Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to “Spread Love in Organizations”, a podcast for purpose-driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership, and love.

I am Naji, your host, joined today by Marja Pronk, CEO & Founder GLOBAL YOUNG LEADERS, Global experts foundation and MH PRONK HEALTH CARE CONSULTANCY. Marja is driven by the patient, health-care perspective ‘to have access to the right treatment’. Her training as a medical doctor at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam and her years of experience at the pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, inspired Marja to create the first specialized market access consultancy firm in the Netherlands. She since then helped contributed to more than 650 cases in 35 disease areas across Europe bringing innovation access to patients. She is also founder of Global Young leader where they equip young people with personalized life skills so that they can create life by their own design.

Marja, It’s a pleasure to see have you with me today!

Marja Pronk: Thank you, Naji. It’s a pleasure.

Naji Gehchan: Can you first share with us your personal story from becoming a physician, then going to the pharma industry, and now being a successful entrepreneur and life skills expert?

Marja Pronk: Yes. That’s quite a journey. Um, uh, I studied medicines in Rotterdam and, uh, finishing my, my, um, my study, I was thinking I’m not the type of treating patients directly, and I was looking for an alternative. And, uh, when I jumped into the pharmaceutical industry, they gave me that room. To develop marketing commercial skills. And I felt that that was more, uh, up to me. Uh, I, I felt that I was very commercial and, uh, I dedicated then my time to, um, organizing healthcare, uh, environments from first, uh, the pharmaceutical perspective later on, uh, in my con own consultancy from a broader perspective, from, uh, multiple stakeholder perspectives. My joy was to bring stakeholders together and to guide or lead them to a final result where everybody, uh, could work with that result. And by coincidence, uh, I came across a lot of young people because I’m a mother of, uh, three kids and, uh, a lot of young, uh, guys and girls, uh, were in our house and what I saw is that there is a kind of, uh, mental wellbeing. Issue among young people. And that inspired me being a medical doctor from a background, uh, for what’s going on. And, uh, while doing my my pharmaceutical reimbursement project, uh, at the same time I started to, to interest myself in the mental wellbeing. And that led me to, um, working with the life skills, what I’m uh, doing right now.

Naji Gehchan: This is incredible. Uh, Maria, so I, I’d love us to talk more about obviously mental health and your work with, uh, the young leaders. But before that, since you’re really an expert in market access and bringing innovations and drugs to patients, I’d love first to hear your thoughts and your views about healthcare access today in Europe and even globally.

Marja Pronk: I think that, uh, having seen so many cases, uh, not only in the Netherlands but also on the European level and, and a little bit from the us I’ve seen that healthcare is, is really a business, uh, that was. Confronting me the first five years of my, my work as a consultant. When I experienced that, even governments have to look at it as a financial, uh, aspect. And I always, uh, was looking for an integration of the human aspects with the financial aspects. I mean, uh, the trees do not grow into the sky, so there’s a limited healthcare budget. But we need to manage that in a balanced way, not only from a financial point of view, from a profit point of view, from pharmaceutical industries, but also from what works. And what I’ve seen in the healthcare today is that, uh, the real decisions are avoided. Uh, let’s say, uh, governments do not discuss societal, um, standards. It’s all about case after case, after case. And I think when we have a better, uh, communication, better discussion on what we really need as healthcare or as a healthcare package, I think, uh, everything becomes more clear to everybody, not only to the providers, but also to the consumers. And this has to do with, uh, what your organization is, is, uh, also talking about it’s the opposite between fear and love. From a fear point of view, maybe we want to have all the healthcare, uh, possible, but from a loving point of view, we, we need to stand still and see, okay, what do we want to provide? What is the person’s own responsibility? Find a mix there and to see what all the people together can do to create a better healthcare and not leave it up to, uh, some organization, some governments, but to take a common responsibility from a loving point of view and, and take out the fear there and, and to accept that life is real and, uh, to take decisions in that perspective.

Naji Gehchan: This is super powerful, uh, Maria, and obviously you talked about love already. You shared in the beginning really this co-working space that we need to get to in healthcare. You talked about bringing stakeholders together, um, and really kind of making those decisions as a society for a better health, and you’ve helped and worked ensuring access to innovation across geographies, as we said. Do you see any particular skill. These days, and especially for the future with more and more breakthrough innovations coming to patients, but as you said, at at a higher cost with other complexity, uh, in the systems, any particular skill for us healthcare leaders and pharma and biotech you think is crucial for us going forward through these milestones for the companies, but most importantly, for the patients we serve.

