One challenge for many IT organizations is that of credibility. In a recent post, I discussed the importance of credibility and the network effect in IT. What is credibility? According to Merriam-Webster, credibility is ‘the quality or power of inspiring belief or (the) capacity for belief.’
The question every IT professional, whether the CIO or otherwise should ask is: What is my reputation with those outside of IT? Do others outside of my organization believe me? Put a different way, do others outside of IT find my ability credible. This may sound strange, but could also be seen as a form of effectiveness for the IT leader and their organization. Sadly, the answer to this question differs on who you ask. When talking about this with CIOs and IT staff, I often find the answer to be ‘yes’. However, when talking with folks outside of the IT organization, the answer is often ‘no.’ I have seen this play out across a number of organizations.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CREDIBILITY
At this point, some may be asking: “So what?” or “Why is this so important?” The short answer is: without credibility, it is increasingly more difficult if not impossible to be effective in IT. For the CIO we often talk about wanting a “seat at the table” as if it is an entitlement. Bottom line: it is something earned, not freely given. Nor is it an entitlement. And without credibility, it is a non-starter. If you cannot effectively manage basics, do not expect to be included in the more interesting and strategic efforts.
Credibility provides the ability to navigate through these points in a meaningful way. Getting to a point where one can transact on their credibility takes time and work. It is important to focus on building credibility over time and avoiding the missteps that erode it.
KNOW YOUR BLIND SPOTS
One way to avoid missteps is awareness of your blind spots. Everyone has them. Few will admit to their existence and even fewer will actively seek to understand and manage them. Yet, understanding where they exist puts you in a very powerful position.
Part of understanding your blind spots is to genuinely listen…and with an open mind. Many in IT are quick to judge, offer alternative solutions or take a defensive posture. Yet, there are times when the best approach is simply to listen and learn. If we, as IT professionals, are truly interested in being perceived as change agents, we need to be genuinely open to feedback. Remember that perception of those outside of IT is reality. It matters less about what IT thinks about itself internally. Do we have all the answers? No.
By seeking out input and taking the feedback seriously, we can learn where our blind spots are. We also do something else in the process. We build stronger relationships. The positive engagement with others opens the door to deeper conversations where folks learn more about each other. These relationships will naturally lead to showing empathy and appreciation in understanding each other’s perspective.
Let’s face it: IT professionals are not that great at building relationships with those outside of IT. Yet, that is exactly what we need to do. Perception is reality and it is important to understand these differences. Remember, it is more important what they think, not what you think. Perception is reality.
Part of building relationships is knowing when to fall on your sword. This is particularly hard for IT folks who have come up in a culture where failure is seen as a sign of weakness. More important is to maintain a healthy balance. Again, empathy and a good dose of humility are good attributes.
Following these steps while keeping an open mind will help build credibility with those most critical to your success. Understand your blind spots and work on building strong, healthy relationships both within IT and externally. The combination of these actions will change the perception and build credibility.