For those of you who know me well, you know that I often say I use my Counseling and Coaching training in IT more than I ever did elsewhere…IT can be a rough place to work!  Digital Transformation points an ever-growing spotlight on how technology is embedded in every part of the business and how critical technology is to overall success.  Add to this the fact that almost everyone considers themselves an IT expert at some level, and the demands on IT leaders can be overwhelming.  There were many times that I coached and counseled my IT leadership team through challenges that had nothing to do with technology but were every bit as important to the business growth and their own success.

Coaches are key for successful IT Leaders

So how do IT leaders navigate these growing expectations for them to be more than technology experts?  Where do they learn how to strategize, influence, collaborate, manage conflict, create a vision, inspire engagement, deal with ambiguity, manage change, and the plethora of other non-technical skills that are critical to their success?  Certainly, there are books written on these and other leadership topics but engaging a trained coach is a game-changing experience.

what is a coach?

The ICF defines coaching as “…partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Definition of Coaching by ICF: What Coaching is Not!

There are two key words in this definition – partnering and process.  Coaching is about doing the work necessary to get where you want to go – whether it’s a specific challenge you are facing or a longer-term development goal.  With a coach, you work together to identify where you are and where you want to be, developing a plan of action, and then ensuring you follow through.

How can a coach help?

As the expectations of IT leaders continue to grow and shift, a coach can be an invaluable resource.  Coaches can help IT Leaders grow and expand their view of their role in the organization.  Here are 4 key benefits of a coach for an IT leader:

  1. Coaches challenge you to think beyond the bits and bytes
    While some coaches may also be IT savvy, a good coach will help you think differently.  They’ll ask questions that you likely will not encounter in your daily life – like, “What are you tolerating that needs to change in order for you to move forward?” or, “If you were fully confident others would support you, what would you do right now?”  These questions help you move outside your daily activities, stretching you to think differently and build the muscle memory necessary to make this kind of thinking a habit.
  2. Coaches help you with “personal retros”
    Most IT leaders are familiar with the Agile concept of Retrospectives, or Retros.  Retros take place at the end of a project or delivery of a final product, allowing the team and customers to reflect on what went well and where improvements can be made.  Retros can be great personal reflection tools as well.  Many leaders don’t routinely get the kind of feedback and developmental support that helps them grow.  This is especially true in IT where what you deliver, not necessarily on how you do it, traditionally defines success.  But this is starting to change – it’s no longer acceptable to just deliver an IT project on time and under budget.  So, what do you do when things don’t go well?  A coach is an ideal partner to help you process what happened along the way, develop a plan to recover from any missteps, and decide what you can do differently next time. 
  3. Coaches help you build out your personal Change Advisory Board
    In IT, a Change Advisory Board, or CAB, reviews planned technology changes and ensures they are well-thought-out before implementation.  As an IT leader, defining your personal CAB helps ensure the plan you have for yourself, your team, and the organization is successful.  Tapping into a diverse group of advisors, both inside and outside your organization, can be an invaluable resource.  Your coach can guide you in identifying your personal CAB, and when you should tap into them for support and advice.  
  4. Coaches value your roadmap
    IT loves a good roadmap – showing the year-over-year plan for technology improvement paints the picture of how IT will support the growth of the business.  But as an IT leader, what is your year-over-year roadmap to support your own growth, the growth of your team, your department, your organization?  Even when everything is running smoothly, you should have a personal roadmap that informs the non-technology portion of your role.  Just like your technology plans cannot be left to chance, the development of your personal roadmap and the roadmap for your team, department, and organization needs to be an intentional activity.  Your coach can help you think through how to frame this and hold you accountable to your plans.

As an IT leader, building your non-technical skills is more important than ever – find a coach who can support you in this exciting journey!  CREO’s group of professionally trained and certified coaches can help you find your way – check us out here.