Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this podcast joined today by Jason M. Dupuis, a thought leader, speaker and organizational behavior enthusiast who believes in the power of Human Experience as a key driver of organizational performance and strategy. Over the last 20 years, Jason has served as the Chief Experience Officer for PM Pediatrics Care as well as the Administrative Director for Admitting and Emergency Services at Boston Children’s Hospital. Most recently, he joined Fidelum Health as a Consultant and Principal Healthcare Advisor to bring the Human Brand concepts of Warmth and Competence into the Human Experience in Healthcare. As a Core Value advocate and fanatic, Jason has devoted his career to successfully demonstrating that being “human first” and leading with personal and organizational core values can create efficient and profitable operations while simultaneously delivering an exceptional experience for patients, families, and care teams. In addition to his professional roles, Jason is an Adjunct Professor in the Hellenic College School of Leadership & Management as well as recently joining Boston College as an Adjunct Professor in their Masters in Healthcare Administration program.

Jason – it is such an honor to have you with me today.

Jason Dupuis: It is a tremendous honor to spend some time with you today and, talk about leadership. I’m looking forward.

Naji Gehchan: Can you please first share with us your story, how you ended up in healthcare, uh, and now teaching leadership management and being passionate about organizational behavior? I’d love to learn more about that.

Jason Dupuis: Yeah, no, of course. Um, you know, my path into healthcare was kind of an interesting one. So my, uh, it all started because my dad was in the army. And, uh, so growing up as a kid, I moved around quite a bit and, uh, when I was very young, um, my father actually, uh, became a nurse in the Army.

And so as we moved around living on, uh, military posts around the country, you know, they’re very small communities and on, in every one of those communities, they also have a hospital. And so, Uh, you know, I was able to spend a lot of time at the hospital seeing my dad and then my, my mother will also report that I spent a lot of time in their hurt, injured, and, uh, because of the crazy things that I did as a kid.

But, you know, so I spent a lot of time in the hospital and I always saw hospitals as just like a cool place where my dad worked. That was, I was comfortable there. I was excited to go there cuz I got to see my dad, um, you know, during his working hours, if you will. As I got older, I would ride my bike to the hospital when I lived in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and I would go see my dad or we would have lunch and uh, you know, so it was just kinda like hospitals were always this very comfortable place for me.

So when I got to college, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, knew I wanted to work in healthcare, but I didn’t wanna be a nurse. Uh, I didn’t wanna deal with any of the, kind of the blood and guts, if you will. Uh, and then, uh, I found a program at the University of Hampshire called health Management, and I was like, you know what, like, This is for me.

So my, my drive to get into healthcare was just trying to bring this idea that I’m very comfortable as a human. I’m very comfortable in the healthcare setting, whether it’s a hospital, a clinic. I grew up around it with my dad, and just saw an opportunity to bring that comfort to other kids or other patients that were going to the hospital that don’t have those feelings of, you know, they have fear and anxiety and the, and I just didn’t have those as a kid.

I, I saw it. Fun place where my dad worked, you know? And so, uh, I kind of followed in my dad’s footsteps, I guess. But, um, but that was how I actually, I really ended up in, uh, in healthcare was, was through kind of being around it as a kid and, uh, finding it to just be this amazing and fascinating place.

Naji Gehchan: Thanks for sharing Jason. And yeah. How, how, how did you end up being passionate about organizational behavior?

Jason Dupuis: Well, I don’t. Maybe watching it, right? We watch enough organizational behavior and, uh, and we become, or at least for me, I just became fascinated. Um, you know, that for me, that really developed during my time at Boston Children’s as I, as I was kind of climbing through the leadership, uh, organizational ladder and just seeing how organizations.

You know, made decisions and how all of the moving parts, like how dynamic, um, the moving parts of, of every organization are. And I just became fascinated by it. And, and what I started learning and realizing, which ties into the human stuff is like the organization. Is gonna do what an organization’s gonna do.

It’s gonna make its decision, set its strategy, create priorities, make goals. But at the end of the day, it’s the humans. The humans underneath it are the ones that you know, you have to understand, build relationships with and grow with. And so for me it was this organ, not just understanding organizational behavior, but understanding really how the humans respond and react to the organizational behavior.

And how can we. Lead through that instead of, um, allowing it to kind of control how we do something, uh, or how we execute, how can we kind of lead, you know, and understand the organization’s behavior enough to understand how to lead in it within it, the construct of the confine.

Naji Gehchan: So let, let’s double click on this.

I’m intrigued, uh, by what you describe as power of human experience. Uh, can you share with me a little bit more what do you mean by that and how does it translate into organizational

Jason Dupuis: performance? Yeah, of course. So, you know, this was a journey for me, and I know a lot are on this journey too, in, in healthcare, trying to understand human experience.

But, you know, I, I can share a little bit about when I, when I started really realizing this, um, and I, if I can, I’ll tell a very short, but a quick story. Um, you know, shortly after the height of the pandemic, I, I was with p m pediatric care at the time as the Chief Experience Officer and right after the height of the pandemic, you know, we started seeing an increase.

In, um, negative events, what we call threatening events happening within our, our sites, within our physical locations, with patient families coming in. And we had this one particular event where, um, we watched video and we saw, um, uh, it was a grandmother and our front desk person getting in. They were in some sort of an exchange we could not hear.

We could only see, and the front desk person, this particular front desk person was somebody that I knew. I had met multiple times. I knew them pretty well, and I saw them kind of just. Like they, they broke down in that situation too. Very heated exchange. The staff person actually had to be restrained, you know, pulled back away from the desk.

And it was in that moment that I realized, hey, listen, everyone is struggling right now. Right? That’s the human experience thing is like, this is not just. An angry parent or an angry grandparent with their kid and and frustrated or what, you know, that they have to go to the doctor. It’s like our staff are frustrated too.

And it was, watching that video was really where I started realizing like, Hey, we’ve gotta start shifting and start thinking about this in terms of not patient experience, not employee experience, but human experience. We need to focus on the fact that at the core, we’re all just humans. Um, and we have certain, uh, and similar behaviors and characteristics that drive our actions and reactions.

But we have to stop separating and say employee and patient. It’s like they’re really going through the same thing. And the pandemic for me was a huge example of that. Like us all going through that no one was immune or right. We, we all went through that together. It didn’t really matter. We all felt it.

We all saw it. Um, and so that was what kind of really got me going and saying like, Hey, We need to start thinking about this differently, but I wanted to go beyond thinking. We need to start looking at data differently. We need to start providing support differently, um, and be more human-centric, or as I like to say, human first, that every decision we’re making, or as we’re doing things, we make ourselves in the mind of a human before we start making strategic decisions or taking direction that we think is a human first.

How would this feel? How will it be perceived? How could we execute on it? Understanding humans under.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thanks, thanks for sharing this. It’s super powerful. And obviously you, you touched on something in healthcare. I was just reading a new, um, uh, article, uh, that, that went out. It seems, uh, it, you know, all the frontliners have been really struggling.

With also, you know, wrong behaviors and yes. And being aggressed. Uh, but, and, and I love how you’re sharing it. Everyone is struggling, right? Like there are both sides. And I think as leaders within organization is taking care of your people. And it’s a great segue to by second question, which is people, uh, you say, Human first.

I was going to say people first because I, I always say this. Uh, you, so I like how you framing it. It’s human first. Uh, so can you, you devoted your career practically to demonstrate that it should be human first. Um, and so can you tell us a little bit more about this? Uh, you shared the story about what brought you to this belief, so can you share a little bit more now how you’re taking this and making it a real practice?

I would say for

Jason Dupuis: organiz. Totally. I, you know, I think the primary thing, um, in as far as bringing it into practice was really reentering and refocusing within the sphere of core values. And, you know, so some of my reading, you know, that I, that I do, I call it for fun, uh, but, uh, some of the reading I do for fun isn’t necessary fun.

It’s actually very challenging and I, I enjoy it. But, um, there were two big books that I’ll mention that kind of helped this and got me onto this, uh, or reinforced rather my, my core values. As being like a true north and like that’s what’s driving everything. The first book was Sapiens, which, um, yeah, it was a book that most people, I think at this point has at least heard of.

Many are afraid to pick it up. Uh, myself was, I was included in that, uh, actually a, a former colleague, a guy by the name of Pat Dillingham, who used to work with me in, in patient experience at PM recommended it to me in an airport and he was like, dude, you gotta read this. It’s gonna be amazing. And it actually blew my mind.

And what it was, you know, what I learned in Sapiens in the first part of it was, Hey, we’re still programmed, like we were thousands of years ago. Yes, we’ve changed and technology has changed, but inside who we are at the core is still the same. And so that to me was very, you know, reassuring about core values of what we look for in other people, how we develop trust.

Uh, and then the second book, um, which is what actually and ultimately led me to Fidel Health and, and working with them was a, a book called The Human Brand, um, which was a book written. Why we love or don’t love organizations, uh, why we interact as consumers with organizations, or we don’t. And in that, uh, the, the author, uh, author Chris Malone and, uh, his, uh, colleague Susan Fisk, actually put forth warmth and competence that humans judge other humans on warmth and competence.

And when I got underneath that and started reading and studying that I saw underneath that, when we think about something like warmth, what does that mean? It means kindness. Do I trust you? And I said, core. Core value , right? These are core values, trust, kindness, respect. Um, and so it was really through kind of combining those together and saying like, at the simplest form, we are just humans.

So are we over complicating this by putting too much process, too much digital technology, too much right strategy? And are we forgetting. Kindness, empathy, compassion, respect, understanding, and it. And so I kind of see it as a back to the basics and that, and that was really how I got on this pathway was core values and reading books that were using science and um, studies to show that we’re still acting the same way we’ve acted for the last thousands of years in spite of her, despite the technology.

Yeah. Pretty wild when you think about it, right? Oh yeah, yeah,

Naji Gehchan: certainly. And this is what actually brought me to love as the name of this podcast. You know, it’s war. I, I call it love by its word. Yeah. So how, how do you ensure this, your daily work or working now with organizations really reflects what, what you like this deep belief of core values, uh, this deep belief of human first, when actually there is a constant stress, pressure on results on how we’re gonna get there.

Uh, and I’m, I’m asking you this question that I. Always receive, right? Like I, I’m a big believer of this, so I’d love to see how you frame it and how you make sure that it’s in daily practice in your organizations.

Jason Dupuis: Yeah, I think the number one thing and um, you know, I just had the fortune. I did a a a a lunch and Learn yesterday with an organization, and it was on, uh, a similar topic.

And what I was talking about with them is that, how it really starts is making sure that we individually share our own core values. Um, that we know what our core values are, and that we’re willing to discuss them and share them. And most importantly, Back them up by living them. And you know, my three core values are passion, dedication, and integrity.

And I always say passion. I love what I do. Dedication, be there, and integrity, do the right thing. And so I have tried to live my life. I have failed many times at all three of those, you know, of, you know, we all make mistakes. Um, but it really, I think, starts at that individual level. So when we say human first, it’s like, okay, so as a human I describe myself as someone who is passionate, dedicated, and operates with integrity.

Um, and I’ve spent a lot of time, or when you’re working with organizations, and I always say, I try not to work with organizations, we try to work with the team because those are the humans. It’s trying to understand what are their drivers, what are their values, what is it that they’re saying to me where I can extract what their value is.

Um, so for example, if I hear somebody saying, you know, Joe’s always. Making up something. It’s like, okay, that person, whoever that was saying that values punctuality and punctuality generally relates to respect. They wanna feel that their time is respected, right? This idea that we. , we’re very good actually as humans at making those connections.

And so I think it all starts with what are, what are our individual core values? Can we quickly create alignment around do we agree that respect is important? Do we agree? You know, I kind, I guess it’s ground rules, right? I mean, that’s what we’re saying is how do we set core value, ground rules? And then of course, it’s always my next layer to that is what are the organization’s core values and are we living them?

Right? And uh, so what are your core values? How do you. You know, is this, do people know them? Are they, are they aware? And again, I I, every time I have a conversation like this, I always say the same thing. I don’t think I’m saying anything novel. I think what I’m pointing out is like, we have removed ourselves though, from the action backing up the words.

And as a result we have a say, do gap. You know, we, we say our core values, we don’t do them. We say them though, cuz that feels good, but we need to do them more. And so as I work with organizations or I give talks or I even a podcast, it’s always, that’s my focus. Know what your core values. Be sure that others know what your core values are and spend time learning theirs.

And in that you will always find alignment, always.

Naji Gehchan: So going, going there. Uh, when you talk about values, so I’m, I’m interested, I, I know you’re teaching also leadership. Uh, is there one or two core values or. It’s very different from capabilities, but I’m intrigued if there are like one or two that you think the leadership of today leader in the 21st century specifically in healthcare, should

Jason Dupuis: have.

You know, I’m gonna be cliche in the first one, and I’m gonna say empathy and, um, and I’m using empathy on purpose, and I know it’s a bit of a buzzword now, right? Brene Brown brought us this idea of empathy and vulnerability and understanding. We all, and everybody knows it, everybody puts out content on empathy.

But, you know, when I really look at healthcare leadership, I see a tremendous lack of empathy, um, for in specifically post pandemic. The insanity that the care teams went through during the pandemic, and I think there’s a huge opportunity to be more empathetic to the struggle, more empathetic and understanding to the burnout, um, and really focusing on riding that ship, um, that has already sailed and is sinking.

And I think that, that, I see that. I read that. I hear that. And I feel that. And I think that that’s, so that’s one of the areas where I say I think empathy has to be in there. Um, and the other from a healthcare perspective has always been, and I still believe in this, is defying the status quo of, you know, that simple acceptance of what the system is.

And our willingness out of fear of change to allow the system to persist is a huge leadership problem. You know, and it’s. , um, you know, you keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result is considered insane, right? Like that, there’s a quote somewhere in that, right? That’s the definition of insanity.

Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. And so I do think that what, you know, the system from a value perspective is starved from, you know, people defying that status quo and not just simply accepting it for the way it’s. Been for the last hundred years, you know, and I think that’s, so that’s two areas in healthcare leadership where I think if, if leaders are paying attention to being empathetic to those in their charge and they are helping the people in their charge also push the envelope of innovation and defying the status quo, that that success will come behind that.

I’m gonna give

Naji Gehchan: you a word, uh, now and I’d love to your reaction to it. The first one is

Jason Dupuis: leadership passion. . I think, um, I think leadership for me is, you know, if you’re not passionate about it, you’re gonna fail. I think it’s not, you know, there’s the difference between managing and leading. Um, you know, the difference between a manager and a leader.

Uh, and I found that out early on, that like, if you’ve really enjoyed the people component of it, You have to be passionate about it. If you’re gonna be successful as a leader, if you’re not passionate about it, everyone sees through you very quickly. And so every time I hear leadership or anything like it, I think I’m passionate about it.

And you have to be passionate, . I mean, uh, because it’s not easy. It is not an easy task. And if you’re, as soon as your passion goes, it’s time to go. I, I really believe that.

Naji Gehchan: The second one is health.

Jason Dupuis: You know, I think for me what comes to mind is my human first statement. That if we, you know, if we really start paying attention to the fact that, you know, things aren’t fair, um, and we start paying attention to the fact that we are all humans, that it helps us.

Shift the paradigm a little bit. Not to separate out groups, but to say, Hey, can we rally around the one thing that we all have in common? And that is human. So let’s be a human first and then start building systems that consider all humans as humans and not build systems here and there and everywhere.

That never takes into considerations. Humans in general. And so, um, yeah, no, that was, that was actually equity, health equity or equity in general. And healthcare has always brought me into my, that human first brain of saying if we can do that really well and treat each other just like humans, we can make a lot of headway.

The third

Naji Gehchan: one is

Jason Dupuis: sis. Homeostasis. You gotta love it. Um, , you know, one of the big teachings of my dad as a, as a kid, uh, and then as a teenager, and then as an adult, and then as a grown man to give him credit was balance and right. The, the definition of homeostasis, essentially balance in a system. And, you know, so anytime that I kind of feel that there is an imbalance in a system, I feel like it is our responsibility.

To not just try to fix it, but to understand it and try to fix it. And I think oftentimes homeostasis in healthcare doesn’t get achieved because we just try to fix it and we don’t always understand the problem. And I think we’ve been action oriented that way by organizational decree, by history, by organizational structure.

And so I would say every time I hear homeostasis, the first thing that comes to my mind is balance. And if you wanna establish balance and you wanna improve, you have to understand the problem that gives you the balance. That true under. Love it.

Naji Gehchan: What about spread love in organizations?

Jason Dupuis: You know, I have been very fortunate in my career, you know, between Boston Children’s and p and pediatric cares that, you know, I’ve worked with extremely passionate people and I’ve worked with some not passionate people, right?

Um, and this idea of being able to spread love to each other inside of an organization is really talking about building community. Whereas, um, as you’ve all would say in Sapiens, you know, building your tribe, um, and when you have love in your tribe, there’s trust, there’s belonging, uh, and there’s progress.

Uh, when you don’t. , you have war and separation and you know, all the other kind of the negative components. And so I hear love. You know, I think organizational love or love throughout an organization is really getting everybody on the same page and believing in each other, which then allows you to believe in the organization.

I, I think very rarely do people just believe in an organization. They believe in the people within the organization, and you can put love into that.

Naji Gehchan: That’s, that’s so powerful and I can’t agree more with you, totally. With this. Any final word of wisdom, Jason, for, uh, healthcare leaders around the world?

Jason Dupuis: Yeah, you know, I would say that, uh, the one thing that I learned, I learned it during the pandemic, I learned it during my time in the emergency department at Boston Children’s, was that the number one thing a healthcare leader can do is. and, um, you know, that goes into my core value of dedication, which translates to me to be there.

Um, there’s never really a reason as a leader that you can’t show up. I think showing up is a choice that every leader makes, and that the best leaders, the most amazing leaders that I worked with were never, ever afraid to show up, never ever afraid to show up and listen, and never, ever afraid to show up and listen.

And, and, um, you know, so for anyone that’s in healthcare leadership or trying to grow a career in, in a career that brings you into healthcare leadership, I would, I would say those are the things I would take away is always showing. Um, it’s, it’s the easiest thing to do sometimes is to physically show up.

Uh, but it matters when you do and everyone notices. It does.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much, uh, Jason, for being with me today and for this incredible chat.

Jason Dupuis: Thank you. Unbelievable, unbelievable pleasure. Thank you.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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.

Naji Gehchan: I am Naji, your host for this episode, joined today by Minette Norman. Minette brings decades of leadership experience in the software industry to her consulting business focused on developing transformational leaders who create inclusive working environments with a foundation of psychological safety. Minette has extensive experience leading globally distributed teams and believes that when groups leverage diversity in all its forms, breakthroughs happen. Her most recent position before starting her own consultancy was as Vice President of Engineering Practice at Autodesk, where she transformed how Autodesk developed software. Responsible for influencing more than 3,500 engineers around the globe, she focused on state-of-the-art engineering practices while nurturing a collaborative and inclusive culture. Minette is a keynote speaker on topics of inclusive leadership, psychological safety in the workplace, and embracing empathy. Named in 2017 as one of the “Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business” by the San Francisco Business Times and as “Business Role Model of the Year” in the 2018 Women in IT/Silicon Valley Awards, Minette is a recognized leader with a unique perspective. Minette has co-authored a book about psychological safety for leaders, The Psychological Safety Playbook: Lead More Powerfully by Being More Human, which will be published in February 2023. Her second book, The Boldly Inclusive Leader, will be published in August 2023.

Minette – great to have you with me today!

Minette Norman: Thanks for having me, Naji. It’s really nice to be here.

Naji Gehchan: Can you share with us first your personal story from drama and French, uh, at school to leading tech and software companies, and now being focused on transformational leadership? What’s in between the lines of this inspiring journey?

Minette Norman: Inspiring an improbable journey, I would say from drama French.

You’re right. You know, I got out of university with this double major in drama in French and wanted to be a professional actor, but realized what a hard life that is and I hated rejection and auditions and so I really fell back on my second major French and I got a job in my mid twenties. At the French trade, or?

Yeah, the French Trade Commission in New York City. And it was at a time when they were transitioning from. IBM electric typewriter on every desk, two PCs. And so suddenly I had this PC on my desk and I discovered I was quite good at understanding the technology and also helping others learn it. And that’s what actually led me into my 30 years in Silicon Valley.

I, I moved. Back to California where I had grown up and I got my first job in tech at Adobe in 1989 when they were developing Photoshop 1.0. And my first assignment was to write the Photoshop 1.0 tutorial. And that was the start of this, this 30 year career. And I loved it and I loved. The technology, but I really liked working with people.

Like even when I was trying to figure out the complexity of some software that I needed to describe, my favorite things were just sitting down with the engineers and picking their brains and trying to understand how can I take this really complicated technology and make it digestible and simple? So I did that for about 10 years as a writer, and then at one point my manager at a different company said, you know, I need you to manage the team of writers cuz I have too many direct reports.

So that was when I went from being an individual contributor to a manager. and I didn’t plan for that. I didn’t aspire to management or leadership. I kind of went in a little bit kicking and screaming that I didn’t think I wanted to do that. But you know, that connection that I loved to have with people was actually what I learned was the most important thing in being a manager.

In being a leader is that I really loved managing people. Cuz it’s all about human connection and it’s all about getting to know people who. Different talents and different backgrounds and different skills. So I, I ended up embracing management and leadership and I just progressed through very, you know, probably, I’m trying to think.

I probably had six to eight different jobs within the same company, starting as that first. First level manager of technical writers. Then I moved into a totally different area. I managed localization, which is getting all of the products translated and localized for international markets. And then finally, my last job, which you actually described was that I ended up as the VP of engineering practice.

And I kind of briefly just tell how that happened, which is that I had been leading a big team within a company and I had really done a big transformation. And then suddenly my boss, who was the VP of engineering said he was leaving the role. and I thought, huh, well that would be interesting. And I raised my hand and I said, you know, I would love to apply for this role, even if I’m not the most obvious person to lead engineering.

And the the senior vice president who was hiring for the role said, you know, I know your reputation. I know you’re good at what you do, but you know you’re not an engineer. , and you’re a woman and it’s such a boys club, so you’re gonna have to break into the boys club. And he gave me a 90 day trial for that role.

And so I was an acting VP for 90 days, which was really hard, and it’s probably another topic for a different podcast. But at the end of the 90 days, I got that job and I did that for five years. And in that time I realized that our transformation wasn’t about technology. , even though we had things we had to do technically, it was really about human interaction.

It was about collaboration. It was about listening to other people who might have great ideas instead of digging in and saying, I have the best idea, or My team has the best idea. And so I really worked on collaboration and trying to get people to listen to one another and inclusion and having empathy for various perspectives.

And I discovered, uh, the whole. Science of psychological safety and all the research on that and realized how critical that was and how lacking it was. And ultimately after five years in that job, loving it, but also realizing there’s only so much I can do in one company. I left and I started my own thing because I wanna really work with many more organizations to help them lead better, lead more inclusively, and really create an environment where everyone can thrive and do their best work.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much mi for sharing your, uh, your story and really those, there’s lot of powerful things you said, so let’s take them, dissect them and, and dig into it. So the first piece is really about this, um, this role you had as a vp, uh, leading this global team of experts, engineers around the globe. So you have diverse people and you said boys club.

So I’m, I’m interested to get your perspective on this too. And really, Delivering this transformation, as you said, through collaboration and inclusion, which is not probably spontaneously what you would think of VP of Engineering. Engineering in a tech company. Right. So I, I’d love to get your story behind this and how did you manage to do it and deliver exceptional results?

Minette Norman: Well, you know, it started with, I kind of got an edict from on high, which was that everyone had to get on a common set of tools. So we were moving from having like 20 different source code repositories to getting all onto GitHub. So that seems like a very technical challenge. How do we get all this code from all these disparate systems into one?

But what I was discovering in the process, cuz I had a great, I hired great people who worked with me and for me and who had very, very technical skills. And what I realized when they were trying to get teams to adopt new technology is that all of the teams were very siloed and they all thought that they had the best solution.

Very smart people, you know, a lot of them had come in through acquisitions and they had just retained their knowledge and cultures from, from the acquired companies. And so what I realized is that, I have people I’m working with who understand all the technical nuance and details. That’s not really where I need to focus.

Where I need to focus is how on earth can we get three more than 3000 engineers in all different countries all over the globe working. Together for com, like actually sharing code instead of rewriting code. How can we do that? And so I started, we put on a big technical summit and I would keynote there every year and I started researching, I mean not doing original research, sorry, reading other people’s research on collaboration and neuroscience, cuz I was really interested in how we work together and how we don’t.

And so I just basically got myself a great education and I started talking about these things. So I would lead meetings. I would give a talk at a conference internally, and instead of talking about how are we gonna get all the code into GitHub, I would talk about how hard it is to collaborate and how we can do better, or how we might have empathy for people that don’t see eye to eye with us.

And that’s how it began. And I will tell you, I felt like I was jumping off this very, very scary cliff the first time I gave one of those talks in front of a room of a thousand engineers. I remember the night before one. Saying to myself, oh my God, you’re gonna get up and talk about empathy to a room full of engineers.

How’s that gonna go? You know, there was a sleepless night, . But what I’ll tell you Naji that surprised me in a really positive way is remembering that we are all human. It doesn’t matter how brilliant or how technical you are, I had people who were some of the most. Technical people in the company come up to me after one of those talks and say, you know, Minette, thank you so much for bringing up these topics that we don’t talk about enough.

We need more of this. And it just reinforced that shared humanity that we too often ignore. And it’s what makes work hard. And it’s ma, it’s what makes people suffer at work because we cut off our humanity and we cut off our emotions, and we think we have to have this f facade of perfection at work and leave all the emotions at the door.

And that’s not how human beings operate.

Naji Gehchan: I so relate to what you’re saying. This is why I was, I was smiling all the time. It’s, you know, I, I had the same feeling, uh, saying that I wanna spread love in the organization, , and with all that comes with love. And, and you had it with empathy, I think. And the interesting piece is, every time I’m discussing with leaders, thinkers, um, like, like yourself, there is always.

Fear practically of talking about this to people and then suddenly the surprise of actually maybe people didn’t know about or it’s great that leaders are talking about it, but yet like we, every time our. A little bit afraid or anxious about bringing those topics to organizations and to people. So thank you so much for sharing this.

Uh, and you touched also on psychological safety as it’s a key component of your leadership and how, how you’ve done it. Um, you even have a playbook, uh, about psychological safety and how we should do it. So can you tell us a little bit more on how we can apply it in our organizations as leaders, and what are your key learnings of actually being a practitioner and doing it?

Minette Norman: Yeah. And you know, it’s, it’s so foundational and, and there’s tons of research out there that shows that organizations that have a high level of psychological safety have better performance and higher innovation and higher employee retention and engagement. And so, you know, honestly I was doing it by trial and error when I was leading teams is like, how can we try to get people comfortable speaking up?

And I’ll tell you what informed. My interest in it was actually being in meetings where I did not feel comfortable speaking up. And that was, I would say unfortunately that was more the norm than the exception. You know, I would be in these leadership meetings and there would be sort of the dominant two or three people that would speak up all the time.

And that’s like, that’s just common group dynamics. And then there would be the others that are just holding back. And I was often one of those others who felt like, Ooh, I have to weigh every word carefully, and especially, you know, Being a woman in tech, you’re definitely in the minority. I was often the only woman in the room, and I felt this burden of, if I say something, it better be the most well thought out, most intelligent thing, and not like just an idea off the top of my head or just, you know, something that’s a half formed thought.

but then I realized like when you think back to the best teams you’ve ever been a part of, and I had remembered being in a team early in my career actually, um, where, you know, we never knew the word psychological safety, but we had this group of people, there were probably eight to 10 of us, and we collaborated in a way that was like every single person fully participated.

every single person’s voice was heard equally. No one dominated. We had fun. We put out a great release and we respected everyone’s point of view. And I’m like, this is possible. I know this is possible. How did we do it? And so I, I worked on, you know, I certainly read Amy Edmondson’s work. I read the big Google study project, Aristotle.

I read everything I could find on it, and then I just started practicing. And by the time. It came to writing this book. I met this, I met this woman in Germany, in in a virtual class, Caroline Hek. And we both were realizing that there is lots of research about psychological safety and so many people buy into the idea that it’s important, but there’s little practical information on how to implement it.

And she reached out to me with a crazy idea saying, why don’t we try to write something? And that was the origin of the Psychological Safety Playbook, which just came out a little over two weeks ago. . But you know, I’ll give you an example of something in there that’s just very tangible that you can do, and especially for leaders.

I tried this when I was leading teams. It’s like people looked up to you. You have this sort of, you know, hierarchical power, whether you want it or not, or whether you believe in it or not, but you do. And people are watching your behavior. And if you say like you’re putting forth the strategy for the quarter, people are not gonna question you on it.

Generally. They might do it behind your back. But, so I wanted feedback and I would say, What am I missing? What have I not thought of? And that’s like one of the first things in our book is that powerful question of what am I missing? Because what you’re signaling, especially if you’re in a leadership position of any kind, is that you are not perfect.

You are not omniscient. You can’t possibly know everything, and you’re welcoming other perspectives. And you know, I know your podcast is particularly geared at the medical community. This is super, super important in a medical setting. And in fact, Amy Edmondson’s original research, you probably know, took place in the medical field and she found.

For example, if people are willing to challenge a doctor, someone who’s not a doctor, challenge a doctor, like, I think you made a mistake in dispensing this medication that can save someone’s life. But if that, for example, if it’s a nurse who doesn’t feel comfortable, challenging and saying, I think you might have made a mistake.

I think you might have missed something. Then, you know, a patient’s life could be at risk there. And that’s what she found in her research. So this is so critical that no matter how elevated your position, that you realize you can’t see everything. You can’t know everything, and you need to deliberately invite other people to call you out on that.

And you have to be open when they do challenge you to not getting defensive and saying, Thank you. I really hadn’t thought of that. And oh gosh, I really might have missed something here. And being open to those perspectives. So that’s one of the 25 tips that we have have in our book as a practical thing you can put into, into practice immediately.

Naji Gehchan: This is, this is great. And, uh, yeah, I had, I had the opportunity to interview actually on the podcast, Amy Edmondson, where, where she shared about her research. Um, and definitely in the healthcare system we see it, we see it everywhere, right? So I think you’re bringing great pieces on, speaking up on being vulnerable also as a leader and humble enough to say, Yeah, sometimes, I don’t know, sometimes I make mistakes.

Sometimes I want, like, I want the feedback, I want it back to me. Uh, so it’s really, uh, tho those are really great practical tips. You’re, um, you’re sharing with us, uh, you know, another piece on psychological safety, I, I never shared, uh, I’d love your reaction to this. Um, I, I was in a team where some people actually, you know, when you get into a managerial position, Again, like people would expect to know, uh, and because of a lack of psychological safety environment, people might keep on doing things, not knowing what are they doing, but just because they are afraid to say, I don’t know, because the expectation of the organization, they managers, they should know.

So this is for me how I started to be even more and more interested in psychological safety. But when I discovered at some point that part of my managers. Really never took a certain training on a specific capability, but actually they were afraid of saying that they never did it because everyone expected them to know.

Also, I think like there’s a lot of things around psychological safety that are super powerful and can be actually risky, as you said, in, in, in medicine where you might end up taking the wrong decisions for the patients you’re serving. If, if we talk about the challenges you faced as you were doing this as a practitioner, and I’m sure it’s in the 25 tips and advices you’re bringing, but what is the biggest challenge you faced as you were building this culture?

As you were building this, um, those really fundamentals pieces of leadership that you believe in, in your organizations with your managers too, who also manage people, uh, and how did you manage this, and how did you get around of those pieces? .

Minette Norman: You know, I think that the, the hardest piece was overcoming people’s resistance and defensiveness when we’re trying to drive change, when we’re trying to get them to work together.

Because there’s, I mean, I think there’s this fear. I, I do think a lot of resistance is fear-based, that if I work. with someone else and their idea actually comes out as the winning idea or you know, we adopt their technology or their methodology, then I will be diminished somehow and my skills will not be seen as, you know, top-notch skills because someone else’s solution one out.

So I think there’s a lot of ego involved in it, and I definitely saw that and, you know, people butting heads and not listening to each other. Just digging in and like, I’m only gonna advocate for my perspective. I’m not actually gonna listen to understand. Your perspective, and that’s why, you know, we have a whole chapter in our playbook on listening, because what I found is people were preparing how they were gonna respond and defend their position rather than truly listening to another person’s.

Idea or another person’s solution. And so that was why I focused so much on collaboration and all the skills around collaboration cuz I found that people would dig in and I think it’s based in fear and it’s based in ego. And even my own staff members, like I had sort of a disparate group of, of disciplines that reported to me and it wasn’t obvious how they could all work together.

So I was saying like if we’re trying to drive the company to work together, then we eight people need to work really closely together. But there was a little bit of like, that’s not my area. This is my expertise and I don’t wanna cross over. So I think it’s just this, you know, It comes back to biology and our brains in some ways, in that we feel defensive.

We go, we feel like if someone’s on our turf, if someone’s attacking our idea, we go into that fight, flight, freeze mode. That’s our amygdala taking over. Right? I think it comes into play. all the time in the workplace because we are feeling attacked in some way. And so what I had to learn, and I had to learn this myself, naji, I was actually one of those people that would, you know, snap at people if they attacked me or if they said, you know, that’s a bad idea.

I had to learn to actually calm my brain. And, you know, take that pause. If someone says, you know, Manette, that’s a, that idea’s never gonna work. Pause, take a breath. And then instead of, Defending or attacking back, just going. Okay. Can you explain to me why? I really wanna understand, you know, and that was a, that is something I’ve had to practice and I’ve had to try to get my staff members to practice.

Um, we, you know, one of the most useful things we ever did as a staff was we, we had someone in our organization who was an improvisation actor, and we did improv training. And it was that idea that let’s not shoot down one of, you know, one another’s ideas. In improv, you have to go Yes. And, and just continue the improv.

And so we put that into practice in our staff meetings. And it was, it was a funny thing, like we did this improv day. It was really fun. And then after that we followed up in our staff meetings. When we got back into those bad patterns of shooting down each other’s ideas or getting defensive, we would just use the phrase yes and, and it would remind.

To keep our minds open and to keep our hearts open. And so, you know, it’s a, it’s honestly an ongoing practice, but I think it’s, it’s super valuable.

Naji Gehchan: I love it. It was one of my best courses, improv leadership and, you know, taking the offer and building on it. So I, I have a follow up question on this cuz we talked about ego, about your idea being taken and obviously as you said, it’s something human, right?

Like it’s ingrained in us and sometimes you can get defensive, but I wanna touch on incentives also and as leaders, how you can build those system because somehow the incentive you bring. . If you’re gonna recognize at the end of the day the idea that won, probably you’re unconsciously creating this. Like you wanna have an idea that wins for you to be recognized.

So how did you think about all this? Like how, how did you incentivize people who idea didn’t won or. Do you even talk about ideas winning or, you know, or more like a we team winning, I’m, I’m intrigued about also the incentives team

Minette Norman: around those pieces. Yeah, we, I actually had to focus, this is such an important question, Naji, because I had to focus on that.

It’s like, what do we reward? How do we reward the behavior that we want to see? And it’s not an individual idea. It’s not an individual. So we actually started to put into place incentives for collaboration. So, and it was, it’s hard to measure this, but we started, so one of the things we would do, like, for example, for our annual summit, we rewarded teams that presented a paper together, you know, where a team from one group would present with a team.

From another on a shared solution. Everyone wins. Everyone is rewarded. You know, I would get up and, and you know, publicize these kinds of wins across collaboration. We started to do something a little geeky, but it was actually quite interesting is that we started to get metrics on. Who was, who was actually using code from another team in GitHub.

So we were measuring poll requests and like, oh, are they coming from other organizations? And then let’s, let’s elevate that and, and celebrate that. So we were finding all sorts of creative ways to recognize and reward. Collaboration and cross pollination of ideas rather than, you know, the brilliant genius who came up with something alone.

And that was not what we wanted. We wanted really, and so that was, we had a different reward center and, and certainly really elevating collaboration and, you know, cross pollination and not celebrating individuals as much.

Naji Gehchan: So what, what would you say for people who think if you don’t have enough competition, In between teams, you’re gonna lose on innovation.

So was collaboration bringing more innovation than putting people and making sure that egos fight and one wins, in other words?

Minette Norman: Oh, that’s so, that’s such an interesting one and I’m probably don’t even have a great, a great answer to that, but you know, I think, I mean, competition is also can be really healthy, right?

We all, I mean, I don. I’m competitive. I, I love games and I love to win games and like, I think that can be fueling good energy, not bad energy, but I think it can’t be based on like one winner and everyone else is a loser. It has to be that our overall goal is really to make this organization successful, make our customers successful, and that it has to be based in.

Bigger aspiration, you know, that we are, we’re changing the world. You know, whether, you know, your, your group’s in through medicine, but ours were through software that was really having very, very positive impacts on the world, and it has to have a greater meaning. So yes, we can compete to come up with the best solution.

It’s not. Because we’re gonna get a big bonus ourselves. It’s because the world is gonna be better. Our customer’s gonna have a new solution that I think can be healthy competition, but it’s not like the zero sum gain of everyone is, you know, someone’s gonna lose here. It’s that we are all working together towards a common goal and a common purpose.

And then competition can be healthy if it’s, you know, I think there has to be an element of fun in competition as opposed to cutthroat. I win, you lose, you know, type of, I

Naji Gehchan: love it. What’s your number one advice today for the leaders and transformational leaders? You are. You are helping out with your new

Minette Norman: organization.

I think the number one thing I would say is that you have to start with your own behavior. Your own self-awareness of how you interact with others before you can drive any kind of a transformation. So start with how are you listening? How are you reacting when people challenge you? How are you inviting, dissent?

And you can do this through little, little changes in in your next one-on-one meeting. In your next meeting, listen differently. Invite the quiet person to speak and. Take that pause if you’re gonna have a defensive reaction and don’t, don’t respond defensively. Just ask a curious question. And I think that if you start every day with this intention of I am gonna have better interactions at work and I am going to invite everyone to fully participate, you can make a huge difference.

And I think it’s a daily practice, honestly.

Naji Gehchan: So Vinetta, I’m gonna give you a word now. and I want to get your reaction to it. What comes first to mind? Oh boy.

Minette Norman: Okay,

Naji Gehchan: so the first one is leadership challenging. The second one is inclusive culture

Minette Norman: required. . Can you say more about it? Yes. Well, inclusive culture, if you, if you want to really benefit from every single individual in your organization, then you need to create a culture in which everyone can fully participate in which all of their ideas can come forth and which.

Each one of them can share their wild ideas and their brilliant ideas and their half baked ideas, and they will not be embarrassed or excluded. So the inclusive culture is what go, is going to create your breakthrough ideas. If everyone can fully be heard and seen and respected, but if people come to work feeling like, sorry, this is, we wouldn’t be well beyond one word , but if people come to work feeling like, I don’t dare speak up.

I’m gonna mask who I really am. You’re not gonna benefit from all the, the magic they have inside themselves.

Naji Gehchan: What about transformational leadership?

Minette Norman: This is still a one word answer.

Naji Gehchan: You can do more . Okay? It’s a two word. So you can do more

Minette Norman: Transformational leadership, I think. coming back to, it starts with you.

It starts with you. You have to be the leader that people want to work with, and you cannot drive transformation without everybody else around you. It’s not a one person job, so you have to be inviting, maybe I would say, you know, inviting is a really important word. You have to invite all the ideas and get everyone marching in the same direction, moving in the same direct.

Naji Gehchan: And the last one is spread love in organizations.

Minette Norman: Yeah. You know, it’s so funny when you, when I saw the name of this podcast, so you have that reaction. One has the reaction of love in organizations, and I would say to me, that’s about care. It’s about caring about every human being as a fellow human being.

So it’s caring. That’s love.

Naji Gehchan: any final word of wisdom? Milad Four leaders around the world.

Minette Norman: I would say that you have so much more power to change the workplace than you know, even if you’re not in the C-suite, if you’re a first line manager or any level of leadership, people are looking at you. They’re watching your behavior. They’re watching what you reward. They’re watching. What you ignore, and they’re watching what you punish.

And so you are in the spotlight whether you like it or not. And so pay attention and become, we say become bravely self-aware of your own behavior and how you’re showing up and show up in the way that is going to be inspiring to others because that’s, that’s what you have. You have that platform. Use it for.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much. That’s powerful words and a charge for us as leaders, uh, as we go forward leading our organizations and improving and changing the word. Thank you so much, Minette, for being with me today and this incredible chat.

Minette Norman: Thank you for inviting me, Naji. It’s been a pleasure.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this episode joined today by Phil Budden Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan focusing on ‘innovation-driven entrepreneurship’ (IDE) and innovation ecosystems. Phil’s approach combines academic, historical and real-world perspectives on how different stakeholders can all contribute to building successful innovation ecosystems. Prior to MIT, Phil had undertaken projects on innovation and entrepreneurship for the British Prime Minister’s office and served as the British Consul General to New England where he had been responsible for transatlantic business issues, including trade and investment, corporate/government affairs, as well as science and innovation. Phil has held several diplomatic posts with the British government:  British Cabinet Office; British Embassy, Washington DC; 1st Secretary and Adviser to the PM. Phil holds a BA and MA in History from Lincoln College, the University of Oxford; an MA in History and Government from Cornell University; and a PhD in History and International Political Economy from the University of Oxford.

Dr. Phil – it is such a pleasure to have you with me today.

Phil Budden: Naji, it is a pleasure to be with you. Thank you for having me on your podcast, and I’m looking forward to chatting.

Naji Gehchan: It’s a really special episode today, having a great diplomat who, uh, I had this pleasure to have as a professor at MIT during innovation entrepreneurship classes.

Uh, can you tell us, uh, Phil, more about your personal story from learning history to diplomacy and now teaching at m i t mm-hmm. . What’s, what’s in between this great, uh, journey you.

Phil Budden: Well, uh, nudge, it’s a great question and you were a great student. It’s one of the things I really enjoy about being at m i T.

So, uh, uh, yes, you went through my cv. I was training to be a historian. Uh, turned out I had a good memory. Um, for historical dates, I was an introvert. I loved reading, and so I wanted to be a historian and I was training to be a historian until history happened, and this will date me. Uh, but the Berlin Wall came down and so I pivoted and said, I don’t just want to study history, um, of the past because history is happening around us.

And so I pivoted to become a. I’d always been fairly international in my perspective. Speak a a few language.

Um, and so I always took a, a, a sort of more global perspective thing, so became a diplomat and had a wonderful 20 year career as a diplomat. Uh, and then had an opportunity to stay here in Boston. And I’m honored to be, uh, a senior lecturer at MIT’s management school. Um, having got a doctorate before going into diplomacy, I was nicknamed.

Dr. Phil, because there’s not many diplomats with doctorates and it seems to have stuck. And so, uh, I am not that Dr. Phil, I’m a different doctor Phil. Um, but that is how you find me at m i t now getting to teach great students like you. Oh,

Naji Gehchan: thanks. Thanks. Uh, Phil, uh, uh, uh, before going into, uh, where your focus is, uh, and what you worked on, you said I was an introvert, so I’m very interested with the past term.

And knowing you, I would have never said you are an introvert, so I, I’m, I’m like, I think we’re pretty similar. I’m an introvert too, so I, I’d love to hear mm-hmm. , why you said I was and did you work mm-hmm. on not becoming one, and it’s definitely not the perception that I think many of us have as your

Phil Budden: student.

That, that’s a great question. Now, Naji, I was and still am, uh, an introvert and it’s one of the things I’ve had to reckon with on my leadership journey when I was going to be an academic historian, it did ma did not matter that I was an introvert and loved research and study. , but through my diplomatic career, I had to, um, develop and evolve.

One of the misconceptions about introvert extrovert, um, comes down to that actually. They’re about the source of where we draw energy and we introverts draw our energy and recovery from stepping back from people and recovering and re. Uh, it doesn’t mean we’re any less sociable. Uh, you know, Naji, uh, and I are both very sociable people.

I’ve seen us at Ember parties, um, extroverts, however, get their energy from being around other people. And so for them it’s hard for them to be alone. So, yes, people are often surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert, but I think it’s important to do that because I think you can lead whether you recharge as an introvert.

By yourself or you recharge as an extrovert for some strange reason, wanting to be surrounded by people. Um, and that’s one of the things, uh, I’ve discovered. So I am, I, I reckon with my introversion, I can get up and I can teach, I can socialize, but then I need a chance to fall back. And often I will reach for a history book and just read about the world and recover in that way.

But I think it just shows that there’s a variety of ways of becoming a. . So true. And I think

Naji Gehchan: it it relates to if you love people, actually it doesn’t, you can be an introvert, love people. Mm-hmm. or extrovert love people. It’s just a matter that you need some time for yourself to recharge Exactly as you said.

Mm-hmm. . Exactly. But the key for, for leaders is obviously caring for others, right. As we’re gonna be discussing today. Yes. So you, you’ve seen and helped with the birth, uh, of several ideas. Uh, some of them turned into startup. Grew, uh mm-hmm. , what has been for you, the key for those who became successful ventures from all those that you’ve seen throughout the past years?


Phil Budden: It, it has been fascinating. I, I worked on innovation when I was in government and at, ill teach about innovation, uh, here at, at m i t and one of the very humbling things is, Just the sheer volume of ideas that people have that they want to take forward. And this is not limited to young male coders in hoodies creating the next digital dance app.

It turns out that people, you know, mid-career, um, who have not had a background in technology can also be great innovators. In fact, often they can be. Because they know the challenges of the world. They know the problems that need to be fixed, and I love being at M I T because we’re not obsessed with just the purely web-based digital apps we have.

Doctors and medical professionals who want to make the world better through innovation in their areas of expertise. We have people from national security and defense who want to make the world a more secure space through deep technology and hard technology. We have people who are interested in the energy transition and achieving climate net zero.

Which you’re not gonna do with digital dance apps. You need people who are going to work on fusion energy and carbon capture. Uh, and so it’s a privilege to be at m I t and just see amazing people, professors, students, the broader ecosystem coming up with ideas about innovation that’s actually gonna have meaning for them, and they will lead that innovation through to impact.


Naji Gehchan: you, you mentioned several times ecosystems and you’re passionate about it and you actually work on it. So can you help us a little bit more understand and share your view about what do you mean by ecosystems that can foster innovation and entrepreneurship?

Phil Budden: Uh, that’s a great question, and I’m drawing on some fabulous m i t professors research in this area.

The ecosystem term helps us to answer a question, why is the world not. You know, Tom Friedman told us 20 years ago, the world is flat. Uh, anything can happen anywhere. And in terms of innovation, it’s not flat. In fact, it’s not fair. There are perfectly good places and perfectly good people that are left behind by innovation.

And so ecosystem is, uh, a model to try to understand why does the best innovation happen in certain places. , um, Silicon Valley, Boston, Cambridge, London, on a good day. Uh, why does it not happen in other places? Perfectly good Places like Nebraska, Kentucky, um, Scotland, Wales. And so the ecosystem becomes our way to both answer that empirical question, but also to give us a framework to take things forward.

And the thing about an ecosystem, rather, like in biology, it’s. There’s a variety of different players and species. There’s a des there’s a variety of different assets and and nutrients. Some of them are in collaborative relationships. Some are predatory. Some are parasitic. But this ecosystem, organic model is something we’ve now taught for a decade based on prior research and seems to help us explain why things happen in some places and not in others.

So can you in a

Naji Gehchan: nutshell tell us.

Phil Budden: Happen. I can give you the framework. So this is where my, his, this is where my history kicks in. Um, and so the ecosystem model helps explain why the industrial revolution and started in England, despite its many problems, why it spread the way it did. And this is relevant today for the 21st century.

And I think really important as we head into the, uh, economic turbulence ahead. So ecosystems, In the places on the planet that do best at innovation, there are five key stakeholders, one of which is the entrepreneur. Then there’s the traditional ones in the so-called triple helix of government, university, and big business.

Now, if a committee of government, university and big business was enough to solve problems, we’d all be rich. The challenge. That’s not enough to have a committee. You need to have the entrepreneur at the table because they’re the ones who are creating the enterprises of the future. And one of the things I’ve discovered in my corporate innovation research and teaching is sometimes big companies find it awfully hard to innovate, even if they came from an innovative startup.

So you do need entrepreneurs to keep refreshing that. Uh, and as you’ll have spotted, there’s a fifth one, and that is what we called risk. So venture capital is a form of that, but also angel investing, private equity, corporate venture capital, the ones who are willing to to fund the entrepreneurs. And so this five stakeholder model seems to apply around the world.

We’ve taught this in an M I T program called reap. We’ve now worked with 80 teams from all of the major continents, from most of the different political systems. The same five stakeholders seem to matter whether you are in Chile or China. Beirut or Paris. And so this is a model that is informed by our research, but also seems to be a framework for those who want to make a real difference and lead for impact in companies and communities that matter to them.

Thanks for

Naji Gehchan: sharing this framework. Uh, what is the role of leadership and all?

Phil Budden: Oh, leadership is key. So the word innovation, people when they hear this, they sometimes think it’s technology that all you need is a piece of technology, and M I t produces lots of technology. All you need is the app or access to the cloud or a fusion reactor.

Well, The M I T approach to innovation is the technology is important, but it’s not enough. You need to have leadership to go from the technology and the idea to impact, because the biggest challenge is not the technology, it’s usual, the people, the processes, and the systems. How do you bring the technology to bear?

Innovation does not happen spontaneously or sustainably without leadership. And so I spend a lot of my time working with executives saying, y Y. You may no longer feel that you are the most entrepreneurial tech savvy or innovative person in your organization, but if you are in a leadership role, Your leadership is crucial at empowering people around you, supporting them to, to spread the love about innovation and make it safe for people to, to innovate.

And so leadership really is the deciding factor within ecosystems, but also within companies and sectors. I love it.

Naji Gehchan: And how you frame that, leadership takes those innovative tech to

Phil Budden: impact Yeah. Out. They don’t get that by themselves. Well, a

Naji Gehchan: totally different question, uh, about diplomacy. I, I, do you miss being a

Phil Budden: diplomat?

Um, it was, that’s a great question. It was a great honor to be a British diplomat. Um, my final job was British Consult General to New England. Um, and especially to m i t. Uh, it was a great privilege to serve my country and my queen. Um, So I miss aspects of that. But the interesting thing is, I, I still find myself performing little d diplomacy.

Um, it turns out before diplomacy had become the action of of nation states, lots of people could be diplomatic. And so I actually think there are lessons from diplomacy, including in innovation ecosystems. You know, the way that an executive from a corporation engages the rest of the ecosystem requires a form of dis diploma.

Um, in the theory of diplomacy, it’s often regarded as the, uh, the mediation of estrangement, coping with differences, and so understanding the differences between a corporate leader at a startup venture between a government official and a university academic. So one of the things I find myself teaching some of the students, though not you yet Naji, is how to take these diplomatic approaches and to think like a diplomat, because it’s not the same as just command and control within a company if people still do that, uh, it’s not the same as, you know, between a professor and a student.

It really does require respect, understanding, and a realization that we sometimes speak different languages when we talk about innovation and technology, even if it’s all in some form of.

Naji Gehchan: That’s, that’s great to, to have this kind of how you’re transfer one part of diplomacy and I agree. Like we’re diplomats talking with people, managing relationship is super important in what we do.

Yeah. What, what, what is your view, uh, I don’t know if it’s a politically correct question, but I’d love your current view on global diplomacy in this ongoing craziness. I would say in the word and unfortunate things

Phil Budden: happening. Yes. , I think it just reminds us that diplomacy is even more important than than ever.

Land war has sadly returned to Europe. Um, and so there’s also a needed for hard edged defense, but diplomacy never stops. And so ultimately we’re still going to be living along alongside each other as nations. And so diplomacy as the way to mediate, estrangement, um, is going to be necessary. And diplomacy is not just with your friends and all.

It’s with your competitors and adversaries. And so I think it’s through diplomacy that we actually need to address these issues, that we need to come to some sort of halt in hostilities in the war that we need to manage the rise of other powers in Asia, respecting differences, but also coming up with some, some basics.

And so I actually think while the focus is on defense and the military, Diplomacy is going to be hugely important, uh, especially in the regions. I’m looking at more now, uh, the Middle Eastern Africa, where I think understandings, conflict prevention, shared prosperity are going to be really important. And I think some of the diplomatic tools, uh, respecting differences, acknowledging that we speak, uh, different languages, even if we’re.

Basically speaking, you know, English or Arabic or French or Spanish. Understanding those differences and managing those differences, I think is gonna be important. So, oddly, at the start of 2023, I think diplomacy is needed even more.

I’m gonna give you now

Naji Gehchan: one word and I would love your reaction to it. So the first word is

Phil Budden: leadership. Ah. Essential leadership is essential. Without it, we don’t make progress. And this is not just leadership. For those who are technically in leadership roles, loads of individuals can show leadership in loads of different ways.

What about entrepreneurship? Entrepreneurship is hugely important. It’s not the same as innovation. You can be entrepreneurial with a very low innovation, low tech venture. All of those people who are running corner stores or um, uh, Uh, bread stalls that I saw in Jordan in Egypt, or mum and pop stalls or pizza stores.

That’s a form of entrepreneurship and we should welcome people being brave to be entrepreneurial. We just shouldn’t confuse it with innovation and the real gamechanging changes that we need. The third word is

Naji Gehchan: console.

Phil Budden: Console. I was a console. Um, it means you are operating in a region. You are not the ambassador because the ambassador is the representative to the sovereign country.

Uh, so a console is a form of diplomat and it’s. It was my honor to be a consult for the late, uh, her Majesty the Queen, and it gave me a great opportunity to work with partners across New England, but also realize that I was just one small part of a global diplomatic network. And it was my job to show local leadership, but leadership in support of the wider network’s efforts.

The last word

Naji Gehchan: is thread love in

Phil Budden: organiz. Well, I, I’m British, so, and, and male, so it’s hard for me to talk about this love thing, but I love the initiative that you’ve shown Naji about spreading love because it reminds us that at the end of the day, , it’s about people. You know, we were talking about innovation.

Innovation is more than just technology. Uh, innovation can be of business models or processes and people. And as much as the pandemic had us thinking about technology and being remote and, and it’s great, you know, you and I get to chat and you get to record this, that is lovely, but at the end of the day, it’s about people.

And the diplomat in me thinks it’s about connecting people. And so you need to spread that love and joy and leadership can do. But so could pretty much any member of an organization, some of the most joyful people for me to work with are the ones I stroll in, uh, who greet me at the office and we chat about their lives and, you know, the challenges.

And so I think it’s really important to, to spread love, not least because it reminds us about leadership is about the people.

Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom felt for leaders

Phil Budden: around the. . Um, it is with considerable modesty that I as a aging white middle class Brit, uh, offer advice in global contexts. Um, but leadership is really important.

Leadership is the only thing that’s really made a difference through history. And it’s not just leaders of countries who are elected or selected. It’s about leaders of companies, leaders of universities, leaders within communities, leaders of families. And so I think leadership is the thing that makes the difference.

So I encourage people to think what kind of leadership could they? Um, respect diversity. Uh, I am an introvert. My leadership is in small bursts, after which I need to recover. Uh, others will be able to show leadership in, in different ways, but be thoughtful about your leadership. Be respectful of the people.

Um, leadership without followership. Is just emptiness. So think about what is AU leadership authentically in your area, and think through to the impact. What, what are you leading towards? What difference are you going to make in the world? Um, how are you gonna make sure that all the right people are involved and that you’re having a positive impact?

Well, thank you

Naji Gehchan: so much Dr. Phil for being with me today. It was an incredible chat. Thanks for being.

Phil Budden: Naji, my pleasure. And I wish you lots, uh, of good luck with spread love. Keep up the good work. Thank you.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this podcast joined today by Navin Goyal, a physician and entrepreneur who serves as CEO of LOUD Capital, an early-stage venture capital and alternative investment firm leveraging capital, entrepreneurship, and education to grow impactful companies across the globe. Bringing his physician training to do good for people, Navin strives to make venture capital more purpose-driven, inclusive, and accessible.  Before co-founding LOUD Capital, Navin practiced anesthesiology in a large hospital-based setting and was the Medical Director of a community hospital for several years. The beginning of his entrepreneurial journey was co-founding OFFOR Health (formerly SmileMD), a venture-backed mobile healthcare company that expands access to care across the United States with a dedicated focus on lower-income and rural communities. Navin is also author of the book Physician Underdog where he shares more about his story and impact that we will also hear more about today!

Navin – it is such a pleasure to have you with me today.

Navin Goyal: Naji, thank you for having me. I appreciate the kind introduction.

Naji Gehchan: I’m so intrigued by your story from med school to being a clinician and now venture capital. Can you share a little bit more with us about your personal story and what’s in between the lines of this incredible journey of impact you have in healthcare?

Navin Goyal: Yeah, so let’s see if I can do a relatively abridged version. Um, you know, wanted to be a physician, went to med school, became an anesthesiologist, and that was my goal.

And so like many things, when you reach your goal, you’re, you know, uh, it’s great, but it’s not necessarily everlasting. It’s, it’s like, what is the next goal for me? I thought that was it. I was in a great private practice, had great partner. Uh, it was very fulfilled, but over time, um, like many physicians nowadays pretty openly say, you know, there’s a little bit of boredom that happens because you are an expert in your field.

Your learning curve goes a little bit more flat. And we are so used to learning so much information that when that stops, unless you’re doing a lot of other things in your personal life or, um, extracurriculars, um, you still yearn to learn more. And I was no different. I just didn’t know what that looked like.

