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CIO Unplugged 4/16/14

April 16, 2014 Ed Marx 5 Comments

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

How Snow White Changed My Life

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OK, life change is a stretch, but Snow and some of her peer princesses did remind me of a critical aspect of leadership—creating special moments. In the case of Disney, it’s “where dreams come true.” For my Starbucks aficionados, it’s, “Handcrafted beverages are the secret to making life better.”

Five years ago, I added “create perfect moments” to my personal strategic plan. It’s one technique to help ensure “creating perfect moments” moves from bench to bedside. In the big things of my life, this has worked well, but not the common everyday stuff of earth.

While in Orlando recently, I spent time exploring Disney’s Epcot. Just for fun — and to make my wife and 20-year-old daughter smile — I decided to grab a photo op with Snow White.

Was my pride ever challenged! There I was, sandwiched between animated toddlers and star-struck preteens, in line to take a pic with Ms. Purity herself. Seemed everyone was dressed like a princess except me. I stood close to one toddler hoping passersby would think I was part of her family. Heaven forbid someone I knew might see me standing in line at Disney for a personal princess pic.

My turn came. I sheepishly held my arm out for Snow White. My friend took the pic.

I was ready to run, but Snow would not let me go. Help! She turned, looked me in the eye, and engaged me in conversation. I was pulling away, but she kept me there. It was longer than a moment, but not excessive, maintaining eye contact the entire time. As if someone just discovered my hand in the cookie jar, I was about to break out in a nervous sweat.

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I texted the pic to my wife and daughter and they both replied ROTFL. So when I saw Sleeping Beauty, I stepped in line again.

This time, I carefully observed all the interactions between the princess and her devotees. Miss Beauty held eye contact with every fan and engaged in brief conversation.

My turn came, and though I tried to pull away, she clung to my arm until we talked. Awkward, yes, but so enlightening. Ditto with Belle, Cinderella, and last but not least, Ariel. They were indeed making dreams come true for their fans. They made me feel important.

How can we take something as simple and yet profound as a Disney princess engagement formula and put it into practice ourselves? How can we allow this to become a natural part of who we are?

As leaders, we are so rushed. I preach to myself here. We walk past our staff with nary an acknowledgement. When we do stop to talk, we are thinking about the meeting we are headed to.

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On one hand, we claim that the right people in the right places are our most valuable assets. But do we give them the gift of our time, fully present, even for just a minute? This proves a contradiction in our leadership.

Since my return from Disney, I’ve been doubling down on creating special moments, this time with my staff. I am making sure every interaction, however brief, is meaningful. Eye contact. Genuine interest. While the other person may be rushed, I will remind myself that my agenda is their agenda, and my role as a leader is to serve them. True, not every person will want the time, but for those who do, I am there.

Before the end of my final day at Disney, I was looking for the next princess. Why? Because I enjoyed the way they made me feel. Special. If a princess can do this for strangers, we can do it for those we serve. Pics or no pics.

Create special moments.

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.

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April 16, 2014 Ed Marx 5 Comments

CIO Unplugged 4/2/14

April 2, 2014 Ed Marx No Comments

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

Accelerating Workplace Relationships

I inherited the party bug from my parents. I recall that during their parties, Mom and Dad would march us seven kids in to play our instruments and sing. I think we each earned a quarter in exchange for those performances. Not bad for a non-union, late-60s era gig, I suppose.

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My parents had many guests over between parties as well. Sometimes my dad’s co-workers, other times just small socials and mixers made up of Mom’s and Dad’s extensive friend network. We had no dull moments growing up!

When an HIStalk reader asked me to comment on how to accelerate work relationships and break down silos, partying was the first thing that came to mind. I’ve carried this tradition into work and home. While Julie is more into hospitality as I am into entertainment, parties and fun times with friends reside in our blood. Hardly a weekend night passes where we are not out dancing or hosting some sort of get-together.

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Clearly, there are many techniques to building work relationships. Since you can download a book and get routine ideas, I will focus on methods less talked about yet in my wheelhouse, because I love to party. Yes, I party with my work peers and subordinates. I can hear the naysayers and I respect you. I can assure you from personal experience over the years, partying has made a positive difference in business outcomes as well as employee engagement. Plus, it’s fun. Life is too short to work with dull people!

Here are some ideas. I’d love to hear yours. Please comment below so we can all benefit. Not all will be applicable, but we won’t know if something works unless we try it. Be brave!

  • Monthly after-work socials. Who: managers and above. One Thursday per month, we hit a city (rotate) in our sprawling metroplex and get to know one another in a relaxed setting. Typically, we visit 2-3 venues and the first round is on me. Everyone knows the rules. People are responsible for their behavior during this voluntary social and getting wasted is discouraged. We are so hurried at the office that there’s little time for informal chitchat; this relaxed venue allows for real engagement.
  • Annual cheese, wine, and chocolate party. Who: directors and their significant others. Dress code: a step above casual. We’ve hosted six of these parties at our home. This fellowship has a two objectives, one social and one training. Some of our directors have officer-level career ambitions. This offers exposure to a new culture and a safe environment in which to practice new skills.
  • Annual Christmas party (non-office setting). Who: direct reports with their families. We host this event in our home as a gift to those who serve me directly. December is way too busy, so we schedule this for the first weekend in January. Our white elephant gift exchange has produced some interesting and memorable … stuff.
  • Annual leaders’ family barbeque and swim. We rotate the location of this summertime event at one of our director’s homes. Kids and significant others are the focus. We eat lots of food and chill while the kids—and a few brave adults—frolic in the pool. You want to engage your team? Engage their kids!
  • Sports (all unofficial due to liability.) Soccer teams, Ironman triathlon teams, mountain climbing teams, etc. Not everyone participates, of course. These are simply additional examples of outside-the-office party opportunities. After every adventure race, we have a line for our guest shower before the celebrations begin.
  • Manager and director thank you party. We did our first one of these in January. A gift from Julie and me, it is an opportunity to say thank you to my entire leadership team and their significant others. Email is OK and I love thank you cards, but having everyone over and showering them with love is yet another way to engage at a deep level. My success is largely attributable to their leadership so we are quick to have everyone over and splurge.
  • Special events. As needed. Last year, we won the Davies Award, so we hosted a professionally catered dinner for everyone who made this happen (including significant others.) Additionally, we invited the president of the EHR software company we used to come reinforce the magnitude of the achievement.
  • Personal parties. We have several parties throughout the year and we often include many from work (peers, staff, etc.). These include birthday parties, game nights, and theme parties. We have “The Great Gatsby” coming up next week. I suspect that 25 percent of our guests at personal parties are from the workplace.
  • Recognition events. Directors have access to our home to use as a party venue for their teams. Some of them use our home for team-building events, some use it for parties, and others for special recognition for projects well done. While many of the examples above stress managers and directors, over 50 percent of my entire department has been to my home at least once for some sort of party.
  • Exercise parties. Yes, my entire staff is invited to any of my daily workouts! Sometimes I will hold “office hours” in our treadmill or spin-cycle conference rooms. For some reason, these seem to be the least popular of all the parties …
  • Dallas City Lights. This monthly event involves friends in all of my circles, but again includes about 25 percent from the workplace. I choose a different location each month and we all meet up. February we went country and March we hit the Glass Cactus, where part of the dance floor was reserved for our group. We danced to ‘70s music until they turned the lights off at 2 a.m. In May we hit an infamous ‘80s-only venue. Dancing takes center stage at many of these gatherings.
  • Other peoples’ parties. I accept most the invitations I receive.

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Many traditionalists suggest maintaining a big border between work and play. Leaders should not engage or otherwise be transparent with the teams they lead. I disagree. I found great success by being transparent and opening up my heart and home to those I lead.

Together, we have accomplished tremendous things, and I attribute a large part of this because of the level of engagement we have achieved. We know one another deeply. We know spouses. We know children. We know our joys and our hurts. When we know deeply, we care deeply. When one of us is injured or needs help, my joy is seeing many rush to walk with them, even carry them if needed. I’m thankful for the times they carried me.

And yes, when our kids were younger, we marched them out to entertain our guests. There was Brandon the Magician and Tali the singer. Memories!

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.

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April 2, 2014 Ed Marx No Comments

CIO Unplugged 3/19/14

March 19, 2014 Ed Marx 2 Comments

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

Trains

I spent my early years in Europe, where travel by train was the most efficient form of transportation. I loved the excursions where we bypassed the Autobahn, moving swiftly across the landscape of Germany and surrounding countries.

Returning often as an adult, I became increasingly aware of the differences in how trains were run by country. Even my kids quickly learned that German and Swiss trains were always on time, while the French trains were often delayed or just plain cancelled. We crossed our fingers whenever we had to jump a train for France.

I asked some Swiss operators why the French trains had such a dismal reputation. They blamed it on the culture — their processes were not as sharp as those of other countries.

December 2010, I had a rude awakening that my internal operations, or “trains,” were more French than they were German. I detailed some of the lessons learned in this post. I realized that our culture, unattended, had drifted. We had no logical processes that were detailed except in the minds of one or two key individuals. Not good.