Marja Pronk: Yeah. Uh, I, I definitely see one, uh, common central skill, and that is communication together. So not, uh, act in these silos, eh, in these pillars, but to cooperate, to communicate. And that’s also about love and fear, not to fear the other party that what have, for example, pharmaceutical companies are only money driven. These. Uh, prejudice this, um, opinions. If you take that out and you create a, a, a floor where everybody can say what he wants, uh, then you have a real communication and you can find solutions, um, and, and take out the fight between those stakeholders. If you first create a a floor, then after you can do your own tactics. If you do not have a common floor, it, it’s, it stays like, um, yeah, uh, uh, tactics, uh, which are not sustainable in the long term. So communication and co-operation.

Naji Gehchan: So if we shift gears now to global young leaders and what you’ve been doing there. So you, you shared a little bit about how it started by watching, observing, uh, young talents and young leaders and the impact on mental health. Can you tell us a little bit more how it started and what you’re actually doing now?

Marja Pronk: Um, it’s. This leadership and, uh, this term, um, we call the global young leaders not to create new presidents for the future, but to make young people aware that they have to be the leader of their own life, um, and to lead your own life. We saw that some skills were missing. The today’s education is, and, and I, I’ve gone through this education as well, but what I see more and more is that young people are, uh, pressured to, to have a lot of, uh, knowledge, uh, to perform, have high grades, and slowly the, the, the life skills that you need to perform and to sustain yourself, um, have been skipped. So, What is the end product of education nowadays is, uh, a lot of, uh, young people with high grades, uh, with good university, uh, uh, references. But when they start working as a young professional, um, they find themselves, uh, running against the wall because they need skills to manage their daily life, their working life. Also, as a student already, you see a lot of students. With burnout, which is absolutely crazy. I mean, 50% of students are, uh, have a burnout. You see a lot of young professionals with burnout. And to me the answer is, uh, I’ve seen that growing. Uh, and, and when talking with a lot of young people that when they have the skills and simple skills and not, uh, complicated courses, uh, where you first have to get your degree. Before, uh, you have those skills. Now the skills are very simple and the simpleness to bring that back into the whole curriculum of young people and, and bring it also into organizations solves to me a lot of problems. And, and it has directly, uh, um, a relation to, to love. But I, yeah, we can talk about that.

Naji Gehchan: Oh, yes, I wanna talk about it. And, and you know, as you’re, as you’re talking, it’s obviously as, as a parent, you know, my two little daughters, obviously with my, with my partner. We think a lot about this and really those life skills, as you said, we’ve been educated in systems, uh, probably super strict academically. Uh, but then you get to life and you have those life skills, and I, I would argue that life is getting more and more complex, so probably we need to focus even more on, on those social and human skills. So I’m, I’m eager to hear. As you provide personalized life skills, as you call it in, in your, um, in your company, for people to be resilient, empowered, uh, to tackle important personal and professional challenges, uh, and really create life by their own design. I love how you frame this. So can you tell us a little bit more about your philosophy and maybe couple off tips, uh, on what are those key skills that we need to make sure our young leaders have?