So I started reading at the age of 30, I started reading books, which my parents told me growing up, read, read, read. I never was that kid. I was like, no, I don’t think I don’t like books. I only will read what I need to for school. So I started leisure reading and the age of 30, I know this sounds funny, um, and I got lost into some fictional stuff, but really got veered into the non-fiction.

Entrepreneurship and inspirational stories about people pursuing a higher purpose, leaving their place of comfort because they felt so strongly about something. During that time, I’m started angel investing, you know, investing in some startups locally here in Columbus, Ohio, where the startup scene was really starting to to heat up, and I got inspired by these entrepreneurs that I was investing in.

So they not only were companies I invested in, they were also now relationships that. Was very curious about, and I was trying to learn as much as I could. So that really opened up the world of entrepreneurship to me. And then in 2014, had the opportunity to start a company with, uh, two other anesthesiologists.

Uh, called SMILE md, which is a mobile anesthesia company. So the anesthesia part, we knew all the business stuff, everything around it. We did not, but it was comfortable enough for us to move forward knowing that there was many unknowns, but we, we had each other. We knew anesthesia and we all figure it out.

And so what I just said is not knowing some things and we will figure it. Is what I have embraced. And I think it’s really hard for us physicians to say that statement and act on it because many of us have followed this rigorous path, but this path was known and by the end of it, you will be an expert if you pass these, if you have some experience, if you do all these things, you will be an expert.

There’s no guarantee in the entrepreneurial world, in fact, most of the world, there’s no guarantees like. So I think it was embracing a little bit of that discomfort, having people encourage each other, learning along the way. And guess what? Now today, the company employs about a hundred people. We’re in several states.

We have insurance companies as clients, and, and, and it’s been nine years, by the way. So this is not something that happened overnight. But how we look at entrepreneurship is we built something that’s now serving kids all over the country. So over 30,000 kids. We’ve, um, done anesthesia on in various practices around the country, and we’re serving kids that were not being served by the hospital or medical systems around.

They’re so backlogged with other types of procedures, so I’ll pause there, but that’s, that’s one way that’s really empowered me in the world of entrepreneurship.

Naji Gehchan: Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this. You know, I, as we chatted a little bit before, I relate so much to what you’re saying also in the entrepreneurial journey.

It’s, it’s funny, it’s kind of, you know, our company we, we founded some while ago is also nine years. Um, and the impact that you’ve done for those 30,000, uh, kids, as you said is, is really so powerful. So it’s not only entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship with impact, and I think this is something that you’re taking now.

In your new venture as, as a c e o of, of loud. So I, I would, I would like to start with this, you know, every, like those two letters. usually create a reaction. You know, I, I won’t say positive or negative, but VC always has a reaction with entrepreneurs. Yep. And you’re leading an early stage venture capital, uh, firm, really focusing on good for people as I read.

So it’s not usually how the VC word I would say is perceived. So I’m really intrigued about your vision. and what are you doing in, in this VC word and

Navin Goyal: how you’re doing it? Yeah, it’s, it’s a, it’s a great question. And so continuing my story, my lens of entrepreneurship started out with building an impactful company.

So I told you we take care of a lot of kids and these kids, um, Are on Medicaid. So these kids have long waits at hospital systems, nine to 12 months, sometimes 24 month wait to get dental extractions. Okay? And so what our company does is we get that done within a month. We get it done in their community and the office that they were diagnosed in, and we get it done without them leaving their community hours away to a medical system waiting months, months, months, even years.

And we get it done. So, We are saving money on the system. We’re saving progression of disease. We’re saving, uh, time. We’re saving discomfort from the families, and we’re making it all work. And it’s actually an alignment of stakeholders. Insurance companies, patients, providers, physicians, you name it, are aligned.

And so what that does is it creates a light bulb moment of, wait a second, you can create something for profit supported by all these stakeholders. That are in alignment while employing great people, working really hard, purp, it’s very purpose driven. We see the results. So wait, wh why don’t we continue to support companies that are doing this?

And so as I was building, uh, SMILE MD and um, really talking about this all the time, so I would go to work. All I could do was talk about it. And I was also an angel investing. You can imagine people are like, Navine, what are you? . Like we’re we’re, we’re at this practice here, but I couldn’t stop talking and thinking about it.

So then people were like, how do I get involved in your world? How do I get exposure to that? I wanna learn some stuff. I want some energy. Wait, I have some capital. How do I invest in this world? So that’s where in 2015 I started a fund. It was more of an angel fund to invest in these types of companies because again, my lens of entrepreneurship.

Impactful driven companies. And by the way, there are companies that are out there that don’t necessarily move the needle on people or productivity or really solving a problem. It’s, let’s say selling a product that’s a little better than this product. And we’re trying to, um, take market share from another company.

Okay. And there’s opportunity to make money off those. And so what clicked for me is like, Hey, I want to make money. I want people to make. , but let’s also feel really good about it. And that’s actually why I sleep well at night because I am supporting and investing in companies that are doing good things for people like our family and our friends, and people I know, and that just feels really good.

So I just consider it a higher standard that traditional venture capital looks at. How can we make money off these companies? My lens is how can we make money off these companies while. Further supporting the people around us. And it sounds really simple maybe, but it’s not. And it doesn’t happen enough.

And that’s where I think VC gets a really. Bad name because there’s a lot of fuel that goes behind companies that really aren’t adding value, and they might make a ton of money or they might go up bankrupt. But either way, there was no value to society outside of maybe some wealthy investors. And so I want investors to be wealthy, but I also want them to know that their money went towards pushing things that they care about for their own families or kids.

Naji Gehchan: I love this. This is so, you’re saying simple, but as you said, I think it’s really complex and obviously the word is not there yet. So I, I’m intrigued by, you talked about obviously the profit side of things. Yeah. So the timeframe I imagine for those type of investment might not be the same. The KPIs you are looking for might not be similar because it.

only about profit. You’re actually looking on impact, actually profit for stakeholders. So I’m interested, like how do you look at these

Navin Goyal: things? Yeah, actually the, we’re not looking at different metrics in the sense of time to exit or acquisition. So if you think about relevant companies today in 2023, people care now about the purpose behind a brand.

They care about who’s behind the brand, what they stand for, more than ever, right? And so, For me, it’s having a culture and leadership and solving a problem that is relevant to me as a consumer or a customer that doesn’t slow down the process of an acquisition. In fact, to me it elevates it. And so what we’ve seen is we have an accelerated, uh, kind of record.

We have a great track record. We’ve had exits. Our first exit came after, uh, a company of four years. And so investors got, you know, capital back and people are happy. Yeah, I, I no longer have to prove anything with just my words. It’s been the action that we’ve taken. And, you know, today also there’s a lot more of, uh, a movement of emerging fund managers.

You know, newer fund managers, even if they’re operationally experienced or have great entrepreneurial backgrounds, they’re now running funds with more of this thesis of impact. Now impact used a lot, but the way I described it deeply into problem solving, deeply into I, I, I believe in servant leadership.

You know, I believe in investing in people who are gonna treat their own people well, not just the problem they’re solving. So it’s like this whole comprehensive model of supporting good companies, good people that employ good people, that serve people. And there’s money to be made and there’s value to be created.

You’re, you’re

Naji Gehchan: touching on so many incredible aspects, you know, it is really this podcast that’s built on this. So I’m, I, I’m really so honored to have you here and talk about this. You talked about culture. You talked about servant leadership, um, and these are things you look at and the company is really based out of purpose, right?

Like purpose driven companies. Yeah. So how do you put all this into perspective and what are the key aspects? I would say when you’re looking at the founding team and you say like, yes, this is a founding team that has those. and you wanna invest in them. Like how, what, what are the key aspects? You’re looking in the founders and what is the culture Yeah.

Navin Goyal: You’re looking for. That’s, that’s great. And, and it’s taken some time over the years to really pin it down to answer this question. Um, and obviously there’s, there’s, there’s chemistry, there’s ability to work with, with a portfolio company cuz when you meet a team or founder, And you decide to move forward after your diligence process, et cetera.

There needs to be a healthy chemistry to say, we can work together. Cuz basically you’re committing to each other for several years at least to say, we’re gonna be working and building this business. And, and by the way, the, the name loud capital came from being loud and active investors. Not silent investors because even people who write large checks, they’re either very busy or they look at this as a, an investment financially, you know, mainly, , I look at it again as holistically as you’re solving a problem, how can we help and, and, you know, knock down some obstacles alongside you.

So our, our team and our culture is very entrepreneurial. Um, and that’s what’s exciting that we, we, we don’t look at it as just an investment business. Um, and so in doing so, there’s, there’s a chemistry. Um, there is a humility that needs to occur. So really, if you think about really, really ambitious, intelligent, and capable people, Right.

If they have all that without humility, then they, their learning journey will not be as great. Uh, they probably won’t attract, um, as many people as they can. They probably won’t attract the right people, I should say. Um, there’s something, that connection that we have in our team, the chemistry, keep talking about, we are attracted to that humility because no matter what we do, our team members, like I have partner.

Hear at Loud that are brilliant. Like they, I, I’m, they inspire me and they teach me so much every day, but they have a humility to them. And I think that is a necessary thing to have in founders and teams. And by the way, there’s been some groups or some teams who we’ve realized don’t have that level of humility and they’ve come into problems because of that.

And sometimes it’s really hard to, to, to pinpoint what it was. But my, you know, after processing a lot of things for a while and we have over 70 portfolio companies now, and, uh, I’ve co-founded three, uh, four now. Um, you just learn a lot and you learn a lot about the people that run into more problems than others.

Now, because of the market, now because of your industry, I really think there’s a level of humility that’s needed to really excel, um, really in life. But I’m talking specifically in this.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thanks for that. Um, I’d love to learn more about, you know, you’ve been a clinician, you’ve done med school, you told us your story, and now, now in vc, is there kind of a common thread or common learning that you took with you throughout your journey that you would never change, or it’s something that now is part of your signature as a leader?

Navin Goyal: That’s, that’s interesting you say that. I just had a discussion for an hour before this, um, before getting on a call with you. Um, I believe I’m an empowered individual and when I reflect on the things I’ve done and the things I’ve tried and put myself out there, um, I’m empowered and I. . I am privileged to have had that early, and right now I’m trying to figure out how to pass that on more to other people, including my own kids.

I think when you’re an empowered individual, whatever situation you’re in, you have this hat on that says, I’m gonna try to figure this out, and I’m, I’m the one that can do it. I’m not gonna rely on someone, Hey, I can use help. I can ask for help. I can do all these things, but I can. and imagine empowered kids around the world this moment if every kid was empowered.

Um, how really these small things can, you know, largely change the world. Lar largely change what we think of ourselves and what we can do in our capabilities. And even if we fall flat, right? Like, that’s okay. I learned that I’ve fall, I’ve fallen many times, but I feel like the pressure we put on ourselves to not fall.

Is is silly. It should really be the pressure of staying down, right? We’re gonna fall, but don’t put pressure on yourself of, you know, Hey, I just fell. Well, let’s not think about it. Just get up and let’s keep going. So, , I think empowered is the word that has been with me, and I am grateful for it, and it’s taken me a while to really process it.

Uh, but my goal and, and even doing these podcasts, to be frank, is, is to talk so people hear this and feel like they can do it too, whatever they want to do. Small or big.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you, Navine. This is, this is powerful and I think it’s inspiring for, uh, many of, uh, our listeners. I, I would give you now a word and I’d love your reaction to it.

The first one is leadership.

Navin Goyal: Yes. Serving is, is what it, what comes to mind. ,

Naji Gehchan: can you tell us a little bit more how you would define

Navin Goyal: servant leadership? Yeah, yeah, and it’s probably interesting to give the context of that’s a, that’s a changed attitude for me. I thought leader, especially when I was transitioning out of my medical job into running loud capital, I really thought I had to know.

more than everyone else. I had to kind of walk into a meeting and really set the tone. I like. I had this pressure on myself of a leader being more of a top-down approach. Now I look at leadership as it’s really now about me. What I know, it’s really about the people that are in the room, what they know, and trying to aggregate that or accumulate that into.

Common direction. And, and in order to do that, you have to listen more, speak less. You have to be able to accept that more people around the table might run the meeting and talk. And you are sometimes chiming in and learning. You’re constantly learning. So I think, and then the other thing is serving, which, which is going to each individual in your organization or your leadership team if you’re a larger company.

And ensuring that they have all the tools, they are empowered and that they’re being heard so they can be optimized, content and fulfilled. And if they are, that will, that will increase their obviously fulfillment, but productivity, right? They’re at your, let’s say company, then they were, they are optimized and that will optimize their teams under them or around them.

And what that does as a leader, It optimizes you. It fulfills you. It be makes you become more productive. So it doesn’t start with you. It actually ends with you. And so in a line, I’m not the front. I’m the last. That’s why I think about serving.

Naji Gehchan: This is, this is really so great, you know, and as you were talking about it, I’m thinking like this transformation, right?

And when you get to transformational leadership, uh, as, as, as we grow, and I love going back to physician, right? I think mm-hmm. , sometimes as a physician, everyone looks at you and say like, you should know, right? Like, you are making decisions, you’re diagnosing. And suddenly here as a leader, I love how you framed it.

It’s about. Not what you know, but rather what people in the room know and how you’re gonna foster this and empower them to, to a better outcome for, for the company and the group. The second word I have in mind is health equity.

Navin Goyal: Yes. Um, health equity, what comes to mind, um, is the opportunity to be healthy for all.

And so, What I’ve realized is how much of a kind of privileged situation that I’ve grown up in even the hospital system. Um, I’ve seen a lot of variety of cases. It’s a very large hospital system, but what I didn’t know is how many people weren’t able to reach even the hospital system I worked in. And so one of the things that opened my eyes, um, Two is is, is health equity, where when we were building SMILE MD and we’re serving a lot of kids on, on Medicaid, and I would hear about these long waits and at the same time my, my two girls who are now 14 and 12 were young.

Um, I have private insurance and if they, something happened dental wise, I could probably get that done within a week by making a few phone calls because I had private insurance. And I was like, wait a second. What are the parents thinking right now of that child that’s waiting 12 months of this kid being in pain?

And they can’t do this. They can’t do the same thing. They can’t call someone and say, let’s get them in. And so to me that’s what health equity is in a very real practical level. We’ve been in so many, um, meetings where we’re building this company and we have to remind ourselves what we’re doing for these kids.

And I constantly think about my own kids and I’m like, why me as a parent? Why do I have a different avenue and accelerated avenue than other people? And you know, you apply that to so many things. Access to care in general, access to basic fundamental things of, uh, a safe home, nutrition, all these things that, that are contribute to health, mental health.

Um, that’s what health equity means to me. And I’m. Grateful to be able to participate in some of the change, but obviously we need more people and more eyes and more knowledge, uh, that the health equity spectrum is so bad. I can’t

Naji Gehchan: agree more with you. The third word is

Navin Goyal: innovation. Innovation. So it’s kind of a funny word cuz it’s used so much now.


I would say what comes to mind is fearless, so not having fear of trying something new, not having fear of breaking down a system that’s not serving us or serving the people We initially. Started this system for, um, and not being afraid to listen to everyone, because I feel like sometimes when it comes to innovation, there’s a circle or panel of experts , and who determines that?

We probably do, okay, you’ve done this, you’ve done this. Like for example, there might be someone out there one day that calls me an expert on something. As soon as they plant that label on me, I’m screwed. That’s, that’s not true. Like I’ve learned a lot, but I’m still one person with a bunch of silly ideas.

But, so as a, a 10 year old kid with a bunch of silly ideas, let’s put it on the table and see what sticks and try it out. So, so those are some things that come, uh, to mind with innovation. The last one

Naji Gehchan: is spread glove and organiz.

Navin Goyal: Spread love in organizations. Ugh. I love it. Um, so I believe in leading with love.

And so when we’re talking about, um, the example I gave you where I’m talking to someone in my company and I’m listening and I’m, I’m seeing how can they be better? How can you know, how can they be fulfilled? Like that is love. And if you apply that to everything, to organizations, to people you work with, to your employee, To, to people at home when you come from work that is leading with love, so that that’s what comes to mind.

Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom, David? For healthcare leaders around the world.

Navin Goyal: Yeah. So I think when we, um, talk about healthcare leaders, we immediately go to the vehicle of clinical and hospital systems. But when we talk about the health of people, right? There’s so many factors there. And I’m gonna give you one example and, um, you know, there was a, uh, a panel I did for a group of college student.

Um, and one of the things, uh, it was a, a great discussion and I was a young lady who came over to me, uh, she was a first or second year in college, and she said, you know, I really love your story. I want to be a doctor. Um, you know, I, I love, just would love some encouragement. And I said, oh, that’s great. I’m like, you know, why do you wanna be a doctor?

And she said, well, I grew up really poor and my parents didn’t have great access to. So I want to be a doctor because I wanna help my family and I wanna help people like my family. And I said, that’s amazing. I’m like, going down the route of becoming a physician is not easy. It takes a long time, but you want to help families like yourself, like what you grew up in.

You know, there’s other ways to help people. Right? What about being an entrepreneur and building companies where you. Uh, deliver services. Take great people in hospital systems and go to your home. Um, improve the quality of, I mean, let’s talk about, you know, wifi, right? The internet and because there’s so many houses that don’t have it, have an electronics to be able to access care, access Telehealth.

Right, so my, my point is there are so many ways to help the health of people. It doesn’t need to be in a clinical vehicle. And so I encourage healthcare leaders to think that way, where if you can get a leadership role that doesn’t necessarily have to do with only clinical, you can positively impact. A more holistic picture, and that’s kind of what I talk about with venture capital and all these other businesses.

It doesn’t have to be clinical and the fact that we went through medical school, or let’s say we’re talking healthcare leaders in general, the fact that you have some clinical background to take care of people, apply that in other vehicles, right? You have that intention, you have some experience. Now expand that application to a much broader, in to much broader industries and corporations and organizations.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much, Navin, for being with me today and empowering us through your great words and experience. Thanks.

Navin Goyal: Thank you so much for having me.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this podcast joined today by Semyon Dukach, Managing Partner at One Way Ventures, the venture capital fund backing exceptional immigrant tech founders who are building great companies like Brex, Momentus Space, and Chipper Cash. Semyon is a refugee from the Soviet Union and formerly the Managing Director of Techstars (Boston). Prior to Techstars, he was a prolific angel investor and a friend of the startup community. Semyon has made over 100 angel investments, including early investments in Quanergy, SMTP.com, and Wanderu. Xconomy lists Semyon as a top angel investor in New England. His philosophy has been to focus on helping his founders at all costs. Prior to becoming a full-time angel, Semyon co-founded several technology companies including Vert and Fast Engines. Fast Engines was sold to Adero in 2000. Beyond startups, Semyon is known for leading one of the MIT blackjack teams in the early 90s to beat the casinos. Semyon earned his B.S. from Columbia University and M.S. from MIT, both in Computer Science.

Semyon – it is such an honor to have you with me today.

Semyon Dukach: Thanks for having me.

Naji Gehchan: We would love first to hear your incredible personal story from immigrating to MIT beating casinos in blackjack and now being a VC focused on impact investing in exceptional tech immigrants. It feels like a full circle, but we’d love to hear more about t from you.

Semyon Dukach: Yeah. You know, I, I started some companies and then I gravitated fairly early in my career towards investing. I realized, Uh, the customers I wanted to serve were the startup entrepreneurs and that I enjoyed being involved in multiple things in parallel, um, and was also fairly good at the, actually making money at it.

Uh, so, uh, I basically started gradually investing, um, more and more of whatever money I had. And as I started doing better as an investor, I had the exits and I rolled it all over. Um, to where, yeah, eventually, uh, maybe, um, 12 or 13 years after I started move, being an investor, I was like one of the most active people, uh, in the part of the world in New England.

But then actually I didn’t just immediately go to the venture fund. I was recruited to run the Techstars, uh, accelerator here in Boston. Um, uh, which at the time was quite early, but it was still already very successful. Had a great track record. It was a much stronger program than other programs like it.

and I was, you know, surprised cuz I’ve never, never had to work within any larger organization. But it was a little bit of a franchise and that, like the Boston group, uh, operated somewhat autonomously at the time. And, um, I took that on. And so that was actually my first kind of semi institutional investing experience we had.

I, I guess I ran four, uh, four groups, um, over three years. Um, A total of about 48 or 50 companies. Um, and those have done well as well. And there I really learned more about like, mentoring not just individuals, but doing groups of CEOs, working with the venture capital investors and connecting, you know, people making it more likely that they can tell a better story and raise money they need.

Um, and, uh, it was a little bit of a public facing role. Now there’s demo days, you know, it’s, it’s a large, large gathering of the whole community, uh, every year. Um, so, you know, it was fun. And that’s when I first dabbled a little bit with, uh, not just taking local companies, but bringing some companies over from Europe.

Um, which had mixed results, I would say. But after doing it for a few years, I, I felt it was a little too comfortable for me. It wasn’t as challenging, you know? Um, I wanted to do something of my own from scratch, something more global or something with a, with a mission and impact that I really cared about.

Cause I think, I think any kind of investing organization like any other startup needs to have some purpose other than how much money it’s gonna make. I think it’s really, it’s a good thing to, to have, it helps motivate your team. It helps keep people, you know, going through the hard times. . Um, and um, ultimately if you really believe in what you’re doing, you’re probably gonna do better than than folks who lack that belief, right?

You’re gonna work harder, you’ll be, you’ll have an easier time recruiting, you’ll have better deal flow. So, ended up, uh, picking this, uh, focus on immigrants because, I mean, I am, uh, an immigrant, or at least my parents were, you know, I was young when I came here. We were refugees. Um, I found most of like, um, most of my friends, but also a large number of the startups I invested in as an angel had immigrant founders.

Anyway. and, um, it just seemed like the right time. I mean, Donald Trump was just elected and, um, there was a bit of a backlash against people coming in. Right. So it, the time seemed right to, to make a stance and to say, you know what, we’re only gonna invest in immigrants cuz immigrants are more likely to build big unicorns than.

People ho born here, right? It’s a very strong filter. When you’ve gone through what you’ve gone through in order to move to another country, learn a cultural language, you know, rebuild your network. It’s predictive of resilience and future success. You’ve gone through more than someone in an equivalent position with an easier path who was already born here.

Um, in a sense, you know, immigration is almost like your first company. It’s like an entrepreneurial thing, right? Like getting yourself re-situated is, is quite a task. Um, and so yeah, we, we built the whole fund around that concept. We raised, I left Techstars, we raised, uh, first 28 million was the first fund, and we invested that and had a bunch of interesting outcomes and were able to raise a second fund that was twice as big as 57.

Um, and we are about halfway through investing that one at this point. So that, that’s what I did today. I, I typically, like the angel phase is long over. I, I don’t write angel checks. I’m full-time capital investor, uh, right now.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much, Samuel, for share sharing, uh, your story with us. Uh, I I’m gonna double click immediately on the VC impact and specifically for, um, for immigrant exceptional immigrants as you.

You shared a little bit about the philosophy behind it, so I’m interested if you can give a little bit more, uh, your, your words insight, how you ended up really thinking immigrants, and I can relate. Um, you know, I’ve been immigrant couple of times, so, uh, I’d love to get your insights on this. And really when you started and had this idea where you said, I’m gonna move and only invest on immigrant startups and entrepreneurs, Uh, you, you said you had good funds, uh, joining you.

Was it hard for people to believe it? I’m interested in the reaction about this, because you said you went through the stance in a moment of even like some tension, you know, politically or beyond, so I’m interested how you managed to convince people around

Semyon Dukach: it. I, I suspect it was probably easier because the, the people who didn’t.

What the administration were doing felt angry and they felt strongly and they, they, uh, knew that America was built on immigrants really. And what America’s success at attracting people from all over the world is largely, uh, related to, to how, how wealthy and successful America is today. Right. Um, people know that.

And so, They were frustrated and I think it was easier to get their attention. But at the end of the day, like we decided not to make an impact fund for the purpose of helping the people we invest in, right? Like of course we help because that’s what we do as investors. We help the companies, we give ’em money, you give add value, so they pick your money and not someone else’s.

But, um, and because that’s the fun part, but the act, the selection itself, the act of writing the. It’s fundamentally not a philanthropic exercise for us. Like we are not a fund that, uh, invests in people because. They’re under capitalized because they have trouble raising money from others. We’re not there to help people who struggle struggling with fund fundraising.

Right. Uh, on a contrary raising, think, you know, we have our beliefs, we have our passion. We love investing in immigrants. We wanna see a world that’s more open. We ideally want to see that any person, regardless of where, wherever they happen to be born, should be able to like switch their passports at will and join whatever country they want to be a part of.

And all countries should be open to everyone. Uh, I mean, obviously not the people who come and, you know, commit crime or whatnot, but you know, you could, you should be able to police crime the same way for new arrivals. As for existing, uh, people like it. I, I would like to believe. The random paperwork that you happen to have received when you were born is completely outside of your control.

Just like your, your race or gender is outside of your control. And so opportunities should be the same for everybody. And so, you know, we don’t like the idea of asking, uh, whether these tech immigrant founders are good for America because they create a lot of jobs. Just doesn’t interest me at all. Like, I, I, I don’t actually care about the fact.

These immigrants create a lot of jobs for America. I mean, it’s nice. It’s good that the jobs are created, but that’s not an argument for why we should allow them to enter the country. The reason we should allow them to enter the country, in my view, is because we believe in the quality of opportunity. We believe in human rights, and who the hell are we to ask whether the arrival of this person.

Gonna benefit us economically. It’s their right to come and do whatever the hell they want. As long as, you know, they’re not harming as long as they’re building, creating, you know, working like everyone should have the same rights. It shouldn’t matter where you’re born, right? Because that’s outside of your control.

That’s, that’s a core part of what we believe. And then we think globally, of course, in general, uh, we tend to, you know, our companies tend to have offshore development because they have come from a country where they understand the culture and it’s easier for them to set that up. Um, and there’s a lot of other, uh, advantages to it.

Um, but basically we have, you know, with our philosophy, uh, we were able to attract some really top immigrant, uh, talent, uh, like top founder. Uh, became part of our deal flow. Like the people sent us really interesting companies, even the ones, you know, the ones that maybe the immigration experience was some time ago and maybe they’ve already had a successful, uh, outcome and they’re like in hot demand and everybody wants to invest.

And often we get allocation in those rounds because we are the only fund who who is defined around this concept. And, you know, a strong immigrant founders just love, they remember how hard it was for them when they first. They love the idea that, that there’s a fund for immigrants, right? Like that they boldly state that like immigrants aren’t just as good.

They, they like better, they’re significantly better. They’re the single strongest group, right? Uh, for the purpose of determining your probability of building a unicorn, you know, really outside success, which is the only way to get good receiver returns is to invest in those unicorns, right? So, um, it’s, it’s been, you know, a really fun journey.

Um, Uh, you know, I’m sure some luck was involved as always, but, uh, I think, um, I think the mission has been really important. Like our founders are more likely to help each other because they all share this mission. We have a lot of limited partners. We, we didn’t go to institutions. We raised money from like, basically entrepreneurs who had exits, who had money because they sold their companies.

And we have 230 of ’em altogether. Um, . So that’s a pretty strong network of people who, many of whom, if not most of whom are pretty engaged. They wanna meet the founders, you know, they want to like us. They want to get excited about, you know, , high energy, younger people who are super smart, who are changing the world, who are very passionate, like doing something interesting.

Like it’s, it’s really fun to be around, uh, the kind of startup CEOs that could race sizeable rounds, right? Um, so it’s a fun job and it’s a fun community to be a part of. And so that’s, that’s what we do with one.

Naji Gehchan: and with high impact, and I really love how you framed that opportunity should be the same for everybody.

You know, like some would call it the genetic lottery, uh, actually where you get born and how, and, and what you’re trying to bring is really, really this equity or ac at least equitable access, uh, for people to be able to thrive wherever they were.

Semyon Dukach: Yeah, and you don’t do it, but like, just giving the VC check to every immigrant, obviously, like we, we look for extraordinary people who are building large in disruptive businesses.

Most of the companies we invest in, like their competitive rounds, and they could, they could get their money anyway from someone else. Uh, not all, but most of the time. Um, So

Naji Gehchan: I wanna, I wanna double click on this savian, because you, you talked about, uh, obviously, you know, immigrants, the grit. You talked a lot about resilience as an immigrant already, and this is kind of why, why you define those as your top, not top-notch entrepreneur.

Uh, I’m intrigued. What else do you look at and do you look for, in f in founding teams when you are ready to invest, uh, is there any key leadership trades capabilities within the founding team or the lead team of those companies that you really look for to

Semyon Dukach: make your final call? Well, of course, I mean, you know, there’s no shortage of immigrant at startups.

It’s just a, it’s just an initial filter for whether we’re gonna take the meeting, um, or even look at it. Like we don’t take, we only take one out and 50 meetings that come at us, even from immigrant founders. Right. And then we invest in one of 20 of those or whatever. Um, so one of the things we look for, it’s, it’s similar to what other investors look for, the seed.

We have seed investors. It’s usually the second round, like there’s a pre-seed round and then a seed round. Sometimes we do pre-seed. Um, at that stage, the, the CEOs, by far the most important factor, right? Like it needs to be a large market for sure has to be a large opportunity. Uh, hopefully in market that’s, it’s not too, too difficult to, to grow quickly in.

But then, uh, we really. The kind of, uh, leader who has a vision of the future, who has a thesis, has a belief, a strong belief about how to serve their customers, how the world will change, what their customers really need. They care about their customers, and they care about their team. and, uh, they’re able to articulate this belief, like explain it in a way that could make sense.

And, uh, when you challenge them, they listen pretty closely to your questions. They don’t agree with most of what you say, but they, uh, show you how they think. And how they take that stuff that you’re saying into account. Hopefully they, uh, usually they know much more about their business, their space than, than we do.

Just by definition, even the spaces we focus on, we still don’t know as much as a person, you know, spending all their time on one business. . Um, so we have these conversations we look at and then we look at the team, we look at who they’re able to recruit. Like we expect people to, to bring on like incredibly strong talent.

You know, the kind of people who could themselves be c e o and raise money from other VCs. Not the kind of people who just have like high paying jobs, but like really strong people. Um, and that those people wanna follow. This leader just for equity. Um, this usually minimal salaries in the beginning stages, you know, there’s some, but um, so this ability to inspire others right is, is really important.

And the ability to maintain a, a real vision while also like listening to skepticism and. And processing it and under, and like taking it into account, like not having a blind vision where you just don’t really want to hear anything where you think you know it all already. Like you have to be cognizant of what you know and what you don’t know.

So those, those kinds of characteristics. And then sometimes when it’s like a full sea round, sometimes there’s already some revenues, there’s always some customers. Even though there’s no products, no revenues, there has to be customers of course. So we talk to the customers when we are leading around and we, these days, we usually lead, we we wanna speak to the customers and try to understand, you know, how big this could be.

You know, how big a need is it? How many other people in the industry might need it in the way that they do. Uh, just get a sense for, is this gonna be a venture scale story cuz like, at the end of the day, right, like, uh, very few companies actually appropriate for, for significant venture capital. And while I found the small, the model is to, to back unicorns, which usually means that they’re gonna raise very large rounds from other people later.

So we do need it to, to be, you know, Defensible. Like ideally there should be some, some ip, some founder market fit, like the founder in addition to just being great has to be somehow a good fit for what they’re doing for the space that they’re in. Um, yeah, those are some of the, some of the factors look at.


Naji Gehchan: Thanks for that. Uh, I, I’m gonna take you back in time if, if we can talk for a couple of minutes about blackjack. Uh, I, I’m, I’m intrigued and interested. Uh, you know, it might have been like cut off your, one of the first entrepreneurship journey you had and you’ve built company yourself, uh, obviously as, uh, along the way.

Uh, is there like a common thread or key learnings from those experiences that you took with you? as you build companies and as a leader today within your

Semyon Dukach: vc. I mean, of course women Blackjack was my first company. It was also my first fund in a sense, cuz we, it was more like an investment fund, right? We had investors and then players who kind of managed that.

Uh, we had to keep track of stuff. We modeled probabilities, we generated results. Uh, we, we had. Pretty good, you know, returns, it was like around under 50% a year kind of returns in blackjack.

Naji Gehchan: Wow. Can, can you give maybe our audience who don’t know you much, like a little bit of a backstory of the blackjack we’re talking about?

Semyon Dukach: Yeah. I mean, it was the, that was part of this m I T team that figured out how to beat the casinos of the game and made a few million dollars around the world. I ended. Uh, leading one of the two teams who split off into a couple of groups. And I, I was sort of the defacto president of one of those groups.

Um, learned many, many things, uh, that applied to my later, later funds, uh, how to work with people, teams, how to keep people motivated, you know, how to think quantitatively for sure. Like, I think I have a pretty, pretty quantitative way of approaching most decision. For example, when we, usually, when our companies raise later stage rounds, we usually, you know, co-invest for our pro rat rates.

We’ll, you know, either out of fund reserves or we run PVS when it’s larger checks. But even though we usually invest, I always, every, every single time I actually consider selling rather than buying to me, it’s almost, you know, it’s almost like I should be doing rather than other, I rarely wanna maintain my position.

I either wanna buy the sell. So I’m trying to like, uh, be a little bit more, uh, objective and less emotional. , the initial decision is quite emotional cuz you have to decide if you trust the, the founder too. You have to decide, you know, uh, the gut. You often have to listen to a gut. Um, but, uh, over time, you know, uh, thinking Ally is very helpful I think.

And also I think blackjack taught me. You know, very few things are impossible. Like even if conventional wisdom says, you know, you can’t beat the casinos, obviously, like that’s a known fact. Well, we could, we could, if we, if we can prove why we can, if we can write a simulator and show that it could work well, it can actually work no matter what it is.

So when a founder tells me, um, uh, that’s something, you know, they can do something that everyone else says can’t be done, and I have some initial reference calls. , you know, this cannot work. It’s the physics, it’s not gonna work. It’s impossible. It’s bullshit. And then, you know, I’m like, are you sure? Why don’t you, why don’t you actually talk to the founder?

Like, just double check and then turns out that there is a way. Um, so just thinking that, that this first principles kind of thinking nothing is impossible unless you can prove it’s impossible, right? Actually the master will prove, um, and I’m sure many other things, um, Uh, we even had investors like it was a fund in the sense that there were investors who were just investing.

There were people who managed it. There were people who actually played. So it had all those attributes. And, um, yeah, I think, uh, what it didn’t have, like, it didn’t really create value. Like we, it was more of an arbitrage. Like, we beat money, we beat the casinos for money, and we spent the money and like it was our, like, we didn’t.

The casinos never thanked us for meeting them, right? We didn’t have customers for whom we created value, so we were more like, like traders or like some kind of hedge fund in or whatever in that sense than than tech investors. So it’s much more gratifying, of course to invest in companies where you can actually help ’em with advice.

So connections and whatnot, and you feel their gratitude and you feel a little bit. Of the responsibility for their success. Of course, 99% of it lies with the, with the team and not the investor. But still, um, you can make a meaningful impact sometimes, and that’s a very good feeling. Um, but yeah, it was my first, uh, my first company and my first fund.

And then, you know, I’ve done okay with my companies. I had like a pretty reasonable exit that got me started in invest. But, uh, I did way better as an investor than end of the day. And, uh, you know, basically when you all on all like 15 years of Angel, I was doing like, I dunno, 35, 30 8% per year returns in terms of actual exits, you know, like cash and cash returns, which for a long period of time, you know, was difficult to pull off.

And so far with Techstars, with the, with one way, I believe I’m maintaining that rough level, which, you know, it’s challenging. You can’t, you can’t take that for granted. Evaluations go up like crazy. Now you have wonder if it’s gonna work anymore. Well, now I’ve gone back down. So that concern is out of the way.

But, um, you know, it’s an, it’s more of an art in the science for sure. The venture capital. It’s a, it’s a craft and it does, I have to say, I got, I think I got pretty lucky a few times in the beginning because, um, it, it takes years and years to really know if you’re doing the right thing. Like, cuz the company can take, uh, more than a decade to actually.

Generate true value. Like there’s early indications, they might raise a bunch of money from someone else, but that could just be a fad. And you know, you only really know when you return capital to your investors or to yourself if you’re an angel. And that’s just with that delay, you sort of. You know, you gotta lose for 20 or 30 years to have a couple of cycles of feedback really.

So, I mean, I, I know some people are natural, some people are younger and they’re still able to have this amazing, uh, sense for it. Um, but generally it’s, uh, It’s a very long, it’s a long game. And building a venture capital brand, like one way, you know, it’s not, it’s not like a lifestyle kind of fund that’s like, me and my partners wanna run it, and then it’ll land when we get old.

That it’s really important to me that it succeeds, that it grows, that it becomes like a globally, like well known strong fund. Because I, I want, I want people to know that by investing in, I. we got, we were able to build a large fund, have above market returns because I think that could be an argument in, in discourse everywhere about, uh, how open should borders be about how welcoming countries should be, uh, to others, right?

Like, uh, I want our success in and of itself to, to, to make, uh, potentially apolitical point. Um, but yeah, meanwhile we are just focusing on, of course, generating the best possible returns for our investors and, you know, investing in, in the very, very, very best immigrants and not, not necessarily the ones who need our help, but also like, I guess I mentioned that a couple times now.

So I do wanna say that, uh, there’s a place in life for, for, for like helping people who need help. Specifically. Venture capital is not it, in my view. Um, I. Do have a, um, charitable foundation that, um, I’m a part of that, I’m on the board of that. My wife actually runs full-time and right now it’s focused on refugees, uh, outta Ukraine.

but in general, it’s gonna be refugees. I think in other parts of the world, people who fled from wars and, you know, people like that, they need help. You know, we don’t invest on them. You, you just give them money and, um, hopefully not for too long so they can get back on their feet. But, but there’s, there’s an aspect, there’s a place in the world for, for just philanthropy and, and helping people who need a hand.

And sometimes immigrants do need an extra hand, but one way ventures isn’t that it isn’t. Yeah. Well

Naji Gehchan: thanks for kind of separating and really differentiating both and, and what you’re doing with your, uh, VC and investment fund is really also, I, I love how you’re framing it towards this bigger purpose of, of really showing the word, this purpose that you have on, on immigration.

Um, and I love your leadership, how you’ve put things. Into contrast like quant, but also some, you know, gut taking decision, uh, some luck leadership vision, but also like going with the flow. You talked a lot about your, so it’s really great learning and I’ll, I’ll give you now one word and I would love actually your reaction to it.

And the first one

Semyon Dukach: is leadership.

Um, leader. Well, uh,

effective leader, someone who inspires people to be better than they otherwise would be. You know, the people want to follow a leader because following that person makes them be better people. Right? Um, people want us inspiration. Um,

I mean, a leader has to have strong views. They have to have vision, and they have to listen to the people. So for following them and stay in tune with ’em. And not lose them. What about equity?

Equity? Uh, like as in, in, in companies and, or you mean like equity, like fairness or equity? Like equity, like fair. , like kind of equity? Um, I think there should be equity of opportunity. I think people should, uh, be, shouldn’t be limited, uh, from doing whatever they can effectively achieve. They should be judged based on their.

They’re their results. Um, you know, there’s obviously other fault, prejudices of in the world, and generally I feel that, um, you know, we need to overcome them by, by letting people do what they want, not, uh, and not necessarily in other ways. Um, , you know, I’ve already spoken about, about borders. Uh, of course you have to come in peace, you know, having been very involved with the war in Ukraine.

The last thing I wanna suggest is that like Ukraine not have any borders. You know, with Russia, like clearly they need much stronger borders, but like much bigger walls, uh, you know, people are gonna come in and roll their tanks in and, and, you know, rape and murder people. But, um, but as long as people. Um, want to, uh, you know, interact peacefully, interact in a way, uh, that benefits everybody.

That’s, that’s based on freedom and, you know, voluntary contracts. Um, I really think everything should be, should be open. Um, And as far as equity, uh, the other equity, I don’t know. You didn’t ask about that one, but you know,

Naji Gehchan: as I was asking, I was sure your VC mind will, will go into equity, so I’d love to hear your thoughts

Semyon Dukach: also on it.

equity versus death. I mean, I think. . Um, the best part about when work, when it works well, the Capitalist Society allows for easy formation of new businesses and people who work with big companies and don’t really own them, they just get cash bonuses or whatever. At some point. There’s nothing like owning something, nothing like being ultimately responsible for success and getting the full benefit from its success.

it’s very motivating. I think generally people, uh, do best when they act as owners of whatever it is that they’re involved with. So I, I certainly believe that new companies should spread that ownership broadly, that like probably ev every serious employer of, of a company should have some equity, some stock options, some way to, to benefit from, from the real upside.

I think it’s very important. . The third

Naji Gehchan: one is Breaking

Semyon Dukach: Vegas.

Breaking Vegas. Well, I don’t know if we actually really broke it. You know, I think we just nibbled the edges a little bit. You know, I mean, we won a few million bucks, but like they make billions every year. Like it wasn’t that big a deal. Of course they hated us cuz they, it humiliates them to think that someone can actually beat.

But, um, did,

Naji Gehchan: did they do a good job relating it in the movie

Semyon Dukach: for you? No, the movie was, the Kevin Spacey movie was quite fictionalized, but there’s, uh, not other films in the history channel that are more accurate. But even the Kevin Spacey movie, well, the characters have all changed. You know, it captures the essence of what it felt like for.

It definitely captures, you know, the sense that we are doing impossible. We are a team, we are the good guys, they’re the bad guys. Like all of that was definitely part of it and I’m really glad I did it. It was an interesting experience. I. Kind of regret spending three or four years on it. I think it’s would’ve been a better three or four months experience in my life.

Just cuz you know, it was cool, it was neat, I learned something. But there’s more interesting things to do in the world, like built tremendous value for your customers, uh, than just, uh, you know, proof, proof that you was smarter than a bunch of casino people who are particularly smart, right? Like, yeah.

Naji Gehchan: And, and the team, like follow up question on this, I, the team has all ended up being successful entrepreneurs, right? Like there’s always this entrepreneurial spread within what

Semyon Dukach: you’ve been doing as a team. I, I wouldn’t say all of ’em, uh, but people are in different walks of life. You know, one woman is a tenure professor, one, a couple of people are still playing or whatever, like, but the, the number of like very, very successful entrepreneurs that came out of the team.

Is impressive. Like I’m not the most successful person that, you know, I’ve done really well, but like there’s people who’ve done better. Uh, there’s people like John Husick who started some very, very large successful companies like SolidWorks, like I don’t know Chen. There’s a few of these people who just built really big businesses.

Um, but I think, I don’t think any of ’em are really regret doing blackjack. I think they all felt like they learned a lot and had fun and, you know, it was teamwork. So. .

Naji Gehchan: Uh, and the last one is, uh, spread love in

Semyon Dukach: organizations.

No love makes the world go around. Uh, you know, uh, yeah. Organizations are to consist of like, you know, ties between people who deeply care about each other, who, who, um, you know, bond. Not indifferent if people shouldn’t be totally formal. I mean, yeah, you can keep your, your friends social circle separate from your work circle if you want.

But, but the work circle should also have, have, you know, real emotional, personal meaning to you should, you shouldn’t be indifferent to the people with when you spend much of your life, uh, and you got a love your customers, I mean, you’re not gonna really ever get anywhere if you don’t love your customers. They can feel.

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

Semyon Dukach: The leaders don’t need any of my wisdom and the people who, who are hoping to get my wisdom to become leaders are unlikely to, to transform themselves into leaders. I think some of it just comes from then, um, I mean, there’s obvious advice. Like, you know, you don’t want the, the, in the, in the military, the, the leader is in the front, not in the back.

Right? Like the leader, the leader leads and, and inspires and does, doesn’t just stand behind and tell people what to do. But I think those, those little cliches at this point, um, so, you know, I think you have. Figure out what’s important to you and what you believe in and sort of run with it and, and sometimes the leadership just naturally happens.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much, Semyon, for being with me today and for this incredible chat.

Semyon Dukach: You’re welcome. It was nice being here. Thank you.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this podcast joined today by Dave Noesges a retired pharmaceutical executive with Eli Lilly, where he spent 31 years in sales, marketing and general management roles in the US and abroad.  He spent much of his career leading sales organizations in both the Neuroscience and Diabetes therapeutic areas. His last role was to lead the Lilly Diabetes sales teams of nearly 2,000 people as Lilly reestablished market leadership in diabetes over a 10- year period, and launched several best in class medicines. Dave is a 1984 graduate of the United States Military Academy and served 5 years as a combat engineer in the US Army, most of that time in West Germany.  After the Army, he attended the Wharton School of Business where he graduated in 1991, joining Lilly immediately thereafter. Dave has been married for 35 years and has two grown children. He devotes his time now to caring for his 90 year-old father, spending as much time as possible with his wife and daughters and engages in many charitable endeavors through his church.  He and his wife also travel extensively working on a long bucket list of international destinations.

Dave – it is such a pleasure to have you with me today.

Dave Noesges: Thank you, Naji. It’s great to be here with you and kind of get reacquainted, uh, from our lily time together. .

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. I I wanted to start, uh, first by this, I’m biased here in this discussion as I had the privilege to be in your team, Dave, uh, in the US and really see the incredible impacts you have as a leader and the culture you’ve built.

Uh, so before going there and how you’ve, you’ve done, you’ve done the sculpture. Uh, I would really love to hear more about your personal story from serving in the US Army to business school and then pharma. Uh, what can you tell us a little bit more about this inspiring journey and how you ended up leading large teams in the pharma organization?

Dave Noesges: Sure. You know, it’s, um, probably like many of us, um, um, so much of who I am as a result of, uh, my family upbringing and my background. And I, I think it’s, um, um, both the, the, the strengths and the development area is probably a result of that. But I, I grew up really in, in a. Family of fairly humble means. My dad was, uh, the first in, um, and only person in his generation to be a college graduate.

And so it was a very blue collar environment. Almost everybody I knew was, um, in the family and friends and kind of the, my parents’ social circle were, um, um, steelworkers and working and working class people. And uh, um, and, uh, you know, my dad was a bit of an outlier. Every, everybody else, the college graduates I knew were all teachers as my dad was.

And so that was kind of, The environment I grew up in, and it was, um, uh, a very family oriented environment. It was kind of small town America in a, in a steel town in northwest Indiana. And, um, um, you know, people looked out for one another. It was a very strong community. Um, um, it was a very Christian-based community, and certainly that’s a big part of, um, uh, of what motivates me and guides me.

My faith is very important to me. It was to my parents. Um, but I, I, I think it. My parents taught me more than perhaps any other attribute, the importance of humility. And, uh, and, you know, we can talk some more about that as to how I, it’s influenced me and how I think about leadership. But, um, you know, I like to say, especially my mom was always proud of me, but never impressed because the only things that ever impressed my parents were if I was a good father and a good husband, and, uh, uh, and taking care of the things that were really important.

They were intrigued by, uh, My ambition and, uh, my, um, um, competitiveness from my career standpoint, but it wasn’t, uh, uh, wasn’t who they are and what was most important. Uh, and then, then I think, um, so that’s the background. So you said that doesn’t sound like somebody who’s, uh, with that background that’s gonna be ambitious and wanna grow and take on leadership roles.

That’s where I think West Point really began to, to shape me. And, um, um, I, you know, I saw. A big world out there with lots of opportunity and so much that I could do, and to be able to live overseas and to be on the east coast in college and to be probably the first person in my high school to have gone to West Point.

And so all, all of that kind of opened my eyes to all this opportunity that I wanted to be a part of. It just was exciting to me. And, uh, um, but I, west Point also was foundational to me in terms of, um, my leadership journey and, uh, I think that, You know, there’s probably a lot of baggage, especially in the business world about what comes with military leadership.

It’s seen as very, um, uh, very structured and top down and, uh, and there’s some truth to that. And then, you know, this, it goes back, um, almost 40 years when I went to West Point. So it was a, you know, it was a different generation and, uh, there was kind of a, a bit of chauvinistic kind of approach to leadership.

But, um, but when you. When you really, uh, immerse yourself in leadership as, and West Point was trying to transition at that time and what they were teaching, the, probably the fundamental, uh, principle that I took away was, uh, one of leading by example. Um, the best military leaders in spite of the command and control mindset in that, um, put their soldiers first.

Um, You know, it was kind of, um, drilled into us from our early days that the leaders eat last. And if you’re in the field or you’re in the most difficult circumstances, you feed everyone. You take care of everyone before you take care of yourself, which is probably not what people think of the military.

But, um, you know, when you’re preparing people to, to lead folks in combat, which I never had the. Fortunately, never had to do. It’s, uh, um, you know, the command and control starts to, you want the discipline, but people aren’t gonna follow a leader into dangerous space unless they really trust them. They think that you have their best interest at heart.

And so those were the most important things that I took away, um, from, uh, my experience, uh, at West Point. And I, I think over time, Came to learn some of the blind spots that military leaders had. We, um, um, it could be very structured. We kind of looked for a leadership model that looked like ourselves. And, you know, I, I think my time in business school started to open my eyes to, um, uh, to very different constructs of leadership that, uh, made me kind of rethink as there, you know, what probably was a kinda single-minded approach to leadership in the military that I needed to open my mind to, and that began to help me evolve.

But, um, uh, maybe one of the most important parts of my leadership journey though, was to meet my, uh, my, uh, now wife of, uh, of 35 years. We met in West Germany. She was a, an American expat working in the airline industry for twa. And then, and, uh, Just a completely different perspective on, uh, on, uh, she, she was my mentor in the business world.

She’s the one that suggested business goal to me. She was the one that helped me to figure out how to, how to adapt my military leadership in a business environment and to probably soften the rough edges a little bit. And that was a really important part too. But I, I think those are the, probably some of the milestones before I got to Lilly that really shaped who I am and how I think about leadership.


Naji Gehchan: thank you so much Dave for sharing this and it’s, um, it’s already profound things that you shared that we will dig a little bit more into, uh, as we discussed. Uh, I would love to know why pharma. and how you started and you ended up staying for, for all your career in the

Dave Noesges: pharma world. Yeah, it’s a really, everybody asked me that Cause it’s not logical at, at, uh, first glance.

I mean, I was an engineer by training and a combat engineer. I was a civil engineer and you know, it, it. Um, um, and a lot of the career advisors when I was getting out of the military were suggesting that sales is, and marketing was not the right space for you to do something in operations. And, you know, that’s what a lot of my peers and colleagues did.

But, um, I, um, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew that I wanted to, um, uh, you know, I had learned in my time in the military. I, I, I really, um, um, Leadership opportunities and having a team, uh, was really important to, to, um, to, uh, what motivated me and inspired me. But, uh, you know, how I was gonna accomplish that, uh, outside of the military, I mean, I knew nothing about the civilian world.

I, I didn’t, uh, understand how businesses worked. I hadn’t had a single business course at West Point. I had lots of other yeah, courses, but, uh, uh, you know, I didn’t understand the profit motive. I just didn’t know what the opportunities were. And that’s where Mimi, my wife, really guided me. Business school is a good place to ex where you could explore that, where you could figure out what you wanted to do.

And as I got to business school and started to see the opportunities, um, you know, I, being at Wharton, which is a finance institution and a lot of ties to Wall Street there, um, uh, there and, and Wall Street has, has. Had a strong pull for mil former military talent. I think they got part of it because it can make you cannon fodder.

You can, these are people that are used to uh, uh, sacrifice and hard work and long hours and doing whatever you’re told. Wall Street culture and uh, and I was intrigued by. Wall Street opportunities. But, um, I realized though, as I was exploring those opportunities that I just couldn’t get excited about.

And as important as Wall Street is, and I, I’m a capitalist, but I just couldn’t get excited about what, to me seemed, at its essence is buying and selling money. It just wasn’t, uh, the purpose I wanted. And I realized that what I was going to miss from my time in the military, uh, , uh, was the purpose driven culture.

We had a clear mission. It was important. We believed in it, we could all rally behind it, and I needed to to find that. And it was, um, probably, certainly somewhat cer serendipity that I found in the pharmaceutical industry. But I started to explore that because I thought that’s something I could get excited about.

Um, Breakthroughs that are gonna save lives and change lives. And, um, the serendipity was just that I happened, there happened to be a recruiter, uh, coming on campus for the summer internships at Lilly, who’s, uh, I learned later her dad was a retired, uh, colonel in the Army. And so my, uh, resume caught her attention in a way that it probably wouldn’t have most others.

And, uh, she encouraged me to think about Lily. I didn’t, you know, even though I’d grown up in northwest Indiana, I didn’t know much about Lily. And so I. Planning to come back home. My wife’s from Philadelphia. We figured our life would be on the East Coast. And, uh, but I came for a summer internship and I, I, it, uh, I knew this was, Lilly was where I wanted to be because I, I felt like every person I met believed in the mission.

They believed in what we were doing at Lilly. Uh, they were good people trying to make a difference in people’s lives. And that was really important to me. If I was gonna, um, you know, hopefully someday be a leader, was to have a mission that I could really get behind and. , and this is,

Naji Gehchan: uh, this is exactly what we do right?

In the healthcare and biopharma industry. Yes. And why I wake up every morning and you’ve touched so many lives by, by doing what you do with your teams. Uh, Dave, uh, so, and you have led team in different geographies, large organizations. Uh, as I shared la the latest team was more than 2000 people across the us.

Uh, what, what has been your recipe? for leading successfully, and I should say consistently high performing teams.

Dave Noesges: Well, I, you know, I, I, um, have reflected a lot on my leadership principles and what I think is really important, and I, I think that. I mentioned this from my West Point background. I think what is foundational to being able to be a successful leader is to have a, um, a, a belief in, but also to walk the talk around leading by example.

I, I think that, um, we spend way too much time as leaders talk, talking about what needs to happen and what our communication’s gonna be and, and not enough time about, um, How are we gonna lead from the front? How are we gonna show people, how are we gonna teach? How are we gonna, um, live the, um, um, the standards that we were ex expressing people to have?

So I, I think it’s really important to have a, a clear vision, uh, clear direction. I, I believe in, um, clear standards and accountability. But, um, um, but most important in that is that, um, the people who. who, who hopefully are gonna trust your leadership, know that, um, you’re not gonna ask them to do anything that you don’t do first, and you don’t step up from the front.

And it’s, you know, it’s probably cliche, but I, I really believe that, um, um, you know, leaders need to, to internalize and take the blame, but give the credit, uh, externally and to mean that when you do it. And, and that’s probably foundational. Uh, um, I also am not, I think that, um, one of my early. Earliest in lingering leadership learnings was, um, um, That I needed to be more humble and, uh, I think I’m generally a humble person, but the leadership construct, especially 20 or 25 years ago in the business world, was very much, um, confident leaders, strong.

That was the military ethos. And the, uh, extreme of that though is that you believe you have to have all the answers and you need to project that. And, um, you know, I found over time, and it sounds silly when in h. But, um, if I thought I had all the answers, I was the only person in the room that I thought I had all the answers, and I can stifle others kind of coming forward and stepping forward.

You have to admit ex mistakes. You have to be willing to, um, to admit to the people working for you that I don’t have the answer. And, and sometimes to say that I, I, I tru I believe you have the have, are more likely to have the answer, to have the innovation than I am because I know you and I know what you bring out and to pull that outta people.

But, um, you have to be humble to do. Uh, and, uh, exude that humility, I think. And, um, if you do, I people will rally behind you. Uh, uh, and I think that what many of us as leaders are afraid of is if we show humility and we kind of show our weakness and, and what we’re not good at, that people won’t trust us as leaders.

I don’t think that’s the case at all. Not have that has to be coupled, but confidence. But I, I think that’s the. Recipe for success, uh, for a leader is humility and confidence. Uh, I think more often than not run together. You show me a, a, um, an arrogant leader, and I’ll show you somebody who, um, uh, if you really get to know them, they have some deep-seated insecurities and the, the arrogance is trying to compensate for that.

And so I think humility. And then the last thing that. I think it’s really important if you’re gonna rally people behind you as you, you have to know them and you have to be able to help tie, um, their motivations and their beliefs to the broader organizational purpose. And that means you’ve gotta get really close to people.

You’ve gotta disclose to them, you’ve gotta open it up by. You know, back again to my early years of leadership, I got a, the worst advice I got from a lot of leaders in that generation where you can’t get too close to your people. You need to be able to hold ’em accountable and fire, and fire. And, um, and it created a leadership construct of distance between leader and people.

And, uh, I think that’s just exactly wrong. I, I do, there’s. You’re too close to your people. If you can’t make a tough decision and make a tough business decision, you can’t, um, um, that can include downsizing and, and hiring and firing and making those decisions, but, uh, as long as you, um, Can make the tough calls on behalf of the business.

I don’t think you can ever be, uh, um, I don’t think you can ever be, uh, too, too close, uh, to, uh, to your people and, uh, um, and, uh, um, you know, they’ll draw the line. There’s a place where everybody has, wants to be private and don’t want you involved, and I think you have to stop as a leader there and accept that.

And, uh, but up to that point, uh, we, uh, um, and we’re getting better in the business world and we’re comfortable with that. Uh, and I, I think it’s just so important. You, you

Naji Gehchan: really gave three key recipes, uh, living the standards that transfer people to have humility and confidence and get close to your people.

And as you were sharing, I’m, I’m intrigued to get more into how did this, how did you transform as a leader towards this? Because as you said, Military leadership potentially is different. Also, leading was kind of command and control top down, right? Like, it was not this type of organization we talk about today, like more, uh, you know, more inclusive, more degraded.

Mm-hmm. . So I, I’m intrigued as you grew, because there is some leaders still leading in command and control. They believe this, they believe leadership by fear. and you potentially came from this and totally transformed into servant leadership and leading with care and with love for people to deliver on the purpose.