Around 2 a.m that fateful day, one of my team convinced me it was time for a major change and that we needed uber focus on process. Convince me … Nothing! I was desperate!

Since then, I’ve learned that the majority of IT organizations across all industries don’t have formal process plans. Based on historical success or experience, they operate without intention. Some do extremely well with this non-method; others don’t.

We operated well without a plan for years. But given the complexity in this increasingly digital healthcare world, the risk became too great to operate whimsically. We chose the ITIL framework. I’m not endorsing ITIL, but it is the framework we selected for IT service management.

As a result, we’ve seen significant improvements in our operations. Like most frameworks, ITIL isn’t just about operations, but it is the area we chose to focus on initially.

We started with a gap assessment. Yep, we had holes in our processes, and we knew it. Our train tracks were not always true.

We started to close those gaps, reassess, find more holes, and filled them. We were tenacious. It became one of our top priorities.

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Three years later, we won a major industry award for the impact of our ITIL journey. Again, it is just an external validation of what was taking place internally. A complete transformation of our operations. This train is going places, reliably!

This is the video that was shown prior to my employer winning this prestigious award conferred by Pink Elephant.

If you find yourself with operations that are more akin to the French trains than German ones, here are some steps you can take to transform your operations:

  • Lead this personally so everyone knows how important this initiative is.
  • Hire someone, redirect a current position if you must, to have someone focus 100 percent on your framework.
  • Have an external review of all IT service management processes.
  • Pick highest risk areas and focus relentlessly.
  • Require IT service management certification as a condition of employment (I was in the first class).
  • Require advanced certification of all your leadership.
  • Everyone takes our classes, including administrative support.
  • As momentum grows, add staff as needed to enable transformation, even if it means repurposing existing staff.
  • Make your maturity level goals part of your key performance indicators to ensure everyone has skin in the game.
  • Invest in an appropriate number of staff to become experts.
  • Annual external assessments to review progress to KPI.
  • Never lose the focus or determination, talk about it often.

Not everyone will be on board. You will experience pushback from your own team. That is part of leadership. Have the vision and execute. Listen to your team and adjust accordingly, but never lose sight on the need to drive this until IT service management is just a part of the culture and folklore.

Our results on our operational areas of focus:

Area Baseline, Year 1, Year 2

  • Service Desk – 2.5, 3.28, 4.04
  • Incident Management – 2.0, 3.07, 3.79
  • Problem Management – 1.5, 3.13, 3.63
  • Change Management – 1.25, 3.10, 3.34
  • Configuration Management – 1.0, 3.10, 3.07
  • Knowledge Management – 1.0, 3.18, 3.69

We met our KPI by meeting a 3 or greater CMMI level of maturity. We now push towards 4 or greater and have expanded our areas of focus.

An example of how this translates into transformation is our rate of unplanned changes (Emergency and Urgent) has been reduced by over 40 percent. We now have a vibrant service catalog. Ninety-four percent of all team is ITILv3 Foundation certified and 95 percent IT leaders have at least one advanced certification. We now have nine ITILv3 Experts.

But the best part is how our focus on running our trains efficiently and effectively has impacted business and clinical performance. I am unable to share our metrics at this point, but the reason we won the Pink Elephant had everything to do with ensuring the reliability of our systems to enable superior business and clinical outcomes. Simply put, we save lives.

Perhaps your trains run well and IT service management is not an issue for your organization. Bravo. I know this was not the case for us. Today our customers can trust that our trains won’t be delayed or cancelled. All aboard….

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.

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March 19, 2014 Ed Marx 2 Comments

CIO Unplugged 3/6/14

March 6, 2014 Ed Marx 8 Comments

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

Executive Success – The Secret Unplugged, Part 2

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This is the second guest post from my wife Julie. The first one is here. She writes what she feels and it is unfiltered, straight from her perspective. She would not have it any other way! I am thankful to have married a very strong woman.

“No, no! Take your finger off that send button, Edward Marx.”

Yes, I had to stop him before he sang his own praises on this blog. For heaven’s sake, he just finished pouring out his heart in a four-part series on Identity based on humility, and now he was about to shoot himself in the foot.

I confess. It’s tough living with a “celebrity,” especially when his prominence is bigger in his head than it is in the mortal world.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely proud of him for winning the “John E. Gall CIO of the Year” award. After all, how many execs choose to trample their way out of the policy box their organizations try to keep them in? How many execs have disrupted their workplace practices and standards and influenced their peers and followers to change their own organizations?

Ed has a voice that speaks volumes to improving healthcare on the technology side. He draws out leadership talent in people everywhere he goes. He absolutely deserved to win the award.

Ed was equally proud of winning the HIStalkapalooza IT Leader of the Year award.

But I can always hear the tremble in his voice that asks, “Why are these people following ME? What if I lead them in the wrong direction?”

Ultimately, time will tell on the direction part. But my response to the first question would be “vision.” Am I right? We like to go somewhere important and add significance to our sphere of influence.

Now that the 2013 award ceremony is over, my hope is that you show your admiration and appreciation by applying all the spoken and unspoken lessons you’ve learned from the 2013 CIO of the Year and revolutionize your own domain. Don’t live vicariously through Ed’s achievements and settle for complacency in your own world. Seriously, one man can only accomplish so much, but an army of like-minded leaders can advance the IT kingdom beyond its present borders and into a model worth imitating.

Yes, you do have what it takes. For some of you, the secret is to bust the box. And that would be an applause heard around the world.

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Julie’s personal highlights from the HIMSS conference:

  • A man came up to congratulate my father-in-law and said, “I want to be just like you.” (Wow! I’ve never met anyone who aspired to be an old German fart. Or a holocaust survivor.)
  • A taxi driver mistook Ed for The Edge from U2 (this is becoming the norm.)
  • A man (name withheld) said, “I appreciate Ed, but Julie always makes me smile.” (Ahh shucks.)
  • Three of Ed’s direct reports (names withheld) serving others who had fallen ill and required medical treatment
  • Taking pictures of Ed posing with Disney princesses at Epcot
  • Argentine Tango at HIStalkapalooza

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.

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March 6, 2014 Ed Marx 8 Comments

CIO Unplugged 2/12/14

February 12, 2014 Ed Marx 2 Comments

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

Mentoring 2.0

Next week, I will accept the 2013 HIMSS/CHIME John E. Gall Jr. Award for CIO of the Year. At my table will be three of my mentors. I chose them because these men coached me during various phases of my personal and professional life. Mentoring is everything to me. Everything.

Two-plus years ago, I wrote on this subject. The Lost Art of Mentoring quickly became one of my most popular posts. I have given a dozen speeches around the country on mentoring. I am passionate on the topic because it shaped who I am today and where I will be tomorrow. I want to share with you one method to accelerate the adoption of mentoring in your organization and get you to 2.0.

We started the Business Technology Leadership Academy (BTLA) two years ago. Its purpose is to accelerate and enhance our pipeline to produce business technology leaders at all levels of our organization. The curriculum is designed to prepare candidates to take on positions of increasing responsibility by developing and sharpening their leadership skills. Major props to our People & Culture (HR) division who helped the BTLA vision become reality.

Format

The Academy lasts 10 months during which my direct reports and I serve as mentors.

Seminars

The Academy meets once per month for two hours. The first meeting focuses on developing relationships and establishing the rules of the road. Student goals are agreed upon based on 360-degree feedback, developmental needs, and career objectives. Both mentor and mentee sign a contract. This covenant identifies the specific roles and responsibilities of both parties, and outcomes are clearly identified.

The next eight seminars focus on the eight BTLA “Success Factors.” Mentors co-teach the specific subject areas along with their mentees. Success factors vary from setting strategy, value realization, leadership, and life balance. The final meeting is run by the cohort, where the mentees present their capstone BTLA projects.

Individual Sessions

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Each month the mentor and mentee meet privately for 90 minutes. There are few rules here, but the time is focused to help the mentee meet defined goals and to talk about real-world situations they face. Some of this time is also used to develop assigned presentations and special projects.

Shadow Opportunities

Students have opportunities to spend additional time with their mentees through shadowing. This provides more time for coaching and gives the mentee a chance to see their mentor in action. Often, the best mentoring is when nothing is said, just observed. At any time, we will have mentees participate in our leadership meetings, offsite retreats, and attend conferences or our own presentations.

Professional Development

Students are automatically enrolled in any special development activities we might have during their course. Examples include high-impact presentation classes and personal development courses.

Special Projects

Students are expected to volunteer for special projects. These will vary and must be agreed upon by both mentor and mentee. A student might help lead our annual TEDx event, while another leads our organization’s annual employee giving campaign. These projects provide real-world opportunities for leadership while under the careful eye of a mentor and are ideal for real-time coaching.

