Healthcare Leadership: Strategies for Growth, ft. Edward Marx, CEO, Divurgent


The path to healthcare leadership often varies depending on the function, type of organization, and individual experience. However, effective leaders share commonalities on what it takes to serve a meaningful purpose. What can professionals do to best prepare and drive their careers into leadership positions?

Listen to Edward Marx, CEO of Divurgent and Chris Hemphill, Podcast Host of Hello Healthcare, as they examine healthcare leadership strategies such as defining your vision, having a written plan, seeking mentorship, and vocalizing ideas.

This conversation is brought to you by Actium Health in partnership with the Forum for Healthcare Strategists.

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Chris Hemphill

Podcast Host
Hello Healthcare


Edward Marx

Chief Executive Officer


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Edward Marx (00:00):
The job of a leader is to reconcile the brain with the heart, that hey, what we do makes a difference in the lives of people. You don’t have to separate your heart at work. You don’t have to be all cerebral at work and think, “Oh, it’s just a job and I’m just doing this technology for technology’s sake and we make money,” or whatever. No, it’s actually impacting someone’s life.

Chris Hemphill (00:30):
Hello Healthcare. I think that a lot of the reasons that our audience comes together and that you’re watching this show is because you know that you’re called upon to make a difference within healthcare. Part of that involves doing the absolute best in whatever role and capacity you’re serving right now. But, of course, there’s a growth element to that. There’s always the thinking on how can I impact more people and do more lives as I climb forward and progress my career? I wanted to dig into that and really just get into those thoughts on a personal level. We often talk about heady concepts around consumerism, population health, artificial intelligence and things like that, but I want to get into the perspective on personal growth and development and I couldn’t think of anybody better to have this type of conversation with than Ed Marx.
For those who haven’t had the opportunity to speak with or meet or see Ed, I’ve got to tell you, he’s just one of the most genuine, grandest people in the world, most humble people in the world too and comes from a really great background. He’s been on the consulting and advisory side with his career at Advisory Board and has led IT and digital transformation operations at Texas Health Resources, Tech Mahindra. He’s been in the Army Corps of Engineers.

Edward Marx (02:00):
Correct, yes.

Chris Hemphill (02:01):
Correct. So Army Corps of Engineers, Chief Information Officer at Cleveland Clinic. I’m going on way too long, and currently, just very recently, the CEO of Divergent Health, which is a healthcare consultancy. With that very long introduction, Ed, just wanted to give you the opportunity to talk about your background. We’re going to go deeper into when you found your calling. There’s some really powerful stuff that you’ve been doing lately and I just wanted to dig in deeper into that and give other people the opportunity to think about where they are in your own careers and how you can start moving forward.

Edward Marx (02:44):
Well, Chris, thanks for having me. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with you and I’m happy to share whatever nuggets that I may offer to the audience and maybe there’s one or two things that helps someone along in their career. So I’m ready. I’m excited to chat with you.

Chris Hemphill (02:59):
All right, well, thank you very much, Ed and yeah, thank you for being with us today. I’ve just got to admit, well, you introduced me to Minerva Tantoco who is currently the Chief AI officer at NYU McSilver Institute and was previously the CTO of New York City. With your recent transition over to CEO of Divergent, I’m just wondering when you got your calling or how long ago you realized that there’s a path that leads to this?

Edward Marx (03:31):
Yeah, well I was very fortunate, Chris. My calling started when I was a teenager and I was a janitor in a healthcare facility. And back in those days, you had these walkmans and these giant headsets and I was probably listening to the Stones or AC/DC, but I was cleaning, sweeping, and mopping and taking out the trash. But there was something about the atmosphere, the culture of the organization in healthcare that was like, “Wow, I want to do that.” But I didn’t know how it would turn out. I didn’t know I’d become the Chief Information Officer of the Cleveland Clinic, or now the CEO of Divergence. So it’s kind of a journey. But the seeds were definitely planted there. I just always had this hunger or calling on my heart for healthcare. And so I just pursued any opportunities to continue down that path. Because sometimes you might not have a specific vision, but you have a general idea.
So for me, the general idea was healthcare. So whatever was in my path that had anything remotely to do with healthcare, I would pursue it. And by doing that, things just fell into place. And I’ve been very fortunate along the way to have been mentored by many great leaders and to be parts of some really stellar teams. So I always tell people, “Man, I’m happy to share, but trust me, it’s not just about Ed, it’s really about these teams that I was able to be a part of that were magical and did amazing things. So I’m just so thankful for all these things, including having met you a few years ago and all the great things you’re all doing.