So I’m, I’m really intrigued. Like, is there a story or an experience behind why you changed? How, how did, how did this happen? Yeah. It’s,

Dave Noesges: um, I’ve reflected a lot on this and I, I think there were three events that. That, and I won’t go into too much detail, but, uh, I’ll briefly describe that we’re really foundational and really kind of, um, caused me to, um, reflect more and to think more and to be open to growth in this area.

Um, and then a lot of it’s just incremental after that it’s experience. But the first one was, um, my first, um, Leadership role. I was a first line supervisor with 12 salespeople and an oncology Yep. District manager position. And I was going through that annual review process and um, I had a young woman who was about as different from me as, uh, somebody could possibly be who was on my team, but she was very confident.

She was, um, she’s what people would’ve described as a punk rocker in terms of her look. And she liked that kind of, From that time, and that was something that I could not relate to at all. But she was a great salesperson. Better than I could ever hope to be, I think. But we, I’d finished her performance review and she was really a good performer.

And at the end of that, I kinda asked what used to be the throwaway question, do you have any feedback for me? And especially in those days at Lilly, people tended to say, oh, I’m so lucky, so lucky to have you as a coach and , and it was kinda a formality and, and she said to me, there is one thing that I wanted to share with you.

And she said, I don’t, I know this isn’t your intent, but you are more comfortable with the men on the team than the women on the team. And it makes us feel excluded. And, um, and it’s mostly in a social setting. At dinner, you’re comfortable talking to the guys and that’s who, where your background is and, and, uh, um, I was devastated by the feedback, um, because it’s not who I wanted to be and half of my team were women.

And, uh, um, I went home and told my wife I got the feedback and she kinda laughed and said, well, yeah, no kidding. Duh, you up in the military yet. I mean, in the military it was a combat unit. At that time there were no women, so I had never led women, I hadn’t interacted with a lot of women in my professional life, and I had a huge blind spot.

Had she not shared with me, I never, I, you know, I, I look back on that sometimes and say, what, where would I be now? And I not gotten that feedback. I think that’s the single most important feedback anyone has ever given me, uh, in my professional life. And it, it, um, It’s not who I wanted to be, and it, it just opened my eyes to a blind spot.

And, and then I started to explore what, what my i, my other blind spots be and, um, and how can I grow from there? That was the first thing. The second thing was, it was the early days of Lilly trying to, uh, um, to be serious about diversity and inclusion, and we had started an African American foreign forum for our African American employees, and I, I was.

Invited by, uh, a colleague in Pier who was, uh, who was African American to come in. I was one of the first, uh, I think, and I was in middle management at the time, one of the first kind of white leaders to go to the forum because it started out as kind of a form of African Americans talking about how do we thrive at Lilly And um, It was a very uncomfortable experience because I was immersed for the first time in my life, probably in a culture that was different from mine, and I was the minority, at least in for a snapshot in time.

And, uh, um, I, I, I went, uh, every year after that for probably 25 years at Lilly to the African American Forum and just decided and realized then how much, if you wanna be an inclusive leader, you’ve gotta immerse yourself in. In other people’s world as much as you can to understand them and to be uncomfortable and ask uncomfortable questions that sometime are inadvertently offensive because you’re trying to understand and they will give you a lot of grace.

And it, um, uh, it gave me courage to say, I gotta try this again. And I’ve gotta get more comfortable and, and, uh, and learn and to, and to, to realize how much that must be getting in the way of me being able to connect with people and to be a leader. But, uh, the last thing was, After my first daughter was born, I had, um, Lily was reading this book called The One Minute Manager, which was, uh, the, I don’t know if you’ve ever read it, Naji, but it’s, it was an old throwaway book, but it was a guy who used these simple little anecdotes to talk about what coaching should be and how we’re getting it wrong in corporate America, but.

The one that got my attention because I had a young daughter, was he had this, uh, analogy that he shared about, uh, his, his assertion was that we are all at our very best, generally as coaches, uh, uh, in, in how we, uh, how we raise our children. And the best example of that, he said of what we should do, uh, whether you’re a parent or not, you think you can relate to this, is the experience of a child learning to take their first steps.

And it just had a profound impact on me and, and every instinct. Almost every parent, unless you’re just an awful parent or, uh, a cousin or an aunt or an uncle, or anyone else, when you see a kid, take that first step is to, uh, is to celebrate the victory, to be wildly enthusiastic. Um, and if, if you think about it in the context of, um, coaching in a corporate environment, those first steps are clumsy.

They’re, they usually end up in failure. They fall over and they land on their face and they wanna cry and they look up to see how mom and dad, uh, are reacting and. Almost in every case, a young child like that gets re positive reinforcement that says, oh, you’re the most special person in the world because you’re learning to walk.

And uh, and it has a profoundly positive impact, impact on a child’s, um, uh, confidence, uh, their wellbeing, uh, their self-confidence, and. You know, most kids who don’t have that environment, they’re going to learn to walk anyway because we’re pretty resilient, uh, as human beings. But I, it, it caused me to pause and think about a, a leadership construct that was pretty prevalent at that time and still lingers, I think.

And we spent an awful lot of time as leaders in corporate America. Criticizing people for their mistakes, fixing what’s broken, um, making sure they know that they got this wrong and they need to get better and they need to raise their standards. Um, and, you know, I, it’s, um, um, raising children. I mean, you know this n naji, you’ve got young children as well.

Um, you have very high expectations for your kids, probably higher than you have for just about anyone else because you love them. But it comes. Positive reinforcement and care and compassion and wanting them to do better. And, uh, it, it really caused me to realize how much that wasn’t what I was doing, and I needed to do more of that.

And I, I think I’ve gotten better and better at that, at realizing that this isn’t a Pollyanna, you need to be a cheerleader. You still hold people to a high standard. But, um, the vast majority of people who work with us, Are trying to be successful. They’re trying to deliver on the mission. They care a lot and, uh, uh, it makes no sense at all to spend so much time trying to fix what’s broken in them, but rather to take what they’re doing well and encourage them and, and help them believe that they can do more.

And so I, I think that that, uh, was really an important, uh, insight for me. That’s, uh, that’s guided me for the rest of my, uh, leadership.

Naji Gehchan: Those are incredible stories Dave. Thanks for sharing them. It’s, and it’s powerful and I can atest because I lift this leadership when I was, when I was in your team. And again, I think it shows really those stories shows your humidity, uh, and also your vulnerability.

Accepting them, living them, and, and transforming. So, thank you. My, my other questions was on something you really touched heavily on in those examples, which is diversity, equity, inclusion. Mm-hmm. , uh, I know you’re passionate about this. Uh, you’ve done a huge, uh, strives to, to make changes that matter. You know, not only leading by example, you led by example and you made sure.

Each of us is making, uh, you know, those moves for a more equitable, uh, teams internally and externally. Uh, and, and you, you’ve done it obviously across talent management across a very large organization. So I’m interested to know how did you make sure you create this caring culture throughout your leadership team and also across the all organization that I can say at some point became a community.

Really a community where we cared for one another and we had the sense of belonging. How, how did you do this and how did you make sure that it’s lived throughout the years you were there?

Dave Noesges: Yeah, it’s a good question. Naji and I, I think that, um, it’s, um, it starts with, um, real accountability. I think when I, when I, um, um, really got serious about having a more diverse and more equitable and inclusive organization, I, I think that the foundational step is to be very clear that, um, you’re going to build the diverse organization that we’re gonna break down barriers to that, um, If somebody claims they don’t have a blind spot or that, that, that we don’t have an unlevel playing field, that um, you know, I’m gonna show ’em the statistics that suggests otherwise and we’re not gonna accept that.

And it’s just, uh, there was a pretty kind of tough, clear accountability. And, um, when I really started with my team, uh, especially in the diabetes organization on this journey, it started. Um, with data that showed that we were falling short, that showed that, you know, minorities and others were, um, uh, were falling behind and were having the same level of success.

And even going back to, to look at resumes and say they had the same credentials, the same, uh, uh, they should be doing as well. And there’s the, if we’ve gotta look in the mirror and say we’re not doing well enough, but then to establish very. Milestones and accountability and to treat it, um, not like a kind of soft and squishy people issue, which is what we sometimes do in a corporation.

But, um, this is a business accountability and, uh, uh, and so that was the most important first step, I think. Uh, but I, I think you can only get to, uh, An equitable and inclusive organization if you, uh, uh, if you improve your representation, and it gets to the point where it really, where the, the leadership team looks like the, the, the population of people who are, uh, reporting to us and looks like the communities that, uh, in our case, in sales that we’re interacting with.

And so you’ve gotta get the representation right first. Um, but then you have to explicitly hold leaders accountable to, uh, And to measure it. And you know, I think we’ve had some good systems at Lilly that weren’t mine that I applied though that, um, uh, 360 feedback and concepts that are, you know, everybody tries to use, but you have to make it real.

It’s, uh, and you have to avoid, the temptation is very strong to, uh, forgive a leader who’s not very, Who delivers a couple of years of over, over, uh, uh, performance and kinda squeezes the results out of people, you know, they’re not gonna sustain that. But it’s, uh, it’s very easy for a company to reward that.

And then you lose credibility. And so you have to not accept that. And it means that you’re gonna, in some cases, uh, um, Not promote someone who’s got delivered great business results cuz they’re not developing people and they don’t have a, a track record. A track record of talent development. You’ve gotta couple it with that.

And so I, I think it um, um, and one of the things that I think is really important that, um, You know, for you and others who are in senior leadership positions now have to realize though, is that um, you need some longevity in a role to really change a culture. And in our construct, at least at Lilian, I think in many companies is a lot of rotations.

And, and, uh, you know, I spent the last 13 or 14 years and of my career in one role, which really allowed me to kind of shape a culture and build an organization. And I realized the degree to which. You know, for many years as a top talent, uh, by Lil’s standard, I was two or three years in one place, and you go to the next place that can create a temptation to, uh, take shortcuts and to have the overwhelming pressure to deliver a short term result and not be paying attention to the longer term of people development.

I, I think it’s a challenge that, um, um, you know, companies in healthcare and everywhere else have is how do you, how do you find that balance? Because I, I think it, it takes a, a sustained effort if you’re really gonna influence. Build a culture.

Naji Gehchan: Thanks a for that. And I, I love this concept that you brought and like always focusing on it.

Behavior is right, and recognizing behavior is even above results at some point. So if it’s good results, bad behaviors, you’ve always, and, and one of the behaviors and culture is obviously inclusion that you were focused on. I would give you now one word and I would love to get your first reaction to it.

What comes to mind. Okay. Okay. So the, the first one is leader.

Dave Noesges: I’d, I’d start with, um, humility. I, you know, I, I think that’s foundational to everything. Um, um, humility allows you to be a coach that people wanna follow. It allows you to make connections so people will trust you. It, it, um, allows you to, um, recognize mistakes so you can change course when you need to.

I, I think humility’s the, the most important, uh, and probably underappreciated attribute of, um, of leadership. , what about success? Success. I, that’s an, that’s an interesting one. It’s, um, you know, in the business world it tends to be, So we tend to bring it down to the essence of, um, of earnings and sales growth and, and quota achievement.

And those things, those are really important. I think you’ve got to have, um, and, um, and care about and have a central focus around, um, uh, around the specific business objective. Uh, I mean that’s, uh, what we’re about. But, um, but, um, if that’s, That’s the only definition. I think you’re gonna fall away short.

Nobody’s gonna wanna be a part of that team cuz you can deliver business results year in and year out and have a group of people who are dissatisfied and, and um, and uh, not rewarded in their careers. And so that, that’s why I think that success successes got to include. Helping people understand what really matters to them and what really motivates them, and being able to tie the business objectives and the success of the organization to what motivates individuals and motivates pe um, uh, teams.

And, um, you know, when I, I learned that about myself, that, um, The most important thing, what energizes me, what gets me up in the morning, what, uh, uh, makes me feel successful is to be a part of a successful team who have a shared purpose, who are attacking that purpose, who are working together, who have each other’s back, and, um, that feeling a team and being a part of that and wanting to accomplish the goals.

Um, that journey was way more important to me than actually the business result. But it was a means to an end and it got to the business result. And when I realized that, I knew that’s what was gonna drive me. And, uh, I think. Um, it’s gonna be a little different for other people, but I think most people wanna be a part.

Um, especially if you’re choosing a business, uh, career. You wanna be a part of a team that’s doing something that matters, uh, to you. And, and, uh, if you can, uh, if you can rally that together and define success that way, I think the business results will come. What about

Naji Gehchan: leaders eat last?

Dave Noesges: Yeah, it’s um, It’s the military’s, uh, way of describing servant leadership.

And, um, it, it, um, um, I, I think it’s so fundamental and so foundational. If, um, uh, if you wanna be a leader who people want to follow, um, you have to eat last. And it comes in every respect. They need to know that, um, you’re willing to make a sacrifice on their behalf, that you’re willing to go to bat for them if, uh, if they feel like they’ve been mistreated, um, that you’re gonna be an advocate for their career.

Delivered, um, that you’re gonna forgive them and help them overcome it if they’ve made a mistake, even if it’s a pretty significant mistake. And, um, that, um, if you’re giving someone really tough feedback. It’s, um, uh, it’s not because you’ve got a big ego and you wanna just be, you know, and prove who’s the boss, but it’s because you just wanna make them better, and they’ve gotta believe that.

So I, I think that, um, yeah, it, it’s, um, servant leadership means everything to people. I mean, I, you know, I’ve often, as I talk to young leaders and at Lilly and. and in other organizations now, um, now I always ask them, um, what do they want in a coach? And what, what may the think about the best coach, the best leader, the best mentor you ever had?

What were the attributes that they brought to, uh, to the table? And, uh, it’s, they may not say that Leader eight lasts, but they’re gonna describe all of those attributes that come from, um, putting others first and, and being a servant leader. And, uh, Uh, and caring about them and making them better. And often it’ll, it’ll include some really tough feedback and real challenge.

And they stretched me and sometimes I couldn’t stand them cause they just kept pushing me. But I always knew, uh, they were doing it because they wanted me to be better, not because they were trying to be better.

Naji Gehchan: The last one is spread love and organizations.

Dave Noesges: Yeah. It’s interesting. I, I, um, it, um, The idea of spreading love in an organization was uncomfortable for me.

Um, and, and probably, um, till very late in my career, if you’d said, how do you spread love? I would’ve been like, well, there’s, that’s not what we do here, Naji. This is work. And it’s, you know, it’s supposed to be tough and it’s, um, but you know, it, um, so much of what we’ve been talking about is about. Caring deeply for other people and people who are different from you and trying to help them be better and some self-sacrifice and, um, um, it, it’s, um, I, I think spread love in an organization is not about, uh, intimacy and the, the feelings that you have for a spouse or a family member, but it is about, Deep caring for other people and wanting to see them succeed and rallying behind them when they have, um, a difficult c circumstance, whether it’s in their, uh, in, in their business life or in their personal life, and caring enough about them to be there for them.

And, uh, you know, it, it, um, People will, um, will, will run toward a leader that, um, is there for them, uh, when they need them the most and when they didn’t expect it and run from a leader who’s not there for ’em, uh, under difficult circumstances. The challenge for organizations, uh, uh, and a healthcare company is how do you.

um, how do you as an organization demonstrate to people that, um, that you care for them and you, and you love them in, in that sense? And, uh, um, and, you know, organizations don’t love people, but, uh, I think the recipe there is you’ve gotta hire leaders at every level, and especially at the most senior level, who, um, lead by example in that way and really put their people first and.

um, and, and are willing to exemplify that in the most difficult circumstances. And, uh, um, there’s, uh, probably precious few companies that, that, uh, um, that most of their people feel like that’s what, what their leaders look like and how they operate. Well, thanks

Naji Gehchan: for that, Dave. What, what a great way to sum up and really.

Define what, what, what we mean by love. Also on this podcast, it’s really what, what you’ve shared throughout. So you are definitely spreading love in the organization as you’ve built those teams. Any final word of wisdom for healthcare leaders around the world?

Dave Noesges: You know, I, um, One is, uh, um, you know, as I see the political world now, an increasing challenge and there’s a lot of suspicion of, uh, of healthcare and, um, um, and, uh, y you know, a lot of, uh, I think, uh, public policy challenges that are, um, That have the potential to undermine innovation, it’s gonna take a lot of courage and a lot of, um, um, uh, just stay with it and tenacity to believe in the mission to, uh, to continue to innovate and what may not be the most innovation friendly, uh, environment from a.

Kind of geopolitical standpoint. And that just takes a lot of grit and a lot of tenacity and, and a lot of belief that we’re making a difference. Um, when you may have a lot of people telling you, and a lot of people telling your, your young people who have a, that, you know, this is a greedy or, um, um, Kind of, uh, institution and you can’t be trusted.

But, um, there’s so much good that’s coming outta biotech and healthcare. We’ve gotta believe in what we’re doing. We’ve gotta be humble about how we share that. We’ve gotta challenge ourselves and realize when, um, when our medicines truly are unaffordable and, uh, what we’re gonna do about that. But, um, it, it’s, uh, uh, if we’re gonna continue to have future generations that have longer life expectancies and we have, um, we, we’ve got to live our mission in, in healthcare, um, The other thing on a more personal note that I’ve, as I’m retired now and in a different phase of my life, that I’ve, um, um, wish I had.

Uh, been more thoughtful about when I was, uh, going through my career journey is to enjoy the journey. Um, the journey’s way more rewarding than the destination. I think so much of career steps were, when’s the next promotion, when’s the next success? Are we gonna make plan or not? And, um, I probably didn’t stop along the way and, uh, enjoy the moment enough and, uh, and enjoy that to what I.

Um, uh, was my why, which is with a great group of people pursuing a goal and the pursuit of the goal is much more exciting than achieving the goal and for me at least. And, and then the, the last thing is when you reach that retirement date and you look back on it, at least for me, I realize that, um, people to me, weren’t the most important thing.

They were the only thing that matters. When I look back at my Lilly career, the people that impacted me, the people that mentored me, people who I were, was able to mentor and grow and develop, and who I know appreciated that. Uh, it’s, uh, uh, all of my fond memories of, you know, 31 years at Lilly are about people.

Um, and that not about the business. And I think there’s a probably a lesson in that for all of us.

Naji Gehchan: Wow. Thank you so much again for those precious words of wisdom and, and incredible advice. Uh, again, it was an honor to be in your team and really honor to have you with me today. Thanks for joining me.

Dave Noesges: It’s my pleasure, Naji. Thank you.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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’m Naji your host for this podcast, joined today with Dina Sherif, senior lecturer at MIT Sloan, and executive Director of the MIT Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship. Dina is also a founding partner of Cairo based, Ahead of the Curve, which is the Arab region’s leading firms on issues related to sustainable business growth and impact-driven entrepreneurship. Most recently, Dina joined Disrupt Tech, Egypt’s first FinTech focused venture capital fund as a partner, pursuing her passion and building a fund that will support technology being used as a critical tool in creating financial inclusion for a largely unbanked population, most specifically women. Formerly Dina was a senior advisor to Ashoka, helping them reimagine new ways to identify the world’s leading social innovators. She was also the founding director of the American University of Cairo Center of for Entrepreneurship. Gina has several publications, multiple recognitions and words, and is currently a member of the Special Presidential Advisory Council for Economic Development reporting to the President of Egypt, a global advisory board member, and the Eisenhower Fellowships, a member of the board of Kala, uh, holding a member of the Board of Smart Medical Services and a member of the Board of Educate. Beyond old. Dina is an incredible leader, an incredible human, and I am so honored to have her with me today.

Dina, it’s just a pleasure to see you again live from Cairo. I think today.

Dina Sherif: Yes, live from Cairo. Thank you Naji for reading out my full bio. It always makes me pause and feel very, very old. .

Naji Gehchan: No, and, and I didn’t, I didn’t treat all of it, actually.

It’s way longer, but I wanna hear all about it from you and so please, if we can have a little bit. You know, the, between the lines of your story, your personal jour, uh, journey, uh, would love to hear more about what brought you, where you are today and, um, the inspiring leader you became.

Dina Sherif: Hmm. Uh, I think what brought me to where I am today, um, is a general philosophy that I’ve had, uh, or that I applied to my life really, which is what I like to refer to as the law of two.

In other words, if I am, uh, doing work where I am adding value and extracting value, um, in a way that is feeding my soul and in a way that is really contributing to, um, the, the, the growth and development of a particular organization that I’m working with, then I keep my feet firmly there, but, I am no longer adding value in contributing to the growth and evolution of that organization.

And if I am, or if I am no longer receiving, um, value that is adding to my own personal growth and evolution, then I have a moral obligation to take my own two feet and walk elsewhere. And I think that has really served me well over the years, um, in terms of career decisions and. , uh, when I have moved from one place to the next in my professional career, um, you know, oddly enough, it’s also served me in my personal life.

I think, uh, I, I, I, I think that everything in life has an expiry date, and I think that that philosophy has really helped me, um, identify quicker when that expiry date has.

Naji Gehchan: I love this philosophy. Uh, um, it, it, you’re saying expirated, but it’s true, like knowing when you have to leave, you know, before actually you’re just. Have to leave, right? Like having this courage to go, having this also that of doing the things that you like. I, I love how you framed this philosophy. So tell, tell us more along the way and along the journey, uh, how, how did you move from, uh, I think you started studying, uh, political sciences.

You’ve done several other things and now you’re. I don’t know in how many different industries and how many different countries I’d, I’d love to learn a little bit like the common thread, uh, that took you into, um, all those different, um, yeah. All, all the different adventures and, and really focused on social entrepreneurship at the end on social impact.

Dina Sherif: Uh, yeah. I mean, I think when I, when I went to college, I went to the American University in Cairo, and I think, you know, one of the first. You know how in life you have all these defining moments, right? As you, as you go through your, the everyone goes through their individual journey. There are these moments that are just clearly defining moments that kind of dictate.

How the rest of your life will evolve. When I was studying at a U C I, I think one of those defining moments was, um, when a u C was still based smack in the center of Cairo and Tahari Square. Uh, I used to take either the metro I lived in, I lived in Hilo, so suburb in Cairo. I used to either take the metro or I would take, um, the, a public service bus because, you know, my father, even though I went to, you know, an elite private school, Believe that you have to use public transportation and find your own way around the city.

Um, uh, and so I, I, I used to, uh, interact with, with so many different kinds of people, um, as I was commuting from Hill, uh, to, to, and then one day. I don’t know what happened, but I ended up getting off a little earlier, um, on Ram in Ramsey Street, and I decided to like just walk the rest of the way to Tahari Square and I ended up in front of this church called St.

Andrews Church. And this is where I think, you know, fate tends to step in and I, I, I saw like there was a sign. Outside of the church that they were hosting refugees from different countries in Africa. And, and I walked in into the church and then I, I realized that the church was really, had really just been transformed into, um, More of a place for refugees from different countries, from all across Africa to come, uh, with their children, specifically mothers and children, um, where they could learn different, uh, skills that they needed so that when they were sent to, um, their final destination or final host country, they’d be.

Able to speak English or the children would be able to keep up with basic subjects like math and science and different things that would allow them to go to school. And it was kind of my first introduction to a politics and the reality that, you know, I think refu, all issues related to refugees are product of politics and poor policy.

Um, but also that the fate of these particular refugees, Uh, was really being determined by. Whatever anybody was willing to give to them out of the goodness of their heart, because the Egyptian government wasn’t really providing them with much. And so I walked away from that experience with a couple things.

One, um, you know, a desire to understand a lot more about Africa and why Africa is the way it is and what, what this whole economic development aid, um, industry looked like and, and why it was. There were so many refugees on the continent, how they ended up in Egypt, and why the Egyptian government was taking a particular stance and so forth and so on.

But I also walked away thinking that I as a citizen, had a moral obligation to also do something. If I could. And so I decided throughout the years of my university that I would volunteer my time there twice a week to work with the refugee children there. And I ended up over time bringing in a, a group of friends who also from from college, who also did the same.

And I think a lot of that, you know, really stemmed from the fact that, um, I always, my mom always taught me that if, if it’s in your ability to help and give back, then you have, you have to do that. But I think the entrepreneurial part of me was trying to figure out ways to, um, scale that help and mobilize other people and, and, and see how I could do that more efficiently and more effectively.

Right. . Um, so I think that was just the beginning, that that was the defining moment that led me to really, um, commit myself to, you know, what we wanna call, um, creating prosperity or sustainable development and so forth and so on. And so I graduated from college and I really, I said that’s, that’s the space I wanna work in.

And so I’d, over the course of the years, if you look at my resume, you’ll find that I have always, um, no matter. Which sector I’m in, whether it be public policy, civil society, private sector. The focus is how can I increase impact and prosperity for all. Um, I have firmly landed over the past 10 years in this 10 or over 10 years now, um, in this space of entrepreneurship and innovation because I have this deep belief that entrepreneurs have the ability to solve complex.

Challenges at scale in a way that, um, not-for-profits don’t. That’s not to say that we don’t need not-for-profits. And you, Naja and I have had this debate many times, , but I think we need not-for-profits, but I think. Innovation driven entrepreneurs, they have the ability to create business models at scale that can really, um, be financially sustainable and not dependent on, um, philanthropy and donor driven aid.

And I think also there’s something about entrepreneurship that really gives agency back to the citizen to create change and to solve their own problems. Um, and so that’s, Go ahead. Yeah. Yeah.

Naji Gehchan: And specifically this, because that, that was my my second question. And thank you for sharing, uh, this, this big, uh, experience that you had, uh, and powerful that led you to have so much impact across the world.

And, and now we work a lot with social impact and impact driven entrepreneurship. Like we, we are hearing a lot about it, but you are obviously super involved with, with those entrepreneurs. How do you define it? Like how do you define someone? Building a company that is an impact driven entrepreneurship organization.

Dina Sherif: I think, I think over the years, I’ve come to shy away now from the term social entrepreneurship or impact driven entrepreneurship. I think my position is if, uh, if somebody is coming to solve a. Complex challenge that impacts society. So whether it be education, um, transportation, healthcare, energy, you name it.

I mean, we, we don’t have a shortage of complex challenges in today’s world. You know, quite the contrary, we have a plethora. But if, if, if you have an individual and they. Coming in and they are coming up with a solution to this challenge that can be scaled and they’re, um, you creating a business model around that, that is scalable, then I think that is what impact is, right?

You’ll be solving a complex challen complex challenge at scale. You’re going to be creating jobs and generating wealth, so you’re creating multiple layers of value and I. For me when. When I talk about entrepreneurship, it’s always been important for me because of the different layers of impact that entrepreneurs have the power to create, right?

So if, if we take, you know, where we come, the Middle East, come from the Middle East, or if we take Africa larger, if we take Southeast Asia, if we take Latin America, you know, uh, Everyone talks about the need to create jobs, and we need entrepreneurship because we need to see economic growth and we need to create more jobs for the, for our local population.

For me, that’s just one aspect of it, that job creation, wealth creation piece of it. But the other part is that, you know, when you think about. Hal. For example, Mo Rahim, when he brought telecom uh, to Africa, he was the first person to start a telecom company in Sub-Saharan Africa. What he was doing is he was creating multiple new markets.

I think that is impact. that he was an impact driven entrepreneur because he knew the minute that he gave access to the, the majority of the population of Africa to a mobile phone, that this would unlock huge opportunity. Hmm. Uh, and it did. Right? Um, the same goes for example, um, you know, if you think about Uber or if you think about em, in the Middle East, and obviously these are companies that have done really, really well for themselves.

Em has done really well for themselves, but they’ve also created job opportunities for a lot of, uh, people who wouldn’t have had those job, job opportunities. But if you take that, that’s just a narrow scope of it. But if you think about the layers of value that they have created with that business model, , for example.

Um, in our, in our part of the world, you know, Uber solved a huge can. He solved a huge problem for women and mobility and getting from point A to point point B. Um, it, it, you know, it, I think, I think all of these different business models. Provided that they’re solving a real societal challenge, at the heart of it is going to be impact, and it will be.

And you will find many, many layers of impact that you can peel, peel back. I, I

Naji Gehchan: love, you know, this perspective and Yeah. Well you obviously work in this field. You’ve done research, you were part of a book, charity to social, uh, change. I’m, I’m feeling like there is a thin line right from. Being a company and saying we have a, an impact, right?

Like you gave example of great companies like Kareem Healthcare. Practically all of us in healthcare are trying to make life better for patients, right? And obviously having a social impact, but, but then you have like all. You know, other stories like, uh, shareholders value generating this. I’d love to get your views because I’m feeling like, and you can’t take rim as an example, as you said, like they made a lot of value for the, for the company and shareholders too, but yet they managed to impact socially.

So where do you, is there a line to be Joan or is it just Every company at the end of the day has a social responsibility? and they should

Dina Sherif: abide by it. No, I think it’s a really good question, and I think ultimately for me, the differentiating factor is always intentionality, right? What is the intention of the entrepreneur starting the venture?

Um, did that entrepreneur start that venture? with the sole purpose of solving a particular challenge in mind? Or was that entrepreneur starting a business because they wanna maximize profits and generate wealth? Because those are two very different things. And if we take, like, let’s take some examples.

When I think about, say for example, um, if you look at my country, Egypt, uh, healthcare is a massive problem. Access is a problem. Quality, uh, the quality of healthcare provided is a problem. You know, I would argue that healthcare overall, globally we’ve seen the, the, the. Extreme dysfunctionality of healthcare as a system.

Um, and I think the incredible misalignment of all the dis different stakeholders that exist in the health healthcare space around purpose hasn’t, has become extremely evident like during Covid and post covid. But if you say, for example, you know, in Egypt, public healthcare is. Extremely problematic. If you wanna get any, any kind of, I would say, semblance of quality healthcare, you have to go to a private healthcare provider, which is also very problematic because if you say, take one of our leading private hospitals, say Cle Cleopatra Holding, which, which is now like a group of private hospitals, well, the reality.

these hospitals are functioning to return maximum profits to their shareholders. Their purpose was never to deliver high quality healthcare to patients. If, if it was, they would be making decisions very differently. So the intention, right, was never about the patient or the end user or the quality of the healthcare provided.

And so, Decisions are made very differently. Now, if you think for example, um, about. Uh, an entrepreneur like amta who started smart medical, um, smart medical care, which is health insurance provided to at an affordable rate, to middle, middle income, to lower middle income citizens in Egypt. The intention behind starting that business was always how can we provide.

Health insurance at an affordable rate to those who don’t have access. Because if you look at small and medium enterprises in this country, it’s very hard for them to pay for, for the very acce, very expensive health insurance plans. And so this entrepreneur was trying to solve that problem and wanted to create better access and provide your average Egyptian citizen with the kind of infrastructure needed to.

And navigate the healthcare system. Now, the intentions behind that business were really to serve the end user and to make life better for the average Egyptian citizen. And so his decision making process is very different. Now, when people come and tell him, when his board comes and tells him, you know, you need to be, uh, generating more profit.

You need to be working on your exit. You need to be talking to, you know, this big health insurance company and find a way to get acquired. You know, his responses are always, um, no, no, no. Because that will take away from the overall intention of why I created this business. See what I’m saying?

I totally

Naji Gehchan: see it and I love it. And that was my second question that you partly answered. It’s because I love how you framed it into intentionality is the key, right? But then there is this piece where there’s funding and obviously you’re in impact investing too, where exactly what you said, the board at some point, or the company when the company scales, right?

Because there is the founder, but then when it scales, you know better than me. There is more than the founder, obviously, and sometimes even the founder, and ends up leaving the company at some point. So how, how do you combine this? Do you have any strong stories about The intentionality was here for the founders and it keeps on being here as, because I’m hearing like, this should be your true north.

If your true north is this, you, you should making long-term bets rather than saying, okay, I’m gonna make more profits on the immediate term. Yeah. And really stick to. .

Dina Sherif: I think this means this. This requires alignment around purpose, right? So if the entrepreneur is truly driven by particular intentions around a, a purpose or the desire to solve a very complex challenge that touches the lives of many people, that same entrepreneur has to go through the effort of aligning.

Shareholders around that purpose of aligning their board members around that purpose. Um, because if people are not constantly aligned and grounded in that purpose, then you’re going to, you’re gonna find yourself having to deal with kind of different. , I would say conflicting tensions of where our business should go.

And that’s where you start seeing people say, oh, where are the short-term gains? You know, the, the, the ability to wait to be a little bit patient for what is to come requires that all the different stakeholders involved be grounded in one purpose. You defined in one purpose when that alignment isn’t there, that’s where you start seeing.

I would say adrift. . Um, and I think truly, uh, I would say mission driven entrepreneurs or impact on driven entrepreneurs or social entrepreneurs. You choose whatever term you want, but those who are really deeply, um, grounded in that purpose, they will go to great lengths to align people around that purpose and the urgency of solving the problem.

Um, and I think anything that solves a real problem will inevitably make. for shareholders. There is no, no such thing as conditionality. I think if there is conditionality and you have to sacrifice purpose for, for, uh, social benefit, then maybe the problem wasn’t as relevant as we thought. But if you’re really solving a problem that is relevant to people, they will pay for that solution and you will generate wealth and solve the problem at the same time.

And there’s no need to s. . Yeah.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. And, and certainly aligning this purpose with the people you’re hiring with, how you’re doing your bouncing team, your management team, and for the legacy to continue. Uh, I, I will move now to a section where I’ll give you word, uh, I’d love to reaction to it. Sounds good.

All right. . The first one is leadership.

Dina Sherif: I think leadership is an activity. I do not believe in leaders. So I do not identify as a leader. I think there are times where I step up and I exercise leadership, uh, and that’s when there, there’s no real known answer or known solution and it requires that somebody step up. But I do not believe that we are.

you know, just cause I hold the title of an executive director or a partner in a fund or a c e o, that that automatically makes me a leader and makes me somebody with authority, um, who has a title. But what identifies somebody as a leader is, is that moment where they have to step up and mobilize people to move into the unknown and really evolve and charter progress.


Naji Gehchan: it’s, uh, it’s my belief Two leaders are known for their actions and not their titles. Right. Titles, uh, is, is more authority or whatever, you know, it can gives you, but definitely not being a leader. The second one is inclusive society.

Dina Sherif: Wow. Naja, you really go for the triggering words. Um, I think for me, inclusion. Inclusion is a very, uh, has been a very important word for me as a woman. Um, a woman from the Arab world who really had to kind of fight and push forward to have a space here. But I think, um, and to have a career in the Arab region, but I.

inclusion has come to mean so much more living in America as being perceived as a woman of color. Um, and I think that has brought all kinds of, um, I think has just been a, brought a lot up for me when it comes to this idea of what it means to truly be inclusive and to create spaces where, Different viewpoints, different work styles, um, different, uh, different cultures.

Um, it’s so much more than color of skin, right? Color of skin for me is a very narrow, easy way to define inclusion or along the lines of ethnic ethnicity or religion. But it’s really so much more. It’s, I think it’s the, the willingness and the ability for. Uh, different opinions and styles to be allowed to be allowed to have a space to be accepted with love and kindness and compassion.

That’s not to say that we all have to agree, and it’s not to say that, you know, um, we can’t disagree. We absolutely have to disagree, right? That’s what diversity leads to. But I think there’s something very healthy when, when there’s a space that allows for the tension that can exist within differences to evolve into something more beautiful.

This, this is

Naji Gehchan: so powerful, uh, how you, you said something, you know, diversity leads to disagreement. I, I, I agree. And this is what you look for. obviously, and creating this space where disagreement is okay for us to grow and learn and innovate is, is really crucial. The third one is social

Dina Sherif: innovators.

Yeah. So like I said, I, I, I shy away now from using the word social because. , I think it has a lot of baggage. When we say social, you know, investors immediately switch off and they say, oh, okay. If you’re a show social innovator, then you’re not going to be rigorous about having a, um, financially viable business model.

And so, you know, your, your world is only to go to the philanthropists and, uh, I think, I think it’s led to a lot of kind of misunderstandings. Um, but for me, I think the world really genuinely needs innovators who are driven by the, the desire to create a more sustainable, inclusive, um, and prosperous world.

And I. Inevitably that is social because what is social? Social is everything that impacts us as humans and business. Every business will have some impact on us as a human, and if we don’t really. Own that and embrace that and stop shying away from it as being, you know, too soft or too fluffy. But the reality is, it’s not.

We all exist in this world as humans. Uh, we are built for human connection. Everything we consume and use and products that are offered are meant, uh, designed for the human. And so that is social. Um, and we need to have more innovators who are willing to step up and own the fact that innovation should, um, and can, uh, lead society to a better place.

And that better place has to be sustainable, and it has to be inclusive, and it has to have very much embedded at the very core, um, compassion and love and kindness. Right. ,

Naji Gehchan: you said it many times and it’s also a word we shy away from. So that’s my last one. Spread love in organizations, .

Dina Sherif: Yeah, I mean, you know, this has never become more important to me.

I, I think you and I had have had conversations about this since, since I met you. Um, but it’s become even more important to me because I think. In a post covid world than in a world where all of a sudden there are all these conversations around diversity and equity and inclusion and, uh, we see world, a world where there’s a lot of polarization and a lot of ugliness and a lot of, uh, othering and.

Um, words that have a lot of hate and unkindness in them. I, I think organizations, all organizations need a lot more love. And in that love needs a lot more patience and understanding and compassion and empathy and real, true kindness, right? Uh, kindness in the sense that. Really give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the best in people.

And that’s not to say that people are necessarily coming with the best of intentions, but I feel like when you create a space where, or a work culture where that assumption is there, you’re, you’re lifting up the bar and you’re asking people to show up as the best versions of themselves. Um, and I don’t think we.

Enough an organization. So I think we absolutely need to see, uh, I think now more than ever, just more love and kindness in, in how we show up for each other in a workplace. What

Naji Gehchan: an, an amazing way to sum it up. Uh, any final word of wisdom, you know, for leaders

Dina Sherif: around the. . Yeah. I don’t, I don’t know if I have words of wisdom, but I think what’s been top of my mind lately is that, um, we spent so much time, or we’ve spent so much time talking about employees and work-life balance and the wellbeing of employees throughout C O V D and the pandemic and, um, how, how can we create better workplaces for employees?

And I think. , we don’t spend enough time talking about what it’s like to be a person in a position of authority through very difficult times. And I think when times are uncertain, where times are difficult and decisions have to be made, and there’s a lot of pressure and you know, for a lot of people who have been in positions authority throughout the pandemic and now going into a global recession, life has been really hard.

And they’ve been, you know, I would say it’s been, it’s probably lonely. I don’t en envy anybody in a position of authority these days because they’re the first ones to be scapegoated. They’re the first ones to be blamed. They’re the first ones to not be at the receiving end of kindness and compassion and benefit of the doubt.

And I get that. That is the reality of what it means to be in a position of authority, but we just don’t spend enough time talking about. , the difficulties of that and the scars that people incur when they are forced to step up, forced stop forced, but when the circumstances dictate that they need to step up and lead.

And a lot of that puts, that’s a, puts you in a very vulnerable position because it really opens you up for a lot of, um, scapegoating and blame and undermining and alienation because nobody likes change. and when somebody is stepping up to create change, it’s going to be tough, and I hope that we can also talk about what it means to show up with love and kindness for people who are actually stepping up and having enough courage to lead people to a new or a different possibility.

Naji Gehchan: This is definitely another topic. I will, I will have someone, I’ll actually, because it touches so many different aspects for leaders and moments of crisis change. Uh, and, and exactly what you said, like it touches mental health for those leaders. Several times we just. Don’t even consider it. We don’t talk about it.

So I have someone where we will talk about this, who’s a specialist in mental health at some point also, and, and leadership, and we will talk about it. I, I love this opening. We can go on Dina as every single time. Uh, but again, thank you for being with me today. We probably will do another, another episode specific on leaders and, uh, and how they do, do, how much do they receive love.

Also as, as leaders, we can definitely do it. Uh, I would love that. Awesome. Thanks again for being with me, uh, today and looking forward to seeing you in person again in Cambridge.

Dina Sherif: Thank you for having me.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this episode joined today by Cathy Nolan, an experienced international business executive. Cathy has spent over 23 years in the pharma and biotech industry, including Eli Lilly, and more recently Aimmune Therapeutics. As a leader, Cathy consistently created value by building and developing diverse talents globally and delivering highly successful launches and growth strategies in Big Pharma, niche and non-conventional biotech. She has extensive experience across US, UK and Europe including multiple launches in Neuroscience, Oncology and Immunology. Cathy is from a large Irish family, and grew up on a farm in the west of Ireland. She likes to spend time with her family and friends, stay fit and active, read, and watch movies. 

Cathy – it is such a pleasure to have you with me today live from Twickenham, I believe? South West London.

Cathy Nolan: Thank you, Naji. Nice to see you, .

Naji Gehchan: Great. So first, Cathy, I would love to hear your story, your personal story from Ireland to leading global healthcare teams. What’s in between the lines of such an inspiring journey?

Cathy Nolan: Well, thanks, Naji. Um, yeah, I mean, I, I have a very humble story, I would say in some respects. I, I started off as a, you read out in the intro, I grew up in the west of Ireland on a farm, the oldest of five kids, um, four girls and a boy. Um, and then when I went to university, I studied business, um, and really had a.

You know, gained a passion for marketing, I think from the very beginning when I started to study marketing as part of my business degree. Um, and then I think what really drove me in terms of joining the pharmaceutical industry, um, in Dublin with Lilly was really that kind of passion for understanding people and patients and their experiences with conditions I joined.

Lily on the Schizophrenia Zyprexa brand team. And what fascinated me about Zyprexa and, and schizophrenia and bipolar disorder was the experience that patients go through. And I, I was really drawn to that, to understanding that in more detail and then understanding how medicines can, can make a difference and change the lives of, of people who are suffering with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions.

So that started my journey and I joined. Eli Lilly in Dublin and spent five years there, um, really getting to know the pharmaceutical industry, I would say, and, and really loving and thriving in, in that industry. And then I took a career break for six months and went traveling by myself and. You know, took advantage of getting a career break from Lilly to really explore the world a little and then came back to Eli Lilly in the uk and then, um, was involved in various other brands, um, in psychiatry, um, and then moving on beyond that to Indianapolis, um, with my husband who I met at Lilly.

And so we headed off to Indianapolis and then had an amazing experience in the corporate center. I think from a career perspective. A real, uh, milestone moment going to the corporate headquarters and being part of, you know, the, the nerve engine, I would say, for the organization and really getting a sense of how great an organization Eli Lilly is and the, the different opportunities that there were to grow and stretch and develop both professionally and personally within the organization.

So I got many opportunities in, um, Lilly in Indianapolis, um, leading brands, global brand director roles, and then working with the chief marketing officer, Rob Brown at the time as his chief of staff, which really again, was an eye-opening, um, experience looking at the organization as a whole and working with some of the more senior leaders within the organization and addressing board questions, et cetera, and working with Rob on that.

Then, um, we had two boys, uh, Lakin and. They were both born in Indianapolis and we decided to move back to Europe to be near a family as we were raising our boys and wanted to be closer. So we moved back and then I was doing some leadership roles in Europe, um, in oncology, and then ultimately back to the UK business heading up.

Um, the business unit for the specialty portfolio and the chief marketing officer role, which where we worked together closely when you were in France. Um, I then, I loved Lilly and I had an amazing experience there and. You know, thrived, I would say, and grew up with the company. But after 19 years, I just wanted to try something new and different and challenge myself in other ways, and decided to move to another opportunity within a small organization.

So going from the big, big pharma to small pharma and joining a biotech called Immune Therapeutics. I had an opportunity to lead global marketing commercial capabilities from London. Um, the, the business was based in Brisbane, California, so it was a real unique opportunity to do that. So I took the opportunity and then we were acquired by Nestle a year later.

So we had another amazing experience of going through the acquisition and the integration and. Building the global organization and uh, and really learning so much across multiple areas and building my expertise and capabilities. So, yeah, and I’ve felt very fortunate Naji over the years. I’ve had lots of really strong mentors and advocates, to be honest, um, who really pushed me to kind of think bigger than, or go further than I thought.

I. Um, and with their backing, give me the confidence to just go for it and usually it, it ended up in success. So, so yeah, that’s kind of my journey thus far.

Naji Gehchan: tha thanks for sharing this. It, it certainly did go into success and yeah, we, we’ve worked, so I’m, I’m biased. We’ve worked together and, you know, I’m a big fan of yours, so, uh, be before jumping into the learnings, as you said, from, you know, different, different geographies.

You had different teams, you worked in different companies. I’d ask a more personal question, uh, about really juggling careers. You touched it a little bit, uh, having both of you and your husband both have careers, growing careers. You had kids living abroad, going to your country. Like, how have you thought through all this?

I know many of us go through it or are going through it, so how, how did you manage this? Um, uh, going. Any advice

Cathy Nolan: of us? Yeah, I mean I, and I think like many of us, you know, through all. Inspiring career opportunities we have. The biggest job we have is, as you know, the biggest role we play as, as a mom or a dad or as a partner and managing through life.

But yeah, it, it definitely comes with challenge, but I think, first of all, I’m fortunate to have a spouse that’s been very supportive all the way through, um, our relationship together, um, before kids and, and after kids. So he works in the pharmaceutical. As well. So to some degree we understand each other’s jobs as best we can.

And so we know where the give and take might need to be for each other at various times in our career. Um, with the kids, you know, it is about flexibility for me. I have the two boys are eight and 10, and flexibility is key to me now to be able. Do a good job in the way I know I can do a good job, but have the flexibility to be there for the kids as and when they might need it.

But we also have the support network around us. Um, you know, we do have some childcare support when we need it because otherwise it just doesn’t work. Somebody did once say to um, my husband, um, John Banford, I guess, you know, and, uh, a lot of people lil would know him, but he and his wife were, you know, big careers at Lilly and he gave John and I advice out when we started to have kids in Indianapolis.

And he said, you know, at some point you both will think you can’t do it. That one of you has to take a step back or one of you has to stop working because it’ll become too much. And at that moment you must put the resource around you that helps you continue on because you can. But you’ve gotta give yourself a break and understand you can’t do everything.

And you might need to have somebody look after the kids in on an evening or pick them up from school and you might need to get cleaners and you might need to do some of that support network, have that around you, but do it. You can both still achieve your ambition and your potential. You just have to not try and do it all.

So we’ve really embraced that advice. I would say and, and do kind of make sure that we’re giving ourselves the support to help us achieve that. But it’s an ongoing balance every day, every day. So, yeah, I haven’t got it fixed. .

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. Yeah. And, and it’s continuous, but, and it’s a great advice, uh, obviously, um, you’ve led diversity as you said, across the globe, uh, in different cultures, different geographies, and you brought innovative medications, uh, to patients.

Uh, do you have a secret recipe for doing that successfully?

Cathy Nolan: for doing launch or for managing diverse teams and geographies? Yeah. Leading,

Naji Gehchan: leading, uh, high performing teams. Um,

Cathy Nolan: I would probably, so one of my. Career highlights, I think was when we launched, uh, Laval in Europe. Now, Laval ultimately was a, a treatment for a soft tissue sarcoma that was approved on, um, conditionally on phase two.

And unfortunately, the phase three data didn’t pan out. But at the time, in phase two, we thought we really have an innovative treatment here for patients with sarcoma who’ve had no innovation for 40. And we built such a cool, dynamic, energized team across the different countries in Europe, Germany, France, uk, Italy, and Spain.

Um, and I was part of the lead team for Europe, pulling our team together. I think the secret recipe is to all understand what you’re trying to achieve together. So clarity of vision. Where are we? , what do we want to achieve? And does everyone understand that first and foremost? Secondly, giving everyone a voice on the team and a role on the team.

So we had different personalities on the team and some people brought different things and giving everybody a role in that team to bring their best self and fu fundamentally move the team forward. So that was a key part of our dynamic where. Knew each other enough to know who brought what to the table.

And thirdly, I think we had such fun , we laughed. We, we got together, we had some downtime together. We were, we were launching in very, very quick timeline. We had like nine months to get ready to launch, and often they say you need three years. And we didn’t have that. So we knew we were gonna have to work fast.

And it was gonna be manic and it was gonna be a lot of pressure, but actually we got a lot of energy from that. And we made sure we’re only gonna do what’s most important here. We’re not gonna do all the other stuff. We’re gonna focus on the fundamentals. We’re gonna do that well, and we’re gonna have each other’s back and support each other through that journey.

And so I think some of those things, just being human and having a bit of fun along the way made a big, big difference. So some of. Most, uh, fun times. I think we’re in that team, even though we were under a lot of pressure to get a lot done in a short space of time. But that’s some of, I think what I would

Naji Gehchan: aim.

And how so, so let me double click on this, uh, cuz I love it. You said curtail vision, giving everyone a voice and having fun as we go through it. Uh, how, how did you manage if there was some tensions to make sure. Because you’re touching, I think, to the trust also within the team. Like you were all, yeah.

You said everyone has the others back. How did you build this, uh, as you were going through it to make sure that it’s a team that trust one another to, to be able to deliver on, you know, the men’s task that you guys had? Well,

Cathy Nolan: I think we, we built trust because we helped each other. . You know, we, we weren’t, you know, Germany weren’t on their own getting ready to launch.

We were all getting ready to launch in Germany cuz they were the first market to go. And you know, we all, Stephan was the brand leader at the time. You know, the rest of the team, whether you’re in France or uk, so you’re Spain or the European team. We were all in it for Stephan and his team to get this right.

So I think demonstrating. We were there to support and be part. It was as much our success. The German launch as it was gonna be anybody else’s was really important. Any tension. You know, there are obviously going to, there’s obviously going to be tension when there is a lot to do in a short space of time, but I think it was about, you know, having those conversations if there was tension and not waiting and letting things fester.

You know, having side conversations but then, you know, being transparent and open and tackling them head on and not pretending everything is fine when it isn’t. Um, and then being able to move on and just being respectful for people. I think tension comes if people are suspicious of agendas or you know, people are in an environment where they’re not honestly being authentic and genuine, but we were all just being who we were.

Good, bad, and ugly. Bringing it to the table. We were, we liked people for their good things as well as their, you know, eccentricities. And, and that was just what, what you need to do to build that trust. This is who I am. I’m not trying to hide anything and we wanna just get the job done and do it well for patients.

So that was, that was the kind of real big piece that we needed to focus.

Naji Gehchan: I love it. This is super powerful. Uh, and you touched something like, my next question would be more about you and your leadership style. We talk, we talked a lot about it, both of us. Um, and you talk, you talked here about authentic leadership, uh, being who you are.

So how do you define your leadership signature?

Cathy Nolan: Yeah, a la large part of my leadership signature is, is, you know, I, uh, I may be a leader, but I’m still like everyone else. I would say . I don’t, I don’t lean into I hierarchy. I, I wanna support my team regardless of where they sit in the organization. Everyone deserves to be heard, um, and everyone’s as important as everyone else from the top to the bottom and back up again.

So, you know, fairness, equality. , um, listening. Being, um, empathetic to people’s situation, but I’m also, I also like to achieve. I like to achieve, well, I have high standards. I, I want us to be successful as a team because I think that’s where, you know, a team gels most when you’re, in good times and being successful and achieving good things together.

Um, but a big part of my leadership style is, is authenticity, I think. And also being direct and forthright. I mean, you know, again, no agenda. This is what I think , um, and this is why, and let’s, sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong and let’s have a chat about it. And I love to debate and discuss and be open in, in, in how we, we manage through, um, problems and, and, and build things.

Naji Gehchan: Did this evolve over time? Did your leadership evolve over time or, and was it the same, for example, leading global team in a large organization and then leading, you know, in a biotechs motor team?

Cathy Nolan: I would say that I was always started out as being pretty up. I mean, that’s just who I am, I think is more upfront, direct.

and authentic. I, I’m, you know, I, I am who I am is my kind of thing. I think as I became a leader midway through the last 23 years, at some point I started to doubt that. I started to say, well, as a leader, do I now have to put on a face? Do I now have to pretend that I’m something like, because this is the way a leader should behave.

And then I think through the last number of years, I’ve come out the other side to say, I am who I am. I’m here because of who I am and what I can bring. I sometimes get it right and sometimes get it wrong. . And, but that’s okay. And I, I now, I think, have come to a realization that authenticity is actually key.

So I would say I’ve, I’ve evolved, but come back to the point that I just wanna be who I am and be true to myself and to others, and do good work with good people. And, and that’s, that’s kind of, you know, as I see myself moving into the next phase of my career, what’s important to me. .

Naji Gehchan: Well, thanks for sharing this.

And I, I would add also vulnerability. You’re sharing vulnerably those things. And ma many of us, I think doubt, ask questions, you know, about ourselves as we go through it. Uh, and it’s, um, it, it’s super powerful as you’re sharing it with vulnerability and also authenticity. So thanks for that. Uh, Kathy, what is your, if you have one advice you would give yourself, , uh, as you were starting your career in healthcare and pharma, what would be that advice?

Cathy Nolan: Um, I mean, I would still give myself advice over, even 10 years ago, not even at the start, you know, the, the learnings trust yourself. Trust yourself. Have confidence and trust your instinct. That’s what I would say to to myself back then. You know, I, I believe I have good instinct, but I sometimes lack confidence in that, and that’s where mentors have been hugely helpful to me along the way in my career, and I can’t overemphasize that enough.

They’ve helped me. See beyond the limitations I may have placed on myself, because I may have lacked that confidence or didn’t trust my own gut instinct. So I would go back and say, just trust yourself. You know, stay true to who you are. Lean in, don’t be afraid. I mean, I’m not, and now I would say I’m not fearful and I will take on any challenge and what’s the worst that can happen, but I’ll give it my best.

Sometimes fear along the way can stop us, stop us doing things that we know we can do. We just don’t maybe have the confidence to kind of embrace that. And so I would say to my younger self, you know, be confident. Don’t be afraid. You know, go for it and you’ll learn something along the way, whether it works out or not.

So that’s what I would probably say to myself.

Naji Gehchan: I’d love now to move to a section where I will give you a word and get your reaction. Okay, . The first one is Leadership Powerful. What about diversity? Essential, I, I know you’re passionate about it, so you can say more than one word. For this one, I’d love to dig a little bit deeper.

Cathy Nolan: Ping pong. Yeah. Diversity. . Yeah. I mean, you know, group think and all same people have the same idea. It doesn’t get you to a better place. And I, I think diversity is what makes for amazing conversations and fascinating ideas. I think it’s. challenging sometimes to create diverse teams because you have to embrace difference.

And not everyone can embrace difference for various reasons. Either they don’t know how to, or they’re not in a place in their life career to be able to do so. So, you know, it takes openness of mind to be able to embrace diversity, but it is essential because it, it brings different perspectives to the table, um, and ultimately gets us to a better place.

Naji Gehchan: The third word is Chief

Cathy Nolan: LinkedIn,

Chief, uh, well, I’ve just joined as the founding member in the uk, an organization called Chief, which I’m super excited about actually. So it’s just a network of female leaders who, from all industries, um, who get together and support each other. Various professional and, uh, personal, I think challenges. I, it’s, I’m starting out on this journey, so I have my first core session next week with a group of female leaders, none of which are in the farming industry.

So I’m, I’m excited cuz sometimes. For me, I was in the one company for 19 years and then I’ve been in another company for the last three years. So, you know, I honestly feel like my, you know, my lens is kind of narrow and I wanna broaden that, and I’m really excited to do so with, with a group of powerful female leaders and learn.

Naji Gehchan: and there is still so much to be done, obviously for, for women in leadership. I, I’d love like your view about it, anything you’ve seen that has moved further better and things that you would really focus on, uh, now within this organization, or even in life as, as a, as really a role model for several women, uh, what would you do or what would you focus on?

Cathy Nolan: I think one of my, um, how do I say acknowledgements? Observations in the last number of years as I moved to a pretty senior position in the latter number of years when we were at Lilly, there was a a journey customer journey work done for female leaders within the organization. I dunno if you remember that, but when it got to VP or SVP level female leaders, that was the toughest phase of most female leaders careers.

Now you might expect that because they’re big roles, but you also would expect that that should be exhilarating and exciting to be at those senior leader, leader levels. But actually it was really, really challenging and I felt that myself. Um, I think you doubt yourself for some reason when you get to that level cuz you know, who am I to be at the senior level?

You don’t bring as much confidence again as you might see other male leaders have at that level for whatever reason. Plus, it’s demanding on time and some of the responsibilities at home With the best balance between partners and spouses, possible females still do tend to take slightly more of the burden of managing life at home, as well as then trying to manage a career.

So I’ve observed that dynamic that I saw and observed in this journey work years ago, and now I. I would say it in the last number of years. It’s tough. My advice, I mean, my reflection now is it’s okay that you can get overwhelmed in big roles, and that’s normal. And actually the biggest thing you can do for yourself in that moment is take a step back, just metaphorically.

Not necessarily leave, but take a step back. and gain perspective because you don’t have to be perfect . You don’t have to have it all sorted. There is a wealth of people around you to support you. , you can talk it out with somebody in the company, in the industry, in your team, in your mentor network or outside, such as a chief network, et cetera.

There are places to go to bounce things around, but also many other people are experiencing the same thing. And I sometimes it’s lonely in a really senior leader role, and you feel you can’t talk to anybody because you can’t show that vulnerability anymore, because now you’re really important and you have to have it together.

But, uh, I think, no, you don’t, everyone’s human no matter how senior you are. And you, you need to be able to say that and, and find the right support so that you can do your best work. Cuz you wouldn’t be in the role if you couldn’t do it. So that’s the other thing. You can do it. You just sometimes need to know that you’re not gonna be perfect all the time.

It’s okay to say that. I hope that makes sense.

