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How one CIO navigated the path from sales to IT leader

Brian Watson | July 29, 2016
Anthem CIO Tom Miller says authenticity and his non-IT background make him a more effective CIO.

It didn’t completely dawn on him until he was working in Europe, and one of his foreign colleagues told his team that they did not need to worry about Miller’s work ethic, since he was from the Midwest. “Wow,” Miller thought to himself, “I didn’t know I had that going for me.”

Miller admits that demonstrating sincerity day-in and day-out is no easy task. But neither, he says, is leading IT.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Miller says. “You have to know that you’re dealing with a function that is integral to the entire business, in an industry that is changing constantly. You have to get satisfaction out of knowing those are the dynamics of your responsibility.”

To do stay grounded, Miller employs a mental model — but not a completely rigid one — that he uses to verify that he is in the right frame of mind.

It’s a moral compass of sorts that has three boundaries. The first is peace. Miller asks himself, ‘Am I letting stress and pressure get to me?’ He says that 99 percent of stress is your reaction to the situation, so if you’re at peace, you’ll see through any predicament.

The second is joy. This involves enjoying — or as Miller says, “having a great time” in — his work, and enjoying the privilege of his role.

The best word to describe the third boundary is righteousness. It’s the feeling that his motives are right, that he’s not being selfish, that there’s no malice toward anyone. He approaches everything with a positive intent — and he assumes that everyone else will, too.

Those are the tools Miller uses to follow one of George’s key prescriptions: Stay true to yourself. Miller has been doing that all along, from working in sales while completing his undergraduate degree, all the way to rising to C-level roles at two of the biggest companies in the U.S.

“People want to know you as a person, not just as a leader. And they want to follow someone they can trust,” Miller says. “That’s probably what I have learned more than anything.”

 

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