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CIO Unplugged 1/20/16

January 20, 2016 Ed Marx 4 Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

Teams Redux

One of the biggest secrets to success is no secret at all. Often discussed, rarely employed: a killer team is the key to work and life.

At 20 years old, I was nose-to-nose with hardened combat veterans, many of whom had served multiple tours in Vietnam. My platoon sergeant and squad leaders had been in the Army longer than I was alive. The medals on their chests weighed more than I did. But there I was — their platoon leader.

I could hardly spell engineer, yet I was the leader, inspecting my troops. I was so insecure it took all I had to maintain eye contact while I evaluated them to ensure their combat readiness.

I was ill prepared, but desperate to learn. I quickly realized that if it were left to me, our platoon would fail. I had to rely on my non-commissioned officers to be successful.

I respected them, gave them plenty of room, and listened before making decisions. They made me look decent and saved me on more than one occasion.

It paid off. Third Platoon (vertical construction), Bravo Company, 244th Combat Engineer Battalion became one of the best in our Army command. At an early age, I stumbled on the secret to success. It was all about the people around me. Organization success was predicated partially upon my success. My success was predicated on my soldier’s success. That was the ultimate foundation. It all began with the team.

I have had the privilege of leading numerous teams in my civilian career. We did all sorts of crazy good things. At first the teams were small, but the size was irrelevant. We accomplished tasks with speed and precision. While our contributions may have been minor in the big scheme, we were contributing to our organizations’ success. Little did we know we were also contributing to our personal and career success.

I recall the Whiz Kids in Cleveland. Named after a book I read on the young leaders that transformed our automobile industry, my focus became team building. None of us fit the mold. We were so young and adventurous but passionate with vision balanced by a “get your hands dirty” mentality.

I managed to land fighter pilot and rotary wing pilots. I recruited young gun consultants looking to leave the road to spend time with family. There was a nurse ready to leave the hospital floor. Finally, the techie who wanted to change the world. We read books together and spent significant time with one another’s families.

We inherited a very poor IT organization. Within four years, we quadrupled customer satisfaction to best of class levels. We helped the organization achieve significant clinical and business outcomes. Gartner even made our IT turnaround a case study.

In Dallas, our organization required a new team. We had strong individual performers, but not the team needed for sustainable success. So we retooled. We became more social; more appreciative. We spent time team building off site and simultaneously insisted on personal and professional improvement. We began to gel as a team.

We won numerous industry accolades acknowledging the role of IT in clinical and business outcomes and became a “Best Places to Work” organization. It was a rush.

We are building this same kind of leadership team today. We have a hefty goal. The only way to transform a city is to first have the foundation of an amazing team. Our roles as healthcare technology leaders are too critical and impossible for one person to handle.

We all need help. Leaders that fail are typically the lone wolves who refuse help. They view the strength of their team as something to fear. Their insecurities and pride suffocate them despite the amount of oxygen immediately available.

These attributes on successful teams transcend the workplace. I am grateful to be on sport teams and community teams that accomplished things that no individual could have done on their own.

I am accused of arrogance. I am accused of self-centeredness, seeking glory for myself. The ironic thing is that I’ve never claimed that my organizations’ or sport successes were about me. Trust me — I always give credit to the team.

I have tried to lead on my own and I failed. I have sought glory and found myself alone. I am the first to remind people that left on our own, we will fail. Through the years, I’ve recognized that as with most things, pride hampers adoption. The meek will inherit the earth.

The only way for us to be good stewards of our roles and responsibilities is to get help. Reach out to others. Make those hard decisions and build a team that is better together than anyone by themselves. A team that accomplishes more than ever would be possible on their own. A team that puts organizational goals before personal aspirations.

Want to accomplish amazing things? Build and pour yourself into your team.

Ed encourages your interaction by clicking the comments link below. You can also connect with Ed directly on LinkedIn and Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Ed,
    Thanks for this piece. (I didn’t realize you heard me mumbling under my breath about arrogance!)

    You have accomplished a lot and I would be just as proud if I had done nearly as much. The way you explain your success makes it more believable. It places the other stories in a better light for me. Persistence is another unspoken trait of successful people. The small measures of success I have found resulted from continuing to pursue a goal in spite of obstacles and limited personal ability.
    Cheers,
    Bruce

  2. This is 100% right on. My motto has always been “if my team fails I fail”. What people fail to recognize is that when you are leading a team , you are just as much part of the team as the other players plus you are leading them. I am never threatened to hear others opinions or views because everyone comes from different experiences and knowledge…..I want input so collaboration is also important along with transparency. I hate to see teams that don’t communicate well…”right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing”.
    I appreciate you sharing your success story.

    Beckie

  3. In the description of your time as platoon leader, it seems you were very aware of how the more experienced members of your team may have perceived you. Demonstrating respect by acknowledging their experience would have been fundamental to building relationships with them. Had you approached the situation with a different attitude, they may have been more inclined to continue feeding you rope!

    I’m curious about the type of role you adopted that encouraged them to offer advice/guidance? Although you had superior organisational rank, to you think they considered themselves as your teachers?

    Thank-you,

    Madalene







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