Partners: Find the Right One and Improve Your Career

By Stephanie Overby, CIO |  Career, collaboration

Let's face it: As CIO, you're lonely. You've got teams of people working below you, a boss and board weighing in from above and executive peers who don't get what you do. What you need is a partner.

Not the kind of partner that's become a C-suite cliché--"We're partnering with a new vendor" or "We have to partner with the business"--but a real honest-to-goodness collaboration between you and another human being reaching common goals you could never achieve individually.

"Isolation is quite literally unhealthy--as bad for you as smoking or lack of exercise," explains Rodd Wagner who, with fellow Gallup executive Gale Muller, coauthored the book Power of 2: How to Make the Most of Your Partnerships at Work and in Life. "The more we collaborate, the more we accomplish." In fact, Wagner and Muller, who studied thousands of one-on-one collaborations to determine what makes them successful, found that the highest levels of happiness and engagement kick in when a person has five to 10 good alliances.

To read more on this topic see: Collaborative Innovation: Five Steps to Successful Technology Partnerships.

Raytheon vice president and CIO Rebecca Rhoads credits some of her success to alliances formed with peers in engineering, finance, supply chain, communications, HR, business development and legal. "They often give me new insights," she says.

Potential partners can be found among your direct reports or in the C-Suite Wagner says. The problem is you can't just throw any two people together and expect a fruitful relationship to flourish. To create more perfect unions, Wagner and Muller layout eight requirements: complementary strengths, a common mission, fairness, trust, acceptance, forgiveness, communicating and unselfishness. That means the assistant that doesn't exactly share the workload may not be partner material. And that VP who sees you as his main competition? Not a partner.

Also avoid partnering with your corporate doppelganger. "You don't need another person just like you as a partner," Muller explains. "You need someone who has what you don't."

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