Marja Pronk: Yes, of course. It’s a joy to, to give some examples. Um, if, if you look at those life skills, life skills to me are, um, the solution for, for the individual, but also for organizations, for companies, for groups, for, for everything. Because if you. Look at life skills and you, you have them on board. You can manage through all kinds of situation. Uh, life skills is about, um, learning that there is no wrong decision. For example, uh, learning to, to change your mindset. If you change your mindset, your reality changes and you see it already in daily practice. It’s nothing new. It’s just something that is not put on the table. For example, if you take an athlete, this athlete, if he wants to have that medal, he needs to have a positive mindset. I mean, that can be, uh, applied to somebody in a company. If as a company, uh, you want to be successful, you need to have the right mindset. That doesn’t mean same time that. You need to perform according to what the organization says to you or according to the, what society says to you or, or according to what, uh, your parents say to you. I think there’s the key. These life skills help help individuals to manage, to lead their own life within this whole environment. And, and to be, uh, transparent about it. For example, um, if your parents want that, you, you study law because that’s more successful than becoming a musician, for example. And you don’t want that. I think you need to be transparent because it doesn’t serve anybody, uh, to have an unhappy lawyer. Because he, he will not be kind to his clients and he will not perform at his highest level because the highest level is coming from within the human. So if you do not do what is, um, close to you, then to my opinion, you cannot perform to a max. That’s the same as in an organization. If a company wants to have all, uh, high performing MBAs, Uh, leading the, the company through success. That’s not possible. If you do not look at the, the people and, and you find a mix like in an orchestra, eh, you cannot conduct a, a company if you do not have a, a view for the human in that company and to find out what, uh, is his f what, what is triggering him, how the people within a company. Um, can perform best. And, and for that you need life skills. You need the love, the love in organization, not the fear. Because fear is not leading through transparency, eh, from a fear, from a performing point of view. Uh, also look at the, the person that needs to study law from a fear point of view, he’s going to study law. But that’s not leading to, to success because he will fake what works. But if he really finds his resonance, and if employees in a company really find their resonance and they get the room for that, and the company has to provide this open space, this non-judgmental space, and to to, to make the, the employees aware that with the life skills, Uh, how you can manage situations, how you can shift your mindset, how you can use your intuition, uh, how to take risk, how to not, uh, make a wrong decision. Then all of a sudden this person, uh, is, is starting yet to, to produce from within, uh, and to a maximum level. And then you, you, you come to success. So to me, To make this shift with life skills and to, to take out the fear. And to bring in the love. That’s why, yeah. The, the title of your, your organization resonates very well with me to bring in the love. Then you have the perfect environment to produce and I, I would love to, um, To give nuance here. Love is not a pink cloud. Uh, it’s not being kind to other people. To me, love is a reality can be hard. You have, as an organization or as a person sometimes, or in a family, you can take decisions that are maybe painful for other members or it can lead to saying goodbye that a person, uh, gets another job. But at least it’s, it’s transparent and with transparency, uh, it’s like, uh, snakes, uh, uh, uh, sorry, snails come out of their house. Only if there is an open environment. And, and then you can say, I don’t belong to this environment. If you find out that it’s not your thing and, uh, exactly as this lawyer, I wanna produce music and he becomes a successful musician. But you have to provide this environment. And then the company will also see, okay, uh, a few people leave the company or a few people, uh, simply, uh, restrict their job to this, uh, performance. And they can push other ones who want to be pushed. So you get like in the orchestra. A different composition and, and you have to look that because an orchestra cannot give high performances if the individuals are not heard. I mean, then they’re less successful, I’m sure about that. So that’s my passion to work with those life skills because they’re very simple and very simple to apply. But it’s, it’s, it creates a lot of clarity for, for the individual, for the company, for the organization. And it invites people to, to bring the best out of them, uh, in the open. And I think that’s, that’s success and that’s love. And then people are happy and not burned out.

Naji Gehchan: Oh, Maria, this is, this is so incredibly powerful and so close to my heart and my beliefs in, in leadership and driving high performing teams. You, you talk, you mentioned so, so many set, uh, really great concepts around diversity. I love the examples you’re putting this diversity in the orchestra and how, how we read this. There’s a lot of, there’s a lot of examples as you shared. Uh, on how a conductor and then all the team brings their best to be themselves. Uh, uh, it’s, it’s really. Powerful what you, um, what you just shared, and I’m with you. Love is transparency and sometimes it’s, um, it has to have a transparent, tough discussions, but with the other best, with the other person’s best interest in mind. So I. It, it all, this really resonates so much with me. Uh, my question is with those young leaders, as, as you are in contact with several of them, um, too, also, but more into hiring, recruiting, probably for me, I’m, I’m intrigued how you’re feeling those, uh, those young generations reacting to those skills that you’re building and also as you are nurturing those skills, how are companies. Reacting or endorsing or embracing those young generations asking for more loving environment in, in the corporate world?