Chris Hemphill (05:04):
Well, appreciate sharing that background. And I just want to dig a little bit deeper into that path and then I want to get into the purpose of the journey that you’re taking. But along that path, one thing that really stood out about what you just said is understanding these teams, coalitions, mentorship, and I mean, even the fact that we’ve had conversations years ago and are still having conversations to this day. Just curious about what does it mean to identify a mentor or how do you seek the people that solidify the type of journey that you wanted to take?

Edward Marx (05:41):
Yeah, so I just looked for people that I wanted to be like or be in those types of positions or that I admired for some reason. And again, my thinking at this point now had been with a healthcare lens, but not necessarily tech. That came later. So it could have been clinical or tech, but I always had this dream of big dreams and I didn’t want to just… And not that there’s anything wrong with it. I didn’t want to have just a regular career and a regular job, which are fine to have. So there’s nothing wrong with those. But I just felt this sense that I was called to lead, to be a leader in healthcare. And so I sought out leaders and I would just, just like I’m saying, I would see someone speak or I someone write a book or I’d hear about a name and I was just bold to go and reach out directly from them.
So even when I was in the Army, we talked a little bit about the army. When I was looking for a speaker for our ROTC banquet, I went to the general of the United States Army. I didn’t try to recruit the local captain or someone like that. I went straight for the top. And that’s the way I’ve always been. So my mentors that I’ve had in my life have been these great leaders. And I found that if you ask people, I’ve never been turned down. So I think people are always happy to share something about themselves. And so that’s really helped me. So I’ve had mentors along the way that had been a state senator, because I’d met this senator. He was speaking one time. This was in Ohio 20 some years ago. And I was like, “Wow, he’s a amazing speaker leader. I want to be like him.”
So I just went up to him afterwards and asked him to meet with me for breakfast. He did. Then I asked him to mentor me and he took me on some trips with him. He shared all about his life. And then it became even more specific within healthcare. So as CEOs and chief medical officers, chief nurse officers, and when I talk about mentoring Chris, I’m not talking… And there’s nothing wrong with this either. I’m not talking about a one time breakfast or a one time dinner. These were contracted mentoring relationships. So I had a one page contract that’d be one year long. And it talked about roles and responsibilities and they seemed to love that because they didn’t want to get involved with a never ending sort of relationship that sort of wandered. So when I told him, “Hey, I want a one year relationship with you and here’s how we’ll lay it out and I’ll always be prepared.” And again, everyone said “yes.”
And now I can go back whenever I’m in crisis or when I’m starting this new role, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m scared. I’ve never been a CEO. What do I do?” Well, I had a whole Rolodex of people that I could go back to and say, “Help me out. You helped me 10 years ago. You helped me 20 years ago.” And everyone’s so gracious to help. So that’s a little bit about the mentoring and why I think if people want to achieve greatness or want to achieve significance, is probably a better word, you have to have mentors.

Chris Hemphill (08:35):
And that’s so honestly, I hadn’t heard of that contracted mentor relationship before. What was the idea behind that? Or how’d you-

Edward Marx (08:45):
Yeah, so one of my first mentors, Tom Zenti, he was CEO of University Hospitals for about 20 some years. He recently retired. He was the one that came up with the encouragement for me to develop a contract with him. So when I became CIO, I really had no place being CIO at that point in my career. He took a big gamble on me. And again, sometimes it takes risks and moxy. And so make sure I come back to the mentoring contract because I’m going to go on a slight rabbit trail right here.

