"People coming through university on a computer science course are often least equipped to make a good contribution in the IT world," Snooks says. "The strategy showed in the attitude that the business had to the IT function. We were seen as an integral part of the business. A lot of good IT teams are now thinking this way."
Snooks now sets aside a day every four months or so to meet other CIOs who are members of a network that he belongs to, set up by a training firm called IT Leaders. They spend time exchanging experiences and exploring management tools and techniques. "The more senior you are in a role the more lonely it is, and the more you need people to talk to," he says.
On a recent away-day he and his group looked at neuro-linguistic programming, a method of making emotional and behavioural changes in yourself and in other people. However, Snooks acknowledges that some employers may see personal development as a luxury. That is a mistake, he maintains, since there is always a balance to be struck between doing the job and learning how to do it better.
"Personal development is something that's been neglected in the past," Snooks says. "A lot of management is based on intuition, but being an effective leader is about psychology: understanding people."
In his early days, Snooks read self-help books like Kenneth Blanchard's The One Minute Manager, designed to help people like him improve their management skills, but he knew he needed more. "As I became more senior I realised I needed to get away from the office to get a better sense of objectivity about my work," he says. "I wanted to discuss issues with like-minded people in a training environment."
Today, as CIO at property investment company Capital & Regional, Snooks went out and formed relationships with his contemporaries -- even those who worked for competitors. He also developed close relationships with two people in his own firm -- a human resources manager and the chief executive of another division of the company who had "made considerable progress in how he communicated with people and took them along with him".
Personal development has convinced Snooks that 'managing by walking around' is the best way to do things.
"It is important to make sure you spend the biggest part of your time focusing on communications, empowering others and delegating responsibility. Don't waste your time on 150 emails. More people should be out of their chairs, moving and shaking; talking and influencing people."
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