Selection

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Selection is a highly competitive process. Every employee is encouraged to apply. We have an average of 100 applications. We open up an online questionnaire consisting of roughly 20 questions. There are no right or wrong answers, but some answers receive a higher point value than others, which remain unknown to the prospective students. The questions, point values, and criteria change each year dependent on our target cohort. Our leadership needs change, so the tool is built to allow us ultimate flexibility in the selection process.

Typically, the top 25 scoring submissions are selected for the next round, which consists of a 360 peer and manager review. Once the results are in, we look at the final 12 or so candidates. Our People and Culture team runs special reports for us based on the questionnaire and 360 to allow us further insight into each prospective student.

With all the data points in hand, my team holds a vigorous debate about which candidates to select for that year’s cohort. We try to ensure a diversity of individuals with respect to title, responsibilities, and gender. After the finalists are decided upon, we debate further to decide the mentor/mentee combinations. Again, we use leadership judgment to make the best matches possible. We have few rules here, but we do ensure that the mentor is not already in that person’s chain of command. The side benefit is significant cross-pollination. For instance, we may have an applications vice president as a mentor to a technical analyst or our CTO may have a governance manager as a mentee.

Criteria

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Everyone wants to know the specific criteria and scoring formulas we utilize. We purposely do not share these. We do not want candidates applications focused on maximizing point values.

Expectations

Clearly we are making a material investment in the students. Joining BTLA means the person is making a long-term commitment to our organization. It also means that, when calls for volunteers are made, BTLA graduates should be the first to respond. There is nothing worse than investing but getting no return. Mentors are expected to make their mentee a top priority and are making a significant time and mind investment.

Outcomes

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We have observed tremendous growth in our inaugural cohort. They are more confident and effective. As we continue this program year after year, we will have multiplied the leadership capabilities of our IT organization tenfold.

But here is another reason we do BTLA. We the mentors learn. We may in fact learn more than the students! My hope is that one day a few years from now, one of our graduates will be accepting an important award and their mentor will be sitting at the table cheering them on! Just as mine will be next week.

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.

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February 12, 2014 Ed Marx 2 Comments

CIO Unplugged 1/22/14

January 22, 2014 Ed Marx 13 Comments
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

Leadership and Identity—Look at Me! Look at Me! Look at Me! (Part 4 of 4)

We may not admit it, but most of us crave recognition and awards like a drug. Receiving honors gets us high. We love the buzz that says, “I’m better than you.”

Accolades, though fine on their own, can create an identity on which we base our self-esteem and worth. But it’s only a short-term fix, and the satisfaction quickly fades. The buzz wears off. Worldly recognition is a pursuit that never quenches the real need for significance and worth. The new gold plaque merely masks our insecurities.

So we seek after more, something bigger. Perhaps a more prestigious award. Another graduate degree. Another Fellow.

Don’t believe it? Bing the thousands of companies out there that make a living off our need for recognition. Peruse the corporate office walls. Facebook screams, LOOK AT ME!

You want to score a quick hookup? Talk up your target and pour on verbal affirmation and validation. Want to watch a coward become a hero? Entice him with a ribbon for his chest. Humans are complex for sure, but when it comes to our ego’s need for glory, we are single focused, simple minded, and easily led astray.

Hey, I’m stuck there in the “Look at me!” frenzy. I have sacrificed those most important to me just to win that coveted award. I worked longer hours than reasonable just to be ranked number one. I had to add cabinets to store my prizes. Heck, I spent three hours per day in the gym purely so I could outperform those half my age and get a medal around my neck to brag about it.

I know I’m not alone. I’ve watched marriages destroyed because some guy needed to upgrade his trophy wife. It’s madness! And I am determined to stop it in my own life.

Whoa, now, hold on a minute! There is nothing wrong with winning awards and being recognized for great service or whatever. True. But it becomes a problem when we make it the foundation for our identity. How do you know you have an identity issue? Ask yourself some key questions.

  • Are you defensive reading this post so far?
  • Do you perform so you can get your name engraved on a plaque?
  • Do you covet the other guy’s award?
  • At parties, do you brag about your trophies, medals, certificates?
  • When in conversation, can you draw out the success of others without speaking a word about your last honor?
  • Do you set performance targets because they are the right thing to do or because they will gather positive self-attention?
  • Who do your pursuits make more famous, your employer or you?
  • When you receive recognition, do you take all the glory or share it?
  • When you receive recognition, do you display false modesty?
  • Do you live for yourself or for others?
  • Do you always need to be in control?
  • Are you constantly bewitched by the legacy you will leave?
  • When you don’t win what you want, are you ticked off?

If your identity is based on the need for external validation, what can you do?

First, get rid of people who feed you bullshit. You know who they are — the ones who make you feel good because they inflate your ego. Replace them with people who will be brutally honest and have no fear of repercussion. How do you know who they are? They’re the ones who make you mad.

A couple of my direct reports are good at this. I have staffers who are unafraid of me and get in my face. I love ’em! If there is nobody close to you who challenges you to the point of making you mad, you might need an identity reboot. Conflict, not flattery, is what helps build our character.

As I draw closer to the half-century mark, I find myself on a new learning curve. Man, the growth is painful. I’m OK with recognition and awards now as long as they are purely an external validation of an internal (team) reality. I won’t personally pursue them nor take actions for the sole purpose of personal fame.

Recently, I made the biggest mistakes of my life when I forgot who I was and chased false sources of identity. If it weren’t for mercy, I might not be writing this post. I’m committed to discovering who I really am so I never do that again. Finding my true self is painful and ugly, but at the same time, gloriously beautiful. And freeing.

I’ll leave you with this from one of my heroes, Saint Paul:

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him.

During this series, I pointed out that an identity based on what you do, how you look, or your titles and awards will not lead to fulfillment. What I’m learning is truth for me and it’s rooted in faith. I know I am Edward Marx. A follower of Christ. Here to serve and point others towards the pursuit of truth. I might fail, but I will get back up and move forward.

Who are you? Where is your identity rooted?

This concludes a four-part series on Leadership and Identity. The previous posts are Identity and the Leader, I Look Better than You Do, and It’s All About the Title.

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.

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January 22, 2014 Ed Marx 13 Comments

CIO Unplugged 1/8/14

January 8, 2014 Ed Marx 5 Comments

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

Leadership and Identity—It’s All About the Title! (Part 3 of 4)

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In our office lobby display case, the theme of the month was “pets.” David had a picture of his beautiful hunting dog, but what caught my eye was the castle ruin in the background. “Oh, that’s Bective Abbey, right across the street from my parents’ home in Meath. The remaining cloisters were used in scenes from ‘Braveheart.’” Jokingly I said, “Beautiful. Let’s go.”

Four weeks later, David and I were standing in the actual spot, walking the castle ruins. Although “Braveheart” was about Scotland, many of the movie shots took place in Ireland, in David’s backyard. To prepare ourselves, we watched the movie three or four times.

“Braveheart” is full of leadership lessons, but the following interchange between Robert the Bruce and William Wallace stuck with me. Here is the script and the video (3:30).

Robert the Bruce: “I’m not a coward. I want what you want, but we need the nobles.”
William Wallace: “We need them?”
Robert the Bruce: “Aye.”
William Wallace: “Nobles. Now tell me, what does that mean to be noble? Your title gives you claim to the throne of our country, but men don’t follow titles, they follow courage. Now our people know you. Noble, and common, they respect you. And if you would just lead them to freedom, they’d follow you. And so would I.”

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The same is true in life. Screw the title, focus on leadership. Title holds significance when it’s earned through performance.

People want to follow leaders, not titles.

Look at the 2013 Time Man of the Year, Pope Francis. Did Francis suddenly transform into the unique leader because he became Pope? No! If you know his history as a Cardinal and Arch Bishop, nothing he does as Pope should surprise you. Did he become Pope because he sought title? Oft called “the reluctant Pope” tells us that seeking title was not on his goal sheet. Serving people had always taken precedence. In fact, look at his warning against careerism.

I am not naïve to suggest this is always the case. We know plenty of people who gained titles by stepping on others, a Machiavellian winning-at-all-costs approach. But I can tell you the most successful leaders never sought titles, they sought to humbly serve. The former are easy to spot and get little respect.

One of my directors — I’ll call her Tracy — was a damn good analyst. She didn’t seek a title. She just pursued her role and responsibility with vigor. She accomplished great things and we gave her more. We saw the results and potential so we promoted her to a director. She is awesome.

In another instance, I was struggling to fill our chief security officer role. One day, I asked this recently retired Marine what his defining moment was. He described how, as a staff sergeant, he stood down a full bird colonel. You see, he cared about doing the right thing despite anyone’s title. That’s moxie. It’s leadership. I hired him on the spot. You think he will stand down from an executive or his manager if our security posture is compromised? Never! Title is secondary to effective leaders.

Do you possess your title or does it possess you?

A good test: Do you ever use your title to get things done or get your way? I rarely refer to myself as senior vice president or CIO. When I am in meetings, I tell people I serve as a leader in leveraging technology to enable superior business and clinical outcomes. I do what I can to not to let title get to my head. Humility is the key. Watch for the slippery slope. It will take your title and life if you are not careful. I know.

