Season 1, Ep. 8: An Interview with Mark Ganz

Do you want to know the secret to innovation? Learn from Mark Ganz, who served as CEO of Cambia Health Solutions for 18 years, as he and Daniel discuss the power of leading with gratitude, the value of hiring a diverse team and how important it is for leaders to begin succession planning early. Listen in to learn who specifically transferred belief into Mark—forever shaping his leadership journey—where he led over 5,000 employees and impacted millions through his service at Cambia.

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(We use an audio transcription service so please disregard any errors below.)

Daniel Harkavy (00:02):

Hey there, listeners Daniel Harkavy here and welcome to another episode of Questioning Leadership. A podcast produced by Building Champions at Building Champions. My team and I for the past 25 plus years have been journeying side by side, top business leaders to help them to improve how they lead and how they live. And in this podcast, I get to bring some of those learnings as well as the connections that I’ve made over the years. And I get to be curious with them and really ask them the questions that will help all of us to better understand what it means to be a great leader. It’s been a privilege for me to get to learn from some of the best top leaders in many diverse industries from not just throughout the United States, but really from all around the world. And in this episode, I get to have a conversation with my Portland co-leader and friend Mark Ganz.

Daniel Harkavy (01:06):

Mark Ganz served as CEO of Cambia Health solutions for 18 years, which in itself is amazing. Very few CEOs, lead organizations for such long periods of time and Cambia Health Solutions has been a company that has really been a leader in the health insurance industry. Cambia has more than 5,000 employees, and it’s the parent of several health insurance firms, companies like journey, echo health ventures, Regents blue cross blue shield here in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, and many others really throughout the US I’ve learned a ton in my conversations over the years with mark and I am confident in this episode, you will too, as he unpacks a bit of his story and his perspective on leadership enjoy today. I am with my friend guest and also a client for several years with our organization. I am with Mark Ganz. Mark Ganz, it’s great to be with you.

Mark Ganz (02:13):

It is wonderful to be with you, Daniel. Thank you for having me.

Daniel Harkavy (02:18):

That’s good. Before we hit record folks, we spent the last 30 minutes just catching up and, and talking about leadership and life and in these crazy times, and we probably could have kept on going for another hour or so, but we said, Hey, let’s pivot. And let’s make sure we cover the topic at hand, which is questioning leadership, your leadership experiences and insights. You’ve had an amazing career, which we’ll unpack in the moments ahead, but before we do, I always like to hit on this truth. And it’s a belief that I have, and I know it resonates with you. We say that better humans make for better leaders at building champions. And I always like to know the human from the human side before I read their, their CV. So Mark Ganz, tell us three to five things about who you are outside of your professional career. So, so we understand.

Mark Ganz (03:05):

Yeah, sure. I grew up in Spokane Washington. I was the youngest of a large family. And so my older brothers and sisters still like to call me the baby of the family. Both my parents have passed, but all of my siblings are still alive and we stay in regular touch. And I would say we’re still a very close family. You know, when I think about my life, I, I, my dad used to always talk about the priorities of life and he had his list. And I guess I would share with you that sort of my priorities and how I try to live my life. And I think I do okay at it. It’s relationship with God, then there’s relationship with family, my wife and family. There is a relationship with the work that I do. There’s a relationship with my friends. And then there are what I would say, the, the relationship with myself.

Mark Ganz (04:03):

I might, I might be the things like hobbies and other things that give joy because I finished a long tenure with my company, Cambia on January 1st, that priorities have, have changed slightly or the, the work piece has moved on, moved out. And so it kind of goes faith, family, friends, and hobbies, and I’m still doing good work, but it’s a little bit lower on the priority because it’s not as much of a central focus. My sacred place on this earth is priest lake Idaho. My parents had a, a very primitive cabin kind of arrangement. I would almost call it more like a permanent camp when we were growing up there, but it’s such an incredibly beautiful, pristine place. And the experiences that I had growing up, whether it was fishing or hiking and camping, water skiing, or just doing projects that would always seem to go wrong at the wrong time.

Mark Ganz (05:05):

And no, now we laugh about them. We cried about them at the time. I think those were all just so very formative and it’s such a neat thing to be seeing my own children. Which kind of goes to my final piece, which is I’m married to Leslie we’ll have been married 34 years in a couple months. And we have two children, a 26 year old son and a 20 year old, nearly 21 year old daughter who’s she just started her junior year in college. And last year we added a German shepherd puppy to the mix. And she’s almost two years old now and she’s a great companion and kind of my dog, I guess. And then we have a cat. And so that’s, that’s a summary of, of me, I guess. That’s awesome. Yeah. So,

Daniel Harkavy (06:03):

And that’s how I’ve always seen you over the years, you know I like that emphasis on a relationship with, you know, you see your life as a life of relationship and that’s what I’ve experienced firsthand with you. And if you look at even the model and living forward, I always say that we’re the stewards over these many different accounts that we play a unique role, or we have a unique relationship to. And I think there’s real resonance with that as you kind of have structured your life your great love for the outdoors and getting to live where we live up here in the Northwest. I know you’re spending time between the Portland area and maybe central Oregon and then priest lake Idaho. I know that you know, the outdoors is a big deal for you and, and I didn’t,

Mark Ganz (06:45):

That’s my love triangle.

