Finding Tomorrow's Leaders Today

Finding Tomorrow's Leaders Today

IT’s leadership ranks are thinning as retirement, outsourcing and a tight talent supply take their toll. To bridge the gap, CIOs must actively cultivate the next generation of leaders. But it takes dedication to managing people, not just information

Nothing Succeeds Like Succession

Toyota's Cooper is dedicating time to prepare her organization for the future. That future includes being as proactive as possible, staying ahead of the business needs. It also means a commitment to active succession planning.

Two years ago, Cooper sat down for 90 minutes with each of the direct reports of her direct reports, 27 people in total. Each meeting was an open coaching session structured around her ideas of what IT leaders will need to be in 10 years. She then crafted a three- to 4-page letter for each team member, detailing the capabilities she wanted them to develop and a plan for showing how they were achieving them. Her direct reports received a summary of what she sent to their reports.

Cooper didn't stop there. She's pushing her senior management team to hold similar leadership coaching sessions with their staff. She herself has fireside chats twice a quarter with the next tier of managers, bringing in five or six of them at a time to talk about management challenges and the need to think strategically about business and IT.

She also rotates high-potential IT staff into the business, to prime them for a broader understanding of the company. She sends them for training, both internally and externally, such as to Boston University's "Pocket MBA for CIOs" and Gartner Group's CIO boot camps.

Cooper says she spends about 30 percent of her time on coaching and mentoring. But Cooper believes it's been worth it. "It's subjective . . . but I think the quality of decision making and general performance is quite improved," she says. By the same token, Cooper adds that "if someone had done this for me when I was early in my career, and I had insight into how much work I still had to do or what my strengths were, that would've been a huge thing".

Mentor Early and Often

Getting attention early in his career was a boon for VPI's Kass. "I've had the benefit of really solid managers who took an interest in me," he says.

Kass became VPI's CIO in October 2005 after 10 years at PacifiCare Behavioural Health. There, he worked in a variety of IT jobs under then-CIO Kerry Matsumoto. Matsumoto delegated aggressively. He gave Kass opportunities to do planning, budgeting, forecasting and eventually to function in many ways as the CIO. Matsumoto developed this leadership approach after working for a CEO who believed strongly in coaching and mentoring, and who had sent teams including Matsumoto to the Centre for Creative Leadership. There, Matsumoto learned to do things like 360-degree performance reviews, where he would interview peers, direct reports and business-side workers as part of the process of preparing his employee reviews.

"I coach all my direct reports," says Matsumoto, now CIO at Caremore Health Plan. "Sometimes you're coaching them to get rid of something they didn't do well. In Jonathan's case it was mentoring - coaching to get him to the next step."

Kass found Matsumoto's 360-degree reviews extremely helpful, and he has adopted them as a way to cultivate leadership among his own workers. He also has followed Matsumoto's practice of heavy delegating. Kass says he pushes whatever he can down as far as it can go within his 40-person staff - administrative tasks, strategy committee roles, decision making, even budget planning, because it gives IT people a sense of how the business makes decisions, and it helps them to become business people themselves.

Delegating is also an effective tool in recruiting, Kass says. He can't tell potential hires that they'll only be working on cutting-edge projects, "But if you say: 'no position is isolated - you'll see how technology helps get jobs done in all aspects of business, and you'll be as involved as you want to be'," it can help seal the deal.

He confesses that his direct reports sometimes would rather he didn't push things down as far as he does. "But leadership's job is to groom that next generation. If you're not doing it, you won't get there," Kass says "Mentoring is a vital aspect of human capital development. It provides value to both the mentor and the mentee," agrees Koeppel, of the Centre for CIO Leadership.

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