Skip navigation
CA, Inc.
TwitterLinkedInShare Smart Enterprise
Home Business Technology Innovation Business Technology Strategy Business Technology Execution Professional Development Smart Groups Smart Enterprise Magazine

Professional Development

7 Posts tagged with the professional_development tag

Recently, the Wall Street Journal held a CIO networking event where CIOs talked about moving up the ladder into the corner office. It’s logical that if technology is the future, a CIO’s deep knowledge of technology will help organizations succeed in a world dominated by big data, cloud storage and social media. Yet, technical skills alone are not enough.


In my experience as an executive coach, it takes much more than tech savvy to rise to the highest ranks of the organization.


I work with CIOs, CFOs, cyber security mangers, engineers, scientists, physicians and finance executives. Some have recently been promoted, or have excellent technical skills, but still lack leadership qualities that will push them ahead. What’s missing might be described by a supervisor as either lack of confidence or lack of what we call “emotional intelligence.”


As I have written about previously, executives who make it to the top have a unique combination of self-awareness, self-restraint and social skills that I call emotional intelligence. But even that is not enough these days.


Developing Strong Presence Two Ways

Another set of skills that need development and strengthening could be called "executive presence." What are the signs of weak executive presence? When a client defers to their bosses too much either by looking down at their notes, or not making eye contact; when presentation skills fall short or when someone has a slouching posture—these all put you at a disadvantage.


These may seem like small shortcomings, but they are very important if you want to move ahead. One of the best executive coaches I know Jeff Kaplan, writes that: “Executive Presence is about being present with your audience, whether that's one person or a room of 1,000... It's about how you "present" yourself regardless of whether you're giving a formal presentation, participating in an executive team meeting, or talking to one person at the water cooler.”


Fundamentally, it is about truly being “in the moment” with others. In our multitasking, mobile-device filled business world, this is increasingly difficult. To improve in this area, two key ingredients are required. First, you must be absolutely fully prepared regardless of whether you're giving a presentation to clients or having a quick conversation with your boss on the phone. When you're fully prepared, you can then deeply listen to what others are saying without worrying about what they're thinking of you or what great wisdom you want to say next. You’ll be relaxed, connected to your breath (instead of cut off from your breath due to anxiety or disorganization), and able to pick up nuances from what others say and how they say it. 


Fostering Creativity

The second key ingredient is that you must be fully present, completely engaged in the moment and not "in your head" with thought -- such as judging the person or audience you're speaking to, or wondering what your audience is thinking about you or what you're going to make for dinner.


When people are fully present, creativity flows, new ideas emerge, awareness gets deepened, and problems get solved.

By contrast, if someone is unprepared, in their head, or pushing through a pre-set agenda, there is no room for the creative thoughts.”


Beyond having confidence in your ideas, executive presence also means dressing the part, knowing how to hold an audience’s attention, having confidence in who you are and what you believe in, having excellent social skills, knowing when to show self restraint and being organizationally savvy. Surprisingly, these are things that can be taught-- even if initially, the new behaviors feel artificial. Many a TED talk focuses on powerful behavior and how “fake it until you make it or become it.”


Executive presence is hard to describe, yet easy to spot. Most importantly, it’s vital for CIOs and others who aspire to lead and to succeed.


There are always new books being published about what makes people successful, how to win, how to climb the corporate ladder, how to influence, lead and manage, and myriad other “formulas” for creating wealth and success.


I read many of these books to learn about the most recent research and how it can be helpful to my clients, but it’s not often that I get to hear an author in person. Recently, as an executive coach at the Wharton School MBA Program, I was fortunate to attend a seminar by Adam Grant, the renowned social s at the University of Pennsylvania (Photo at right).


I was especially intrigued by his new book, Give and Take (Viking, 2013), which is based on the concept that giving is a more productive way to work. (Grant was highlighted in a recent cover story in The N.Y Times magazine.)


