When Mentoring, CIOs Should Look Outside Of Their Own Firm

Perhaps when CIOs mentor, they should think outside of the box
Perhaps when CIOs mentor, they should think outside of the box

Image Credit: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

As though being the CIO is not a big enough job just by itself. Now we remember that there is that whole mentoring thing that we really should be doing. When we remember to mentor, we generally grab somebody from our company’s IT ranks and then spend some time with them teaching them about the importance of information technology. Is it possible that we are overlooking what we really should be doing: mentoring people who don’t work at our firm?

The Benefits Of Mentoring An Outsider

As the person with the CIO job, you want to make an impression not only on your company but also on the IT profession. If you offer your mentoring skills to the people who work for your firm, you will be benefiting both them and the company. If you can think outside of the box and you offer your mentoring skills to someone who does not work at your company, then you have increased your potential for improving the IT profession.

One of the first questions that always seems to come up when a CIO is considering mentoring someone from outside of the company is why can’t they get the mentoring that they need from inside of their own company? The answer is that these mentoring candidates can get mentoring assistance from insiders, but getting help from outside is also valuable. The outside mentoring assistance will allow them to step away from their day jobs and get a sense of perspective on the challenges that they are trying to solve.

When someone is receiving mentoring assistance from someone who is outside of their company, this will provide them with an opportunity to ask questions that they may not normally think of. The mentor may have spent their career working in a different industry and this can allow them to provide guidance of a different sort than the mentored individual could get from within their own company.

How To Go About Mentoring Someone From Another Firm

When you agree to mentor someone who is from outside of your company, you are going to have some challenges ahead of you. The normal discussions that a mentor has with the person who is being mentored may be off limits – company strategy, internal personalities, and pretty much anything related to finance. The flip side of this is that the person being mentored has to be careful in what problems they bring to the CIO because they could be revealing issues at their company that are not publically known.

One thing that a lot of CIOs don’t realize is that they stand to benefit from the mentoring relationship also. It can be all too easy to get caught up in how your company and your IT department views the world. When you are mentoring someone from the “outside world”, you’ll have the ability to get a fresh perspective on different IT challenges. The person being mentored may also have a different set of IT skills than the people in your company. If this is so, then you’ll be able to evaluate how valuable they are and this may lead to some training suggestions for your IT department.

Mentoring someone takes both time and effort. What a lot of CIOs discover is that simply by taking the time to mentor someone from the outside, it makes them a better mentor inside of their company. It takes effort to mentor someone. This means that you’ll be spending more time in a “mentoring frame of mind”. The end result of this is that when you are working with members of your IT department you’ll be able to look beyond the outcomes that they are generating and instead focus on exactly why they are creating those outcomes.

What All Of This Means For You

Our time as a CIO is by necessarily limited – we will move on to other things over time. What this means is that we need to use our time while we are the person in the CIO position to mentor others and teach them about how things are evaluated and decisions are made when you are the CIO. We generally look for up and coming members of our IT department when we are preparing to mentor, but perhaps our sight has been too short.

A new idea that has just started to occur to CIOs is to select outsiders to mentor. This provides the outsider with a unique set of insights from someone who works at a different firm than they do. It can also help a CIO to get a fresh perspective from someone who operates outside of the CIO’s IT department. This can be a very mutually beneficial relationship for both parties.

It’s not easy finding the right outsider to choose to mentor. Of course, they have to want to be mentored by you in order for the relationship to work out. However, if you are able to find the right person then both of you may be in a great position to get a lot out of the relationship. Take your time, choose wisely and then get ready to experience the benefits of this new form of mentoring.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How many people do you think that a CIO can mentor at one time?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the CIO you feel as though you are in charge of your IT department. What this means for most of us is that we need to continuously be showing everyone that we are the person in charge. Since we’ve been asked to lead the IT team, we need to be filled with self-confidence and be willing to show that to everyone. However, perhaps we’ve been doing just a bit too much of this? Is it time for us to learn how to become more humble?