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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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Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. So often I’ve wanted to comment on your “unplugged” articles, and for the life of me, I don’t know why I’ve neglected to do so. I am so uplifted by your sharing of your life, and that is what you do, in so many wonderful ways! Thank you for being a light, a positive influence, an inspiration, especially in this dismal time we are having with Government shutdowns and economic uncertainty. Cloning is one of those controversial issues with me, but if you could be cloned–what a blessing to all of us! It would be such a pleasure and a priviledge to meet you someday! (My biggest question–how do you fit it all in–do you ever sleep?)

  2. Ed, you are a true inspiration and one of only a handful of bosses who “get it”. In almost 40 years of working in healthcare, I have yet to work for someone like you who truly understands the importance of open and frequent communication. I have a few years left, maybe I will get lucky but I am not holding my breath. Many bosses pay lip service to their employees but very few really “walk the talk”. Your staff is lucky to have you. Keep up the good work!

  3. Ed, From your posts I have learned to better integrate my spiritual, intellectual, creative, and fun selves into my professional self. Your example gives me permission to be more than good at what I do. Thank you!

  4. Ed – you are a rare leader and more should stop and watch you! What you are doing is wonderful for you and your people! Too many leaders forget that there is no “I” in team.

  5. Ed, thanks for sharing your ideas… and your transparency. I was reminded about a particular time in my life which found me leaving an IT staff that, to this day, represented the strongest, closest team that I have ever had a pleasure to work with. They were not always like that and, 8 years prior, were more known for the departmental in-fighting, constant complaints, high turnover (duh!)… you know what I am talking about. When I was hired to be that organization’s first CIO, I was told that I would likely have to “clean house”… and that Administration would support me in that. Fortunately, that was not necessary and we came together to do some amazing work in those 8 years.

    Your comment about “major life events” took me back to this team. At my “going away” party, I remember saying to the team that I had grown so close to:

    “Together we experienced new births, and sadly some deaths. We experienced the celebration of new marriages, and, yes, some divorces along our way. We congratulated the parents of children that excelled… and were there for those who had difficulty and stress from children. We celebrated as an entire team for an individual’s or a project’s success. We came alongside to help when it was needed. In each of these moments that life brought, we were there as a team…”

    Thanks for your work, Ed. I enjoy each of your articles…

  6. Great article as always, Ed.

    As a former employee in your organization, I was always impressed by your attention to the things you listed above. Before I even started working for the company, you sent a LinkedIn invitation – a unique gesture that was an early indication that the lines of communication from my end of the organization to yours were wide open. That means something to a new employee.

    All the best,

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