Chris Hemphill (09:13):

Edward Marx (09:14):
So, remember I talked about how I’d go to the General of the United States, or I’d go to the senator. So in this case I was this early thirties, had only been in IT maybe three years. And they had fired the CIO of this big academic health system, university hospital. And I was definitely in the leadership ranks, but again, being fairly new to healthcare, didn’t have much experience, certainly wasn’t taught to be a CIO or anything like that.
And they were starting to recruit CIOs that probably looked like me today, right? They’re in their early fifties and they’ve been in healthcare for 20, 30 years. Been a CIO multiple times before. And so when I looked at them I was like, “Hmm, okay, I know you have more experience, but I think I’m a better leader.” Again, it takes a little bit of that moxy. Not arrogance, but confidence. So I went to Tom and I knocked on his door one day. This was in the middle of the search and he’s like, “Oh, come on in, Marx.” And so he’s a tall gentleman and he sort of looked down on me. He sort of ruled by intimidation a little bit if there was sort of a negative aspect of Tom. And so, but he had more positive attributes, but he would stare you down. So I remember telling myself, “Don’t break a sweat. Don’t break a sweat.”
And he goes, “How can I help you?” And I said, “You can stop your search for CIO.” And he said, “What do you mean?” And I said, because I’m the person, I’m the CIO.” And he stared at me for literally a minute and I think he’s waiting to see beads of sweat on me. And again, I was just praying, “No sweat, no sweat. Just stare it right back at him. Don’t flinch.” And I didn’t flinch. And then he cracked a smile and he said, “Anyone who has balls to do that, he deserves a chance.” And so he gave me that chance. So he said, “What are two things…” Back to your question, “What are two things that you need to succeed?” I said two things. One was to go to this bootcamp that Chime put on for CIOs because I knew that would give me some training. And the second was to be mentored. So I said, “To be mentored by you.”
He said, “Okay, I’ll do it, but I want it formalized.” So I did some research and then I found some programs and I didn’t want to pay for a program, but I took some of the ideas from that program and one of the ideas was a contract. And I’m a believer in everything being on one page. So I came out with this one page contract and it basically said what the mission was and then what the agendas would be and that the length and when they would be these meetings one time per month, an hour and a half, I would set the agenda in advance, but they had to always be there for me and then we signed it. At the first meeting, we made some adjustments and signed it. And then we met dutifully every year for an hour and a half and sometimes he took me around to different meetings, sometimes he took me to construction sites where he was inspecting. He gave me all these different opportunities. He taught me actually how to dress as well. That was part of my-

Chris Hemphill (12:05):
He did a very good job, very good job.

Edward Marx (12:08):
But I mean it was everything. How to eat, how to… Because people don’t necessarily get this training anymore. What about wines? Just basics on wine, the difference between red and white and the different variations and when you might order one over the other. Just etiquette that no one ever taught me. And so he took it very serious. But anyways, a one year contract. So I’ve perpetuated that one year contract with everyone that I’ve been a mentor with and when I mentor others I give them that same contract, the generic version of it and I say, “Fill this out and I’ll agree to have a one year relationship with you.” So that’s how it works.

Chris Hemphill (12:42):
Excellent. Well, I’m glad to hear the process behind that. And I think that’s going to be new to a lot of people. You’re talking about a lot of things that might not be taught anymore or just differences in the path that you took. So that’s really exciting to hear. But one thing it makes me think about too is, and this might go all the way back to that calling that you felt back in high school was like, as you move to these positions and take on these leadership roles, what’s the purpose of that?

