Sunday, February 17, 2019

The CIO Positioned as a Mentor to the Business

A well established mentoring process is invaluable for an organization to develop its next-generational leaders and for the current leadership to stay attuned to the realities of their ecosystem. 

At today’s information-driven business dynamic, IT continues to grow in importance to organizations, both operationally and as a competitive advantage. Many think IT is shifting from being a static function which is often controlling or even lagging behind the changes to being the changing organization of the entire company. The role of the CIO also keeps evolving rapidly in the midst of accelerating changes in technology, the exponential growth of information and the tough journey of digital transformation. To improve leadership maturity, digital CIOs should transform their leadership style from “command & control” to coaching and mentoring, and position IT as a trustful business partner.

Great leadership includes mentoring capability, and excellent mentorship is both art and science: Mentorship is about guiding, advising, interpreting, and influencing. To be the most effective leader, digital CIOs need to be welcomed and invited to the big table, present a clear vision, proficient knowledge and communication skills. To become a great mentor and a strategic business leader, IT leaders need to be both explorers and experts, they should develop a broad skill set beyond technology.  see beyond the confines of their own function by understanding all the moving parts of the business and contribute to the overall improvement of the greater company. They should have a higher level of influence on how businesses change, and what IT can drive them in a structural way. They should be able to listen and translate business needs (what's said, and what's not) into actionable states and clear value delivered, and provide the advice to the business on how to solve their particular issues, not necessarily take their orders only, but provide them with premium solutions. Remember that knowledge is power and as a digital CIO, you have to anticipate the next horizon for the company, sell, mentor and influence all the time, to make the vision rolling into the reality.

The mentor style CIOs care about the career goal of employees, encourage people to work with them, not just for them: The mentor style leaders have both interpersonal (understand others with empathy) and intrapersonal (deeply understand oneself) communication skills to enforce their leadership influence and close IT skills gap. Every organization must address their common and unique IT skills requirements and map that out through the skills or competency matrix within their organization. Because without a stellar staff, few CIO’s/senior IT leaders will be able to achieve much. The mentor style CIOs can show the team how to explore their own natural skill sets, talents, and strong sides, take into account their own objectives in line with working needs and business goals. By mentoring, you are showing that you value others, invest people, not just treat people as the cost only. You need to hold people in high regards, not only for who they are but for the potential that lies inside of them and advocate talent development to unleash the collective potential for the business's long term prosperity.

The difficult part to be a mentor type IT leader is the balance point: The digital CIO needs to be both the mentor and continuous learner at the same time, and run a “learning organization.”A learning organization is more comfortable with velocity, complexity, ambiguity, paradoxes, and responds to changes with speed. One of the most important traits for any senior leaders including CIO is self-awareness which is about understanding your impact on others, the surrounding, and how to leverage your strength and build a high-performance team with complementary skills and experience. They can reach the balance point by having the right dose of ego - be confident, not arrogant; be determined but not inflexible; be modest, but not be perceived as incompetent. They are creative, but not lacking the discipline; be holistic, but not lose the focus. Digital CIOs have self-awareness of cognitive, relational, and assertive actions they take on a day to day basis. To mentor well, they keep improving their own professional quality, show learning plasticity, continuously seek new challenges, solicit direct feedback and constructive criticism, self-driven and get works done resourcefully.

The digital CIO has many personas that are internally and externally focused along with business savviness. Leadership is about the future and direction. Digital CIOs are born to change, regardless of which role they should play in which circumstances, they have to develop their ability to think, adapt, proactively plan and execute, as well as mentor and coach. A well established mentoring process is invaluable for an organization to develop its next-generational leaders and for the current leadership to stay attuned to the realities of their ecosystem. When CIOs are positioned as a mentor to the business, they are at the right track of becoming “Chief Influence Officer.”


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