I previously posted that great leaders focus on setting the agenda, building a great team and delivering with consistency. However, that is only part of the challenge for a leader, because none of that matters if you can’t “sell it” and if the business won’t consume it. That’s where “Street Smarts” are required, but I prefer to think about it as the importance of knowing the organizational dynamics and collaborating with people that can help set and sell the agenda. Notice the dual obligation to both set the proper agenda and then get the right people to support and promote it.

You Can’t Successfully Drive Change Alone

If you are to create and pursue an agenda that’s meaningful, you’ll need the support of the CEO, CFO, CMO, etc. However, you’re going to have to dig a little deeper in the organization to gain input and support from leaders that are willing, and in a position, to help you not just play the game better but to help drive change. These are your GAME CHANGERS, and to successfully drive any real change, you’ll have to find and spend time with them to gain their understanding and support. I’ve seen it be as few as a dozen but never, even in global companies, be more than 30. I know that might seem like a very small group, especially in a big company, but the concept is to get those few game changers to really own, lead, drive and influence others. Eventually, the belief and momentum does have to reach hundreds, or even thousands, of people in the organization, but it starts with just a few well-chosen and committed leaders.

You Have to Pick the Right People

This group should consist of key leaders of units that you’ll need to help lead the change. Having a Finance and HR leader on the team is critical since you’ll need to keep the CFO and CHRO working with you. It’s also vital that you don’t underestimate leaders on your own IT team since a major component of success is to achieve the business outcomes on a modern, technical architecture with a highly productive IT organization. This group needs to have great representation across the executive team and business unit or P&L owners – or at least those relatively high-level people who influence those executives.

You Have to Put in the Work

Building this collaboration network of game changers will require large amounts of your calendar time to really engage deeply and consistently with these game changers. It’s going to take a lot of effort on your part, but you simply can’t run a successful transformation campaign without putting forth that effort. You have to make the time, and this is true of every department or functional leader. However, it’s more time consuming for the modern CIO, because you touch every function and, effectively, play the role of Chief Integration Officer for the enterprise.

In this modern era, functional excellence has become “table stakes,” making it so that true growth and prosperity requires cross-functional excellence that only the CIO can make happen. Also, achieving a seamless customer experience and acting as a global company or leveraging supply chain power, requires that multiple business units, geographies and functions work together across normal boundaries. As CIOs, it’s our job to enable this cross-functional, cross-business unit network of leaders to think and act beyond their own local interest or silo. Therefore, assembling a group of like-minded allies with broad perspectives, influences and motives to help change the game is a major competency of a great IT leader.

Author: Charlie Feld, Founder, The Feld Group Institute
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