How to Turn Your Employees Into Leaders

CIOs who want to succeed as business partners and strategists can’t do it alone. Success requires unshackling the leaders within your IT organization and letting them run.

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Cold hard cash isn’t the only motivator of leadership. In addition to the “money and equity” rewards system in place at Motorola, Morrison also recognizes good change management throughout her organization, not just schedule and budget metrics. She also measures performance against IT’s other objectives—business value realization and reduced complexity—and highlights those accomplishments.

“The tendency in IT is to want to reward heroism. Something broke and we worked 24/7 to fix it,” says Morrison, who makes sure to call attention in Motorola’s “town halls” and other meetings to those projects whose outcome is the less-than-sexy “no disruption.” She says, “My goal is to reward preventive heroism.” Morrison also knows that outside recognition is important and isn’t shy about prodding IT users—from a customer service employee to the CEO himself—to make his gratitude plain. “I tell them it would mean an enormous amount to this person for you to acknowledge what they accomplished,” she says.

Top of mind for leaders at any level of the IT organization is career growth. Unfortunately, that’s the area where CIOs are most likely to underdeliver. And it’s not always for lack of trying. Morrison spends a lot of time talking to her employees about what they want from their careers and why. “If they’re passionate about something, they’re likely to be courageous and thus influential leaders,” she says. “But it’s hard if they can’t articulate that.”

Coaxing that information out of employees is the most difficult part of the “CIO as leadership developer” job. “Coaching is the most powerful and underused capability. CIOs need to develop it in themselves and their own leaders,” says Cramm. “A good CIO will say, Let’s figure out what your capabilities are and understand how we can bring your unique gifts and talents to the organization.” CIOs who can do that get to the leadership development “sweet spot,” says Cramm, where the goals and values of the enterprise and individual meet.

At Direct Energy, disciplined talent review processes have always been in place. But that hasn’t stopped the CIO from taking the process even further. “We ask anyone who’s been in a role for two years, What do you want to do now?” says Kalia. “We make sure there are paths for each person based on their needs.”

Kalia has created half a dozen new leadership roles on his senior management team to accommodate the talents and interests of his best and brightest. “You don’t always have to manage through tasks and milestones,” says Cramm. “With promising leaders, you can just create space in front of them. If it plays into their interests, they will fill up that space.”

Kalia also recognizes that he has strong leaders on his team who don’t want to be in senior management. “People can lead in different ways,” says Kalia, who’s divided his management organization into two streams—technical specialists and leaders of people—that are parallel right up to the senior level. “You can take a promising technical person and really screw up their career by promoting them into senior management. Instead, we let them be technical leaders. They know a certain part of the business inside and out. And they’re still setting directions for the company the way senior management leaders do.”

CIOs who are skilled at cultivating, empowering and rewarding IT leaders will see their efforts come full circle. The leaders they’ve encouraged will themselves encourage new leaders. Direct Energy’s OTW honoree Scott is involved in cultivating top talent from tech grad schools. The first four members of Scott’s program graduate next year. That 90-day review and reward process at BT? That was developed by OTW winner Rosarius.

Back at Motorola, Morrison has seen 16 of her IT leaders go on to become CIOs at other companies. Then there’s her OTW winner Kozik. Her role now even encroaches on Morrison’s core responsibilities, with Kozik developing a two- to three-year strategic vision for the integrated supply chain group.

“I have strong leaders, ” says Morrison. “I tell people, I can sleep at night now. I do have times when I am bored and my team will tell me to go take a vacation. But those are good problems to have.”

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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