His basic premise is that the "givers" in the world are happier, have more focus and willpower, create more successful teams, are better negotiators and make more money. Giving people care about others, go out of their way to develop others, are fair and honorable in what they do, are empathetic in their interactions, and view the world as a trustworthy place.


Importantly, a giver is authentic in behavior as opposed to being a "matcher" — someone who Grant describes as operating on the principle of: “You do for me, and I will do for you.” Givers also contrast with the “takers” who try to fake giving in order to get what they want with little regard for others.


IT Implications

Like you, I was particularly interested in how, or whether, Grant’s approach would work in the specialized IT arena because many of my coaching clients are CIOs, CTOs or directors of risk, cybersecurity or IT audit. I also teach a graduate class at Temple University's Fox School of Business for students in IT audit and cybersecurity.


When I asked the author about this, he responded that for IT and CIOs, "building a culture of givers is a key step toward encouraging knowledge-sharing, which in turn promotes creativity and innovation.”


Give and Take isn’t naïve, but it may be counterintuitive to what we have been taught about business in the past. It is optimistic and looks at the world of work and how "giving" affects all aspects of life, teams, salary and happiness. It’s an approach that’s certainly worth consideration by IT leaders whose success is increasingly dependent on interactions with others. I know I will be sharing some of the surprising insights in this book with my clients and students. Among these:


1. “Powerless communication” is a way of communicating that makes people seem more approachable, warmer, more trustworthy and humble. “When givers use powerless speech, they show us that they have our best interests at heart," according to Grant. A leader who is a giver can use powerful speech, as well as powerless speech.

Here is a link to Adam grant giving a TEDxEast talk on “The Power of Powerless Communication.”


2. “Takers” typically spend more time talking and less time listening. They also have a more difficult time accepting the ideas of others, especially if they conflict with their own. Grant writes: "Whereas takers often strive to be the smartest people in the room, givers are more receptive to expertise from others, even if it challenges their own beliefs." For the CIO and the IT team to succeed, the best ideas must be heard — regardless of where they originate.


3) Givers seek advice from others by asking questions, asking for input and recommendations. "When we seek advice from others, they feel flattered, and are more inclined to take our perspectives and become our advocates,” writes Grant.


4) Offer help and seek help as well. ”If you want other people to be givers, one of the easiest steps is to ask for help,” according to the book. This gives people a chance to feel valued and needed. Reunite with dormant colleagues and offer to help them or connect them with others.


Research has shown that givers are represented at the top of organizations in the same proportion as takers. One of the major differences is that givers care about those around them, their teams, their partners and their customers, as well as those with no direct relationship to them. In other words, givers are other-directed, not self-directed.


The CIO and the IT team must listen and ask questions, be influential and have teams that are valued and trusted. These traits make it not only possible, but necessary for the IT world to be filled with "other-focused individuals," i.e., givers. After all, their job is to make the organization — both internal intellectual capital and external customers — secure and safe in an increasingly impersonal world.


So are you a giver, a matcher or a taker? Grant has a free online survey on his website. I’d welcome your thoughts and feedback as well.


As an executive coach working with successful businesspeople, I have often found that the willingness to be introspective, analyze and question who we are, what we want to accomplish and how our thought processes work have a direct impact on business achievement. In fact, it can be the differentiator between someone who can turn failure into success and one who gets bogged down in a negative mindset.

For instance, individuals who have been very successful in one environment but are failing in another often think that changing a behavior that was working so well for many years seems crazy. Yet it’s very usually necessary. CIOs fall into this category because their environments are changing very rapidly, but they often don’t keep up.

For most of us, the ability to adapt, to change our thought processes, to be self-aware and accept that what used to work isn't working now, are difficult things. In a recent article in The New York Times, “Secret Ingredient for Success,” Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield wrote about "single-loop learning," a term originated by Chris Argyris at Harvard.