Naji Gehchan: It does. And, and those are very powerful advices for sure. Uh, the last one is spread love in organizations.

Cathy Nolan: Uh, my, my reaction to that isn’t done enough. . Um, you know, I, when I was preparing for this discussion to some degree, I didn’t prepare too much. But when I prepare for the discussion, it is interesting the love in organizations, because some people would say love in work, , but it is important. It’s about kindness.

Empathy and making work a good place to be for people, cuz that’s when people do their best work. So I think it’s important to spread love in an appropriate way, , um, and, and make people feel safe and appreciated and rewarded and, you know, be transparent with people as well. And, you know, be open with what’s going well and what’s not going well.

And that’s spreading love too by being honest with people. You know, we’ve talked of late, sometimes just upfront, honest conversations about where people are at and where they’re going in an organization is key to giving people the transparency they want to need and, and I think more of it should happen.

Naji Gehchan: This is true love when you’re transparent and you tell people where they stand. And those are incredibly powerful words. Uh, Cathy, any final word of wisdom for leaders around the words?

Cathy Nolan: Um, you know, I, again, it comes back to, you know, trust your instinct. Know you’re good enough, you are good.

you just sometimes may need support, and it’s okay to look for that support. And I think finally, you know, you won’t always enjoy what you do or have fun every day. If you’re having fun in your role, relish it and build off that because that’s where the magic happens. I think when teams are having fun and enjoying being with each other and doing good work.

If you’re not having fun on a regular basis or have stopped having fun, be brave and make a change. . Um, I think that has been my learning, I think over the last number of years as well. Life’s too short. We’re all good at what we do and find our right spot. And I think if you’re not in the right spot, then bring that leadership talent and ability and, and go apply it somewhere else in the organization or outside or whatever.

But that would be, don’t let the chance go by or, and stay still where you don’t need.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much for, uh, this amazing informal chat and conversation. So many words of wisdom. Thanks for being with me, Cathy, today. Thank you so much.

Cathy Nolan: No problem, Naji. Thank you for the opportunity. I’ve enjoyed the chat.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Shahin Gharakhanian

Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this podcast, having the pleasure to be joined by Dr. Shahin Gharakhanian, a physician and Pharmaceutical Executive with expertise in Pharmaceutical Medicine, Leadership/Management, and operational experience both in the US & in Europe. Shahin is specialized in HIV Medicine and Infectious Diseases has practiced clinical medicine for over 20 years in AP-HP Hospitals in Paris France. Shahin joined the pharmaceutical industry in 1991, progressing to Vice-President of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, with roles in 3 main areas: Clinical Development, Medical Affairs, Strategic Leadership including membership in the corporate Operating Council. Overall, within industry, he has held positions ranging from General Manager of a Contract Research Organization to Program Executive leading product development, regulatory approval/launch in multiple therapeutic areas across the world. Shahin has also founded, built, organized full functional departments/units for biotechnology companies and hospitals as well as two LLCs as an entrepreneur. He is a member of several international societies. His passion is Patient-focused programs for drug & vaccine development, approval, and launch.

Shahin – It is such an honor you with me today!

Shahin Gharakhanian: Thank you for having me in the program.

Naji Gehchan: I would love first to hear your personal story from being a clinician and friends to the pharma industry, and now back with several hearts, including being a clinician in infectious diseases during the Pandemic, entrepreneur, consultant, and many different, several roles that you, uh, you play today.

What’s in between the lines of your inspiring career?

Shahin Gharakhanian: Naji, I can, I can, um, say that probably the guiding. Uh, the red line, as you know, there’s a, uh, uh, uh, expression in French, or the guiding light, if you like. That expression has been, I consider myself as somebody who is in the helping professions, you know, whether, uh, in, as a medical doctor, this was really my initial and more.

The, the core, uh, value. And, uh, some of my colleagues, which I totally respect, they choose the medical profession, for example, because it’s scientifically very appealing. They, they are eminent researchers and they go, uh, through, uh, many phases of their lives discovering it’s, I love seeing, I loved and still love seeing patients.

Uh, I. Love the contact, the human contact, the fact of making a difference in one person’s life, I think it’s a huge, uh, it’s a huge accomplishment. I know there are wonderful, wonderful people who learn, uh, who run philanthropic organizations and through their money and through their efforts, they help hundreds and thousands.

Uh, I silting that when you make a difference in. Person’s life and that person remembers you, believe it or not. I haven’t. I’ve stopped practicing for a decade and some of my patients still write, um, and ask and tell me, you know, how they are doing and how I am doing . So this has been the guiding line at one point, um, in.

Career. I met a gentleman called, uh, professor Mark Tini. Maybe the name doesn’t resign to you. He is, uh, uh, he wa he is, he’s, uh, alive and, and doing well. Uh, elder, a more senior gentleman, a member of the French Academy of Medicine. He is a specialist in tropical medicine. And, uh, you know, there are two schools in tropical medicine, the British and the French, because.

Historical past, uh, they, they have the, they still have the, that knowledge. And he was the person who really, uh, told me, you know, are you interested in epidemiology? Are you interested? Computers were coming. Are you interested in, um, applic, uh, the applications of the computer Science to medicine? And he, uh, had a phrase it telling me, you know, there are people who work with their steth.

and there are people, the by people, he meant physicians. They’re physicians who work with their stethoscope and they’re physicians who work with their, uh, pen and their computer and their, their knowledge. Uh, so he suddenly opened, um, uh, an area of thinking that, you know, uh, sure you can, you can, we are trained, uh, to be, uh, at the bedside or, or to do.

but that’s not the only way. And that actually took me, uh, to pharma. Uh, and, uh, because you, uh, asked me what was the journey, uh, the comp, the, you mentioned in my biography, I was formed essentially in France. French medicine is excellent and, uh, but I have. Long years of, uh, continuing education at Harvard.

Uh, where, where, where the teachers are just extraordinary from my viewpoint. Uh, but, um, from a pharmaceutical base, you know, science and medicine, uh, I am very much, uh, uh, my, I lay learned a trait at Vertex Pharmaceuticals and. Uh, uh, it’s also how serendipity and chance can influence your life. Um, I got a phone call and somebody was looking for, um, uh, an MD for Vertex.

Uh, and I, uh, at that time, point in time, the company was totally unknown. In fact, the person told me, uh, they, they, you don’t know them, you know the name will, will not speak to you. I. Tell me who they are, and he said, vertex. Uh, it’s a company in US called Vertex. And I said, is it the vertex of the book? So there’s a book about Vertex called In Search of the 2 billion Molecule, uh, by, um, by a journalist of, uh, New York Times, I believe, and was, uh, in fact the best seller.

And I was in France, probably one of the three persons in the country, , uh, who had read the book. And I told her, you know, don’t move. I’m, I’m coming over . Uh, and I wa I discovered, uh, Dr. Joshua Boger, uh, um, the co-founder, an incredibly talented group of, um, Professionals and, uh, took me, uh, and, and I learned a lot, uh, and launched two drugs there, um, uh, with, with that wonderful team.

So, um, I would say, um, some of the dec some was some of the journey and who I am was decision making. You know, you you, you apply to medical school, right? You, you make the decision of. Uh, applying for something and, uh, going through, but a lot of it, uh, whether it was, um, H I V, uh, meeting the, the people who discovered H I V and later on got the Nobel Prize of, uh, medicine or meeting Vertex were all chances.

Um, and it’s, uh, it makes you think that, you know, um, how much are, are you really in control of your destiny? You know, you might be, you might not be. Who knows? you.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, there’s a, that’s a big debate, right? Like, is exactly, is it truly chance, is it a chance that you practically created through your intention, uh, and where you wanna go?

So I, I, I love your humility and stating its chance and serendipity and other things. And I also loved how you said helping professions. Uh, I, I really think, you know, it’s kind of an underlining that you’re talking about. This is what you wanted. So I’m. Did you always wanted to become a physician? Was it something since your childhood?

Shahin Gharakhanian: Yes, I think I was, uh, it came to me, uh, perhaps, um, uh, we had in our family, uh, a family physician, uh, who was a wonderful man, and, um, uh, you know, the, the. The type you see in movies, um, uh, you know, coming, uh, to your house. At that time, physicians used to make house calls. , you’re too young maybe to remember, but, you know, he, these people became friends of the family, in fact.

And, um, um, I was very much inspired by his, um, uh, by his, uh, conduct the way he was. And in fact, I, I went to see, Um, to get advice on my choice. Um, and I, I perhaps, uh, there were, unlike many families, I, we did not have any physician in the family. Uh, so there was nobody, my parents were not, uh, in the medical profession, so there was nobody close I could get inspiration from.

Uh, I don’t, uh, I don’t remember seeing a lot of movies or TV series. I think it was probably this, this one person. That, um, that sort of inspired me. You, you talked

Naji Gehchan: about, uh, h I V and you’ve been part of, um, this, this first public health crisis, uh, through h I v, um, and you were, I think, clinician, but then you also were in pharma during that time.

So I’m interested, I would love to hear your thoughts about really your learning from that time as a leader in both sides as a

Shahin Gharakhanian: clinician and in the firm. Absolutely. In, uh, in the, uh, you, as you remember, in the mid eighties, um, uh, the Center for Disease Control reported several cases of a strange disease, uh, in, uh, young men, uh, in San Francisco, in, uh, Paris, France.

A young physician, uh, Dr. Willie Rosenbaum, uh, was. Uh, talk about chance, right? Was called, uh, from the emergency room saying that there was a young, uh, steward from a major EL airline, uh, flying between New York and Paris, who was very ill. Um, and they, uh, performed the, uh, bronchoscopic lavage on him, and there was, they had discovered pneumocystic screening pneumonia, which is extraordinarily rare.

In normal times. You can see it only in people who go under, who undergo, uh, transplantation. Uh, uh, Dr. Rosenbaum was one of the few peoples in Paris reading the journal of the C D c called M M W R, mortality Morbidity Weekly Reports. And suddenly the light bulb came on. He rushed to the emergency room and he told him, this is the disease that the CDC has just described.

And from there started the, the incredible adventure. Where he took the, um, uh, lymph node from this patient, uh, to the pastor in Paris. And, uh, professor Mont, uh, Paris and their teams discovered, uh, hiv. I met Willie in, um, summer of 85. Uh, he looked at me, uh, and he told me I was looking for a fellowship and said, you know, if you’re looking for a ordinary.

Fellowship. Um, you don’t come here if you are looking for something extraordinary in the true sense of the work. You can start tomorrow morning. He looked at me in the, Ima imagine this is August of 1985, where very few people were talking about this disease. He looked at me in the eyes and said, this is the biggest public health crisis of modern times.

So with that, um, I started working, uh, with H I V and to answer your question, uh, Naji directly, 2, 2, 2 things. One will interest you because I understand it’s the thematic of your podcast. You talk about love. Um, it is, uh, the love of patients and the love you get from patients, uh, was an extraordinary lesson of humility to me as a young.

Who was not prepared, A young physician who was not prepared to see a lot of people in his age range die, which h i v was, um, at the beginning a hundred percent mortality rate. But it also a, um, lesson in leadership in people who, um, pushed away, um, the discriminations. The stigmatizing, uh, for who said, you know, you can be from Haiti, Haiti from you can be, uh, gay, uh, et cetera.

It doesn’t make a difference. We are supposed to treat people and, uh, pushed away all of those taboos to show leadership and take charge of people. And I think, uh, those were things which.

Sort of were totally inspirational. Uh, and I learned, uh, how, and then of course there were, uh, leaders among patient advocacy groups. There were leaders among doctors in hospitals, among the nursing, um, staff. Very important. I think the women play the major. And in society. And that was, um, a fantastic, uh, uh, lesson, uh, for me that later on inspired me.

Um, inspired

Naji Gehchan: me a lot. Those are really super powerful, uh, learning in in leadership. Thanks for her.

Shahin Gharakhanian: Shane shapes you? Yeah, a lot. Uh, well,

Naji Gehchan: the, it’s, and it’s not over, right? H i v We’re way better now.

Shahin Gharakhanian: No, we are way better. Thanks. Thank you to the pharmaceutical industry who produced over 30 or probably the, the count is higher.

32 maybe drugs. Uh, and the formidable collabo. Between academia, industry, uh, public health authorities. I would’ve liked to see this more. During the Covid area, people started, uh, setting up barriers again, and this was a big deal, um, in those times. And of course, later on in Africa, uh, philanthropic organizations like the Gates Foundation, different funds, everything came together to, to beat, uh, this, uh, this incredible, um, pandemic.

Naji Gehchan: So, so that, that was my follow up question. Um, actually, did you feel we learned from this h i V era going through Covid and, and I’m interested also, you, you bring a very important point, which is, uh, really the stigma, uh, diversity include like, it touches really very social, social issues. Unfortunately, we saw resurface again in.

even though it was not a particular gender, race or nationality, whatever exactly you want. Right. So I, I’m intrigued. Like did you, were you frustrated?

Shahin Gharakhanian: How was that? Yes. And, uh, the, the no part is that, um, we didn’t see that sort of international collaboration. Every country started saying idu. Even the Europeans were, were supposed to have, um, uh, sort of a more uniform approach.

Of course, you remember, uh, you, if you’re coming from this country, you’re coming from that country. You need to test and you need not to test. And everybody started. I, I won’t go into ugly incidents like. People fighting over masks, uh, in international airports and things like that, uh, to, uh, in, uh, when, when there was a mask shortage, everybody was fighting over that.

Uh, what did carry over was, uh, I believe, um, I can cite, uh, uh, I, I remembered, uh, data I saw from Dr. Tony fci. Who said that roughly 50% of people engaged in Covid care and research are from the HIV background. So they brought, uh, and we brought, uh, all of that, um, more scientific knowledge, uh, on resistance on, um, uh, mutations on.

variance, uh, et cetera, the public health also knowledge. So yes and no. Yes, yes. In the terms that if the world mobilized because, uh, the experts were from that background, no. Uh, we would’ve liked to see more, uh, more empathy, more, uh, more solidarity between the countries, rather than people saying, you know, I’m, I’m shutting a down and don’t come and see me, and, you know, If you’re coming from, uh, from this country or that country, then you’re not really welcome.

Uh, which, uh, which, uh, which is not exactly, was not at all helpful, you know, uh, in, in fighting the epidemic.

Naji Gehchan: So do you feel, I, I have to ask you this question, I feel with, with, we’re, we’re seeing that pandemic, most probably experts like yourself are saying they will come at a faster pace potentially in the future.

Uh, what, what are your thoughts about our readiness as a human beings as humanity towards this? And

Shahin Gharakhanian: if you had asked me the same question a year or 14 months ago, or 18 months ago, I try to look at this scientifically and not with emotion. I would’ve been probably, uh, I would’ve sort of politely brushed away.

But, um, uh, I have seen during this past 18 months numerous publications and I can provide that to your, uh, auditors and, uh, to people who listen to your programs in major journals such as science, et cetera. Uh, uh, very well. Thought through experiments, um, explaining how, uh, virus, uh, viral diseases, uh, will and infectious diseases in general will spread, uh, because, um, of the, of the ecological DYS Caribbean that we currently have.

Let me give your auditors a. Relatively simple scenario that, uh, I witnessed, um, through the rep, uh, through the reporting of a, um, of a journalist. Uh, there has been massive, uh, um, forest cleaning. Uh, and, uh, cutting down of trees in the Congo. Congo is republic. Uh, areas which have been cleaned out were the sanctuary of a certain type of, uh, monkey.

Uh, the monkeys, uh, were therefore had no dwelling anymore, started going into villages. Uh, and, uh, because they were, uh, one can, I think one can put oneself in their situation. Uh, their homes were destroyed. They go into villages. You shouldn’t expect them to be very friendly. And, uh, by biting, uh, especially children, they have transmitted viral diseases to these.

So it’s, it’s a scary se scenario, but it’s, uh, this is from last year was, uh, reported by, um, uh, news reporters, not scientists, news reporters. Um, so, uh, it is just one of the examples of how, uh, we are, um, Ma man is facilitating. Yeah. And again, there is a mounting amount of evidence, uh, in this direction.

Hence, you see that certain organizations or startups are being created to be able to respond by producing antivirals more quickly and things

Naji Gehchan: like that. Yeah. Yeah. Unfortunately, as you’re saying it, it’s another, it shows us, again this system and system functioning and the system dynamics between, between things, right?

Like it’s, it’s an interconnected web, even though we exactly always wanted to think about it, like as we human being, and unfortunately some would think even some of us are better than others as human beings are like on the top of the, the. The other species, but unfortunately we are an interconnected web and it’s a great reminder.

Totally. It’s such a great

Shahin Gharakhanian: example. Totally. And travel, air travel, uh, interconnects us and we saw how efficiently during the Covid area air travel was a vehicle of transmission. In fact the c d C, uh, uh, in, in Atlanta, one of the, one of the data pieces that they look when there is an international outbreak, they look at connections, air connections between cities.

Cause you can almost predict , uh, what will happen, uh uh, and where it’ll happen. Yeah.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. That was a great, that was a great article, uh, on Covid actually with the first, how, how flights out spread everyth Exactly. Everything. Exactly. You, you talked Jane, about, um, startups and, and I, I know you’ve been heavily involved in, um, the different biotech ventures at different stages and development.

Uh, I’m intrigued now more, uh, from this, What, what would be your advices for biotech companies starting up? You’ve been involved in companies starting, building, growing, scaling, uh, and you’ve been helping and consulting also some of the smaller biotechs and larger ones. Uh, I’d love to ha to hear your thoughts if you have one or two advice for those.

Uh, you know, the first

Shahin Gharakhanian: thing I would say is, you know, if you’re mo motivational, your, your motivation is uniquely to make money. Uh, very sophisticated financial, uh, people have explained to me that, you know, going into biotech business is probably not the best route. You can very quickly make money in.

other areas of economic activity in a shorter period of time, rather than go into a business where 10 years later you might or you might not , you know, uh, you might or you might not, uh, uh, make a lot of money. So, uh, great leaders, which I have observed, like Joshua Booger or hen tier me, or people who have been, um, at the helm, uh, of large companies, even, uh, the founder of.

Uh, had a famous saying, saying, doing, doing well, uh, by doing good. Uh, the, they have been consistently motivated by something which is above and beyond then. Um, I would say, you know, in, when, when you are leading, um, a biotech company, there are three facets you have to take into consideration. One is being a leader.

Where you need to inspire, you need to mobilize. You make people work long hours. You have to be able to get them the inspiration they need. You have to be a good administrator and you have to be a great manager. These are three dis distinct. Qualities. And then the question is, what is the right mix? You can take, uh, you know, 30%, 30%, 30%, but some companies may need.

um, 70% of management and just a little of the others. Some need a little at, at various times. Also, the needs change. The sometimes at one point you do need to be a great administrator because you have maybe things going on in that field, which are very important. At the end of the day, uh, you do need, um, it’s, it’s such a tough area where you need, um, a, a, a lot of inspirational leader.

by somebody who can just pull you because it’s, um, it’s, it’s, look at all these brave CEOs trying to raise money right now, uh, in the middle of an economic crisis in, in Europe at war. I mean, I, um, I really have a lot of admiration. You, you see them, they tell you they’ve done like 40 pitches in one month or, uh, 38.

They go to bio, they meet, I dunno hun, 120 meetings in five days, , you know, it’s, um, you have to have a lot of, um, stamina, uh, to be able to, to get there. I would love now to

Naji Gehchan: give you a. Sure. And get your reaction to it. I know you love this game. , .

Shahin Gharakhanian: If I have a blank, everybody will, excuse me. .

Naji Gehchan: So the first word is leadership

Shahin Gharakhanian: on anticipation.

Naji Gehchan: What about innovation?

Shahin Gharakhanian: Daring

Naji Gehchan: I. Okay. Can you say a little bit more about it? I love this, this

Shahin Gharakhanian: definition. You, you have, um, you have to have the guts to come out of your, um, uh, comfort zone and, uh, to be beaten, uh, on the head by stick because what you’re saying or what you’re trying to achieve, nobody else has done. Um, uh, I think, um, I think, uh, without getting into any cliche or but from public and personal, Personal, um, information.

I, I think, uh, the team at Moderna, uh, was, was able to innovate, um, because believe me, you know, um, every, the doors did not open at the first day . So, um, um, so you have to dare, uh, you have to dare.

Naji Gehchan: Uh, the third one is Boston Biotech Summit Collaboration. I, I’d love for you to pitch briefly to our audience cause it’s one of those great summits when you’re bridging Paris and Boston.

Shahin Gharakhanian: Um, Naji, I think we, a number of thanks to many, many people around the world. A number of medical problems have been resolved. Uh, with new drugs, new innovation, uh, vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, uh, new devices, everything you want. Now we are at the, you know, uh, a core of remaining problems. Uh, if I may, I can, uh, compare hepatitis C.

Hepatitis B, which is currently the, the target, hepatitis sees an easier disease. In many ways, the target finding the drugs was difficult, but Hep B, because it, it integrates, uh, it is an integrated virus. It’s much more difficult. Curing HIV is very difficult. Some cancers, we have progress, but other cancers are very tough.

To cure. And finally, uh, if you take, uh, rare disease of children, some of them there is, there are breakthroughs, but others remain psychiatric disease, which is a big unknown un un uh, unmet medical need. Uh, finding better treatments for tuberculosis. Number one infection in the world. It’s, it’s, it’s a shame, uh, on humanity that, you know, we are in 2022.

TB is still out there. Getting these problems solved, will need know-how from everywhere. No company, uh, not even the, the, the big ones. They notice, by the way, the Pfizers and, and the GSKs and the Sanofis, they notice. Uh, but I think even if you have a smaller biotech, you need to understand that you, you cannot do it.

This is the, uh, this is the idea behind the, the summit is to build bridges. Ours is across the Atlantic. Uh, but, but you can imagine all sorts of bridges between people, uh, between labs, between, and if we try to bring people together in a small scale meeting, We respect the big meetings. They’re, they’re essential, but ours is a artisans meeting, we call it.

Um, and so they, they can talk to each other and from there can come, uh, synergies because we are firm believers. Now I know we are swimming, um, against Tide. When you hear. Countries shutting down and telling, you know, stay out. I’m going to do my own thing. You know, um, uh, it’s, it’s not always easy, uh, but, um, but we’ve been, we’ve been doing this for six years and I think, uh, uh, we have data now showing that there is, uh, uh, there are projects that sparked up.

So your, your answer is on our website. It’s the bridges you can see on our website, which is, uh, symbolizes collaboration really.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. And even if it’s against, you know, tide and current, uh, this is crucial. Collaboration is crucial, and we saw like the success we can

Shahin Gharakhanian: get from. Absolutely, absolutely.

Naji Gehchan: The last word is spread love in organizations.

Shahin Gharakhanian: I, I like your, uh, applying the word love in a corporate setting is not, uh, an easy task, but, uh, there is an word in English, which I like very much, which is, Uh, which is another way of saying love. Um, and, um, uh, I also, um, want to remind your, um, auditors, um, and I can, um, I can look up, uh, the exact references, but there is a, uh, there was a former, uh, Boston Scholar who’s now retired, uh, who has a whole theory, uh, around the big, uh, social movements.

and the, that their foundation is in, is a, is a sudden burst of love. He has written several books. I can try to find the references for you, but, uh, I hope we are entering an era where, um, our leaders, uh, whether they’re political or corporate, will understand that, uh, their, their teams have evolved. The population has.

And the more, uh, the world is now full of people like Ji, where, which are highly educated, highly motivated, come from different backgrounds, uh, are very autonomous in their thinking, and, uh, leading people of this phenotype is very different from the past. So you need to have that empathy, uh, built into your, uh, leadership model, I believe.

But of course, I’m sure it’s a big debate in management schools . Sure. . Well, well, you

Naji Gehchan: know, uh, first I would love all your reference and we’ll make sure we’ll have them for our audience on your, uh, on your page. Um, and yeah, obviously this is something that have been studied. It’s not always called love, genuine care, servant leader, psychological safety, empathy, as you said, compassion like.

Hundreds of words. And really what we’re trying to bring here is incredible leaders, thinkers like you, who actually have done it and believe in it. Uh, because we, we would never do enough, uh, to, uh, again, emphasize exactly what you said. We, we need this type of leadership for us to be able to collaborate, move forward, and actually deliver for the different, uh, uh, stakeholders in, in our organizations.

Any final word of wisdom shaheen for healthcare leaders around the world?

Shahin Gharakhanian: Um,

probably a plea, uh, to, to pay more attention to this interface between health and our environment. Uh, a plea that in order to, um, be able to contribute to he. Uh, it is better to have peace than war. Uh, war is extremely costly in, in many ways, human, uh, but also, uh, finite. It’s a huge, I’m very worried that, uh, conflicts a across the world will drain countries energies.

Uh, uh, and, uh, uh, you have to, I mean, you cannot. Print money indefinitely, you need to take from somewhere to give to somewhere else. Uh, it’s just as basic as that. Uh, but, uh, but taking this interface between, uh, uh, our natural environment and, uh, our health seems to be rising really to the top, um, of the agenda.

I mean, uh, just looking at from, from HIV. to Covid, to Monkey Parks with Ebola, Zika in the middle, uh, coming and going. Uh, uh, you know, uh, I, I, I hope the covid, um, the covid crisis will make everybody think twice, because here you have a disease where everything stopped, , cities emptied, everything stopped, life stopped, and we, we probably cannot have one another one of these crisis.

It’ll be very tough to manage. So, uh, uh, that also calls for more empathy and love, probably . Yeah. And it’s such

Naji Gehchan: a powerful, uh, please Shaneen, thanks for sharing this, and thank you again for being with me today.

Shahin Gharakhanian: Thank you, Naji, for having me on this program. Thank you. I appreciate it.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this episode joined today by Cheerag Upadhyaya, Clinical Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, and Chief Transformation & Business Strategy Officer. Cheerag completed neurosurgical residency at the University of Michigan, complex and minimally invasive spine fellowship at the University of California San Francisco, and research fellowships at the Howard Hughes Medical Institutes / National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program resulting in a Masters in Science from the University of Michigan. He recently completed his MBA from MIT Sloan where we met as classmates and had fun negotiating a car in one of our classes. Cheerag is a member of the Executive Committee for the AANS/CNS Spine and Peripheral Nerve Section as well as a member of several associations. He has been awarded the Scoliosis Research Society Edgar Dawson Traveling Fellowship and AANS/CNS Spine and Peripheral Nerve Outcomes Committee Award. Cheerag was also elected to the Editorial Board of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine in 2021.

Cheerag, It is such an honor to have you with me today!

Cheerag Upadhyaya: Oh, thanks, Naji . It’s a very, uh, humbling, uh, intro.

Naji Gehchan: Well, every time we chatted about this podcast and this episode, you kept telling me with such humility that you have nothing interesting to tell, and I know you have a ton. So why don’t we start with your personal story. Can you tell us a little bit more what got you to where you are today?

Cheerag Upadhyaya: so I’m the, the son of, uh, immigrants, uh, from India. Um, they. , they came here. My father came here in the late 1960s, um, actually because he wanted to, to be a physician. So he did his medical education in India and then came to the United States for a residency, um, and then decided to stay here.

Um, and, uh, that experience I think, transfers a lot to me. Uh, you know, understanding what my father and my mother. Went through as they made that transition from India to the United States and the drive and determination that he had and my wo mom had about wanting to take care of patients really. And so that served as a very early inspiration in terms of just work ethic.

But also in terms of what I wanted to do with my life. And so I knew early on I wanted to become, um, a physician. Um, that was just a, a core part of who I was as I was growing up. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. . That was the, that was the part I didn’t know what part. My dad is a ob, uh, G Y n. And so I, I saw a lot of, or heard about a lot of things that he did.

Um, so surgery was somewhat interesting to me at the time, but I really just didn’t know. Um, but I put my head down, worked, went to college and, and then went to med school. And as I. Went through medical school. I really enjoyed, um, surgery. I loved just working with my hands. I loved the clinical aspects of, uh, leading a team, right?

To, to be able to operate successfully and safely, you have to be able to help everybody around you perform at a certain level, right? Um, so that the patient is taken care of really well. And that really attracted me. There was something about that that just, um, Connected. Um, and so I pursued surgical training and ultimately, um, neurosurgical training, um, and then ultimately spine as you, as you already outlined.

Um, the other aspect though that I wanted to explore was, you know, inquiry. I wanted to understand, okay, how can you not only make an impact on our patients, Today, but how do you start impacting patients? Um, uh, in terms of future, right? Extend yourself, scale yourself up as a, uh, individual. And research is one avenue.

And I looked at basic science, but I realized that basic science. Which was the Howard Hughes, um, n i H program, um, wasn’t, didn’t connect with me. Um, and that’s where the clinical research came in, uh, with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Fellowship. And then the M B A actually was a way to sort of understand how to connect the dots when it comes to.

Clinical outcomes research, but how do you actually implement that Right. Within large health systems, right. Within organizations, it’s, uh, it’s actually a, something I’m seeing more and more of now that you and I finished the program, that there’s a disconnect between understanding the data. In understanding how to actually operationalize the data, implement it for best practices.

And so that, you know, brought me back to academics, um, here at U N C as a way of being able to function within a large health system and work with partners and neurosurgery, but within the larger health system as well. Thanks for sharing,

Naji Gehchan: uh, part of your story with us. Uh, ed, I know as we were just telling you, are we connecting, you told me you might be called for the operating room.

Uh, as we are recording, I’d love to get your thoughts actually about this. You talked about it, about this readiness, really constant readiness to deliver in high stress environment, not only you, but also the team around you. How, how do you. .

Cheerag Upadhyaya: Yeah. So it’s it, I learned this from my faculty at the University of Michigan.

Um, and there’s a few factors that I’ve always taken with me, right? So the first is you, you have to really be good at your job, right? Yourself, right? Uh, you always have to put the patient first. Um, and then the other thing that. Learned in that. I, I understood it from my faculty in terms of the training and, and I jokingly say as I grew up in, in, in medicine, um, but it was emphasized in everything we learned at M I t, which is you have to create.

Um, a safe space for folks, right? Um, and you also have to, um, empower folks, right? So let me give you a small example. Um, every time I do an operation, one of the things that I, when you’re doing a spine surgery, for example, is you have to check and make sure. You’re operating on the right level, right? Are you operating on what level of the spine?

Um, and the spine has a lot of vertebra. And so if you’re in a rush, it’s easy to get off one level. Um, and that is something that obviously you don’t wanna do, right? You wanna operate on the level where the patient has the pathology. And so when I check the level with an x-ray, I stop and ask everybody around the room before I say anything.

Look at the. Double check if that level matches the level that we thought we were going to do from the initial timeout consent process and so forth. And I do that for a couple of reasons. One is I wanna make sure that everybody’s engaged, everybody’s part of the team. The second thing is I want to convey to everybody that.

if you see something that you feel that we’re at the wrong level, speak up, say something, right? Um, I want you to say something, right? If I’m driving it completely all the time, then folks are gonna be passive part of the process. And I think you can’t get the best out of everybody when they’re passive in the process versus if you actively engage them in the process.

And I think that it makes a huge impact on patient care. And I gave an operative example, but I think the same. Is very true in the outpatient realm. The same is very true in the inpatient realm and frankly, from what you and I learned at m i t I think it’s true, you know, outside of healthcare, right. And, and, and business as a whole.

Yeah. You, you

Naji Gehchan: took me back in time to my residency and, and actually we had this issue in operating room and um, unfortunately after the operation, the. Told me that she knew, but she couldn’t say it because the, the head of department was operating actually. So, you know, going back to this, uh, how, how do you lead these teams efforts?

You talked about, uh, creating the safe space. How, how do you do this? How do you ensure there’s a safe space? And if I wanna challenge a little bit more, I don’t know if in your career you had this, did you build this safe space after a leader who, before you actually did not have this s culture and how you dealt with this?

Cheerag Upadhyaya: Uh, I think it was, it was a, it was the opposite. I, I was very fortunate in my career as I, as a trainee, as a medical student, as a resident, as a fellow to even in the research space, um, at the n I h, at the Robert Wood Johnson. Um, I think it was, I was very, very fortunate. I was surrounded by mentors who, um, Created this environment.

And so for me, and again, I couldn’t describe it right. I couldn’t describe it, you know, when you, when you talk about like, um, what we learned at school, right? Uh, with psychological safety and, you know, some of the work that was done at Harvard in terms of Amy Edmondson, it wasn’t, it wasn’t something that I could describe.

It was just the way that they led and. Created this environment where they had high standards, they had high standards, but it wasn’t about getting upset with people or, or, um, getting, um, mad at people or, or, or, or demeaning people. It was about helping folks setting very high expectations. I think it’s, you know, you, you, uh, you and I were talking about this, right?

Setting expectations, clearly articulating those expectations. so folks know where to go and what they need to do, but then giving people the support and then appropriate feedback, right? Um, and then being humble enough to know that it’s a team effort. Somebody has to lead the team, but ultimately you still need the team to work.

Um, and, and that humility was something that, um, also translated across many, many of the mentors that I’ve been fortunate to work with, uh, over the.

Can you share one of,

Naji Gehchan: uh, the stories, uh, potentially where things might have gone wrong, uh, and how you dealt with this. Uh, I’m really looking at, you know, those mistakes that can be life-threatening actually in your job. And as you’re saying, as you’re talking about creating this psychological, safe environment, how do you deal in mistake with mistakes in a, in a different, uh, ,

Cheerag Upadhyaya: you know, it, uh, that’s a great question.

I, I, dealing with mistakes I think is hard. I think the natural reaction that we all have, or the vast majority of us have is to ignore the mistake. Right. To, to put your head in the sand. To, to, to just not think about it. Right. And when I’ve worked with, um, residents, when I work with medical students, um, younger faculty, I try to explain to them that that’s been my initial reaction as well.

Right? There, something happens and you want to, to run away from it or hide it because it, it’s hurts, right? As a, as a clinician, as a surgeon, you always want the very best for your patient, and when things don’t go right, even if it is something that is within the profile of known complications and things like that, you, you take it personally.

One thing I’ve learned, and it requires work, it actually, it requires a tremendous amount of intentional effort, is that you have to just confront it, acknowledge it, talk about it with your colleagues. Not in a blaming sense, right? You know, of like, this person did this or this person did that. Cuz that goes against everything we talked about a minute ago.

You’ll create an environment that isn’t conducive to safety, but to talk about it in terms of how could I have done better? How could we have done better? Right? And frame it from that perspective. Um, the, the other thing is, own it, right? So for example, if I have a patient who does have a complication, Bring that patient back, talk to them more.

Um, you know, don’t distance yourself from that patient. Um, and I think this is true, whether it’s a patient or any problem or any challenge or any mistake if you will, um, anything like that in life is that distancing yourself from it is. I think a very natural reaction, but we have to sort of fight that reaction and, and, and work through that sort of dissonance in our head and say, no, let me bring it closer to me.

And if you do that, I think you can learn from those mistakes better. And you set an example to your team of, okay, this is a space where we can talk about it, right? Where, where if you make a mistake, this is how we’re gonna handle it. And I think that’s the other, again, going back to the idea is how do you model yourself, model yourself as a leader?

Folks need to see that, right? They need, if they don’t, if they see you getting defensive or they see you running away from things, then that’s what they’re, you know, going to probably do. If they see you owning it and acknowledging it, talking about it, bringing it closer, then they’re gonna start. And I, again, it goes back to what we started with.

I think you’ll improve processes and patients care and everything. Um, dramat. So much of what we is, uh, iterative. I mean, it’s, it, it’s iterative. I mean, we talk about it in medicine, it’s the practice of medicine, right? I’m, I’ll never stop practicing medicine until I stop, right? . Um, I’m always going to be just working to better myself.

Um, and I think that’s true for life and, and business as well. Totally,

Naji Gehchan: and I love it, as you said, do not ignore mistakes. Own them. You know, and, and you didn’t go until saying, uh, like kind of, sometimes you say it’s the others’ mistake too. And I think this is kind of the worst thing that can happen when you not only disowned them, but practically say, oh, it was the operating, uh, room schedule, or it was the nurse or so, so really owning them, even if it’s.

Your mistakes, but your team’s mistake for you to create the safe place and make it better the next time. I, I love what you shared. Sh you also have a key role within your organization now, which is business strategy. So I was very interested when I read, you know, for a physician business and strategy, uh, in, in their function.

So I’d love to, uh, understand from you, how do you define business and also how you define. Yeah, .

Cheerag Upadhyaya: So, uh, it, it’s an evolving idea for me, Ashley. Uh, as I’m, as I’m getting started, this has been something that I’m still learning in myself. Um, the way that I sort of think it’s, it’s hard you don’t, healthcare as you know, right?

Is, is a business, right? Um, so much of we, you know, if, if, if it’s. It goes back to what we talked about in the, in our program when it comes to nonprofits, right. A nonprofit still has to run like a business. Right. It just doesn’t have to pay taxes. Right. Like a for-profit business does. Right. Um, so in healthcare, many of us are in nonprofits.

Um, it’s still important to run the business and run it well. So the lens through which I. Thinking about this, right, is where, what I alluded to a little while ago, which is that I want to understand those best practices that we’ve studied, right? That even you company, right? Your, your company brings out best practices, right?

You use these medications, this is the patient population, this is the best data, et cetera, but the implementation of that, Has to be done in a large corporate environment, right? Multi-billion dollar health systems have to implement these processes of care. And so for me, that is where I’m sort of thinking about it as how do I help bring management approaches?

right, to improve patient care, improve operations, um, on multiple levels, right? Whether it’s at the individual clinic level or whether it’s at the, you know, departmental level or even at a programmatic, a multidisciplinary programmatic level in terms of strategy, part of what I’m thinking about is what is the core competency, right?

What is the competitive advantage of any health system, right? And, and then, so I’m just not a big believer in. You know that there’s a fixed pie, right? Uh, one thing you we’ve learned is that there’s, there’s space in the world for a lot of folks, right? Um, we learned that over and over again with, uh, businesses, right?

I think about the conversations we had and strategy when it came to, like Trader Joe’s versus other grocery stores, for example, right? And it seems like a mundane example, but it’s, no, it’s, it’s very. Applicable to our life, right? There’s room for different health systems in the same market. But I think a lot of times folks get into this idea that it’s a zero sum game, right?

We’re just competing over a fixed number of patients, and I think that there are ways of approaching and guiding programmatic development. Strategy right around that, whether it’s at the departmental level or at an institutional level, that allows the healthcare system to position itself for what it can do the very best.

Right? Um, and I think that’s my approach, at least as I’m thinking about it and as I’m getting started. .

Naji Gehchan: I love this. And yeah, you reminded me of the fixed buy bias because you talked about it and it’s one of the best biases I learned as a concept in negotiation, right? Like when, when we all fight for the same buy, who’s gonna take the bigger piece rather than thinking how to expand actually the buy and we can all benefit from it.

So thanks for sharing that. Uh, I, I would give you now one word and I would love your reaction to it. So the first word is leadership.

Cheerag Upadhyaya: My reaction to that word is, um, understanding your people, understanding who you’re leading and helping them become the best version of themselves within your capacity. Right. Um, that to me has always been sort of the way that I approach it. You know, when I interview. People, when I’m thinking about conversations that I’ve had with people, my first question or one of my early questions is, what, what do you aspire for yourself?

Right? I want to know that, um, because if I can help them achieve some of what they aspire or even better, Achieve more than what they believe they can aspire to. Right? Then I think you can really engage that person and you’re really leading them, and they’ll be with you right through the worst times. Um, but you have to be able to get them there.

I I, I learned this from. I learned this from a, a friend of mine, um, who, who recently passed, um, and, uh, at a young age, uh, she was, uh, one of my, um, early, early mentors as a resident. She was my chief resident and then faculty. Um, and I, you know, leaned on her for advice over the years. , um, uh, her name was, uh, uh, Linda Yang.

Um, and, uh, just an outstanding peripheral nerve neurosurgeon. Um, but I saw this with what she did. She would help people, everybody. Whether it was somebody in the office who, you know, wanted a nurse in the office who wanted to become a nurse practitioner but didn’t see it in themselves, and she did, and she would push them and again, support them.

And then suddenly they were like, oh my gosh, look, look what I did. Um, to, to others who, you know, no, I can’t do research. And no, I think you can. Right? You can help me with research and you’re not a medical student and you’re not a resident. You’re, you know, et cetera. But you can do research. Let me show you how you can do research, and this is the impact you can make.

Um, I think that’s when you, when you use that word, leadership, that’s what sort of pops into my head. Oh, thanks

Naji Gehchan: GaN. I, I’m sorry for your loss. And you, you’re touching a key point of mentorship, coaching, uh, which is also part of leadership. What about, uh,

Cheerag Upadhyaya: transformation, transformation.

I think the word transformation, um, the word that comes to my mind and the ideas that come to my mind are around empowerment, right? I think transformation is an opportunity to, to really empower people to move to the next level. , right. Um, to break the status quo, right? To, to, to rebuild, if you will, in a sense.

Um, I had a flavor of this, you know, in terms of some programmatic development where we were given the opportunity for transformation, right? How do you, how do you do this? Right? And, um, the way that it was most successful, the, the, the opportunities that we leveraged that were the most successful were those opportunities where we empowered people.

And allowed them to help lead the effort as well. Right. And then suddenly that transformation from the ground up was so much more powerful and so much more engaged when it came to the organization. What about health equity?

Uh, that one , that’s a challenging one. I actually, it’s, it’s near and dear to my heart now cuz I’m seeing, um, so much inequity, uh, frankly, in healthcare, um, for me. It’s, it’s a big challenge that we need to address, um, increasingly, not just in the United States, but around the world. Um, uh, but living in the United States, I, on some levels, you know, it seems like we’ve got, as we’ve talked about many times, wonderful healthcare, which we do have amazing, amazing healthcare.

But when you see the inequity, when you see patients who are not able to. Who are not able to afford care. Right. Um, and or who because of social, um, uh, determinants of health. Right. And the unrecognized aspects that social determinants of health, it’s improving, it’s getting better. We’re understanding it more.

But the impact of social determinants of health on health inequity or health equity, I think is another area. So for me, That is an area that actually I’m in very interested in, in trying to understand and explore. And it’s one of the things I’d like to understand over the next several years as part of, you know, a research, research effort when it comes to neurosurgery and spine surgery is, is exactly that, right?

When it comes to the social determinants of health and how that drives inequity in health outcomes. Um, I do think that there’s an opportunity to a, again, go back to management though, right? How does an organization. Interact and, and interface with other community stakeholders, right? As a way of helping build up capability when it comes to the resources that we can offer, the community, the environment, you know, our, the people around, um, to improve health inequity.

The last one

Naji Gehchan: is spread love and organizations.

Cheerag Upadhyaya: So , I. I think I, I was fortunate to participate in a, um, and I really love your podcast. I love your podcast because you unan unashamedly, I don’t even know if, if that’s the right word, I think, right. But just right there, you throw it out there, you use the word love, right?

And I think. I think that that is an important concept. I was fortunate to participate in, um, uh, physician leadership, or, sorry, a healthcare leadership forum, um, at Intermountain Healthcare. Um, and it was led by, uh, one of the former CEOs of Intermountain Healthcare. His name is Charles Sorenson. Wonderful gentleman, wonderful gentleman.

Very humble. Um, exemplified much of what you and I have talked about this morning. and one of the speakers that he had brought was another executive at, um, the, uh, Intermountain former executive Inter Intermountain Healthcare. And he exac he said that he, he emphasized that he’s like, you know, leadership is love.

As well, right? As all these other things we’ve talked about and that hit home, um, when I heard that a few, this was a few years ago before the, before all this pandemic and everything we’ve been living through it hit home. And, and he went through and he described, and I thought this was very insightful.

He went through and he described, you know, that we don’t, you know, we use the word love, but you know, you know, if you go back to certain culture, You know, for example, I think you talked about the Greek and the, uh, Greek culture and antiquity, right? They had. They, they put different words around different types of love, right?

And that I think is sometimes lost in our modern world. That you can love the people around you, and it doesn’t have to be all this other stuff. It can truly be a love of mission, a love of watching people grow and become the best versions of themselves. But I think that is an important part. That is something that is lost at times, I feel in the modern era.

And I really appreciate what you’re trying to do here, which is bring some of that back, you know, into the conversation, right? As a way of, um, helping improve business, but also frankly, improve people’s lives. Right? Because, you know, work is such an important part of everybody’s life. and if you feel good about going to work, right?

That’s, that’s a good thing, , when it comes to life in general, right? It shouldn’t be consuming, but it should be fun and enjoyable and, and, uh, and uh, and help you grow as an individual and feel like there’s dignity to that, right? That you’re coming home. And I think if you don’t have love in that conversation, and I think the type of love that we’re talking about, right?

It, it begins to, um, you lose some of.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much, uh, SHA for saying this. It means so much for me. And yeah, hopefully we’re bringing a little bit more of this love, you know, not the ro romantic love. We only think about when we hear the word love, but all the other pieces of love, of humanity, life, work, and humans.

Uh, any final word of wisdom for healthcare leaders around.

Cheerag Upadhyaya: Uh, you know, it’s one thing I’ve learned, um, again, I, going back to going back to our experience at m I t Naji, like, um, I build networks, um, you know, build networks, build friendships in healthcare, which I think sometimes comes naturally cuz that’s where we are.

But build networks of people outside of healthcare, right. In other industries. Um, I, you know, I mean we went through this pandemic. Right. As a, as a class , um, and, and learning from each other, um, I think it’s easy to get siloed right in, in what we do, but I think learning from each other, um, and finding and seeking out really good people like, like yourselves and so many other, other folks that we worked with as, as classmates.

Um, is, is something I’ve learned, um, has been very valuable and it actually gives perspective on the challenges that we’re all facing, right? Um, and uh, the other thing is taking the time to have good conversations. Um, I think, uh, You know, the fireside chats that we had as, um, as students, um, were probably some of the most impactful things for me personally.

Um, just to learn from each other, the humanity that people bring to the table, um, as well. And it gives perspective on, on, on our mission. So that, that’s just, uh, just my 2 cents in additional, obviously everything else we’ve talked about.

Naji Gehchan: Awesome. Thank you so much again, uh, for being with me.

Cheerag Upadhyaya: Thanks, Naji. It was a pleasure and I look forward to seeing you in person here in, uh, next month.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this podcast, having the pleasure to be joined by Stephanie Chen, ChenMed’s Chief Legal Officer and Culture Officer. Stephanie has been with ChenMed since 2006, and served as General Counsel prior to being named Chief Legal Officer in 2016.  A graduate of New York Law School, which she attended on a Harlan Scholarship, Stephanie was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2008. She graduated cum laude from Boston College with a degree in economics.

Stephanie and her husband, Dr. Chris Chen, the CEO of ChenMed, have four children together and live in Florida.

Stephanie – It is such a pleasure to have you with me today!

Stephanie Chen: It’s a pleasure to be here, Naji. Thank you so, so very much for the warm welcome.

Naji Gehchan: Uh, can you first please share with us a little bit more about your personal story from law to now being in healthcare as chief legal officer and culture officer, uh, in this industry?

Stephanie Chen: Definitely, um, you said with love. So I’ll start with, um, I married my high school sweetheart. Uh, Chris and I have been together since I was 15 years old. Um, we went to prom, my prom together and he came to my high school graduation. So we kind of have a, a funny story in that way. Um, I was married as a college sophomore.

Um, and so that’s kind of, if anyone’s been to Boston College in your audience, that’s not normal. at Boston College. Uh, and so most, most students live on campus there. And so I was off campus, married to a, uh, uh, Beth Israel Deacon as resident. But, um, we, we grew up together. Um, and, uh, I wouldn’t change any of it.

He’s a great guy. So that’s my, my my love story. Um, and then growing up in healthcare, um, to be honest, if you had asked me when I was maybe 12 or 13, , I don’t know if I would’ve said I’m gonna end up in healthcare. I, I loved caring for people, but I’ve never loved science. So what’s really wonderful about the health candu industry is that I get to care for patients and people and not be a physician or a nurse, or a nurse practitioner, or even a medical assistant.

None of those things appeal to me. Um, But I, but changing the world appeals to me and caring for people has always appealed to me. So healthcare, I think, um, has both of those things, an impact on the world and an impact, uh, and a chance to love on people in an individual way. Oh,

Naji Gehchan: for sure. This is, this is our why.

This is why we wake up every morning trying to make an impact and help patients live better. Uh, I, I’m really intrigued by Chen Med, uh, and specifically after I received from a friend who sent me an article about, uh, how you are transforming love into profits in healthcare. So I was very intrigued because my podcast talked about spreading love in organizations.

So I’d love to hear a little bit more about what you do and really the values, uh, that you bring in your in. I shouldn’t say company. It’s more in your organization, I should say.

Stephanie Chen: Yeah. Well, thank you for asking Naji. So, um, maybe like eight years ago, I remember being in a room where, um, Chris was presenting, um, to the family where family run.

Company, right? Family owned and operated. Um, but we have an executive team and we’ve got like 6,000 employees. So we’re not a mom and pop anymore, but it still very much feels like a momand pop. Um, he presented to the family the, the values that he wanted our company to have. And there were three, and I remember being so critical in my mind because the three were love accountability, and.

And I just spoke up and said, you know, love and passion in a workplace environment sounds so weird. It sounds like a, like a litigation waiting to happen, right? Like, we’re gonna get sexual, uh, harassment claims, , you know, like love and passion, you know, , um, sounds like something that should be on an e true Hollywood story.

Um, but he was really convicted and, um, and and really passionate about making those three our company values. And we have them as defined terms. You know, we have, um, like love is defined in four ways. Accountability is defined in five ways, and then passions defined in four ways. And we really are those three things at ChenMed.

Um, and we live. Love, um, for each other. That’s one of the things we, we value every human being as an incredible creation of God who brings value. And so that’s one of them. We also love people enough to tell them the truth. That’s one of our values of love. Um, and give them open and honest feedback. And so, and we invest in others as part of our love at Chen.

And help develop everyone to be the best they can be. Um, and then accountability obviously in healthcare is, there’s so much data, right? Um, and there’s just so much around results and obviously the results are bigger than profits. The results are changing people’s lives and keeping people healthier longer, and, and changing the healthcare statistics in the country, right around cancer survival rates.

Chen Med has done that, um, around, um, Like just, uh, life expectancy in, in the zip codes we serve. Um, there’s a 20 year age gap in the zip codes we serve versus in the zip code maybe, um, that you or I would live in Naji. And so like just really working at that, at that life expectancy, discrepancy and shipping away at that.

And so that accountability is huge. And then passion is just like our zest for what we do. And at ChenMed we really love what we do. Um, We wake up in the morning with inspiring energy. Um, and that’s how passions defined and we bring new energy to each day. And so when Chris said those three, I was like, this sounds like a nightmare, but I was really wrong because, um, they really are the best values to define what it’s like to live and work at Gen Med.

And I think because of those people are, are just confident in how they bring their passions and their zaniness and their love to work and even their accountability. .

Naji Gehchan: I love it. And I, I, you know, when I, when I came for the little story, when I came, uh, from France, uh, to the us so I, I’ve been spreading love in the organization where I work for some years now.

Uh, and when I moved here, the first thing they told me, don’t talk about love in the workplace. You’re gonna end up in a very bad situation as a French Lebanese guy, you know, talking about this . So when you said like, love and passion, You know, legally what you thought about it was the same for me, but at the end, as you said, like this is actually what can bring impact, caring for one another for us to, at the end, care for the customers and ultimately help patients live better.

So I, I love how you define it. Um, how do you build this culture daily? You know, in Chen, because there’s so much you’re doing. Um, so how, how, how daily do you build this within the team? For them to be focused truly on love for people for one another and love for the patients. ,

Stephanie Chen: you know, it’s one-on-one, which does not sound scalable, but it really is.

We have to hire for people who really want this in their own life as well. And then they have to, want to push it out because I can’t be in Detroit or Louisville or Atlanta or New Orleans or you know, Memphis. Right. And, and none of us can. And so we have to hire beautiful, loving people in Memphis and in Detroit and Atlanta, who, who want this in their lives as well.

and then that’s the first thing. So it’s people. You gotta get the right people. And then the second thing is it’s cultivated. So in our town halls, in our emails, in our meetings, we really do try to remind everyone of the beautiful purpose of why we’re here. One of my favorite books is Simon Cenek. Start With Why.

And he just hits the nail on the head with, with, we have to constantly be reminded of why we’re doing things, um, and, and why we’re here. And so I think just starting with why. And so our town halls are literally like a one hour love meeting, like a love fest to make that, you know, sound funny and inappropriate.

But it really is celebrating our team members who have gone above and beyond celebrating our, our patient victories and the data. Celebrating. We had an 87 year old patient get engaged cuz she wasn’t healthy, um, enough to even like leave her home. And then she became healthy enough to be social and then she became healthy enough to like find a fiance and she was just so happy.

And so that’s like a story we told on our Town Hall of Loneliness to Love and just celebrating those because we, we impact so many patients and we have to know and be reminded because our job is very hard, um, in healthcare everywhere. It’s a very hard job. So we have to constantly remember why we’re doing.

Naji Gehchan: So talking about this, that was actually my second question, right? If you work in a highly stressful environment, uh, these days with low staffing, uh, we, we read all over overworked healthcare professionals. Yeah. Uh, h how do you do to keep really love at the heart of what you do and actually support, support this mission?

Stephanie Chen: You know, I wish I could say we did it perfectly. I’m constantly striving to figure out how to do it better. Um, that’s like my full-time job because it’s, it’s understaffing triple masking, um, changing protocols, right? The stress is just so very high and it’s always like, do more and do better and do faster and do better quality in healthcare, right?

Like, and so, um, I would say,

Okay. I would say that, um, uh, we, we work on care teams. We say that we are all here to serve our physicians and our nurse practitioners. And so, um, it’s a team that, that really does help encapsulate with returning messages, looking at emails, getting scripts organized. Um, calling the day before and asking our patients, our senior patients, can you bring all the medications you’re on so we can see what you’re taking, what you’re out of.

Um, we really do try to have a one stop shop at ChenMed. I don’t know if you’re familiar with our model, but, um, it’s all encompassing care and we look at all the social determinants of health. We look at if they don’t have the money for their copay and they’re not taking their blood thinner, well, what does that look like for a hospitalization?

Right? and so, hey, how can we get that copay in a payment plan for you, even if it’s only five or $10? How can we help you pay just 50 cents or a dollar today so that you don’t stop taking an important medication? We make sure they have Uber health and and rides. , they’re specialists, and if their doctor, daughter, or son or brother or sister can’t take them to a specialist, we make sure they get there no matter what.

And so we really do try to have this care team that comes around, the physicians and the nurses and the staff to make sure that that load is, is. Co-labor and that the burden is carried together with others. We really do believe that it’s gotta be a team. It’s gotta be kind of like, I don’t know. Um, we have a strong Christian faith and so a lot of my analogies are from the Bible, but there’s this chord of three St.

Strands cannot easily be broken. And so it’s like, I think burnout comes when a physician feels alone. I think burnout comes when a nurse feels alone and that they have to carry the heavy weight of their panel. By themselves. And at ChenMed that’s not the case. They should be fully supported by our home office staff and by their care team.

Naji Gehchan: I, I’m intrigued since you’re talking about teams. Uh, are you, do you, for example, train your people? Do you have like leadership efficiency work together and what, what are the ones you are focused on since like, one of your values is love and passion so much

Stephanie Chen: training , so much training Naji. Um, we believe in lifelong.

um, at ChenMed. So, um, even our physicians, basically we realized that. In medical school, um, you’re not really totally trained on kind of like, um, the positive no. Or, um, even, uh, degrees of influence. Now, I didn’t go to medical school, and I don’t mean any slight, but I know in four years you’re learning a lot of other things more than kind of like family influence or.

Or, or things like that. And so at ChenMed we have so much physician training around, um, how to influence, how to provide for full care, how to ask different questions to get to the right answer, um, and, and things like that. So they can go through training here at ChenMed that we’ve spec specifically designed for our physicians and, and p c leaders.

Our PCP leadership train is amazing. Um, I was just at a partner’s weekend in Orlando. And, um, it’s just awesome to see people who’ve been employed here 20 years, um, you know, 15 years, 18 years, and just keep getting promoted, promoted, promoted, and so, and now are leading teams and markets and, and, and national, national groups.

Naji Gehchan: I, I would love now to go to a part where I will give you a word and I’d love to, your reaction to it.

Stephanie Chen: I am the most excited and nervous about this. Nudie, I knew you were gonna do this. And I kept thinking, what is he gonna

Naji Gehchan: say? ? So the fir, the first one is

Stephanie Chen: leadership. Okay. Um, oh, I think by example. I think, um, to be a good leader, you have to walk what you talk and the, you gotta be consistent and yeah.

What about health equity? Uh, That breaks my heart is the first thing I think about it, because it feels like a fundamental right, that we should all be the day we’re born. We should have the same chance as everyone else. Um, and, uh, the fact that that’s not the case here in the United States as a developed nation really should break everyone’s heart that what’s that, wakes me up in the morning and keeps me doing my job every day.


Naji Gehchan: uh, I wanna double click on this because this is one of the focus areas that you work on, uh, in Chen. Can you tell us a little bit more what you’ve done and also the data that you’ve been able to deliver?

Stephanie Chen: Sure, sure. So, um, Started in Miami Gardens and um, that’s a, if you don’t know Miami well that’s a, a, a poorer neighborhood in Miami.

A beautiful neighborhood in Miami, but lower income and medically underserved, which means, um, the doctors to people who need doctors ratio is low. Um, there’s not enough doctors in that community and we just happened to start there. My father and mother-in-law had one office. Um, their story is incredible.