Daniel Harkavy (06:50):

Exactly agree With Leslie for 34 years now. You’ve been experiencing it with and, and then even a part of it much younger before Leslie. So that’s awesome. So thanks for sharing that. Appreciate it. It’s good for, for our listeners to know that the leader that I’m interviewing is a leader who has interests that range from faith to family, to the outdoors, to a doggy and a kitten. So there you are, you’re on, you’re on this show and on this podcast because of the success that you’ve had over the years, you know, I had the privilege of seeing it firsthand. You and I have had several conversations, whether it be a lunch or in your conference room where we’ve talked about leadership, leadership, development, team, effectiveness culture, our team’s done work with your team and I’ve learned from you. And I think you’ve got a great deal of wisdom and experience to share, but why don’t you give us a, before we get those nuggets, give us the overview of your professional journey. Maybe some of the highs and the lows you’ve got, you’ve had a really unique career. So tell us about it.

Mark Ganz (07:54):

And one that I didn’t map out it was more one that it was about being personally ready and then open to opportunities and growth. I like to look back when I was coming out of college and what I thought my life was going to look like, and then look at what it actually has. I mean, I guess when I think about my journey as a leader, it really, I can trace it back certainly to my childhood and some of the lessons from my parents that both by their example and or what they taught that I actually pause to listen to, and that stuck with me. I also looked at my time in boy Scouts and becoming an Eagle scout and the things I learned about leadership and relationship and stick to it in order to achieve that. And then I look to a seminal moment in my life that occurred when I was actually in law school, where I was really at, I was in, I guess you could say because of some things that were going on in my life and our family’s life and the president at Georgetown, where I was, I had gone to other undergrad and that’s how I first met him, but how he completely in an unlooked for unexpected way intervened.

Mark Ganz (09:14):

And because he had a belief in me and a wisdom far beyond mine to somehow know that I was worth the, the intervention, I guess what he did try to change the course of my life and has impacted my life every day. I think of him every day, without fail with enormous gratitude, for a gift I could never repay. And he wouldn’t have allowed me to, and which he said, the way you get to quote, repay this is to pay it forward and to make a difference in other people’s lives, because I think you’re going to be a successful person. And so in some ways that has well in a most profound way, it’s it lit a fire in me that burns today. And it’s one of the most important, I would say touch points as a leader. I’ve tried to live in gratitude in the work that I do and the life that I lead and all I have to do is think about that moment. And it, it always reminds me it’s something that I am so deeply grateful for, that it spurs other things in me that I am grateful for. And it kind of keeps me on track. I mean, it’s, it’s sort of like one of the daily disciplines is to pause, to be grateful for the gifts that one is given, whether it’s a gift of that day, whether it’s a gift in the past,

Daniel Harkavy (10:42):

I have to stop you. Cause I’m sitting at the edge of my seat and I know many of our listeners are as well. And you know, you’ve said quite a few things in just beginning to, to help us to understand the beginning of your journey or this law student, you know, you had no idea of what the future would, would hold for you. You didn’t see yourself as the CEO of this 5,000 plus person insurance, medical, innovative company. And here you have this conversation where somebody transfers belief into you, which you know, is my language. So this president of Georgetown, what did he say? I want to know about that moment. What did he see in you? What did he say to you?

Mark Ganz (11:22):

So it’s a painful story because it involved my parents and the most difficult point in their long marriage, a point that was so difficult that my mom moved out and I was the only child home that summer. I just finished my first year of law school. I was clerking at a law firm in Spokane, staying at home. There had been a pretty big family celebration. My brother had just been ordained a priest that summer. And two weeks later, my mom and dad had an enormous fight and my mom did what she had never done. She she just said, I’m not going to take this anymore. And she left. And it was a very difficult summer for me because my dad was completely at sea. At that point. He, that was the last thing he ever thought would ever happen. And he was really at sea and my mom moved and lived with one of my sisters for the summer tour for, you know, we didn’t know how long it was going to be, but they reconciled in the fall and mom came back and, you know, the good news is they lived happily ever after.

Mark Ganz (12:35):

They really did. It was, it was a profound, it was just what their marriage needed. I think they had raised a large family, much of their energy had been focused as a team, raising their children. They had worked on their own relationship, but I think some of the more fundamental issues around power and control and some of the things had just been kind of pushed in the corner because they had to focus on bigger things, but once they were living and it was more of an empty nest or situation, I think these things began to bubble up and it really came to a head that summer. So I kind of took care of my dad that summer. I cooked for him. I tried to do everything I could to be his friend and, you know, just kind of keep him balanced, you know, with activities that I knew he enjoyed and the, like, it wasn’t easy.