Getting Out of the Loop

Single-loop learning is an insular way of looking at a problem, resulting in doing things the way we have always done them. Only by realizing that this way of thinking isn’t working and will not work in the future, were people able to break out of the loop. Harvard’s Argyris called the new approach "double-loop learning." It is difficult to do. We are so accustomed to set patterns and specific beliefs that leaving our comfort zone feels wrong. We act as if we know what will happen when we think or act differently (e.g., the systems will crash, security will be breached, we’ll lose our job), but we often don't know and, in fact, are usually wrong.

Here's ’s an example. I had a client who, after many years at a consumer product company, had to work under a new manager. For years, my highly successful client had been a quiet but highly respected contributor to the company, with a deep knowledge of the business. He was viewed as a person of integrity and as someone who would get the job done no matter what. He led his team with a "hands-off" style but trusted they would do the job.

When his boss retired, however, he was not considered for that position. Instead, it went to a younger, more socially outgoing individual who was brought in from outside of the company. The new boss did not value the traits that had made this manager successful. My client tried everything that had worked with the previous boss, but with minimal success. After a year of trying the same behaviors (e.g. loop learning), the manager felt marginalized and totally unhappy. He received his first lackluster performance review and his position was in jeopardy. Only then did he decide to change.


We focused on self-awareness, new behaviors and new ways of thinking. When he finally was open to new approaches and to examining his beliefs, he began to ask questions that were difficult for him and to accept potentially negative answers. That’s when he broke the loop and things changed for the better.


Faulty Assumptions

Initially, my client never had a direct discussion with his new boss. He just assumed he knew what he wanted. However, we soon observed that my client did not know how much or how often the new boss wanted to be kept informed or involved -- so he asked. It turned out that contrary to his old boss, the new one wanted all the details and to be kept in the loop at every turn.


This led to other observations and questions about how the new boss communicated. Did he like charts and power points? E-mails, phone calls or face-to -meetings? Was the communication to be lengthy or brief? My client was a detail-oriented, slow talker who preferred the written word to face-to-face meetings. The new boss was the exact opposite, however, so my client learned extroverted behavior and scheduled weekly, in-person meetings with his boss that only lasted 15 minutes.

With a new, executive-presence demeanor, better social skills and an improved outlook, this manager finally felt that he and the boss understood one another resulting in a much more successful year for him, with a good chance for promotion.

New thinking requires boldness and courage because sometimes the ultimate outcome is not what we want to happen. If we are to stay relevant and adapt to change, however, we must continually monitor our reactions to new environments and leave our comfort zones. The world is changing quickly, and technology is changing exponentially. A fresh mindset about our business lives — specifically, becoming self-aware — is a necessity for success.



At first glance it may seem that my areas of expertise as an executive coach — soft-skill training and interpersonal communication — have little in common with the engineering and finance backgrounds of IT students. Turns out, however, they are highly complementary.


At Temple University’s Fox School Department of Management Information Systems (MIS), administrators hold the innovative idea that increasing social awareness, the ability to self-regulate impulses and enhancing communication skills, will produce better IT auditors—those who are certified to examine IT operations and to safeguard corporate assets. As a result, I am currently teaching a class in a newly formed IT auditing master’s degree program.

Typically, I work with organizations that want to increase the success of their executives, and in turn, business revenue. This usually involves developing emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills among business leaders. I am applying many of these same techniques to my IT students whose jobs it will be to identify holes in IT security and management for their future employers.


The Fox School of Business’s MS program in IT Auditing and Cybersecurity — one of only three such programs in the country — is based on ISACA, a global association of information systems professionals. Students take the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) exam at the end of their studies, which allows them to perform information systems audits and help a client analyze risk, security and business continuity.


Based in Philadelphia, the school in general and my class specifically is an amazing place filled with students from all over the world who come here to study and learn. One of my goals is to culturally prepare and acclimate students for the business world, including the interpersonal skills an auditor needs to be successful. The classes include individual personality assessments and real-world feedback about what makes a successful auditor from the head of audit of a major financial institution.. We also practice interviewing skills, what good audit negotiation looks like, and discuss how emotional intelligence plays a major role in working with clients and stakeholders.


