Does Your Association’s IT Executive Need a Coach?

Mike Guerrieri | 03.01.19
Topics: CIO - Digital Transformation - IT Maturity

Are you losing confidence in your association’s IT executive? Perhaps you’re beginning to wonder if you have the right person in the CIO or IT Director role. In professional sports, an owner is quick to replace their head coach when the team isn’t performing. However, when one of your dedicated, hard-working employees is struggling, bringing in a coach for your IT executive is often the best approach.

Why an outside coach is best for IT executives

A coach brings expertise, objectivity, and emotional detachment to their work with clients. Because they’re not part of the supervisor/employee power dynamic, they create a safe space where employees can address limitations that impede their development as a leader.

However, IT leaders must be willing to engage with a coach. No coaching will be effective if the employee isn’t receptive to honest and direct performance improvement feedback and isn’t willing to change.

picture of sports coach for IT executive coach blog

When to bring in a coach for IT executives

A CIO coach or an executive coach can help in these three leadership scenarios:

Inexperienced leader

Due to their technical and/or operational skills, your IT leader was recently promoted to a new level of responsibility. However, the skill set needed to succeed as your association’s strategic technology leader is quite different from the skill set needed for an operational role.

A coach with experience as a CIO or IT leader could be just what your new IT executive needs—a trusted and more experienced mentor. A CIO coach can help accelerate your employee’s learning and ensure they acquire the new skills needed to be effective in their new role. The CIO coach can also identify what the new IT leader should stop doing given the change in their responsibilities. As Peter Drucker said, “We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We don’t spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop.”

Experienced leader who hasn’t shifted focus

The IT leadership model has changed. Technology leaders can no longer focus on installing and configuring hardware and software. Instead, they must turn their focus to partnering with business departments. Your IT leader may not have noticed this sea change.

If your organization has grown or expectations for technology have changed, skills that used to be sufficient no longer are. However, it’s very satisfying for someone who’s an expert at solving technical problems to keep doing that instead of figuring out how to partner with colleagues and solve business problems with technology. An experienced CIO coach brings a fresh perspective and advice to their clients on how to move away from reactive problem solving to strategic thinking.

Leader with behavioral issues

When an IT leader exhibits behavioral issues, for example, not developing productive relationships with colleagues or being defensive, a different type of coach is needed. An executive coach (ideally, a credentialed one) has experience working through a wide variety of behavioral challenges. The coach’s focus is not on increasing technical skills, changing personalities, or increasing intelligence but on changing counter-productive behavior.

Choosing the right coach

Once you’ve determined the nature of the issue, finding the right coach is the next step. You want a coach with the following qualities:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Listening skills
  • Keen observation skills
  • A good fit with the “client”

If a CIO coach is what you need, look for:

  • A proven track record as a CIO
  • Experience not only as a CIO but also as a coach/mentor
  • Familiarity and, ideally, experience with non-profits and/or associations

Choose an executive coach who has:

What if coaching doesn’t work?

If coaching has no impact on the employee’s job performance, it may be time to part ways. Keeping them in a position that’s not a good fit doesn’t serve anyone well. At least you’ve given them the opportunity to change and to benefit from the tutelage of an experienced professional.

Before you take steps to fill the position, revisit the position description. Make sure you’ve identified the key knowledge, experience, and attitudes needed to be a successful digital leader for your organization. Look for someone who has demonstrated the experience and skills you need now as well as the commitment to professional growth necessary to rise to future challenges.

Is your organization seeking a CIO coach or finding itself between CIOs? DelCor’s CIO Support services can provide coaching from consultants with association CIO experience and help you bridge the gap with an interim CIO adept in the business and culture of associations.

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