Much of what I’m writing is logical and intuitive, but not often practiced. We are driven and ambitious and we seek instant gratification. We toiled well for a few months, so we think we deserve that next promotion. But I tell you the truth, gaining titles before you are prepared is very dangerous to both you and your organization. Stop the pursuit. Focus on being the best at whatever you do. The rest will follow.

Some of you are thinking, “Ed, I do all that. I don’t seek crowns. I seek to serve and the title never comes. In fact, I see others being promoted over me that offer half the value I do.”

I get it. It happens. The world is not fair. Continue to work your ass off and double down on your efforts. Find other ways to increase your value to the organization. Expand. Ask for more responsibilities. Volunteer. But if at some point, over multiple years, you’re doing all these things consistently and still nothing? Yep, time to bail.

Again, I’m a work in progress. Some of the things I write are aspirational for me. I struggle with the same things as you. Pride, arrogance, achievement orientation, instant gratification, etc. But I am slowly catching on to this identity thing. Taken me all of about 50 years. Hopefully it will stick for the next 50.

Damn, this is easy to write but hard to internalize, yet it is truth.

For me, identity is not rooted in title, looks, or what I do. It is who I am and what I stand for, believe in, and practice. I am trying hard to forge my identity in my faith in God. I like the sound of CEO, but His title is what I desire. “I am free. I am new. I am a saint. I am alive. I am all He says I am. I am His own.”

My detractors are right in the sense I fall short of the above list. However, only One’s opinion about me counts—and they’re not the One.

I will wrap up the Leadership and Identity series with, “Identity & Recognition” in my next post. I will specifically identify the keys to identity that resonates with who I am becoming.

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.

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January 8, 2014 Ed Marx 5 Comments

CIO Unplugged 12/18/13

December 18, 2013 Ed Marx 7 Comments
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

Leadership and Identity—I Look Better than You! (Part 2 of 4)

Part 2 was slated to just go to commentators of Part 1. But given the collective interest from the original post gathered via comments, LinkedIn, email, Facebook, and Twitter, I decided to expand into a public, four-part series. Here it goes….

You might argue with where the identity journey has taken me, but the fact is, all of us have been a counterfeit to one degree or another.

Does how you see me agree with reality? Do I even know who I am? Really?

Janis Ian nailed me with At Seventeen. Thank goodness I had a supportive family and a slight awareness of the love of our scandalous Creator, because when I first moved to the US as a pre-teen, I dressed unusually. Kids made fun of my German attire. As I came of age, acne invaded my complexion, giving classmates another reason to pick on me. I never got the girls I crushed on. I was ostracized and spinning downward in self-hatred.

Rather than surrendering to a super low self-esteem funk that could jail me for life, I fought for validation and identity via sports. Continual reinforcement from adults and peers convinced me that success on the playing field signified acceptance and popularity. Where a lack of clear-skinned attractiveness stole my self confidence, I made up for it through tennis and soccer. Sheer determination compensated for skill deficiencies.

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My idolized letterman jacket became like pure gold and epitomized my counterfeit identity.

Sports accolades helped establish an achievement-based identity. Extreme achievements gave me a sugar-like high that would in time fuel my adult lifestyle. This placebo-based identity would affect my relationships, both personal and professional.

As I passed through college and into my career, the focus on looks became less important than champion skills. But the deceptive ugly bug still had a grip. I compared myself to other men. I poured significant energy and resource into making myself look better. Excessive exercise, extreme diet, fine clothing, braces—anything to bury the insecurity.

My teeth! I had this Michael Strahan-sized gap between my front teeth, so I put myself through adult mini-hell—braces. The gap’s gone. But then they weren’t white enough. So I got them whitened, and lo and behold, I spotted someone with whiter teeth than mine. Ugh! A close friend complained that I was too hairy. What did I do? Yep, and after that painful process, the same friend said I was too white. Thankfully, I tumbled off the merry-go-round before the first tan session. What the hell was I doing?

Insanity! I’ve even contributed to this appearance ruse! I recall the day some fool cut me off in traffic and almost got us in an accident. Cursing, I pulled up to the person to flip the bird. When I saw she was gorgeous, I just waved. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but I know I’m not alone. When people are given a choice between two candidates, most tend to choose the prettier person.

I’ll never forget my final interview for a Fortune 50 management trainee program. I had made it to the final eight, of which they would select four for this prestigious position. The COO invited me into his office and dismissed the resume and questioning as he said, “At this level, all candidates have the same background . . . a graduate degree, high aptitude and strong skills. So I just want to look at you.” I was thinking, shit, this interview is over. Yep, I no longer “qualified” for the job.

I’s healthy to maintain yourself, look your best, and especially to remain attractive to your partner. But when we nail our identity to our frame and features, we have a major problem. Major! We all know people who are preoccupied with their mirrored reflection. Undoubtedly, as you age, you’ll be displaced by others more attractive.

Neither time nor gravity is on your side. If you try to compete, the number of hours and dollars you spend on your looks will only increase. In the end, guess what? Someone else will always be better looking. You’ll never be satisfied. Or rewarded. Grab some tissue and check out this video on the latest fashion trend.

I’ve awakened from the Hollywood delusion.

As I approach 50, here’s what I’m learning. I need to get out of the false identity trap that says my appearance is so grossly important. I do what I can to take care of myself, but I will no longer be excessive.

Here are a couple of self-tests. If a flare-up of acne determines whether you have a good or bad day, take a time out. If you’re more concerned about people liking your new hairstyle and less concerned about your derogatory comments to others, you have an issue.

The good news is that we can overcome. I am learning to accept myself as I’ve been created. I was meant to be 5’8,” so I embrace that height. If my genes say I’m balding, I’ll stop the ridiculous comb-over. If I am hairy, then . . . well, OK, I have to draw the line somewhere.

Here’s the deal. Allowing shallow people and a fluctuating society to determine my identity creates a lose-lose situation. My identity stems from what’s inside. Character triumphs over a perfect nose job. This cultural issue is nothing new. Two thousand years ago, wise men said:

“What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.”

“We should be concerned most with the transformation of the inner man, not outward appearances…”

Traits that are skin deep are not worth obsessing over or bragging about. If you’re so vain you think this post is about you, it’s not. It me spilling my guts. But if you’re honest enough to admit to feeling pain while reading this, we might share a common struggle. Our value reaches much deeper.

As a leader on the slippery slope, where are you investing your time, money, and effort? In what’s skin-deep, or in the real you?

Stay tuned for part 3.

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.

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December 18, 2013 Ed Marx 7 Comments

CIO Unplugged 12/4/13

December 4, 2013 Ed Marx 55 Comments

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

Identity and the Leader

I vividly recall, at age 17, jumping off the bus at the in-processing station of Ft. Dix, New Jersey, where a drill sergeant greeted me—screaming. By the third day, I was wearing a uniform, had a shaved head, and was organized into a squad and a platoon.

The drill sergeant shouted, “Look to your left, look to your right, and now look down at yourself. In nine weeks, one of you will not be here, because you do not have what it takes to be a United States warrior!” Gulp. He scared the crap out of me.

But looking around myself, I determined I was better than at least one or two of my fellow trainees. Yep, I would be OK.

A couple of weeks after I graduated as Private Marx, I entered freshman orientation at Colorado State University as a poster child for insecurity. I have no recollection of who spoke that day, but I do remember him saying that 80,000+ students had graduated in the past 100 years. I pondered the odds and decided that surely there were other bozos who made it, so I, too could succeed.

Since childhood, the comparison method had been a pervasive mindset. My identity had been in what I was rather than who I was. And I had based my success on what I could create rather than why I had been created. I floundered under that junior-high mentality of “I am significant because you are less significant.”

This warped attitude gave me a false confidence in the workplace. I compared myself to my peers and to those above me. Sometimes I would try to learn from others who were stronger and smarter than I, but more often than not I would pounce on their weaknesses to climb over them and up the career ladder. Sure, my skills and talents have helped boost my success, but I was also counterfeiting my identity and confidence based on others’ deficiencies and weaknesses.

Leaving that mindset behind, I’ve been searching for the real me and trying to live as the genuine Ed—insecurity surrendering to conviction.

After qualifying for the USA national championship Duathlon (run-bike-run) as an average athlete, I had just hoped to finish the darned race. Qualifying for a spot on Team USA was not only about to become a dream come true, but also a test of my desire to be the genuine Ed.

At first, I suffered second thoughts based on my insecurities. The odds for success were not in my favor. In fact, competing at this elite level, I would likely end up embarrassing myself. But there I was already comparing myself again. Yet this was my only shot to compete with the gifted.

When I arrived in Tucson and began the registration process, I started doing what most athletes do—comparing myself to others. That guy has less body fat. Another athlete was clean-shaven all over. The guy next to him had a $10,000 bike. The woman in the corner was sponsored … And pretty soon I stood there mentally defeated with the race a mere two days away. I was still basing my success on how I compared to others, not on who I was.

