How do you build trust fast during your Interim Executive engagements?” asked a Manager from a large manufacturing company.

I had been invited to share my experiences with attendees during the last evening of a weeklong performance workshop they were attending. The group comprised of middle managers marked for promotion and a few CISOs and other senior executives from large and mid-sized organizations.

This was a thought-provoking question for me. I have been consulting as an interim CTO of mid-sized companies and in functional roles at large corporations for a while. I understood the value of building trust, but I had never given much thought to how I go about developing trust on interim engagements.

That’s a thought-provoking question”, I stalled. I needed time to think.

My engagements are typically high stakes work.  Things get complicated on emerging tech initiatives involving Blockchain, IoT and AI. As an interim, I lack the benefit an employee has of knowing how people, culture, and processes work in their company. An interim has to catch on fast, develop trust and relationships quickly and become effective. Developing trust in an unknown environment is not easy.

Running out of time, and needing to come up with an answer to the question, I quickly ran through a few past engagements in my head. I thought of a recent engagement for a Fortune 500 Company that would impact revenue and potentially the stock price. The executive committee and their organizations had to be aligned in a short time to meet an analyst briefing deadline.

I thought of how new regulations drove a short-fuse technology initiative at another client.

Still trying to identify a common theme, I thought of a digital transformation and cloud migration initiative for a large PE-owned company that had aggressive timelines. Suddenly, it was crystal clear to me. I realized that I had applied a few skills consistently on each of these assignments to build trust fast. I had my answer!

Identifying true intent of the assignment, drive, and ability to deliver, transparency, collaboration, and conflict resolution are some of the key tools I have applied consistently,” I replied.

The attendees in the audience had follow-up questions and asked for examples, a few of which I have provided here.

1.     Get to the true intent fast!

Often, I have discovered that the main intent of a business or technology initiative is buried somewhere deep in the assignment, and not adequately communicated to all parties. Without understanding the main intent, one will have a hard time winning cross-organizational support.

For example, at an assignment,  for a corporation with over 40,000 employees what seemed like a cybersecurity posture improvement effort turned out to be a digital transformation and customer journey initiative first, and a cybersecurity initiative second!

Once I understood this, convincing the Chief Product Officer and other Executives to collaborate with us became easier. I was speaking their language! My teams got the support they needed.

2.     Drive and the ability to deliver

An individual’s drive to deliver shows through the confidence emanating from the core of their being. It also brings an infectious enthusiasm. It motivates others to collaborate readily.

Add to this an ability to paint the vision of success and deliver on promises, and you have a winning recipe for building trust.  

At another of my clients, a large business intelligence effort had stalled. The stakeholders – business, IT and the company’s institutional clients were all discussing the product and its reports in abstraction. The company risked having unhappy clients.

By creating a working platform simulation that produced sample reports, we turned abstraction into reality. Excitement developed and organizational hurdles fell. Client concerns turned into collaboration and the platform was developed successfully.

3.     Transparency

Transparency invites trust that continues to grow with high-quality work. A lack of transparency shows through very quickly! People are smart. They can intuit and identify a person’s intent. When others can unhesitatingly identify where an individual is headed, transparency is established.

So many times, consultants get caught up in choosing sides that clouds transparency. Clients begin to lose trust in such situations.

Transparency does not equate to weakness. If anything, transparency invites collaboration.

4.     Conflict Resolution

An important part of conflict resolution is the ability to separate the issue from the personalities. Without this separation, a reasonable resolution path is hard to determine.

I was once involved in the development of a B2B technology for an industry-wide group of medium and large companies. This platform was a high stakes game changer for the participants. Other companies with competing offers already held a dominant market share.

As was expected, each of the participating companies had different requirements and opinions, so conflicts were common. Emotions ran high and deep.

Separating the personalities from the issues made it possible for us to eventually figure out the common denominator requirements across the participating businesses. It helped align them all towards the common goals of the platform.

The platform launched successfully in record time, and it put the industry’s offering in a dominant market position that continues to this day.


Humans possess trust development traits. Building trust, and maintaining it is an on-going effort. Trust is an asset equally applicable to interim assignments and jobs alike. It requires constant nurturing. What makes you successful at work? Create an inventory of what you do well. Strengthen them for continued success.