Mark Ganz (13:23):

I learned in some ways who my true friends were by who ministered to me that summer, because it was such a difficult summer for me. And it was one of those things that I had a couple of friends that were just amazing in what they did and what the care they showed me in that moment. But okay, fast forward, mom and dad called a family conference that fall after they had reconciled and they wanted to kind of have a talk with the kids. And so we all were summoned to Seattle. You know, I want to say it was around Thanksgiving time or just before Thanksgiving. And there was this talk and it was, it was interesting because we started to see a sign that in a weird sort of way, my parents, I think as a part of their own reconciliation, they needed, they needed something else to blame.

Mark Ganz (14:18):

And, and we were at the kids and and it was just kind of a, it was an odd couple of days, but, you know, I went back to the law school cause I had, I had exams coming up and you know, I was in my second year and it early December. Right, right. On the cusp of exams, I get a letter from my dad and it was just this very short letter, but basically saying your mom and I have decided that we will see any further financial support for you to attend law school. They weren’t paying for it all. I was loaned to the hilt, they were providing the bridge, you know, they would fund the balance, which was a fair deal. I mean, I very much appreciate it with that, but he just said it’s done. And with no lead time. So I was suddenly in the midst of finals, I had to come to grips with the notion that either I had to figure out a way to get more loans or I wasn’t going to come back.

Mark Ganz (15:23):

I was going to have to get a job and put my law school dream on hold and just work until I hopefully could make enough money to get back there or whatever. And so it was a pretty trying time, pretty shocking, and also particularly bitter because heck I had taken care of dad and with no strings attached. And so I wasn’t involved in the, their relationship issues at all. You know, it was, that was their thing. And for this to happen so suddenly. And so just out of the blue and just with no basis, it was, it was difficult. So I talked to a priest at Georgetown. I was in a singing group there and I had gotten to know a priest who was involved with that. And I told him a little bit about what happened. And I told him I was going to withdraw by then.

Mark Ganz (16:14):

I had, I had already sought getting another loan. I had gotten another loan at 15% interest, and I’m not kidding you, but I still couldn’t complete the bridge. And so I had made the decision, I was going to withdraw and try to get a job at a law firm in downtown Washington, DC or something, and work as a clerk and hope hopefully, you know, over time, get back to school. So I told him that and he said, well, you’re sure there’s no other options. And I said, I’m sure there are no other options. And he was like, well, you sound like you’ve thought it through. And he was very sympathetic and it was good, you know, good to talk about the larger issue. But anyway, a couple days later I got a phone call from the president’s office of the university and asking if I could come up and see the president, his name was father Tim Healey.

Mark Ganz (17:02):

And, and so I thought it was just you know, I’d done. I had done work. I had been a leader in the school as an undergrad and such. And so I thought maybe he was, he wanted to talk to me about something he wanted me to do for the school. So I go up there and I’m ushered into his office and I sit down and he looks at me and he says in a very kind way, but he said, father Walsh told me about your situation, which that alone was a bit of a shock. I wasn’t expecting that. And he said, he said, so first off, I just want to ask you, are you, are you okay? You know? And he said, I said, I know people who, if you need to talk to somebody in a professional, I can connect you. And you know, just, you shouldn’t bear this all by yourself.

Mark Ganz (17:51):

And I said, you know, I I’m okay. I said, I don’t understand what happened, but I know my dad well enough to know that something like this, you know, could happen in a weird word sort of way. And I just have to work my way through it, but I’m yeah. I’m okay. And he goes, well, I hear you’re going to withdraw from law school. And I said, yeah. And he said, well, tell me about that. You know, so I kind of told him the situation and told him my financial situation told him what I had done so far to get another loan, but that, you know, that I just couldn’t build the bridge. And he said, well, tell me about that bridge. What, what do you need? And so best my ability. I didn’t have all the facts and figures, but I had it close enough. And I said, well, it’s this? And he goes, huh. And he just paused. And he kind of looked up at the ceiling and I’m sitting there and, and then he said something that was completely unexpected. He said, okay, we’ll take care of it.

Mark Ganz (18:55):

And I thought, I hadn’t, I, you know, it’s one of those moments where you hear something, you’re not sure you actually heard it. Right. Like I said, I said, what? And he goes, we’ll take care of it. You said, just talk to my assistant, get the facts of that, you know, get the actual number that you need and we’ll cover the w we’ll make the bridge. Hmm. So after I kind of picked my jaw off the floor, I, I was, I was stunned and I just, you know, I, but I also assumed it was alone. Cause I kind of was in loan. So I just said, well, okay. So you know, which I also worked with him on whatever loan agreement you want or promissory note. And at that point in his Irish way, he started chuckling and he goes, mark, you, you don’t understand what I’m telling you. We’ll take care of it. This is not alone. And I think he saw this emotion. Well, I think still makes me emotional.