Damn that warped thinking! I stopped it and chose to walk in the opposite spirit. I decided that what I had—a strong heart, a decent bike, and an OK albeit hairy body—was sufficient. I chose to look forward and not to my right or left. The outcome wasn’t in my hands anyway. As an athlete, what mattered was, how will my stats in this performance compare to my stats in the previous races? Was I improving? Forget the guy racing next to me. If I was meant to represent Team USA at the 2014 World Championships, then that would happen.

Identity is a tricky thing. What is it? How is it formed? How does it impact who we are and our performance? Most of the time, I base my identity on how I believe I compare to others. I suspect most of us are mis-wired to think this way.

I don’t claim to have it figured out; I already proved that. My true identity is squaring who I was made to be and living congruent with this truth. I’m still working on it, but as I approach 50, I’m finally getting close. If these ideas help nudge you in the right direction, I will have accomplished my goal for this post.

Some self-reflection ideas:

  1. Is my life/career mission about me, or about the betterment and growth of those around me?
  2. What do I stand for?
  3. Do my values reflect a desire to see others succeed, or do they revolve exclusively around my personal success?
  4. Does my behavior reflect a value for the human soul?
  5. What’s my gauge for comparison: other people or stable virtues?
  6. Am I able to sincerely rejoice in others’ accomplishments, or do I have to one-up people all the time?
  7. Do I go to bed praying that no one finds out how insecure I am?

Who are you really? And are you happy with you?

To view my full reflections in depth, leave a comment with a request and I’ll send you “Identity and the Leader” Part 2.

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.

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December 4, 2013 Ed Marx 55 Comments

CIO Unplugged 11/13/13

November 13, 2013 Ed Marx 16 Comments

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

Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Please

As a new CIO, I spent the first five years volunteering after hours for our health system. They assigned me to the greatest volunteer opportunity available. Each Wednesday afternoon, I went room to room delivering $10 gift shop vouchers to all the winners of our closed circuit TV bingo game. Bingo was the highlight of the week for hundreds of patients and their families. The game normally finished around 4 p.m. I’d pick up the certificates at  5 p.m. and hand-deliver them to the winners.

While striving to take our IT shop from bad to good, I was not always Mr. Popular with my customers. Thus, volunteering became the highlight of my week. It got me out of the office and into our hospitals. Everyone wanted to see me. Everyone welcomed me. Wednesday evenings became a salubrious respite from the work grind I faced the rest of the week.

Observing joy in the recipients’ faces brought my heart pleasure. Think about it. These citizens were stuck in a hospital. Receiving a voucher for a $10 credit at the gift shop meant everything. And their responses had an impact on me. I stopped taking life for granted and started embracing the simple things.

Volunteering routinely also broke my heart, especially those dreaded deliveries to the fifth floor of our children’s hospital. As I scrubbed in before entering the floor, I took twice as long to wash in an attempt to delay the inevitable. I was about come face-to-face with kids the same age as mine, except these children were dying.

I’d knock gently on the door and they would be looking right at me. Expectant. Picturing my own two children in their situation, I’d swallow hard and muster up a smile. But then the joy in these young patients’ faces made the grief worthwhile. Before leaving the floor, I’d stop in the restroom and let my smile fade to a cry.

I learned the value of listening. When I delivered vouchers to the elderly, they always wanted to chat. They cared more about having company and far less about the vouchers. Oh, the loneliness I witnessed! As much as I wanted to hurry the interaction and get on to the next winner, I envisioned my own parents and thought how I would love for someone to spend time with them if I could not be there.

I met many interesting characters. The love I saw between seasoned married couples encouraged me in my marriage. I recall one man holding the hand of his sickly wife. The lines in their faces proved a beautiful testimony of a life well lived and a true commitment through health and sickness.

I’ll never forget the mom who met me in the pediatric ICU waiting room. Before I could reach her child’s room, she said, “Can I use the voucher in the cafeteria?” Although the vouchers were strictly for the gift shop, I took her down there to see what we could negotiate. She went to the grill and asked for a grilled cheese sandwich. “We don’t serve grilled cheese sandwiches,” the cook said. The exasperated mother all but begged. “My daughter just woke up from months in a coma, and her first words were, ‘Mommy I’m hungry, I want a grilled cheese sandwich.’” Tissue, please. The cook made the off-menu grilled cheese sandwich while the woman wept.

Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you — often with a shudder — that I’m a Type A personality. My wife tells me I’m an extremist, all or nothing. I am wired to compete and win. I can’t climb just any mountain, I have to summit the highest peaks, all of them. Army combat training taught me to kill with my hands, and my kids say when I’m overly focused on a project, I look ticked off at the world (I’m not really, and I’m working on smiling more). But volunteering became my counterbalance. Interacting with the sick, feeble, and dying helped shave the edge off my hardcore design.

What keeps you balanced? When you see a bed of roses, do you stop to enjoy their scent? Or does just the thought of pausing to take in the “life” happening around you ruffle your nerves?

I miss bingo. I miss weekly interactions with patients. The memories still stick with me. The emotions still live vividly. And I’m ready to jump back in and refresh the experience.

Grilled cheese, anyone?

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.

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November 13, 2013 Ed Marx 16 Comments

CIO Unplugged 10/30/13

October 31, 2013 Ed Marx 5 Comments

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

Secret to Great Sex…and Other Faux Pas Along My Journey

Skipping the rank of manager, I catapulted from physician relations coordinator to director of information technology. I had worked plenty with a cadre of nurse directors at my former employer, so I expected the same stereotype when I landed at Parkview. Boy, was I wrong!

My first week post-orientation, I attended a mandatory leadership class on counseling employees using a new behavioral technique. After the theory lesson, we were randomly partnered with a peer to practice our newly acquired skills. My partner was the director of surgical services, and she was a young knockout. I had expected someone seasoned in looks and experience, but this woman made me nervous.

I hate to disappoint any readers, but I was struggling. I was afraid that my subconscious might win over my conscious and say something bad. I was coaching myself to not say any word that might even remotely sound sexual or land me in trouble. I recall moving into her personal space, per instruction, locking eyes and going through our training script, fumbling for words. I started to sweat but made it through. Phew! Deep breath.

She then began. She moved in, locked eyes and with all sincerity asked me, “What is your secret to great sex?” She quickly spewed, “secret to success,” but it was too late. Our uncontrollable laughter lasted a good 15 minutes. The instructor moved us to the corner of the room because we were disrupting others. It was the hardest I had laughed, ever. We eventually regained composure, and a great working relationship was born. Adding to the drama, the next morning at 7 a.m., I presented to the surgical committee and she was sitting there smiling, thinking the same thing as I was. I looked away.

Over the years, I created many faux pas or bloopers. Here’s my best:

  • I regifted some chocolates only to learn from the recipient that when they opened the confection, the originating thank you note meant for me was inside.
  • I managed a rock band on the side. Late one night while working at the office, I inadvertently sent the band contract and operating agreement out to the entire IT department. Not only was it full of financial information, but moreover, a code of conduct that was very personal.
  • I replied to an “email” from our CMIO that had been generated inside of our internal collaboration software. He relayed his concern regarding a public posting from another physician that might have violated our solicitation policy. I replied that not only was it a gross violation, but that the doc had frequently done this on my Facebook page as well. About five minutes later, another colleague sent me a note asking me if I knew that my reply was posted to every employee instead of just my CMIO.
  • I was speaking with two fellow officers when a third one joined our conversation. I said with utmost sincerity, “Hey, here is our best hospital president in the entire health system.” As soon as I let that loose, I realized the other two were also hospital presidents.
  • Our COO was wrapping up his closing remarks after an all-day leadership meeting. The technical aspects went without a glitch. I instant messaged the admin who was running the operation when, lo and behold, my IM popped up on the screen on top of the presentation. “Phew, so glad the technology worked for once.” I shrank in my chair as the audience chuckled.
  • I was dancing the night away at an after work party. While I prefer ballroom and Argentine Tango, I can hold my own freestyle. Or so I thought. The people who could clearly “move like Jagger” later told me that I “danced like a white man.” I don’t know if that’s an offensive statement to anyone else, but to me it said that I danced like a dork, or at least that’s how it made me feel.
  • One of my nurse managers had been asking to go out to lunch and I was forced to cancel twice. Finally, my schedule opened up, so I teasingly messaged her “Our time has finally come to be together.” She agreed to meet me in our lobby at the appointed hour. I was shocked when a different nurse manager showed up and realized I had asked the wrong person out. Talk about an awkward lunch.
  • Sexting to the wrong person. I have not done this yet, but know it’s only a matter of time. My wife and I exchange all sorts of texts from “pick up some eggs on the way home” to … well use your imagination. Someday I am certain it will go the wrong person. Hopefully not my HR colleagues.

Over the years, I’ve learned to laugh at myself. My foibles and blunders will be around as long as I’m alive. It’s called being human, and we can’t take ourselves too seriously. Ever. Do you have a work faux pas that needs a good laugh?

