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CIO Unplugged – 7/15/08

July 15, 2008 Ed Marx No Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally, and are not necessarily representative of Texas Health Resources or its subsidiaries.

Go to Grow
By Ed Marx

One year ago this month, I dropped off my oldest child at Biola University in LA. We arrived a few days early so Brandon and I could attend the student/parent orientations together. During our free time—and in the name of father/son tradition—we squeezed in some workouts and ate bad but tasty food. After we got his belongings organized in his dorm, we huddled for a final prayer and blessing, embraced and shed a man tear or two, and then I left. Sitting in my car in the parking lot, I watched him walk to the final student orientation. During his life at home I had planted seeds: I encouraged him to grow, encouraged his testing of personal boundaries, and discouraged signs of complacency. Brandon had officially begun his journey into the future and to independence, and the results of my optimistic seed planting were soon to blossom.

What happened next surprised me. As I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway, I began to wail. From the depths of my soul, I cried so hard my stomach convulsed. Wheezing in breaths, I mourned my treasured son’s rite of passage. Then my mourning turned to dancing, and I rejoiced for Brandon and his future. I can only imagine what the drivers in the cars next to me must have been thinking of my spectacle.

In the time that has passed, we have seen amazing growth in our son, growth that could not have occurred had he stayed home. Despite an enriching and loving environment, his potential would not be fully realized without a dramatic change and challenge. Part of us would have loved to have him stay, but we knew, and accepted the truth, that he needed to go to grow.

My career has been much the same. I can’t think of a single employer that I have ever wanted to leave. Yet with each one, I knew at some point I’d need to go to grow. Indisputably, my former employers offered ample career growth and challenges, but for exponential and accelerated growth, I had to enroll myself on a journey: break out of my comfort zones, push the envelope of security. Each successive move has pushed me out of my natural bent toward complacency. They’ve shaped and sharpened my abilities. The breadth and depth of divergent experiences have broadened by skill set in an extraordinary fashion. My talents have gained a sharper focus, and my leadership quotient has multiplied. I attribute my growth, personally and professionally, to pushing my boundaries and circumventing the traditional career path.

I believe it is a leader’s imperative to fight complacency in the workplace and encourage others to go to grow. If it benefits our children and ourselves, then we must be willing to encourage subordinates and peers to do the same. Sound inconceivable? Untraditional? Scary? Of course we need to create internal opportunities and have career ladders, something for every kind of employee. Yet, at some point, the best thing for some will be a new environment, a place that challenges them to accelerate to the next level. An exceptional leader is not afraid or insecure to give away their best.

I have helped some of my best go. I have brought them opportunities for external advancements and served as their reference. At each departure, I felt the loss of their friendship, skills, and talents, and I cried in secret; yet I never regretted a single endorsement. I’ve stayed in touch, and what a thrill it is to see how they’ve grown in ways far more enriching than the opportunities I or my employer could have given them. They had to go to grow, to reach their fullest potential.

Are there people in your life and work who need to go to grow? Does complacency have a hold on your organization? Are you selfishly clinging, or do you have a heart to see the best opportunities made available? (Picture the able-bodied forty-year-old still living at home.) If one of your staff has significant potential but circumstances are such that you can’t fully exploit that, do you give that person the freedom to advance elsewhere? Are there other staff members who need you to encourage them to leave for these same reasons but who won’t on their own out of fear?

We have four years left with our teenage daughter, and we will cherish every minute. But we’ll also do our best to prepare her mind to take on challenges and enriching opportunities. In love, we will push her to learn from the past and fail forward and to maximize the present in preparation for the future. Ultimately, the time will come when she will go to grow, just like her brother.

Now it’s your turn. Go to grow!

Ed Marx is senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. (Use the “add a comment” function at the bottom of each post.) You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow him via Twitter – User Name “marxists.”

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