The Importance of Building Strong Relationships

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Of all the competencies required to be an effective CIO, none may be more important than being able to build positive relationships with your key stakeholders. In fact, I’ve never seen a successful CIO who does not have strong relationships.

There are a number of key components that are indispensable to developing mutually beneficial relationships.

Perhaps the most important aspect of any relationship is trust, which takes years to build and only minutes to destroy.

When helping my clients build trust, I focus on two critical components. The first is: Say what you mean. How many of us have had meetings with someone who spoke in code?

When I was a kid, there was a brand of sneakers called PF Flyers. Each pair of sneakers came with a decoder ring to help you translate hidden messages. How many of us leave some conversations or meetings feeling the need for a decoder ring? How many of us sometimes need a translator to understand what the real agenda was for a conversation?

I make it a practice to be transparent. People might like or hate what I have to say, but they are very clear where I’m coming from. There are no hidden agendas, no secret messages, nothing up my sleeve!

The second part of this equation is: Mean what you say. Many of us say things to appease people at the moment without considering the longer-term consequences of our words. When people deal with me, they know that I don’t write checks I can’t cash. If I say something, you can take it to the bank.

A few years ago, I made a commitment to deliver a keynote presentation at a major conference in Los Angeles. I crawled out of bed with 102 degree fever and put on a suit. My wife asked me where the heck I was going. I told her I had a flight to LA to speak at a conference. This was a commitment I had made, and I was going to honor it.

I flew six hours, gave my presentation, collapsed in my hotel room, woke up after having passed out, and flew six hours back home. There were 250 people expecting to hear me speak, and nothing short of the Grim Reaper was going to preclude that from happening!

The only thing worse than telling someone “no” is making a commitment to deliver something of value and then reneging on that commitment. If you want to destroy a relationship fast, just make promises you don’t keep.

In summary, trust is the most important aspect of building relationships. Ultimately, trust creates credibility. To me, a simple definition of credibility is when the things you say are congruent with your actions.

How many times have people told you how important you are to them, yet they don’t make an effort to spend time with you? How many times have people shared how critical a project is, but they don’t invest the financial and human resources required to ensure the project is successful?

Trust and credibility require putting your money where your mouth is. They are the foundation of all meaningful relationships—whether personal or professional.

Larry Bonfante is an award-winning CIO with 35 years of experience in the IT industry. As the founder of CIO Bench Coach, he has served as an executive coach and trusted adviser to executives at some of the most prestigious companies in the world. You can contact him on email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @bonfante.