The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.
The CIO’s best friends. This is the first in a short series of posts BFFs who are critical in ensuring CIO effectiveness.
The CMIO/CIO relationship: Lennon and McCartney Minus Yoko
The magic key to the Beatles’ success was the convergence of songwriting talent and musical genius from John Lennon and Paul McCartney. While individually gifted, together they created one of the most celebrated musical teams ever. I grew up on these guys and I think I have their entire catalog memorized. My family indulges me in Beatles-themed Rock Band nights. Below is my version of Lennon and McCartney as healthcare heroes.
CIO: To be successful, I need a physician who can innovate and sing tight harmonies with me. I want someone who will tell me when I’m off the beat or flat. Depending on our audience, I might need this person to take the lead, or just play bass. For sure, I need someone I can trust who shares the vision. And I have to have a physician I love to be with. Meet Dr. V.
Dr. V: Foundations of a great friendship are the hallmarks of a strong and effective CIO-CMIO relationship: mutual respect and trust. Ed and I work well together because we have a deep understanding of and respect for what each brings to the relationship and to the organization.
CIO: How do we accomplish this rich relationship? Spend time together in and outside of the workplace. Our families should mix virtual and physical. Common interests are bonus tracks be they World Cup Soccer, Starbucks, or shared faith. In the workplace, we do interviews together, rigorously debate strategy, lament losses, and present together. We’re to the point we finish each other’s sentences and sometimes ideas. At other times, work is plain fun, like the 45 minutes we spent posing for pictures for a magazine cover. We bantered about taking more photographs together than we had with our wives during our wedding ceremonies. Our diverse backgrounds, talents, and skill sets provide opportunity for creative mash-ups that lead to innovation.
Dr. V: Thanks to a level of transparency only attainable by best friends, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses intimately. Like brothers, we support one another.
CIO: We fight, too, which makes us more effective in the end. Sometimes it’s over silly things. For example, during video chats, he’ll shut off his camera because his hair is not perfect (I don’t have hair issues). But mostly, our arguments are serious, i.e. the adequate deployment of resources to support the medical staff. Only after a significant debate can we push our organization into new genres. Our sound is not always welcomed, but eventually we’ll even win over the crooners. Synergy at its best.
Dr. V: As healthy friends should, we hold each other accountable for our decisions and for performing at the highest level of our abilities. This sometimes means challenging the other to live up to his full potential, even if that requires putting up with uncomfortable changes.
CIO: To have an effective relationship, we have to lower our guards, be vulnerable, and deliberately set aside time for nonsense … not something typically easy to ask of a cardiovascular surgeon and a Type-A personality. We’ve gotten to the point where we know we won’t be judged for our voices cracking on a high note or for forgetting lyrics. While I receive kudos for use of social media, much of that came from him relentlessly pushing me to try new rhythms and styles. I also know that in a moment of weakness he won’t take advantage of me. Rather, Dr. V will lift me higher. And I do the same for him. I’ve got his back.
Dr. V: A good example of a challenge: Ed encouraged me to assume a matrixed reporting relationship to another leader in the organization. While a logical path to follow, I questioned the wisdom. Ed and I have a great working relationship. Why risk it? Trusting Ed’s vision, I acceded. In retrospect, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made to advance my personal development.
CIO: Without a doubt, my CMIO makes me stronger. Together we have made an impact larger than either of us could have accomplished on our own. My CMIO gives me confidence that our clinical staff is taken care of and protected and that their interests are heard and acted upon. He gives the clinical staff a voice, and when mixed and played back, it’s music to the ears of our patients.
Dr. V: As the song from the ‘80s goes, “That’s What Friends Are For”
Tips for Building That Foundational Relationship
- Have families over for dinner and parties (significant time together)
- Follow each other on Twitter
- Share on a personal level (requires honesty and transparency)
- Create and give presentations together
- Conduct joint interviews
- Maintain trust by following through on commitments
- We’re still planning trip to Rome together
And like brothers and good friends, we don’t always agree on everything. Case in point: just like the Beatles, only one of us has an affinity for Apple.
Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this 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.