Although general leadership-training programs already existed at utility giant Southern Company, R. Bart Wood, CIO of Southern’s Georgia Power operating unit, and other members of the Southern senior leadership team recognized that they needed to provide IT staffers with opportunities to focus purely on technology leadership. In spring 2004, they launched a 24-month IT leadership program.
The selection committee, consisting of the corporate CIO, the executive sponsor of the training program, the vice president of IT, a representative from HR and an employee with experience in leadership development, selected 25 participants after reviewing a group of candidates nominated by senior IT leaders, attempting to represent as many of Southern’s operating companies, geographies and functional areas as possible. A unique aspect of the program is that one of its openings is designated for a non-IT staffer who has expressed an interest in IT. “It’s a great chance to see if the staff member would be a good fit for the department full-time,” Wood says.
Classes meet one or two days a month and are taught by both internal and external experts. As the group enters the second year, participants will shift from classroom-based learning to group projects and mentoring by senior IT leaders. Wood takes on six of the 25 participants for group mentoring once a month.
“I have no doubt that the level of exposure they receive in terms of the classes and small-group projects helps to better prepare participants to be more competitive and ultimately successful,” he says.
Although it’s too early to measure benefits in terms of promotions, the management team has already seen an improvement in communication skills and increased idea-sharing and networking among the group. In spring 2006, the program will welcome its second set of participants.
Southern’s Course Curriculum
- Career development workshop: Identify personal skills
- Southern Company leadership profile: Discuss corporate expectations for leaders
- Outclass the competition: Image and professional etiquette training
- Stand and deliver: Advanced presentation skills
- Communicating persuasively for IT professionals: Skills to communicate technical information
- Building support networks: How to build professional networks
- Individual development plans: Create and discuss career progression
- Group mentoring: Members of the senior leadership team meet on a regular basis with a small group of participants to expose them to different areas of the company
- Group projects: Participants meet in small groups to work on specific projects