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.

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October 31, 2013 Ed Marx 5 Comments

CIO Unplugged 10/16/13

October 16, 2013 Ed Marx 9 Comments

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

Thankfulness in Action

During a leadership meeting, one of our chief nursing officers, never nominated for Miss Congeniality, came rushing towards me. Although smiling on the outside, I braced on the inside for the tornado I expected would hit. I extended my hand in greeting, but she went straight for a hug. Not knowing her intentions left me cautious and suspicious.

She released the impromptu embrace. “Ed, you sent me a thank you card for serving in nursing while acknowledging my top 100 nurse recognition, and I was like ho-hum. But what caught me off guard is when I walked into the nurses’ lounge on our med-surg unit. On our community board was another card you sent to one of our floor nurses for her recognition as well. I tracked her down and she was blown away that a non-nursing executive would take the time to acknowledge her contributions in this way. It means a bunch to her, to me, not to mention her peers who all see the card.” Then she chided me for being forced to change her password every six months (j/k).

I’m paperless and proud of it. I have no printer drivers. You’ll rarely find me with a notepad, and I judge people—particularly those in healthcare technology—who still rely on paper. But I have one major exception. I still pen handwritten thank you cards. I always carry blank thank you cards and I send out an average of eight per week.

Here’s why:

Thank you card sales have hit an all-time low. Digital convenience has displaced some of the need, but I think the reason goes deeper than that. I suspect it’s a combination of laziness and lack of training. Growing up in the Marx household, we could not enjoy any gifts received without first having written a thank you card. This became second nature to us kids, and we’ve since passed this tradition down to our kids. I suspect they will do the same with theirs. No thank you cards, no gifts.

It makes a difference. Since handwritten cards are rare, the impact they have is magnified tenfold. People still love to receive snail mail, especially personalized mail. You can open a card and hang it in your office or place it on a desk. You can touch it, smell it, hold it to your chest. As another benefit, thank you cards differentiate you. When interviewing candidates, darn right I pay attention to which interviewee sends a card and which one does not. That little bit of effort speaks volumes and differentiates candidates.

Handwritten thank you cards are a physical expression of the word “care.” Recipients not only see that care, but they feel the effort and time it cost the sender.

What’s the best virtue of handwritten notes? They don’t beg for a response as do email. You send an email thank you, and the person now feels obligated to reply—“Back at ya.” Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

Techniques:

  1. Carry with you a stash of cards, and when you hear of a deserving act, whip one out. The five minutes you spend writing could bring a day’s worth of happiness to someone.
  2. Write cards with your leadership team. This is a standing agenda item at our weekly meetings. There is always someone deserving of praise. (Not to mention it’s leadership by example.)
  3. When you see or hear of someone who has received honor, send a card. For instance, whenever the top 100 nurse list is published, I target the nurses who work in my organization.
  4. After concluding a meeting during which someone went above and beyond, start writing.
  5. Each Friday, a task pops up on my schedule that says, “Give thanks.” I reflect on the week and decide who to thank.

Testimonials:

  • A grumpy finance executive responded to a thank you card via email. “Thank you so much for the card. The timing was perfect. Had a real rough week. Made everything worthwhile.”
  • A physician sought me out. “I have never received a thank you card from administration. This has given me fresh perspective.”
  • I was rounding with nurses in one of our hospitals when one approached me during a break. “Oh, you’re Ed Marx? We’ve never met, but you sent me a card two years ago [emphasis mine] for working with your team on an order set. Thank you for noticing and sending the card.”
  • Employees routinely stop me in the halls to say thank you for the card, some with tears in their eyes.
  • My first platoon sergeant, a tough Vietnam vet, said, “Lt Marx, I was like what the shit, I am just doing my job … and then it hit me, leaders do the little extras. I just sent short notes to my squad leaders.”
  • I sent a note to a CEO thanking him for his leadership and for my privilege to serve with him. “…nobody ever sent me a thank you card for no specific reason other than to say thanks for leading.”

I have a confession to make. I do store some paper actually—a pile of thank you cards I’ve received over the years. I can’t toss them. They carry such meaning. I’d wager it’ll be the same for the people who would receive a card from you. It becomes an oasis in the dessert. A Starbucks red-eye during an all-nighter. It’s salve on a wound and the bridge over a chasm. It can make our toils all worthwhile.

For whom are you thankful? Staff, your boss, a peer? Take action. Grab a card now and share your thoughts with that person. If your handwriting sucks, don’t worry, mine does, too. But no one has ever complained about it, and I doubt they even care.

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.

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October 16, 2013 Ed Marx 9 Comments

CIO Unplugged 10/2/13

October 2, 2013 Ed Marx 6 Comments

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

Connecting with Staff

Own up. Once you leave staff and move into management, you cease to add productive value. Staff is the engine; it’s where work happens. Management is overhead and owes any success to staff. Our calendar is now their calendar. They come first. Management second.

Never forgetting my roots makes it easy for me to connect with staff. Back in the day, I started as a clinic janitor, an experience that sparked my healthcare career. Later, after working some god-awful assembly lines and toiling to fill sandbags, I made a commitment to move into management. My goal was to reinvent staff work to make it more meaningful and efficient. After my lousy experiences, I promised myself I would treat staff as I would’ve wanted to be treated. As I worked my way through management, I observed and took notes. Tucking away all the good things from that experience, new inspirations sprouted, and I committed to the idea of remaining connected to staff.

Management that loses touch begins a downward slope towards mediocrity.

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Even today, I observe my peers and management and look for gems. I actively seek to relate and stay linked. The day I lose touch is the day I become impotent.

Here are some best practices I presently deploy:

  • Major Life Events. Be there. Remember what matters—your presense, not presents.
  • Hands-On Visits. Go experience their work environment. I spend significant time traveling to our various facilities and hang with staff. I worked the service desk. Email and texting are false forms of relationship building.
  • Drop In. I drop by unannounced into various meetings and just listen and answer any questions.
  • Personal Parties. I am always looking for a reason to host a party, especially in our home. We host several annual parties as well as impromptu. We have about 200 staff and family each year in our home.
  • Other’s Parties. I love getting invited to department parties, and I make them a priority. Nothing feels freer than ripping off the suit and let out the real me.
  • Unique Venues. Not everyone feels comfortable coming to my house. So I’ve started picking cities in the metroplex and going bar hopping. We publish schedule to give plenty of advance notice. Remember the beer summit? Well, it’s better than that.
  • Sport. I lead triathlon teams, adventure race teams, and climb teams. These provide tremendous opportunity for time together. Sometimes, I mountain bike with staff. I can’t golf, but I drive a mean cart on the course.
  • Open Door. Staff can view my schedule and drop in whenever I’m around our offices.
  • Meals. When I have free time, I actually publish these offers to see if anyone wants to go to breakfast or lunch. Impromptu meals are a lot of fun.
  • Exercise. We have spin/cycling and treadmill conference rooms and I let staff know when I’m in one. They’ll throw on a pair of tennis shoes, and we talk while exercising indoors to avoid the 100-degree Texas weather. Now that’s efficient multi-tasking!
  • Volunteer. We volunteer together. We’ve served in food banks, Habitat for Humanity, and other various organizations.
  • Town Halls. We do these once or twice per year. Too stuffy for me, but I do them.
  • Department Meetings. Whenever I’m invited, I’m there.
  • Social Media. For sure I connect with any interested staff on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Collaboration Tools. I microblog daily to staff and share what I’m working on plus general, organizational news. Staff can reach out numerous ways to include IM, Txt and Yam. Email if you must.
  • Book Studies. We do these quarterly. Eight-week sessions, one hour each. Great team building.
  • Holidays. My wife and I make a point of serving my Service Desk staff on Thanksgiving and Christmas. We cater in all the food and have a giant feast.

I love my staff. It is a privilege and honor to serve them. They make things happen, and connecting is one way I can add value back to the system.

How do you connect with your staff?

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.

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October 2, 2013 Ed Marx 6 Comments

CIO Unplugged 9/18/13

September 18, 2013 Ed Marx 12 Comments

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

Executive Success – The Secret Unplugged

(Actual Unplugged posts indicated this blog have been renamed for the sake of humor.)


The wealthy York Pepperdine, president of the distinguished Pepperdine Software Corporation, had just finished attending his 30th high school reunion with his wife. Their former classmates embraced these high school sweethearts and offered the executive kudos for his success. Afterward, the couple enjoyed a drive through the town, dropping by their old hangouts and reminiscing their teen years.

Mr. Pepperdine asked his wife, “Did you talk to Gunter?”

“Do you mean Gunter Hockledorfer, the man I dated before I went out with you?” His wife’s Mona Lisa smile made him nervous. “We exchanged greetings. Why?”

“It’s sad that he didn’t do much with his life. He manages the gas station on Main Street.” Mr. Pepperdine winked at his wife, hoping his smugness didn’t show in his expression. “Just think, honey. If you had married Gunter you’d be a gas station manager’s wife today.”

