Individual commitment to building a great team should be everyone’s goal. And as CIO, your ability to build a senior leadership team that can execute your vision will be a harbinger of your—and your company’s—success. The best team, particularly in the IT world, is comprised of people who are business focused, agile, and who—when given the freedom and authority to do so—can innovate. This is what sets creative tech giants like Google and Apple (dare I say Amazon?) apart from everyone else. And, while the first two criteria are important, the last one—your willingness to step out of the way and let your team do their job—is often the most critical piece of the equation. Knowing that you are confident in their abilities will fuel your team’s passion to innovate and their commitment to deliver the desired results.
Your senior leadership team will naturally have myriad different skills and competencies. What you can do is make sure they learn to take charge in their own way, and to the best of their respective abilities. They must feel comfortable with one other and be conditioned to deal with difficult conversations in a rational manner—and as we all know, that’s not always easy. For some teams, pressure is a huge factor, and learning how to operate under it can be the difference between success and failure.
Another important thing to understand about leadership is that it definitely can be developed over time. That’s why your business culture is key. As CIO, you should be the driving force behind ensuring that the company as a whole is invested in developing a culture that fosters leadership growth in its employees.
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? But we all know it’s not. Because of the inherent rigid nature of many organizations, as well as today’s insanely fast-paced business world, having the time and energy to focus on building leadership teams can be difficult.
Here are some ideas to help you create a senior leadership team that will (hopefully) produce innovative contributions to your business.
Set measurable goals and guidelines. Of course, this needs to permeate all aspects of your company, but it is also important that senior leaders know exactly what their role is, and how it is defined, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Navigating large organizations can be difficult since there are stakeholder and client expectations to deal with, as well as those of their peers and higher-ups. Your goal should be to design a strategy that allows everyone to be clear on their part so they can avoid miscommunication and operate as a unit.
Don’t be overbearing. Allow your team to not feel like you are breathing down their necks in order for them to work most effectively. Offer support and assistance, but only semi-frequently, and preferably only when it looks like they need it. Frame questions in terms of their successes instead of shortfalls. Try, “Is there anything else you need for this project to be successful?” instead of “Why the HECK did you miss another deadline!!??” Trust me, it works.
Reinforce the company philosophy, and share goals and objectives. Your senior leadership team needs to be able to motivate others; to do that they need to be in tune with your company’s underlying ideology and corporate goals and objectives. All too often we don’t give our IT teams a seat at the leadership table, and when you can bring them into these conversations, and give them insight as to the broad goals of the business, you’ll end up with an engaged, loyal team, and fresh, innovative ideas. And this benefits everyone. So, having a clear vision of where you’re heading, where you want your team to be heading, and how you want them to lead their respective teams—and sharing that on a regular basis—are key components of success.
Help them develop as leaders. As a busy CIO, it’s tempting to provide answers and move on, letting your senior leadership team work out the details. While it’s true they need autonomy and independence, your should also be somewhat of a mentor. Focus on helping them develop and grow into their role as leaders within the organization by giving them opportunities to flex their leadership muscles and solve problems. When they are faced with a dilemma, guide them with open-ended questions that encourage them to explore the situation such as, “What is preventing this from working?” or “What is another way we could look at this?” Guiding them in this way fosters creativity and bolsters their confidence as leaders. This is especially important for younger members of your team, who are often hungry for mentorship.
An effective IT organization needs to run smoothly from the ground up and the best way for that to happen is to have a solid leadership team in place to guide day-to-day decisions and actions. Keep the above points in mind when you’re heading into your next meeting or trying to defuse a negative situation, and you’ll be on your way to building a successful and profitable company culture.
What do you think? Have you had to mentor a senior leadership team? Perhaps you’ve been part of a senior team with a fantastic leader. What did they do that made them so great? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
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