How to build trust as a new IT executive

Rich Hein

Making the move to a management position or the executive level isn't easy. You've got to get the job done, but you don't want to alienate the coworkers and friends that you've built relationships with over the years.

It's a tricky transition with many pitfalls that have sent many good IT pros back to the drawing board. To help you make the transition we spoke with leadership experts, career consultants and CIOs to find out what it takes to build trust while moving forward to meet overall business objectives.

Building Trust as a New Leader

Building Trust as a New Leader
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great." More than 150 years later, that still rings true in the world of IT and leadership in general. In an IT organisation no one person can do it all. Getting the job done requires working with others, compromise and, of course, trust.

Today's leadership style is no longer a command-and-control situation. It's about empowering those around you to do their best work and in order to do that you have to first earn their trust.

"Trust may be the most important component of a leader's effectiveness. Without trust, employees simply won't put forth their best efforts. Without the trust of peers and senior staff, an executive will find it much more challenging to get their cooperation when needed," says Gordon Wishon, CIO of Arizona State University. Earning people's trust requires hard work, honesty and consistency. Like anything worth doing in life, having a plan or strategy is always helpful.

Be a Great Listener
Another key component of trust building, according to experts, is being a great listener. "It takes time to earn trust. It requires active listening, with lots of open-ended questions, with gentle probing for clarity, and testing your own understanding by asking more questions in context of what you are learning from them," says Bob Kantor, Executive IT coach and CIO mentor at Kantor Consulting Group.

Niraj Jetly, CIO/COO at Edenred USA, agrees: "I engage with my team by listening to them describe their motivations, needs and aspirations. I invite them to paint the vision of tomorrow and solicit feedback on where they would like to contribute in the team's success. I also share with them our regular business goals and encourage them to ask questions to attempt and engage in conversations. I make attempts to expose them to facets of business that they would not see or comprehend otherwise. Based on these exercises, I am able to outline individualized pathways of success based on their preferences."

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