Edward Marx (13:13):
So one of the things that a early mentor taught me was to have a plan for my career. And again, I go back to the one page and I studied when I got my master’s degrees, I took business classes and I studied strategic planning. And so I realized, just like we did at our organizations, we would put together one page plans. And I first noticed this before I got into my first hospital job, I worked at Teledyne Waterpik for a very short period of time. And I remember how the management team that I was observing, I worked on the assembly line. And so I was watching the management team, how they came together, they do retreats and they develop plans. And I thought, “Whoa, there must be something to that,” because at the time they were doing really well and they’d go and have this retreat.
So between what a mentor had taught me and what I observed from that early experience at Teledyne Waterpik was I decided to start putting my career on a page. And so I came up with a mission, vision, values, strategies, and objectives. So the objectives would be measurable that I could rank myself. I either a path go, no go, or maybe on a scale of one to 10 and then I would have a retreat for myself. And then I actually expanded this. I won’t go too far down this road, but I expanded it to include for my family, for myself as a person, for my marriage. So we came up with these one page plans and then we’d have a retreat every year where we’d review the plans and then make them better or make adjustments depending on what was accomplished.
So in that, I developed a vision and in one of my plans going back, I’d have to look at the dates, I kept them all. One of the plans talks about becoming, I finally had this vision to become a chief information officer. So I was very purposeful before I took my next position to say to myself, “Does this next position take me closer to becoming a CIO? Does it keep me further away? And so that’s sort of how I determined what was next in my career. So again, going back to help with a mentor in one of these plans it talks about getting experience in an academic medical center, public health, not for profit, for-profit, a religious organization. So those are the five big types of health systems. And so I intentionally, if you look at my resume, have now experience in all five because I thought I needed to understand academics, I needed to understand research, I needed to understand what it was like in public health, and so then I could best determine my next step.
Did I want to continue my career in which of those particular areas? And no matter what, I grew, because I got exposed to things that you normally might not get exposed to by having that diverse background. So I was very intentional in my career in the positions I took. Now, most people don’t have anything like that. In fact, I’d say 95%, Chris, don’t have any sort of plan. And so they wander in their career and you look at their LinkedIn and their resumes and some of them are frustrated. They want to become CIOs but don’t understand why they’re not or they don’t understand why they’re still always in a small hospital and can’t break out from a small hospital to a bigger system or whatever it might be. They’re frustrated. So I always ask them, I say, “Do you have a plan? Work on a plan, be intentional.”
Just like you wouldn’t implement an electronic health record without a plan. So why would you run your life without a plan? So I don’t understand that. That concept’s so foreign to me. So that’s why I always encourage people, “have a plan,” because if you don’t have a plan, what was it, Alice in Wonderland or someone said, “If you don’t have a vision or if you don’t have a path anywhere, any place will take you there,” sort of thing because you’re just lost. So most people operate loss. I don’t mean to sound negative, but it’s true. The hope though, that everyone can write a plan because they all have experience doing this again in the workplace and you can develop this plan and start actualizing it so that there’s hope for everyone.

Chris Hemphill (17:05):
So I want to dig, there’s some questions I want to ask about. I still want to dig a little bit deeper on the purpose aspect, which is when we target positions like chief information officers, chief executive officer, I’m just curious about what’s the impact that you want to be able to make by having those positions?

Edward Marx (17:22):
