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Louis Carter, speaker at Talent Management Asia
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How chief talent officers and CEOs can work together

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Leadership development specialist Louis Carter identifies the strategies CTOs and CEOs can utilise to ensure they are harnessing the full potential of their talent.

Twelve years ago, most corporate executives had never heard of a chief talent officer (CTO), or they immediately associated the title “CTO” with the chief technology officer.

Today, most major corporations have a CTO or an executive who is recognised as playing that role. However, many companies have yet to fully tap the power of the CTO position.

I set out to better understand the CEO-CTO relationship by interviewing CEOs and CTOs who lead their organisations through talent by exploring, firstly, what great CEOs bring to this partnership.

1. Great CEOs know people are the priority

Most business leaders today accept as an infallible truth that an organisation’s most important resource is its people.

Being genuinely committed to that tenet forms the basis of a winning CEO-CTO relationship.

For instance, perhaps no industry puts a higher premium on good talent than professional sports. When Major League pitcher Nolan Ryan transitioned to the business side as principal owner and CEO of the Texas Rangers, he wanted to have the best people in the front office.

“You have to put the right people in the right seats,” said Rick George, the Rangers’ chief operating officer.

“What I think we’ve been doing effectively here is we have people in the right seats. The one thing Nolan has done is really create a culture of family and togetherness, where everybody has a role.”

2. Great CEOs make the CTO a trusted partner

A CEO who truly values talent sees the logic of developing a strategic partnership with the CTO.

To form an effective partnership, CEOs and CTOs need to spend some quality time getting to know where the other is coming from on talent management.

A healthy CEO-CTO partnership is not possible unless the CEO wants to make it happen.

Treating each other as friends and granting each other access, honesty and trust create the context for a winning CEO-CTO partnership.

What Great CTOs Bring To The Partnership

A healthy CEO-CTO partnership is not possible unless the CEO wants to make it happen.

However, cultivating that relationship is a two-way street.

A good CTO knows how to deliver on his or her end of the bargain – a few of which are summarised in the points below.

1. Great CTOs make the CEO their No. 1 client.

Perhaps the most significant contribution a CTO can make to the partnership is to view the CEO as the CTO’s No. 1 client.

Like everybody, CEOs need to be learning and developing, and the best talent officers help make that happen.

When Hy Pomerance became CTO at New York Life Insurance Co., he started working on his strategic partnership with CEO Ted Mathas.

“It really started with me taking an interest in him as a leader,” Pomerance said. “I really wanted to understand, deeply understand, where he was in his own journey as a leader.”

It is no surprise that many CEOs find it difficult to open up about areas in which they may have room for growth. Pomerance recommends humility and patience.

“I kept my relationship on what I would call the ‘interview level.’ I had lots of questions. That gave him the confidence that he could start asking me questions.”

2. Great CTOs gain the trust of other key leaders 

In developing a healthy relationship with the CEO, the CTO can’t ignore other top executives.

The best CTOs know that one of their best resources is strong alliances with other members of the executive team.

“You can’t just have an allegiance with the CEO, because you work with all of those people,” said Leslie Joyce, chief people officer at Novelis, Inc..

Like everybody, CEOs need to be learning and developing, and the best talent officers help make that happen.

“It is important, particularly for talent people and HR people, to have a very concrete and trusting and transparent relationship with all members of the executive committee. It makes it far easier for him [the CEO] to trust his CTO or his head of HR if his team trusts them and respects them as well.”

For CTOs who do not enjoy a strong CEO relationship, Joyce recommends starting with the other top executives.

“I think the tactic that I would take, if I didn’t have it at the CEO level, is to get it with the executive team or people with whom the CEO has great relationships, so that you build advocacy for who you are and what you do.”

One of the world’s leading succession planning and leadership development specialists, Louis Carter is the President & CEO of the Best Practice Institute, a think tank and research institute devoted to leadership development and excellence. An author of 11 books, Carter has worked with C-level executives from multinational companies all over the world developing best practice leadership development programmes. Carter is a one of the headline speakers at Talent Management Asia 2015.


 Held in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong in mid-April, Talent Management Asia is Asia’s biggest conference on talent management and human capital strategy. The two-day annual event is focused on global best practice HR strategy, features an agenda dominated by pan-Asian case studies and leading global thought leader, and attracts a large audience of senior HR generalists & specialists as well as other C-level executives involved in their companies’ HR strategies.

 To get a global and Pan-Asian regional view of talent management and to increase your knowledge and skills across the talent management spectrum – recruitment, training & development, compensation & benefits, succession planning, and leadership development – don’t miss Talent Management Asia in April.

To review the topics & agenda, check out the stellar speaker list and reserve your seat visit before it’s sold out. For more information please contact Carlo Reston on +65 6423 0329 or


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