Trust chart News BlockIn a business environment where corporate reputations are threatened by potential data breaches, customer problems that can quickly go viral, and other hazards, trust has become a vital leadership issue.

As CIOs have come to learn, trust needs to be earned through actions. Whether you’re a new IT leader at a company who has to prove him or herself or someone who has risen through the ranks to become the organization’s top technology officer, the CIO has to earn the trust and confidence of the C-suite as well as the people that he or she leads.

There are a variety of factors that shape trust for an enterprise CIO, including strong communication skills, a demonstrated understanding of the enterprise’s business goals and market influences, along with a proven ability to attract, retain, and motivate the right talent.

The ability to influence internal stakeholders – where trust is a core component – is cited among the top five competencies that successful CIOs require, according to Deloitte’s 2015 Global CIO Survey. Still, CIOs generally have opportunities for improvement in strengthening their influence: only 42% of the CIOs surveyed in the Deloitte study were co-leaders in business strategy decisions and just 19% played a key role in M&A activities.

An essential component to building trust is displaying willingness to partner – by collaborating with colleagues at the executive level and by forging alliances with business partners of all types that can deliver new forms of value to the enterprise.

How a CIO goes about collaborating and interacting with peers at the executive level can be a bit tricky. In an era where the pace of business is moving at an unprecedented rate and digital and market disruptions are causing massive upheavals, there’s a great deal of uncertainty facing the C-suite. As a result, the CIO is being looked upon as a trusted advisor who can help guide the enterprise through uncharted waters. This ambiguity is providing the CIO opportunities to demonstrate bold leadership in helping to set the strategic course for the organization.

But at the same time, even though today’s CIO needs to be assertive, there’s often a fine line between being confident and being forceful. In working with the C-suite as well as with staff, it’s important to remember that good communication skills include being an excellent listener. Actively listening to the needs and concerns of business leaders and asking questions to deepen context and understanding can help CIOs demonstrate their dedication to the team’s success.

By demonstrating similar listening skills with the IT team, the CIO can demonstrate that he or she isn’t a command-and-control type and is committed to empowering staff and providing them with a voice in the direction of the organization.

Still, just as the CIO needs to demonstrate that he or she is a team player, building trust is also about displaying one’s competencies. One important way that the CIO can do this is by offering valid recommendations to addressing operational or business challenges by identifying how people, processes, and technology can be applied to tackle a particular situation. This is where the CIO can exhibit his or her knowledge of the market, their understanding of the business, along with the technologies and resources that are available for addressing challenges and opportunities.

In order to gain the trust of executives and staff, the CIO also must demonstrate their ability to build a team with the right skills and motivation to tackle the demanding challenges faced by the enterprise. This goes beyond identifying the right skill sets to compete in the 21st Century economy. Courageous leaders also must understand what motivates employees and what’s important to them and then sincerely demonstrate that they value these needs.

As Joe Topinka, CIO at SnapAV points out in an HMG Strategy Transformational CIO blog post, building strong relationships with colleagues across the enterprise requires more than great technical skills – the CIO needs a healthy dose of humility and humanity to convince people that they can be trusted over the long haul.

“Once you get your head around personal accountability and what it means, everything else becomes easy,” said Topinka. “The frustration goes away and is replaced with positive energy that leads to positive outcomes.”

Key Takeaways

  • There are a variety of factors that shape trust for enterprise CIOs, including strong communication skills, a demonstrated understanding of the enterprise’s business goals and market influences, along with a proven ability to attract, retain, and motivate talent.
  • When working with the C-suite as well as with staff, it’s important to remember that good communication skills include being an excellent listener.
  • In order to gain the trust of both executives and staff, the CIO also must demonstrate their ability to build a team with the right skills and motivation to tackle the demanding challenges faced by the enterprise.