So it goes back to the vision. So my vision eventually morphed. So yeah, I did want to become a CIO. I thought that’d be, wow, that would be a sign that maybe I’m doing the right things in my career. And so as that sort of matured for myself, it became more about, “What is my purpose purpose.” And I realized my purpose in healthcare in terms of my career was to leverage technology to save people’s lives. And that’s sort of what my vision statement says today. I’m about two things. I’m about developing leaders because the only way to multiply yourself is to develop others. And number two is really to leverage technology to save people’s lives. So I always looked for opportunities. So before I went to New York City, I wanted to do public health, so that had not been done before and that I had experience with and I was like, “Wow,” here, especially given the situation at the time in New York City and especially from their digital transformation where they were in digital transformation, we had an opportunity to save many lives.
And in fact we laid down and if you mentioned Minerva, thanks to her and many others, many of my colleagues thanks to investments we made in New York City, they will tell you today that one of the reasons they succeeded as well as they did during the pandemic was because of the digital transformation that took place. So I look back and say, “We saved a bunch of lives,” even though it was after I left the work that my teams did, we saved a bunch of lives. So that’s always my motivation. So now I’m thinking as a CEO. So I could reach a certain amount of people working for a health system. So I could reach my community and beyond because of virtual care. But it was finite. And so when I thought about the opportunity to become CEO of Divergent or it could be of any company like that, it’s now you have the ability to really scale.
So I couldn’t really scale myself that much in a health system, but now as a leader of a company, I can definitely scale because I can work with many different health systems and many different payers and really bring that thinking about, wow, let’s see how we can leverage technology to save people’s lives. Yes, we do other things with the technology as well that are very beneficial, but at the end of the day, we all want to have significance in our lives and make a difference. And for me it’s like, “Wow, that technology saved people’s lives.”
Well, I’ll tell you one quick story because it is still sort of new. So I took this role, chief digital officer at Tech Mahindra for many reasons in growth and digital is kind of where we’re headed or where we are already and will further explore. And we implemented this system for a particular health system during Covid. And we did studies because I always like, I want to measure before and I want to measure outcomes because we want to adjust along the way to make sure that we’re maximizing value. And we found that when we started our baseline that a certain population of those with a certain comorbidity that would get Covid had a 32% mortality rate. So 32% of those patients were dying when they got Covid.They’re already very sick to begin with.
After we implemented this particular capability, it went to 0%. And so when you translated the numbers for that population, it was hundreds of lives. So it’s like I told my team, I said, “Look team.” Because sometimes they think when you say things like, “Oh we save people’s lives,” that it’s so far out there and not reality and it’s kind of gimmicky. But it’s not. It literally happened. And so sometimes a job of a leader, sorry I’m kind of jumping a little bit here, but the job of a leader is to reconcile the brain with the heart that, “Hey, what we do makes a difference in the lives of people.” And you don’t have to separate your heart at work. You don’t have to be all cerebral at work and think it’s just, “Oh, it’s just a job and I’m just doing this technology for technology’s sake and we make money,” or whatever. No, it’s actually impacting someone’s life. And so we have to make that connection a lot of times for people, give them the opportunity to make that connection that what they’re doing really makes a difference in the lives of people.
And in some cases, may not be saving people’s lives, but it may increase the quality of their life or it may even lead them to a more peaceful death in some cases. I’ve leveraged technology to do that as well. So it’s really connecting the heart and the mind together so people see the big vision. But having that purpose, going back to the question is really that North Star that keeps us all centered because, as you know, Chris, you get frustrated at work, stuff happens, people might disappoint you, you might disappoint people. Stuff happens because we’re catty or whatever and we can easily lose sight and focus. But when you’ve got that vision, “Hey we save lives,” it brings everyone back to center. So that’s why I’m all about having that one page plan, having mentors, having retreats, really working on that plan because this is your life. Why not spend a few hours because it affects your entire life?

