by CIO Executive Council

Group Mentoring Provides Strength in Numbers

Apr 23, 2010
IT LeadershipMentoring

CIOs-in-training get advice, support through mentoring relationships in the Council’s Pathways leadership development program

Howard Rosen, Chartis

Gaining Peer Validation

Group mentoring provides several advantages that you cant get through a more traditional one-on-one mentor relationship. Gaining professional and career advice from my CIO mentor is the core, but having that group of peers is a huge advantage, because it really helps to hear that youre not alone. You get to hear how other people are grappling with the same issues right now and you get an affirmation of how hard it can be, as well as good ideas for how to proceed. Its almost a form of group therapy and validation.

It’s also been helpful to me that the Pathways program staff worked to make sure the people in my group came from organizations other than my own. Even if they are in the same industry as I am, their lessons and advice for me are coming from an entirely different perspective than the one my co-workers and I share. Another benefit of this is that you can talk about specific obstacles you’re encountering with people who have no vested interest in the situation.

Michael Kohlman, Cook Group

Practicing Persuasion

I have now participated in two mentor groups, and some of the most interesting advice to come out of them has been about the cultural and political aspects of our companies and the leadership roles that can be a blind spot for IT folks. I am a geek, so I suffer from it myself. Three years ago, I was heading a project with a committee made up of both IT and business people. I thought that the mix alone would make the project successful, but I found that half of the people on my committee were dead set against the project and I didnt know how to turn them around.

My mentor groups have been big players in helping me gain those skills and figure out how to deal with the senior business leadership in my organization. I have received advice from my CIO mentors, but also from peers who are positioned a little higher up in their own organizations. Recently, my team was tackling the implementation of a project that was disrupting users and services, and I knew from that previous experience that a mandate from above to get this done wouldn’t be enough to bring the project to completion without significant pushback. When I brought this to my mentor group, I got some nice, concrete tips on how to lay the groundwork and make connections ahead of time to minimize resistance. This time, because my team laid out a plan to communicate with stakeholders and set expectations, we could successfully address the resistance.

Heather Hartman, Care New England Health System

Input equals output

I am a big believer in mentoring, both as a mentor to others and as someone who is always seeking out opportunities to gain advice. Reaching outside your familiar sphere brings you information and experience that you couldnt gain by speaking only to your co-workers. On my own, I sought out a mentor from the top leadership in my company. She has been critical in helping me with general leadership skills. I see the Pathways mentor groups focus on IT leadership as a great complementary opportunity for me as I move up in the business technology world.

Being in my specific mentor group was particularly helpful to me because my mentor also came from the healthcare industry. He was able to provide valuable outside-but-relevant perspective on some of the user and strategic needs I was addressing, which benefited my company in the solutions I suggested or provided. It was also great for me personally, because I only recently moved into health care from manufacturing, and my mentor was able to provide a lot of advice on the huge cultural differences.

Because it is a group experience, though, every individual needs to bring something to the meetings in order for the group to get the most out of the program. I had a good, active group with lots of people speaking up. We really got to know each other through sharing experiences and problems. There is also a baseline level of trust fostering that open atmosphere when you start, because it’s assumed that we’re all there to learn and we want to be involved.

The CIO Executive Council is a global peer advisory service and professional association of hundreds of CIOs, founded by CIO’s publisher. To learn more, visit