More than 60% of CEOs will hire their next CIO from outside the company, according to a 2013 Gartner survey.  Is that any reflection on you as the current CIO?  What are you doing to develop a great leadership team?Building Bench Strength

The intent to hire the next CIO externally could simply mean that the CEO has a “grass is greener on the other side” mentality.  It might mean that you have inadequately developed the talents of your subordinates, or it could imply that you haven’t yet given them enough PR within the upper echelon of the company.  Or possibly your department simply doesn’t have anyone capable of taking the reins anytime soon and an infusion of additional talent might be needed.  Perhaps, though, it indicates that the CEO isn’t totally satisfied with the current direction and performance of IT.

Succession planning is not enough

Succession planning is an important obligation you have to your company.  Despite its importance, almost 80% of CIOs have not identified a successor in the event they suddenly have to stop working.

But talent management and leadership development go far beyond succession planning.  You have an obligation to your staff to ensure that you are continually helping them develop their talents and skills to be the best they can be.  There may be nothing that can help you as CIO become more effective than having a strong IT leadership team that keeps getting better.  And of course, by helping improve your staff, you are benefitting the company as well.

The changing role of CIO also affects your leadership team

Let’s face it.  Technology is changing culture.  It is changing business.  It is changing the expectations of the C-suite.  And as a result, the role of the CIO is changingIDC predicts, for example, that within two years the primary role of the majority of CIOs will move from directly managing IT to becoming an innovation partner.  Instead of a technology gatekeeper, the CIO must be a driver of change throughout the organization.  Don’t you think these changes also affect the functions of those leaders that report directly to you?

CIOs know what to do, but …

Despite a sound realization of the importance of leadership development, only 14% of the IT leaders responding to a CIO Executive Council survey rated their senior leadership team as highly proficient in developing their people.   After reviewing the analysis, Bob Kantor, executive coach and CIO mentor, remarked: “We are not preparing people to lead. Today’s CIO is better at managing up and across her organization than she is at developing her own team.”

Practical steps in developing your leadership team

  • Establish vision & goals.  How do you envision your IT department working in the future?  Will it become more integrator than builder?  Will you look to become more consultative and influencing than controlling?  Do you see an increased emphasis on speed of delivery and flexibility of solutions?  Do you anticipate more outsourcing of services?  These types of decisions will affect what the company needs from its IT leadership team.  Perhaps this will require increased skills in areas like vendor management, negotiation, organization change management, financial management, and business acumen.   By articulating your vision to your management team, you promote a common understanding of what it will take to be successful in the future.
  • It’s not just about technical skills.  Too many IT professional development plans consist of little more than “I need a training class on the latest release of Windows or on the next new programming language.”  Sadly even IT managers are sometimes caught up in thinking that their development is based upon strengthening their technical skills.  As a result, development of many skills necessary for a successful IT leader is too often neglected.  Dan Roberts, CEO of Ouellette & Associates, surveyed a number of top CIOs to get their perspective on establishing a high-performing organization.  They identified 12 core competencies including client orientation, influencing others, enabling change, and strategic focus.  In the process, the CIOs cautioned, “This is not just about the IT leader of the future; if we don’t get these skills right today, we’re not going to have a future.” (Unleashing the Power of IT, pp 187-188).
  • You can’t just send them off to class.  How many times have you personally gone to a training course, learned a number of things applicable to your job, and then promptly neglected them when you returned to face the realities of every day in your office?  Development of your leadership team is not a one-time event…and it is not something that you should totally delegate to a third party.  It is an ongoing process that requires your personal, active involvement.  While training courses can be beneficial, true development requires your efforts in working directly with each member of your team on a regular basis to coach, mentor, encourage, and admonish them.
  • Watch their efforts to develop others.  It is important for each member of your leadership team to develop his staff as well.  Again, it is not just about their technical skills.  Ensure that each IT colleague has a professional development plan that covers the core competencies as well as necessary technical skills.  Establish metrics to demonstrate progress.  Consider the use of career development tools to establish some consistency while still tailoring the plan to each individual.
  • Talk it up.  Make it a regular practice to speak about your vision and how the department must develop to support it.  Remind them of the progress they are making and how far they have come.  Look for ways to involve your IT leaders in interactions with the C-suite.  In your one-on-one discussions with fellow executives, talk about the progress of your staff and solicit help in providing encouragement.

Don’t Wait!

Maintaining status quo is not an option – for your business or for your IT department.  You can help to propel your company to new heights, but you can’t do it alone.  You need the support of a great IT leadership team that is continually improving.

What else are you doing to improve your bench strength?

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