Chris Hemphill (22:19):
So I love that reflection and I think it gives a good segue to go back to the person that you mentioned, that’s not a specific person, but the arc type that you mentioned of the person that’s working really hard, they have a plan in mind. There’s things that they want to do. They want that next step in their career. They want to address the things that in their purpose, but they don’t feel like they’re being listened to or taken seriously for those roles and for that responsibility. Just curious about the thoughts that you have for people, maybe lower rungs of leadership that are trying to be more listened to and be more in that seat at the table.

Edward Marx (22:59):
Yeah, I was that person too. I start off in healthcare and I had all these ideas and no one really listened, “Oh you’re just a manager or an analyst,” and they don’t give you the respect that you deserve just by being a human with good ideas. And so you’ll run into a lot of that and some of it’s natural. People only have a certain amount of time they have to spend with people and they’re only going to spend… Their director, they’re only going to spend it with managers or their vice president. They’re only spend it with directors. So how do you differentiate yourself from the pack and some of it does go back to vision again. I had this vision like, “Gosh, I know I’m called and I know that I’m called to have impact and so I need to look for opportunities where I can express myself.”
So there’s different things that you can do. One is you volunteer for everything. So that’s what I did. People, even when I worked Domino’s Pizza back in the day as a delivery driver, the manager, sometimes there was a little bit of downtime and the manager would say, “Who wants to clean the bathroom?” Or they would say they were more clever than that. They would say, “I need a volunteer.” No one volunteered because they knew it was probably cleaning the bathrooms. I volunteered every time. I knew it was probably cleaning the bathrooms. I was like, “That’s okay,” because you know what happened? When that 10 pie order came? And so the higher the number of pizzas, the more expensive and the better your commission. So you wanted the really big deals. When those big deals came through the 10 pie order or something like that, they’re like marks.
And so it really works and they notice that. It’s the same thing in the other workplace. Volunteer for everything. “Who wants help on the United Way committee?” No one wants to do it. “I’ll do it.” “Who wants to work…” I smile because I have really funny story about that one day, but probably not for right now. But I volunteered for everything. And so I got noticed. The CIO, this was at HCA Columbia, HCA and the CIO, she noticed. She noticed me for the first time when I was a volunteer. And so then things went well for me afterwards because they saw that I was willing to do anything because I believed in the company and what we’re trying to do. So volunteer for everything. That’s one thing. Another thing is bring out your ideas and make sure you get an audience for them.
So you have to realize now, when you take this step and one reason people don’t do it, one, they might be shy and believe me, I’m as shy as anyone. The second thing is, they’re afraid of rejection, but you got to get over that fear. And the third thing is you have to be ready for a life where not everyone’s going to like you. So I realized when I was stepping out and I had ideas, so the CIO would say something, This was at University Hospitals, going back to where I first became CIO. I came there as a director and there was a lot of directors, a big IT shop. So I was a director, probably like one of 30. And then there was vice presidents and then CIO. And so he talked one time about, oh, he was looking for ideas to do X, Y, and Z.
So I got with my team and we came up with 10 ideas for X, Y and z. And I emailed him and he didn’t really know who I was and said, “Look, I’ve come up with my team with 10 ideas,” and he didn’t expect that. No one else was doing that, but I did it, all right. So he gave me the audience. I don’t think he ever did any of the 10, but he started to know who I was. So I was differentiating myself. Now, some of the other directors noticed and they would not be happy that I was doing something like that. And I learned then and I had the same experience in the army as a platoon leader, I learned at that point that I can’t be about making all my peers happy. Now it’s important you have a harmonious workplace and things like that, but when you try to differentiate yourself, not everyone is going to like you and you have to be fine with that.
So you have to be comfortable that you’re doing the right thing and that your heart is in the right place, that your motivation is in the right place. My motivation wasn’t to be seen to for the sake of being seen. My motivation was, I’ve got great ideas. They’re not being heard. I need to do things in order to get that attention. So I volunteered for everything. I came up with ideas and brought them forward even if they weren’t asked, because I love that. As a CIO, as a CEO, I want people to come up with ideas. In fact, that’s the first message when I showed up on my company. We had an all hands meeting and I told them verbally. And then we also have a lot of collaboration techniques on the back end. And I’ve told him a couple times now, “I want to hear from you.”
My first 90 days was about listening. And then I told them, “You can text me. Here’s my phone, you can call me.” I gave them all the different ways to communicate with me. I want someone to show some moxy and say, “Hey, I know you don’t know me, Ed. I’ve been in this company for X years. I’ve got three ideas I want you to hear. I want someone to come up like that. I will notice that person. Even if the ideas aren’t that great, I’ll give them credit for having moxy to do that because that takes leadership. That’s leadership right there in action is someone who’s willing to take risk. So that’s another thing, is you got to take risk. So I believed in what I was doing so much that I was willing to take risk. And so one of the initiatives was around customer service and it was mostly talked to in theory, but no one was really doing anything.
So I took a risk and I said, “CIO, if you’re okay, I’d like to work with this other director who also had a passion for customer service,” and we went and put together a customer service program. So, he could’ve rejected me. He gives the green light. So she and I got together, we did this customer service program for all the IT team and some of the other directors resented us for that, right? Resented, like I said, but it was taking risk and it worked. And then eventually when it came time where they were doing something else with IT actually outsourcing IT, I wasn’t part of the decision. It was a CIO and a couple of other vice presidents at that time, they’re outsourcing the entire IT except for six people. And I was chosen as one of the six to stay. And I believe it was because of all those things I told you. I wasn’t afraid, I showed no fear, I took risks, I volunteered, I had ideas.
And so anyone can do that, right? Everything I just told you, Chris, anyone can do. And you’ve heard me say this before, in fact I have a book that has this title, but I’m an average person. I have achieved above average results only because other people believed in me, the mentors, but also doing the things I just told you that anyone can do. Have a plan, have a vision, take risks, volunteer. So there’s nothing I’m telling you here is rocket science. Average person could do it. And if you do these things, you will achieve above average results.

Chris Hemphill (29:36):
Then a lot of the point that you were making makes me think on the other side. There are a lot of people with great ideas and only some people are willing to listen to them. There’s one step of having to differentiate yourself. But there’s the other step of I’m sure that there are people who are listening, maybe they want to climb up in their own roles, but where are they missing out? Where are they blocking off ideas from those that are achievers and have great things to contribute. So to the folks that are… To the listening side, what can leaders or people currently in these positions of power do better to hear from the voices of folks who have great ideas and create an environment where they’re more comfortable sharing these new ideas?