Marja Pronk: Yeah. Young people are inspired because they feel that, uh, going through this whole education system wherever you are, whether you’re in Africa, India, us, Europe, They, they all experienced the same type of issues. That was very funny when we did our research with the Global Young Leaders Organization, um, is that whatever the context is, the culture, the environment where you in, if it’s an easy environment, the difficult environment, the the issues are the same. And that’s how we developed, uh, the, these life skills that are applicable to. All, um, all areas of the world because it addresses the, the key. And the key has to do with how can you, um, bring out the best in you to the table, uh, on a personal level. On a professional level, and you need skills for that. So if you combine that with your education, Then you can manage successful through all your experiences. Then you can manage successful through your first job and maybe make another decision after that experience and to go to another job where you perform even better because, and that’s one of the key elements. What we make clear is that you have to experience. You. What you see among young people is they try to find, they try to find the perfect, uh, position. They, they want to make perfect, uh, decisions. And that’s not possible that, that’s artificial. You, you cannot predict what’s the best, uh, decision because you only experience that, uh, when, when doing it. Um, and, and that’s where the key is. That’s. If they, um, allow themselves to jump into that experience, whatever, uh, comes out, it is no wrong decision because the experience brings you to new solutions because in, in the hard work, in the difficult work, in the challenges you have encountered, you all of a sudden see. Where solutions are or where your own skills, um, are where you are strong at, where you’re not strong at you, you, you learn more about yourself. And, and that is something that’s a, a, a, I would say, a backpack that you take with you in every situation, whether it’s a job, whether it’s in a family, uh, whether it’s on a journey. Because you have experience that in a challenge when it’s difficult, um, that you find solutions, you have, uh, found your own power. And it doesn’t mean that you only have this power when you are working in the same environment. No, it’s applicable to everything. So this experience to me is key. And if the young generation can be convinced that it’s not bad, Uh, to choose something and just experience. That’s the only way. That’s how you arrive at your point where you think, okay, this is it. Here is where I perform best, and that’s the only road. And you, you just have to jump, uh, in it. You can of course, do some research, but the final decision is a jump. And, uh, you only know, uh, how it is when you have experienced it. And that’s, I I often give an example. If you look at an athlete, he’s training, training, training. Uh, it takes a long time. Uh, he’s the best. He gets this, this golden medal if it, the, the decision that he was, uh, going to the Olympics and the moment that he has this golden medal are just moments. What is in between is something that you cannot capture. It’s not in a book, it’s, it’s not in the education system. It’s the experience and, and that’s something you have to go through yourself because this athlete has this package in between and he knows how to do it next time. And what the young generation sees today is okay. This person is successful. He has, uh, reached this golden medal, so I need to do this, uh, as well. And, and that’s the only goal to have this golden medal. But they forget that it’s, the experience is the holy grail because through this experience, you can manage yourself in every environment after, with this gold medal, if you have it, it doesn’t mean a guarantee for the next experience, uh, and, and for your success. Every time. Again, it’s the experience and the package you get with that. If you focus on that, people um, dare to jump. And I think that’s a concept we have forgotten. And that’s exactly the same concept for, uh, for the individual, for families, but also for companies. Because if the companies allow to, to work with their human capital, And, and let their human capital speak up and maybe do something new that the company didn’t do before, but to, to make a decision together to go for it. And if the company then discovers that this has led to success, then you create an environment where there is room for, for new things, for new experiences. To me, that’s, that’s leading to success. And you can be a wonderful company with a good, um, uh, profit, uh, profitability. But the real success lies in the creativity. And if you give room to creativity and you take out the fear that to fall because it can also go wrong, okay? Then the whole company learns from it. And maybe through this experience. They have another solution, found another solutions where they haven’t, uh, seen before. So it’s always leading to success. And, uh, in the end I say to everybody, if you give room to your human capital and you create an environment, whether it’s in a family, in a group, uh, for this, uh, for the individual. Uh, of course you need a strategy and you need objectives and, and you need clarity about the goals. But within that, if you give room to also these type of things and new experience, you will find new ways, new success, new innovation, because innovation comes from letting somebody work. And all of a sudden he finds something. But if there’s no time, if, if companies are so organized, so time manage, really organized, then you kill out, you kill the creativity. And without creativity, uh, to me there is not the top success. And for an individual, without the creativity for yourself, there’s not, uh, um, individual happiness. So that’s within the life skills. If you give room to this environment, um, this open environment, nonjudgmental environment, not, not judging, is also a life skill. If you give room for taking decisions where there is no wrong decision. If you work on the mindset, if you work on intuition, eh, that’s also creativity. And if you learn people how to deal with challenges, yes, it’s not easy. We learn from challenges. We learn new things about ourselves, about the company, so give room to it, let it in. And it’s like an all oil to me that you need in your personal life, but that companies need into their company life.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you for this. Uh, and I love how you framed it. It’s about the experience. It’s more the journey than the destination and getting this gold medal. Uh, I I want now to go to a different section where I’m gonna give you a word and I’d love your reaction to it. The first word is leadership.

