Career coach Susan Cramm answers readers' questions about reaching out to business partners and effective leadership styles.
Q: What is your advice when efforts to reach out to a business partner fail? One business unit head at my company is always "too busy" to meet with me.
A: It sounds like you have gone above and beyond in your efforts to forge a relationship. First and foremost, make sure that his organization is satisfied with your day-to-day services. If issues exist, get them resolved. It's impossible to create relationships if operational credibility isn't in place. Next, focus on creating a great reputation with other, more cooperative business units. Ask those who have a relationship with this executive to praise your efforts. Try also to cultivate relationships and build credibility with his direct reports. Ask them for opportunities to get in front of their supervisor to review your joint accomplishments
Q: Don't those who "lead from the back" run the risk of being perceived not as leaders but as followers?
A: Great leaders practice the philosophy that "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." They use inquiry to understand others' perspectives and shift into advocacy when they have the information necessary to propose the path forward.
Q: Why counsel CIOs to use others to drive their agenda? Why not take an aggressive stance to position yourself as a leader within the organization?
A: Let me use an analogy to answer your question. My doctor can take a more aggressive stance to influence me to take better care of myself, but I am the one who determines whether or not my behaviours change. The best way for my doctor to influence me is to understand my motivators. CIOs don't own the "Three P's" of value creation — the processes, P&L and people — so they must use others to drive their agenda. Of course their agenda must be shared since those owning the Three P's determine the priority and success of the IT-enabled initiatives. The CIO can drive the IT agenda only if it serves the needs of those running the business.
Susan Cramm is founder and president of Valuedance, an executive coaching firm in San Clemente, California. You can e-mail feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.