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Four CIO leadership tips from the CEO of Dunkin'

During his keynote talk, Nigel Travis, CEO at Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc., provided a handful of leadership tips to the CIOs and senior IT leaders who attended the recent SIM Boston Technology Leadership Summit. Here’s one: When CIOs get a seat at the leadership table, he said, “be strategic, not technical.”

His advice comes from years of working in customer-facing organizations from likes of Blockbuster, where he learned the value of customer data, to Papa John’s, where he served as CEO and president and helped build the company’s online ordering sales from 6% to 30% in four years, to Burger King, which included a brief stint in IT.

Some of his most detailed leadership tips focused on how to manage teams effectively, what he called his “tenets for success.”

They include:

  1. Avoid turnover, invest in your people. Travis recommended two ways to build greatIT teams: First, provide avenues for extra training or additional benefits. Second, pay to get the best. “If you’ve got great people, reward them well,” he said. “Because the cost of losing them is unbelievable.”
  2. Communication is key. As the CEO of a global company, Travis can’t be everywhere at once, so he regularly uses technology to communicate with employees and franchisees — from quarterly webcasts to weekly voicemails to in-person coffee talks. “You can never communicate enough,” he said.
  3. Inspire your employees. IT leaders have a reputation for “being dull and unexciting,” he said after asking attendees not be offended by the comment. Good leadership, he went on to say, means motivating the troops. “Do you truly inspire your department? That’s a question you should think about,” he said.
  4. Create the right culture. Culture is “absolutely critical,” especially as markets become increasingly competitive, Travis said. What the culture looks like is less important than how the culture functions; he suggested CIOs build a culture “that engages people, that encourages people, that makes people feel good.”
Nigel Travis at SIM Boston

Nigel Travis at SIM Boston