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7 Questions with Ted Ross
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7 Questions with Ted Ross
Name: Ted Ross
Current title: Chief Information Officer
Current organisation: City of Los Angeles
Ted Ross is CIO for the City of Los Angeles and General Manager of the Information Technology Agency (ITA). His department of 455 employees delivers enterprise IT services to 48,000 employees across 45 City departments and digital services to over 4 million residents. Appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2015, Ted has over 23 years of private and public sector technology experience, earning various awards along the way, including #1 Digital City, Top 25 Doer & Dreamer, and CIO of the Year according to LA Business Journal. Ted has been featured in Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist, as well as a presenter at many global technology conferences.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
As a CIO, navigating the technology challenges with resource constraints, while doing so in a large, complex government organization.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
The City of Los Angeles Information Technology Agency was a department in distress. The executive leadership had left and consultants were hired to examine the opportunity to outsource the entire department. I joined as a Deputy CIO as I knew many of the people in the department and they were very capable. After two years as Deputy CIO, the CIO left and I was offered the position. As with many organizations, the pieces of the puzzle are there to be very successful. I was given the privilege to help arrange the puzzle pieces and let the talented employees show their best. We have become a very successful organization in the last five years, but there is always room for improvement.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I wake up early, prepare for the day, and get an early start. I use mornings to perform "thinking work" with key meetings and editing documents. I use the afternoons for general meetings, status updates, follow-ups with teams/projects. After work, I try to get some form of exercise (weather/sunset permitting) and spend some time with family. I try to settle down before sleeping.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
You don't have to have the smartest ideas, but you do have to consider the people you work with and the context of the organizational culture. While you are working to influence and improve the culture, you have to respect your colleagues and their perspectives.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
One Minute Manager. It is a classic. It has taught me the importance of empowering your subordinates, rather than trying to control their work. There is not enough time in a day to monitor everyone. But, with careful mentoring and some boundaries, most staff can achieve their potential.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
I focus on each level. Executives require political and communication skill building (e.g. executive presence). Middle managers usually need to build and enhance their strategic planning skills. Line supervisors often need to build their basic supervisory and leadership skills. Building up these capabilities has a force multiplier effect. We all remember when we had a great boss or a really bad one. Leaders make the difference in an organization.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
The importance of data-driven decision making. I was in charge of a large software project. An executive stakeholder told me that they heard that the training on the project was really bad. I told them that I had the results of over 5,000 surveys from staff that completed the training and the average score was 8.2 out of 10 (really good). I told them where they heard this. They said that one of their staff said it to them in the hallway. I said, I prefer to trust the results of over 5,000 surveys over their hallway conversation. That settled it then and there. Get meaningful data and use it to drive decisions. Hallway conversations can be deceptive.