by Susan Cramm

The Value of Business Coaching for CIOs and Staff

May 01, 20015 mins
IT Leadership

Q: I am an aspiring CIO with no direct executive experience, but I have been exposed to budgeting and IT-business alignment processes in my current organization. I manage 25 people, report directly to the vice president of IS and have created a middle layer of management to assist me in the management responsibilities for my group. I have a strong technical background and good educational credentials (MBA and a PhD in IS). However, I find that individuals with less education and technical experience have obtained CIO roles that I have interviewed for. Could a coach help me attain the CIO job?

A: Yes, I think a coach could help you attain the CIO job by helping you develop insights into the “soft side” requirements of executive positions. Successful executives rely much more on their soft skills (for example, developing strong relationships, negotiating win-win solutions, building a strong organization and so on) than their hard skills (education and technical background). In addition, a CIO coach can help you understand the CIO success characteristics. Once you understand what makes an effective leader and CIO, a coach can help you assess your strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan to help you move forward. Good luck!

Q: What are the top reasons a company should consider having a coaching program in place? What immediate results can it expect in the short term (first year) and after?

A: Coaching should be the responsibility of all the leaders in an organization. Unfortunately, some organizations don’t have this focus and some leaders do not have the skills to be effective coaches. Thus a formal coaching program must be introduced. Using internal or external coaches, properly selected and educated, will lead to the following benefits:

  • Accelerated executive development
  • Higher morale and retention
  • Increased effectiveness
In terms of immediate results, clients have expressed an ability to deliver business results more quickly due to a sharper focus on priorities and a clear road map. Long-term results include improved executive performance (evidenced by career progression) and improved business performance.

Q: We are struggling with two different definitions of coach in our organization.

The Michael Hammer Process Model of coach is an active role where the focus is on the development of “process performers” among employees. In this process, the coaching is not voluntary and the employee is usually assigned to a coach.

In our own diversity model of coach, the emphasis is placed on being a committed listener. The coach generally has no expertise in the area the employee is working, but is committed to listening and asking the tough questions that will move the employee forward on the project he is tackling. This coaching is voluntary, and a session usually lasts about eight weeks. Which of these makes more sense? Do you have a different approach to this thing called coaching?

A: The fundamental difference is what type of value the coach provides the coached worker. There are people who can help others be more effective in their jobs because they have firsthand experience (and can coach on strategy, policies, processes, measurements and organization skill requirements). There are also coaches who can help people be more effective because they are trained in improving the soft side of an individual’s approach to leadership. These people typically are educated in management development and typically come from the HR side of the house. The ability to ask hard questions is a necessary skill of any good coach. I don’t think you can put a fixed time frame on the coaching process, but you can–once you define the coaching objectives–break the action plan into defined steps and milestones.

Q: What are the pros and cons of doing coaching via the Internet?

A: The goal of coaching is to motivate behavioral change. This requires the establishment of a strong relationship between the parties. The Internet (or even the telephone) would take away some of the reference points that both sides use to learn about the other person. For example, from a coach’s point of view: Is his office neat? Is he respectful to people who work for him? Is he on time? Does he communicate effectively with the right intonation, eye contact and body language? I find that other forms of interaction (beyond face-to-face) are effective once the relationship and foundation of understanding are in place.

Q: What kinds of qualities should a business person have in order to be a good coach?

A: Good coaches are usually good bosses. Look for leaders who have no problem recruiting or retaining talent. Also look for managers who develop relationships and mentor people over the long term and the ones that others seek out for advice. Specifically, in terms of skills, good coaches have great listening skills. Since the goal of coaching is to motivate others to action, the solutions are best discovered by the “coachee” through a coach-guided facilitation process using active listening skills (using probing, reflecting and role-playing techniques). Other good coaching skills include the ability to read organization politics and climate, infectious optimism, and a heavy dose of pragmatism as the coach helps define an approach that will build on small wins.

Q: Is there a tangible value for IT workers when they put a business coaching experience on their rŽsumŽ? Does it make them more marketable?

A: I’m not sure if this question is from the point of view of the IT worker who coaches others or received coaching. If in fact you have coached others, then the experience would be relevant since it would demonstrate that you have the leadership skills to guide and motivate others to obtain specific results. If you have received coaching, then I would focus the rŽsumŽ on your achievements, not on the process that you used to get there.