Mark Ganz (20:00):

And he said, said, Mark, you’ve been a leader at this school. Your grades are good. Is that, I just know you’re going to be successful, whatever you do. So what I want you to do is I want you to, I want you to just accept this, this gift. And, and by the way he said, this is for the rest of your law school time. This is just for this semester, it’s for the rest of your law school time. And he said, but when you are successful, as I think you will be, I just want you to find ways to pay it forward and help others. And he said, and that’s enough for me and it’s enough for university.

Daniel Harkavy (20:49):

Well, now we all understand the impact of the Georgetown University, president, father, Tim Healey, and how one man sees something in a young human that absolutely radically transforms the trajectory of their life, which was a question that comes way later and you just hit it right out of the chutes. And it’s really big. It’s really big. And as I look at the environment, we’re finding ourselves in right now, I want this to serve as an encouragement for all of you leaders who are listening, who have come to that place in life, where you do have the ability to see goodness in young folks. And you do have the ability to give good gifts that would be out of left field, never expected and quite possibly not even deserved, but to understand the weight of taking those moments, to breathe, hope, a belief and a goodness into a young human it’s huge. So thanks for sharing.

Mark Ganz (21:43):

Well, there’s a couple of fruits that, that have come from that. And some, certainly some learnings, you know, one of them was that it did power, a sense of belief in self belief that I sure that I could do something really big in life. If I, you know, that that was within me, which I’m not sure I had really ever thought of before the second fruit was that through his example, it really taught me something about the profound goodness and joy in, I call it tossing, you know, when you toss a pebble into a lake yeah. You see the, you know, and then the ripples start going. Yeah. And you could watch them. And, but you know, you, you can watch the ones that you can see and they eventually may wash up on the shore that you’re on and you can see that result.

Mark Ganz (22:38):

But what you can’t know is where those ripples keep going off into the distance and over the horizon and beyond where you can see and what shores those ripples will wash up on it. And I, I really feel that what father Healey did for me was he tossed a pebble into my life. And I think he had some sense of the ripples that he might see and expect. I mean, I would get through law school, I would launch a career, but he had no idea where those ultimately would go not only in my life, but in what I would hope my life would impact in other lives. Absolutely. And so I, you know, I’ve really taken to heart or made it a discipline or just a cause it’s, it’s a thing of joy is tossing pebbles into other people’s lives. The way that happened with me, because I know what, how profound that was for me.

Mark Ganz (23:35):

And so in multiple ways, I, and, and my wife, Leslie has been certainly a part of this is that we have paid it forward in financial and non-financial ways in investing other people, wives. And then the third fruit is this notion of we all receive graces in our lives that are unlocked for them. If we, if we think about it, we, everyone has. And there’s something powerful about never forgetting those and, and, and, and keeping them fresh in one’s mind, because they are one of the most powerful things that drive what I would call leadership from the heart, which is the hardest kind of leadership. Yeah. And it’s been a lifelong study for me to lead, not just with my mind, but to make the really important decisions and important departures in my life and do that from my heart and with my heart that decisions made with the heart are the most important. So those are the fruits that I can immediately point to beyond kind of the emotion I feel about that I’ll never get over or that incredible gift. Well, mark,

Daniel Harkavy (24:53):

Thanks for jumping. I’m way into the deep end, right out of the shoot. People can learn more about your professional career by looking you up on LinkedIn, but I’ll give the highlight reel. You had an extraordinary career, 29 years in the healthcare industry, where you were doing your best to lead a movement in healthcare, to really create an experience for patients to where they felt loved and cared for. And their best interests were put first and foremost, above and beyond even profits. And, and that’s a big deal. I think what’s unique about Mark’s career folks is that of those 29 years with this multi-organizational conglomerate of healthcare organizations is a, he spent 17 years as the CEO with thousands of employees and to have a CEO run, you know, beyond seven years to make it to 11 years, if you look through Harvard business school case studies, most CEOs reached their peak at seven years. And then if you stick around and are allowed to stay around for, for 11 years, then you’ve reached something that’s incredible, very few ever reach. And then there’s just not a lot of data on CEOs. Who’ve run organizations beyond that period of time in here in, in December, after almost 18 years, you handed the reigns of Cambia as the result of some hard work and great succession planning. You handed over the reins to, to Jared short, and that you did this in the midst of a global health pandemic. What was that like?