Edward Marx (30:19):
Yeah, it’s easy for me, I will admit it because I was one of those. Like one of my friends wrote a song. I know you and I are both really into music called Give the Kid a Chance. And it was this song about some little kid and there was no way they’re going to have any sort of success. Someone gave them a chance and they made it. I feel like that little kid. There’s people that opened the doors for me. So I’m already very sensitive and in tune to that side that I will listen to anyone that comes knocking. I’ve never turned down any stranger that wanted to spend time with me unless it was just purely sales. But if someone reached out to me and it happens many times every month. People reach out to me and I’ll listen to them. So these are people not even that are in my company. These are just people that have seen me on Twitter or LinkedIn.
In fact, I’ve got a meeting like that set up today here after we speak. So if you’re not already wired like that, you need to really think about being intentional this way and carving out part of your calendar to help out other people. So you’ll never know that some of the best ideas you’ll ever get are not going to come from your immediate team unless you try something different. And I think you’ll find that a lot of your ideas won’t come from your immediate team if you do that. So I’ve learned so much from these other people that I’ve met that had reached out to me. So I might help them, but in a good portion of those times, they actually help me with something. So be sure when people approach you to be approachable is the first part of the answer, that took me a minute to get to. But be approachable. Don’t think that you’re so high and mighty or important. You’ve got to remain humble. And that’s where I guess where I was headed. Give the kid a chance.
I still see myself as that kid, so I’m willing to give any other kid a chance and create venues for that to happen. Carve out part of your calendar for that to happen and really listen. If the only input you’re getting is from people directly around you, especially ones that you’ve hired, you’re in big trouble because the emperor’s clothes type or no clothes type of scenario can happen. You get into group think and so that scares me. So another practical thing that you can do, I already mentioned it, but be available. So people do clever things. If you still are in a office environment, you could have lunch with Joe or lunch with Chris or Susan or whoever.
So I’ll give you real examples because I’m not giving you theory here, Chris. I actually do these things. So at the Cleveland Clinic I did two things routinely. One was walk with Ed. So I knew that a lot of the clinicians started their day early. So at 6:00 AM… And we had great places to walk at the Cleveland Clinic because of the cold weather. We have a lot of hallways. You could get 10,000 steps in quickly in the morning. And so I would say, “Hey, I’m going to start at this pavilion at 6:00 AM. Let’s go walk.” And basically I do rounds with the docs, but then they could chat with me. And I did that for the entire time that I was there. The other thing, I knew some preferred after hours, we had a restaurant associated with our campus and it had a bar type place where a lot of people would go after work and have a glass of wine or a beer.
And so it was called Wine Wednesdays. And so Wednesdays at 5:30 or 6:00, I would show up there and the clinicians, anyone could come, but in this case I was targeting clinicians and they could come and unwind and have a beer or have a glass of wine, just talk about digital, talk about tech, what might we do new or different or better. And so you create these. So if people aren’t going to come to you, you’ve got to go to them. So I did run with Ed so you could run with me. And we almost did that together one time. And so I’ve create that sort of venue. So that’s another technique is so it doesn’t have to be running, but for me, it was running. So I would get a lot of vendors that always wanted to meet with me and I only had so much time in my calendar. That’s the pushback you’re going to hear from people, “Oh my calendar’s so busy.”
And so I would tell vendors, I’d say, “Okay, meet me at 5:00 AM at LA Fitness,” or whatever club it might be and “let’s run and then we’ll talk.” And I had several do that. And so that was always kind of fun. And some of us are still running today. Some of these relationships are 10, 15 years old and we’ve always just went out, did a 5k and meanwhile we chat about whatever they wanted to chat about. So there’s different programs that you can set up in addition to the just walking around. And so I would do that as well. I would walk around and this is when we had physical facilities, it’s a little different now, but there’s techniques you can use in the virtual world as well. But I would walk to everyone’s cube or office and just chit chat with them because you’d find out so much more information by going to their place than you would by having them come into a conference room or them coming to your office.
And that was the final tip I would give. I always had office hours, and you can do this in the virtual world and non-virtual. But where I served last, it was Fridays from 9:00 to 12 you could just pop in and sure enough people popped in. It was so cool. And I love chatting with people. And then you, as a leader, have to make sure that you do everything you can to make it really chill and not nerve wracking for them that they feel comfortable and just feel comfortable to the point that they’ll tell you stuff that you need to hear. So sometimes the most valuable things come from those type of conversations as opposed from your direct reports. And I love direct reports team is really critical, but you need to all have outlets outside of the team to really be understanding what’s going on, not just within your own team of teams, but also with your constituents, with your peers, with those that you serve in the organization.

