Who’s Answering the Next Big Question? CIO Rob Zelinka of Jack Henry & Associates

Community Blog
Written by Drew Lazzara

APRIL 20, 2021

During each episode of the Next Big Question podcast, we speak with executives and thought leaders about a big, timely business question. In this episode, Liz Ramey and I spoke with Rob Zelinka, chief information officer at Jack Henry & Associates. We asked Rob: How can leaders crack the change-management code?

Rob doesn’t pretend to have some magical answer to this big question. He knows change is always hard, uncertain, and even scary. There’s nothing much to be done about that – except find the courage to face it openly and supportively. At the highest levels of leadership, change derives from the necessity to compete, adapt and grow to match new demands, disruptions or innovations in the marketplace. In his role, Rob understands that he must commit to change and he must bring people along with him to find success. 

But he also knows you can’t drag people along; you have to show them a path, even when you don’t always know the way. Here, Rob talks about stepping into the unknown together, facing the necessity of change with courage, and giving your workforce the grace to struggle through transitions.

I think most of the time where companies struggle with change management is around the fact that their communication methods, style, approach is either lacking or nonexistent all together.”


Rob Zelinka:

Think of it like a roller coaster. For better or worse, we’ve all been on a roller coaster before, and some of us just love that opportunity for the thrill of that 90 seconds we’re on the ride. There are others that no matter how many times they’ve been on the ride and they know what’s going to happen, they’re terrified, and the only reason they’re there is some younger person in the family needs a partner.

That’s where courage and commitment come into play. As an older person, our job is to nurture and mentor people along, and that can be in our family or it can be junior-level co-workers that are less experienced. It can be like walking up a staircase in the dark in an unfamiliar place: if you are the person navigating someone up that staircase, chances are you’re a bit anxious, too, since you don’t necessarily know where the final step is. But the last thing you want to do is show your anxiety to that person that you’re helping, because the moment they see that you’re a bit scared – or, worse yet, terrified – is the moment that sense of protection, sense of comfort, sense of assurance dissipates. 

The mark of any leader is to take those diverse opinions and feelings and bring them together toward one common goal. In the immortal words of Vince Lombardi – and this is profound – he told his football teams, “Each and every Sunday, we are in pursuit of perfection. We come to understand that we will never achieve perfection, but along the way, we will achieve excellence. And when we achieve excellence, that’s good enough for us.”

If you take that statement forward to this challenge, our goal is to get as many people on board with our mission as possible. But the reality is, there will be people that simply will not get on board, either because it’s uncomfortable or because they are in vehement disagreement with the path. And it’s okay. Tell them, “It’s okay if you don’t agree. It’s okay if this makes you uncomfortable. It’s even okay if you don’t want to join us. But once we’ve made that decision, we’ve crossed that line of demarcation and the ship is leaving the port without you, you have to find another ship.” 

And that’s hard! Right? As hard a message as it is to deliver, I think that message needs to be delivered, and people will respect you for that message. They may not like it, but they will respect that you had the courage and the commitment to deliver the message.

Listen to the full episode of The Next Big Question featuring Rob Zelinka from Evanta, a Gartner Company here, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app

To find a local community of your CIO peers, visit evanta.com/cio.


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Drew Lazzara

Sr Content Manager at Evanta, a Gartner Company

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