Mark Ganz (26:28):

It was the best laboratory for mentoring, Jared, the final 10 yards that one could ever have wished for or hope for. And I don’t mean that it was enjoyable or that I would ever want it to be what it was cause it would, that was a complete surprise, but it was a, a golden moment because it took everything I had. And now all the experience that I had gained over the years to be a good leader in the incredibly difficult year, because it was the pandemic. It was everything in terms of just knowing how it was impacting our employees and the people we served, you know, moving from an in-office setting to, in a completely remote setting and doing it virtually overnight and pulling it off. Then the George Floyd murder and all the ferment that came out of that, which was extremely challenging from a leadership perspective, there was a lot of richness in it.

Mark Ganz (27:29):

There was also some darkness in it and being able to try to navigate toward the rich in a way and not enhance the darkness was incredibly challenging. Plus we just had a business to run, you know, I think with what is often under, certainly under discussed and under appreciated in leadership because people like to talk about, you know, the mountains that they’ve climbed in, the mergers that they’ve done and the products they brought to market. It’s the soft skills that a CEO that really defines whether a CEO is good at what they do, it’s their humanity, it’s their authenticity, it’s their personal courage. It’s their ability to learn from mistakes, admit mistakes, not just privately, but publicly own them anyway, instill that in the people they lead so that it isn’t just the seat, but that there is this sense of that. There’s something about trusting your own strengths and your vision, even when encountering at times strong resistance internally and in the industry.

Mark Ganz (28:37):

And it’s about, especially because you’re navigating as one is navigating through it. Yeah. For an organization, it’s about how is I always put it in this aphorism, you know, it’s about being politically savvy and avoiding ever becoming political. And those are kind of the soft skills that I think about. And then I would say one that just kind of over is a kind of an overarching one, which is one of the most important soft skills for a leader is to never think they own the job. Yeah. Is to never clutch edit and say, it’s mine because it isn’t. And even if you’re a founder, it’s not yours. And if you think it is, you’ll ruin yourself and you’ll ruin the company that you’re trying to to create. And so I always saw it as I was a relay runner and I held it the Baton for a period of time.

Mark Ganz (29:27):

I knew not how long, but because I never clutched at it. I think it’s why I was the CEO for so long and never got old in it. I never, I never got stale because I, I kind woke up every day and it was a sense of, wow, I get, it’s a privilege that I get to do this. It’s also an enormous responsibility and I better do my best or I don’t deserve to do it any longer. And so I think there is something about that. And so one of the things one does is create a good succession plan. I have CEOs who quote, do a good job, but leave their company without not just a strong successor, but, but a choice for the board amongst strong successors internally has not done their job. They have not completed their mission. And I’m always struck by how many don’t do that.

Mark Ganz (30:23):

And, and I don’t even understand me. I mean, I can guess at why that happens, but I, I started planning succession my first year because I didn’t know how long I’d be in the shot. And I thought, you know, I could screw this up royally, but at least the one thing I can do is give the board options for success or ship. If I do screw up really, or they just decide they don’t want, they don’t like the direction I’m taking it. And if I, it was the one thing that could be a legacy, if you will, that gift to the company, even if I, if I didn’t make it. And so that process began and it went all the way through. And the names on the list changed from time to time. But in the last, you know, five years, Jared really emerged as the, in my opinion, at least the, the, probably the strongest overall candidate for the company going forward.

Mark Ganz (31:17):

But I also knew it wasn’t my call. And so I didn’t just focus on Jared, but with the board’s guidance and partnership, it kind of happened in a natural way. And again, it wasn’t a horse race. There wasn’t a big public thing. It was just quietly nurturing and mentoring and giving hard assignments to, and multiple people, and then seeing how they did with it. So at the end of the day, the only thing I had to do was push my board, who I think was very comfortable with their relationship with me and the work I was doing as the leader, I had to kind of push them to say, you know, I think we’re going to lose Jared. If you guys don’t give him some certainty. And I said, if you, if you want, if you don’t care, if we lose him, if he’s not the guy you see as the longterm, well, then I think you owe it to him to tell him that, so that these other companies that are coming and recruiting him, that he doesn’t feel this, you know, misplaced loyalty.

Mark Ganz (32:17):

Sure. But I said, if you do think he’s the right guy, then you better move or we’re going to lose it. And then the company will be weaker. And I said, that would be the real sadness. If he, if he’s not the right guy, well then good. Cause I’m, I’m not looking to retire. I can continue. And we’ll, we’ll get another, somebody in the mix for a successor ship. But if you think he’s the right guy, but you just don’t do anything. And then he leaves that would be a mistake and that’s on you. I got to put it that way. And the board to its credit took it seriously. And frankly moved pretty quickly to make a decision. Yep. Be clear on when the date would be. Then we went forward from there. I feel very good about how that process went down. And I’m very proud of our board that they were ready when they had to be to make the call.