She patted his leg. “Trust me, dear. If I had married Gunter, I would be Mrs. Hockledorfer, wife of the nation’s most successful gas corporation president.”


9-18-2013 4-45-56 PM

The above tale, though fictional, reflects the saying, Behind every successful man is a strong, or good, wife. (Feel free to switch around the genders to suit your scenario.)

If that adage is no longer politically correct, then how about this old proverb: He who finds a wife finds a good thing. Darn it, that’s still cliché and too traditional for “CIO Unplugged.”

Chill. You’ll get over it.

I’ve overheard people closest to Ed say, “Boy, it’s a good thing Edward Marx has Julie for a wife.” I laugh at this, not at the cliché implication within the wording, but because I know what it takes to keep things running behind the scenes in the Marx household—a sense of humor.

What really goes on behind the scenes, you ask?

Climbing mountains, running races, Ironman, Tango, speaking at every healthcare function between New York and LA … Does Ed ever slow down? Not really. Part of that is because God wired him to be a virile force within his circle of influence. The other part is Ed simply over-pushing the envelope and forgetting his Margins. Purposeful and radical trying to co-exist.

Where do those interesting and provocative blog messages come from? Disrupt the Heck Out of Your Workplace or Kill the Devil’s Advocate. Does he live that way at home, too? Yes. Life is never boring or stale.

What about the posts he regrets writing: Multitasking—Killing 50 Tasks in One Hour on the Treadmill? To which I said, Bad idea, honey. And that led to the post: I Take That Back. This all comes with the learning process. Few people, like Ed, aggressively seek to learn and grow, and growth requires making mistakes.

With the exception of the two-piece suit, Ed Marx is genuinely the same in private as he is in public. Ninety-eight percent of the blogs he writes spring from what he’s currently dealing with at work. “CIO Unplugged” is his method of working through his issues. A therapy of sorts.

Here are survival tips from how this executive’s wife manages behind the scenes:

  • Balance. At all costs, avoid falling into the same trap. Life is meant to be enjoyed not glanced at while constantly on the run. Be the smiling example where Mr./Mrs. Do-it-All can see your stark calmness amid his/her self-made storms. Gently express concern for his/her health (mental/physical) but realize they might have to pay the consequences before learning this lesson. When he comes to you with the suggestion that you both should slow down and enjoy life, just kiss him and tell him how brilliant he is.
  • Support. I belong to the Edward Marx Support Group. Seriously, we’ve been meeting once a month for five years. We share stories and sympathize with one another over the pressure Ed doesn’t realize he’s putting on us. Then we conspire how to change his course through prayer and by governing his calendar. Trust me, his executive assistant and I do our best behind the scenes to keep Ed from derailing himself.
  • Genuine. We spend very little time together with other exec couples because Ed is busy mentoring and serving those under him, and I prefer it this way. We’re both mentors, and we look at our joint role as one that complements and serves. Joy is found in serving, not being served, so I eagerly open our home and try to be real with his peeps. (Hospitality isn’t your strength? Take a Dale Carnegie Course.)
  • Identity 1. Knowing who you are is essential to thriving under corporate-ladder pressure, especially when the exec’s spouse is often referred to as “Ed’s wife.” Not to mention how we’re stereotyped as unapproachable, stuck up, and superficial. Ignore all the nonsense and find your source of true identity. For me, it’s in God.
  • Identity 2. A person’s source of identity should never be found in the temporal or the materialistic, in nothing that fades or rusts with use. The money any exec makes will never satisfy, so don’t bother finding yourself there. Never look to your exec for fulfillment or personal significance. Instead, look to something bigger than life, unchanging, and solid as stone. Pray constantly. And learn to laugh.

I’m not sure what motivated Ed to ask me to write this post—except that perhaps he’s behind on all his blogs at the moment. Do I consider myself his sole secret to success? No, it’s a team effort. His admin, his 600-person department, his boss, mentors, direct reports, and—whether or not you realize it—you the readers help make up that team. So I thank all of you, including the adversarial and accusatory readers. Possessing the solid identity mentioned above helps us clip the thorns while inhaling deeply of life’s roses.

Edward Marx’s wife writes suspense novels. Her hobbies are fitness and nutrition, which help her keep Ed healthy. You can find Julie and her traditionally-published books at
http://online.jamarx.net/

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September 18, 2013 Ed Marx 12 Comments

CIO Unplugged 8/21/13

August 21, 2013 Ed Marx 27 Comments
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

Falling from Grace

If you read Unplugged, you know I practice transparency, perhaps to a fault. This post is the deepest view into my soul yet. I believe intense introspection is the way to exponential growth. Yet as I write, my conscience fears what it will discover. The truth will come out.

I recently received an endearing card from my godson that sparked my self-examination. I’ll share excerpts first, and then I will answer him publicly because I believe it matters.

8-21-2013 6-24-20 PM

“Uncle Ed. Thank you for being such great, if not the best examples of a Christian . . . of a marriage . . . of a man . . . you motivate me and my brothers to be the best we can in athletics, faith and relationships . . .”

Dear Josh,

I received your thank you card yesterday. As your Godfather, I am proud of you. First and foremost, you are a man of great character. You love God. You are accomplished. In high school, you worked diligently to attain Eagle Scout while earning the standing of class valedictorian. Your recent election as student body President pro Tempore at the University of Denver did not surprise me. All of this made the admonitions you wrote about me so special, and they truly made my year! However, your extravagant praise and your interpretation of my external “face” have pushed me to reexamine my life from the inside. As a husband, father, executive, and (former) army officer, there are covenants and codes of conduct I have to put into practice. Combined, these rules and responsibilities have weighed heavily upon me.

…to be continued.

Each week, the headlines highlight how so-and-so leader has fallen from grace. I am scared to be next. No leaders start out purposing to do something that will land them in trouble. The politician never thought he would be sexting. The pastor did not go through seminary aspiring to have an adulterous affair. What executive ever dreamed of climbing the corporate ladder and becoming an alcoholic? The clinician didn’t expect to take meds to quiet his own pain. No accountant ever thought to embezzle through slight of numbers nor did the businessperson ever think she would entertain a bribe in exchange for wealth.

What is the trigger that leads a leader down this path? I suspect it’s a gradual slide, and if unchecked, this slide will get too steep to catch ourselves.

As our careers grow, natural barriers of protection fall away. An increase in disposable income opens the door to accessibility on the path. We come to expect perks. Rules no longer apply to us. Success can become a drug, and we begin to think, “I am invincible!” We take advantage of options that allow us to elude accountability.

Success can become a vice in itself that creates an unquenchable thirst for more. We lose touch with reality in a gradual process that goes undetected. Before long, we’re overconfident and no longer count the costs of our indiscretion. We take our base for granted, assuming they will catch us when we fall.

8-21-2013 6-25-34 PM

Continued . . .

So Josh, my blessed Godson, thanks for the reminder of why I need to live a life beyond reproach. To you and your brothers, I offer the following wisdom:

Shore up home base. Ensure your home life is solid; build a foundation strong enough to withstand the storms and temptations.

Engage a counselor. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. The best ball players all have coaches.

Aggressively secure an accountability partner. Find someone who will speak truth to you and not let you get away with crap. Someone willing to put their friendship on the line if needed to keep you living right.

Live humbly. Pride comes before a fall.

Spiritual. Let your faith be your source of strength, comfort, and significance. Seek purity of mind, body, and soul.

Embrace fear. Healthy fear initiates boundaries. It’s a great motivator. (I recently listened to Magic Johnson recount the story of confessing to his pregnant wife that he had AIDS. Heart-wrenching. Don’t do things you’ll later regret.)

Live transparently. No secret email addresses, phone numbers, or bank accounts.

Set boundaries. Don’t mentor the opposite sex. Sounds draconian, but it protects both sides. Where appropriate, meet in public places or invite others to join you. Don’t go to bars if you are prone to drink too much.

Reality rocks. Ground yourself in reality. Shake yourself out of the fantasy by mentally carrying out your actions to their logical conclusion. (You will eventually get caught).

Resistance. Some will find this advice offensive and poke fun. That is OK. I have watched lives get ruined and I’ve cried with those who’ve fallen. Do whatever it takes to protect yourself.

To my leader friends. Are you climbing the slippery slope? I am.

Step off. Tell someone. Get help. Cut the ties that are pulling you down.

Don’t be next.

Update 8/22/13

Someone asked for the definition of the slippery slope. The slippery slope: a leader’s circumstances and (usually) stature helps define their slope. No accountability = slope. Rocky home base = slope. Pride = slope. Secret b-accounts/addresses (etc.) = slope. Ignoring need for intervention = slope.

Put these all together and you’re probably already sliding. Ask someone you trust how you’re doing.

I stand by my personal conviction on mentoring. If you have read my posts on mentoring, you know this is a very formal (contractual) relationship outside of the typical office environment.  I am not talking about a leader’s responsibility to develop leaders of all kinds. I am talking about an intimate and transparent relationship, often with individuals outside of your workplace.