They’re, they’re two immigrants from China who came here. Um, went bankrupt in a restaurant business and, um, then they’re very brilliant. My father-in-law, PhD already in Wisconsin, moved to Miami, homeless with two children and, and op and went to medical school in two years cuz as a PhD they had that program and then became a physician in Miami Gardens, um, with these two sons, um, basically without a home.

But, um, the, in Miami Gardens, what he found was that so much of healthcare actually was just care and not even anything to do with medicine. And, and so he found that, you know what I said about missing a co-pay or missing a specialist appointment, or just using the emergency room as their only only form of, of healthcare instead of.

True prevention, right. With colonoscopies and mammograms and, and everything else. And, and blood work and, and staying, you know, staying healthy and diet and, and so, and loneliness and community. So they started this, this one center in Miami Gardens in a medically underserved neighborhood and realized the great need.

And so that became the model. Is, where else can we scale and go where there’s a need for doctors and let’s not move into like the, the county hospital where there’s already, you know, 700 doctors on the elevator list. Let’s go, um, in, into medically underserved neighborhoods and help the communities that need us most.

And so we’ve done that and, um, we’ve grown exponentially, mainly word of mouth. I mean, until very recently we didn’t have a marketing team. Um, you know, we don’t pay for Super Bowl commercials, , um, or anything like that. And so it’s very grassroots, word of mouth. Once one person in a church finds out about us, we end up having like 300 patients from that church and things like that.

And so, um, but really a heart to change the outcomes. And so if you check out our impact report, um, the data is all there, but we have, um, doubled cancer survivor rates in six months, which is just insane. If a drug could do that, I think it would be like multi-billion Naji. And, and ChenMed has done that through.

um, our care model, we see our patients frequently and often, and we have smaller physician panel sizes so that we can know our patients intimately well. Um, and I think that, that, that is kind of back to almost the old and days in our minds in the movies where a physician would come to your home with like the leather bag.

You know? I don’t know if you’re getting that. But, and they would know the brother and the son and the, you know, like the, the horse’s name. And so we don’t have horses. But , the, the thing is like, if you know someone really, really well, you know what’s off for them or what’s low for them or what’s high for them, and so then you can cater your medicine to them.

So that’s, that’s our model in a nutshell. There’s more data on the impact report. I didn’t give you that much, but I wanted you to check it out@chenmed.com.

Naji Gehchan: I will. And, uh, so one that might be related Modern healthcare. Hmm.

Stephanie Chen: Oh, the, well, I’m sorry. Mother

Naji Gehchan: Modern Healthcare. How do you Oh, modern healthcare, I’m sorry.

Reaction for this?

Stephanie Chen: Yes. Um, I think it’s disjointed. Um, and f and fractured, I think, um, you can get a lot of tests done. Um, and because of. I don’t know if it’s various electronic medical record systems or HIPAA or lack of communication, but a lot of, there’s like a lot of tea leaves, but no one reading all of them, if that makes sense.

Like, uh, especially if you have something you’re really trying to get to the bottom of, it can take a long time because of the disjointed and fractured system we have and physicians not speaking to physicians kind of all in a, in a, on a unified team, if that makes. What about spread? I don’t mean, I don’t mean that to sound overly critical.

Naji Gehchan: No, no, no. It’s, it’s your view on the challenges we are facing, which is, which is definitely, uh, data is definitely one of the biggest challenges and how they are interconnected and who owns them, and are we really looking into them for us to make, you know, intentional decisions about our health. Right.

The last one is spread love in organiz.

Stephanie Chen: Uh, um, with how you show up, um, like one human at a time. Uh, I think there’s something wonderful about being, uh, at scale. We’ve certainly grown exponentially at ChenMed, but, uh, the only thing I would say is. , um, you’ve gotta have like a playbook and a strategy around love.

You can’t forget about it. Um, I think people are so quick to make sure the model is scalable and the, and even us sometimes at Chen Med, and how do we figure out how to hire at scale and grow at scale. But you have to figure out how to love at scale and you have to figure out how to, um, uh, always look for a situation where, where everyone can win.

Like a win-win situation that’s part of. Mission statement at ChenMed. And I think, I think that’s loving others. If I’m looking for how you can benefit Naji and then you’re looking for how I can benefit, and then we’re both looking together at how our patients can benefit. That’s how we really spread love.


Naji Gehchan: yeah. Thank you for that. I, I love it. Love at scale. I love this. . Any final word of wisdom, Stephanie? For healthcare leaders specifically around the.

Stephanie Chen: Oh, do what you love. Don’t, don’t defer your life. Don’t have a deferred life plan. There’s kind of like we grow up, at least in America, I don’t know about in France or in Lebanon, but if you eat your peas, you get the pie, right?

Like if you do the hard thing, you get to do the good thing. And I think a lot of people live like, if I work hard now I can do what I love when I retire. And I think that that is a. So don’t buy into that lie. Um, I read that when I was like 18 years old in a book, the Monk in the Riddle, and I just ha, I try to live every day, waking up doing what I love, and there’s so much room in healthcare to do what you love.

You don’t have to switch jobs, you don’t have to retire. You don’t have to become an author. Um, stay a physician, but do what you love in a place that believes in you and, um, is for you and where you can do what you love. In healthcare, don’t leave healthcare to do what you love. You can do it in healthcare at the right spot.

Naji Gehchan: That’s such a great advice and word of wisdom. Uh, for sure. Life is too short to do things we don’t like.

Stephanie Chen: Too short. And what if you never get to retire? Right? Like, what if we we could, we could either of us have something horrible that happens tomorrow, so we gotta do what we love today.

Naji Gehchan: True. So true.

Thank you so much again, Stephanie, for being with me today.

Stephanie Chen: It was such incredible. What an honor and privilege. Have a great day.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this podcast, having the pleasure to be joined by Dr Pravin Chaturvedi a veteran drug developer, serial biotech entrepreneur, and seasoned CEO/CSO, Board member of many life science ventures. Over his 30+ years in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry, he has participated and led the drug development teams for multiple drugs across the several therapeutic areas. He has participated in the successful drug approval and commercialization of seven drugs. Pravin serves as the Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board and Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) for Napo Pharmaceuticals and Jaguar Health. He is also the cofounder and CEO of IndUS Pharmaceuticals and Oceanyx Pharmaceuticals. He is also the Executive Chairman of Cellanyx and Chair of the Board for Enlivity. He currently and previously served on the boards of several biotech too. Over his career, he has also been a part of multiple national and international strategic partnerships with large pharmaceutical companies as well as governments. Pravin also contributes significant time to teaching and serves as an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown Medical School. He holds a doctoral degree from West Virginia University and has an undergraduate degree in pharmacy from University of Bombay. I could go on and on introducing Pravin but let’s here from him here!

Pravin, it’s such a great pleasure to have you with me.

Pravin Chaturvedi: Thank you, Naji. It’s a pleasure for me to be here. Thank you.

Naji Gehchan: Can you first share with us your personal story and what is in between the line of your incredible journey bringing so much impact in healthcare?

Pravin Chaturvedi: I, a very deep question. Naji, , but, uh, thank you for asking.

I think, uh, from, uh, early days, I’ve always been about, Uh, not, uh, tolerating any oppression of human beings in any form. So, um, illness, uh, medicine was one my way of doing it, but other ways of that is poverty and disenfranchisement and underserved communities. So, over the early days of my life, I was fortunate enough, having been born in Bombay, I had seen both sides of the world, cuz it’s a very large city.

Um, where I could see that, you know, a lot of people do not even have the opportunity to do, um, uh, what they could do, uh, because of the way the systems are set up. So I think, uh, in that regard with my interest in medicine, um, I was fortunate to have. Great mentors through my life, you know, and the first, um, of them was, um, back in the eighties.

Early eighties, and he was a physician pharmacologist, which was what the reason is that I have an interest in pharmacology, uh, because he shaped my thinking about, um, he said something that I will never forget. Back then, I was probably in my high teens and he. Uh, life is really short when you’re happy, and life is really long when you have suffering.

You know, so alleviate that. And so kind of, you know, put me on a path to thinking about this in a way where I could make a difference. And it was not sort of, you know, just giving money here and there for charity, but really making an impact in that regard. So through that journey, I met my second mentor, uh, uh, in West Virginia, who was also a pharmacologist, , and, uh, brilliant man.

And, uh, a very, very authentic person who, uh, basically took me to the next, uh, level where, I had a philosophy that reason is a queen and mistress of all things, and which is normally oriental, people are considered to be fatalistic. And so, uh, his Peter, my mentor, then thought that that was quite oxidental of me, which, uh, basically was a challenge

So we, we had long discussions about it and we started making differences there. So everything comes from reason. And so by reasoning logically, I would start from the patient first, and I would, so, because what you get from the physicians is a perspective of what symptoms are presented. And so the physicians are first doing symptomatic management, but the patient’s journey is far bigger than that, you know, a lot, lot longer.

So I used to talk to the patients and I’d get completely different discussions, you know, uh, from what we were thinking in the ivory towers of academic institu. And so that, that was very telling for me. So that helped me a lot. And then, um, um, by, you know, I was surely going to be an academic na but um, I got plucked because I speak the way I sound right now to you, like a conversationalist.

And so I was giving a talk somewhere. And some executive at large pharma, uh, saw me speak and decided that I was gonna work for her. And that large pharma was called Park Davis at that time. Now it is Pfizer. And so as soon as I graduated, I was bought into New Jersey and thrust into the late stage development programs, uh, because I was trained in epilepsy on the CNS side, but also oncology.

And so from there, um, I, I got this, uh, intoxication , almost addiction for making medicine because it was very, um, satisfying naji to see a drug get approved by the fda. And to go to the pharmacy and see the shelf, the name over there, , even though it was not my name, it was a company’s name. So, so then I came to, uh, Boston.

From there I was recruited to Boston, uh, to early state startups. And then I met my third mentor over there. This third mentor of mine, John, he. Spent his entire career at Lilly, your place, you know, as along with Ray Fuller, pretty much the father of depression. These two gentle, and John and Ray, um, had developed the Hamilton scale and everything.

So he had developed Prozac and Zyprexa and all these drugs. John also pharmacologist. Imagine that . So John and I. We would talk about these chronic illnesses that would afflict human beings because we are living longer. So I come from a place where India, you know, we have more infectious diseases because it’s endemic.

But in us, you know, we were living longer, we were having different illnesses which were cardiometabolic and cancer and cns. And so with him, I learned about that. So got a couple more drugs, but in that journey we had HIV drugs that we were being developed because patients were dying. And that’s when I met this really ill population Naji, uh, who had T-cell counts of two who were unable to even drive by a Dunking donut sign without throwing up.

That’s how sick they were. That’s how grateful nausea they. And so by talking to them and finding out their journey, uh, we developed, uh, HIV drugs and we changed the face of aids, um, obviously as a community, you know, and, um, and so we, being a part of that 30 years ago was another, uh, learning curve for me.

And then, um, I left Vertex, uh, uh, and in 2001 started my first company, cion, which was a neuro company, neuroscience company, iron Channel company focused on neuropathic pain. And I met my fourth mentor there who was a worldwide head of r and d. At Ciba GGI Novartis, their gift is the entire field of kinase inhibitors, you know, uh, two aminos that they had been working on forever.

And so, George, uh, he was a chemist, so the first non pharmacologist mentor, at, uh, so many drugs in George’s, uh, uh, time. So he shaped me thinking about solving complex problem. Of diseases that we could not just apply, you know, because some of the parts is not the whole. And having been fortunate enough to be trained holistically treating the phenotype, I knew not to fall in the DNA RNA protein trap because then people try to add up one plus, one plus one.

One plus one plus one does not equal trillion cells, you know, which is what constitutes a living organism, a living human being. And so, um, tried to work backwards and, and, and George’s gift was, you know, how to analyze what was presented as symptoms and then try to work backwards and get drugs done. So that led me to, uh, starting many companies and I can never come back now, uh, to working for anyone unless there’s a real unmet need, a real patient and a patient who’s going to feel the benefit of what we do.

So that’s sort of a seven minute long answer to your question. Hope that’s. Oh, I, I love

Naji Gehchan: it. Thanks for sharing this, and obviously the impact, as you said, of what we do in, in the biotech pharma where is just massive. I, I feel the same joy when, you know, we work hard on a molecule and then we see it getting to patients hands and then benefiting from it.

I think it, that’s why we wake up every morning.

Pravin Chaturvedi: Yeah, I agree. Absolutely.

Naji Gehchan: You, you built companies, you participated in building, uh, several biotech companies now over the years and managed to bring, uh, to patients seven drugs. Uh, what are your key learnings and advice for those building their biotechs

Pravin Chaturvedi: today?

Yeah. Um, you know, so I, I think my advice is always what I follow, which is I. Um, make sure that we are solving a real problem. Um, so it is not a, you cannot fall in love with the technology or the latest, uh, trend that we read in science or cell or nature. It has to be a real patient that does not have any available therapies or diagnosis.

It can be any. On the entire continuum. It can be anything between diagnostics, treatments, management, doesn’t really matter. So that should be the first, uh, rule that you have to do. That. Second one is, um, um, I do not believe that a single person can solve 6 billion people’s problem. So it should always be

Your thesis has to be pressure tested. With, uh, at least a few people not related to you , so that because they want to please you, it has to be independent people. So if you think that you have an unfair advantage because you have some technology or some breakthrough that is going to make a difference, then you should be able to convince another human being about both the problem and the unfair advantage that you might get.

So that’s the second thing I look for is the unfair advantage. And if you have convinced, uh, one or two other people that that’s the correct unmet need and the unfair advantage, then those two or three people together, not the first person, but all of them together, need to then build the third thing, which is board of advisors and mentors.

Because, um, uh, you cannot know, you cannot predict the future, but you can certainly prepare for it better. If you have wise people to advise here, and the advice has to be related, The fiduciary responsibility of the organization, which is what is correct for that organization rather than this, uh, mechanical thinking about how much money to raise or what partnering to do or which forum to go and present at, or the go to market strategy and all that stuff that people hear about.

That’s not mentorship, that’s just process. Process is not knowledge. So the advisors can do that. And if you get those three, uh, things settled in, then you really have to think about and it. It takes about 40 years realistically to see the true impact of your innovation. And there are three legs to it.

Innovation, translation, commercialization until it’s, so if you’ve just innovat. And not translate it or commercialize. That’s just something, that’s what I call bench to bookshelf research, you know, and I believe in bench to bedside, which means you have to fulfill all three and one cannot do all of it, and one cannot live for 40 years and try to see this many drugs.

So you have to always understand what are value inflection milestones. So what is really going to be a disproportionate increase in value? And so focus on those. So with your advisors and your board members, if you’re lucky enough, you know, some wise investors talk about value inflection milestones, and then really build the budget to those milestones, keeping in mind that you have to have longer budgets as well.

But remember, time is the most precious commodity. It does not come back. So try to hit the short winds. On target, on budget and make the milestones be meaningful in terms of value inflection. So, so that’s what I’ve been able to do with those six points that I just told you. Those are

Naji Gehchan: great advice. I would love to continue on this and more from a leadership standpoint.

You as a leader, uh, have you, what, what are your key learning, uh, from a leadership

Pravin Chaturvedi: stand? Yeah, . So, you know, it’s, it’s a very lonely position. Naji, because, um, um, you’re supposed to do the right things as a leader. Managers do things right. They can, you know, jiggle the process and get it right, but leaders have to set the right vision and, uh, the right, uh, goals.

And so you have to really think about, you know, what are you going to. Um, um, in 10 years, what are you gonna do in five years? What are you gonna do in three years? What are you gonna do in one year? What you gonna do next quarter? So you kind of work backwards from your label, right? So as a leader, you have to always keep that in mind that, um, um, you have to think about what is the right thing to do when you have set that up.

Then the second thing is how are you going to basically, Your colleagues, because you know, all of us, the sun will set on all of us, right? It’s our descendants who will bring it forward, right? So, and our descendants can be our peers, our superiors, our our junior people. It doesn’t really matter. You have to inspire them.

So you have to win their hearts and minds. How do you win people’s hearts and minds is by basically telling them the truth. So you have to be honest, authentic, and truthful. So you should be able to say, you know, um, we are going to do. None of us have a blueprint. There is no roadmap. Uh, and it’s going to be, uh, sort of an expedition.

But, you know, come on the journey with me, right? Because think about the founding fathers of United States. Ji 12 people signed their names and there were death warrants issued on them in 1775, right in the Declaration of Independence here in Boston. And now we have a 19 trillion country from those 12 signatures, and the return on capital invested that time is infinite.

Nobody can calculate, right? Because if you do the right things, the right things will happen. So it has to be timelessness. So the third thing you have to be is remain relevant. So timelessness of your decisions are very important. You cannot make decisions to solve yesterday’s problem. You should make decisions that allow the future, your descendants to be able to solve the problems that therefore they have to encounter that you can’t think about right now.

So you have to give them that wisdom to recognize it. So as a leader, if you can do those three things, then the most important thing against people, cuz you’re inspiring people who are going to basically carry your baton and then, um, and, and if to, in order to do that, communication becomes very important.

You have to speak and, and, and not exchange long emails. Don’t send emails because the written word is harsher than the spoken word, you know, because when I speak, you can see my face, you can see my voice, you can see my hands. And you can see that I really believe in what it is. So when you inspire people and you communicate that, then they understand and they’re not afraid to tell you.

Cuz you can’t terrify them, right? You cannot tell them, don’t tell me any problems, just tell me good news. Right? No, I, I, I always tell them, you know, escalate bad news faster. That’s not a good bottle of wine, bad news. It doesn’t get better with time, it gets worse . So when things are not working, come and tell me, you know, and we’ll solve it together.

Don’t hide it. So those things become, you know, transparency becomes very important. And, and people, authentic people will get people to talk to them and, and they will have great convers. Yeah. Building

Naji Gehchan: the safe space, obviously for, for people to speak up. And when you talked about people, you obviously built teams, scaled companies, joined boards.

Uh, what are the key capabilities or traits that you look when you are hiring or growing a team in a biotech

Pravin Chaturvedi: company? Yeah. Um, it’s a good question. And so really ask them, you know, you know, what is the, uh, what is it that they know, right? Because I think people tell you their skills. Um, but for instance, if you woke me up at three in the morning and say, what is it that I know?

I’ll tell you, I know drug development. I’ll go back to sleep. So the more you know, the more succinct you are. You’re kind of very confident about what you know, and you don’t pretend to be anything else, right? So I want people to have that authenticity about them, that I’m, I’m good at this, you know, I can do this, you know, and, and not say I’ve done this, I’ve done that, I’ve done that.

Activities don’t make up residual intellect, which is what I look for. That’s the first one. Second thing I look for is why are these people really building an enterprise? Are they doing it because of their ego? Is an ex is an expression of their narcissism? You know? Or are they really caring about something?

Is there a significance to why they’re doing it? Because naji all, uh, entrepreneurs and medical scientists are narcissistic. They firmly believe they’re smart kids. They’ve always been top of their class wherever they were, they competitive. And arrogant. And, and, and so that is, and that is a price to pay.

I’m going to inherit those kind of people. So then I want to know the significance, what inspires this person. And if that person cares about someone other than themselves, , uh, then that’s an important character in them. And I will actually partner with them despite their, um, ego in arrogance. So that’s the second thing I look for.

And third thing is motivation. Yeah. You know, uh, 98% of success is from execution. Execution with discipline. And it is very hard to see progress when your nose is so close to the grindstone and, and board members can see that. And this person has to wake up every morning and go do the same thing over and over.

Inspire the people work the people run, and try to raise money, pay bills, , make sure that the rent is paid on time, electricity is not lost, and that that requires a daily grind and that person has to be motivated and a self starter. So I look for those three characters characteristic.

Naji Gehchan: Thanks for sharing, uh, from your broad experience.

And I know this question, uh, you kind of mentioned it in the beginning that you look for problems and how to solve them specific for patients, but I’m gonna try it. Mm. You have such a broad experience in different top science, uh, uh, companies today. Uh, what is for you the next best problem that we’re solving or the next.

You know, think in science that will come up when you’re looking at the biotech field.

Pravin Chaturvedi: Yeah. Um, it’s an excellent question. Naji. It’s unanswerable, honestly, but I think, um, um, there are, there are black swan events that I have experienced, uh, in my life, right? So, um, obviously HIV epidemic, uh, in the nineties was a Black swan event.

Um, unforeseen, unexpected. I didn’t know the first thing about biology. Right. Uh, but I didn’t need to know virology. I knew there were plenty of biological scientists. They were somewhere in the shadows. But with HIV and with retroviruses, um, it was completely antithetical. You know, DNA to RNA is what everybody knows.

RNA to dna, nobody knows, you know, and HIV is a retrovirus, you know? So, uh, so to, to think about it that way, uh, was, um, antithetical for people. So it’s a Black swan event. Um, when we, um, Sort of solve that, uh, epidemic over time. Took us over 25, 30 years to do that. But we did ultimately people became part of the workforce and became almost healthy.

Um, HIV patients today are not as sick as what they were in the eighties and seventies, eighties and nineties. Then, um, September 11th. Uh, and that was a Black Swan event because it changed the world. Um, uh, basically the geopolitical crisis that was created by September 11th, uh, created this whole infrastructure change and, and we got exposed to, um, everything from military.

Uh, department of Defense initiatives to what was, what was troubling the Middle East or what was troubling Africa, because now all of a sudden this coalition had gone to Afghanistan and, and done that. Uh, and, and, and it was all well and good from a military standpoint, but it changed the world forever.

So that was a Black Swan event. Um, the subprime mortgage crisis was the third Black swan event. Because basically wiped out 60% of the world’s economy, from that crisis, and everybody kind of went into, um, abject poverty. And illness and malnutrition. So then you, you did that. Natural disasters happen every year anyway, earthquakes and floods and everything, so you’re dealing with that as well.

And then the fourth one that I have witnessed in my life is covid And, uh, covid came unforeseen and, uh, without firing a single bullet changed the world forever. And so, um, uh, the pandemics, uh, naji are happening faster now than they used to in the previous century. And that’s because of globalization.

Bad luck, , that you get in contact and you travel more and more crowded because the population of the earth has grown, you know, to 6 billion. So I think we are living longer, but we are living more crowded, less resources. Climate change. All of these are having an effect on us, any, any living cell. So adaptive response.

So I’m not going to say that there is a technology today that’s gonna solve every problem tomorrow. So when I, you know, CRISPR came out in 93, gene editing became the, uh, flavor of the month. I’m completely unprecedented by that because that does not mean anything. Because by the time you edit the gene and put that back in to translate to a protein, the species has evolved or become extinct,

So you’ve gotta solve real problems in real. And not sell hope. And so one has to remember, hope is not a strategy, you know, to solve problems, you know? Yes. And people who sell hope are basically just interested in being narcissistic and talk on media circuits. We have to solve real problems. If there’s a chole outbreak in Haiti, we gotta really contain that.

Or if there’s a viral crisis, Ebola crisis in West Africa, we gotta solve that. So I don’t, um, somehow problems emerge. I don’t go looking for them. But when they emerge and they come in my, uh, eye line and I feel like we should do something about it, then I will collect a group of people who know more about it and then, and try to listen to them and say, what can we do about it?

And then try to influence everything. So policy influence is very important. Science alone cannot solve the problem policy and the market conditions have to be solved. So then you have to bring all those people into the equation. So that’s how I.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, I’m, I’m with you. We, you know, so many times we hear that we wanna do things, but actually do not act and just fix the problem.

So this getting things done, I’m feeling is one of the toughest things, unfortunately, in, in today’s where a lot of people wanna do things, but actually those who really take a problem and fix it, or a few. I, I will go into giving you a word now and I would love your reaction to it. Uh, The first word is leadership.


Pravin Chaturvedi: decisions.

What about impact value,

PowerPoint. Useless

Naji Gehchan: I manage the bet for you to speak more than three minutes. , can you tell us more? Can you tell us more about your philosophy on PowerPoint? I think

Pravin Chaturvedi: many will benefit from it. Well, I think, uh, I think PowerPoints are visual aids, right? So, uh, people use them as a way to, uh, create a, um, um, a monolog. Because, uh, you know, it’s like watching television or watching these, um, um, um, what do they call binge watching all these shows on Netflix.

You know, you get transfixed to the, uh, stimulus to your eye and your brain, and you basically are no longer thinking you suspend everything else. So what PowerPoints are meant to be is, you know, I have a 10, 20, 30 rule for PowerPoint. So if you work with me Naji, it’s 10 slides, 20 minutes, and 30 point font.

So not six point fonts with 9,900 words in a slide. You know, cannot have more than 10 slides. If you cannot speak to me in 20 minutes. What you want to talk about should be usually two minutes. But if you can do it in 20 minutes with 10 slides, with 30 point font, I will listen. But as soon as somebody comes in and there are so many words on the PowerPoints line, I stop reading and I basically either leave the room and get a cup of coffee.

Or I just go outside, you know? So that’s my philosophy on PowerPoint .

Naji Gehchan: What about spread love in organizations?

Pravin Chaturvedi: Well, I, I am fascinated by what you, uh, the preamble that you gave, uh, I think it’s a very interesting, um, um, way to present. Um, in our industry, which is a technical industry. Correct. So, so the way you have decided to spread love and you are making your point that we learn from each other, that human beings learn from each other and we grow and grow together.

Um, which is, you know, is my philosophy about mentorship. Right? That’s why I’m so grateful to my mentors. I’ve been lucky to. Many, obviously my parents and my friends and new friends, uh, such as you, Naji, you know, they’re all become my mentors because we learn from everyone, including our children. And so I, I feel like the way you, your thesis of, uh, spread love.

I, I loved it. Thank you for including me. Oh, thank you. It’s such,

Naji Gehchan: it’s such an honor Pravin hearing you say this and, and I know you’re passionate about it. I remember the first time we met you made sure that everyone connects humanly with others. Yes. And, and this is, I think you’re genuinely caring about people just talking to one another

Pravin Chaturvedi: for us to grow.

I think otherwise we would, you know, we can cannot, we live in isolations and we, we, we, we do not solve anything. Cause you know, it becomes an echo chamber if you only hear yourself all the time and there is no dialogue in it. You know, cuz the purpose of a talk and education for that matter, maji, is to provoke a response.

And so when I give a talk, I expect two responses. I expect you to either hate what I. Or love what I say, the people that I get upset by are the ones who are apathetic to it, who basically don’t listen, have no reaction to it. That bothers me a lot because that means that I did not influence them. I would, I would provoke an anger in you.

I would’ve influenced you because my purpose may well have been to annoy, you know, in my talk. You know? So I think that’s the purpose of human interaction. We get better when we actually provoke a reaction, you know?

Naji Gehchan: Any final words of wisdom, uh, Pravin to healthcare leaders around the world?

Pravin Chaturvedi: Um, they should always remember that they have to be mission oriented and the mission has to be about patient impact.

Unfortunately, our world has become, we have replaced the word impact with seven letter word called impress, and they try to impress you with wealth and their balance sheets and, and when you are a healthcare leader. Take that position with great responsibility because the patients rely on you to basically help them get better.

And a healthy society is a productive society. And just if 10 people have wealth, but 90 people are sick, that’s not a society that is going to be productive. So healthcare leadership take. Responsibility very, very seriously. Otherwise, they should not be healthcare leaders. They should be investment bankers, or they can be involved street, but they should not be running healthcare, biotech, leadership organizations, that is not their role.

And biotech companies should always be led by scientists, medical physician scientists, biological scientists, because it is a scientific game. And that has to, that’s the unfair advantage you have to bring the unfair advantages of people. Intellectual property is not a patent, it’s the people, you know. So that’s my advice to them.

Thank you

Naji Gehchan: so much. It’s such a crucial advice for us as healthcare leaders to make sure that it’s patient, as you said first, and being oriented to this, uh, to this mission, uh, and impact we bring to the world. It’s such a noble and responsible, um, purpose that we have.

Pravin Chaturvedi: Thank you, Naji.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much for being with me today.

Pravin Chaturvedi: a pleasure. Likewise. Thank you for inviting me.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this podcast, having the pleasure to be joined by Basima Tewfik Career Development Professor and Assistant Professor of Work and Organization Studies at the MIT Sloan. Basima main stream of research examines the psychology of the social self at work. In particular, she seeks to define new conversations around two underexplored phenomena in the organizational literature that implicate the social self: Workplace impostor thoughts (popularly known as impostor syndrome), and request-declining at work. In a secondary stream of work, she examines effective employee and workgroup functioning in the modern workplace, an increasingly important topic given the rising complexity of work. Basima’s work has received several recognitions and she was named by Poets & Quants as a “40 Under 40” Best Business School Professor in 2021 and by Thinkers50 as one of 30 thinkers to watch in 2022. Prior to her graduate studies, Basima worked in consulting.

Basima – It is such an honor you with me today!

Basima Tewfik: Thank you so much for having me, Naji. It’s great to be.

Naji Gehchan: I’d love first to hear your personal story from psychology to consulting and now being a professor, a thinker on work and organization studies. What, what’s in between the line of your incredible journey?

Basima Tewfik: Yeah, that’s a great question. Uh, so, uh, it looks a lot more linear than it actually is. Uh, so this started back when I was an undergraduate. I started doing some research with a professor of psychology who was also affiliated with the business school. His name was Richard Hackman. He’s a big sort of person in leadership and teams research.

While I was doing that as an undergraduate, I really, really enjoyed it, but I sort of looked around my peers and a lot of peers were going into finance or consulting, and so I naturally said, obviously that’s what I’m going to do too. So I ended up going into consulting. But it was really when I was in consulting that sort of, the idea of going back to school and potentially being a professor really came to light.

Um, and this was in part because I realized as I was going to client sites, uh, that I was much more interested in examining the dynamics. Of my own teams when we were at different, different states, um, and different countries, then I was actually helping the clients. Um, and so that indicated to me that I probably should be focusing my efforts on understanding workplace dynamics.

And so I ended up reaching back out to my undergraduate advisor, um, who was nice enough to write me a recommendation letter. And that sort of, uh, catapulted my journey back into Accu.

Naji Gehchan: I love it. So let’s dig into your research. What your thoughts or what’s known imposter syndrome. Uh, big topic, rarely discussed, I would say, but big topic in many of our minds.

Can you first help us maybe define it and why you talk about thoughts versus syndrome and your, your ideas around it.

Basima Tewfik: Yeah, let’s, let’s jump right into it. Uh, so the idea of studying this phenomenon came to me very early, uh, in my PhD exactly for the reason that you mentioned, which is this is something that we often hear about.

Maybe people aren’t actually necessarily sort of telling their supervisors or their, their subordinates that they’re experiencing this phenomenon. But it’s definitely something that many, many people think or feel. So I think statistics show that maybe up to 70% of people tend to have what I call workplace imposter thoughts.

Um, so what do I mean when I say workplace imposter thoughts? I basically mean that it captures the belief that others overestimate your talent or abilities at work. So specifically a sample sort of statement to really bring that to light, to make it concrete is this idea that I think other people think I’m smarter than I think I.

And as a result, this could lead to a number of emotions or thoughts or a sense of belonging, but really it’s about this discrepancy that I think people maybe think I’m a 10 when it comes to, uh, how competent I am at work. And it’s not necessarily that I think I’m bad at work, so it’s not like I think I’m a three, but maybe, I think I’m like an eight.

And so there’s this positive discrepancy where I think people are overestimating me. The reason I use the term thoughts and not syndrome. Or, or even phenomenon, uh, was actually something that was carefully thought through. So if you look at the academic literature, um, this was first introduced in 1978.

Uh, interestingly in that literature, they always refer to it as imposter phenomenon. But if you Google, um, you’re gonna see that the popular term is imposter syndrome. And syndrome implies that sort of, this is a medical diagnosis. Uh, you have a healthcare background, . Um, and one of the big things about this is it’s not a syndrome.

It’s not a medical diagnosis. This is not something that people always have. Um, and so it really became clear to me that we have to be much more precise with the terminology if we’re going to start a new conversation around this phenomenon. Hence my term of workplace imposter.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. And I love how you framed it.

Uh, you know, and another thing, I obviously definitely have imposter thoughts, and frequent ones. And I’m always surprised we talked about it even within my team a couple of weeks ago, and many have it actually, and sometimes we don’t say it even in, and even more in technical jobs I feed, sometimes it can become a thing and people don’t really talk about it.

Um, you know, another, another sentence I’m sure you heard a lot is this fact. One day they’ll figure out, you know, that I’m the impostor and why they, you know, I’ll, I’ll, they will know. Uh, so I’m, I’m interested a little bit more from your research. You know, is it a bad thing? Is it a bad thing of having those thoughts?

Like how, how do you deal with it and what have you, uh, seen in the, the research you’ve done?

Basima Tewfik: Yeah, so, so the general sort of consensus or prevailing wisdom, I would say is that it’s a bad thing, and that’s really not surprising, right? So even if you think about the term imposter that conjures imagery of, you know, a bad, a person who’s trying to fake it or something like that, right?

So it has negative connotations. Um, and so most of the research, most most practitioners suggest that it’s a bad thing. Um, You know, there is some sort of research to support that in the sense that people who have these thoughts generally might have more anxiety or lower self-esteem. So there tends to be these correlations, right, with negative wellbeing outcomes.

Um, but my interest in the phenomenon actually came from the fact that most people who report having these thoughts or, or let’s say a lot of people who report having these thoughts are actually high. When we hear about this phenomenon, we hear about it happening in C-suites of top companies. Um, Albert Einstein is someone who’s claimed to have had these thoughts and, you know, he is synonymous with the word genius.

And so this sort of indicates, hey, maybe we don’t have a full perspective or a holistic picture of what this phenomenon is. And that’s sort of what kicked off my whole interest, uh, in trying to create this more holistic picture.

Naji Gehchan: So can you tell us more about it? Because you’ve done very serious randomized research, so obviously I’m in healthcare.

When I saw your research I was like, oh, like this is serious. So I’d love to hear more what, what, what was the outcome and the methodology of what you’ve done.

Basima Tewfik: Yeah. So let’s talk about, um, maybe one of my most recent papers that looks at how workplace imposter thoughts relates to the important workplace outcome of interpersonal effectiveness, um, while keeping sort of job performance in mind, right?

Because obviously we wanna make sure that there’s no downsides for competence related outcomes. So a lot of my research, just as at a high level, combines correlational studies in the field. So I actually go into organizations to try and find associations between imposter thoughts and outcomes of interest.

Um, and then I tend to pair these with causal experiments so that I can get at exactly what you were talking about earlier, which is this idea of making sure that you know it’s specifically imposter thoughts. It’s actually leading to the outcomes that I’m hypothe. So for one of my papers, I was really interested, uh, in trying to understand if and why, um, people with more imposter thoughts are actually gonna be rated as more interpersonally effective.

So I ran four studies. The first study was actually in a finance firm, and that was sort of a, you know, a simple test of this idea, right? Would I find people who have more imposter thoughts? Would, would I find that their supervisors would rate them as more interpersonally effective? And what was super interesting is at time one I had.

Finance employees rate their imposter thoughts using a measure that I created and then two months later I had their supervisors rate them on how interpersonally effective they were. I also had them rate their, their employees on how well they were doing at their job, right? Because we wanna make sure that this interpersonal effectiveness benefit doesn’t necessarily come at the cost of compete.

And so what I found there was, was really promising. So I found this really robust, significant positive effect between having imposter thoughts at time one and other people seeing us smart, interpersonally effective. And so this led me into a second study. Um, and this study I was, I was really excited about it because it was actually at a patient simulation.

So specifically I partnered with a medical school and they have these simulation centers where their physician trainees actually interact with actors who are stimulating as if they have a particular illness. Um, and they often video record these interactions. And what’s really, really cool about these, uh, interactions is they’re, they’re standardized.

So what I mean by that is all of these patients have gone through a training, they’re all making sure that they’re interacting with physicians in the exact same. And so it was this nice hybrid of, you know, very organizational in the field with a little bit more control over what was going on. And there, what I found is those physician trainees who said that they experienced imposter thoughts more frequently.

Actually ended up interacting with patients quite well. So specifically patients gave them higher interpersonal effectiveness ratings. So specifically they said things like, oh, I really felt that the physician was empathizing with me. I really thought they were listening. Well, I really thought they were sort of answering my questions Well.

Um, but what was also really cool is the fact that these were video recorded because it allowed me to see what exactly was going on. How were these patients suddenly deciding that the physicians with more frequent imposter thoughts were actually these more interpersonally skilled physicians. And so I ended up recruiting several coders and we watched, uh, these videos, which was approximately 5,000 minutes of video, where we would stop the video every minute to see what was going on.

Um, and basically what we found is those physicians who had more frequent imposter thoughts, Were also those physicians who noded a lot more. Uh, they sort of practiced more active listening skills. Um, they had better eye contact. They had a more sort of considerate tone as compared to those physicians with less frequent imposter thoughts.

And as a result, that was leading to, uh, higher ratings of interpersonal effectiveness. And they weren’t getting the diagnosis in. So we also wanted to make sure, okay, maybe these physicians are really interpersonally effective, but they’re really bad doctors. Like maybe you don’t want them cause they’re not actually gonna diagnose you.

And we didn’t find that to be the case. And then I followed up those two studies with some experiments to actually get at causality where I actually manipulated some people to have imposter thoughts and then looked at how other focus they were. Um, and then whether that explained essentially how interpersonally affected, and I found that to be.

Naji Gehchan: That, that’s great. So to to my question, is it a bad thing now that you’ve looked at this, you’ve seen the interpersonal, uh, effectiveness coming out? Like how, how, how do, would you answer this question? Should I be reassured?

Basima Tewfik: Yeah, so this is a great question because it gets at this idea, okay, what are the implications?

What are the takeaways here? And I actually think we have to be really subtle and precise with what the takeaway should be. So one thing I want to emphasize right off the bat is, although I didn’t find that, you know, in the finance sample, they ended up performing worse, or in the doctor sample, they ended up getting in correct diagnoses.

I wanna make sure that we’re not over. Um, so reading into non findings, right, it’s a non-significant finding. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always gonna be non-significant. Um, so for me it means a couple things. It means as a manager, um, you know, if I have an employee who has imposter thoughts, Um, you know, I want to assess the employee in its in their entirety.

So what I mean by that is I wanna think about three sets of outcomes. I wanna think about my employees wellbeing outcomes. I wanna think about their confidence outcomes, and I wanna think about their interpersonal outcomes. And so if my employee is in a setting, like the ones that I studied, so there were opportunities for interpersonal interaction.

Maybe their, you know, performance is a little bit more subjective, then maybe I might say, Hey, the takeaway shouldn’t be, get rid of your imposter thoughts. Cause actually, if you get rid of your imposter thoughts, maybe you won’t have this interpersonal benefit and it doesn’t necessarily hurt you from a competence perspective.

That being said, there’s the elephant in the room about wellbeing. Imposter thoughts still don’t make you feel really great when you have it. Um, and so this means to me of, okay, so let’s imagine a different employee, maybe an employee who’s working remotely and doesn’t interact a lot with other people.

Then we might wanna consider for that employee that maybe they, they should get rid of their imposter thoughts. Because for them there’s no way for them to get the interpersonal benefit. They’re probably gonna get the wellbeing, cost, and competence right now is a wash. It’s not necessarily gonna be good for your competence.

Um, and so what I’m hoping is that people have a lot more of a sort of tailored approach to managing this phenomenon. Now if we think about it from the perspective of the employee themselves, um, what I hope this research does is sort of indicates to those individuals who are experiencing the, these imposter thoughts that maybe they’re not so bad.

Maybe we can reappraise our thoughts so that we sort of downplay the negative emotions that comes with them so that we can focus on sort of the upsides that may also accompany.

Naji Gehchan: I love it. This is really super helpful tips and kind of situational, right, like situational managerial, uh, depending on, on people.

And I love how you framed also the wellbeing. It’s really a very important point in this hybrid virtual word. Um, that’s, that’s really super helpful. Uh, you know, one, one thing that keeps coming to mind, um, and you kind of mentioned it a little bit, uh, is those imposter thoughts. If, if we have this overachiever.

Someone who really is doing good and he wants to overachieve, are these imposter thoughts actually driving people to be at their best sometime. And my other kind of related question is, is it also kind of related or. Putting me a check from a humidity standpoint, like, did, did you look at kind of humidity?

And also, if we combine this with overachieving, then it’s really good because people are gonna keep on trying to be better on what they think. They’re not as good as they should be.

Basima Tewfik: Yeah. Nearly. It’s almost like you have a, a magnifying glass into my current research pipeline. . Um, so. Talk about your first, uh, statement, which is sort of connecting this phenomenon of imposter thoughts to ever, um, like do you work harder?

Uh, so what’s really interesting in the literature is there seems to be mixed intuitions about when people with imposter thoughts work harder or when they sort of procrastinate and withdraw. Um, one of my current projects is trying to understand under what conditions, so thinking about sort of job characteristics.

So, you know, do you have a lot of a high workload? Do you have a really complex job? Is it maybe when your role is particularly salient that would necessarily explain when you suddenly do well versus when you suddenly do not do well? Um, from an effort standpoint, I think it’s an open question. I think it’s a.

Uh, you know, a ripe, fertile ground to explore. Um, I’d love to tell you in about two months what the answer is. Um, but in general, my intuition is that people with imposter thoughts do, uh, exert a lot of effort. Now, the bigger question though, is again, with, with sort of painting this more holistic picture, it’s always really important to think at what costs right as and to ask that question.

And so if I’m telling you, Hey, my intuition is that people with imposter thoughts might work really hard, well, one question you may have is, well, does that lead to burnout? Um, some of my preliminary evidence suggests that the increased effort doesn’t necessarily lead to more burnout. But, um, there are always usually positive correlations between people who have imposter thoughts and their report of burnout.

Part of this might be due to halo effects, so if I’m someone who thinks or I have imposter thoughts, so I report, I have imposter thoughts, I’m probably much more likely to report also negative outcomes. I might be more likely to report that I’m also anxious, I might be more likely to report that I’m also exhausted at.

And so that’s why causal experiments are really important to start to tease, uh, these sort of concepts apart. Which also relates to your part two of your question. So you asked about the relationship between humility and imposter thoughts. Um, and this is, this is a fantastic question. So my paper is one of the sort of first papers, particularly in our top organizational journals, to really reco conceptualize this phenomenon.

And as part of that exercise, you really have to go through a, a sort of, um, a whole rigamarole, a very good rigorous rigamarole to start to say is imposter thoughts. This is it, this is it. This, to make sure that you’re not adding a construct that’s redundant with what we already know. So one that often comes up is this idea of humil.

So is our people who say, oh, I think other people think I’m smarter than I think I am. Are they just humble people? Um, so to this, I actually turned to Owens’s work. Uh, he is someone who studies humility in the organizational space. Um, and what’s really interesting about humility is it’s. A construct that captures much more than this idea of discrepancy between what other people think of me and what I think of myself.

So typically humility is wrapped up with things like, you know, your limits. So you sort of know your weaknesses and your strengths, and so you’re able to sort of make those assessments. Um, and so I do think that there’s probably a correlation between being humble and people have imposter thoughts, uh, but I do think they’re distinct things.

This also leads to another thing that that often comes up. So I mentioned to you at the beginning that 70% of people tend to experience these thoughts. So one question I often get is, well, who are the 30%? Um, I usually don’t like answering that question because the 30%. Uh, could be a number of different, uh, different types of people.

Um, so some might be people who are not particularly reflective. I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s just people who aren’t necessarily thinking about what other people think of them. Um, and to them, I’m very proud of them and hope that they maintain that sense of self. Um, it could also be people who are over competent, confident, so people who are over competent.

Have the opposite problem. They’re, they’re, they’re not particularly humble. They think that they are better maybe than their actual performance or better, uh, than they think other people think they’re, and very

Naji Gehchan: quick question before we go into another subject. Uh, any differences in gender and cultural differences with imposter thought?

Basima Tewfik: Yes. Um, so the gendered question often comes up. So one of the big things around this phenomenon is that women tend to experience this more than men. What’s really interesting is that in my own data and also in a systematic review by, um, Dr. Bravada, that’s actually not the case. Um, so there are actually a number of studies to suggest that this is not necessarily more prevalent for one gender over another.

Um, it’s not necessarily more prevalent for one race over another. And so what I’m hoping is that we start to move the conversation from who’s experiencing this is one particular gender, experiencing this more to under what conditions might people of different genders maybe respond to these thoughts in different ways?

Um, so it’s definitely where I think the field is moving, but we’re still in the process of trying to dispel some myths that are, that are very popular. Right? Yeah. Which takes a lot of time to essentially bring them down. Um, from a culture perspective, it’s a really interesting question. This is something I want to explore further.

Um, there’s a couple things I can say. So, for example, if you look up this phenomenon on like Google Trends and you sort of map out who’s searching for this phenomenon, it tends to be primarily Western. So you tend to see the search, the searches happening in Western Europe, Canada, United States. Does this mean it’s not happening, uh, in other parts of the world?

Maybe. Um, I, I think that’s definitely something to explore. I definitely think it’s still happening, but what might be going on is people might refer it or see it in different ways, uh, potentially healthier ways, right? Maybe they’re not searching this concept because they actually think this is part of life, and so they’re not trying to figure out, how do I get over my imposter syndrome?

Thanks. Thanks

Naji Gehchan: for those. I, I’d love to go now to another feed you explore, which is effective employees and work group functioning, uh, especially in this new word that we are living in. Uh, and I’m gonna be very specific asking for maybe one or two advices that you would, uh, give us as leaders to ensure effectiveness and teamwork in our

Basima Tewfik: organiz.

Yeah, I think that the biggest thing for me, it’s probably just one, um, and actually very basic, but it’s really listening. Um, so part of, part of actually what I love about your podcast is this idea of spreading love and, and sort of paying attention to those in your environment. I think at the end of the day, work is about relat.

To the extent that you can sort of approach everything at work as relational relationship building, um, the better off you are. So for example, at Sloane, I teach a negotiations class to MBAs. And the biggest thing, and what I say on day one is that negotiations is about relationships. It’s not about winning.

It’s not about losing. I make a joke in Class six about how you can use everything that we’re teaching in this class to apply to romantic relationships at home. Um, because essentially it’s, it’s all the same. So I really want people to think about relationships and prioritize that because the rest will follow.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. And, and it’s, it’s so true. And sometimes it’s tough for people to accept it, right? Like the more technical you are, the toughest it is to like, no, like, we don’t need to build relationship. We know exactly what you wanna do, right? So I, I love this advice. Um, I, I would love now to give you words and get your reaction to it.

Basima Tewfik: Okay. That sounds fun. I, I grateful to see these words or two,


Naji Gehchan: words. So the first word is leader.

Complicated. Oh, it’s the first time I get this reaction. Tell me

Basima Tewfik: more. Uh, so I think, uh, to be a really good leader, you probably don’t actually want to be a leader. So there’s some great research, um, that was done at dissertation work by a professor named Danielle Tess, um, on this idea of reluctant leaders.

And it’s really something that’s really resonated with me, which is I think the best leaders are often those who are most reluctant to take the mantle.

What about

Naji Gehchan: request decline?

Basima Tewfik: Can I use three words in response or does it have to be a one word reaction to reflect?

Naji Gehchan: No. Yeah. No. You can, you can, you can talk about it a little bit more. I was so intrigued with this research, so you can talk more .

Basima Tewfik: Uh, I would say my reaction to the phenomenon of request declining is it should be more prevalent.

So request declining is the idea. That you should say no to more requests that are on your plate. And the reason that I study this phenomenon is that a disproportionate amount of helping at work is actually done by a a few number of people. And so if they’re really going to be effective in giving help, they need to be able to prioritize among the requests that they have.

And so, and I think it’s really important that, and we should be more willing to say,

Naji Gehchan: This is definitely a big phenomena we, we all see. Right? Especially if you combine overachieving with people delivering. Uh, yeah. So one of the things, um, I stopped prioritizing, I don’t know if you agree with me on this. I stopped prioritizing and I started to make choices. Like I, I really push my, you know, my teams that make a choice that if you’re doing this, then you’re not doing something else.

Basima Tewfik: I, I think that sounds great. I think that’s, uh, if you can get there, I think that’s a bold, bold new frontier that more people should move into.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you. I’m trying. I’ll let you know. . Yeah, I

Basima Tewfik: was like, report back .

Naji Gehchan: What about social self?

Basima Tewfik: Uh, I think it’s under prioritized. Um, and it’s the same reason for what I was telling you earlier, that I think relationship building is really important.

I think when we think of the self, uh, we tend to think of, especially the self at work, we tend to really think about, you know, how smart we are, how well we’re doing our talks. Um, and we tend to downplay how we’re interacting with others or, um, what our relationships are like.

Naji Gehchan: The final one is Fred Love and organizations.

Basima Tewfik: I, so when I heard about this, uh, I think, uh, there would be a late professor, her name is Al Bar, who would be absolutely thrilled to hear that you’re doing this, um, this podcast she has, she passed away last year. She was fantastic. She’s at Wharton. Um, she has a paper on companion love in organiz.

So one of the big ideas that she’s left in the field, um, is sort of this idea that we need to have more love at work, um, and love, not romantic love, companion love this idea of affection and caring for others, um, and showing that that leads to really positive downstream outcomes at work. Uh, thank you so

Naji Gehchan: much for, for sharing this and honoring all her work.

Any final word of wisdom, uh, Basma for us leaders around the.

Basima Tewfik: I think it is, um, continued to aspire even if it is complicated. So I think being a leader, going back to what I said earlier, it’s a hard job. Uh, it’s not for the faint of heart. Um, and it’s a continuous learning process. So adopting a growth mindset as you sit in that position, uh, can be incredibly helpful, especially given the impact that you have on so many.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much. It was really an honor and a pleasure to talk to you and learn more, uh, about your research and all that you’ve done. Thanks so much for being with me today.

Basima Tewfik: Thank you so much for having me.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this episode joined by a distinguished Professor of Management and founder of the MIT Leadership Center Deborah Ancona.

Deborah’s research and work led to the creation of multiple powerful models, tools, practices and concepts, including X-Teams as a vehicle for driving innovation within large organizations, and also the concept of distributed leadership that enable organizations to foster creative leadership at every level.

She has also served as a consultant on leadership and innovation to several companies including healthcare. 

Deborah is the author of the book, X-Teams: How to Build Teams That Lead, Innovate, and Succeed along with several other publications and articles in prestigious reviews. One of my favorites is “Family Ghosts in the Executive Suite”, I had the privilege to hear it, and apply it directly in Deborah’s leadership class, and it did help me tremendously!

Deborah – I am thrilled to have you with me today!

Deborah Ancona: Well, I’m thrilled to be here. Thanks for the invitation

Naji Gehchan: From psychology to leadership and management, there might be some links, but would love to hear your story. And what’s in between the lines of your journey. And now being a distinguished professor at MIT, Sloan and founder of the leadership center.

Deborah Ancona: So my story, it’s interesting because I have all of the students in my classes tell their stories. And I don’t always think about, about my own. Uh, but one of the stories I do tell in the class is that, um, I come from a kind of an intellectual family. Um, my father was a professor, um, and. Everybody in the family had medical background.

So my dad was a doctor and my mother was a medical social worker. My brother was a doctor. It was just expected. That’s what I would do. But, um, I hated natural science. I hated physics. I hated chemistry. I hated all of those subjects. And, um, the good news was that I. Somehow had the wherewithal, cause I was a pretty gutsy, uh, gets a young lady, um, to say, no, this is not for me.

And, and that kind of led me, um, to ask the question, well, what did I really like? And, um, It’s funny because there was a bet with a, a friend of mine, uh, who was taking a management course and I was taking a psychology course and he said, oh, that’s so easy. I could get an, a easily. And I said, oh really well, I’ll take a management class and you take a psychology course and we’ll see who does better.

And that led me to really. Uh, liking that idea of taking the psychology that I had studied all about cognitions and how people think and why people are fearful and why people get depressed and lots of interesting questions from psychology, but applying them in business and managerial situations. So I found that very intriguing.

Um, so off I went to get my PhD and found that, um, One of the areas. Again was very intriguing to me. So I I’ve always kind of followed my nose to say, what’s a problem out there. That’s, that’s interesting. That kind of pulls my attention. And so, um, while I was working on my PhD, I was asked to come in and work at a telecommunications company.

To understand what made their teams effective. And, um, I was very lucky. My advisor got me into this company and we had lots of data collected of over a hundred teams and we took all of the. Literature that was known about teams. What makes teams effective? Um, so you looked at, uh, the right kinds of people, um, clear goals, clear roles, comradery, cohesion, uh, being able to synthesize everything good.

Decision-making, uh, the ability to create trusting relationships, all the things that are written up in the literature. And so we went out and we studied those things and. All of these dynamics were totally predictive of how satisfied members of the teams were. And predicted how well they thought their team was doing in selling communications equipment.

The only trouble was there was zero none, no relationship between what, how well those teams were operating. And their financial revenue, the revenue they brought into the organization. So this started the next, I don’t know, continues to this day. So 20 plus years of research on what makes teams effective.

And, and I love those kinds of puzzles. Why is it that what we think we know doesn’t really work and what does work? Um, and so I love that. Almost investigative process of interviewing people and observing them and collecting a lot more data and having people actually record what did they do? Um, studying highly effective teams and contrasting them to less effective teams.

What are the, what are the real differences? And it turned out that while all of the things that. Intrinsically think of as important in teams, the things I’ve just mentioned, clear goals and roles and cohesion, et cetera, those are important, but they’re only half the story. And if you get half the story wrong, you can still have a lot of failures.

So the other side of the equation, if you will, is what we term X teams, externally active teams. What differentiates high-performing teams from low performing teams, whether they’re hardware teams, software teams, top management teams, manufacturing teams, service teams. Is the ability to not just be good at interacting within their borders, but to be able to reach out, to understand the larger organization, the larger ecosystem, what are new trends?

How do I get my fingers on the pulse of new technologies in a, in an exponentially changing world, as we have seen. For the past 10 years and, and even more amplified with COVID is the B is the need to adapt. And if you aren’t monitoring the external environment, if you aren’t learning from that external environment, if you aren’t creating, um, allies and dealing with your adversaries, if you aren’t reaching out to really coordinate, then you are not as effective.

You are when you do engage in those activities. So anyway, that was, that was a whole long time of really having a great time working with teams, studying teams, watching them pretending I was a member of a communications team, uh, lots of, lots of fun things. Um, and then post that, um, I actually kind of diverge, um, into thinking, well, what about the individual?

Um, how do we help individuals to be able to develop so that they can become members of those kinds of teams so that they can deal with the uncertainty, uncertainty, and ambiguity. So that story. The creation of the course that you took, uh, which is how do you understand and develop your own unique way of leading, which we call your leadership signature.

Um, and, um, Again, lots and lots of talking to people about how they developed looking at it, the theory. So I engage in a lot of sense-making, which is one of the core attributes or capabilities that we look at in the leadership model. And I think, um, part of the power of that model is the idea of sense-making.

Leadership models don’t include it. And yet this ability to really dig deeply into the problem that you’re trying to solve, really try to understand your context, make sense of the context in which you are operating is, is critical. And I use that skill to really, um, pull together. This framework, um, that brought me right back to my psychology roots.

So I was a psychology major after throwing away the natural sciences, I became a psychology major. And, um, so that brought me back into, into those roots, which I’ve enjoyed. Um, I’ve enjoyed helping others to be able to. So on their journey as it were, I hate that word journey, but I use it, um, to develop, um, more fruitfully, uh, using the constructs and concepts that I’ve developed and that I borrowed from a lot of other people.

And the other side of the equation is. Working with teams and individuals and seeing the progress that they were all making. And yet they would go back into toxic environments or organizations that were so bureaucratic that they couldn’t use their new found skills and they become, they became frustrated.

Uh, and so that started a whole other kind of research, um, story, as it were to say, uh, What constitutes a nimble organization as opposed to a bureaucratic one and not only nimble and its ability to adapt, but also having a culture that was not toxic, that kind of embraced freedom and, and people’s ability to be full-fledged members.

Uh, of those organizations. Uh, and so that work with, um, Elaine Backman and. Isaacs by the way that X team was done with Henrik, Brisbane and David Caldwell to give credit where credit was due. Um, so Kate, Elaine and I did did a, oh, I don’t know, many years multi-year study to look at what constitutes nimble.

And so that’s been some of my more recent writing as well. And an HBR article 2019. So that’s a little bit, um, not so much my personal journey, but my personal research journey as it were. And oh, by the way, along the way, I had four kids. Um, so I, um, I have four great children who are grown up now and in launch mode.

And that was also just a. Lovely lovely part of my life. I, um, I never held a child before I had one, so I was woefully unprepared. Uh, but nonetheless, um, I, I just found the kids a joyful experience, watching them grow and develop and feeling like I had some, um, albeit small role to play in, in helping them navigate.

The complex world that we live in. So, um, so that’s my story.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. The powerful story, and you summarized in some minutes, huge amount of research that actually helps businesses help us as leader to be better organizations and better leaders. I will go back to a couple of things you shared.

So first. Um, if, if we want to talk about X teams, I love how you frame it. What’s the difference between a high-performing team and our performing team and this internal and external lens. What would be for a leader leading this team? What would be the top one or two capabilities that you think the leader needs to have for them to foster this type of environment for the team?

Deborah Ancona: So I think. One of the things that leaders need to be able to do is to understand that they don’t know everything. Um, and therefore, uh, a big aspect of both X teams and nimble organizations is the idea of distributed leadership that you have to open up your mind to be. Able to receive an update your view of the world.