Daniel Harkavy (33:12):

Now you look at the relay race analogy and for my executive clients. And I know you’ve done a lot of work with coach Jonathan Rogers, but we use that marathon or we use that relay race. And the Baton passing is just a great visual. It’s really great to understand that the race was run before you got in onto the track. And it’s going to be run after if you do our job well. And, you know, Cambia is what, 104 hundred and five years old. And, and you got to serve as a servant leader for 17 of those 18 of those years. And now it’s, Jared’s turn. And I just think there’s some real brilliance to that. So, you know, executive leaders, something that mark just shares it’s, it’s something that I think all leaders know. But I don’t see the masses doing an exceptional job at it.

Daniel Harkavy (33:56):

And it was probably the late nineties, early two thousands. We were the coaching partner building champions was the coaching partner of the world business forum. And that was owned by HSM, this global leadership training and development company out of [inaudible] Argentina. And we had the good fortune of being the executive coaching partner. They would fill the radio city music hall in New York city with four or 5,000 leaders from businesses all around the world. It was fantastic. And we, we, we were able to participate in that in, you know, the beginning of the decade. And I remember Jack Welch was on the stage and Jack Welsh you know, he’s regardless of what you think, I mean, Jack successes crazy and how he’s influenced and bred so many leaders, undeniable, you look at a him and his big word that I heard over and over again, the message was leaders who don’t build future leadership capacity into the organization are missing one of their single greatest responsibilities. And it’s just a really big deal. And that’s what you’ve always been mindful of is should something happen? Who’s going to take the helm and it can’t be just one person. You need to be developing several so good on you for doing that. I think that’s an encouragement and something that for many of our executive level leaders, they need to be listening to.

Mark Ganz (35:19):

I’ll also give a personal thing for someone who may not agree with it, or just, you know, think of it as, no, that’s not that important. I didn’t do it for this reason. Cause I didn’t know until I had retired from the company that it would feel this way, but having done that well has given me enormous peace. Yeah. In the last several months, since I departed the company, I don’t wake up with a sense of regret or like unfinished business or, or even the logging. Like I, I wish I was still back there. I mean, I miss the people. Right. but I feel that piece about the way in which the Baton got passed and because I feel like I ran my race part of the race. Well, yeah. And I have great confidence in the person who’s running the next leg. And so I don’t wake up worrying. So for someone who wouldn’t do it for other reasons consider that as something that would be another reason or another thing to think about. Because as I said, for me, that’s, that’s been an unexpected pleasure.

Daniel Harkavy (36:29):

Yeah. Well, I think there’s a, a lot of truth on the fact that we all stand on the shoulders of giants. And if, if we leaders, all of us had this mindset that we were developing leadership capacity and the next generation of leaders who will be able to take the organization further, farther, faster than we ever did. They’re going to be better. I was with chef Thomas Keller, who is also a guest on this podcast a couple months ago. And I remember chef Thomas, for those of you haven’t listened to that episode. It was amazing. Listen to it. He’s brilliant. But he spoke about how his chefs, the French, the chefs of the French laundry and per se, both of them being Michelin star award-winning restaurants. He said, those chefs are both better than I am. They’re better than I am. And, and he was truthful in what he said was, he said I was their mentor. He didn’t have a chef Thomas Keller. He had to figure it out on his own. So these guys had, you know, one of the most amazing chefs pouring into them, which bred confidence in them and experience and the rights and the wrongs. And then they were able to innovate and grow.

Mark Ganz (37:30):

I, I, you know, can I make a comment about that? That’s just really touched on something that’s very important to me. And I think been important, my success, which is the team and, you know, I always, I always sort of one of my personal commitments, I guess if you will, to myself, was to dare to get the best people and pay what it takes to get them, you get what you pay for in some ways. But then pay is, is not just about money because I think that people want to work with people or in organizations that have a strong vision and are authentic to living their values. Why do people want to work at the French laundry? It isn’t just that it’s a part of it is it’s a strong brand, but why is it a strong band because it’s an authentic brand and that the leader of that organization is an authentic values-driven leader and that is worth, I think it is as good or better than the gold.

Mark Ganz (38:30):

They may put in their pocket in compensation. And, and I have found people often wonder, like how did Cambia build the team that it had? How did it build the board that it had? Why did people, why would they be a part of, of our company as opposed to a fortune 50 size company? I would put our board members up against any company like that. I would put our senior management team up, but it was because they believed they were drawn by the vision of the company and the, the idea of being able to transform healthcare, to make it more person focused and economic sustainable, and not just do it through a single business model, but being willing to innovate and explore beyond that was exciting. And that was worth something to them at a very profound level, way beyond what they would get paid. So I, I, you know, th th to do that, you have to be willing to hire people that are better than yourself. You know, that that’s what a leader is supposed to do. Absolutely. You know, and a players should hire a and a plus players, not B players.

