Our Journey to 90+ CIO,CTO & CDO Mentees

 

We are passionate about helping the CIO function to evolve and have partnered with CIO Development to set up a mentoring scheme to accelerate the professional development of next generation technology leaders. The scheme now boasts more than 80 heavyweight CIO, CTO and CDO mentors from leading global companies across all sectors mentoring over 90 aspiring successors and preparing them to take on the most senior technology role in their organisations. What’s more, 25% of our mentees are now in CIO, CTO or CDO roles.

Why Did We Create The Scheme?

The Savannah CIO practice has been recruiting CIOs for about 15 years. Over that period the role has changed significantly with far less emphasis on technical skills in recent years and a significant increase in the need for commercial acuity. This change has enabled CIOs to become fully recognised board/executive committee members, and important members of the C-suite.

What has been much slower is measurable improvement in people leadership, stakeholder management, political acuity and emotional intelligence. This is hardly surprising since the CIO pool is mainly formed of people who have climbed the technical career ladder; outstanding analytical thinkers focused on delivery and with their newly acquired commercial acuity, very numbers and process driven. The CDO role is a more recent arrival, but these soft leadership challenges are the same.

None of these skills prepares them to move seamlessly through large, political organisations and, let’s be honest, how many large organisations are not political? We believe the very best way of exposing next generation technology leaders to the challenges and pitfalls of corporate leadership is by allowing them to work closely in mentoring with technology leaders who have proven themselves capable.

How Does The Mentoring Scheme Work?

CIO/CDOs who wish to develop one or two of their leading next generation talents (who have the potential to be a successor) are invited to discuss the development potential and specific requirements of the proposed mentees with us and our colleagues at CIO Development. If we move forward the mentees are then profiled and interviewed to understand what they individually need to get out of the scheme. We then propose a mentor based on who we think would be the most effective for that specific mentee. The sponsor then speaks with the mentor to align expectations before mentor and mentee meet. At that meeting, a clear agenda and goals are set for the mentor/mentee discussions that then take place over 6-7 months.

CIO Development provides management and QA to the whole scheme. Guidelines brief the mentors and the mentees on how to get the best out of the process and gentle nudges and enquiries ensure ensures both parties remain fully engage throughout their time together. On average, the pairs meet for two or three hours a month, in person or using technology. Discussions are confidential but we check that both parties feel they are getting what they need from the discussions. Once the mentoring is complete, we take feedback from mentor, mentee and sponsor. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive so far with both mentees and mentors sometimes asking to continue in the Scheme in a new pairing.

Has the Scheme been Successful?

Amazingly successful! 25 per cent of our 90+ mentees to date have achieved CIO, CTO or CDO roles so far and almost all of the sponsors have reported seeing a material improvement in their performance. We have only needed to intervene on a handful of occasions where the chemistry between the pair was not working well and on these few occasions the mentees completed successfully with a different mentor. Mentors too, have reported that they have found the experience of mentoring personally developmental and rewarding. The scheme is expanding now to embrace more CIOs and CDOs in the UK and internationally. As far as we know, the scheme is unique.

About The Author

Co-head, Global Technology, Digital & Innovation Practice
Cathy Holley co-heads Savannah’s global Technology, Digital & Innovation Practice with Vicky Maxwell Davies and has placed some of the top CIOs and CDOs globally as well as their top teams. Cathy was also co-creator of the Savannah/CIO Development mentoring programme and speaks at the top industry events for organisations such as Gartner, Deloitte, Leading Edge Forum and CIONet. She is a regular judge on the Computer Weekly “Technology Leader of the Year” panel. She has a degree in French and Italian from London University and has worked for IBM, Oracle and Heidrick and Struggles.
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