Successful CIOs create and sustain great working relationships across the C-suite. They turn relationship-building into a habit, and they recognize opportunities for deepening the bonds that are essential for success at the executive level of the enterprise.

One of my friends is the CIO of a very large and well-known tech company. He makes it a habit to take his boss to lunch on a regular basis. He makes sure the lunch is relaxed and informal. He picks restaurants that feature the kind of food his boss likes. My friend avoids asking for favors or making requests during the lunch. That way, the boss won't be looking for a reason to skip the next lunch!

Another of my friends is the CIO of a privately-held company operating in a tightly regulated industry. Although he reports directly to the CEO, the executive board is very active in the company's decision-making processes. My friend makes it a habit to meet regularly with the board. He also meets regularly with one of the board's audit committee members, which plays a key role in monitoring compliance. He makes sure that his report and presentation are written in the language used by the board members. He demonstrates clearly that he understands their goals and objectives.

Working directly with the board and its committees has become a habit for my friend. As a result of the relationships he has developed, he is rarely surprised or blindsided by decisions from the C-suite. He can react more swiftly and more effectively when the C-suite needs something done in a hurry. That makes him an irreplaceable asset to the enterprise.

Both of my friends have developed great habits that support and drive their success as executives at major companies. The more time that I spend in this field, the more I appreciate the value of developing good habits. I'm sure that most of you have read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. I also want to recommend another book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg.

Duhigg became interested in the power of habit when he was a reporter in Iraq. He writes about how the U.S. military was able to stop a series of deadly riots in a small city's main plaza by simply changing one aspect of the city's culture. Here's the story: An Army major noticed that many of the rioters were eating food provided by vendors in the plaza. Eating food in the plaza during a riot had become part of their habit. The major asked the city's mayor to prohibit vendors from selling food in the plaza. As soon as the food vendors disappeared, the rioters stopped coming to the plaza.

I love that story because it shows so clearly that we can leverage the power of habits to change the world around us. One observant officer figured out how to stop the riots, without firing a shot.

If you look around your organization, I'm sure that you can identify habits that will help you drive your agenda and achieve your objectives as an executive. You can also identify habits that are holding you back or making it harder for your team to reach its goals.

Please feel free to share your success stories with us. Send me an email at and let me know how you're leveraging the power of habits to drive success and build great relationships across the enterprise.

Our mission at HMG Strategy is helping you build the deep and sustaining relationships that lead to long-term success at the highest levels. Our global network of senior IT executives is unparalleled in terms of experience, excellence and transformational innovation.

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