Daniel Harkavy (39:39):

Right? Yeah. And that is something where if leaders, I think most listening to this, they all get it. It’s like, yes, my job is to surround myself with the smartest people. I possibly can to help, to engage them into a vision to where we’re going to do something meaningful. And then to set them free, to do their brilliant work and resource the heck out of them where they need resource. And it’s always that aligning, aligning, aligning so that we move forward. You’re known for being a guy who’s led amazing high-performing teams over the years, give us your take and some specific best practices that have enabled you to build such an executive team. What are some of your rhythms? If I were to look at you on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, what are you doing to build these teams?

Mark Ganz (40:24):

Okay. I’m constantly reinforcing the vision of the company. And I learned that, you know, everyone learns or grasps it in different ways, a person who is an engineer or an information technology person is going to embrace the vision. It’s going to take a different story. If you will, to embrace the vision. Number one, number two, it’s personal. And so I worked very hard to personalize it for them. It’s like bringing their own stories, their own family journeys and in healthcare and tapping into that and enabling an environment that it’s okay to talk about that. And it’s okay to cry about it, you know, because some of these stories are really heart-wrenching that some of our senior executives have been through. And there’s great power in that. I think another one has been trying to, you know, through my own kind of manner of leading from a place of gratitude is instilling that in others, that I was proud that Cambia was a grateful company.

Mark Ganz (41:32):

It was with grateful people in it. And I think that one cannot underestimate and should never underestimate the power of gratitude to drive innovation. I always kept it personal about the people that we serve. It was about telling their stories, because empathy is incredibly important in driving innovation, innovation, without empathy. Isn’t real innovation, not even close. You have to be in touch with the people you serve or the people in the world that you want to serve. And really be curious about what they’re going through in their lives. If you’re going to be able to come up with the insight to give them something that maybe they never, never even dreamed that they deserve to have, and you can’t do that without enormous curiosity and empathy for them sitting in a bubble and saying, I’m going to create something really cool, and they’re going to love it.

Mark Ganz (42:35):

That’s all what that, that’s what that, unfortunately, healthcare is riven with that kind of thinking, when I hear people say I’m doing this for the people, we have got a great idea for the people it’s that, you know, or the population that’s all very distancing and what that person is really conveying whether they mean to or not. Yes, I’m smarter than the people I serve. So I’m going to do something and they’re going to love it. And I just need to get them to accept what I’ve given them. Oh, it’s just drives me crazy. So in building a team, I had to select people who were capable of empathy, who and I, during the course of the interviews, and it was the same with my board. I wanted to make sure we had people who were in touch with their heart and, or, you know, and, and, and could go there even if maybe 98% of the time they were working out of the left side of their brain.

Mark Ganz (43:34):

I wanted to make sure that they could engage the right side of the rank and they could engage their heart. And, and I think then, and, you know, I worked with your organization on this was the idea of building an, a spree to Carlene, being intentional about creating the opportunity for people to really get to know each other at a personal level, beyond just their business face and enabling a, just a spirit in the organization that helped unify that created the opportunity for unification of disparate and diverse people. And, oh, by the way, that’s the next one, which would be, I really hired diverse people. I did not want clones of me. And, and I’ve seen too many organizations where you put it to the team and they all the same, you know, they kind of look and they act the same. It’s like, wow, that, you know, there’s a CEO who wanted, you know, needed to have people that looked a lot like her or him.

Mark Ganz (44:43):

And I wanted people that were really different, but different in as many different aspects as I could create, because I felt then it was a, more of a challenge for me to try to bring them together and see what kind of chemistry and explosions might happen in a good way that would breed more innovative thinking, more creative ideas. And I had to kind of know how to foster that, but not control it. And I needed to make sure that I could also foster it, but discipline against political office politics put people together and there’s going to be some level of politics, but I was kind of deaf on politics when I could see it. And, and I would not allow people to try to, you know, have the individual relationship with the CEO and tattle on each other, or, you know, try to position themselves. I would just keep pushing it back. And, you know, I really wanted them to be a team and for there to be that sense of connection. And I took delight in there and just kind of watching that happen and fostering it as opposed to having it be, you know, something where everything had to come to the top all the time.

Daniel Harkavy (45:58):

So, you know, there’s this really obvious theme that our listeners have picked up on. And the theme is, you’re a guy that in my last book, seven perspectives, I talk about a leader’s effectiveness is about decisions they make and the influence they have influence is always birthed out of caring. Decision-Making is always the smarts. When I listened to you, mark, I hear heart, I hear gratitude. I hear empathy. I hear care. I hear diversity. I hear all of these topics that would typically be placed into what you mentioned earlier, the soft skill bucket. And when I look at a leader who has led an organization with more than 5,000 people, many organizations wrapping up into the Cambia health care enterprise, here’s a leader who is saying, Hey, your heart really matters. And I was the CEO for 17 years. Heart really matters. It brings out the best in teams. What kind of success did Cambia have? And I know this is an uncomfortable question for you, but 17 years, what kind of success and growth did Cambia have as a, you had the good fortune of serving it?