Marja Pronk: Yes. Leadership to me is, uh, general is, is wonderful. Everybody is a leader. Uh, leadership is leading a company, leading a country, leading a universe, but it’s also leading a family, uh, leading a, a sports club, leading the army. Uh, In the end, leading yourself as an individual because if you don’t, do not take the lead about yourself. Um, it’s the same on a micro level. So macro, macro and micro is the same in everything. There’s leadership.

Naji Gehchan: The second word is health equity.

Marja Pronk: I didn’t hear health. Health equity. Health equity is a very interesting topic, um, that relates within me to transparency. If we create transparent healthcare packages, uh, accessible for all individuals, of course. Then I think it’s clear to everybody what’s afforded and what’s not afforded, and people can live with that. Uh, because it’s clear, you better have a clear answer than uh, uh yeah, an intransparent answer. So I think we need to create a clear healthcare package. Uh, and if somebody doesn’t like it, okay, it’s a pity. Um, but we need to have clarity because that is transparent to, to patients, to consumers in what can I get and what is not there for me? What about, and that’s, that’s equity to me. Sorry, that’s equity to me.

Naji Gehchan: What about life By own design?

Marja Pronk: It’s bringing the best out of yourself because if you reach that, um, that frequency, uh, to happen, you create life by your own design because you and what you’re doing, uh, are in, in the same vibration. And that leads to. Uh, happiness and to maximal performances. So to have the room for each individual to create life by your own design, even within a group, doesn’t mean that we’re all a bunch of individuals. It, it can be within a group, but there are situations also in organizations, even in the army and in groups where you need to have the room to create life by your own design and. This morning I came up with maybe a silly example, like, um, the, the token two film to me gave an example that even within a very strict, uh, discipline, nice environment, there must be room to create life by your own design, because that’s in, in some situation, there is no, uh, you, you need to have room for this creativity. The people that have that room or take that room can create the life for that situation in the army. And, and that was exactly, uh, presented in this top, uh, gun to film. It was very inspiring to me.

Naji Gehchan: The last one is spread love in organizations

Marja Pronk: really necessary, uh, urgent. Um, To get rid of this fear and not love. And I think company ha companies have, um, a fear for it’s, it’s all too, becoming all too soft. But love is not, uh, the same as being soft. Love is, to me, clear transparency and room, uh, give room and fear is not transparent. Is, is. Uh, killing, uh, creativity. So love, love is really necessary everywhere. And not as the pink cloud, because, but as something real, as as honest, uh, clarity.

Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom, Maria, for healthcare leaders around the world?

Marja Pronk: For healthcare leaders, I would say that we need back to, uh, the connection to the connection of, of our society, um, and define, um, what our lives, uh, mean. And that we’re not kind of, um, uh, how you say, uh, living units that can be fixed anytime, any place, anywhere. Uh, and to recognize that within all the technology, there’s also this, um, this human aspect, this mental aspects, this, uh, this, this consciousness. We haven’t even, um, Uh, yet I think, uh, we are at the beginning because it’s something that goes together. Healthcare is not a topic, it’s an an holistic thing of, uh, uh, an individual. And there’s more possible with technol, uh, with if, if you regard the human as as a whole, then with technology alone.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much, Maria, for being with me today.

Marja Pronk: It was a pleasure, Naji, and, um, wonderful.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to SpreadLove in Organizations podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform

Follow us on LinkedIn and connect with us on spreadloveio.com. We’re eager to hear your thoughts and feedback. Most importantly, spread love in your organizations and spread the word around you to inspire others and amplify this movement, our world so desperately needs