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APC Addresses CIOs' Legacies


When the CIO of a bank mentioned that he had to retire from his organization in less than two years  during his talk at a recent SIM Regional Leadership Forum session, one of the participants asked him what his legacy would be.  Unprepared for the question, he stopped for a few minutes to ponder his response.

How would you answer that question?  No matter where you are in your CIO career, it's a question worth considering.   The most likely top-of-mind answer is the significant value you have and intend to add to your firm - not only through implementing state-of-the-art (or beyond) information systems and technology, but also through enabling business model changes and capabilities that propel the firm's strategic positioning.  And of course that's what your employer is paying you directly to achieve.

We suggest that another pivotal aspect of your legacy be related to the IT leaders you have helped grow into CIO roles through your mentoring, thereby perpetuating the supply of future great IT leaders.  In most cases, such mentoring occurs naturally for CIOs as they build their leadership teams to achieve the outcomes to which they aspire.  At a recent retreat of a newly-formed IT leadership team that one of us facilitated, each leader was asked to describe the legacy she or he wished to leave as part of this team.  The CIO spoke last and said, "You are my legacy."  

Several SIM Advanced Practices Council (APC) members are participating in a mentoring pilot that goes beyond the IT leaders in their firms.  They mentor high-potential direct reports of other APC members.  One APC member in the pilot, Joe Bruhin, CIO of Constellation Brands, described three benefits from being the CIO mentor of Matt Peters of Computer Aid:

  1. Mentoring is a mutually beneficial relationship. ... I am finding that in addressing some of Matt's challenges, I am not just pulling from my experience base and sharing relevant stories, but I am also sharing what I would do differently today - and frankly it is highlighting to me my growth over the years.
  2. Oddly, I am finding that my overall role as a mentor to my own organization has increased - an unexpected benefit!  Mentoring is a conscious effort, and I find that if I am in the mentoring frame of mind, I am more inclined to focus on behaviors (the how) in my conversations with my team in addition to the outcomes.  So, again, there are mutual benefits here.
  3. Selfishly, it feels good when someone tells you that they have been able to get tangible value from your coaching, guidance and mentoring.

The mutual benefits are echoed by Matt:

From my perspective, I am getting more than I had hoped for from Joe, and I hope I'm adequately expressing my appreciation for his time and thoughtfulness.  I've floated what I believe are some pretty difficult challenges his way and he has consistently provided excellent advise.  While I get a great deal of support and mentorship from Steve [Heilenman, CIO of Computer Aid], the exercise of trying to step far enough away from my own problems to be able to make him understand them has helped me gain perspective on my own, but his specific questions and recommendations have been extremely valuable.  On more than one occasion he has almost completely changed my mind about how to approach a problem, and the outcomes consistently show him to be right. There is nothing about this arrangement that I would change.

I'd also like to thank you for initiating this opportunity.  I imagine I'm not alone in being able to get great perspective from someone who is completely foreign to my situation - this is a great program.  I know that my colleague is very jealous of me and is pressuring Steve to take an additional mentee so he can get a mentor of his own.

So what is your legacy related to emerging CIOs in your firm and possibly beyond?  And what can you gain from mentoring the next generation of CIOs?


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