If the world is changing really, really quickly, then you need to be able to suspend your belief system to say, okay, what’s new, what’s different. And how do I engage? The members of my team and going out and updating our models of what does the customer need? How is technology changing? Uh, what’s different about the economic and political reality that we face right at this moment what’s going on in, in healthcare, uh, with the pandemic and all the different changes that are happening there.

Um, so there has to be an ability to be open. And to encourage many people, not just yourself to seek answers. Uh, and so that’s very necessary, um, uh, in terms of a leader being able to step into, uh, into that realm. Uh, the other thing is, I think. That that you have to be open, but it also requires an ability to step back and let other people lead and let other people come in.

Um, In interviewing leaders. I’ve, I’ve been so impressed with some of them in terms of this idea of stepping up and stepping back. You step up if there’s a need, if there’s something not happening, but the ability also to step back and for even the lowest, um, member on the totem pole, uh, to. Participate and to, um, engage, not that everybody is equal.

It doesn’t mean that everybody has equal participation, but there are things that other people can bring to the table that perhaps the single leader cannot. And we need people to do that more in this day and age.

Naji Gehchan: I love it. And so many different ideas and innovation comes sometimes from where leaders are, we think least expected.

Right? So being open and bringing everyone on the force of everyone on the table is so crucial

Deborah Ancona: and sending them out the ability to. Engage them, not just internally, but outside everybody next week, go interview a customer. What did we learn? What’s different. Go interview a competitor. What are they doing that we’re not doing?

Um, getting everybody engaged and involved, and then you all have when you report back in a better understanding of, of the context.

Naji Gehchan: So, so true. Sometimes it’s frightening. When you think the percentage of time focused on internal. Versus actually being out with customers or with, you know, face sheds or whatever, even looking around at the environment.

Yeah. I totally agree.

Deborah Ancona: The other thing, which I told you in class, I always quote John, John Reed, the former head of Citibank and the MIT corporation, um, is if your inbox equals your outbox, you’re not alone. That you have to do more than respond to what other people are asking you to do. Leadership requires aspirations to new things, to taking on new challenges.

And so that’s also a key thing.

Naji Gehchan: Uh, you, we hear it a lot. All organizations or companies now want to become nimble. So you are behind the nimble organizations and this idea and you’ve researched it. So I would two questions I would love to hear from you. What does nimble organization mean? Like the definition, if you can give it to us.

Um, and then after this one, how to create it and can we aspire towards, uh, what, what should we do as leaders to.

Deborah Ancona: Yeah. Um, well, so we’re not the only one in the space. Obviously. There are a lot of people who are looking at that now. So there are people who stay, we call it nimble, um, uh, McKinsey calls it agile.

Uh, other people call it learning organizations or, um, networked organizations. So implicit in. Is this external focus. You need to be networked and learning, um, uh, for a good period of time and nimble. You need to also be able to move. Uh, one of the reasons to employ X teams, X teams are a big part of nimble organizations is their ability to.

Put together resources very quickly and act in a changing environment. So the ability to both see problems and opportunities quickly and be able to respond to them, uh, is, is part of what nimble is, uh, as well as a culture, um, of being able to step out, being able to, uh, have flexible forms of organizing, um, a culture.

Uh, enables people to learn and celebrate learning or, um, Carol Dweck’s idea of, of a growth mindset, um, is, is quite pivotal to, to being nimble. Also respect, respect for individuals is, uh, is a core part of that. Um, and in terms of. How do you make it happen? Um, we teach in the nimble course, um, a case on such an Adela who has been hard at work actually to try to transform, uh, Microsoft, but we also studied organizations that were nimble from birth and there were several findings from that.

Um, so I’ll just go into, to. As quickly as I can. Uh, one is that we saw three different kinds of leaders in nimble organizations. The. Bottom, not the total bottom, but lower down in the organization. You have the entrepreneurial leaders. This is really the hub of a nimble organization is lots and lots of people who are innovating and coming up with new ideas.

They’re entrepreneur. So what’s a great new business model that we should be pursuing. What’s a new product that we should look at. What’s some new material we should use. What’s a better way to address customer needs. So you have this huge hub of innovation that goes on, um, at, so you want entrepreneurial leaders at every level of an organization, but in particular at the lower and middle ends and then in the middle.

As opposed to bureaucratic organizations where middle managers are all about directing and planning and providing incentives and so on. Um, the, the middle level, the more experienced leaders or what we call nibbling leaders. So they are helping those entrepreneurial leaders to navigate the organization to figure out how do you present this?

And what’s the best way to get people engaged. And how do you run some experiments to prove. Proof of concept, et cetera. And then. Top you have what we call the architecting leaders and the architecting leaders are architecting. What we call the game board, uh, on which the entrepreneurial leaders and enabling leaders play.

So they’re the ones who are architecting the culture of the organization and they’re, um, removing. Um, barriers to innovation. They’re also putting up guardrails because even though nimble gives people a lot more autonomy, um, leaders get scared. I don’t want to go there because autonomy means chaos and it’s going to be a big mess.

And I don’t want to do that. Um, but in fact, nimble organizations have a lot of guard rails and those guard rails are things like, um, uh, funneling. So not every idea that comes from an entrepreneurial, an entrepreneurial leader is a great idea. And so what you want to do is make sure there’s a funnel and everybody knows there’s a funnel.

Right? Okay. Not every idea is going to make it to the rest of the organization. Um, and so there’s, um, a choice committee or, um, you enter a con. And there are very clear rules. This is what kind of innovation we want. This is what it has to be able to do simple rules. It has to be able to make whatever 500 million in the marketplace, or we don’t, we don’t want it.

It has to work with these technologies. So we don’t so very simple rules that provide. Uh, a system by which you can evaluate those entrepreneurial ideas and decide which ones go forward. Um, so the architecting leaders create these systems and these guard rails and these simple rules that help people innovate, but innovate with within particular domains so that it’s not chaotic.

Naji Gehchan: Uh, within, within this, um, those organizations, you talked in the beginning about culture, too. You talked about adaptation change. There’s all this wealth practically for entrepreneurs who are coming with ideas and building them, uh, and culture obviously should be super important. So you framed nontoxic culture.

But I want to hear more about what do you mean by not only non-toxic, but what type of culture you need to have for people to keep on bringing ideas, understand that there are boundaries and not all ideas will go in, but it’s fine. Not being afraid of bringing even more ideas or crazy ideas that sometimes.

We hear it. I know it’s too crazy for a company to do so. What is the type of culture that you think is important? Uh,

Deborah Ancona: well, first of all, a culture of transparency, if people don’t know how decisions are made, they get very resentful. Why did that person get to go ahead? And I didn’t know if it’s too political or it’s too close door, then people cease to believe in the process.

So transparency is a core element. In fact,

Um, organization about moving to nimble, but the first step is building the reputation and the actual transparency that’s needed to operate in, in a nimble way. So, um, that’s an very important piece, um, respect for other people, um, because. If you are enabling autonomy, um, you need to provide, uh, respect for everybody and their ideas and their, um, Well, respect for them as individuals.

And yet, I mean, some of these nimble organizations are very tough on ideas. Um, so it’s not that you accept everything thing. You can be very tough on ideas, but you don’t shame the person who brings that idea. Everybody’s entitled to, to have a place and, and, um, and be heard or to get the opportunity to get other people on board.

Um, To, to make things happen. Uh, you have to be able to, uh, let go, um, of bureaucracy. So if there are too many rules, too many regulations, too many, you have to go through 15,000 forms, um, at WL gore, and one of the companies that we studied, um, They don’t have these manuals for new products. There is a one-page document that you create.

It’s called real win, worth a, is it a real product that we can create? We can actually do it with our technologies. Real win. Can we win in the market? Um, with this, with this new thing that we’re going to create and worth, can we actually make money? Because if we can’t make money, I mean, the organization needs to make money.

So. Prove to us that it’s real, that we can win and then it’s worthwhile to do, and then you get acceptance. Now there might be a lot of data collected for that, but it’s a one pager, um, rather than hours and hours and days and days, and months and months spent on. On putting those programs together. So it’s low bureaucracy, um, are part of what nimble organizational cultures have also not blaming people all the time for mistakes.

Uh, you have to have a mindset of how do we learn from what we just did not. Who do we punish? Okay. Let’s figure out who’s fault. Was it really? No. What you really want to do is say, okay, what have we learned from this? And how do we do it better next time. Now, obviously, if somebody fails over and over and over again, then that becomes a problem.

But you do want to Institute this, this learning mindset, uh, within the, within the organization.

Naji Gehchan: Great. Uh, now I want to move into a different section where I would give you a word and I would love your reaction to it. So the first word is leadership

Deborah Ancona: leadership. Uh, do you want like a word or just a, it can be an idea. Um, so. I tend to think of leadership more as in a bird formation. It’s not necessarily the bird in the front, it’s the bird in the back. That’s making sure that everything is operating smoothly. So it’s, it’s more the idea of the enabling and architecting, uh, leaders who help, uh, the entrepreneurial leaders to, to move forward.

Um, and I think that idea. Gets lost. When we think of the heroic. Um, here I am kind of leadership,

Naji Gehchan: good stories,

Deborah Ancona: stories. I think of stories as.

I want to say one of the most effective tools that leaders have, but just thinking about it as a tool, you think of a hammer or you think of, of a saw, and it’s not like that it’s a tool in that stories are a better way to communicate and that people remember stories more than data or more than lists of things, but also.

Stories engaged, not just the cognitions of other people, but their emotions as well. And so it brings an emotional, um,

Piece to, to an organization and to an audience. And so it helps people to connect to one another, uh, and it helps people to realize that, um, that we have to be, um, understanding of other people because there’s a lot behind the facade that they bring, that they bring to work. Um, But also is an important way of connecting people to one another so that they can more easily work together and do things together and have a good time doing it.

Naji Gehchan: What about family? Ghosts?

Deborah Ancona: Family goes well. No, I guess I’m a little bit surprised that not more people in the field have talked about the impact of your family because on your, on your leadership. So you, you know, you talked about ghosts, but ghosts are things that we, we take from our past. So from our actual own families, because those families have such an impact on us, on our, um, On our values and on the things that we believe in on the things that we think are right.

The things that we think are wrong, the things that we should do, the things that we shouldn’t do, that the expectations of. And who we should be in the world. Those are deep, deep, deep things we learned from our family and therapists worry about that in terms of our own mental wellbeing. But ghost is more about whoa.

Sometimes those dynamics are playing out in the workplace in ways that I haven’t really been aware. And so for me go, sorry. What are the dynamics that play out in what work that have to do with the way I was raised? What are the good ones? Because sometimes we tend to think of. The terrible demon goes.

So I can’t get over. I, I, I can’t delegate because I need to have the control because I had a very uncontrolled family life. And so I need control. Um, and so that can be a negative ghost. Um, at the same time, you could be really good at controlling and organizing and operating. So it’s important to recognize that these things we bring from the past.

Have an important impact on who we are right now, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the, for the ill and sometimes for both simultaneously,

Naji Gehchan: it’s a spread love and organizations.

Deborah Ancona: I’m sorry. W

Naji Gehchan: w what about spread, love and organization?

Deborah Ancona: Yeah. So, um, I’m not one who speaks about love very often in, in the work that I do.


so I think that’s a harder one for me. Um, I think. Love if you take it to mean care and concern for other people. Um, I think we probably need more of that in organizations because we tend to look a little bit too much at only numbers and, um, output, um, productivity and effective. Effectiveness and efficiency.

And we, we do need to also consider, um, our fellow human beings and how we treat them. And can we, can we actually help them? I don’t, I don’t know if that’s what you mean by love. Um, but I guess that’s where I would take the concept.

Naji Gehchan: Th th this is actually what we’ve been hearing quite, what I personally mean is really this genuine care and caring for your people, for them to thrive.

And this is constantly what we’ve been hearing from, uh, from thinkers and leaders, uh, around genuine care or servant-leadership with this word, uh, that isn’t too often the organization.

Deborah Ancona: Yeah, no, I think so. And I, I think for me, um, The the, the greatest joy really from my own work comes from that. Whether it’s, I wouldn’t consider that work from my children, as I said, um, being able to, to help them to grow and develop, but also the leaders that go through this course, I feel so.

Really grateful that they tell their stories to me and that they hopefully take some steps along their own developmental path, um, helping a team to be more effective, to come up with a great idea. That to me is just. So much fun. Oh, well, we came up with this idea. We never would have done it if we hadn’t operated in this way, uh, where we want to change.

Um, it’s just very fulfilling for people to send me notes. I’ve learned more in three weeks of sense-making than I have in 10 years being at this organization, or, uh, we were able to implement this plan faster and better than we ever could have before, or it was great to finally realize that. We didn’t have all the answers and we could go out and, and learn from other organizations.

These are, to me, if that’s what love is, then, then I’m a fan. Okay,

Naji Gehchan: great. Then I think I was going to tell you, you’re actually, you’re spreading love and how you’re doing things, right. It’s like being open outside, being open inside being this genuine leader and listening to your people. This is how I’m defining it as, as love.

And it’s part of all that you’ve been taking us and teaching us through, um, through not only this course, but also through many years of research.

Deborah Ancona: Um, the other thing I would bring to that is, um, I don’t think of love in that respect as being always supportive. Um, that is, um, I sometimes push people and I push people hard.

Okay. You could, you could do that better. What if you tried it this way? Um, what if you, um, implemented this in a different way? Um, so it’s not all, oh, everything is great. It’s also pushing people because of a core belief that the person can learn, that that person can take that input, that that person is capable of doing more and being more.

It’s not up to me to provide the motivation for that. But I do think if the person is motivated to do that, then, then I feel like part of love in a sense is feeling good enough about that person that you can push them, uh, and not just say, oh, whatever you do is fine.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. And this is, this is one of the pieces in one of the interviews.

Sometimes we talk about tough love, right? If you think about your kids, as you mentioned to actually push them, they’re doing, you know, you help them, you coach them, you guide them. And sometimes there’s tough love. And I remember one of the great leaders we interviewed told me, it’s, it’s true now. It’s not tough love because if you generally care for your people, yeah.

You’re going to push them sometimes because you believe in them, you believe they can do better. So if they’re not. We are going to help them see it and see how they can do better. So definitely a great point. Again,

any final word of wisdom for leaders around the world?

Deborah Ancona: Well, I think the only thing that I would say is that leadership is a complex concept. And that I think part of where we sometimes fall down is taking one piece of that and saying, this is what leadership is. So yes, you need to improve your relating abilities, the ability to coach and mentor and care for others.

But. You also, um, per our model need to be able to sense, make about your environment so that you’re able to come up with new ways of, uh, meeting the demands of that environment. And you need to be at some point a visionary leader who is about where do we go in the future? What does the future look like?

What could we do together? So you have to be kind of motivated. As a leader by presenting a picture of the future that that could be achieved. And you have to be what we call an inventing leader who comes up with ways to both execute on what needs to be done. Keep the trains running, make them run better over time.

Keep on that and also creating an innovative environment because in this day and age, you need to innovate to, to kind of survive. Um, and that requires making decisions and, and coming up with new ways to, to do things and to include people. And so I think sometimes we get lost because. People talk about one part of that leadership model without really recognizing that great leaders do all of those things and also rely on other people for doing tasks that they can’t do.

Uh, and, and that’s a key part of, of what leadership is.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much for this inspiring discussion today.

Deborah Ancona: Uh, thank you again for having me. I appreciate it.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 today. So many times we hear about selfless leaders… Until you hear and meet Dr Daphne Haas Kogan, you obviously didn’t really see what selfless leadership is. Daphne is Professor and Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor at Harvard Medical School.

After her Biochemistry and Molecular Biology degree from Harvard University, Daphne received her M.D. from the University of California where she served as Vice-Chair for Research and Educational Program Director. Daphne has been elected in 2019 to the National Academy of Medicine, considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. She has been selected as one of the top physicians in the United States by several publications including Best Doctors in America.

Daphne, I am just so honored and thrilled to have you with me today.

Daphne Haas-Kogan: It’s entirely my honor, and my pleasure truly.

Naji Gehchan: Great. I would, I would love to start, uh, definitely with the very beginning, let’s say, what’s your personal story, who you are as a person on what got you to health care and being the leader or the physician and the healthcare provider that you are today.

Daphne Haas-Kogan: So I can, I recall from a very early in childhood wanting to treat children with cancer. I don’t recall the exact impetus to when I was young, but I had a sense that that was a time, of course, when children and their families were in great need, um, emotionally, psychologically, physically. And I got, I had a sense.

That would be a place where I could truly, uh, contribute. Um, I have a, an interesting family story that I think has always, uh, positioned me to have this drive, to make the world a better place. Um, both of my parents, my mom’s from Poland and my father’s from Holland and both of them are Holocaust survivors and they each have.

Interesting family and, and personal histories that highlight the fact that people who were strangers to them, uh, saved their lives and saved the lives of, of many. And I remember even from. Uh, from very early in my childhood, the sense that I really had an obligation to pay it forward or pay it back. Um, however one wants to, um, articulate it and that it was really, uh, on me to, um, spread love as your organization states and really do everything that I could to do right by others, even others that I had never met.

And, um, leave the earth a better place than when I arrived on it.

Naji Gehchan: Wow. Oh, and throw you, you, you taken this to, you know, to a different level, obviously you’re actually doing it and. Great children, patients at their toughest moments. How are you defining today, your purpose and how you, you take this and you do it with all the team that you have, you, you are in leadership positions.

So how do you do this? And you transfer all that you’re bringing to so many for, for your impact to be even brother.

Daphne Haas-Kogan: I, I think. Of myself as being part of a team and part of a, a path with patients and their families. Um, that’s honestly a more fulfilling for me personally than I could have ever imagined a career being. So when a, uh, a child and their family come. Come to me for my expertise or my support, or I’m in need of a path of a person who’s going to travel a very challenging path with them, holding their hand along the way, uh, having the background, having, having the expertise to education, to, to, to walk that journey with them is a privilege beyond what I could have ever imagined.

The fact that. Families in their greatest time of need, but their trust in me is, uh, so deeply rewarding to me. Uh, it’s really what propels me and what, what helps me get up each and every morning. Um, even when I’m wishing I had more sleep, um, more recently since I moved from the university of California, San Francisco to Harvard.

I’ve had more responsibility in administrative and leadership roles. And I find myself really transitioning from being, uh, being focused on my career to some extent, to being focused on, on other people’s careers. When people talk to me about, um, Becoming the chair of the department of radiation oncology.

I often reflect on the fact that I never actually recall having an aspiration to be a chair of a department. And in fact, I very often was very reluctant to, um, to think of myself in this role. I, I think because, um, I’m very conscious of the fact that. That, that at least in my opinion, um, power is a very, um, undermining and corrupting, um, forced.

And, and to me, actually not being in a position of leadership and power was a more impactful straight forward, um, way. To contribute to the world. So it was with some trepidation and uncertainty and kind of dubious thoughts that I did take on this position. And it was a little bit of a leap of faith, kind of jumping into the water to see what it would be like.

What’s, what’s turned out to be very. True for me personally is that, and now I harp back to the transition that I was talking about a few minutes ago. I think the transition to a leadership position has to be at a time and was at a time for me in my life where my career, my personal career mattered much, much less to me in the sense that there wasn’t that much more honestly, that I really wanted to accomplish.

Um, It was a transition in that I have, I have three children and my youngest was finishing high school. So I was going to be newly empty nested. Um, uh, I have a wonderful family that I thought was getting settled and I needed to worry a little bit less about them perhaps. And I didn’t really have. Very obvious Frank tangible career aspirations that I hadn’t achieved.

So it was a very, very natural point of transition for me to start focusing the turning away from a focus on my personal aspirations to supporting other others aspirations. So the transition from. Uh, less of a leadership position to more of a leadership position that came along with moving from San Francisco to Harvard was a very poignant time for me in terms of it was no longer about myself.

Um, really it can never be about me anymore, but it always now, uh, should be about supporting other people. Um, be it patients or their families or relatives or staff or colleagues. Uh, faculty members, um, colleagues, uh,

Naji Gehchan: other chairs on like I a definite how, how you’re framing, which is quite the opposite of usually being a manager or in a leader position, how people would think of it.

You’re literally seeing it at the surface of your people, right. Really the servant leadership and the caring about the others and developing them. I it’s, it’s amazing how you framed it. Like it’s this tipping point where you really wanted to focus on others that brought you to leadership or a leadership position.

And did you change your opinion about power now? That’s you are one of the most powerful in the institutions that.

Daphne Haas-Kogan: Well, that’s definitely not true, but have, um, have more responsibility and accountability. And then than I did before, I definitely have not changed my position and my feelings. I, in fact, the longer I’m in the position, the more I realized that it really cannot be, can never be about oneself when one leaves.

Um, a group, um, like this, that really one must focus on the, on those, that one leads and my conviction of anything has strengthened, uh, as, as it, as it relates to that. And I do really feel, and I often reflect on the fact that I do think that that power is a corrupting force. I mean, when. When one has has, uh, let’s say I have the it’s it’s under my purview to, to offer somebody a position.

Um, the, any kind of, what if I ever get a feeling of, um, um, you know, wow, I’m in charge here. I know that I need to look at myself and back. And be introspective and, um, and be clear with myself about what the driving force has to be on it. The can never be about power or control or any of those, uh, any of those synonyms.

Um, but it required for me at least. I mean, they’re probably people that are, that are. More selfless than I am, but for me, at least it requires constant reflection on, is my motivation at this moment on this day, um, as it should be, and, and, and, and constantly being aware, um, that my motivations can never be corrected.

And if they ever are, I need to move long time for something else.

Naji Gehchan: And you can create the example on this. Like how you, how you manage a self-reflection. Uh, if you take the recruitment, you talked about recruitment, any processes you’ve done as a leader to make sure that, you know, you bring diversity inclusion, like you’re aware of all the unconscious biases that we might have as we’re recruiting.

And any concrete example, you can get inspired and, and apply

Daphne Haas-Kogan: well on this time of very heightened awareness of inequities that we honestly should have been aware of for, for decades. Um, I find myself questioning myself very often. For example, if I’m. If I’m ever a part of a group where, um, let’s say I express a, uh, questions or doubts about whether we’re being as inclusive as, as we might be.

If I ever feel, if I ever have a sense of, wow, that was a good thing you said, or a sense of feeling. Part of myself for like, say you saying the right thing. I immediately, um, put the brakes on and questioned myself and the purity of my motive. Like, are you doing this because it’s the right thing, or are you doing this to make yourself feel better?

And I always, always tried to back it up and make sure I’m doing it because it’s the right thing and never to make myself feel better. I, you know, I. No, I’ve I went to, um, I went to school and I trained in San Francisco in the eighties and the nineties. And, um, it was at the height of the aids crisis in San Francisco.

And, um, at the time, you know, I had a pretty traditional, um, heterosexual marriage with. You know, cute little children and the, the education that I received from being from training in the, in healthcare at a time when there was so much bigotry, um, against, especially against gay men and looking back at my own bigotry, um, was very transforming.

For me. And I think because I grew up in a very, my, uh, family of origin and my community of origin is very conservative and very traditional. And I grew up with very kind of traditional family values and having to question those and look at myself in a very critical light, especially. During those, the early days of the aids crisis really taught me a lot about the room for growth and room for education and room for change.

And then, um, kind of the, my family’s history of basically being persecuted for who they were not having any control about whether they. You know, we’re born Jewish or not. Um, and then the fact that I was a woman in the sciences, which wasn’t the easiest thing, um, especially not, you know, 30, 40, I guess, not quite, yeah.

You know, decades ago. And then, um, almost 20 years ago when actually I came out as a lesbian or. Really, um, brought home to me, uh, how deep seated Frank bigotry. And also as you say, um, kind of implicit bias and explicit, explicit bias is that every single one of us has that in us. And if we don’t question ourselves every minute of every day, we will inadvertently act on those biases.

Um, I know that I make mistakes right. And left every day. And if I don’t have it in me to examine my own behaviors and my own thought process and my own inclinations and make sure that I as much as possible, um, and always fighting for, uh, for the underdog, um, Be it underrepresented minorities, disenfranchise communities, um, that, that, that’s, that’s an enormous component of my mission and leadership and requires attention a lot.

It’s not something I think that can be taken for granted or, or honestly that even comes naturally.

Naji Gehchan: Oh, thank you so much. Uh, definitely for, you know, for sharing, for sharing your story and sharing this, uh, the, this with me it’s, um, you know, building on, on this, we, we discussed it last time offline, you know, and how, how you manage from obviously all your beliefs, all your learning, uh, w with this genuine leadership, your teams, you also.

When during the last year and still ongoing this year with the pandemic and, and healthcare has been challenged, it’s been done for you for your teams on the front lines. Um, but, but still you, you lead them. They show up, you show up for them. Uh, so, you know, beyond thanking you and everyone saying how, how much we appreciate and the, the heroes that you are, the chili everyday, for all those patients that you serve, any leadership, key leadership lesson for you during those times, you know, with your team and with, with all, uh, with all that you learn throughout, uh, throughout the years.

And, um, and your personal.

Daphne Haas-Kogan: I think one of the most important lessons that I’ve probably learned, but it was brought home. So clearly to me was something that, again, I think I learned from my teachers and mentors when I was a student during the aids crisis, but now I had to really practice an exercise as a leader. And that is honesty and transparency.

And. And owning getting it wrong and being willing to admit mistakes and do better. So for example, very early on, within days of, um, the pandemic, we, because we treat cancer patients and that’s not. It’s not a, uh, it’s because it’s a necessary procedure. Um, we, we couldn’t stop treating our cancer patients.

It wasn’t like we could, they weren’t elective procedures or elective surgeries. So we had to continue treating our patients and our staff had to continue, uh, coming in to, to treat the patients in person. And I saw everybody around me, our staff. But the patients, um, the trainees, the students, the, the, every role group, the radiation therapists, the nurses, the medical assistants, the physics staff, the dosimetry staff, um, the child life specialists and, and, and, and so many more, I saw that they were terrified.

To a large extent because it was so, uh, unclear, um, how broad and how deep the dangers were. And we had, um, young people who were, um, who were caring for elderly parents at home or for small children or for themselves, or who were pregnant, um, or had other responsibilities. And here they were coming in to treat.

Sick cancer patients. And it wasn’t clear to what extent they were exposing themselves to risks. And it was really hard to assuage their anxieties because honestly, number one, they were putting themselves at risk and number two, it wasn’t really clear how big the risk was to them. And number three, we didn’t know how to mitigate those risks.

So, for example, at the beginning, not only did we not have any personal protection protect, protective equipment PPE, we didn’t even have masks. We had, we had nothing. And, uh, and what we heard was that because of the way this virus spread, um, it really wasn’t necessary to mask. That was the original. Um, that was the original message.

And of course that’s what I told my staff. And in fact, I distinctly recall one, uh, the might’ve been the first or second day, very early on after we went virtual. But of course going virtual was really hypothetical for most of us because we had to be there for the patients. And one of the trainees had a mask that they had gotten.

From the outside world. So they hadn’t gotten it from the hospital, but they had acquired it outside. They had access to masks. Um, at the same time, our young therapists that were actually treating were also at the front lines, treating patients, you know, every minute of every day didn’t have masks because they didn’t have access to masks outside the hospital.

And we didn’t have masks in the hospital to provide them. And I went to the trainee and I asked the, ask this trainee to take their mascot. And because, uh, I didn’t feel that it was right for somebody who might have been a little more privileged than had, had access to a mask outside to where one within the department, when others who were really, you know, face-to-face with an inches of a patient’s face not having access to masks.

And I think back at that now, and I’m sure. I am mortified and, uh,

Naji Gehchan: shame, right?

Daphne Haas-Kogan: Like how, how could I have said that? How could I have told somebody to take off their mask? They were, they had their own set of, um, fears and of course they were, um, also in danger of contracting COVID.

So it was, I mean, looking, it was painful then, but it’s a hundred times more painful now in some ways to look back and see how wrong I got it. Um, but I think when it became clear that masking was absolutely imperative and the right thing, um, then owning it and saying to the whole department, I really got this wrong and I’m really sorry.

Um, was, uh, very, very important stuff. And I harped back and thought, you know, this is something that I learned when I was a trainee, because I saw other people owning their mistakes, owning things. They got wrong, owning their fears, owning their insecurities, owing, what they did know, and also what they didn’t know.

And I realized that it was others who taught me, who put themselves out for me as a young person, as a young mother, as a trainee, as a young healthcare provider, that helped me be transparent, honest, um, Open and accountable now, um, as a leader, I reflect on the fact that it’s really not easy to feel so exposed and to feel so wrong.

I really have gotten it so, so wrong and in a way that feels very personal, but I also realize. If one is going to lead through our crisis, you know, that’s what I have to practice and, and try to keep doing better every, every day.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. But, and, and just took accountability. Beyond any leader, right? So you took accountability on a decision, that’s it?

You made, but it was not only you, right? Like this, these were the guidance. You, you, well, you’re a physician. So you did by the state of the art and evidence at that time. So, but still coming back and taking the ownership and saying, yeah, I got it all wrong. Many of them would have said, that’s not me.

Whoever I’d like the CDC or someone else. Who’s got it wrong, but it’s, I think, again, it’s another, it’s another point of, um, you know, find her honesty for you and your leadership, you know, being transparent and, and owning whatever we do. Right, right. Or wrong.

Daphne Haas-Kogan: It was very offline when we talked before. Um, that’s one thing.

Even though we haven’t known each other for that long. That was one thing that I’ve found really inspiring about your and Zena stories. And I’m hearing so much from many of our colleagues about the goodness that U2 spread that has, has really, uh, inspired me to, um, really get engaged with this spread love and organizations.

Um, And. Well, why I feel so honored, typically speaking with, okay.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you. That’s what we’re. Yeah, I know. You’re you’re way too kind to know where I think a lot of us as, as a human being, you know, even before being either as a, whatever, you know, as a human beings, we all try and drink an inbox and, uh, we’re, we’re, we’re definitely.

Uh, to help people in where they need most. So we definitely share, you know, volumes and we share also the same purpose. So it’s, yeah, it’s just amazing to have you with us. I would love know to jump into the different sectors. Where I will be giving you one word and I promise there is one words here. You might smile.

I, because you said it many times, I wrote it before the interview. So let me give you this word and then tell me whatever you have top of mind.

Daphne Haas-Kogan: Okay. Sounds good. Great.

Naji Gehchan: So women in leadership,

Daphne Haas-Kogan: I think women have a very important role to play in. And leadership on the one hand, I think women have themselves experienced, um, inequities.

On the other hand, I think women are in more empowered positions than many other groups. So we’re in this sweet spot as women where we really, many of us have very much felt. What it’s like to be treated unfairly and not be given opportunities, perhaps to be judged prematurely about our abilities or our roles, but we’ve also come a long way.

So we’re empowered to help other groups that are tens, if not hundreds of year behind us, in terms of opportunities. So for, for me as, uh, as a woman and leadership, and I think for all women in leadership, um, there’s an enormous responsibility of taking the, the experience that experiences that we’ve had, both the unpleasant experiences, but also the experiences that we’ve had and in our mentors, our colleagues, um, Uh, our students empowering, empowering us and making sure that we pay it forward and, and empowering and assisting and mentoring and supporting those who have not had quite the opportunities that we have.

And of course there are many such groups.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. What about, uh, innovation?

Daphne Haas-Kogan: Innovation is a very interesting word to follow women in leadership because, um, I’ve been reflecting very often on the fact that I find in general that many of my women, colleagues and leadership don’t think about innovation as a mission. And I think we should. I think we, we many women that I’ve encountered including myself,

At least I very much put one foot in front of the other and don’t actually think much about any innovative contributions that I could ever make. Um, but in some ways it’s not true. There are things that. Um, I think about ideas that I have that are innovative and I think it requires me and other women to step out of our comfort zone and to be brave and to think, yes, we can be innovative.

We have innovative ideas and we should, um, engage others. Hmm. Try to do something new, something outside the box. Something that doesn’t feel as comfortable and it might be, might be, might be different, but it’s worth taking the chance for,

Naji Gehchan: and do you have like a feeding of what might be holding, holding you or the women doc?

And what’s your advice?

Daphne Haas-Kogan: Yeah, I thought a lot about this. I don’t, I don’t have that much of a deep insight. I would say that women that I am exposed to on a professional level, um, many of them have been socialized to, um, to be very. Uh, to be very given and be motivated, uh, very much by benevolence. And sometimes for me, the concept of innovation, um, feels a little self-serving of course it isn’t.

Um, but sometimes it gets attached to feelings of being self-serving, um, which then. Honestly feels like a turnoff to me. I, I would myself and I think many women colleagues that I interact with, um, want to make sure that our mission is to do right by others, not ourselves. And so I don’t think we often think of ourselves as having, um, innovative, innovative ideas to.

Um, frankly, it’s, it’s a reason that I find myself and I find that many other women, uh, shying away from public speaking or speaking to groups because in a very similar way, I mean, I certainly feel like I don’t have very much to offer like a group of listeners let’s say. Um, but it’s

Naji Gehchan: probably, you’re

Daphne Haas-Kogan: so kind.

But I think, I think it takes just being brave with thinking about things a little bit differently. So maybe I don’t have as much to offer as somebody else who has more expertise than me, but you got to have my personal story to offer. And maybe my idea is a little bit more innovative than I than I think, I think it’s perhaps a little bit part of the socialization process of what motivates women or what women feel like should motivate them.

But beyond that, um, I’m sure there are other insights that others would have that I would be very interested to hear. Right?

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, definitely. It’s it’s part of also your, your humble leaders. I think your story is amazing. It’s so inspiring and can definitely inspire so many, so many people who are listening to all this, but you were such a humble and selfless leader that says this is what’s bringing those words.

Then the next word I have, I literally wrote it before. So it’s it’s questions or questioning.

Daphne Haas-Kogan: So, although I did say that I grew up in a very traditional household in a very traditional community and culture. The culture that I did grow up in was very, um, very much valued questioning and curiosity. So curiosity as in a life, a lifelong learner, um, but questioning in a way that steps beyond just lifelong learning and honestly questioning authority and questioning the status quo.

And that’s one thing that I very much enjoyed and I didn’t really understand how much I would enjoy this in my leadership position that I think because of the way I grew up, I’m not afraid to question. And, and when I’m with my team, I’m I find it. I find the role of questioning in a very open way. Very.

And I think it’s extremely important, um, in, in any organization, but in particular for leaders to be very comfortable with questioning and always question assumptions, questioned the process, question the conclusions very much, not in a judgemental way, but rather in a truly and deeply open and curious way.

But question nonetheless.

Naji Gehchan: Right. And, and I can attest that you have the best questions, always. The last one I heard you, well, you said it a little bit of it in the beginning, spread love and organizations.

Daphne Haas-Kogan: So of course you, you and Zena are the, the, the beacon of, of that and all that you do, how you think and how you execute.

Um, for me, honestly, Getting to talk to people like you is an enormous part of the inspiration. Um, and ultimately I think probably the most life altering experience I had was actually having children. And that really taught me, um, Uh, lesson that I, I think I really needed to learn and well, two lessons, um, the, the lesson of patience and the lesson of selflessness and, um, having children teaches you patience and selflessness very, very quickly to get a crash course.

And one night you get to practice at all and, uh, That the ability to practice, um, selfless selflessness and kind of very deeply dedicated divorce, devoted, unconditional love and child and child rearing and, um, and raising a family. Very much a guided my feelings of spreading love in my leadership position in my workplace.

I look back at times where I felt like I was, I felt so challenged. Um, so. Unworthy, uh, really like, I, I w I wasn’t gonna make it for, for one reason or the other. And I think of people who approached me with openness, curiosity, as we said, and honestly, just devotion and love. And that’s what got me to the next day and helped me move on and have more confidence in myself and, and, um, gained the strength.

In, in, in myself to then go and be able to give to others. And now it’s time for me to do for others. What, um, others did for me and continue to do for me. Um, I think even about coming to Harvard and how difficult that transition was for me, and there were people right and left that were there for me. Um, Whether it was by just inquiring how I was or, um, helping teach me or not making me feel silly when I asked and a question that wasn’t all that educated.

Um, I mean, it took so many. Forms and facets that, that the support and love that was, um, that I was afforded. Uh, and so in every stage of my, of my, of my life and my career, that the least I can do for my community and for the world is to pay it forward by spreading the love.

Naji Gehchan: Great. Thanks, Daphne. Do I’d love to hear a final word of wisdom for, you know, for your students to the other D there’s that’s your hub for our little kids growing, you know, and, and dreaming of changing the word then being the future either is in healthcare around, around the word.

Daphne Haas-Kogan: Well, we’ve talked about many of the themes that are really central to what makes me.

Maybe one thing that comes to mind that we didn’t talk about is, uh, one thing that’s been very, very helpful to me early in my career, but in particular in my leadership position is always, always to think how it feels, how a word, a sentence and experience feels to the other person, never to jump to conclusions and always the feel to, um, to think well of the.

I think relative my colleague think well of the organization. Um, any, any, uh, tendency that I might have to, um, to think that somebody is approaching me with ill will, or has a, uh, a poor motivation. It’s a feeling that I actively try to resist and I would advise others to constantly resist and the, the approach of always thinking well of others and making, making sure I think, what does this feel like to them?

Where are they coming from when they’re reacting to me? How did, um, how did the experience or the word I said, or my tone? How did that land with. Were they coming from and their reaction that’s really helped me be a more thoughtful and inclusive and effectively.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much. Let him inspiring leader, selfless either. You are definitely thank you for being with me today and for all that you do every single day, helping so many patients, I’m giving, giving back love, care, and compassion for all the people that 2d then for all the patients that.

Daphne Haas-Kogan: Well let’s people like you and Zena that inspire me.

So the gratitude goes from me to you. So thank you.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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.

In this episode, get ready to learn and be inspired as I have the honor to be with Daena Giardella, a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a Faculty Affiliate of the MIT Leadership Center. Daena has been an organizational leadership consultant and executive coach as well as a media, communication, and presentation consultant for over twenty-five years. I have the privilege to learn from her as she’s been my executive coach for more than a year now and has definitely influenced me to start the Spreadlove in organization movement!  Before being a senior lecturer at MIT and teaching numerous amazing courses, Daena has enjoyed dual careers in business organizational development and in the performing arts. She combines these backgrounds to design innovative educational programs for numerous world-class companies, organizations, and academic institutions in the USA and abroad. A fact I learned recently, Daena is also a talented actor who received kudos in the USA and internationally, the Boston Globe has called her an “impressive talent” and she definitely is an impressive talent, an impressive leader, coach and an amazing person.

Daena – I am thrilled to have you with me today and so much looking forward to our chat!

Daena Giardella: Wow, what a generous introduction. That’s great. I’m looking forward to this conversation too.

Naji: Um, I’m eager to hear more about your personal story, your personal journey, a journey from acting to leadership, to lecture now at MIT and helping so many leaders around the world be at their best. What is between the lines of your personal.

Daena: Yes. Thank you, Natalie. Thank you again. Uh, I know it’s a, it’s a journey that for some people, they completely understand how it’s, uh, kind of integrated because in myself it feels like one path.

These two seemingly very different. You know, I grew up in a family where the conversation at the dinner table was often about the D the work that my parents were doing there. And during that day, they were leading people in different ways, in their different work. In my head, two parents who worked, it was very interesting.

And so this. Of leadership was always part of my outlook. How do you, how do you influence people? How do you get the best out of people? My own, uh, early migration into the arts was very simple because I was very interested in, in communicating the story. That need to be told in the world. So I went into theater, I was an actor.

I have been an actor and created many, one woman performances. My specialty was in the art of improvisation. It’s that aspect of him, of acting where you’re generating the script in the moment and it can be either comedy or drama. So the connection was that as I went through the process of learning about that art form, I was also.

From the very beginning, always working as a consultant in my work in organizations of all kinds, you know, and I very quickly observed that the same skillset that was needed for success in influencing people and leadership. In business was the same skillset that actors needed to learn, which has to be in the moment to be able to influence effectively, to be able to listen, to be adaptive and pivot in situations.

There were so many parallel skills, so it really inspired me when I would go from one world to the other to realize, wait a minute, I can bring some of what’s needed in each world. To the opposite world because obviously theater companies and actors, and I also work in, in, in the video production really needed to also understand leadership and business dimension.

So I feel comfortable in both worlds and that’s sort of how I began to make this cross fertilization between the two skills.

Naji: That’s a that’s awesome. Uh, and now that you actually, you cross both, you teach and coach, uh, many of the leaders. What is it? Because you’re talking about communicating the stories, uh, you know, in a, in theater and then other things as leaders it’s we hear it and you’ve told me also how to tell stories, right.

And leadership to be impactful. Any, any links beyond, well, the story piece, but also, are there things that you’ve taken from, from your actor learning into.

Daena: Absolutely nationally. I’m glad you’re asking that the, the most important thing that leaders need to know how to do is to make that personal connection, to make a connection on a human level, whether they’re dealing with people at their own level, in their team colleague experience, whether they’re dealing with people who report to them or clients or.

Toward the C-suite. If they’re interfacing with folks there, or if they’re in the C-suite, they’re dealing with a board, that connection on a human level is what allows the improvisation as it were of the, whatever the interaction is to happen. Actors understand that if you’re not really in a yes and.

Making connection with people, which is the core of what improvisational actor is that. Yes. And I want to embrace what you’ve just told me your whatever you’ve offered and add my own addition to that. And now we’re collaborating, that’s the core of acting improvisation, and really it is the core of great leadership because instead of trying to show I’m the smartest person in the room, I’m really there to try to build on the ideas to foster a collaborative, psychologically safe environment so that everybody has what is called voice efficacy, borrowing from what Amy Edmondson writes about in her work from Harvard.

This notion that I have confidence to speak up, to say what is on my mind. To navigate conflict. So that’s number one. And number two, the other thing a leader needs that is in common with an actor is the ability to deal with the unexpected, to pivot, to adapt according to what one encounters and often it’s friction.

Let’s face it. We’re in fast-paced business environments, whatever environment it might be, and things are happening that don’t always go along with what we had expected. So a really effective. Yeah, somebody who is, has the skill to understand how to respond to what is happening instead of. She thought or he thought should be happening or would be happening, uh, where we’re attached to our past conception, which might be from five minutes ago of what we thought we would encounter in the meeting.

We walk in all of a sudden the CEO says, we’re not going to deal with that agenda. We’re dealing with this and nausea. Would you please stand up and speak to us on this topic? And you didn’t go in prepared. Because there’s a crisis. And yet knowing how to meet the moment, instead of going into that resistance of wait a minute, I don’t have control or I don’t have my clan.

That’s a very important. And certainly in the times we’re living in with so much uncertainty and the ambiguity of the, now this is what leaders, I think this is the crucible that leaders are, are in right now to really separate who can really meet this moment with that efficacy and who might be finding it a little more.

Naji: This is two really very important points and advice as they’re giving us, I want to double click on the first one, because you, you link the connection piece with also, uh, how to improvise to be able to collaborate. I love how you frame that. My question to you, you know, because when we hear improvisation, we think like, You just show up, figure out, you know, and you’re smart enough to be able to manage whatever situation might pop up, but how you frame that.

I think it’s a little bit different. It’s it’s taking the time to build this connection. What is the role of, you know, bringing prepared the preparation in order to be able to manage better like uncertainty and those type of situations. I’d love to hear more from you on.

Daena: You know, that is a very profound and sophisticated question.

It’s actually, I think at the heart of the issue, because there is a misconception about improvisation that it means do whatever you want, just show up, you know, and that is what we call one half of the skillset, which has to do with being free, to have impulses, to, to have freedom with spontaneity.

There’s no question that when you learn improvisation, that’s one part of it. However, we only have to look to Jack. Which is of course, an improvisational form in many ways, if all you have is the ability to make random notes, you don’t, you’re not a jazz master. The ability to do that means you have to rely on music theory.

And there has to be a sense of understanding all the dimensions of music, same thing with improvisation and leadership. There is a struggle. That makes improvisation work. And there is when there is a lack of that structure, it falls apart. Some of it has to do with, uh, listening. There are rules of improvisation, which is, uh, don’t just, uh, ask questions because you are, I don’t want to really use your own imagination.

There, there are rules of improvisation that have to do with, you know, showing up with, uh, a clear sense of where you’re going, being very specific, identifying the who, what, where when, uh, don’t block, the other person don’t use a yes but mentality or, or try to upstage people. And one basic rule. Maybe if your listeners remember just one rule of improvisation, no matter what’s happening, always make the other actor.

And that means that no matter what’s going on, even if I fiercely disagree with you, my job as a leader is not to make you lose face. I need to know. Cause you to lose face or to make you look bad and need to find a way to persuade you to come over to another way of seeing things that also honors your respect, your dignity, and gives you a chance to pivot to maybe a better version of yourself, or maybe open-mindedness.

So those are, there is a structure and I remember actually, Uh, teaching. I did a couple of workshops in Argentina. I was in Buenos Aires and also in Santiago. And I remember when I was in that Latin American tour of doing workshops and I was using the word improvisation, they said to me, you know, Are you sure we have to use that word because here in Spanish, when we say a proposition, we mean in a bad way, you really aren’t prepared.

And they said, it’s kind of like you’re caught with your pants down and it’s cause a negative connotation. And I understood immediately because they were seeing the negative part, which of course is true. We don’t want to be. With our pants down. However, that is not necessarily what is meant by improvisational leadership.

In fact, it means prevent being caught in that state of your pants being down, because you know how to pivot in a way that will build the conversation most productively toward the next step that it needs to go to with the structure in mind.

Naji: That’s so powerful. And w when you’re coaching, I remember in the very first, uh, you know, coaching sessions, we had, we worked a lot on, um, you know, the, the purpose driven leadership, the authentic leadership.

And you mentioned, um, many of those already in the beginning around. Listening about around psychological safety, how to build effective, effective teams that I’m going to ask you a kind of a hard question. If there is only one piece that you definitely every single time you’re coaching an executive or at either that you would always try to push them to think of or to, you know, to get better at, as a skill or as a capability, what would be this one?

Daena: If I had to pick one and I had to be on that desert island with that one particular, uh, coaching skill or that leadership skill, I would definitely pick building strong relationships because within the. Are so many of the other skillsets in order to build strong relationships, we have to do everything you just mentioned.

And we have to be able to be open. We have to be listening. We have to pay attention to the other person, pick up on what their needs and wants are. And we have to be strong communicators because you don’t just build a good relationship in your mind. Right. So I probably would pick that one out. Within that there are many skills like learning humble inquiry, which helps build that relationship and helps people listen.

So that’s a, that’s a skill that people who are listening can decide to adopt starting tomorrow, which is I want to build strong relationships and everybody knows. What people respond to is peop other people taking an interest in them and, uh, wanting to learn more about who they are. This is the basic idea of sales.

I think it’s basic in pretty much every industry. So to use humble inquiry, which is ed Schein’s concept, the ability to. Inquire in a state of mind that is truly a learning state of mind where you suspend that, you know what the answer is because you’re truly want to learn. You’re curious, and to use those kinds of questions instead of the kind of interrogation questions that can sometimes happen in business or.

Questions where we already know the answer and we’re just seeking a confirmation of what we already know, which is kind of boring. And it pushes the other person away more than drawing them near to us. People really respond to that quality of humble inquiry. And

Naji: th they, you know, and when you, when you talk about, you know, building strong relationships, can you define it a little bit more and help help us as leaders understand what it means?

You know, and I know we’ve discussed this. Do you think it’s a skill that can be built? Uh, we hear it many times from either, oh, we don’t have time for the. Is it too intrusive or even some are not even interested right then in learning from their teams. Is it a skill that can be built? Sometimes? I feel like it’s better not to manage people.

If you don’t love people, you don’t enjoy being with people. But what are your thoughts as an executive coach?

Daena: I hear that all the time. Nashi also, I don’t have time. I, you know, I’m, I’m in a rush. Uh, many of the physicians that I’ve coached over the years and I’ve coached a lot of people from the medical profession, particularly physicians will say, I just, you know, I have to get from one room to the next.

I have 30 people. I have to see particularly people who are working as hospitalists, for example, or even people in cancer treatment environments where. Things are so fast paced, uh, studies are being conducted. I think that for sure it can be developed. I’ve seen this firsthand. It can be developed. It has to do with the culture that is fostering that development, which is why I’m so excited about the kind of work your doing, for example, because this doesn’t happen as an anomaly.

The situation, it has to be supported by a culture and the leaders can be drivers of that cultural change. And you asked me, well, how do I define it? It means, am I bringing empathic listening? Uh, it doesn’t take a long time. It can take a moment of, of connection of letting somebody know that what they just said really was meaningful to you.

It can be when we are in person. That moment of eye contact a nod. It can be a look on the face, but it’s empathy. Uh, strong relations. It has to begin with listening, listening somebody to somebody, and then paraphrasing, I’m trying to think of practical skills that you, the people listening can apply saying back to somebody.

What you’ve just heard is a way of signaling. I care about you. I care about the relationship more, most important. I care about what you just said. Uh, another way of building another dimension of strong relationship is that we’re giving space for the other person to speak. We’re not doing all the time.

Where we’re listening. We’re interested in their ideas as well. And there’s. We, we follow up with that person. If it’s a colleague who we work with, we, we touch base. When we find out that their daughter is ill. We, we circle back the next day house. How Sarah doing, you know, there’s a, there’s a sense of bringing in that human part of the story.

Uh, strong relationships I think are, are easier to build. When we ourselves bring a quality of transparency at times, and it doesn’t take a lot of time it’s touching base and being real. Yeah. This has been a long day. Um, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m feeling I really need to get home to my kids. I miss them just to say that now I, and you’ve signaled to me.

Who are you as a person? I you’re signaling to me that your family matters, for example. Um, so there are many dimensions to that in a work. Building strong relationships begins and ends with respect. There’s no question we have to respect each other. We have to value each other. And one very simple way to do that is to affirm people in the meeting that we’re in, whoever is speaking to give them affirmation for what they’ve just said, uh, to, to build that sense of trust.

Because now I feel much safer with you and much more of knowledged by you, and I’m going to offer more because you’re giving me more.

Naji: Okay. Yeah, they might be obvious, but these are so important. Small steps that you said, did I? And there’s, I can add to those. Whereas sometimes I feel like it’s, it’s just obvious and it comes with respect, but unfortunately, without even noticing, sometimes people will do a try to being in a one-on-one.

Checking your mate, or looking down with video now, these days that are on your phone, like these are all these small things that as leaders, we should be so aware of their impact on the people that we have.

Daena: Correct. And especially in the zoom world, we have to watch for things like multitasking, doing our email while we’re listening, I just put air quotes on that.

We have to really be present. We have to use our voices more. We have to really lean in with emotion to some of what’s being talked about, even if it’s a dry meeting about, you know, data, for example, deconstructing some data. There has to be either a check-in at the beginning, a checkup. At the end and you know, people, it is true.

I want to embrace what you said. People don’t have time. We don’t have time where we’re, we’re operating with the same brain that we’ve always had, but with so much more input and we’re rushed and we’re pressured and we’re, we’re dealing with a lot of stress. So we have to not necessarily rely on our abundance of time.

We have to make the most of our moment. And improvisation is the art of the moment. It’s the art of being completely present in the moment. So in that sense, it’s mindfulness in action. It’s I may not have time to build a long relationship with you, a deep, long one, but I, in that moment, I’m with you. You. I care because of the way I listened to you because of the way I responded, the way I affirmed you.

The question I asked that I made you feel that your input was essential. That’s the moment that matters, or I’m in the room with somebody I’m with a patient. If I’m in a healthcare center setting and I’m making it very clear. That I may not be able to stay for hours and hours to address everything, but I hear you.

I’m going to go and get that answer that I don’t know the answer to, or I’ll let me circle back that moment of eye contact. Very, very.

Naji: And something you mentioned I’d love your thoughts on, I’ve been thinking a lot about, we obviously discussed it both, but I’m still, yeah. I’m still a buzzer and sometimes kind of reflective of, and struggling with in this virtual hybrid environment.

Right. And I think it’s something that people still, unfortunately, or fortunately for some be living for a while. Um, I, lot of the connections would happen. And, you know, an in-person mode spontaneously. Right. And I know for example, if I take my example, I’m someone who loves people. I love walking meeting with people, chatting, you know, without events.

Having them on the calendar, you know, in a calendar word and we’re losing all this. So now being intentional is even we need to double down on this and really being intentional or for also for these spontaneous moments that a human being would have normally. So it’s something that I I’m still struggling with.

I’m still trying to figure out because with the best intent. Just the touch points decreased, right? Like you’re not seeing your team every day, 10 times in an office anymore. And maybe there’s days where you’re not even in contact with your full team. So any advice, any thoughts on this, how to, you know, how to make sure that we keep this human interaction in a virtual.

Daena: Wow. That’s such an important question, right? I mean, we’re all struggling with this and I really relate to what you said, because I’m the same way, those unexpected moments in the hall in between sessions, in between what I’m doing, you know, there’s that saying? That big deal start by bumping into somebody in the hall and you start off talking about the weather and pretty soon you find out you have this common.

Objective and you decide to do something or, you know, even sharing data. I work with a lot of people in stem who are telling me, you know, I’m a scientist and I want to share, you know, conversations and I’m losing these ad hoc moments. So what I’ve been focusing on a lot, because I’m teaching a lot on zoom as you know, a lot of workshops and trainings and organizations, and also at MIT.

I’ve been looking at how we need to preserve some of that spontaneity. Now, for some people who might hear this, they may think, oh, I could never do this. Well, I’ll tell you what I’m doing. And I’ll just share with you if maybe there are adaptations of this, I’m bringing in some of that spontaneity to the beginning of some of my classes, as much as I possibly can.

Uh, the chitchat at the beginning of. The conversation where conversation is not structured at the beginning. Where, how are you doing? You know, it’s not even necessarily a formal check-in CA if that’s how your organization whirls, then do it as a formal check-in. But sometimes it’s that spontaneity at the beginning.

That’s very, very important where a theme gets developed and the leader. We’re going to let this go for five or 10 minutes before we dive into what has to happen. There may be humor. There may be everybody’s in a group complaint session about something they don’t like, whatever it is. The fact that every time they want to go out, it’s raining could be something deeper.

You know, that people are dealing with some situations at home and reading. Uh, some people are using techniques, like, you know, just tell us on a scale of, you know, look, if you were the weather and your, your life was the weather, is it stormy? Is it, is it a clear sky? And then if somebody says stormy, you bring up, okay, well what’s going on?

Well, my. Israel, you know, and I’m struggling with that, which happens to be my situation at the moment. And you’re bringing in a particular story. Uh, I’m using movement truthfully. I don’t think we can sit and do our meetings without moving. So suggesting stretch breaks, uh, where we bring in some music for just a moment and let people stretch.

I know that might sound like wide in a fast paced organizational setting. Can I really do that? I’m having a tremendous success with that in. Organizations that do not usually do that sort of thing. You know, 60 seconds of listening to some music, letting people walk around the room and then coming back and there’s laughter there’s connection in some way.

Uh, and then to get to what you said, those moments of, of really learning more about each other. I try to encourage the, after the meeting, hangout and chat for awhile as well, or come early and chat because it’s kind of like creating a virtual version of running into somebody before the meeting or hanging out with them.

After we have to be disciplined about that, we have to be ready to hang out there for 10 minutes beforehand. And. I never ended my meetings by leaving. I always end by saying, Hey, I’m going to hang as anybody want to hang and talk for a second. And these are formal meetings that have had a content and agenda, uh, you know, a beginning, middle and end.

But it’s the only way I can think of to keep that going. I’m getting a lot of good feedback and I’m asking some of the professionals I’ve worked with to try it. And they’re telling me. They’re using different adaptations. I don’t know if that’s what you had in mind, is that,

Naji: yeah, that that’s, that’s great.

And I can attest, I’ve tried, uh, you know, the early, as we discussed, uh, 15 minutes before the official start of the meeting being, and getting together just to chat as if we were having coffee and it definitely works.

Daena: That’s great to hear. That’s great to hear. And I think as we go more hybrid, we’ll be catching up on a little bit more seeing people if we are intersecting in person to some extent, but at the moment there is, you know, with the Delta variant, I think we are still in this new format.

Many people are.

Naji: Yeah. Before jumping into a session or where I would love for you to react to a word. But just before that, you talked a little bit about health care. I know you’re passionate about it, and you’ve been obviously developing and coaching many leaders in healthcare. Any, any specific thoughts or advices for the healthcare leaders listening to.

Daena: Yes, I can talk to you. Not only as somebody who has been an executive coach with many people in healthcare and taught workshops for people in healthcare, but also as somebody who has been a patient care advocate. Because of family members who have gone through serious, very serious illness, because I tend to be the person in the role of interfacing with the, with the medical professionals.

And so what I’m going to say is basically an amalgam of some insights that I’ve drawn more than anything. Uh, I first have to. Give a tip of the hat of a strong thank you to healthcare workers, particularly in this time with what’s been happening with COVID. And in general, I think of healthcare workers on the front lines of so much that’s important in the human experience, obviously, especially when we’re facing pandemics and serious illnesses like cancer.

So the stress and the pressure is immense. And. W one of the things that I think is very important is people in healthcare don’t have a lot of time to reflect. Given all the stress that they’re dealing with, and that shows up sometimes in the way that their teams feel about the way they’re leading their teams, uh, from a patient standpoint, the patient can always tell when there’s hardly.

Or disharmony between the physician, let’s say that the healthcare leader and the team, and when there is that harmonious sense that the team feels valued by the physician and everybody’s working together. Wow. It communicates. And many physicians tell me that they don’t have the time to build their strong teams to, to put focus on that or that there’s a lot of turnover, especially right.

And changing of personnel, uh, w it’s very, very important to, again, go back to that, making strong relationships and imparting what your vision is. So that, that you can also get the rest of the team on board with that vision and build in their vision to somehow make it a shared vision. That’s a very, very important, and that takes reflection time.

