The Era of the IT Executive: 25 CIOs Speak Their Minds

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Zhen Tao

Paycor

How does your vision of IT line up with the company’s core values?

Paycor’s corporate philosophy is one of the bests of its kind. Take care of clients, that’s our first guiding principle. But if you look at the themes around our philosophy, they're hugely about people. Clients are people, too. Our other guiding principles are taking care of each other, fostering teamwork, respecting diversity, improving personally and professionally, and having fun. These are all about our people. We have a huge focus on products and services at Paycor. And our products are really in service to our clients—to increase their efficiencies, their capabilities and the value they get out of our software. Our IT organization is responsible not only for building and improving our products, they are responsible for our clients—in partnership, of course, with our great Client Service teams. We are also responsible for the phones, the computers and everything that keeps our infrastructure running internally. So we treat our own employees as our clients as well. We want to take the pride in providing a great service to all our customers, whether our clients or our colleagues.

How do you correlate business risk back to IT? 

As a SaaS technology provider, a key component of our IT function is product development. Our risk in IT is not being able to offer all the solutions our clients need. We solve this risk by building our own innovative solutions and enabling third-party providers to integrate with our core Human Capital Management and Payroll platforms. Our recent launches of Perform Onboarding and Perform Time are great examples of our product innovation in response to risk.

How do you approach your leadership role with your team?

My role is to coach and nurture. Beyond my coaching, I have to get on the practice field and work alongside our people. To continue the sports analogy, while we are in the game, I don’t get on the field and try to do what the players do. Instead, I work to remove distractions, enable my teams and empower my players. You put good players on the field and entrust them to win the game. If I micromanage, I run the risk of my players not knowing what to do if left alone in the game. Trusting my teams also inspires creativity. In the technology field, creativity and innovation are critical. The traditional command and control style probably works well in the military, but in technology, it’s more about empowering and enabling the team.

How important is the relationship between IT and the business executives?

Very important. I not only have to empower and trust my team, but I have to build that same trust in me with our CEO, my peers and the board. Executive leaders need to focus on both the horizontal and vertical hierarchy because they are equally important. Leaders don’t just manage their employees or the executives above them, they manage their peers as well. Without trust at the horizontal level, leaders can be crippled or their success can be delusionary. So it’s about taking your business partners seriously and putting yourself in their shoes, whether that is sales partners or accounting partners. As you build that trust, you will spend less energy fighting for the choices you have to make for technology. 

 

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The Era of the IT Executive: 25 CIOs Speak Their Minds

21 of 27

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