There is no “I” in team.
But there is an “I” in innovation, infrastructure, and impact—three aspects of a strong technology team. And as the Chief Technology Officer, building a well-rounded tech team can be exceedingly difficult with frequent tech advancements and growing skills gaps.
That’s why making an investment in your people and creating a collaborative environment is key to your team’s success. In order to do that, it’s essential to build personal connections with your team and encourage them to build connections with each other.
As the CTO, you can start building personal connections and a better team with investments in:
- Their skills (professional development)
- Two-way feedback
- Showing appreciation
Going back to the skills gap we mentioned earlier, a CTO is faced with only a few choices to bridge the gap: outsource, hire talent with the necessary skills, or invest in current employees. Because technology changes so frequently, it’s not always an option to find new employees.
Make the investment in your current team and show them you care about their professional growth and their role at the company. Doing so helps build loyalty and trust, and makes employees feel like valued members of the team.
Strong relationships, and thus strong teams, are built on trust. Without trust, honest, two-way communication can’t flourish. You can help build that trust by allowing your team to provide you with feedback and then taking that feedback and making changes. If your team can see the impact their feedback is having, that strengthens their faith in you and your leadership.
Investing in your team’s growth also means taking the time to provide them with feedback—both formally with reviews and informally with one on one conversations as needed. As you’re giving feedback, think about action items or next steps that will help your employee get where they need to go. It’s one thing to tell someone where they need to improve; it’s another to show them how.
As an employee, hearing words of gratitude from the CTO carries a lot of weight. Tech isn’t always sexy and exciting. Sometimes it’s just helping someone reboot their hardware. As a result, it can be thankless work, which is why creating a culture of appreciation reminds employees why they do what they do.
That kind of environment starts at the top—with you, the CTO. What does this look like? Could be a myriad of things from simple words of thanks, to an employee of the month awards, or financial incentives. Get your team’s input on how they want to be recognized too.
Giving your employees professional development opportunities, feedback, and showing appreciation all help foster better working relationships and better teams. But that’s not all you need.
Creating a Collaborative Environment
A big part of teamwork involves collaboration. But collaboration doesn’t appear out of thin air. It needs to be coaxed. Do so by encouraging innovation, autonomy, and trust.
Innovation for innovation’s sake isn’t great for business. But when a new challenge presents itself, put your best minds (your employees’) on the task. Have a brainstorming session where no ideas are bad ideas. Creating time to ideate lets your employees stretch their thinking and gets them to engage with one another.
Making space for innovation ties into both autonomy and trust.
Leaders need to delegate. As the CTO, you may have the technical chops to code an app for your company, but unless you’re a one-person team, delegate. Give your team the autonomy to lead a project and come up with their own path forward.
When faced with an open-ended problem, teams will come together to find a solution. This automatically leaves room for collaboration and innovation. The benefits of autonomy not only include increased job satisfaction, but they also include added faith and trust in leadership.
When employees feel like the CTO trusts them enough to run with a project or to hear their opinions, they develop more respect for and loyalty to you and the company.
But trust operates both ways. You have to trust in their abilities and skills enough to come to their own conclusions. Part of that requires letting go of control and taking a slight leap of faith. The other part goes back to investing in their skills, giving them feedback, and showing your appreciation.
You’ll naturally trust tenured employees over newbies because you’ve had more time to build personal connections. But don’t discount newer employees altogether; they bring a fresh perspective and can help you examine things through a different lens.
What all these investments and ways to create a collaborative environment boil down to is caring. That’s what it takes for a CTO to make better personal connections with their team. Show your employees you care about them, their workplace happiness, and their professional growth, and you’ll be on your way to building stronger connections.