How do CIOs build trust with CEOs?

Will Astbury
by Will Astbury 31 October 2016

Every Chief Information Officer (CIO) knows that to affect change within an organisation they need to have the backing of the CEO.

However, this is more easily said than done. If you have recently been promoted into your first C-level role or you have moved to a new organisation which has an unfamiliar culture, you may find it difficult to immediately strike up a good relationship with the CEO.

Don’t be disheartened. Bridges can be built. Crimson has put together a list of actions that will help you to nurture mutual professional respect with your CEO.

  1. Represent your own unique ideology: Every CIO must present deliverable statistics and results to the board. Rather than simply conveying facts and figures, explain why you have implemented each project and then reveal the results. Gartner recommends that CIOs should also present “innovations in the industry, what competitors are doing, and the definition of success for new business models. Extract lessons from bimodal experiments. Use that data and information to craft a message and share the insight into the future of the industry with your peers.”
  2. Be a great listener: To earn trust and become a great leader you must spend a significant amount of time listening to your CEO and members of your team. CIO Magazine recommends that you become an ‘active listener’ and ask lots of open-ended questions. Speak to as many people as you can and invest time with all your C-level peers – not solely the CMO and CEO. With this approach, you will get a rounded view of your CEO’s agenda and how IT is viewed within your team and throughout the rest of the company.
  3. Tap into your wider network: Remember you can find advice and opportunities outside of your company. Old colleagues can be a great source of guidance and they will make good recommendations when you’re looking for talented individuals to join your team. Suppliers can also be a help with this, especially if they think you will be spending some money with them. If you’re bringing in new opportunities, flexing your entrepreneurial muscles, and cutting recruitment costs this will get your CEO’s attention.
  4. Adapt your leadership style: Ruling with an iron first is not always the best approach to leadership, and it can put people’s backs up. Your aim is to inspire and develop. You need to communicate your ideas and agenda to the rest of your peers and managers and coach their understanding of what you are trying to achieve. If you can link your vision to each department’s strategic objectives you will win hearts and minds.
  5. Establish processes: As mentioned earlier, CIOs should be meeting regularly with the CEO. In these conversations, you should attempt to clarify your role in managing specific business processes and outline a clear flow of accountability. This will help clarify your position in both your own eyes and from the CEO’s perspective, which will give you direction, confidence and purpose.

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Crimson is an IT consultancy, an IT solutions provider, an IT recruitment agency, and a Microsoft Gold Partner with offices in Birmingham and the City of London.

Topics: CIO