I won’t go there with everyone. That is my choice. There are plenty of wonderful mentors out there for everyone, yet less than 5 percent of people have one. Those who know me understand that my primary focus as a leader has always been to develop others. If you read my posts, this is self-evident.

I am proud of all the different people I have had the honor to serve with and see grow. I don’t care about gender, orientation, religion, or whatever. I invest equally in the workplace. 

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.

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August 21, 2013 Ed Marx 27 Comments

CIO Unplugged 8/7/13

August 7, 2013 Ed Marx 10 Comments

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

I See Your Faces – Death at Work

One responsibility of a leader, and perhaps our greatest privilege, is to comfort the souls of those we lead through times of sorrow. Dealing with grief can be torturous. I’d rather hide. Take refuge behind a good movie. Just pretend all is well and move on.

That’s cowardice, and we all know it.

Intellectually, I understand death to be the more merciful ending. Spiritually, I recognize it as a new beginning. But the physical experience punches through my stomach, fingers up into my chest, and crushes my heart.

Nobody trained me to handle death, and my education never referenced it in the workplace. Even as a combat medic and engineer officer, we had no checklist telling us how to walk our troops through the valley. Hell, I can’t even write this post without stopping to dry my tears.

I lost another person today. Number five. No, not number five; his name was Fred. I will remember him as I have remembered all the others. I see their precious faces. They live in my Contacts, and each year, their date of death anniversary pops into my reality.

I see you, Dale S., Zarema, Dale D., Stacy. I will see you, too, Fred.

Valuable faces.

August 1, Dale W. You were my first. Who knew as you drove your bike into work that fateful morning that your life would be taken. You were way too young, and your best years were yet to come.

May 10, Zarema. I disliked you at first, but you grew on me. You cared about me, and I learned to care. Your pursuit of perfection challenged me to chase new heights. In 2005, you no longer felt pain. Your gain; our loss.

November 15, Stacy. You died a few weeks after I arrived. Only 27 years old. You infected people at work with enthusiasm. I remember your smile.

June 5, Dale D. We attended chapel together. Who would have known your drive home that evening would be your last? I recall the last thing you said about IT. “We save lives.” True words, my friend.

July 16, 2013, Fred. The testimonials at your funeral and memorial service said it all. You were humility coupled with old-school work ethic. Excellence and friendship defined your contribution. Your code lives in your kids and in your programs.

Leaders. Odds are you’ll have to deal with death in the workplace. Here are practical steps for when that time comes. Pain teaches much when we let it.

Care for surviving family

  • Offer all support possible for an extended period
  • Remain visible for an extended period
  • Connect with Human Resources

Care for your staff

  • Talk with staff openly
  • Consider grievance counselors
  • Leverage your employee assistance program
  • Model and encourage the expression of condolences

Care for yourself

  • Don’t hold back; talk about it
  • Stay tight with your Human Resources
  • Engage pastoral care staff
  • Cry as needed

If possible, hold your own workplace memorial service. Often, staff is unable to attend the official memorial service due to timing and location. Engage your pastoral care staff and create your own. Allow people to share their feelings online and in person. This promotes healing.

Create a memorial wall for your office. The one in our lobby displays pictures of all who’ve left us. We recently added a forever-lit candle. Our memorial is accessible and visible any time we enter and exit the office.

See their faces.

Leaders bear the burden of visibility. Your presence is needed more than your presents. Make every attempt under the sun to attend funerals and all other memorial traditions. As a representative of your organization, take the lead and reach out to the family. Don’t hide behind your own insecurities, but instead, think of the family’s needs. Dependent on the circumstances, you might need to speak to those gathered and make family and friends aware of the workplace contributions by the deceased.

If you died, would you not want assurance that all the hours you put into your job meant something, especially at your funeral? Make it so for your deceased employee. Your words may very well spread like a comforting salve to the survivors.

Leaders do not forget the faces.

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.

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August 7, 2013 Ed Marx 10 Comments

CIO Unplugged 7/24/13

July 24, 2013 Ed Marx 11 Comments

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

The unEXPERIENCED Life is Not Worth Living

The famous phrase by Socrates about “the unexamined life” has made its way into many lectures and speeches beyond its philosophical niche. No, I’m not a philosopher. But as I dug deeper for the sake of this post, I stumbled across a distinction he made between people (Athenians) who watched life and those who experienced it.

Observing an Olympic athlete cross the finish line gave a “semblance of success,” but was it true reality? We love to admire superb performance and bask in a new world record. But what would happen if we personally strove for such experiences ourselves?

I choose experience. It doesn’t need be extravagant or expensive. It can be turning off the soccer match on TV and joining a local team. Signing up for ballroom dance class rather than just watching “Dancing with the Stars.” Putting down the books about the missionary taking care of the poor in India and signing up at your local soup kitchen. Turn off Facebook virtual relationships and instead host a live get-together with living people.

My plan had been to share with you fresh leadership and teamwork insights from a recent climb atop Europe’s highest mountain, Elbrus. That was a victorious experience. But my heart isn’t into writing about climbing because of a tragedy that unfolded two days later.

Tradition calls for celebration following a summit. While touring St. Petersburg, five members of my team, including myself, walked down the bustling main street, Nevsky Prospekt. We traded climbing stories and talked about our motivation to climb. People we met said interesting things about the danger of climbing mountains. Our common response became, “Life is short, and a sheltered life was no life at all. You might get hit by a car while playing it safe, so you may as well embrace risk.”

Still light outside, midnight was approaching as we began the journey back to our hotel. Approaching the intersection at Kazan Cathedral, we formed a quasi column so we could pass pedestrians coming from the other side. I entered the crosswalk, leading my friends and walking immediately behind two ladies age twenty-something. In a split second, tires screeched, headlights blazed, and I instinctively dove out of the way. To my left, I heard flesh hit metal … then glass (windshield).

As I landed on the ground, I viewed the unthinkable out of the corner of my eye—those two ladies cartwheeling through the air. By the time I rolled to a stop, they landed 10 meters away. Unconscious. Contorted. Broken. A surreal scene.

After a few seconds of verbal rage and gathering our wits about us, we jumped into action. JJ, our mountain guide, took command. We became docs, EMTs, and comforters. We had both patients stabilized. The dozen policemen who showed up were completely clueless and just stared at us.

I recall vividly watching my bunkmate Frank clasp one girl’s hand and speak calmly to her. She told us she was visiting from Siberia. Her friend lay unconscious and deformed, with her head held stable by our buddy Zac. At the 10-minute mark, a “first aid” vehicle showed up and a woman wearing scrubs emerged. She was with infection control and had no real medical supplies. Applying smelling salts, she was trying to get both patients up and walking before understanding the severity of their injuries.

Adding to the chaos, a policeman grabbed Zac, thinking he was the negligent driver. Tried to arrest him. Bystanders intervened, and our friend was released. We continued providing support, but our counsel to the “infection lady” and the swarming, interfering bystanders was ignored. Ms. Infection was forcing the second patient, now conscious, to move despite obvious skeletal trauma.

I backed off and prayed over the situation, asking God to send the Holy Spirit for comfort, healing, and wisdom. Not having our passports in hand, we left a few minutes later as the mob grew more aggressive. My team prayed from a distance.

Once back in the hotel room, I buried my head in the bath towel and sobbed. I Skyped my wife and texted a friend. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw those ladies doing cartwheels over me. I slept for three hours and returned to the scene, which had since been cleared. I wondered what happened to the Siberians and how they were doing. Who was looking over them? Who was holding their hands? I spent another 30 minutes just praying and reflecting. I could not stop crying.

Today, my team is still processing what we experienced. As traumatic as it was, we were glad we’d been there and hoped the aid we provided helped save a life. We witnessed firsthand how quickly life can be taken away. In a blink of an eye. Something as safe as crossing a street.

Life is full of tragedy and heartbreak. You can bank on it happening again tomorrow. But does adversity really hold us back in life? I’d venture to say it’s our fear-based belief about painful incidences or the possibility of them happening that paralyze us. Instead of falling prey to that paralysis, experience the depth of heartbreak and then grow stronger from it. Conquer the fear and keep living.

Living life with no regrets means crawling out of the ashes of tragedy and walking stronger. On purpose. Determine to live a life fully experienced. We Live.

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.

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July 24, 2013 Ed Marx 11 Comments

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Reader Comments

  • Julie Sykora: Ed--belated congrats to you! Was really liking your philosophy, you approach to work and play UNTIL I read Julie's post ...
  • U2fan: Great story and very applicable to work life, but I'm wondering if the princesses thought that the Edge was waiting in ...
  • Kasi: Such a great post! Although I'm not a leader of a company I can definitely apply this to how I interact with my clients....
  • ExMcK: Ed - I have followed your contributions to HISTalk for a long, long time. The thing that most impresses me is that you l...
  • Garrick Palmer: Thanks for the sharing Ed. A friend at church recently commented how another friend always made him feel special by sha...

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