It takes with my executive coaches. I say to them, you know, take 10 minutes. If you don’t have a whole day or half an hour, even just take 10, 15 minutes to reflect on what do you feel is needed. Right. For that connection with your team? Uh, the other part of it is practicing, uh, Uh, thinking about your thinking and how it’s affecting the way you’re communicating.

Uh, are you having your own confidence problems in terms of having to lead a team? Many people were brought up in science in some form in medicine, but really never learned anything about being a leader and need to understand how to do that. There can be integrated. Feelings that people feel or a feeling of confidence crisis.

So getting reflection on that, getting support from that from colleagues from coaches is very, very important because ultimately I think people in healthcare are having to emotionally self-regulate, which by the way, is a cornerstone. KA capability, the ability to emotionally self-regulate. And without that, we cannot flourish as leaders.

And how do we emotionally self-regulate when all of these emotions are flying around, uh, those are some of the things that come to my mind quickly and you know, how to balance that listening that has to be done with also being efficient. Right. That’s that’s very, I know that’s a big.

Naji: Yeah. And all the emotional as you have emotional self-regulation, which is so important, right?

The moment of constant stress and unknown as the system is husband going through for years, but even more the last year is with the pandemic. No one was expecting.

Daena: Yeah. I, I would have to highlight that. I, I want to just briefly say that it is, it is. Cruel to imagine that people in healthcare can continue at the pace that we’re in and with the demands of not only this pandemic, but so much that’s happening, the fast changing environment without.

Support without this love message that you’re bringing this self-love it has to start with self-love care, self care. If people need to translate the word love, because they’re not prepared for how to say that. I believe that your message is a message. It has to start with love, have to start with, look self care, and then realizing that my, my team members need that self care.

And if it’s, you know, encouraging them to. Take that self care time or to reflect, or even at the beginning of those meetings, just to acknowledge each other, how stressful it’s been very, very important right now.

Naji: Then I will move to the section I talked about. So one word, one reaction.

Daena: Okay. And what do you want me to react or, or in a sentence

Naji: if I were there sentence, top of mind idea, I’d say the first one is included.

Daena: Bias comes to my mind because that’s when that’s the obstacle to inclusion and how much we need to be conscious of our own unconscious bias.

Naji: Can you tell, I know you’re passionate about this and you’ve been teaching about around diversity inclusion. Uh, I’d love to hear like a small summary of, uh, of your advices on.

Daena: Right now what I encounter when I’m teaching this, as people say to me, you know, the really egregious aspects of bias, maybe we all know to avoid those.

I don’t know. As I look at the way Asian hate crimes have Asian American hate crime. So prison, particularly toward healthcare workers, but randomly in the COVID pandemic. I think that we have a lot of work to do there, but let’s just say we’re looking at the unconscious bias dimension. Most important is for us to realize we all have bias.

It will come in, not only in terms of ethnic cultural, racial, gender identity bias, it also comes in in terms of cognitive learning style. So to take a step back and to ask, am I an unconsciously making somebody in this meeting right now? Because I am quickly deciding they’re not, they’re not speaking clearly enough.

They’re not their cognitive style is making me impatient, uh, or, you know, well, they’re from that culture, but I’m not realizing I’m doing it unconsciously to always ask ourselves, how am I bringing potential bias to this moment? Very, very important to start with our. Instead of thinking that our jobs to go out and police other people’s bias, of course.

And when we do see bias to set a limit, to find a way to speak about it, that invites people to learn rather than coming down on them and making them feel bad about themselves, because remember it could be unconscious, they may not realizing they’re doing it, and they may need your help as a mirror to learn more about that.

If it’s a very egregious statement, of course, setting a limit. But inclusion is my favorite word right now, because if we don’t have inclusion, we can’t spread love. And in a way spreading love is about making sure we are including every person at the heart of the organization and making sure that every person feels welcome and psychologically safe.


Naji: What about leadership?

Daena: Well, the first word that comes to me is interesting because of what your work is it’s love. Uh, I know that we could say courage and risk-taking and you know, daring to influence people and persuasion. Ultimately, if we’re not coming from a place of caring, deep caring about the mission. About the, the new cancer treatment that we care about, the people that can help, if we don’t care about the people in the meeting who are going to have to run off and do all the gritty work that has to happen to, to launch the study or to, uh, to deal with the people, because we have an overload of, of, uh, more people than staff, whatever it is, we have to care about one another.

And ultimately obviously in healthcare, We can lose sight of it in all of the industries. Ultimately we’re serving the people, the patients, the family members. So when I think of leading, I think of love, I think of caring, uh, finding ways to influence that inspire people, that lift people up and make people feel they can be the best version of themselves, which is really just another way of saying water, the garden with love instead of accusation, criticism, judgment, blame.

Naji: It’s going to make it hard with my, I always ask this word at the end, which has spread love and organizations, but I’m going to say it. That would talk about your reaction.

Daena: Oh, I love that spread love and organizations. Do you want my reaction to that? Connect up with Naji. First thing that come to me, if I give you my honest, spontaneous it’s connect up and spread what you’re doing, what you find in this work of this podcast.

And if the website, the other thing that comes to me is this second is I think we’re at an inflection point and there’s a generational dimension to this as well. That, and it’s a good thing. People in the generations that are coming up leading now, uh, have so much awareness about the psychological dimensions of life, of leadership, of what they can expect from work and really have no.

Desire to tolerate a psychologically unsafe environment that doesn’t care for people in my father’s day or in other generations, they would get a job and stay there for 40 years. Uh, even if they didn’t like it, because that was the way it world, the world doesn’t work. And we have. So when I think of spread love, I also think of retaining talent of cultivating talent of making people feel valued so they can help build an organization and feel that they are part of it, which doesn’t mean that the older generations don’t have a lot to offer.

It just means we can’t expect to treat people the way we did. Let’s say in the 1950s Madmen. To, to reference a popular culture, reference of a TV show about, you know, the way we used to conduct the top-down command control type of leadership that was insensitive and biased and so forth. So spread love to me is.

Literally moving organizations into the future so that the, the new generation of leaders feel we have a home for them here and that they don’t feel that somehow they have to conform to a way of treating people that leaves caring about your personal life at the door, or says, check your, your values are at the door or, or check, or you have to leave aside purpose and quality of life.

You know, I can quote studies where we see this is what people care about. They don’t just want to go to work and be a cog in a machine. So that’s what I think about when I think of spread.

Naji: This is awesome. And I, I can’t ever describe it in better words that hopefully with, with all this initiative and all that you’ve been giving us the day, we will be able to change, you know, the word changed leadership for a better word than for every single person as you start to feel.

T to be at their best and deliver on the bigger purpose within their organizations. Any final words of wisdom that enough for leaders and executives around the world.

Daena: Well, thank you. First of all, for what you said, and I feel such a simpatico with, with your mission in the work you’re doing a final word I would have is, uh, take the time you need for reflection and.

You know, I believe in executive coaching. So the heart of executive coaching is providing a space where somebody can have a thought companion to, to accompany them through their different conflicts or ideas that they’re trying to grapple with or missions. So even without coaching, we can be in a reflective mode, reflect.

Meetings before you go to them, reflect on what happened in your day, make notes on what you need to consider for tomorrow. If you had a conflictual or tense interaction reflect to see, well, how can I go in and improve that tomorrow? I think we in not reflecting, we often leave. Loose threads that then contribute to feeling not bad, not good about ourselves or not good about the way a meeting went, always try to do the repair, always try to repair the conversation that didn’t go well, or maybe even your own response that you’re not feeling good about find a way to reflect so that you can repair and also inspire because reflection is required for inspiration.

Otherwise we’d burn out, you know, even if everything seems to be going well, we want to reflect, you know, take that. To consider what we need and who we are.

Naji: Thank you so much for such an inspiring and genuine discussion. I will remember you said water, the garden with love. I will keep this. I love it. And I will keep many, many, many of the other great words of wisdom that you brought to us today.

Thank you so much.

Daena: Wonderful.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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, having the pleasure to be joined by Dr.Amre Nouh is a physician leader, healthcare executive, clinical researcher and innovator with a proven track record of developing and executing strategy, leading multidisciplinary teams and implementing system practices to improve patient outcomes. Amre joins Cleveland Clinic Florida as the Regional Chairman of Neurology, leading neurology care for the clinic’s neuroscience institute in the state of Florida and beyond. Amre Is a board certified neurologist and vascular neurologist. Over the past decade, Nouh has lead stroke care in CT in various roles at Hartford HealthCare, most recently as System Director of Stroke and Cerebrovascular disease. During his tenure he also served as core faculty at the University of Connecticut, Associate professor of neurology, vascular neurology fellowship director and currently is Chair of the Northeast Cerebrovascular consortium, an AHA sponsored consortium for stroke care encompassing 8 states. Amre is a fellow of the American heart and Stroke Association and has led statewide legislative efforts to improve regional stroke care focused on patient advocacy and recognition of stroke center designation for optimal patient care. Amre earned his executive MBA from MIT Sloan school of management where we first met and has served and a key opinion leader and consultant in neuroscience and stroke for various innovative projects within the neurologic care space. He is father, husband, son, brother and in his spare time a fisherman, musician, and avid reader.

Amre – It is such a pleasure to have you with me today!

Amre Nouh: Pleasure is mine Naji. I’m a big fan of your podcast and thank you so much for having me today.

Naji Gehchan: I would love first to hear about your personal story and really what brought you to become this incredible physician and specialist you are today.

Amre Nouh: Thank you, Naji. Well, I’ll first off start out by saying I’ve been very blessed. Um, you’ve shared a lot about my, uh, professional journey, but really I, uh, I was born in Vermont and, uh, grew up in the United States for several years. My parents are originally from Egypt, and, um, uh, we stayed in the US for, uh, many years in the beginning, um, in my elementary school years, and then, uh, moved actually quite a few times. I, I moved to Saudi Arabia for five years. Which was a very interesting transition. Um, this was, uh, uh, late eighties, early nineties, and then, um, moved then to Egypt.

And I stayed in Egypt for about 10 years. I actually finished my medical school there and then decided to return back to the US and started out as a, uh, clinical researcher, um, and did a, a neuroscience research, uh, tenure at Duke. And then, um, through that process, um, studied for my boards. Worked, uh, worked my way up to getting to residency training where I did that at the University of Illinois at Chicago and then went to Loyola for fellowship.

Um, and then, um, moved here, um, to Connecticut, um, where I am currently recording this and, um, about almost a decade here, I met my wife during my internship year in New York. And, um, I have to say that it’s, um, it’s been an amazing journey. I. I look back and reflect on all the things that you said while, while you were sharing them, and, uh, just a flurry of memories just rushed into my head about all the different steps and things that had to happen and things that didn’t happen that have made it possible for me to be where I am today. So I would say I’m very blessed and, and thankful, um, that, um, this is how things turned out so far.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you for sharing this,. You’re a neurologist and specifically specialized in stroke care. You manage patients in really ultimate urgencies. You have few hours, sometimes even minutes to save their lives and save their brains. I’m really interested to know how you manage this stress and responsibility personally before going to the team.

Amre Nouh: Absolutely. Um, yeah, I, I think, um, I think, uh, you know, neurology has, has evolved. I think, uh, over many years. Neurologists have always thought to be analytical thinkers. They have time to think and pontificate over things.

And as you know, um, it is a specialty that requires a lot of that. But stroke is indeed unique where you have to make quick decisions and you have. To manage that stress. Um, I found it, uh, I found it very calming to think of, um, to think of things in chunks of time and steps. So, uh, I think being disciplined with a process, uh, following a specific protocol that you have and uh, creating it out a habit out of managing your time while you’re thinking through the steps has been.

Um, every now and then you’ll encounter a patient that doesn’t follow the book and kind of throws you off track of your, your process and, uh, is trying to keep calm under that pressure and always remembering that you’re not alone. Thankfully, Um, no decisions are made in vacuums and there’s always someone around you.

So when things do kind of, um, present themselves unique or a challenge that you know is different than what I’ve seen, I tend to take a step back, take a deep breath. I think, um, there’s no shame at all in, uh, calling a friend or seeking some advice from a colleague. Um, I think that’s the most important part because ultimately, um, you know, you wanna do what’s best for the patient.

Naji Gehchan: So when you’re doing this, you’re obviously also managing a team, a cross-functional team, uh, with, with different tasks, different responsibilities. So how do you make this at this team level, ensuring coordination, agility, speed, and also continuous improvement in your patient care?

Amre Nouh: Yeah, I would, um, I would actually, uh, take that and, and maybe share with you sort of.

My strategy that’s helped me so far. Um, and what I’ve really learned over, over, uh, the past decade, uh, leading teams is really rallying everybody around the vision. You know, there’s, uh, two quotes that come to my mind, always want to talk about this, and the first one is, um, um, you know, a vision is not an idea because everyone who’s ever taken a shower has had an idea, right?

It’s the person who got out the shower, dried off and did something. That made a difference. And that’s a famous quote by Nolan Bushnell, which essentially means that you have to really, uh, be very communicative about your vision and, and you have to execute it. And to execute it, you have to have a, a pathway.

Uh, another thing that comes to mind is if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. And that’s a famous quote too by Louis Cornell. Um, so those two points together really, I would say provide a true north for the team. So on. Smaller scale of managing an acute care patient, it may not seem as as important, but on a larger scale of leading stroke teams and leading hospital divisions and leading healthcare, uh, at a larger level, everybody has to know what the true north is.

Um, and, uh, having a vision and having a plan about how that vision is, is going to, um, pull itself or evolve is really, is really key. So I think. Communicating, setting expectations and resetting expectations, um, very clearly about what it is we’re trying to achieve is really the way to go.

Naji Gehchan: I love that. So you definitely touch on, you know, my other question, which was, uh, how do you transfer the skills you learned in acute settings towards what you do now, which is leading large organization systems, improving those systems to, to better patient care? Any other learning than vision, executing on the vision, which is a key first step.

Do you have any other thoughts from a leadership skill stand?

Amre Nouh: Uh, absolutely. So, uh, you know, I, I would summarize leadership in two things. Uh, two really sentences. One is, um, for me, I felt leadership is the maturation of frameworks Plus influence and mentor maturity is a shift in frameworks nurtured by experience.

I believe that, um, any good leader needs three key characteristics. Uh, first and foremost, me. I mean, I, I’ve been blessed throughout my life so far with some really great mentors that I owe a lot of gratitude for, and I’ve been asked to mentor people, uh, as well. Um, everybody needs a coach. Um, and, um, um, I think that I’ve been, I’ve been helped to, you know, get, get out of trouble or avoid trouble.

I’ve been given some sound advice. Many times there’s a imperative action bias. We wanna jump in and do things and solve things. And, um, it’s like what Napole used to say, Don’t, don’t, uh, interrupt your enemy while they’re making a mistake. Sometimes you just have to sit back and watch and let things unfold.

And I have to say that, uh, a mentor who is not emotionally charged or is looking at things from the outside who genuinely cares about your wellbeing and your development is key. , Um, if you are even a mentor yourself, having a mentor keeps you humble and keeps you, uh, keeps you aware of what you need to do to mentor your teams.

So mentorship is almost, I mean, it’s invaluable. I know that many people talk about this. Um, but from my personal experience and what I can share is that especially as a physician, um, there’s a lot of experience and wisdom that we can gain. Uh, you know, lowering our ego levels to ask for help and to understand situations.

So that would be one of the first things. Naji, eager to hear the second . So, well, I, I, I think, um, the second one, um, which, um, which is an interesting, it’s not a novel concept at all and maybe we can spend a little time cuz I’m curious about what you think about this as well as a. As a fellow colleague, leader, and, uh, MIT alumni, um, being assertive.

I mean, um, I was reading recently a very, uh, the work by Emmanuel Smith and who kind of summarized, um, coping mechanisms, uh, into this very interesting framework and concept where we are all conditioned, um, by our design to have fight or flight responses. I mean, that’s what differentiates us from any other creatures on those ends of the spectrum.

In the center, we have verbal reason. You know, if you’re driving your car and someone cuts you off, you’re not gonna get out and, and, and fight them. Um, it’s because we have, you know, we have the, the verbal reasoning part, but over time what ends up happening because of the emotional load that is associated with a problem or a situation or an opportunity, we tend to treat things with the slider approach, where instead of the flight mode we’re in this, some people become passive aggressive and on the, um, on the flight mode, they become non confront.

And, um, you know that there’s a slider in the middle, and sometimes when you deal with a problem that’s you don’t wanna deal with, you just avoid it. You use some fancy words, you pass it on to someone else, but in reality, you really didn’t cope. You just became non-confrontational and avoidant. Or you get the passive aggressive behavior.

And we see it all the time, not only with leaders, but even with our team members and others. But true coping is being assertive and, and, and really calling things out for what they are and trying to avoid that. Either falling a victim to an abusive relationship where passive aggressiveness is the culture or the tone of the relationship, or non-confrontational, avoiding things where you can’t get anything done because people are indecisive.

I really like that and I felt that, you know, this kind of summarizes, um, really what assertiveness is very nicely. Um, and as I just said, it’s that maturity of frameworks and influence. So, you know, as we all evolve as leaders, Um, defining assertive is that way and understanding the differences and seeing it when people cope or not.

How they respond are they’re being avoidant and there’s usually some degree of emotional discomfort. So, um, I feel like that’s a under stressed area in an area that’s not really talked about amongst teams is calling out that type of behavior by reframing it in, in being assertive and avoiding those two negative trap.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, this is, this is super important. I just said, Amber, I think you’re touching on different aspects, as you said around assertiveness. You have, making sure as a leader that you’re building this safe environment. Mm-hmm. , where people feel safe to say what they think to challenge and where, where, Honestly, honestly, confrontation is.

Like we have to confront ideas. For us to innovate, we have to say we don’t agree. We have sometimes like to go into those healthy small confrontations or fights or whatever we wanna call them within the team. But if, if we share, I think what you said in the very beginning vision, like if we know if we share the same purpose and the same values, but actually those small confrontation will help us be.

And move forward. And the risk is exactly what you said. If you’re building a culture where people will start escaping them or not sharing what they think while you cut. Lose all the value of having a diverse team or bringing new ideas. And ultimately, as a leader also, you said like, if you are not assertive and if you are starting to avoid those topic, it’s like it just ripples through your team.

So I, that’s really a great one, and I agree it’s rarely shared through this land, so I thank you for sharing it. I, I love how you framed it through assertive.

Amre Nouh: I will link it to, um, the concept that’s been discussed in many different formats. Uh, you know, being in the basement, uh, you know, like if you are, and we all, I mean, this is an area that I’ve, I’ve learned from experience that, um, you don’t have to solve this one.

All you have to do is get better by reducing the amount of time it takes you to get out of it, right? Uh, so you have a problem, or some you become emotionally charged or you become challenged and all of a sudden you’re in the basement, right? You’re panicking, you’re, you’re, you’re falling. On one side of that spectrum, you’re gonna either become avoidant or get angry, or become passive aggressive, and, uh, you need a mantra to get you outta that basement.

Many times it’s just time. Some people can meditate. Some people pick up a phone and call someone. Um, and I, I think that the lens that has always been looked at for this one is, you have to get out of this. You have to get out of this, you have to get out of this, but not focusing on, you just have to get out this sooner so you don’t dwell for days on a problem.

And really progress is measured by, you know what, This happened to me. I had this really bad experience, but only took me an hour or two and I feel like I’m back to myself versus the only, this would’ve been a week’s worth of moping. Um, and it does go back to the same concept. Links into this, uh, sort of, uh, spectrum of coping and, and being assertive.

So, um, I think that’s one thing as a leader as, as you kind of gauge your own sense or your mentors tell you you’re getting better or not, is really gauging how long you spend in the quote unquote basement and how you can get out of that sooner, um, and what mechanisms you have.

Naji Gehchan: I, I love this. How long do you spend in the basement?

Yeah. ,

Amre Nouh: I mean, I’ve spent, I, I’ve renovated my basement literally in figuratively, . I mean, it’s really, it’s a, it’s a tough one. It is. I mean, we’re human beings and we are, we are gonna, we’re gonna make mistakes and we’re gonna have these problems. And a lot of times it’s not just work, you know, it’s, it’s, uh, It’s the crushing reality of all the different, um, responsibilities we have and the work life synergies and all these other things we have to deal with.

Um, but it’s also an area where I think one of the three key characteristics that goes with hand in hand with assertiveness, um, and the mentorship piece.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. And so, so you talked about two things I would like to, uh, kind of double click on. Um, obviously you’re, as you’re saying, it’s not only work, it’s all that goes around it.

And in, in your intro you also talked a little bit about this, like the things that happened. That made you not do things or that pushed you to do things not the way you wanted to do. So I’d love to hear more about, about this. Uh, and then I will go into, uh, you talked about mistakes. I’d also love to Yeah.

Talk about this. But let’s, let’s start with the first one. So,

Amre Nouh: um, I’ll start that off by talking about the, the, the, uh, the widely shared or widely taught, the widely believed notion of work life balance. And I feel like word work life balance gives a dis surface to both your life and your work. Because essentially when you say, when I say balance, or you say balance and you close your eyes, I think we envision a scale with two sides, kind of those old school scales.

And that the word balance automatically assumes that those things have to equal each other out. So sometimes you have to, you know, Rob Peter to pay Paul and you’re gonna, you know, do a little more with work, um, at the cost of family. Your other life or vice versa, but they’re never in sync. And, um, you’re always tugging on one side or the other.

And, and we’ve always been sort of taught that we have to perfect that. But a, a mentor , ironically, has, has shared with me a very important concept and said, never say work life balance. Always say work life synergy. And there’s two incredible lessons in that sentence alone. Number one. The choice of words matters.

Um, you know, it it, it goes back to framing. If it’s framed right, uh, it’s gonna, you’re gonna think, right? Um, and the second one is using the word synergy instead of balance. And naji, I mean, you are one of the busiest people I’ve ever met as well. Um, and, uh, you’re, you know, you’ve managed a lot of things and I think this resonates with you as well.

Um, it, it all has to make sense together. You have to find ways where your work is meaningful, um, and that it is not robbing you of the joys, uh, the focus, the the being in the moment with your family, um, outside of the confines of time. Because the reality is that’s the one variable that no one has any control over.

You’re gonna still have those 24 hours and make most of them, but it’s, um, it’s framing not just to yourself, but also to your. Get them involved in what you do. Uh, share the passion with them, even if they don’t feel passionate about it and understand where they’re coming from. Um, you know, um, the way a problem is posed, uh, influences really how, how, how you solve it and how you kind of address it.

And, um, and work life balance sounds like a problem. It doesn’t sound like, it doesn’t sound like a solution, but work life, synergy.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, I, I love this frame. When you, when you said synergy, I’ve been more drastic about this. I say like, there’s no work life balance. There’s one life we live, and like, obviously, you know, that’s even better

But yeah, it’s, and as you said, I think like the, how you frame things and the power of how you ask the questions. Yeah. Make a whole difference. I really like this idea of balance versus synergy. So if you go to the mistake, Uh, in your word, obviously dealing with mistakes has practically to be like close to zero when you’re dealing in an acute setting with a patient.

Um, but yet you innovate. You improve patient care constantly with your teams. So even though unfortunately the stroke kind of framework, uh, and innovation with drugs, et cetera has not been as big as in other therapeutic areas, you obviously are treating better patients. Your passion is in hospital stroke, but also out outpatient care.

Yes. So I, I, I’m really interested to, to know how you deal. Zero mistakes and following the processes I choose, as you said, and at the same time trying novel ways to better treat patients. How do you, how do you deal with those two things, especially that as we’ve seen at MIT and as we many times hear, do mistake, learn from them, trial and error, but in such a high, high stake specialty, it has to be a little bit different.

So I’m eager to hear how you do this. Wow.

Amre Nouh: Um, that’s a lot. Naji. I’m going to try, I’m gonna attempt that one as best as I can. Um, it is, uh, it, it is, it is a very, um, uh, big responsibility to, uh, to, to manage, uh, patients and take care of them in any specialty. And you’re right, the tolerance level for mistakes is, is zero.

Um, you know, we always talk about the first rule of medicine is do no harm. Um, and I believe. Fullheartedly, I would say examples of, of mistakes that involve bad leaderships or bad decisions are around who was right versus what is right. Um, and the reality is that we are human beings taking care of human beings.

Um, so stakes are, are inevitable. Um, we do, you know, we try our best to avoid them by sticking to process, tricking to protocol. Um, I think what I found that helps with, with, um, learning from mistakes and, um, keeping that spirit going and, and really connecting with the human beings we are, and the ones we are caring for is emphasizing that relationship is making sure that, you know, we are, we are with best intent, going to do our best.

Um, we’re going to settle only for the. And if, and when something bad happens, an adverse outcome or something that wasn’t planned or there is some degree of error, uh, how we handle it is going to matter way more, in my opinion, over maybe nine enough time times than, than just getting to the outcome. Um, and, you know, um, I, I can, I can share with you that, um, being on both sides of that, um, a lot of times.

Um, and it goes back to this assertiveness a lot of times. Um, you know, you fall into that trap of either, you know, playing the blame game or, um, you know, which is passive aggressive, uh, and not owning the problem or being unavoiding that it wasn’t mean it was someone else, or, Oh, this only happened because someone didn’t do this part of that part.

Um, I mean, I, I could tell you that some of the best stories I’ve had with, with families and patient. Were those that did not have a good outcome. Ironically, and, and when I talk to many of my colleagues in neurosciences, we all have those heroic cases where it’s a great save. Someone was paralyzed and coming into a hospital going to be completely disabled and within hours have complete restoration of blood flow, and they literally walk out the hospital.

Those miracle cases that we see on the news and on tv, and we’re fortunate to be part of that many times. A lot of stories that I, I, I, I will never forget. And the ones that I think of often, and the ones that have helped teach me way more than the, the good outcomes were the ones that were bad outcomes.

And I actually have long, uh, you know, long standing, uh, family members, uh, patients passed away. And it was how we handled, how we handled that and how we handled the bad outcomes. So, um, I know. That’s a long answer for, for a long question, but that’s the reality of what neurosciences is sometimes. It’s such a unforgiving, uh, system, a nervous system.

And you’re right, we have made a lot of advances and what drives me, um, to continue to strive in this field is I think there’s a lot of potential still in advancing technologies and bridging the gap between good patient outcomes and, uh, the shortcomings. The human ability to, to care for these folks.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much. It’s not at all a long answer. It’s um, it. Pretty humbling and tough to transition to the next section. And you shared beautiful things. I love how you said who was right versus what is right, and we see it many times in medicine and, uh, everywhere, honestly, even on organizations, uh, and how to handle the, the outcome.

Thank you. Thank you Amery, for sharing this. Um, I’ll transition now to a phase where I will give you a word and I’d love your reaction to it. Okay. . So the first one we talked a lot about it’s leadership. Yes.

Amre Nouh: Um, yeah, I, I’m, I’m going to, uh, I’m going to reiterate what I said. I, I mean, leadership, you know, John Maxwell, uh, says leadership is influenced nothing more, nothing less.

I, I don’t disagree with that. I would just add that that leadership is a, is a, is a maturation of frameworks plus influence, and that maturation, uh, comes from being nurtured by experie. So that’s what comes to mind. Health equity. Health equity, um, what in my humble opinion, health equity is offering every patient the same care you would give to a family member or to anybody else.

Um, independent of who they are, what, what their background is, where they come from, and, uh, treating them like you treat your. Mentorship, mentorship. Mentorship is sharing these nuggets of wisdom. This type of conversation that you and I are having the pleasure of having is so valuable for the people that you mentor.

And, um, I think mentorship is gold. There’s no way that anybody in any position, at any rank does not need a coach. Everybody needs a.

Naji Gehchan: The last one is spread love in organizations .

Amre Nouh: So, you know, I love that. Um, and this is why I’m a big fan of, of what you do. Naji. Um, earlier I said there’s three main characteristics of a leader, and I think that the last one resonates with this word that I’ll tell you is empathy.

Um, you know, a little bit of empathy goes, goes a long. Um, you know, um, there’s a really great book that I read recently by Moga, which is, um, Solve For Happy, and there’s a lot of great nuggets of wisdom in that. One. One that really I liked was how, uh, the author frames how we perceive the world and says, We are all movie stars in our own movies, and everybody we interact with is a supporting actor.

So right now I’m the movie star of my movie, and you’re the supporting actor. And in your world it’s vice. Um, and a little bit of empathy will help us oversee, uh, you know, not oversee the fact that, that that separate reality exists and will allow us just enough to keep our eyes and our ears open, uh, to understanding where other people are coming from.

So, spreading love in organizations has to come from empathy has to come from that ability to recognize. Sure you are the movie star of your own movie, but you have to understand sometimes that the person sitting in front of you feels exactly the same. And maybe you should play a supporting role, um, for that love to spread. Because if everybody stays as the movie star, um, the team will fall apart.

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

Amre Nouh: It’s a journey. Um, one of my mentors always says it’s about progress and not perfect. Um, you know, if I were to have this talk with you a few years ago, it would sound very different than it is today, and I hope that we could redo this in a few years, and I’m sure you and I will have a whole different host of things to talk about.

I think there are some core things that we, we talked about. Um, I think first and foremost, talking about vision for others, having your own value system is so I. Another, uh, mentor always told me, Write down your three core values on a piece of paper and carry them in your wallet. And when you’re in the basement, take out your wallet and take out that piece of paper and look at it.

Um, and it was very interesting. I mean, it’s, uh, I’ve done it a few times, but I’m gonna be honest with you, it’s hard to do that cuz you know, once you’re panicking, if you’re, if you’re panicking and reaching for something in your pocket, , that’s not a good thing to do all the time. But, um, I think. I think that’s a great nugget of wisdom.

Um, knowing your true north, um, and reminding yourself of your true north will help keep that work life synergy going, will help prioritize where you need to, uh, channel your energy and will help build a foundation and a growth mindset for you to continue to evolve as a leader. And, um, staying humble and staying true to yourself and understanding those shortcomings will, will only help perpetuate that.

Um, I, I, I, I’ll leave with this final piece of wisdom that’s not mine, But perpetual optimism is a force multiplier that’s, uh, one of Home Powell’s 13 Rules of Leadership. And it’s true, uh, you have to have a positive mindset. Everything we just talked about, you could see the half class empty, but the half class full is always better.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much. I, great. And I, I love your challenge. Let’s, uh, let’s put a date in five years to rerecord whether the podcast has still here or not, but I will do it with you again in five years and we’ll chat about it, . I

Amre Nouh: love it. I really look forward to it, and, and I think it’ll be awesome. Thank you, Naji, for everything you do.

I think spreading love is important and I, I hope to continue to, to hear all the great guests you have and learn from all the episodes and, and nuggets of wisdom that you get to share with the world through, your guests and through the discussions you have. Thank you for having me.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this podcast, having the pleasure to be joined by Dr Jennifer Kherani. Jen received her M.D. from Duke and subsequently completed her residency training in emergency medicine in the combined Cornell/Columbia program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where she served as Chief Resident in her final year. Until August 2022, she served as Head of Clinical Safety at Loxo Oncology.  Jen is also a founder of Summus Global, a subscription-based healthcare advisory company aimed at restoring the human connection between patients and healthcare providers. Jen is currently serving on the Rye Country Day School (RCDS) Board of Directors and is a member of the Medical Committee, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, the Education Committee and the Marketing and Communications Committee. She also serves on the DukeNY Board of Directors, serving as Co-Chair of the Nominating Committee as well as member of the DEI Committee, the Women’s Impact Network (WIN) Leadership Counsel and as a mentor on the Reimagining Medicine course.

Jen, it is such a pleasure to have you with me today.

Jen Kherani: Naji. Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be.

Naji Gehchan: Can you share with us first your personal story from med school to emergency medicine, then entrepreneurship, biotech, pharma. What’s, what’s in between the line of this incredible journey you had?

Jen Kherani: Yeah, it’s a little bit sinuous, admittedly. Um, I, you know, I was born on Long Island and in New York and had been local here pretty much throughout my entire life. Um, my parents, it’s funny, my, my dad was a policeman. My mom. Started a business when she was, you know, when I was five years old. So I remember it being, I was very little, um, and just remembered the dynamics there.

Like neither of them had had the opportunity to go to college afterwards. They had us very young. Um, so we lived a very fun life. My mom, I think she was 23 when she had me, and my dad was not much older and so I sort of started out. Just having fun with things and not really thinking about them too much.

And I think that, you know, came full circle later on. I do think that it has helped for me. Um, so I, I went through my education, not really taking it too seriously. I mean, I, I did, I did what I had to obviously to get through it, but, um, I didn’t think of things as probably deliberately when I was, when I was younger.

I just sort of, any endeavor that I did, I tried to do it very best I could. And. It sort of started working out. I mean, you know, at one of my first jobs it was working at a restaurant. I became a manager when I was 16, and then I, you know, went to to college in undergrad and joined the the Panhellenic and then became the president of the Panhellenic.

And most of the things that I did, I just tried to do what I enjoyed and. Threw myself into them. And when I graduated undergrad, I didn’t actually know that I wanted to be a doctor. I was not a pre-med undergrad. And then when I finished, I moved to New York City and I kind of flip flopped into a few different jobs.

And as I was doing it and trying to find my direction, I happenstance on a medical trip that went down to Guatemala and it was a trip that. It had multiple groups that traveled down together. One was a medical group and they would go out and create sort of a virtual clinic into in, in these communities that were local down there.

Another would go into the hospital and they were doing clef, lip and pallet repairs. And then the third group, which is how I ended up there, was it was a group that was going down for community service and just, Building an orphanage or building a playground or trying to do something for the community.

And as I went to this, um, I did get time to go into the hospital and into the clinic group and spend some time sort of crossing, you know, into, into the different subgroups that were there. And when I did, um, you know, I, I remember very vividly there was a young man who was about 18 years old and he came in with the bandana across his face, um, almost like, like a classic bank robber style and.

You could see when he took it down, he was, he just very, Malformed mouth and oral and, you know, his palate was also malformed and he life. But, um, ultimately they did the clef lip and palate surgery. And I just remember handing this gentleman a mirror at the end of it and the, the look in his face, I mean, you could tell that his whole life was going to turn around right there for him.

And, you know, in his mind and. I, I don’t know. That kind of captivated me to the point where I got home and I did the same thing. I said, Well, you know, that’s it. I wanna do medicine. And so I went and I took both back courses at Columbia and I worked in a lab during the day and ultimately ended up in medical school.

And I was that medical student that whatever rotation I did, I, that was what I was going to be. I wanted to do that. I wanted to be that, you know, it’s, I loved surgery, I loved pathology, I loved ob gyn. I loved everything. Um, and so when I got down to it, I, I sort of danced around and I, when I picked my specialty, um, I had taken, like I said, some time off in between undergrad and med school.

Um, I had met my husband, I got married in med school, and I knew that I wanted to have kids, and so I. Took everything. The fact that I loved everything and I, I had all this energy that I wanted to put towards things, and I also wanted to have a family. And so that spun into me choosing emergency medicine, you know, for so many reasons.

And I went into it and I, I loved it. It was fast paced, it was strong team building. I, you know, again, I could do what I loved, become a leader, teach, um, you know, teach both patients and med students and residents and that I absolutely loved. Um, And then I finished that and, and when I started practicing as an attending, I also simultaneously as planned, became a mom, which impacts everybody a bit differently.

But in those moments, I, I finally figured out that the only thing that I loved more than being a doctor was being a mom. And so my kids started to factor very heavily into my decisions. And so I was working part-time in the emergency room. Um, I started, like you said, Sumas with my husband and another friend of ours, and.

That company sort of took off on its own. It started off more slowly and as I was doing those two things, Locko sort of found me. Um, they had needed a physician to run their hotline to try and find patients and match them to their clinical trials. And so I took a chance, decided to try it, and pretty much never looked back.

So, Medicine, entrepreneurship, and, you know, industry sort of all found me at the same time. And I was fortunate and lucky enough to sort of grow all of those things at the same time. And again, because of the same, I, you know, passion to just do things well, uh, you know, if you love them, just throw yourself into them.

It sort of took off and went in the right directions and, and kind of led me to where I am.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you, Jen, for sharing your story and, uh, and how you, how you led and been there. Uh, it’s something you talked about as being a physician, how you lead team, how you develop leadership teaching, and also you have high pace.

So, um, you know, I, I kind of relate to this in my training and frequently we get this question about. What is it different? When you joined biotech, you obviously were dealing with life and death practically, really every day. Uh, so how did you. How did you think about this? Uh, did did it feel so different or was it a different stress?

But it’s still, patients can’t wait, obviously in our industry neither. Right. So I, I’m interested to get your perspective on it.

Jen Kherani: It was, you know, to your point, it was very different. And I think the reason that I had patients with the difference, because I didn’t leave clinical . I loved my patients, my time with them, my relationship with them.

Um, but I started to start, you know, I started to think about the fact that I wanted more longitudinal relationships with them. And so I, you know, there was a part of me that was kind of dancing and dabbling into looking for something else. And then, like I said, my kids came into it when I started industry.

I think because I s. You know, I was ready. I took the leap, but I did miss that patient interaction and I thought it was, it was more invisible to me at first when I started industry. And I think that was hard for me to adjust to. I enjoyed it. I knew what I was doing was making a difference in theory. Uh, you know, you’d start these trials.

Our philosophy, Naloxone was always to help every single patient. If there was a patient, legitimately, one of them was in the middle of Vietnam and we figured out how to get them drug and how to get them, you know, onto a, a single patient protocol. And we did that for every single patient. And sometimes you got the stories returned to you, but many times you didn’t.

And that was the hardest. Adjustment for me. Um, but I think my husband was very pivotal and he would always remind me of that. He would say, You know, it’s, it’s invisible, but your impact, what you’re doing, how you’re touching patients is not as tangible to you. Um, but it is nonetheless there. But it took some reminding and then honestly that.

I think what I, what also sort of landed me in this place of, of comfort that I really enjoyed and and loved about industry was all the people that I was surrounded with. Not that it’s not the same in, in medicine, it is, but so much of it was new to me at the very start. I was switching from emergency medicine to oncology, from, you know, clinical work to, to clinical trials and, you know, industry and all of it was so different and new to me, and I just loved the pursuit of learning.

And so I think that that kept me very captivated even through that for a rough patch of adjustment where I missed that clinical interaction with patient.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, we definitely share this. And it’s, uh, you know, the impact that we bring in the industry, the scale. I’ve always talked about the scale, what you’ve managed to do throughout your career in the industry, obviously had a huge scale on the number of people you’ve touched.

Uh, any learning specifically from a leadership standpoint leading in emergency medicine? Like you read so many cross-functional groups and leading in the industry, did you take any, you know, key learning from, from one to the.

Jen Kherani: It. I think, yes, I’d say what carry over the most is the same philosophy, meaning, you know, I always, there’s a couple of quotes that sort of linger in my head whenever I’m doing something in life and, and one of them is always, you know, no job is too small for a big enough person.

And the idea of when you’re building a team, get in there with them. Lead by example, you know, sort of walk the walk that you are talking, um, and no matter where you are in life. That always served me in the emergency room. Everybody always knew that, you know, if they needed anything. It wasn’t that I was not going to do it or too busy, I would always find the time, make the time, and get in there with the team.

I think I carried that over to industry again because I had so much to learn. If anybody needed help, sort of my hand flew up because I needed to learn it anyway. Um, and I needed to meet them and I needed, and eventually that evolved into my foraying into a leadership position because I started to work with everybody and know them and, and be in it with them.

So I think that that skill translates to both. Um, and then having some energy. VR obviously brings on its own, um, but the personalities in industry bring it on as well in a different, you know, it’s a different flavor. Um, but everyone is working their hardest just to make, you know, to get the end goal accomplished.

Naji Gehchan: You also founded a startup, so you’re also an entrepreneur by heart. You love what you do with, with your energy too. Uh, and this startup has a big aim of restoring human connection. So I really picked up on these two words cuz I feel they are so powerful. And specifically between patients and healthcare providers.

Can you tell us a little bit more about it and what you’re, what you’re trying to do?

Jen Kherani: Yeah, so Sumas Global, I started that, um, along with my husband and like I said, a friend of ours, all of us had gone to Duke. Um, and it really started over a conversation about the state of healthcare. And again, it sort of spawned from one of my, my at least involvement.

It spawned from one of my interactions again with a patient where this. Elderly woman had come in at around two or three in the morning by the time I saw her. You know, the ER goes, I dunno how long she had waited. And her triage complaint was, she didn’t know what to take when, and she came in with these bags full of medicine and she had all these redundant pills.

Pills that were expired. She didn’t know what to do with them. She had no primary care doctor for a time. And it just sort of, to me, struck a chord as to how broken this system is, where you, it’s all breaking down. You don’t have a primary care physician to act as the hub and spoke, or you know, the hub for your wheel.

Um, and a lot of people are getting lost. I think they’re losing guidance. Everything is very sort of metric driven, and it is not, it’s not driven by that connection, that human connection that you have. Have with your, um, you know, your physicians and on the physician side, I think sometimes, you know, particularly with certain specialties, it’s, it’s sort of survival of the fittest because they have to make ends meet, they have to make enough to run their office and pay their office staff.

But what they’re gonna reimbursed is not, you know, they’re gonna reimbursed for tests that they run. They’re not getting reimbursed for their time that they’re educating their patients. And so their patients end up down these rabbit holes of not understanding. So anyway, our endeavor was to bring that back.

And so what it is, it’s membership based. Um, and we typically try to get employers to buy it as a service for their employees. And if you have a, it is not, we’re not necessarily treating patients. It is a medical education platform, you know, first and foremost. And so, If someone comes in with a new diagnosis, many times it’s cancer.

Just, you know, oncology tends to be one of the higher d types of diagnoses that patients have or, you know, members come in with, um, if they have a new diagnosis and they just want to understand it and they just want time with a physician, that is exactly what it is. So we have sim as physicians that are in-house and they curate the, the experience, meaning they collect all of the information that the patient has to date.

They walk them through it. They say, Have you gotten this test? That test? What results have you gotten? And not dissimilar to how it was in the er. Collate all this information and create a summary for the specialist. And then we have a specialist platform. Some of it is an entire hospital, like you can, you can pick any hospital at Duke or a couple of other institutions, Sinai and, and you can talk to any doctor in that network.

Other times it’s individual physicians who have. Signed up and it’s a glass marketplace, so there is a cost for that physician’s time. And that, you know, typically is covered by, if your employer offers this, um, it is covered by your membership up to a certain number of encounters a year. And you can use them for yourself, for your family members, friends.

You can gift them, give them away. And so if you come in with this new diagnosis, the specialist will sit with you. We’ll look at everything that has been, you know, collated in terms of information, and we’ll give you an A to Z interpretation. Your diagnosis where they can guide you what they think is coming, what are the big sort of mile markers that you will go through?

You know, so if it is an oncology diagnosis, okay, you are currently getting this regimen, these are the things that you should think about, these are the tests that I would think about getting for you. Um, and it is just meant to be a sort of holistic conversations so that the patient or member, whatnot, when they leave, knows exactly what they’re going through and what to.

Naji Gehchan: This is definitely a big need. So I’m, I’m really eager to see how you keep on growing this organization. Okay. I, I wanna factor this entrepreneurship journey in on top, you know, of the ER and being in biopharma. Like anything between these three, uh, that you felt kind of helped to one another, any trait of leadership you felt helped you out and you think anyone who wanna build today, companies from, from biotech, because you also.

You know, building a biotech from very early stage into kind of later stage and growing in a big company, any key threat you felt as a leader? So you had the one on being present with your team? Yeah, for sure. Anything, Anything else you have in

Jen Kherani: mind? I think. I think the greatest thing is to, to move with passion.

Meaning, you know, if it is something that bores you, it’s, you know, you can do it, but I don’t think it’s ever going to get you to a level where you’re going to engage to make it the success you wanna get it to. So choosing something that you’re passionate about and then being a yes person, you know.

Every single day. Like I said, you know, when I first showed up to Locko or to the, you know, biotech, every single thing that had to be done, every task, I never said no. And even if I didn’t know how to do it, I just said yes. And I sort of decided in my head that I was going to figure out who I had to ask, what I had to read, what resources I had to go to, um, to make it happen.

And that never let me down. It was. An endeavor that sometimes is quite frustrating, but always left me more enriched on the other side. And I think no matter what you’re endeavoring to do, be it industry, um, you know, entrepreneurship, when you throw yourself into it with that energy and with that sort of yes attitude, you’ll always come out enriched.

And sometimes it’s to learn what not to do , and that’s okay too. Um, but that has always served me well, uh, regardless of my, you know, my.

Naji Gehchan: I love that. Uh, I will move now to a section where I will give you a word and I’d love your reaction to it. Yeah. Okay. . The first one is leadership.

Jen Kherani: Hmm. My reaction has been, or is, um, something that, you know, I, I sort of still strive for at every.

Minute it, it’s something I never assume is going to happen. It’s something I always yearn for and I try to put my best foot forward. But, you know, leadership is something certainly to be earned. Um, and I hope that I can do it and respin it no matter where I go. But I do recognize that that sometimes takes some time and some listening and learning.

But I hope to always be someone who people can look to as a leader. What about d e and I? Hmm. It’s funny cuz you mentioned at the beginning during my bio, you know, I sit on the DEI committee for both Duke New York and for the Right Country Day Board. And I, when I first went into it, that was another thing that I accepted kind of out of nowhere saying, Well, I, I’m not entirely sure what this means, but I.

I have been stretched in so many ways for just learning what DEI means truly. Um, you know, there’s sort of become buzz words, but when you’re really learning how to create an environment that is inclusive, that is diverse, there are things that are subtle, uh, or there are subtleties to that. And a lot of it goes back to it’s almost the same organic roots as a yes attitude.

You kind of have to park all of your preconceived notions at the door when you walk in and be open to learning the smallest amount from whomever comes in. And even if your initial reaction is, No, I don’t believe that, or I don’t think that, or I don’t agree with that. It’s the process of letting it happen and listening because I think that, you know, if you start to craft, and the other P portion of that is learning how to craft.

Environments and meetings that truly do facilitate grabbing the right people in. You know, if you’re always putting the same ticker up for, for what’s going to be discussed, you’re always gonna get the same crowd organically. So it’s, it’s trying to break through that ceiling and, and getting the room to be a truly, um, all inclusive and equitable sit, you know, situation for people to be sitting and for them all to feel comfortable in their discomfort.

Um, and just listening to one another, um, you know, with a common task or I, we have found that, you know, having common tasks to start and spark discussions, um, is a good starting place. But it’s been, it’s been another learning journey for me, one that I am really, really enjoying. Can

Naji Gehchan: you share more about the last piece, the practice that you’re, uh, that you mentioned that’s gonna help.

Jen Kherani: Yes. I mean, one of them, I’ll talk, you know, very, um, uh, objectively about a meeting that’s coming up. This one’s for Duke, New York. But the tasks that are set forth are very objective, but it is meant to sort of spark and, and spawn ideas that bring people closer together and have each other sees perspectives.

So the task is to read the Constitution. It is. Unbelievably short as compared to what you would think, you know, you think it’s this long scrolling document. It’s not an apropo of what’s going on in the real world today. You know, we only have a limited number of amendments to it. Um, it’s structure and it’s utility is limited based on when it was written, which is hundreds of years ago.

And so the task is to read it, to get everybody in the room and to write an amendment that you think speaks to something. That is important to you that you feel was left out of the Constitution in its initial inception? It’s, I’m still in the middle of it. I haven’t written my amendment yet and I still haven’t actually finished it, reading it even.

Um, but it’s a fun, it’s a really fun task. Um, And the last one was a book read. So a lot of it is just to get people out of their comfort zones and to stretch them. So to go in there and listen to how other people feel the constitution fails them, should open a box. That’s very interesting. I think for, you know, for the broader group,

Naji Gehchan: sure. What about entrepreneurship?

Jen Kherani: That to me is kind of a synonym for fun. I I think that, you know, I don’t know where my career will take me in the, you know, both the, the more immediate future and even in the, the farther out future as my kids get older, as they leave and as I have more time to do it. But to me, entrepreneurship is just sort of this open horizon that you can have fun with, that you take your passions and drive with.

And I hope. I will return to that space where I can just run with it. ,

Naji Gehchan: what about spread love and organizations?

Jen Kherani: I love that one. I, when I saw your organization and it’s, you know, it’s, it’s objective. I find it to be such a heartwarming and welcoming concept. It’s, it kind of goes along with everything else where it’s just an open door and this, you know, Open couch to sit on and have a discussion and be open and honest and loving with everybody that comes into that, you know, virtual room, so to speak. So, I, I, I love it.

Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom, Jen, for healthcare leaders around

Jen Kherani: the world? Oh gosh. I think, you know, we covered a ton. Um, but one thing that I don’t believe I’ve said throughout that I find to be, um, maybe one of my biggest tools and one of my hardest challenges is to constantly find ways, um, to find humility and to be humble.

I think, you know, as you are climbing these endeavors, tasks, you know, positions, whatever you’re going for, you sort of have this pie in the sky. That you wanna create the shortest distance between you and it. And you know, you sort of feel in certain moments, like you wanna move everything out of your path and sometimes that’s not the best way to get there.

I think that it kind of, Innocuously fold or, or invisibly folds into some of the other concepts of listening to who’s around you at the time, whether or not you think it’s going to be a valuable position, a valuable endeavor. Um, kind of tackling that with humility, because I think that the people you meet when you open your ears and your eyes and your heart and listen to them truly, they’ll challenge you to think about things a different way.

And then you sort of have to look inboard and think, Well, gosh, I, I didn’t. Think about that. You know, how do I need to change myself or how do I need to act? So I think that, you know, all the things that we’ve talked about, finding something that grounds you, that gives you humility throughout. Um, I know that people find it in different ways, but I think it’s so incredibly important slash imperative

Naji Gehchan: that’s powerful. Tackle problems with humidity. I love it. Jen, thank you so much for being with me today.

Jen Kherani: Naji, thank you so much again for having me. This is wonderful.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this podcast, joined by Dr Yang, a thought leader and clinician dedicated to delivering high-quality, compassionate, clinical care to her patients. She believes in constant improvement and re-evaluation of clinical care systems and in developing the next generation of doctors.

Clarissa is the President of Pratt Dermatology., Dermatologist-in-Chief at Tufts Medical Center, and the Chairman of Dermatology at Tufts University School of Medicine where she is responsible for the strategic clinical, educational and research success. She also serves on the Board of Trustees at Tufts Medical Center. Previously, she held leadership roles at Harvard Medical School and was the Outpatient Medical Director for the Department of Dermatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and helped expand the clinical footprint to 13 outpatient clinical facilities. Clarissa grew up in Canada and obtained her medical school training at McGill University. She focuses on operational efficiencies, integration of technology, and clinical care redesign. and has been awarded “Top Doctor” by Boston Magazine since 2018!

Welcome Clarissa! Honored to have you with me today!

Clarissa Yang: Great, thanks Naji for inviting me.

Naji: If there is, I would love to start as every time to hear a little bit more about what’s in between the line of your amazing career as a, as a clinician. What’s your personal story? What got you there?

Clarissa Yang: So I, you know, we always start from the beginning, right? I think my parents were first generation immigrants from Taiwan.

And they immigrated to Canada actually. Um, my father was a, um, nuclear physicist and there were only a few, um, Nuclear accelerators in the world. And one was a sketch one in Canada. And so, um, they came over and started a family and they moved east after I have an older sister. So when they moved east after that, but because they were, you know, the first generation here, They really didn’t have any money.

They really felt like they needed to build everything from scratch. So very much from childhood, they really instilled a sense of responsibility and, um, determination. And you know, how I probably landed in healthcare was, um, my grandmother came from Taiwan when I was much younger and, uh, she came over because she had metastatic breast cancer.

In her sixties. And I remember my mother taking her to all of her appointments and how challenging it was really for her, um, as an experience with a significant amount of lymphedema. And, you know, she, she lived about 10 years and then passed away, but it sort of left quite an impact on. On myself and how much healthcare, um, impacts others and their lives and the lives of their families as well.

And so I guess very early on because of those experiences, I always felt like I really wanted to become a physician and help make that impact. Um, and I always loved kids and always thought that I would end up, uh, as a pediatrician actually, But then once I got to medical school and then I had to take care of really sick kids, it was, it was hard, actually.

It was, um, I loved being able to be their advocate. I loved playing with them, but then when it came time to, you know, doing procedures and actually not having that kind of relationship with them, Uh, I started started thinking, is this the right thing? Um, and then one day when I was actually in the hospital, I was actually on a pediatric service.

Um, we had this child who had quite an unusual eruption on his lower leg. And for days, we really just didn’t know what was wrong with him. And, um, we finally decided to call a dermatology consult and the dermatologist that’s the time she just came in and she looked at him and said, this is clearly this diagnosis you should be doing.

You should have done this workup by. And I was sort of really amazed by that, that you could actually just look at something and know what was happening inside. And, you know, he turned out to have a bowel disorder and, and we figured it out. Um, so, you know, I was like, oh, this is really cool. I want to be that lady one day.

So, um, so that’s sort of how I thought about looking into dermatology and as. Explored it it’s really a window into what’s going on inside that not everybody gets a lot of training on. So, um, it was like this great expertise that sort of drew me to Durham. Um, and I couldn’t be happier. I love what I do and I love taking care of my patients.

Naji: The welfare, thank you for sharing, you know, your, your story and, and how you care every day for your patients and what drove you there. Uh, and on this piece, you know, if you’d talk a little bit about dermatology, we’re going to talk about, um, you know, uh, one of the things you’re passionate about, uh, as this clinical carry designs are reading sheet to learn a little bit more, but maybe before that, you know, dermatology, as you said, this really the skin that.

Somehow, like everyone sees it, right? Like it’s such a dizzy. Well, if there is a disease on the skin, uh, we can see, uh, there’s lot of discussions also in dermatology, obviously with innovation, like imagery, what that the medicine can bring, like all those scans and cancer that can transform this. So I’d love to hear before going into COVID and what.

Changed in medicine, uh, obviously, which is the most obvious piece. What are your thoughts about since you’re really into integration of technology? What are your thoughts about dermatology technology and all those changes?

Clarissa Yang: Gosh, I mean, I think it’s really exciting, right. Um, because I think a lot of. A lot of times when we go, at least as physicians go to medical school, we’re taught to take care of patients.

We’re taught diagnosis and treatment, but then outside of that, whether it is business innovation, Relationships with industry, um, working in a multidisciplinary fashion that is not necessarily outside of medicine, the traditional medicines, it’s actually more rare. Um, and you know, in most other industries, um, I would say healthcare sort of lags behind and its ability to deliver things efficient, efficiently, have everybody working at the top of their license, the ability to pivot and, uh, change with the times.

It seems to struggle. At least that’s what I’ve noticed in healthcare. Um, and so. I love that marriage of the two and thinking about how we do things better, but it’s not just technology that I care about. It’s it’s how do you just always look at something with fresh eyes? How do you think about the process?

It’s a very process-based and, um, and so I really think about process improvement and then how do you do things maybe differently than, than we’ve always done and not be scared of that kind of change? Um, I think some of the reasons why. Uh, I’ve always, I’ve always, if you go, if you always think back to, to sort of childhood, it was always, oh, well I see a problem, you know, why can’t we just do it this way?

Right. And, um, I used to laugh with my father actually, and he would do his things and I’d be like, okay, we can do this faster. Can you do it this way? And so, so I, I always knew that I liked, um, being able to create efficiencies in process. That’s also why I love care clinical care redesign.

Naji: So, so what is, what is your biggest challenge as it either, you know, and you talked about cross-functionality working with those different teams, try to talk.

Well, what is your biggest challenge to drive this efficiency in patient care?

Clarissa Yang: So I think some of the bigger challenges that I’ve noticed is because I’m an academic, uh, dermatologist. And so. When you work in larger systems, I think that sometimes there’s a lot of bureaucracy, right? There’s a lot of red tape where you have to get clearance in order to, uh, go to the next step and that sometimes stifles people’s drive to continue and keep pressing.

The other challenges I would say is that, um, when we don’t have time to think. Um, and sometimes, you know, that we talk a lot about healthcare and burnout, especially of physicians, staff. And if people are just moving all the time and they don’t have time to think they can’t really innovate. Um, and so I think that’s another big challenge is how do you create processes to give people back some of that time to innovate and think different.

Naji: Yeah, this, uh, well, the Headspace, right? The more we were able to create this test, that space for us to think and, and think different obviously. And you talked about health care and burnout, obviously what you’ve been living, all the work that you’ve been doing, also leading your team and as a clinician, uh, we can’t thank you enough.

Right? As a community, as patients with, with all that you’ve been going through with the pandemic. Uh, looking back, uh, at this, uh, I always feel like we never do enough, right. For the healthcare. We always say we got to do more, but then you’re on the frontline unfortunately, and, and suffering from this. So how, how have you led your team during those times for them to be able to keep on coming in, keep on, showing up, you know, with all the risks, right?

Like you’re, you’re literally. Uh, some of them are literally risking their lives right. Every day, coming in and going home. How have you dealt with this? Uh, during those times?

Clarissa Yang: Yeah. You know that, thanks for asking the question, because I think it was a really challenging time. The uncertainty it’s usually the uncertainty that creates the anxiety.

Um, and I have to speak for my team. They really, really rose to the occasion. Um, some of the most important things that both the leadership at my hospital and health system along with, uh, myself, was to increase the amount of communication, um, communicating all of the time, uh, multiple times a day, even anything we knew, um, creating.

