CIOs Say Mentoring Works, Classes Don’t

A survey of 200 CIOs finds that most well-meaning efforts at IT leadership development aren’t very successful.

The top two tiers of IT leadership--the CIO's direct reports and their direct reports--do many things well, such as vendor management and team building, according to a study by the CIO Executive Council. But when it comes to leadership development of the IT staff, the study says they're not achieving great results.

In a survey of 200 CIOs, only one leadership-development technique--mentoring or coaching--was rated as highly successful or successful by at least 50 percent of respondents. All others were rated as not successful or only somewhat successful by most respondents. Even mentoring and coaching was rated highly successful by only 14 percent of the CIOs.

MBA-like executive education classes were rated the least effective development technique. "Sending your employees off to a course and expecting them to be an expert and apply the lessons is not as valuable as taking your own time to mentor and grow someone," says Paul Brady, CIO of Arbella Insurance Group. "It's not easy--hence the desire to ship employees off to an executive course."

The survey identifies other areas ripe for improvement. Forty-two percent of the CIOs ranked their leadership team as not proficient at presenting "compelling visions of IT-enabled business opportunities."

This indicates that CIOs don't generally view their top lieutenants as business innovators. In addition, 27 percent of the surveyed CIOs rated their leadership team as not proficient at embracing "external customer needs and experience."

Senior leadership teams were also judged to be relatively weak in their ability to develop their own people--30 percent of respondents rated their team as not proficient--even though nearly all CIOs viewed that capability as crucial to the organization.

"We are not preparing people to lead. Today's CIO is better at managing up and across her organization than she is at developing her own team," says Bob Kantor, executive coach at Kantor Consulting Group.

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