Chris Hemphill (36:17):
So let’s think about that Give The Kid a Chance. I wonder if we can use that in this video, by the way. But overall, so let’s say that the leadership team has given the kid a chance and that person has gone on and they’ve acquired that title and the power and position, everything like that and you’re starting in a new role right now too. What’s the path to proving or giving those folks the things to prove that they’ve made the right decision?

Edward Marx (36:54):
Yeah, so, it’s all about outcomes. In the example that I gave you from University Hospitals, I developed a six month plan. And in that plan I had measurable outcomes. And I told that to Mr. Zenti. I said, “This is how I’ll know I was successful,” because I wanted a permanent role. I didn’t want him to give me six months and say, “Nice try, Marx. You’re out.” So I was very intentional. I had a project plan and every time I showed up, I had weekly meetings with them, not the mentoring meetings, but these were just the business to business meetings. And I took that to them and I showed them our progress every time. And I worked with my team to make sure we hit those milestones because otherwise we were all out with my new team. So that’s the important thing to do is don’t just take advantage of the opportunity that’s given to you, but prove it through measurable results because data is powerful as you know, so that’s what I would do.
And I’ve done it now in my current role. I’m the new CEO. I’ve been in my role about 10 days and we have a 30, 60, 90 day plan, and I know what my benchmarks are in the next 30, 60, 90 days. And I also already know my three year plan or the top part of that plan. And so I will hold myself accountable to my team, to my board of directors to make sure that we hit those so that they know I’m hitting the mark. I don’t want to be given an opportunity and squander it. So it helps keep you on track. So it’s not a punitive thing. It’s actually a very helpful tool to keep you on track. And then you can learn and maybe you’re so effective that whatever your six month goal was or your goal, you’ve cut that time in half and then you go back to those who entrusted you with this position and say, “I’m ready for more. Give me some more.”

Chris Hemphill (38:34):
Excellent. Well, you’ve outlined the path all the way from the initial conception of the vision to the different steps that you have to take and the bold risk that you have to do to climb some of the barriers that come in front of you. I’m really thankful that you’ve shared that. And I’m curious for folks that want to hear more from Ed, there’s a lot of content that you’re putting out there, where can they find you?

Edward Marx (38:59):
So probably the best place, Chris, is LinkedIn. So I’ll often use LinkedIn as that primary medium as well as Twitter. And so LinkedIn is just my name, Edward Marx, M-A-R-X. And then on Twitter, I love to dance. I’m not a good dancer, but I do love to dance. So my Twitter handle is marxtango, like the dance Tango. And those are probably the two main sort of social media avenues that I leverage. And you can Google if you want to look at books. The majority of my books are all the profits are given to cure cancer, whether it’s at Cleveland Clinic or Mayo Clinic. So I’m not doing self-promotion. It’s really meant to further our ability to digitally transform our organizations and our society. So that’s how they can reach me and I’m always happy to interact with people.

Chris Hemphill (39:44):
And I’ll put one more out there, the Digital Voices podcast. I have a lot of enjoyment listening to that and hearing you talk with… It’s just fun hearing you talk with leaders that you’ve worked with on certain projects and being able to get that back into the fold.

Edward Marx (39:59):
Yeah, thank you. Yeah, and your podcast and your series, what you put out, Chris, is exceptional. You’re one of those renaissance people in my life. You do a lot of different things that I know not everyone has exposure to, but you’re a very creative and very loving type person.

Chris Hemphill (40:17):
Well, really appreciate that, Ed. Thank you for spending the time with us and also for the folks watching listening, also want to thank you for spending some time with us as well. If you want to follow up on more learnings from healthcare leaders like Ed and others, feel free to check out more of what we have on Hello Healthcare on YouTube or wherever you’re getting your podcast. With that, until we see you next time, hello.

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