January 05, 2001, 11:21 AM — When Jim Miller was looking for some leadership training years ago, his human resources department suggested Otto Kroeger Associates in Fairfax, Va., which had a reputation for development courses based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
He says he caught up with Otto Kroeger after one of his classes, chatted a few minutes and was astonished when Kroeger asked him, "If your house has a light with switches in more than one spot, when you're leaving the house, do you ever go back to be sure not only that they're off but that both are in the down position as well?"
"Yes," Miller replied. "I've climbed a flight of stairs to do that on occasion."
"Then you could probably get something out of my course," Kroeger said.
That was Miller's first inkling that he might be a bit of a control freak. "It's amazing when someone can hold up a mirror like that to yourself, even if the truth is painful," laughs Miller, who has loosened up considerably and is currently vice president and CIO at Cerner Corp., a maker of health care systems in Kansas City, Mo. In Miller's case, the pain led to gain.
"Up until that point, my idea of managing was if I could get everyone to do it the way I did it, life would be really good," Miller recalls. "With Otto, the lightbulb went on: Not everyone looked at life and work and motivation the way I do. I ought to spend energy on understanding what will turn my people off and on rather than forcing people into things that don't fit."
Discovering educational experiences like the one Miller had is a CIO's dream. But there are plenty of nightmares to be had. In an effort to take some of the guesswork out of the quest, Computerworld surveyed 410 information technology leaders about what sings and what doesn't in executive education.
IT leaders want up-to-the-minute information that they can use right away, and most like to get it informally at conferences and meetings of associations.
"I've found them to be the most useful because they provide more state-of-the-art information," says Emily Gallup Fayen, who handles globalization at RoweCom Inc., a business-to-business service provider in Cambridge. Mass. "The presentations are usually by people actually working in the field where the latest things are happening. And especially in Internet commerce, it's all changing so fast that talking to people is almost the only way to find out what's happening now."
Huge symposia have their place, respondents say, as long as your expectations are realistic.
"I get a lot out of walking around Comdex," says Lawrence Mann, support services manager at Georgia Gulf Corp. in Baton Rouge, La. "If you go to try to locate the proper network card, you'll go crazy. But you can just get exposed to a lot of stuff and get the pulse of what's going on."
He says he attends Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Group Inc.'s Symposium/ITxpo for the same reason.