by Todd Datz

All Aboard: Royal Caribbean’s Lead IT Program

Sep 15, 20033 mins
IT Leadership

Fired up after a two-day leadership seminar last year run by author and leadership consultant Terry Pearce, Greg Martin, manager of client/server and messaging solutions at Royal Caribbean, was inspired to act. His colleague, Geoff Lawson, an IT manager, says, “It was evident Greg had a lot of passion around leadership development. He recognized the need and desire for a grassroots leadership development program.”

Martin developed the concept and presented it to CIO Tom Murphy, his direct reports and eventually the IT management team, which gave it the thumbs-up. The Lead IT program launched last November. According to the flier announcing the new program, Lead IT “prepares Royal Caribbean IT for the future by making sure that the people who will lead us have the vision and skills needed to succeed.”

Martin and Lawson act as cofacilitators and serve on the steering committee, which includes an IT vice president. There are currently 40 to 45 people involved in the program, which holds half-day sessions every six to eight weeks. The only criteria for joining the program are that people agree to attend on a regular basis and participate. “We didn’t want it to be elitist—people handpicked by upper management,” says Lawson. “We wanted it to be inclusive.”

The main goals of the program are to build trust and open relationships across different departments within IT and to establish a learning culture where people can share ideas in a supportive environment. “A common thread when we ask people what they want to get out of it isn’t people saying, I want to be a director next month; they say, I want to speak better in public. [This provides] a safe place among their peers to practice,” says Lawson.

This year, the company has held three sessions. For one, participants read and discussed First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman; in another, they discussed The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, by Clayton Christensen. The group has also hosted guest speakers, such as Murphy and Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas. Other activities have included group members presenting profiles of leadership (Winston Churchill and Rudy Giuliani are two that have been discussed) and discussions of communication and presentation skills and diversity. But the better part of each session involves interaction among the participants. Martin says, “Ninety percent of the program is people sharing their experiences.”

The feedback has been positive so far. “People are using it as a baseline to go back to their team and see how they can improve,” says Martin.