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StrategyMay 01, 2015

IT, Marketing, and Digital Leaders Say Relational Trust and Leadership are the Most Important Factors

Justin Bell

Last week I had a great opportunity to spend the afternoon with about 40 CIOs, CMOs, and Digital leaders at a Strategic Forum event that allows us to all share our experiences, learn from each other, and develop new relationships with our executive peers.  The topic for the day was how IT, Marketing, and Digital can work together to win in the increasingly digital world.

Throughout the panel and round-table discussions, one theme kept emerging that may surprise you.  It wasn’t any of the current buzz-words like Big Data, Analytics, Cloud, IT Velocity, Innovation, or Agile and it wasn’t even some of the traditional conversation points like Governance, Organizational Design, and Strategy.

Instead, the consistent theme was that without relational trust at the leadership level, nothing else mattered.  I’ve often said that no methodology or process can fix talent and engagement issues and similarly, I believe that no organizational structure, strategy, or governance model can fix trust issues amongst the key leaders.

Here are a few take-aways from the event:

  • Speed of the leader, speed of the team: Each of the different departments (i.e., IT, Marketing, Digital) will emulate the leaders of those organizations and how they treat people.  If the leaders are standoffish, put up roadblocks and fail to collaborate with each other – that is exactly what everyone in their departments will do.  The result will be  less efficient meetings, slower decision-making, more silos, and decreased overall throughput and agility.  Conversely, if the IT, Marketing, and Digital leaders are seen partnering, collaborating, treating each other with respect and trust – the teams will follow and good things will happen.

  • Walk a mile in their shoes: It turns out that having empathy and a real understanding of where your counterparts are coming from really matters.  Several of our panelists shared success stories of how making some effort to better understand your peers in the other departments objectives, motives, and challenges made a tremendous difference in getting aligned on the same vision and improved relational trust.  It is amazing the impact of just expressing how you want to better understand someone else’s perspective instead of immediately escalating into a bad situation can make.

  • Invest in relationships:  At this level, all of these executives are extremely busy.  However, a consistent “lesson learned” from many was that sometimes you have to slow down, focus on people and your relationship with them so that you can ultimately go faster.  We’re huge believers of this at Credera.  On our partner team, we invest significant time to make sure our relationships are sound so that we can operate most efficiently in the day-to-day strategic and operational “transactions” with each other.  To be sure it happens, some of our panelists shared that they even schedule “relationship time” each week to just visit with people, hear what’s going on and develop better relationships over time.

There were many other great experiences shared (e.g., align the organization around the customer, space planning ideas for collaboration, tips for meeting efficiency, tips for finding the balance between speed and stability, etc.), but the main take-away is that without relational trust and strong leadership the rest doesn’t matter.