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CIO Unplugged – 5/1/08

May 1, 2008 Ed Marx No Comments

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

Talent Rules!
By Ed Marx

Unlike Hillary, I landed in Kosovo under relative calm. We flew in an unmarked military aircraft that was appointed more as corporate jet than government transport. While there were only Army soldiers awaiting us on the tarmac, we had no fear of danger. Coming off the plane we were greeted by a chiseled young soldier, Army Sergeant Jeff Masters. “Welcome to Kosovo Ma’am/Sir”, which he than punctuated with a crisp salute.

It was near Christmas 2004 and the Army asked me to join a handful of generals, politicians and business leaders to encourage our activated Reservists and Guardsmen stationed in Kosovo. I was honored to be selected. The bonus was that I would be able to visit with my Deputy CIO who had been voluntarily activated to Kosovo a few months earlier for this tour of duty. Most memorable was the don’t ask for permission lights out, fly by terrain Blackhawk excursion we took late one night. What a rush. It felt as if my Deputy pushed the allowable flight envelopes trying to get me sick but surprisingly I did not require my sickness bag. My CFO who accompanied me… well that is another story.

Sgt Masters was assigned as our purser if you will, our guide to make sure we got from point A to point B without getting lost or killed, He went out of his way to make sure our party was comfortable, answered all our questions and pointed us to the mess hall and latrine. He was polished, confident and the passion for service was self evident. In fact, the first evening we sat in on award ceremony where Sgt Masters was being decorated for superior performance. Generals sang his praises. I turned to my CFO and at the same time we said “lets hire this guy”!

Sure enough, Sgt Masters had no technical experience. He was an Army Reserve Combat Medic and was a carpenters apprentice when not on duty for his country. We did not care. He could learn all that but he had one thing that is near impossible to learn, service passion and leadership talent. We observed him closely the entire week and our convictions grew stronger. Once discharged from his activation, we had to bring him to our organization.

I have never been big on resumes. I suspect this was in part because I struggled to land my first “professional” job where recruiters cited either my lack of experience or targeted education. I knew I could do the job but I would never get the chance. I was armed with a Master’s degree, modest experience but moreover, passion to move mountains and a work ethic that was built on huge chore lists growing up and by working my own way through college.

As I finally did enter the workforce, I found little correlation between experience, education and actual performance. Certainly the ideal is to find a high performer with requisite degrees and experience, but by no means is the robust resume a guarantee for success. Time taught me that it was more about talent, the natural reoccurring behaviors and patterns of thought. In fact, while I was slow to land my first professional position, I owe much of my career acceleration to leaders who embraced this philosophy. Each took what traditional managers might have perceived as great risk in offering me opportunities for which I had the talent for, but not necessarily requisite experience and education. I am forever grateful to you Mary, Mike, Jim and Kevin. My own journey brought great clarity and success to my own recruiting and hiring decisions as my career progressed.

Jeff Masters joined us 9 months later. We assigned him to manage a challenging project that was frought with disorganization and poor leadership. A year later the project successfully wrapped up and yielded promised benefits. He worked very closely with our technical division and was learning field engineering skills along the way and took a leadership role. One more year and he moved into the clinical application realm and supported our CPOE system. While there he brought a new level of enthusiasm to the team which was languishing on this legacy application. Jeff brought organization all the while learning the complicated world of supporting clinicians using CPOE. It was such a joy to see him flourish because he was given the opportunity to fully utilize his talents. Today he is a manager coordinating the technology that will be leveraged in a Greenfield hospital at my former employer. I have every expectation that this apprentice carpenter and combat medic will continue his growth and achieve great things for those whom he serves. He has since completed his Bachelors and is now working on his Masters. But that is just window dressing on what already is a talented and highly competent professional who was given the chance to blossom, just like me.

Note. Unlike what is portrayed in the media, the American military is largely embraced by those they are deployed to help. We went on patrols through local villages and little boys and girls would see the soldiers and run to them and hug them. Their parents were warm and welcoming. I never have seen pictures or clips of this in the news.

We stopped in Ireland at 2am to refuel on our way home. We waited in the gate area when another plane pulled in. The soldiers who disembarked were amongst the first rotation of troops returning from Iraq. Once we realized what was transpiring, all of our generals and colonels and accompanied politicians formed a troop line welcoming the soldiers for a job well done. There was not a dry eye. One of my proudest moments as an American.

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

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