CxO Talk: Trust, engagement, and influence for the CIO

Learn three foundations for gaining strategic influence in your organization.

Every week, I host CxO Talk with friend and colleague Vala Afshar. Episode 8 is a conversation with author and entrepreneur, Mark Fidelman, who is an expert on how companies can use social media to boost relationships with buyers. The entire video conversation is embedded at the bottom of this post.

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The conversation got me thinking about the importance of trust and influence for chief information officers. Too often, the CIO is left behind in strategic conversations because his or her influence and credibility are not sufficiently strong inside the company; that's an issue for any CIO who wants to drive organizational transformation.

Also read: Five Steps to Build CIO Relevancy

Based on my research and conversations with many senior executives, a CIO can take affirmative steps to cultivate organizational influence. However, any action should begin with understanding how influence interweaves with trust, credibility, and relationship.

CIO trust and influence

The equation is simple: trust equals relevance and credibility in the context of a relationship. Expressed differently, meaningful engagement is the gateway to influence.

If you want to gain influence inside your organization, take the following steps:

  1. Become relevant by offering constituents useful information, advice, and services. Many stakeholders view IT (and the CIO) as primarily a supplier of technical services and infrastructure, a view that devalues the entire information technology function. To combat this perception, you must listen hard -- learn to understand what stakeholders find important and then address those needs. Sadly, the people who most need this message usually think it does not apply to them.
  2. Drive credibility by increasing relevance. CIO credibility arises when IT delivers relevant activities and projects in reliably and consistently. When asked about this issue, Shakespeare said that credibility happens automatically when IT does what stakeholders need and fulfill its commitments with operational excellence; in the words of Shakespeare: "And it must follow, as the night the day."
  3. Forge relationships based on credibility. Trust happens over time; it's not a single event. Therefore, becoming influential requires you to develop an ongoing pattern of relevance and credibility. Relationship happens when you engage stakeholders, listen carefully, and then offer practical, compelling, and useful solutions. Establish this pattern and mutually beneficial relationships are inevitable.

For a CIO (or anyone, really) who wants to play a strategic organizational role, all these components work together as a seamless model for daily interaction. The real key is recognizing trust and influence as facets of a single whole and not isolated attributes to implement independently.



This episode of CxO Talk offers suggestions on driving the culture changes needed to take maximum advantage of social media. The conversation includes a discussion of trust and influence, which depend on credibility and can only flourish in the presence of long-term relationship.

Here is this week's entire CxO Talk discussion:

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