracle that revelation, I found that I was able to connect to others in an almost a supernatural way.

“Your will is the ego part of you that believes you’re separate from others, separate from what you’d like to accomplish or have, and separate from God. It also believes that you are your acquisitions, achievements, and accolades. This ego will wants you to constantly acquire evidence of your importance…” – Wayne Dyer

John C. Maxwell, in The 21 Indispensible Qualities of a Leader says that leaders will “…take the time to get a feel for who each (follower) is as a person”.  To me, this is a high calling whether or not your followers are readers, stakeholders, or employees. It’s quite easy to espouse this as insincere rhetoric, but I find myself drawn close to tears as I actually get a feel for each person I connect with.  I now wish that I was actually on an island and stood alone, but I don’t any longer.Technology on a desert island

For example, as I drove to Stennis Space Center from New Orleans, I could feel the pain of the loss of those who endured the suffering from Katrina and the gratitude of those able to find solace and purpose in doing small but mighty activities on rocket stands in the Mississippi Delta; as I ate Tex Mex in Houston, I could feel the anguish of uncertainty as this nation’s space program transitions to a new era; and as I read and contemplated the comments to my blog, I could feel the passion and purpose of a global citizenship that is connected to me and to NASA in ways that perhaps I can only just begin to understand.

I have one more person to connect to. It is a little boy from Tampa, Florida – Cody.  I don’t know if Cody is a real person or perhaps an industry lobbyist with a great imagination and tremendous creativity.  Yet, I deleted this doubt and felt compelled to give Cody’s letter response.  I will also give him a more personal reply later as I remain committed to answer every comment in one specific post. 

Cody wanted me to save the space program.  I wondered if Cody knew that I was just a poor struggling CIO trying to hold together an email infrastructure with duct tape and PVC pipe.  I wondered why Cody addressed a letter to me and sent me a picture.  My ego initially convinced myself that maybe he sent it to everyone.  But I neutralized my ego in an attempt to connect with a humble little boy from Tampa. 

My ego tells me that as a capable NASA executive I am confident of the future direction and strategy of the nation’s space program.  However, I can’t shake the passion, concern, and dread that I feel from the connection that I made with Cody.  If I am to help NASA inspire a nation, how can I do it if I can’t inspire a little boy?  See why this blog scared me?

Maybe it doesn’t matter to Cody or others that I am scared.  I close with this.

“It may sound corny, but it’s really true: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – John C. Maxwell in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Linda Cureton, NASA CIO