The first few weeks a CIO spends with a new IT team are both critical and challenging. Recent events haven\u2019t made the job any easier.\n\nA pandemic, digital innovation initiatives, and \u201cThe Great Resignation\u201d have combined to make it more challenging than ever for an incoming CIO to engage with their new team and set a course for future success. \u201cIt takes a degree of empathy and team engagement that many CIOs may have felt less important in the past,\u201d observes Kim Bozzella, global leader of the technology consulting practice at Protiviti.\n\nFitting in with and successfully leading a new team can lead to many years of management and personal accomplishments. That\u2019s the good news. To ensure a smooth transition, here\u2019s a rundown of ways to make sure you start off on the right foot.\n\n1. Be upfront and honest\n\n\u201cStart by pledging to foster an IT department culture that\u2019s open, honest, and committed to excellence,\u201d says Zachary Rossmiller, CIO at the University of Montana. He advises sharing insights on the department\u2019s current status and soliciting support in shaping the future. \u201cI finish the pledge by informing the team that I will continuously work to improve the environment in which we all operate.\u201d\n\nAs a leader, be careful never to overpromise and underdeliver. \u201cWhen trust is broken, it\u2019s difficult to rebuild,\u201d Rossmiller warns. \u201cAdditionally, don\u2019t disrespect a team by exerting your authority to make change without expending the time and energy needed to make reasoned decisions.\u201d\n\n2. Concentrate on department leaders\n\nWinning a team over starts from the top down. \u201cIn most cases, the CIO will inherit an IT leadership team that already possess strong relationships with and support from the IT organization,\u201d Bozzella says. \u201cGetting this group\u2019s buy-in to the new vision will help set the right tone throughout the IT team and help to win over the organization.\u201d\n\nConversely, replacing the inherited IT leadership team with strangers provided by the new CIO risks creating barriers to trust building. Any leadership changes should be carefully weighed against this risk, she suggests. \u201cDoing an early listening-tour with each of the team members \u2014 asking questions and seeking to understand \u2014 is a good first step in the multi-step journey.\u201d\n\n\u201cEmpower the individual leaders and focus on enabling them to be your successful execution arms,\u201d advises Chris Mattmann, CTIO at NASA\u2019s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. \u201cRealize that you aren\u2019t the one that\u2019s executing; you\u2019re leading through your leadership while your team and organizations execute.\u201d\n\n3. Assess \u2014 and then provide direction\n\nTo build a strong IT strategy and roadmap, it\u2019s necessary to fully understand the enterprise\u2019s overall strategy. Take some time to observe and understand both short- and long-term goals.\n\n\u201cGive yourself a month or two to complete a full assessment of the current IT landscape \u2014 the team, technology stack, programs, infrastructure, and key vendors,\u201d suggests Jamshid Rezaei, CIO at telecommunications systems developer Mitel. \u201cFrom there, you can partner with your direct reports and the extended team to define the IT strategy and its roadmap.\u201d\n\nIn the interim, don\u2019t disparage or ridicule the enterprise\u2019s existing IT strategy. Rezaei compares an incoming CIO to a new soccer coach. \u201cAs a new coach, you don\u2019t want to treat your players like they\u2019re not good enough,\u201d he says. Forget about the past. \u201cStart from scratch; understand what\u2019s there, where the gaps are, and put trust within your teams.\u201d\n\n4. Be inquisitive\n\nAsk questions \u2014 many, many questions, suggests Scott Caschette, CIO at Schellman, an independent security and privacy compliance assessment firm. \u201cEven if you know the answer, phrase it in the form of a question,\u201d he recommends. \u201cStir the pot.\u201d\n\nAsk questions that may seem obvious; challenge team members in a friendly manner. \u201cThe more interactive and dynamic, the better,\u201d Caschette says. Get staff creativity flowing by occasionally asking questions that are absurd or over the top. The point isn\u2019t necessarily to get answers, it\u2019s to create conversations, break down barriers, and build trust, he notes.\n\n5. Be mission-focused and specific\n\nSuccessful CIOs have a mission-first focus. \u201cAs soon as you worry about personal glory, you\u2019ve lost your team\u2019s trust,\u201d says Naveen Zutshi, CIO at software platform developer Databricks. \u201cIt\u2019s important to be clear with your new team about what your IT vision and what you will need from the team to execute on that vision.\u201d\n\nHere it is important to be as specific as possible. \u201cEmpower the IT team by laying out exactly how this new vision will benefit their growth, the experiences they are likely to gain, and the other ways it will help them financially and professionally,\u201d he adds.\n\nA mission-led approach gives teams a clarity of purpose, challenging them to create something significantly better than what they believed was possible. Zutshi also believes that the technique leads to enhanced team loyalty and retention. \u201cIn addition, by focusing on and rewarding individual and team successes, you demonstrate that as a leader you are committed to supporting and helping each member of your team succeed professionally,\u201d he notes.\n\n6. Get involved and engage with all team members\n\nSet aside time to monitor the new team\u2019s internal dynamics \u2014 the ways personnel operate and interact with each other. \u201cA big pitfall is only listening to the loudest person in the room,\u201d warns Robin Bell, CIO at security technology provider Egress. \u201cTake time to engage with all members of the team and build up a fuller picture of the situation before making decisions.\u201d\n\nWhen trying to win a new team\u2019s loyalty, it can be tempting to form individual friendships. Yet there\u2019s a big difference between being friendly and a friend. While strong connections are beneficial, it\u2019s important not to go overboard on individual relationships. \u201cParticularly when it comes to having more difficult conversations with members of your team, this can make things more difficult than they need to be,\u201d Bell notes. \u201cYou want them to feel comfortable sharing their feedback with you while maintaining an appropriate level of distance.\u201d\n\n7. Be patient\n\nResist the urge to implement immediate massive changes in team dynamics, rules, or procedures, says Rich Temple, vice president and CIO at the Deborah Heart and Lung Center. It\u2019s important for the new CIO to realize that while things need to be done differently, the department\u2019s current status exists for a reason. Current procedures shouldn\u2019t be discarded until the new CIO fully understands why things were set up the way they are. \u201cWhile it\u2019s expected that a new CIO will bring new ideas and perspectives to the job, it can be scary and disorienting for team members to go through major changes in their day-to-day lives on top of the change in leadership that has just occurred,\u201d Temple says.\n\nTeam members are usually always nervous when a new leader arrives, not just in regard to the quality of their day-to-day work lives, but also for their long-term job security. \u201cThe new CIO needs to earn the team\u2019s trust that he or she is not just going to impose his or her will and is not looking to do a \u2018slash-and-burn\u2019 operation on the team,\u201d Temple notes.