University MOR Associates
IT Leadership Program
The MOR Associates IT Leadership Program (ITLP) is an 8-month program intended to help IT leaders improve skills in a number of key areas such as: delegating, developing people, strategic thinking, exercising influence, and leading change. Coaching is a key component of the program, which pairs participants with an MOR coach to establish leadership development goals, as well as creating peer coaching groups that give participants more opportunities to both practice and receive coaching.
The program is conducted as a series of two three-day sessions held every other month. Each of the sessions includes the presentation of program concepts, along with group breakouts, opportunities to practice new skills, and time for individual reflection. The time between sessions allows participants to absorb material and start developing new practices.
The University of Illinois has sent participants to an MOR program with other BTAA schools for a number of years. In Fiscal Year 2012, the University created the first program composed solely of Illinois participants, a group of 30 IT directors and managers representing each of the campuses and UA. Participants came from many different parts of the organization, and brought different types of professional experience. This created a diverse group of leaders and helped foster many new relationships across department and campus lines. This first University cohort still continues to work together on training, overall collaboration, IT Governance efforts along with proposals such as this one for FY20 funding.
Program Funding Information
The program costs are $5,500/participant. As the in-person meetings rotate among the universities participating (Chicago, Urbana and Springfield), there are additional costs related to travel and hotel stays for the in-person workshops.
A few benefits that participants have found include the following:
- Improved coaching
- Increased collaboration, working with peers across campuses
- Planned SWOT and strategic planning
- Elevated strategic focus: defensive calendaring, using time more strategically, planning, email
- Identified need for a mentor, building networks and relationships, common language and set of tools
- Leadership development: continuing to focus on how we can grow and be more effective
- Applied communication with staff: emotional intelligence
- Learned Leaderful way and direction: sharing concepts with our teams, resources, IT Pro forum presentations
- Experienced group dynamics and facilitation techniques
- Practiced presentation skills
The value of the ITLP Illinois cohort can best be summarized through feedback of the 2011-2012 participants. In an immediate reflection survey in May 2011, participants were asked “How satisfied are you with the leadership development program overall?” On a scale of 1-6 (with 5 being Satisfied and 6 being Very Satisfied), the cohort responded with a mean response of 5.93. Additionally, the “Effectiveness of the program in developing leadership skills” scored a 5.15 out of 6.
With more than eight months to reflect on ITLP and to implement lessons learned, we asked the cohort for examples of how the program has changed them, affected their leadership style, and improved performance overall within their unit.
Most respondents immediately pointed to the impact that Coaching has had on their style and impact to their units. ITLP graduates are now more likely to coach team members and use active listening to develop solutions: “When someone comes to me with an issue, my immediate response now is to coach or help the person find an answer, rather than just give them an answer.” This alteration of leadership styles has directly led to staff feeling more empowered and led to enhanced critical thinking and decision making. The learned art of coaching pays dividends as new ideas and solutions come to the forefront, and managers feel greater trust in the abilities of their team members.
In the area of personal growth, the word “discipline” was prevalent in the feedback from ITLP graduates. Through the MOR program, participants now better organize and prioritize their weeks, meetings, and projects. As one staff member responded, “improved planning discipline has helped to ensure that I’m focusing my time and effort on what really matters. This has made me more effective in moving strategic initiatives forward….” In the language of the MOR program, cohort members now are better able to identify and act on tasks by identifying the “Immediate” versus the “Important.”
A final common thread from participants concerns leadership and the strategic needs of the University overall. In the words of the participants:
- ITLP helped me tremendously as a leader. First, it gave me the language to be able to speak with administration in a manner that would promote change.
- ITLP has placed leadership in to the forefront of my thinking. I now have an eye, not for just the immediate impact of decisions, but farther-reaching impacts.
- I have a considerably more long-range and strategic outlook now for the organization’s success versus chasing the month in front of me on an ongoing basis.
- The program gave me the confidence to realize I could “get up on the balcony” and look at the big picture. So often we are encouraged to focus on the task at hand, but we need to encourage seeing the larger image.
ITLP participants grew in many different ways throughout the 8 month program, and we have applied what we learned in various ways through coaching and thoughtful planning. Perhaps the most significant change is reflected in how the graduates now think outside their own units and consider the strategic needs of the University. Many members of the cohort cited a willingness to consider strategic partnerships, both with other campus members and across campuses. This willingness is both a product of “big picture planning” and a result of the cross campus make up and trust that was built during the ITLP program. While many of these projects have yet to be completed, we believe the willingness to investigate these types of collaborations, would not have been possible prior to the training.
Benefits to the University
Most importantly, examples of how this leadership development program led to collaborations or initiatives that resulted in benefits to the University:
- ITLP program created partnerships/collaboration/networking across campuses
- Creation of IT Manager Development Program by 4 ITLP graduates
- Increased level of trust and sharing of resources between campuses that never before existed
- Continuation of the ITLW program, which provides more opportunity for leadership development to University IT professionals
- Career progression opportunities
- Shared policies and practices between campuses
- Cost savings