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7 Questions with Lonnie Johnson
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7 Questions with Lonnie Johnson
Name: Lonnie Johnson
Current title: Chief Information Officer
Current organisation: KVC Health Systems
Lonnie Johnson is Chief Information Officer at KVC Health Systems, a national leader in behavioral healthcare, child welfare, and community health and wellness.
Lonnie oversees the balances the company’s long term technology strategy and vision with the daily tactical and operational responsibilities covering the full continuum of tech services spanning internal software development, infrastructure, hardware, and tele-med. He has been with the organization since 2000, first as a Software Developer, then Director of the Applications and Software Development Department, and most recently as Vice President of Business Information Technology. This broad experience over 18 years means that Lonnie has gone from creating small applications for KVC’s individual business units to crafting a strategic vision for KVC’s technology agency-wide. Prior to joining KVC, Lonnie worked as a private software consultant for companies such as AT&T, Kansas City Power & Light and a number other small business.
Lonnie is also the founder and executive director of Growth Ministries, Inc. which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting people in prison due to felony convictions transition back into society through social, spiritual, and educational programs and events. GMI’s goals are to reduce recidivism and to keep communities safe.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
As CIO one of the most challenging things I face is ensuring my teams are providing the highest quality of technology possible on a not-for-profit budget. With the ever changing landscape of technology, the constantly increasing appetite individuals have in their personal consumer lives and constantly seeking additional funding resources, we have to be very innovative in our solutions.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
My story of becoming an executive at KVC is literally one of “started from the bottom and working my way up.” I entered the agency 20 years ago to start a “Digital Transformation” initiative before it was even a buzz phrase. As I started creating business applications I always tried to look at where we would be down the road with that app. This mindset kept me in constant conversations with leadership about what their future needs would be and how we could get there. That led to me being promoted to a more strategic positions in the technology division until I made it to the Executive Team.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I wish I could say that I have a ‘Franklin Planner’ kind of work life. I am not quite that organized. I definitely use my outlook calendar to ensure my time is used wisely for all the meetings I need to be at. But I also try to work in time to check with my direct reports to ensure they have what they need to be successful. This is more random and as needed. I also try to be intentional about managing my relationships with the other leaders in our organization in an attempt to stay in touch with their needs as well. I also make sure to add in some time each week to stay connected with what’s going on in the technology industry. Staying relevant in our field is highly important.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
My most recent lesson is an old one that I learned earlier in my leadership career. That is our employees are our most valuable asset. Over time you can get caught up in the bottom line, productivity, strategy and other fragments of business administration. Getting lost in those things can cause you to lose track of that very vital and key idea. I had to relearn that a little while back. Ensuring that people feel valued and cared for will actually increase all the previously mentioned things.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey. This book talks about how to cultivate trust in yourself and your various relationships. It talks about how the lack of trust in daily business can be expensive in that is slows down the time it takes to come to agreements and getting buy in on big ideas. It helped me not only recognize a person’s intent, integrity, ability to achieve results and capabilities, it made me look at these traits in myself as well.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
In my experience I have been able to build strong leaders through trust; empowerment; exposing individuals to an array of leadership development opportunities; and mentorship programs. Monies spent on building your leaders’ soft skills has an exponential ROI.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Early in my career at KVC I seemed to always have to take off for something at my son’s school. A lot of times it was during work hours. I would feel guilty about telling my supervisor that I needed to take off for an hour or two. To my surprise my supervisor was always very understanding and would always say, “Don’t worry about it.” That may have been a small thing to her, but it meant the world to me. I actually worked harder and was more engaged with that type of leadership. Realizing that I modeled that behavior of looking at employees as people and not just a function. Even today as CIO I encourage my leaders to treat their team with such understanding.