Broadridge CIO: Providing Leadership Opportunities

By Mark Schlesinger  |  Posted 03-11-2010 Print Email
Broadridge Financial Solutions CIO Mark Schlesinger explains his leadership development philosophy.

One of the biggest challenges we face in a tough economy is keeping associates' engagement level up. Budgets are tight. Each year we do more for less. People are stretched and stressed. We're trying to work harder and smarter with our 250 global IT associates.

Broadridge has an annual process in which we look at senior-level and midlevel management succession planning. It's a direct focus on how we view the development of our entire organization from a "bench-strength" standpoint.

I work with my top managers in the IT organization to determine which individuals are best suited for leadership development--not just people who are one or two rungs down on the depth chart, but the next rising stars. Then I present that information to the CEO and the COO for their input.

The criteria for determining whom we select for these programs involve several components. For starters, not everyone wants to follow that path in his or her career development. If we've identified someone who has all the right tools for Broadridge management, we'll offer a mix of on-the-job type training, mentoring and formal leadership development programs that are conducted with both internal and external resources.

The nature of the programs depends on what's best suited for that particular individual. We work with our HR department and assemble a development plan based on the person's needs (i.e., technical management versus business management).

We look for individuals who communicate well with people throughout the organization, and who have solid program and project management skills and strong presentation skills. Each of these skill sets can be developed to a degree.

Of course, not everyone is suited for a leadership role. For people who aren't selected but believe they should be, we have one-on-one discussions. What we do really well here is enable pure technologists to move to very senior levels in the organization in terms of both compensation and responsibility.

Knowledge of how our business operates and the ability to discuss business metrics and ROI are absolutely critical. We teach that to prospective leaders through hands-on training.

A common approach here is that as we add new products to our portfolio, we consider them opportunities for associates to become involved in creating the business case. This includes a thorough financial analysis of the project's objectives and insight into how we select solution A over solution B.
You always have to be somewhat inventive to help keep leadership development programs moving forward. Not all types of development require funding. We may not do as much external training, but we may have vendors come in and offer programs such as virtualization training. You have to think out of the box.

We also provide mentoring programs and internal training sessions for the various technologies that we use. For example, if someone on staff is our IBM WebSphere MQ expert, we'll have him or her lead a lunch discussion on how it works. This offers several benefits: We're sharing that knowledge across the organization while giving the associate an opportunity to strengthen presentation and communications skills.

Like other CIOs, I've also questioned the value of sending our people to weeklong executive management courses. I think there are a number of better, more targeted courses out there that make more sense, such as sending one of our associates to Harvard Business School to learn contract management.

I believe that sending someone to a focused curriculum is a lot more valuable to the company than putting someone through a general management program.

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