AGL 054: Jeff Roberts – Chief Information Officer at HFF

Today on the show we’ve got Jeff Roberts.  Jeff  has more than 20 years of experience leading Information Technology for top financial services and real estate firms.  Since 2015 he has served as the first-ever Chief Information Officer of HFF (NYSE: HF), a commercial real estate capital intermediary, where he is leading a digital transformation and technology platform upgrade.  Prior to joining HFF, he served as CIO for four other companies: Carriage Services (NYSE: CSV), Situs, a private global commercial real estate firm, Saxon Mortgage, a Morgan Stanley company, and Litton Loan Servicing, a division of Goldman Sachs.  In these roles, Mr. Roberts has gained significant experience integrating strategic custom software and analytics with leading 3rd party platforms.  He focuses on enabling IT as a competitive advantage, going beyond margin efficiencies to make IT a driver of revenue.  Jeff is a graduate of the University of Tulsa, and did post-graduate business and leadership studies at the University of Houston and Rice University.

When you’re new to management, you need to come in and listen and learn.  Building trust with your team is key.

Book Recommendations 

Jim Collins Good to Great – Level 5 Leadership, Coaching high standards.

27 challenges managers face – Brian Tulgan – All about one-on-one meetings.

Tips when starting a new role as a leader

  1. Listening is important. We are typically thinking about what we’re going to say next, instead of listening to what is being said. Active Listening – try to summarize what is being said in your head instead of trying to respond to what is being said.
  2. Coaching is number 2.  Its a mindset and performance difference on how people think about their job and how they should think about their job. What do you think your job is?  What is your thought process?  Try to find a reason to say yes, don’t just jump to no.
  3. Technical management proficiency – How to manage a project, resource portfolio, communicate, etc.
  4. Don’t be defensive –  People are reluctant to give criticism to new folks. Tell folks what you’re going to do with the information.

What advice would I give someone wanting to become a CIO?

The main thing to realize about the CIO role is that it bridges multiple differences. Infrastructure and software development, etc.  Get exposed to the other side and get Leadership skills.

Another tip Jeff had for us is to really learn your business; which is why Jeff stayed with financial services.

Managing up

Of all of the departments, IT is different than any other group.  Managing up is critical. Be proactive to simplify the process for other members of senior management.  Trust is critical because other members of senior leadership don’t understand what goes on in IT.

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