A CIO mentor is a great way to boost your professional development and learn from someone who can help you grow into your position as an IT leader.
When it comes to your professional development, gaining valuable insights from those who have been in your shoes is invaluable to your success as an IT leader. Having a Chief Information Officer (CIO) mentor to help you navigate through technology challenges will accelerate your professional growth and increase value to your organization.
At its basic level, a CIO mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor. This individual has been in the CIO seat before and has broad C-level experience. A mentor, typically, is not your boss or a peer but an independent voice, and it’s generally preferable to have a mentor who isn’t directly involved in your company.
It’s important to note a CIO mentoring program is different from a coaching program. While both support the CIO’s personal growth and development and help with on-the-job performance, coaches often are focused more on behaviors and less on the CIO role directly. A CIO mentor will focus on IT topics relevant to your specific needs and the related change management necessary to develop that area in your company, and they will embody many of the characteristics of a good coach as well.
How Do IT Leaders Benefit from CIO Mentoring?
As the IT leader, it’s essential you understand and can adapt to new technology demands. Still, your development of emotional intelligence, etiquette, interpersonal and other soft skills is equally important.
A CIO mentor helps you develop these proficiencies, as well as provides support, advice and assistance to help drive value to your company. Whether you’re experiencing challenges with company culture, internal processes, personnel matters, or developing a technology strategy, a CIO mentoring program can set you on the right path.
A CIO mentee also should receive:
- Support in creating an IT vision and road map. A CIO mentor will supply tools, templates, insights and approaches to help you create a solid vision and roadmap for the company, both short- and long-term. As you’re developing these essential documents, your mentor will challenge you in your critical thinking and development of the deliverables. They also will help you create crisp, business-focused presentations.
- Advice on working with the CEO and other executive management. As the IT leader, you may have a seat at the executive table. Whether that is the case or not, the ability to work within and clearly and concisely communicate to the top tier of leadership is crucial. Not only will a mentor help you ensure your presentations are crisp and align with a business perspective, but they will also work with you to evaluate and understand the dynamics of the executive team to increase your influence as an IT leader.
- Assistance in driving execution of IT projects. Part of a CIO mentor’s role is to challenge the IT leader to ensure all key projects have a solid business case, proper sponsorship and governance. Because they’ve been in an executive position before, mentors can often provide creative ideas to proactively prevent issues and help you resolve them when they arise.
- Help with personal growth and development for both you as the IT leader and the team for which you are responsible. A CIO mentor will share ideas on how to create an engaged team and an environment of personal growth and performance. As a CIO mentor works with you, they will provide constructive feedback on performance and ideas for continued improvement.
What Would Your CIO Mentoring Relationship Look Like?
While CIO mentoring programs can have different dynamics, the ultimate goal is to navigate business challenges together. Most mentor and mentee relationships have a weekly or biweekly cadence. Through these meetings, you build a relationship with your CIO mentor so that as situations arise, you trust you can call on your mentor for ad hoc meetings and feedback.
While the formal meetings provide an opportunity to ask questions and get your mentor’s insight on a specific situation or problem, the more informal meetings ensure you are on the right track and are often more effective.
Outside of regular meetings, a CIO mentor can provide resources and connect you with other IT leaders for networking and mutual support, as well as review your documents and presentations and offer suggestions for improvement. Your mentor can provide assistance and tools, but they are not expected to do your work.
While a mentor’s feedback is valuable, you may choose not to act on every piece of advice, and that’s acceptable. You should consider feedback as “food for thought.” If you feel like a suggestion won’t work for your situation, share your thoughts and make a considerate, informed decision. Your mentor will respect and support your choice.
How Do I Find a Mentor for the CIO Role?
As an IT leader, you’re probably wondering, “How do I find a CIO role mentor?” As you begin this process, it’s essential to reflect on what you want out of a mentorship. Evaluate your goals and the type of person you would feel most comfortable confiding in and learning from.
- What are your limitations?
- How can a mentor best help guide you in your career?
- What are your values?
- Who do you look up to professionally?
- What communication style best suits you?
- What are your expectations?
Ensure your mentor is someone who understands your values and definition of success, who has attained the goals you’re working toward, and who can challenge your thinking to help you grow in your career. Compatibility is important, but diversity in experiences will benefit you as you work through challenges.
A careful assessment of your objectives, individual strengths and areas for opportunity will lead you to the right CIO mentor to elevate your career and benefit you and those you lead immeasurably.