Learning Subtle Skills

Obviously, the first measure of success as an IT auditor requires excellence in the technical side of the job. But changing the behavior of those who are being audited is also important and involves much more subtle communication and negotiation. How we say what we say, how much we listen to the verbal and the nonverbal language around us, and how comfortable we are asking and disseminating difficult information often determines the outcome of any meeting — and any career.


Students learn that an IT audit meeting, which often involves much nuance and potentially negative consequences, is difficult under any circumstances — no business wants to learn it is unprepared for a disaster or a security breach. Therefore, knowing how and what to communicate, adding value to the conversation and trying to be as objective as possible will also determine the success of the IT auditors’ outcomes.


Teaching this wonderful, dedicated group of students is a unique and fulfilling experience and it reinforces to me that executive business skills coaching is valuable in many settings.


You’re doing well in your career. You’re dedicated, skilled, technically competent, a recognized leader in your company and a valued employee. Your performance reviews are excellent, and your manager has complete confidence in your abilities. So why would you want (or need) an executive coach?


This is a good question to consider, so I offer some insights here that apply generally and also specifically to IT execs who want to flourish in their careers. First, in a recent article in The New Yorker magazine, a renowned surgeon talked about getting a specialized surgeon’s coach who could give him feedback on how he performed in the surgical suite. Although his outcomes were good, his reputation was impeccable and his interpersonal skills were excellent, he felt he was too comfortable, and wondered how he really did in all aspects of his work life and how he could improve. Knowing that he could not be objective about his own behavior, the surgeon decided that an outside set of eyes and ears would provide a mirror to his actual behavior. He wanted to improve, so he hired a coach.


Also consider this: In their book, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler write about how changes in medicine, technology or finance will not work effectively without the appropriate behavioral change in the user. You can give out millions of mosquito nets to prevent malaria, but if people do not use them, they are useless. Vaccines prevent illnesses as long as people get vaccinated. The authors call this phenomenon "bio-social science" and think that in the 21st century, it is key to changing behavior.


How does this related to IT executives? It’s often said that people with technical training put less emphasis on interpersonal skills. But behavioral change requires a change in how we perceive the world and a trusted way to learn the new behaviors. Having a coach to reflect and build on what you do well is part of how extremely successful people stay at that uppermost level. They can assess your skills and work on nuanced behavior may result in better outcomes for you and your business team.


If we become complacent in what we do and stop striving for better outcomes when we are already successful, we also assume that we cannot change the behavior of others—an important trait for high-level managers. Many also think executive coaching is meant for the problematic or dysfunctional individual. But, in fact, all of us could benefit from the outside perspective on our behavior that coaching provides.


As The New Yorker article suggests, just as the best opera singers have singing coaches, the most celebrated athletes continue working with personal trainers — even when they are regarded as the best in their sport — and the top CEOs have coaches to use as sounding boards, shouldn't you have an executive coach as well?


For Hervé Gouëzel, quite a lot. Gouëzel, formerly CIO at global banking and financial services powerhouse BNP Paribas, is today advising the company's management team as it undertakes the largest bank merger in European business history. BNP's merger with Fortis involves some 1.3 billion euros in restructuring costs and an expected 900 million euros in annual synergies. The merger also involves some 1,200 internal projects, of which nearly half are IT-related. How did Gouëzel attain this new assignment? Read all about it in the latest issue of Smart Enterprise magazine, just out and available here.



With our Professional Development discussion under way and an article coming soon, I thought this recent blog post on Both Sides of the Table was quite appropriate for our members.  It showcases the traits CIOs need to lead as an entrepreneur.


A few that caught my interest:



Street Smarts

Ability to Pivot



Attention to Detail


For more, check out

Contact Us

We encourage your feedback. Reach out via the "Contact the Editor" and "Contact the Concierge" services for any needs, questions or comments. We look forward to serving you!

Paula Klein, Smart Enterprise Exchange Editor
Ellen Lalier, Smart Enterprise Exchange Concierge

TwitterLinkedInShare Smart Enterprise