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The importance of becoming a trusted advisor

Leigh McMullen | Aug. 25, 2017
CIOs who have moved beyond simply being managers to becoming trusted advisors, have a great latitude to innovate and drive change.


To help enterprises thrive in an uncertain digital future, CIOs need to become trusted advisors to the rest of the C-suite. Some people have a knack for becoming trusted advisors. Many CIOs, however, aren't so lucky.

They have to work on becoming a trusted advisor because the skills involved are greatly different from the engineering problem solving skills that helped them master their current role. Some CIOs may even feel that the role of trusted advisor is out of reach.

Any CIO can realistically set “trusted advisor” as the goal. A great trusted advisor uses a formal approach to selling, persuading and overcoming resistance.

Selling and persuasion, however, can feel like bad words in our mass-marketing culture. For many people, the word “sales” conjures up thoughts of fast talkers in bad suits, with slicked-back hair. Likewise, “persuasion” can be associated with coercion. Yet what’s charismatic leadership, if not the ability to persuade audiences to rally behind a vision?

Your advice must not only be heard, but also internalised by the person you’re advising. Amid a backdrop of vendor marketing, management consultants and the ever-present white noise of spam, your message must stand out and trigger action from the person you advise. It’s not good enough to simply give great advice. To be a trusted advisor, you’ve got to sell.

Top-notch salespeople help their customers address problems and seize opportunities by showing the path to a better future. They don’t make vague promises. They paint a clear picture of the path to improvement.

CIOs who have moved beyond simply being managers to becoming trusted advisors, have a great latitude to innovate and drive change. Meanwhile, those who focus on the table stakes of IT find themselves under constant budgetary and operational pressures.

All CIOs need the abilities to sell and persuade in their toolbox. Without them, you’ll be powerless to help the enterprise survive and thrive.


Selling a compelling vision

Even very successful CIOs are discovering that the skills that got them there, won’t necessarily take them to the next level. Ultimately businesses need their CIOs to become trusted advisors who have the ability to sell a compelling vision. This vision and the will to execute it are required for the success of any transformation to digital business. The skills applied are active, not passive, and they need to work upwardly and laterally in the organisation.

If you’re trying to persuade business leaders to transform to digital business, overcoming established mental models can be very onerous. It’s even more difficult if the attempts to persuade rely on the wrong triggers. Persuading established business leaders to try something new, rather than to double down on what has worked in the past, requires a compelling narrative full of emotional triggers.


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