Photo from CIO Strategy Meeting in New York.


An Interview with Mary LeBlanc, Bridger Val Associates LLC


“Coaching is the universal language of change and learning.” – CNN

What does it take to be a successful executive coach? What does it take to successfully BE coached?

These questions and more were recently broached in discussions at the CIO Strategy Meeting in New York. CIOs and fellow IT leaders found themselves brainstorming different ways to provide feedback, to receive feedback, and to inspire their team to better align with the business.


Mary LeBlanc headshot

Mary LeBlanc, President & Principal Consultant for Bridger Val Associates LLC, led these discussions in sessions on Coaching and the CIO and Developing an IT Culture Aligned with the Business Culture at the Strategy Meeting. Here are her thoughts on the insights shared in the sessions:





What did you think of the CIO Strategy Meeting format?


I think the format is really great. It’s very special to watch people connect. A lightbulb goes off when they come in and say, “I have this problem,” then in the sessions everyone comes in and learns from each other.


What are some coaching strategies CIOs can use to develop and improve their team’s performance and morale?


We talked a little bit about the differences between mentoring, coaching, performance feedback, and all the different kinds of feedback you can get. Coaching really focuses on asking questions and letting the employee come to their own answers, which is very different than other forms of feedback.

There was a lot of good discussion on how those questions can be asked. One example was needing to give timely feedback if someone gives a presentation and they didn’t do something well. We talked about going right away and saying what they didn’t do well, or saying “hey how did you feel you did,” and let them come to the conclusion.

That was helpful for some people because you only sometimes think about one way to give feedback, which is to point out what you did wrong.

We also spent time on things like peer mentoring circles, so people could coach each other. A lot of organizations aren’t able to pay for a formal coach or won’t necessarily have a formal coaching program, and how implementing those offerings would really engage people. Some of the CIOs said, “I’m interested in getting coached on how to coach other people.” Everyone wants coaching, so we talked about how you can leverage the organization for peer feedback and set up your own coaching circles.

It was helpful for people to brainstorm. Rather than focusing on one way to do things, we focused on multiple ways that get the same effect.


What current challenges are in the way of aligning IT culture with the business culture? How can/should CIOs overcome these and drive innovation?


This was a harder session because everyone was pretty much in the same boat. How can I get better aligned? How can the business let me in? How can I get to the table? The interesting thing, is that I think this has been a problem for 30+ years. It’s almost surprising that we’re still talking about it.

There was a lot of discussion on how all business are becoming digital businesses, and therefore you have to be at the table. Rather than finding techniques for people to use, it was really about approaching the business with the business in mind first, not IT. We talked about how CIOs can help show CEOs and leadership teams what the future can look like by drawing a picture for them.

There’s generally a sense of inferiority complex that IT people have that they have to get away from. There was also some discussion about how you can make that conversation easier for people.


I’m sure that related back to some of the things you talked about in your Coaching session.


Yes, actually in all the sessions I found some linkage. I sat in on the Talent Management session and there were some great ideas that we then used in the Coaching session. A lot of people are interested in the same things: engagement, communication, alignment. What is best about this format is the multiple sessions are reinforcing some of the overarching messages shared.

Cultures are so different. What works for one company, doesn’t always work for another. I think people were really focusing on the smallest tip or a little idea to take back. People didn’t need the full answer here. This was really good, especially because if everyone in the room is struggling with similar problems, not one person will have one answer. What I really liked seeing was that other people tried different things and shared them with the group.




Thanks so much to Mary LeBlanc for taking us through these insights shared at the CIO Strategy Meeting in New York!

Looking to add your own thoughts to the conversation on Coaching and the CIO and Developing an IT Culture Aligned with the Business Culture? Attend our upcoming CIO Strategy Meeting in Chicago on August 9-10! From a great, active group of participants to a unique selection of discussion topics, this is the CIO event you won’t want to miss.

Click here to download the Chicago CIO Strategy Meeting agenda, or email our team at to begin your registration and onboarding.

Be sure to also view our full calendar of 2017 Strategy Meetings here on our website!