Mark Ganz (47:05):

Well, I would say the thing, I guess I’m proud of many things. Mostly. I think I’m proud that I feel like I inherited a company that was very internally focused, quite political, very bureaucratic, in other words, set in his ways. And it was about protecting what we are doing. And assuming that, you know, that that was the most important thing was to protect and survive. And I, I feel like I was able to, and it was not easy and it took years and it’s still evolving in some ways, but I feel like we really were able to accomplish a situation where the company is an innovative company. It is a truly, you know, we’ve unleashed the, the ability for people to care about the people we serve. And, and to be curious about the people we serve and to learn from the people we serve, serve, and therefore create innovation that serves them.

Mark Ganz (48:05):

And at the same time, while we were making some huge investments in new products and new technology based, you know, very expensive technology projects and things that we needed to be able to support where we were headed, the company just kept getting stronger financially while we had difficult years, because in our legacy business, it’s just the nature of the beast. That it’s almost like a sideways. If you look over the a hundred years where it’d be almost like three good years, followed by three bad years, by three good years. And it’s because we were a by choice, a not-for-profit not a charity, but a full-on corporation that shows a not-for-profit model. Which meant that the money that we earned all got reinvested back into the company. And so, because of that, and because we really tried to live the values of a not-for-profit and not make too much profit, we always had a razor thin margin.

Mark Ganz (49:08):

And so when we had a bad year, we would be underwater from the perspective of that year. But even through those cycles, the company was three times stronger. You know, we tripled the value of the company during my time as CEO, in terms of it’s the basic financial numbers you would look at and strength. And I’m very proud of that because as you should be, you could have, we could have pushed harder to be, to be even more valuable. But then I think we would have probably made bad choices in terms of not investing in things through the future that we should have, but we never, in all of the things we did, we never lost focus on, on, you know, running the business well, but doing it the right way. And I feel like we did. And so are there things where I, you know, regrets that I have in terms of things, mistakes I made, are there things I’m just not sure about even today?

Mark Ganz (50:06):

Like when I say that it’s, did I push hard enough? Could we have accomplished more? Could we have, and I’m not talking about dollars and cents. I’m talking about bringing products forward or pushing the transformation of healthcare along faster. I may never know the answer to those questions because it is unknowable, but, you know, over time I I’ve seen the industry change and I know 100% that Cambia had enormous influence on that. And I’ve been told that by people in the industry multiple times over the years. And I’m proud of that because that was one of our goals was to transform healthcare. It wasn’t about being successful as a company ourselves. We didn’t view ourselves as fully successful unless we did serve as a catalyst to transform healthcare in the broader scheme of things. There’s still so much work to do. But boy, I tell ya, we have really helped get it on the right path. And now it’ll be for others to take it forward and hopefully achieve that. Well,

Daniel Harkavy (51:08):

You have given them a wonderful, wonderful beginning place for them in this organization that after 17 years of your service is now, as you’ve said financially three times what it was. I think if I, if I remember right, you’re serving more than 3 million families and helping to make the healthcare experience for them better and always bringing the spirit of innovation to your team and into the conversation. I’ve so enjoyed our time together. And I do know you and I could continue to go for at least another hour, but unfortunately we don’t have that luxury today. So if people want to learn more about you, how can they reach you? How can they follow you?

Mark Ganz (51:51):

Well, I mean, I, I do do some social media, but I’m not I don’t really like to draw a lot of attention to myself. So I don’t, I’m very careful about that. I generally like to do social media in which I’m congratulating or praising someone else for something I have. My email is mark Dan’s at and always happy to engage with people who are, especially those who are really wanting to learn how to be, what I call a complete leader. And you see success as being something more than just their own success. And, and so I’m happy to happy to engage. I do. I do quite a bit of mentoring informally and I enjoy it because I think I’ve learned a few things along the way. And I’ve certainly learned things the hard way along the way too. And

Daniel Harkavy (52:40):

Those are the lessons that usually form us. So join the club.

Daniel Harkavy (52:46):

Well, my friend, I appreciate your investment of time and to the questioning leadership podcast. I know many will benefit. I appreciate your heart and your head. And I look forward to again, seeing you on the screen. I understand you’re going to join us Friday at CEO round table, which will be great. So I look forward to seeing you in just a couple of days. Thanks again. And I’m just grateful for you, Mr. Mark Ganz. Thank you, Daniel. Thank you. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Mark Ganz, mark again, thank you. If you enjoyed this episode and you want to learn how you can leverage your influence and increase your own leadership, reach out to us at building champions. We’ve coached thousands of leaders over the past 25 years, and we’d love to have a conversation with you to see if we can help you to be the best you can be in both business and in life. You can shoot us an email at and our team will be in touch. Your leadership effectiveness impacts so many, but it always starts with you. And we’re here to help.

In This Episode

Mark Ganz
Former CEO of Cambia Health Solutions