The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced April 15, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually May 27.
Next is Chief Operating Officer Award finalist Robert “Bob” McCord, who’s president and COO at CNSI. Here, he talks key achievements, career turning points, learning from failures and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2019/2020?
The accomplishments I am most proud of in 2020 were the tremendous improvements my team made in “exquisite execution”: delivering to our customers and successfully going live with two very large projects during the apex of the pandemic. We managed complex implementations seamlessly while shifting our entire workforce to a remote work model.
What has made you successful in your current role?
Focusing on the fundamentals of execution and supporting the great management team I have here at CNSI.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
Taking on the business unit manager role at SAIC. The original SAIC was very decentralized and leaders were empowered to run their businesses. I had a great mentor, Larry Peck, who recently passed away, and fantastic management team. I learned a lot in that role.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
The growth of my team. It’s inspiring to watch my operational managers and project managers really flourish and grow. One of my former managers gave me a plaque that says, “A sign of a good leader is not how many followers you have but how many leaders you create.” I take that very personally. My role is to just clear roadblocks and create the right environment and the team leaders take it from there.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
CNSI supports the delivery of health care to a variety of populations, state and federal, most of which are at risk or underserved. We take pride in serving these stakeholders in support of our customers.
How do you help shape the next generation of industry leaders?
Imbue them with a strong set of fundamental skills and then just foster their creativity. The new set of leaders are so intelligent and driven, all you have to do is provide some “guidance guardrails” and they will take it from there!
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
You have to keep your pride in check. Things are never as bad or as good as they seem; manage your emotions through the setback, reset your course and move forward.
Which rules do you think you should break more as a government/industry leader?
Too many companies wait too long to give younger, less experienced individuals opportunities to lead. Take risks on new talent.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
Moving from sales into operations. I was a commissioned salesperson at IBM and other companies for well over a decade before moving into operations. I had a great deal of success in sales but wanted the challenge of running a division or business. I had to learn a whole new set of skills, but the risk paid off.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
Despite being a very demanding leader, I’m proud of — and humbled by — the number of people eager and willing to work for me again. They’re gluttons for punishment!
What was your biggest career struggle and how did you overcome it?
Starting out in sales, I had a tough territory and our product and software portfolio was lagging at the time, so it was brutal. I learned to adapt my approaches but most importantly continue to grind. Wrestlers have a phrase, “rise and grind” and that is what I did, working my way out of the slump.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Learn the details of the business. I spent a whole career learning every angle of the health IT space: federal, state, commercial payer/provider, etc. For an operations role, immerse yourself in all facets of the business; administrative, technical, business development and operations.
Especially if you are interested in a president role, knowing the business process flows is critical to improve efficiency and effectiveness. My favorite saying has always been this quote from Jim Rohn: “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.”