Developing the Holistic Executive

Atefeh Riazi, CIO at Ogilvy & Mather in New York, looks for the nuttiest ideas she can find when reviewing conference agendas.

Too often, conferences are structured so conservatively that they encourage speakers to stay within set boundaries, she says. But hearing the same ideas for cutting IT costs, for example, doesn't help you grow as a leader and expand your mind, she says.

"These are things that everyone does," Riazi says. "It is good to have a forum where you have some radical ideas -- truly initiatives that transform the organization. Crazy ideas."

Riazi says her philosophy on executive education goes against the grain of a traditional approach. For example, Riazi has found that personal improvement workshops, which might not fit most CIOs' definition of IT leadership training, address the often-neglected need for spiritual growth. Companies also spend thousands of dollars sending managers to three-day workshops when they could give them gym memberships for $600 to $800 for an entire year, says Riazi.

"People don't check their minds and their lives and their bodies and their problems at the door," she says. "If you could give [IT managers] those opportunities every year, you will have a tremendous team."

At W.W. Grainger Inc. in Chicago, conferences and seminars are just a small part of the management education program, says CIO Tim Ferrarell. Managers are stretched professionally with intensive cross-discipline training and on-the-job experience. Each employee has a development plan, and workers move into entirely different jobs and divisions to get the right mix of skills, explains Ferrarell, who recently moved from marketing to IT. Likewise, the executive vice president of sales and service was the vice president of IT three years ago.

People move from fieldwork to corporate offices and vice versa, or they're shifted from store management to distribution center leadership roles, he adds.

"I'd say it's invaluable," says Ferrarell. "Oftentimes, people confuse training with experience."

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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