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Leadership Skills Can Be Improved With a Plan, Coaches Tell CIO

A CIO asks how leadership skills can be improved.

I'm a CIO who just received a great employee review from my company's CEO. But in my review, he also wrote, 'Develop your leadership skills in 2007.' How can I identify a strategy so that during my next review I can say, 'I improved my leadership skills'?"

Our expert panel weighs in:

Jean Fuller, Fuller Coaching, Woodside, Calif.
First, ask what the CEO wants IT to deliver next year, and get metrics on key projects. Start developing a 360-degree feedback plan. Ask direct reports what they expect in terms of their career development. Find a CIO in your area who you think has proven leadership skills, which you can do by attending a conference. And ask local business leaders what works for them.

Recommended reading: The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins

Renee Arrington, Pearson Partners International Inc., Dallas
As an executive-search professional -- not a career coach -- who interviews and works for CIOs, I recommend making a list of ways that you can demonstrate trust. One way is to build alliances throughout your company. Another is to call on company leaders with whom you've worked on a recent project and who would speak highly of you. A third is to demonstrate team-building skills, which means pointing to your employees' retention, productivity and satisfaction. Create a plan for tracking these metrics.

Recommended reading: Leadership by the Book: Tools to Transform Your Workplace by Kenneth H. Blanchard, Phil Hodges and Bill Hybels

Windy Warner, ProCoach Inc., Dallas
Consult with your CEO, and ask for specifics on how to improve your leadership skills. Then conduct a self-analysis. Focus on three top leadership traits: communicating clearly, developing talent and managing change. Then choose someone whose leadership skills you admire -- ideally, your current CEO -- and use him as a model. Try to meet with that person to get practical tips. And each month, learn or practice a new skill that involves one of these focus areas. Finally, I recommend taking classes and attending seminars on leadership.

Recommended reading: Robert E. Lee on Leadership: Executive Lessons in Character, Courage and Vision by H.W. Crocker III

Kim Batson, Career Management, Sammamish, Wash.
Do a 360-degree assessment to learn how your direct reports rate your leadership skills. Once you have a plan in place, do something daily to tap into your leadership potential. It might sound corny, but make time every day to read a worthwhile book chapter on leadership. Assign specific tasks to yourself, and take an inventory each month to make sure you've applied each leadership skill.

Recommended reading: Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell and The People Principle by Ron Willingham

If you have a career question or professional experience to share, write to us at

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