How to build trust as a new IT executive

Rich Hein

Clearly, it's important that a new leader not appear to give special or preferential treatment on the basis of friendships. A great leader makes decisions on the merits of the arguments and the benefits to the organization.

"The appearance of preferential treatment in decision-making can have a devastating impact on the level of trust between the executive and employees. The new executive may want to have a conversation with previous coworkers about what the company is expecting in terms of decision-making, reinforcing the value of the friendship but making clear that the company's best interest must drive future decisions," says Wishon.

Entering Company in Crisis Mode
Entering a new position where the department or organization itself is in a state of crisis adds a whole other dimension to this topic. New executives who have many times have been the doers or the people who actually get the job done want to jump right in and start making changes, but this is often a path fraught with danger.

"Employees (and the CEO) in a company in crisis are looking for the new executive to act decisively to make change, but the need for speed doesn't relieve the executive from taking the time to assess the situation, to gain his/her own opinion of needed changes. But this might be a much quicker assessment than otherwise," says Wishon.

In crisis mode, new executives have to do what they can to allay the fears of a struggling team in a crisis environment. Whatever the root of the crisis it has likely led the employees to believe one of the following:

Another crisis may be coming.
The new leader won't know how to address it.

The new leader won't recognize my value.

"New executives need to recognize that when a company's in crisis mode, there's already an environment of distrust present, and that current environment has nothing to do with them. In situations like these, it's vitally important that the leader not only display the components of trust-building mentioned before, but that they display an understanding of crisis management, how to get ahead of trouble, how to manage fallout and how to work with their existing team to address concerns," says Rucker.

Once You Gain Trust, You Must Maintain It
Trust is the glue that holds great teams together and the foundation upon which new teams are built upon, says Rucker. "When a new leader takes on a new role, the existing team doesn't know what to expect. Their opinions are largely built on lore at this point, and they're waiting to have an individual experience that either confirms or denies what they've heard," says Rucker.

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