Base, you know, we set up wellness committees in which we try to connect, um, because you know, part of it was, uh, the social distancing where people didn’t feel like they had any ties or, uh, places to, um, have discussions. And so we tried to create that kind of infrastructure and, um, And then check in and recognize and feel with others, right?

It’s the empathy, it’s the understanding where they’re coming from, arming them with the information, um, and then developing a common sense of purpose. Right? Um, why is it that we all come together in healthcare? Uh, why are we here, but also respecting what they have to say and trying to, to, to help them through.

Uh, the challenging time. So whatever fears they had, if I could address them, I would, if I could bring somebody in to talk to them about how they could be more safe, I would, if we could implement policies and procedures that would keep them more safe. We did. So. I know, you’re probably gonna ask me already about like some of the changes and healthcare, but at one point in time, our teams were worried.

There wasn’t enough PPE throughout the hospitals. We, you know, you think about dermatology. Maybe there are some people make there aren’t life-threatening complications, but we do, we have, we still see patients on the inpatient service that have. You know, disorders where their skin is sloughing or they have vasculitis.

And, and, um, so during those times we tried to leverage technology, right. We said, okay, how do we, how do we use tele on the inpatient service? Can we leverage. Different modalities to be HIPAA compliant for texting and photos, um, increase the communication. So, so that we could function and still deliver high quality of care while still preserving PPE and helping preserve some decreasing some anxiety for people.

Naji: Yeah, where you shared, you know, the common sense of purpose and really caring, obviously for, for each other, the wellness piece and, and all the work that you’ve done. So again, uh, I think all, all of us can take enough. Uh, all of, all of you who’s been here, uh, on the front lines, uh, taking care of ourselves during those times, um, Well, one of ’em, you know, as you were sharing about it and yeah, obviously I’ll, I will ask this question, right?

Like, is there one or two lessons that you took from what we’ve been going through and potentially innovations that you had, and you will keep on doing, uh, after this.

Clarissa Yang: So I think telemedicine is now here to stay. Right. Um, the adoption of telemedicine was actually quite. Slow at the beginning, because there was a lot of anxiety about quality of care. And, um, throughout the, um, COVID pandemic, we really, uh, tried to still deliver excellent care. And the things that we learned through that was the importance of.

I feel like we’ve always been doing, but even more so is the importance of reiterating a process. And so, you know, we had to, we talk about PTSA cycles, right? Plan, do study act, um, and then repeating them. And, you know, during the COVID pandemic, it was really hard because these cycles became really, really fast because you’re flying the plane and you’re, and you’re learning to do this at the same time.

And so we learned. Um, to actually really come together and set expectations that we would be constantly pivoting, um, and the amount of flexibility that we needed, um, during this time was substantial. And, you know, our team rose to the occasion. And so I do think that telemedicine is here to stay a lot of the challenges associated with delivering that is how much support staff do you need?

How can we deliver the same quality of care? Um, and what do we lose? Um, so we learned a lot of those pieces along the way. We’ve been able to improve the efficiency of care so we can increase volume, increased access, a lot of this. Challenges are still around, you know, governmental policy and, um, insurance, uh, reimbursements and things like that.

But we have found an amazing place, you know, amazing way to deliver care. That is really good for certain situations. So, um, So we did learn a lot about telemedicine. Um, Nigeria, what was your other part of your question? I feel like there was another card.

Naji: Yeah. It was like what you’re taking, obviously, this is why.

Well, one of the pieces you will be keeping, and I want to double click on something, you know, as a leader, you talked a lot about obviously, right? Like it’s always what you did for them. And, um, uh, how you led them in fact, to keep on being here, being themselves. Um, I’m also intrigued as a leader. Where did you.

Your resources from, how did you personally manage going through this? Right? Because many times we think about others and well, to, to care about others, we need to care about ourselves. So I’m, I’m intrigued how you manage to, um, yeah. Where, where was your sources of inspirations of, uh, comfort to be able to help your teams going through this?

Clarissa Yang: I think I’ve been lucky along the way, you know, I’ve had other leaders, um, Show me what is right. And what works well, um, even, you know, before COVID, um, where the importance of really taking care of your team, doing the right thing, um, doing the right thing for them, not for you, not for the organization and thinking about it through that those lenses, um, is, is, is really powerful.

And then. You know, I’m in a place, luckily that has very, very strong culture at the hospital level interpersonal culture where people care for each other. And so, um, the leaders within. The organization cared about the same things. They cared about. The people I cared about, the patients they cared about, the staff, uh, they cared about the physicians.

Um, so it makes it really easy when you’re in that kind of environment. Um, I will tell you it wasn’t always easy. You know, I, I, when I stepped into my job, um, it was a department. It was a turnaround situation that hadn’t been, um, that had, didn’t have a lot of leadership for a couple of years before I came on board.

And you know, that cultural revolution of like really caring team, um, thinking about others, uh, is something that I’ve really been trying to instill. Um, these last three years that I’ve been here, there. And it’s very contagious. Right. And when that becomes the norm, the new people who come in, you know, everybody wants to be internally consistent.

And so it becomes a much easier place to develop, continue that kind of culture. So both outside of COVID, but you know, even augmented through COVID, um,

Naji: And what is, what is, what is the one thing that made this happen? If you know our audience, because this is really about what we’re discussing and leaders coming in, always talking about this culture of care, this culture of what I call love, right?

Like spread love and organizations showing up for each other, being here for one another. It’s exactly the culture that you created throughout the years, but what is one thing? That’s who can advise the there’s to do for them to be successful as you were, as you were rebuilding this country and that same, or building it from scratch.

Clarissa Yang: I think it’s a lot of times too. Lead this you would like to be led, right? Like I would do anything from my team and they can see that, like, I work really hard. I’m there when they need me. I will, anytime when they need me. Um, and so stepping up to the plate, um, Doing the things that are necessary is sort of role modeling.

And then I think the other piece is believing in your team, um, believing in what they’re capable of and when you believe in what they’re capable of, they will always rise to the occasion. So I think that’s one thing I find, um, that I learned along the way. I didn’t always know.

Naji: Yeah. Powerful. Great, clear sentence.

Let’s play a little game now, so, okay. So the game is, I’m going to give you one or two words and then I’d love to hear your thoughts. Like something that’s gone, uh, comes top of mind when you’re here. Done. Okay, good. Great. So the first one is women and healthcare.

Clarissa Yang: To feel, to feel at a leadership positions.

That’s so there are a lot of women in healthcare and I think women have, uh, it’s challenging. Um, a lot of times women are expected to. Do there, they have multiple jobs. They usually are the primary caretaker. I won’t say always, but you know, for a good amount of time, they’re the primary caretakers. Um, especially when they’re having families or children.

Um, who are little. And so I do think that often they are spread more thin. I think it’s more challenging for them to continue to grow in a leadership position. Um, I think there’s still, unfortunately, a lot of disparity, um, at the higher ranks of, um, leadership. Um, I know, you know, our, our organization is really trying to change that, but for awhile I was the.

I was one of two chairs that was female and then became one chair. And now we have two again, but you know, our organizations, you know, going through bias training and things like that. But I think it’s tough, you know, and, and I think we need more women leaders. We know that when we have women at the table, um, different decisions get made, especially on boards and, um, Committees.

And so I’m hoping that, um, you know, that there’s, there’s just a lot, there’s just a lot more work that needs to be done. And, uh, I hope that there are more women who are empowered to grow within these work.

Naji: Uh, yeah, and, and the work is for each and all of us. We need to advocate for women, you know, as, as man.

And, and definitely this is something to continue that there’s long, long, long way still. Um, you leadership, I want to ask you this question, you know,

Clarissa Yang: Oh leadership. Oh yeah. This is the word leadership, I guess. It’s um, what comes to mind? I guess because we’re on this topic leadership, what comes to mind is my other, the P the other people who have role models for me. Right. Um, as soon as you say that I can actually think of, you know, a previous chair, uh, the CEO, certain CEOs and leadership.

Everybody has a different style to their leader. Um, and much like Edison and much like life, you go through life and you try to figure out, well, what parts of this leader do I love? And what parts of this leader do I love to sort of create your own personal signature? Um, and, and I think part of leadership is also being observant and listening and being able to sort of pull what works and what doesn’t work.

Um, From from your environment. Um, so that’s what I think of when I hear leadership.

Naji: What about the efficiency?

Clarissa Yang: like, uh, if, uh, as through my training, if you asked anybody, um, about me, they all know that I really care about. And it’s, it’s really just to get from a, to B faster, better, and still maintain quality so that we can do other things. Right. So there’s so much to enjoy so much to do in life. Like let’s just be let’s, let’s get, let’s get everything done when we can do it.

So that’s, that’s how I think about it.

Naji: Awesome. Uh, spread love and organization.

Clarissa Yang: Yeah, I love that concept. Spread love. Um, I think it’s contagious, you know, when people give of themselves to others, um, it, it builds it’s a butterfly effect, right? So, um, yeah, I, I think this, your, your title, your organization here, podcasts spread love is a wonderful notion that everybody should adopt.

Naji: Yeah. Um, so now if we look moving forward, what would you continue right in your organizations from all that you’ve been doing in the last four, four or five years, uh, as we discussed the culture you created, what the tough moments have been going through also as, uh, as it’s in, uh, w with, uh, with a pandemic.

Moving forward. What are the one or two things that you will be focusing on as a leader again, within your organization to keep on striving?

Clarissa Yang: Well, I mean, I think the culture part is somewhat never ending, right? It’s we’re, we’re not, we’re still not in the place that we needed to be. Um, even though we started, you know, three years ago, it’s, it’s a continuous process.

Um, so. A lot of the lessons that we learned around communication about the importance of hearing others. Um, Those are pieces that we will continue. Um, we have continued, uh, you know, question and answer boxes and now we’re well past COVID because that’s been really helpful. Um, we’re continuing our wellness events.

We’re trying to think about different ways to connect and celebrate. Um, and so if there’s anything that we learned, it was. Trying to figure out how to become more connected and continue to become more connected to our time.

Naji: Um, do you have beyond all the readings that we’re doing? I don’t know if you have recently a book that you read that inspires you or even a previous book that you would recommend all leaders listening to us, like go get this book, this, this one inspired.

Clarissa Yang: Oh, gosh, let me think about this. Um, for leadership, um,

Naji: not necessarily the leadership either set up innovation or even a story.

Clarissa Yang: Well, I do, you know, the one book that I had read relatively recently was the power of. Like why we do what we do in life and in business and how we can change habits, things that are incredibly ingrained with us. Um, so I think the book starts out talking about somebody who had a neurologic issue. And even with a neurologic deficit and where you think that they cannot create new habits, they can.

Um, and so when people say I can’t change, you know, I can’t do something differently. You can. It’s about, it’s a lot about practicing. It’s about, it’s about a mentality. Repeating a particular behavior until it becomes part of you. Um, and so, so that, I, I really love that book because it sort of teaches you about how to, how w why it is that we do what we do and how do we form these new habits that we’re, we’re striving for.

So I think that would be a good book.

Naji: Um, do you have any, you know, find a word of wisdom? Uh, I would, I would love to hear it oriented to the young generation of physicians as you’re, you’re also coaching them and developing them to be the next generation of physicians or even younger. Like I’m, uh, I’m thinking.

Uh, both of them, right? Like all, all those young girls who are dreaming of becoming doctors and we want them to become leaders, all the kids and anything about this, then some words of wisdom around that.

Clarissa Yang: So I think we always have a lot of external influences that push us to do certain things, whether it’s a societal values or.

Peer pressure, whatever it is. Um, but I think actually really sitting down and really thinking about what makes you happy, right? Like what do you really enjoy doing? Um, because. I know it took me a while to get there. Um, you know, I used to just do, because I was supposed to do. And then when I finally sat back and go, why do I make the decisions that I make and figure out where the, where that nugget comes from?

Like what drives you? That is like really powerful because at the end of the day, it’s that passion that. Define what it is that you do in life, whether there’s success, whether there’s, whatever that definition of success is, right? Like everybody’s definition is different, whether you have impact and whether you actually enjoy all the years that you spend on this, in this place.

And it’s usually that passion that helps you succeed, um, and, and, and grow. And so really figuring that out, um, It is I think really important in people’s career trajectories. And I try to foster that those faculty residents really thinking about those pieces.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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, having the pleasure and honor to have with me today Christi Shaw, Chief Executive Officer of Kyte.

Christi serves as CEO of Kite, Gilead’s cell therapy company. Based in Santa Monica, California, Kite is pursuing the ambitious goal of a cure for cancer with industry-leading pipeline and manufacturing capabilities. In her role, Christi is responsible for all cell therapy operations around the world.

Before joining Gilead in 2019, Christi held senior executive positions at Eli Lilly and Novartis. Her leadership has spanned a broad range of therapeutic areas. In 2016, Christi founded the More Moments More Memories Foundation, which assists patients with cancer and their families. Christi currently serves on the board of directors of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Avantor and the Healthcare Women’s Business Association.

I had the incredible chance to learn from Christi at many different levels, she’s definitely THE example of servant loving highly successful leadership.

Christi Shaw: Oh, and I’m so humbled by your recognition and having me on the podcast now.

Naji: Thank you Christi first, we would love to learn more about your personal story from business administration to now leading one of the most innovative companies, improving patients’ lives and oncology around the world.

What’s in between the lines of this inspiring journey,

Christi Shaw: uh, in between the lines, you know, We people talk a lot about making sure that you’re living your true north. And I feel so humbled and, um, so, so much self satisfaction and reward being every day able to come to work and help people and really help in a way that gives them the potential to live a longer life.

Having as our foundation’s name is creating more memories in their life, uh, with their loved ones, you know, my, a story. From I w when I was little, you know, I grew up in the Midwest, uh, for the most part. Between the ages of six and 12, we, we moved every year to two years. So I got to witness other ways of living in Canada.

Um, you know, the French speaking, Montreal, Quebec, and then other states in the United States, but, you know, from zero to five and also, you know, from 12 to 22, I was in Iowa. So very strong Midwest roots, which really grew up in the farming area. Uh, area where community’s extremely important. Family’s extremely important.

And moving around like that too, as well as, you know, it really makes the family close and really makes you understand when people say, uh, home is where the heart is, that it is not just about the physical place, where you go, but who, the people that you’re surrounded with having come into the pharmaceutical industry, it was an intentional on my, it was intentional on my part is.

Personally my family to go to college. And my father really wanted me to know what I was doing before I went to. So I, so I, you know, he was a very strong role model for me, and I really wanted to help people. My mom was very philanthropic. My dad was a businessman, which also intrigued me and it was really intentional.

I said, you know, I want to do something that, you know, takes the skills of business and also. You know, it gives, gives, gives help to so many people, as many people as possible. And then, you know, fast forward it both in my personal life and in my professional life, that desire and that true north and mission have only gotten stronger over time based on personal circumstances and professional.

So for me, between the lines is people are people. I was tried. Uh, I was coached by somebody early on. My job was to be respected, not liked and my first manager job. And I’ve never believed that I was, uh, uh, not responsive to that initially. And I’m not now we spend too many hours at work, not to like the people that we’re with, not to get the best out of them and to leverage their strengths for the whole, to, to create better in the world for more people.

And so, um, that’s been kind of my journey, if you will. I

Naji: thank you so much for C4 for sharing this with us. Uh, you talk about liking people, so let’s go immediately there. Um, is this your key learning as a leader through your journey? Or what would, what would it be like if you want to pick one key learning you had through your journey?

Christi Shaw: You know, I, I think it, it goes to when you’re at your best, um, and you can help other people be at their best and throughout through my journey, I’ve learned, you know, one hard lesson, which is my dad always taught me not to let success go to my head, but what he didn’t teach me that I’ve learned on my own is not to let failure go to your house.

And so one of the biggest things is knowing that you’re in control of your destiny, that this is a journey. And when you’re going through very difficult times, know that that’s a point in time in your journey. And if you can control. You can change your destiny and not to be scared to do that, um, that whatever lies on the other side, uh, can be better and most likely will be better than where you are now.

But at the same time, those moments of times are also so precious that the very, those very small moments that are good. How can you take advantage of it? So an example for me would, that was really big for me, was growing up. I was very close to my family and moving around, like I said, you know, it was always with my older sister, who’s two years older and my parents, and then, you know, my younger sister who was significantly younger than us.

And, uh, and she wasn’t born until later in that, in that journey. And so as my life progressed, I started losing family members. My mom died at 51 of breast cancer. My dad died at 67 of a rare infection. And then my sister passed away at age 51, um, of multiple myeloma. And through that journey, it only strengthened my desire to do more and more critically important work, to help more and more patients as possible.

Um, not to have to go through that pain, you know, at kite. Our goal at kite is to focus on the cure. That’s our mission. Um, but what we do is we, we have patients who are. Um, have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma who are told they have on average six months to live and they’re in the last moments of their life. And we’re able, 50% of those patients are now to be specific.

43% of those patients at five years are still alive. And they’re having not only. More precious moments with their loved ones. Their loved ones are having more precious moments with them. Some of them are having children and grandchildren and are there for remarkable moments. And to know that we’re able to give that to people, uh, by what we do every day is, is so very motivating.

And it’s, it’s, it’s the love. I would say that love that we give and the love that we get back. The patients come to us, uh, remarkably the biggest and most powerful ambassadors of just wanting to help spread the word because so many people who are eligible for cell therapy don’t even know what exists and they’re sent to palliative care sent to hospice.

And not even knowing that they have a 50% chance to live. And so what we’re trying to do now is really spread the word cause why should only some people have access to this therapy? We now are a global company. We have two cell therapy labs, one in California, one in Amsterdam. One that will open in Maryland this year.

And we basically take a patient’s own immune system and they send us their T-cells and we help re-engineer them so that they can be put back in that patient’s body and really fight the cancer. Uh, and, and we’re continuing on that journey because now we’ve gotten. We have three indications now and he malignancies and three, three in hematology, I should say four lymphoma and one in leukemia and hematology.

So four indications in blood cancers, three in lymphoma, one in, uh, leukemia. And we’re looking to continue to figure out how do we get that 43% to a higher number to treat more patients. And how do we actually take this therapy to more types of cancers so that more patients can be. And I’m just, uh, just so humbled to be leading an organization like this and to be around people that I do.

Like, uh, I’m a big believer in leveraging people’s strengths. What are they good at? It’s what are they, what inspires them, motivates them. And just really triple down on that, because people like to do what they’re good at really focusing on what people are bad at and what they need. Work on. Sure. You need to do that.

Um, if it’s a derailer or people are doing things terribly wrong, but in general, I feel, you know, that loving spirit of leveraging people’s strengths and loving them enough to tell them when they’re doing something wrong. I think, you know, that’s just how we should be as human human beings. I just feel like the more I do that, the more reward comes back to.

Naji: Oh, Christie, uh, you, you shared, you know, we feel the passion and the purpose and the passion you have for the people. And it’s just impressive what you did with, um, with your teams and, uh, literally changing people’s lives and boxing them positively. And. Changing their lives, right? That w when I joined oncology, that was one of the pieces, you know, can we, can we have cure?

And, and it’s true. Even one additional day can mean so much. So thanks for sharing this. And I want to go there. You’ve done this. During moments of crisis, you brought a disruptive way of treating, uh, I with impressive results for those diseases. And on top of doing this and the complexity of the technology itself and manufacturing and all, uh, all those challenges that you were, that you knew you were facing, you had on top of the pandemic.

I I’d love to hear, you know, your key learnings. Uh, as a leader during those times of challenges. And if there is something that you would definitely keep from, from those learning after the pandemic, or if there’s something that you would definitely change.

Christi Shaw: Sure. You know, so w what I do for a living today is actually an experience that I went through as a caregiver with my sister.

So my sister actually had cell therapy, um, back in 2016. Um, I was her caregiver for a couple of months, uh, in Philadelphia at UPenn. Uh, we stayed at cancer hope lodge. Um, I don’t know if you know this or your audience knows this, but there’s, there’s approximately about 40 million people, almost 17% of the United States who are caregivers.

Uh, two other adults in the us and 60% of them are also employed on top of that caregiving. And so going through that experience, and now I actually gave up my job. I was, um, in a financial situation where my husband worked and I was very fortunate and most people can’t do that. Um, but being able to see this therapy, um, front and center and what it takes, um, from that, that was really my first glimpse of it.

I had heard about it. I was at Novartis working at Novartis when we did the acquisition, but, um, it wasn’t launched yet to the marketplace and, and my sister got it as a clinical trial patient. Unfortunately, she had the type of cancer. It did not work for. Um, and shortly after her death, I was asking. To become the leader of kite, the leading organization in cell therapy.

Now I’m on the other side looking at, um, delivering for patients and then the pandemic hit six months after I get here. So if you can imagine, um, a patient just to give you a story, a patient who’s in Europe who has, um, lymphoma, who this is their only hope at survival. Now all of the flights in the United States are grounded.

Um, international flights are grounded because of the pandemic. And we need to figure out how we’re going to get these patients. Um, from our California site back to that patients in Europe. And so going outside of just our company, just outside of healthcare, working with airlines, getting, um, on their top list of medical need, getting the government to allow us, uh, to ship, um, and to, to fly that overseas and, and having a plan a with, you know, the, the normal airlines, everyone flies in a plane.

Be with charter flights and a plan C with, you know, um, private airlines. And we did end up needing in Europe to fi to really, um, charter private jets to actually ship patients cells. And when these cells come in, a lot of people call them all your manufacturing site. I like to call themselves therapy labs because those patients, little red bag of cells comes into the facility.

Uh, It looks like our two D two goes in the elevator gets shipped up to, um, the floor where they’re re-engineered and they come back out hoping to give life to that patient. And we actually had, in one instance in Chicago, O’Hare airport now a total of nine cancellation of flights, one after the other.

And we had no way to store these cells, no cold storage in the area. Luckily the cells got there, but during the pandemic. A hundred percent of patients got their cells returned to them and it is absolutely remarkable. And in fact, there was a wall street journal article of one of our employees in Europe who used to, um, actually get, uh, supplies and the war torn countries.

And he was his expertise, but actually helped us with the logistics of how we could do that. And he really sprinted into action. And regardless of his title, which wasn’t. Uh, hi in the, on the wrong Healy, he led us into how to solve this problem. And so as I look at that, and I think about the pandemic, what I learned is this inclusive leadership leveraging the strengths of people who know, learning, uh, leveraging the expertise.

Variances strengths, intuition, uh, listening. Nobody had a title. We were on the call twice a week, um, who can remove what barrier? What is the problem? Um, from CEO down to the, um, you know, uh, manufacturing, uh, so. Uh, a chemist, a researcher, we were all on the same level working together. And at times it was daunting.

I mean, it was absolutely, you didn’t know if they were going to get there, you all, and having that caregiver experience of thinking about that patient as my sister’s. And needing the urgency that you have to get it there yet, sometimes feeling absolutely helpless that you have no control over it. Um, sometimes makes you crawl in bed and want to throw the covers over your head.

I have to be honest. Um, but in the end, uh, seeing, uh, seeing cell therapy now really coming to fruition has been so rewarding at the American society of hematology in December. We had probably the most. Transformative and a legacy leaving event in that we were able to show that five years patients who were going to die survive, 43% of them were able to show it’s working in multiple indications, and now we’re able to show as well that you can use it sooner.

You don’t have to wait till the end of the line, but if you actually, hopefully in April, So we’ll get approval. Um, but if you can use cell therapy earlier lines of earlier, like second, let’s say instead of third, fourth, fifth, or sixth, you can actually save a lot of hardship on the family going through a lot of different therapies that aren’t curative, but only give you a little more time.

And so I’m just so excited as I’m sure you can. Um, when I go, when I, when I talked to my employees just before the holidays, I said to them, could you imagine going to Christmas this year and think about a loved one that you’ve lost or everybody I know has lost someone. They love, whether it’s a close member of family, friend or a relative, but imagine them being there at Christmas when you thought there.

No, you’re told that they were supposed to, they only had six months to live and here it is a year later and they’re still here two years, three years, five years. And just the change. That that has on the family in such a positive and deep meaning way. And obviously for me, it’s rewarding and at the same time disappointing, unfortunately that, um, my mom, dad, and sister didn’t, uh, benefit from that, but so rewarding that hopefully for years and generations to come others, uh, we’ll see this become a chronic illness and not a death sentence.

I don’t know if I told you my learning’s dodgy, but I guess my big learning is, uh, is love at work is a good thing. Um, and really, um, you know, this new generation of titles don’t matter. I don’t, I, I want to be developed, I don’t want to be promoted. Somebody told me that the other day I got three promotions, Christian, and during COVID she worked for another company, but my, I want to be developed and I’m being developed every day, but I, everybody I work with and so.

This collaboration, inclusiveness and no hierarchy, I think is really something the lessons learned from COVID that we need to reduce the barriers to collaboration so that we can really see what we’re trying to do together to have the best outcome possible.

Naji: Th this is, this is so powerful and I, I believe in this as you know, and I think what you’re, what you’re doing is just impressive on why we wake up every morning at this industry and your.

But she can get even patient by patients, which is, which is great. I want Christie to react to a word that I will give yourself. I’m going to give you four words and I would love to have the reaction on each one of them. So the first one is leadership.

Christi Shaw: So the first thing that comes to mind for me in leadership is enabling. Uh, a lot of people think that leadership is about having all of the answers, being the smartest person in the room, telling people what to do. And that is, we’ve been talking about it for a long time, but unfortunately I haven’t seen it change too much in the C-suite at least not in our industry.

And I think that’s a problem for us moving forward leadership. Isn’t enabling. Th the whole organization to move forward, um, as fast as they can by leveraging the great gifts everybody brings to the table, nobody can know everything, nobody can experience everything and that inclusion and diversity that we talk about.

The equity that we talk about, all of those things are so important for us to not have labels. You know, you’d have to be able to lead without labels. You can’t just wait to get the title and start leading, or you don’t have to have a title to lead. Um, and just knowing that your influence is leadership, whether you’re, um, an individual contributor, a manager, or the CEO leadership, it is about enabling others and bringing your best self, uh, solve problems.

Naji: You mentioned my second word at, which is.

Christi Shaw: So equity to me doesn’t mean equal and it’s so easy for that to, um, to, to be wrongfully, um, interpreted because you know, being equal is not always fair, right? There are, there are times when, um, some people deserve more based on the effort, uh, given, and I think, uh, equity means opportunity who has, uh, Uh, giving the opportunities to everyone is everyone.

Um, uh, Equal in, in their ability to tap into their potential. And that’s what that means to me. Um, you know, it’s not about everybody paid the same, recognize the same. Everybody gets a trophy. It’s about everybody having the same opportunity. And, um, people think that everybody has the same opportunity, but as I’ve, you know, been, um, I was the.

ERG leader at Lilly for the African-American, um, employee resource group. And I’ve also, um, been reversed mentored by two people in the LGBTQ group individually at two different companies. And I think it really requires us to understand and learn other people’s journey to understand if they really have.

’cause I, I w from those learnings, I changed my behavior. I ask questions differently. I have, when we’re talking about succession planning, we don’t just talk about the, you know, the leaders in the room, because if the leaders in the room aren’t diverse in their experiences, diverse in their, um, you know, social, uh, and their experiences, we need to have people in the room that are making sure that we’re not.

How a lot of unconscious bias, uh, cause that that exists. And I try to make sure that transparently, we call that out. So equity to means equity and opportunity and ensuring that we all understand and know what that means. Um, diversity inclusion, equity. They’ll all three of those go together and you can’t, you can’t do one and think that you’re now solving the problem.

You can’t have diversity and think now you’ve solved the problem. You can’t. Um, you need to have the equity piece inclusiveness piece with it as well.

Naji: So true and going through the journey of reverse mentoring, as you shared, and also willingness to learn and be curious about the other, and it comes with your beliefs on loving other certain like of your team.

Christi Shaw: Exactly.

Naji: What about CEO?

Christi: Oh, um, that’s a, that’s a really great question. What do I think of when I think of CEO, you know,

I don’t know this, probably not an appropriate answer, but so far I CEO, I, the first thing I think of is change. I want the cut. I want the connotation of CEO, not to be what people assume. CEO today means to everybody, um, financially driven, profit oriented. Um, and, and that’s not a positive term. And so for me being a chief executive officer of kite, um, I, I, I prefer to say, um, you know, I’m a leader I’m leading the kite organization because I think we have a lot to learn and a lot farther to go.

I think we’re doing some good work, um, by holding, uh, CEOs and their boards accountable for ESG, the, you know, um, giving back to the community. I know Gilead does a great job of that, uh, with the HIV communities and in the communities where we work and where we have, um, sites and you know, everything to do with clean air, et cetera.

Um, But we need to do more of that without being told to do it. Uh, we need to bring more love into the C-suite. Uh, I love, I, you know, I think it’s very courageous of you Naji to actually have the word love and your podcast and to put love in the business. I think it’s extremely brave of you because, um, It can show to a lot of people.

Um, it could be perceived as a weakness when it actually is a huge strength to show vulnerability to say, here’s what I know. And here’s what I don’t know. Um, here’s, here’s what we’re working on. Here’s what we need to be working on. Here’s how we’re trying to give back to society, not just to the shareholders and profit and be okay.

Um, that we were looking at the long-term not a short term, quarterly profit. And what are we saying to the analyst on the next call? If you take a long-term view, I think that’s what makes you successful. If you put people first, um, if you have high expectations for the outcomes and the outcomes are focused on what’s best and making the world better and you thinking, they’re thinking long-term.

I don’t see, um, failure in that. Uh, I CA I see only winning in that, and I think we could, we could add a lot more love the C-suite. It’s a long answer to say that we don’t. When I think of CEO, I think of the lack of love, um, right now, as a connotation, which I’d like to change,

Naji: but a great honor to hear this new Christie as a segue.

My last word is spreading love and organization

Christi Shaw: spread love. Yeah. Oh, Yeah, I, I, I am so, so lucky every day to go to work. And because we talk about patients’ life and death every day, it’s so easy for us to be so personable with each other. It’s so easy for our organization to get around our mission. I don’t have to create a mission and a value statement, and it doesn’t take long for people to understand what it means to have a loved one living longer.

Um, or for me to know that, um, as an employee. Um, you’re working really hard and we care about the patient. But one thing I will tell you, I’ve learned in this role in the last three years, Naji is sometimes we’re so focused on saving patient’s lives that we forget to focus on employees that are actually doing it and showing them that we care about them.

As much as we care about the patient, the pandemic. Put our organization, as it did many in overdrive, you would think that working from home meant that we were working less hours when everybody was working so many more hours, there was a blur between work and personal and really burnout, um, occurring.

And I think we’ve seen that in the great resignation that’s happened. And that we’re going through now, uh, in the world of people really, um, taking a second look at am. I actually spending the time with my family, my loved ones, not just helping those patients live longer, helping patients and their families, but what about my family?

And so for me, spreading love at kite is a greater focus on loving our employees and showing them. It’s like recognition showing them appreciation, developing them, not just through promotions, but developing them, not just at work, but in their personal, what do they want to develop personally, socially that we can help them with.

So for me, that’s the next, um, thing to double down on his love for our employees.

Naji: Any final word of wisdom Christi for healthcare leaders around the word?

Christi Shaw: So I, I, you know, the, the biggest ones I’ve talked about is, you know, um, I know you won’t let success go to your head, but don’t let failure go to your heart. I’ve also talked a little bit about, you know, realizing that things are a point in time and. Knowing through my experience that sometimes I stayed in places or stayed in jobs or stayed personally I’m around people that you just, you felt like you needed to, you had to, you were scared to take a risk.

Um, that’s probably the biggest, second thing I’d say is in my journey. Actually making the decision to not stay and follow a different path has probably led to more success than having stayed. Um, and, and, and trying to, um, work through these. I’m not, I’m not saying quit, but I’m saying sometimes there’s a another path.

So for example, the saddest story for me, when I left my job at Novartis was. And having the announcement go out that I was leaving my job to care for my sister and my LinkedIn box exploded over the course of the next three, four weeks from then. And it, and it was sad because most of those emails were people who did not make that choice.

Who worked instead of taking care of a loved one or who didn’t move closer to being next to a loved one, or spend enough time with a loved one before they died. And that time was gone, it was extremely heartbreaking. So for me, it was a motivation for me. After my sister died to come back to show people that you can leave, you can leave the highest level job, and you don’t know what’s going to happen.

But it’s okay if you prioritize your loved ones, because you will find something else to me, I ended up finding the job that fulfilled in me and helped me grieve the loss of my sister by helping others survive. And I didn’t know what it was going to be, but if I’m any example, follow your heart, follow your loved ones, make those choices and it will be okay.

So that would be my advice.

Naji: Thank you so much, you’re such an inspiration and a real example for so many leaders, uh, around the word. Thank you so much.

Christi Shaw: Thank you so much Naji, and thank you for this podcast and for creating this, uh, for everyone it’s, it’s really exciting and, uh, uh, really, uh, a real, really great tool that I will pass along.

Naji: Thank you again. So, so honored and humbled to hear it from you.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this very special episode with Chinedu Echeruo, a serial entrepreneur, Dreamer and cofounder of Love and Magic Company!

Chinedu believes that individuals, empowered by imagination and inspiration, can solve virtually any problem. He dared to invent the future starting in 2005, when he founded HopStop, the pioneering travel app that helped millions of users navigate public transportation in major metropolitan areas around the world that Apple acquired in 2013. Chinedu also founded Tripology, a lead-generation and referral business for the travel industry. Tripology was acquired by Rand McNally and now owned by USA Today.
Prior to completing his M.B.A., Chinedu spent several years at J.P Morgan Chase where he was involved in a broad range of M&A, financing, and private equity transactions.
Chinedu has been featured in multiple media and is committed to making the world a better, more cohesive place through the free flow of information.

Chinedu – I am exited and honored to have you on this episode of a podcast striving to make the world of better through a loving leadership!

Chinedu Echeruo: So excited to have you with me. Thank you for inviting me. I’m looking forward to, uh, our company.

Naji: I’d love first to hear more about your personal story, your journey, your leadership journey behind your amazing achievements.

Chinedu Echeruo: Oh, well, thank you again for inviting me. Um, So I’m getting more and more courageous, um, and kind of sharing, um, some of the thoughts, um, and, and kind of my, uh, my story.

So thank you for, uh, making space, um, um, to share with you with your, with your community. Um, so I grew up in Nigeria. Nigeria is on the, uh, on the west coast of, uh, of Africa as I came in when I was 16, but before I got to the U S. I was always struck by, uh, by poverty and suffering. Uh, not because I experienced it personally, uh, just because I think I grew up in a very privileged Willy, but I saw it all around me and I remember.

That’s a kid. Uh, my, my grades plants and, uh, software in on the African continent was two breeds. Rabbits. You know, I had this idea that rabbits, if I read in a book somewhere, that if you, if you add rabbits had lots of children. So I figured then this is my nine year old mind. If I, if I go rapids and they breed it and they breed it and it will be like an infinite number.

Rabbits and that would, and, um, Africa’s a hundred Congo problem. So I actually ended up actually going into my mom, asking for my, my savings and investing in a rabbit cage and rabbits and experiments that didn’t work. Uh, but I think that that idea of using business, uh, to solve real business of real human problems has always, uh, uh, stayed with me then through.

Um, my years in investment banking and finance, I think I got a more, uh, newest, uh, understanding of what that bigger system, uh, looks like. And I think. I went, what I’m excited about now is how can we share that technology of creation of abundance in a way that is practical, but it’s also sustainable and in a way, in a very real way, true to like the human expert.

Naji: Thanks. Thanks for sharing your story. So you you’re, you’re talking about, you know, business for good. How, how do you define your purpose before going into your, the last company you co-founded?

Chinedu Echeruo: Yeah, so it’s actually an interesting question because in a way, the only way I can answer the question is to also answer it for myself.

Right? So you have this kind of like, Self reference in that loop in a way. And in a way that’s really been my goal with the past few years is try to really try and bring coherence, you know, really bring a coherent philosophy of life. Um, so to speak and understand what is the, what is the physics of value?

You know, Since the statistics have meaning in a very real way. And so this is the way I think I’ve been able to make sense of, of, of my own human journey. And, and that’s also a framework. I think other people can use, uh, to, to create value for themselves and hopefully value for their organizations or meaning for their organizations as well.

So it’s really, that’s what the simplest way of telling the story is to really think of human experience as the hero’s journey. That whoever you are, uh, whatever circumstances you have, your, and there’s something you strive for. There’s a set point of imagination or goal you seek, and between where you are now and, and that goal, uh, dragons of complexity, things that just stop you at least a fearful, right?

So what I think good is. Good at this, that remove the fare, remove the dragons, remove the obstacles to human subjective progress. Right. So, so in that way, um, so if I can do that for other people, then that’s value for other people. So. With the, with the, uh, with the teachings we have, and then, uh, in our services, we can help people conquer complexity, help them achieve their own imagination, then that, then that’s in a way that’s the most service I can, I can, I can bring to someone else’s life.

And so maybe let me make it more practical. So let’s say the healthcare industry, for example, There’s a human being. That’s in pain, real pain, mental pain, physical pain. And if you can ground your organization. In the transformation of that human being from where they are now in the states of suffering to where they aspire to be ease, lower anxiety, lack of pain, happiness.

If you can ground your organization in the transformation and the necessary transformation. Of that human experience from bad to good, then you, you would have really done the best you can do, right. Really to transform human life and enable that human being to be where they wants to be. Uh, so in a way, so that’s the way I frame my purpose is if I can build, um, um, systems that can help human beings.

Reach the goal they want to reach, then that will be my most service, uh, to the world. And it will be the most meaning I can create for myself. So that’s the way I’ve, I’ve tried to frame this question, but obviously this is something that’s taken me a while to think about. How can you create coherence through this, through the dimensions of work, personal life?

Um, there’s so many aspects that all need to, uh, to have coherent.

Naji: Wow. And this is ultimately having impact on leaders who are driving organizations and you’re multiplying your impact by thousands.

Chinedu Echeruo: Right. That’s so powerful. Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you. Thank you for saying that. And, um, it’s one of those things where it’s also my hero’s journey, right?

Because the Herculean. Statement I made has to be backed up with lots of thoughts, lots of action, and lots of, um, storytelling to really, um, uh, tell, um, to, to kind of share the ideas in a way that’s palatable and understandable to people, uh, because you know, that’s, that’s the only real friction for us to share and truly communicate with each other.

Um, so, so thank you for saying. Sure

Naji: you have in your, um, in your latest company, you co-founded, um, love and magic. Well, I’m so interested, obviously with both words, you know, our podcast is focused on love and organizations and we share this word and magic is just such an amazing word. Innovation imagination and imagining a better word.

W how did you came up with those two words? And then if you can tell us a little bit more about, um, about your company and what

Chinedu Echeruo: you’re doing. Sure. Sure. Okay. So, um, I was in Nigeria, this was 2013. Um, at the, uh, my two sons were about, uh, my twin boys were about to be born and I was asking really God, that was really trying to find purpose and clarity of what the next part of my life would be.

Then all of a sudden, um, uh, apple, uh, approach, uh, the company I founded bought. And, um, and then literally in your three month periods, um, apple acquired a hub stuff. Okay. And at that point I realized looking, well, what just happened? And, um, and why can’t we have more of that? Right. What is, you know, really the question is how do I DIA’s turn to things?

Like how did I go from nuts where as a hedge fund analyst, I wasn’t sure about creating a story. And I went from that point. So having exited, um, HopStop right. So what was that process? And so what I, what I realized, and it’s like, if I could imagine the best life possible, the most adventurous life possible, then that would be it really trying to tame this, this process of how do people manifest?

How do ideas turns to Benz? How do you go from where you are now to where you aspire to be? So that was the challenge, but. Um, I didn’t, I didn’t know that there was an answer and to add to the question, um, but it’s really through, um, three intense thoughts and dedication to this question. Yes. With now emerge with some structure that we can now hopefully share with leaders, uh, to, to help them transform, uh, thoughts and idea of projects and opportunity into something that’s real.

That’s um, that’s in the world. That’s hopefully helping people, making money growing, and also growing financial goals. As a way of helping people, which is at the end of the day, the only real sustainable strategy you have. So in PR in practical terms, what we do at the love and magic company is we help people birth ecosystems, uh, per new concepts and help them put some structure, how they can go from an idea to something that’s alive, um, in, in the world.

Naji: That’s great. And you, you talk specifically, the first thing we see on your website is, um, go building beloved organization. Yeah. So what, what do you mean by business? I know the word love. We always have this reaction, like love organization. I have it constantly, right? Like how love can work in corporate

Chinedu Echeruo: world.

Yeah. So actually I realized I didn’t actually ask the specific question you asked. Okay. So what is love? Like how, where, where is space for long in the world of business? Okay. So, okay. So to answer that question, right, there’s a, there’s a whole field of science known as complexity science, right. And if you go deep into that, you’ll see.

All, all the world is interrelated and a really kind of spooky, uh, not spooky in some it’s it’s unmeasurable. It’s just that it’s, it’s it’s, uh, you can’t determine what those, what that correlation is. So the very most mathematical view of reality is this web of. Into real, into relatedness. So love it. Even though it might seem like a non-scientific non business world, it’s actually probably the most, um, accurate description of what reality is, is when, so that’s love, right?

That’s deep interconnectedness that one day. Of being right. So if you understand that, then it has huge implications from innovation, from a technology, from a storytelling, from a business perspective, that in a way, so you can also think of. As turning the potential into reality, right. Turning that potential right.

Of love that infinite possibility. How do you now manifest it? How do you bring it to the, how do you put structure in your imagination? How do you make it real? How do you, how do you make it like electricity, where it actually helps people in their daily lives? Right. So in a way it’s, it’s really, you can think of love and magic as that’s gold, like bringing it.

Uh, imagination and love and potential, but not just talking about it, but also bringing it into kind of reality in the form of a structure in the form of an organization in the form of an ecosystem. In the form of a startup, uh, as well.

Naji: So, you know, you obviously co-founded startup your exit, your successful entrepreneur, and you’re obviously built in right to be successful like performance, and now you’re helping other organizations, other D there is build their teams.

Is there like a common thread that you are seeing or that you believe in. For high-performing successful teams that leaders should have.

Chinedu Echeruo: Yeah. At a hundred percent. And it’s, it’s something that, um, as I, as, as we go on building these beloved organizations are understanding and nuances of that complexity becomes clearer and clearer.

So one aspect that’s I think in terms of, um, ways of, of, of all these frameworks, I think a leader can practically use to really try to harness. Potential is to do something that’s about matching the values of the people in the organizations and connecting our value to the values of the organization. So any company, any leader that can connect those two aspects has, has unleashed magic in the organization has unleashed innovation has unleashed a creative space.

Okay. Now, practically, how would you do that? So the first thing is really taking the time as a leader to have an inventory and have people get to their own levels of self inventory and self-assessment of what they value and a practical way to do that is to take a personality test as, so there’s a, there’s a, there’s a site called on the stand myself.

And so that has, uh, I think I’m not affiliated with the program, but that’s a, a simple test you can take. And that I think gives you clinical data on self, who are you at least statistically in instead of what kind of personality types you have then based on that you can then bubble up your value. So, let me give you an example.

So if you’re an introvert’s right, you probably value, um, one-on-one conversations. Um, you probably value, uh, Um, social gathering. So that has implications on the decisions you make. Uh, if your, if you score high on or low on or high on neuroticism, for example, your focus on peers are fearful. So in a team dynamics, you’re focused on what could go wrong.

Right. But until you, you understand that about yourself, right? You can really, um, be able to know what you value. So personality maps to value. So once you’ve done that, then you can cannot map those values to the organizational values is your match. Right? And if you can do that, then you’ve connected the true value things that people truly wanted there.

Right to giving them an opportunity to do that within your organizational context. Right? So that’s the key. And if you can frame the purpose of your organization as helping the heal another person’s hero’s journey, then you will have an incredible opportunity for people to connect the very real way to another human.

So the person in accounting, doesn’t just think of themselves in doing bills and medical records. They see themselves as removing the anxiety around what that patients will receive after the operation. Right? So if, if you frame your accountant, your challenge is this human being just came up through this incredibly difficult experience.

It’s been three months after their surgery. And as a human being, what can you send them to help that journey of transformation? Right? So once you frame it like that, then you have true empathy. You have a true unleashing of capacity within your organizations, right? And people can now reframe their work, not just as a thing they do, but as services to another human being.

And once you can do that as, as, as an organization, you’ve tapped into. Love right. You’ve tapped into a deep, deep phenomena in, in, in life. Right. Which is, which is what I just described.

Naji: I love this. Uh, and you know, I’m, I’m totally with you on it. And that’s what I trying at least to convey also at my level, with, with leadership and this loving and caring, genuinely caring for your people and their organization.

One of, one of the, you know, salts that come out, I would ask it from both sides. I would love to hear your thoughts since you’re working with teams on this, the first one is from a personal standpoint, do I want to share. Those, those type, you talked about psychology, right? And it’s, it might feel for some, some vulnerable pieces.

Like, you know, I’m an introvert. Do I want to share this with my manager? Who might be an extrovert? Right. So, yeah. And the same for managers. So what are your thoughts for people in the organization and then for. Who have people and who would say, for example? Yeah. And I, I’m not a psychologist. I’m not here to listen about like all my team’s problems, uh, w which I completely disagree with, but what ha what are your thoughts about, about these two

Chinedu Echeruo: aspects?

Sure. Okay. Yeah. So let me, yeah. So wonderful questions. So to start off with the team members themselves, so. So, uh, obviously one of the things that’s, um, um, um, I’m I deal with and I’m, and I’ve heard many people deal with that is this idea of imposter syndrome. If you think about it, why do, why would you ever have imposter syndrome?

Right. So the truth is you should have an imposter syndrome. If you’re being an imposter. The question is how are you being an impostor simple as that? I, you been unemployed. So what is not being an imposter and being an imposter is being true is being as you are or not judging yourself as you are. If you understand that every uniqueness is all part of the human tapestry, every in cultures that didn’t have aggressive, people were conquered.

You need aggressive people. To go and defend against the lions and against the enemies you need. Um, introverted people to look deep into the structure of phenomena. You need Einsteins to unravel truths about the world. We need everyone. So I think that’s the first, I think perhaps the normative culture of organizations to be a certain way in a way, deprives human beings of.

Benefits of the relaxation of being who they are. Right. And instead of trying to use energy to be somebody else, which is in a way a waste, why don’t we let people know what type of animals they are? I mean, personality wise, right. And not try to be, go from being Alliance, being a giraffe. Just try to figure out how you, how you could possibly be the best lion.

And if you’re introverted be introverted, if you’re neurotic, be neurotic, but be neurotic in a way that helps us win, helps that customer succeed helps that customer’s frustration. Um, go away and make their stew brewery come true. Right. So I think if you frame it that way, then we relax, then we’re not so judging of ourselves or whether we should be introverted or extroverted.

Right. Calm as you are bringing your superpower because you’re not, you’re not a, you’re not a throw away. You are uniquely your unique in your perspective. And so I think that’s a person on the team level then on the, on the, on the leadership. You’re the capacity of the team to discern these dynamics and actually have a fully is, is actually a prerequisite for a functioning team.

That team that doesn’t know what individually you value and doesn’t map that value to what the team values is. That is a team that isn’t, um, isn’t a high-performance team. So you have to find what is it truly? What’s the intrinsic. And again, this was a researcher and it was the intrinsic motivation of your team members.

And how can you tie that intrinsic there? And that intrinsic thing. An external thing. It’s a value. It’s a belief. It’s a it’s I, I am this type of person. So the keys, how can you bubble up, bubble it up and then, uh, connected to something the team needs to do so that, that other human beings life could be better.

Right? That’s you know, that could be a really simple way of framing it. So individual, so organizations and organizations to human life. Right. That could be the connections of value.

Naji: Great. I like this is, this is super powerful that I hope will hold off us as leaders. We’ll, uh, we’ll take this and are taking this.

I did daily basis to make our organizations better and the word better. I’d love now a teenager to jump into a section where I will give you one word and I want to get your first reaction to this word. So the first one is leadership.

Chinedu Echeruo: Oh, leadership insight, vision.

Naji: What about, uh, entrepreneurship

Chinedu Echeruo: fate? Would you want one word or more?

Naji: I feel you want to give more, tell me more than,

Chinedu Echeruo: okay. So can leadership, right? So leadership is about staring, right? And to stare, you know, like, uh, you’re pointing to something you’re telling people, look, there’s something there, come this way.

Good left. Go right. Go left. Right. So in a way, leadership is, is the capacity to discern. A location of value. Right. So that’s the, okay. And then, um, then you mentioned entrepreneurship and I said, fate, and the reason why I said that is, um, there’s no, there’s not, there is there’s no, there’s no such thing as matter.

Right. So everything is a belief. So entrepreneurship in a way is the most epic, uh, journey of belief. Right? So you’re going out on a limb and you’re trying to figure it out. Um, you, you have faith that this concept you’ve dreamed up in your head actually is real, and you’ve gone on this epic journey of faith to go find it.

So that’s why I said, um, uh, entrepreneurship and faith.

Naji: What about, uh, spread love and organizations

Chinedu Echeruo: spread love? I would say spread IntelliJ.

Yeah, spread intelligence. Um, because that’s, you know, think about it every time you look at any act of suffering, any injustice, right? At the end of the day, it’s really in a way you always think of it as an act of ignorance in some way, fundamentally. Right. So if we frame love as really just about enlightening, Right.

It’s just, you just, you just didn’t know. Right? You didn’t know that she was you, right. You didn’t know your customers. Where were you? You didn’t know that human beings were related to the environment. You just didn’t know. Right? So you, you polluted the environment. Oh. So in a way, love, in a way it’s like it’s a growing consciousness.

It’s a growing intelligence. Of this, uh, this kind of interrelatedness, right. And I think as human beings, we can move up levels of these of consciousness. Right. And, and, and in a way, love is this constant seeking of connection, right. Constantly all the time with all phenomena. Right. And seeing yourself in everything and seeing that kind of.

That, that fullness, that, that oneness of that interrelatedness of all things,

Naji: I love how you, you know, you go from love to this, as you said, deep interconnectedness, and then to this one straight, and this shared consciousness at the end that you can get to for us to be able to imagine better.

Chinedu Echeruo: Yeah. And it’s not just, um, um, uh, uh, talk because in many ways I am, I am my biggest skeptic.

Like I’m always, I always bring in my as well, try to have some sort of formulism that can really test the hypothesis. And, um, so, uh, so it’s just the truth that you need to, you need structure in, you know, everything has to have any symmetry, anything that’s beautiful. Has deep structure in it. So that point is, has, could tell you so much about, about what’s, uh, what beauty is.

So this idea is like, if sending anything that’s coherence has symmetry, right. And anything that, in a way you can think of symmetry as a, as, as a way of beauty, right? So description of beauty. So in a way, another way of maybe think of what you’re saying. Um, and in many ways, what I’m seeing as. Is that what is beautiful in the world?

What is coherence and what is coherence is something that in a way takes into, it takes in consideration of all things, right? Of all things is coherence. It doesn’t, it doesn’t leave anything out, it fits together. Right? So in a way, that’s another way of thinking about law in the business context is you want your team.

To be, to use the most amount of information to be most aware, to be most conscious right of the sessions they’re making you. ’cause when you do that, revenue goes up, customer satisfaction goes up, retention goes up, uh, cashflow goes up, uh, stock market valuations, go up, you get a raise, your parents and your children love you more.

Perfect. Everyone wins if you do that. So the question is how, how do you unlock that? And it brings back to what you were saying about imagination. Is that when, when leaders are looking for how to grow revenue, but hasn’t reduced margin increase margins. What they’re really looking for is how can they really tap into the problem solving skills of their employees and partners?

That’s the challenge? How do you unlock. The potential, the problem solving skills of your, of your team, because if you can do that, revenue will go up. Okay. So now, so what, so how do you, how do you do that practically? So the one insight I just want to share here is that the way you do that is by having your team members, dear, be brave enough to ask a question.

And the question is how, how do we grow? How do we help our customers succeed? How do we do that? And, uh, but when you do that, then you not have the possibility of imagination. So most of the time we go first with what is. And be bound by what is, but sometimes if we start off with a question, how can we do this?

Right? And you allow your team members to truly express their unique creativity and not be boxed up into the pain and the fear of your organization. You find. Imagination will flow. Ideas will come, right? And those ideas are the hypothesis for you to not experiment with good check. If that customer loves that, I did check if retention increased check, if your, uh, your customer service call rates declined, uh, when you did that, send a message to those employees, to those customers.

So that’s when we have pre making this practical. To think of creativity and imagination and love as an opportunity to let creativity lack imagination come through. And if you can let those things come through your team members, those will lead to the solving of the, of the bottlenecks of group. The bottlenecks of a customer metrics, the customer, the metrics of valuations, whatever it is that they have, your six of your sex is an act of imagination from your team members.

So if that’s true, invest in it, because you’ll find that that’s where you answered.

Naji: Totally and letting the team, as you said, be courageous to say how, and I would add one small thing is, and you’ve said it many times is receiving what they say and actually act upon it because many times, you know, we might go and say, well, this is the issue, and this is how you need to do it.

Right. Because we think we’re better, but like opening up and receiving the best of our people is so cool.

Chinedu Echeruo: Yeah. And, and again, all, again, all I’m saying is also, there’s a, there’s lots of formulism too, but another way of saying this there’s an, there’s a, there’s an economist named Hayak and he talked about the optimal use of information in society.

And so he basically said, So the everyone should optimize the information that the unique information they have. Right. And if we all did that, we would solve, we will create economic surplus. So in a very real way, when, at, when the leader tells their team to make a decision based on their own information, they’re being wasteful.

So what you want to do is to have either. Team member given their own unique situation, given their own unique experiences, they own insight into the customer pain, their own insight into that conversation they had on the phone with that. I read customer. Right. Take all that information and bring it in right to use, to optimize the use of information.

And so you do that on the local level, you don’t do it on the CEO, on the team leader level, you do it on you do it on the team level, right. Ring. Um, all the people who have different ideas and then, um, mind-meld and, and play around with those ideas. Right. And then test it. Okay. And, and, and, um, it’s true.

What you said, there’s a resistance to, um, test and I did, especially as a leader, if you don’t believe those ideas are good. Uh, that’s very understandable. So, um, to address that, what I would, um, advise is that, um, business leaders set up systems for rapid testing of ideas. Okay. So what I’ve found is that most of the clients we work with don’t have ways they can quickly test tonight.

So, if you don’t have a way you can quickly test and I did, then the costs of testing idea becomes extremely high and you don’t want to do it right? Because especially if you don’t think it will work. So if you, if you build systems that will quickly alight you test ideas, you will find that you’re more, you’re more, you’re more agreeable and you can let these ideas come out because one of them could be the idea you have, that you boast that you most needed to drive.

Um, business metric, um, and instead of holding onto those ideas and build systems to let those ideas be more quickly, um, tested as fast as possible.

Naji: Yes. Thanks again for those advices, that will be precious for all of our listeners. I want to ask you a last question, any final word of wisdom for, for those leaders across the globe, trying to make an impact from the.

Chinedu Echeruo: Oh, I didn’t, if I’m, if I’m at the point of wisdom to your, to your, to, to your audience. But I think I, all I have to do is maybe share what half bounds. So I’ve searched high and low, uh, for, um, for assets, uh, for myself. And, um, and, um, and what I have found is that at end of the day, it’s comes back to what we’ve always known.

That it’s about love and that, um, meaning. Comes from, um, our capacity to help another human being. Who’s. You know, in, in finding meaning and finding, um, and making that life story come true. And as the leader, we have the epic opportunity to, to do that and do it that skill and be thoughtful and intentional about, um, the kinds of organizations we’re building and having that there center of your organization.

Your true desire to help kill the dragons. That’s in the way of the, of the, of the human experience of your team members and your customers. I think that is a coherence, a way to create wealth for yourself, but also have a sustainable and, uh, and, and happy life. So thank you. Thank you very much for, um, uh, for this company.

Naji: Thank you so much before for such an inspiring, uh, discussion full of tips for the leaders, listening to us. Thank you.

Chinedu Echeruo: Thank you. Okay. Take care.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this very special episode like no other with Brie Doyle, founder of She Glows Retreats and Author of the great book YOU SHOULD LEAD NOW: Going on Retreat to Find your Way Back to Yourself!

This episode is like no other, we will be hearing from Brie about how to take care about ourselves as leaders – a key subject, yet rarely seriously considered by many of us…

Brie hosts transformational wellness retreats throughout the US and across the globe and is the founder of She Glows Retreats. She specializes in curating mental and emotional wellness curriculum for groups, conscious companies, schools and individuals.  A yoga and meditation teacher for over twenty years, Brie is a leader in the health and wellness space who helps people heal their past and reclaim their power.  Her first book, comes out this July – be on the lookout! Brie lives in Boulder, Colorado, with her husband and three kids.

Brie Doyle: Thanks so much Naji. I’m so excited to be here,

Naji: Brie, before traveling with you on a retreat. If I might say it that way, I’d love to hear more about your personal story and your journey, founding your company and writing this very first

Brie Doyle: book.

Absolutely. Yeah. I’d love to share more. um, so I, so I grew up in, um, Boulder, Colorado, actually, and I live here now, so I moved away for a bit, but I, um, grew up, you know, both my parents, my parents were married. I had, um, I have two younger brothers and, um, I grew up, I was a really shy, quiet kid. I, um, you know, I was smaller and younger for my grade.

So I was, I was pretty quiet in class and I, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. That was something I really, you know, I loved children at a young age. So that was something I pursued. And, um, you know, from there I taught, I taught in schools actually for quite a while before, um, before having my own kids.

So I kind of started there and then, um, going further into my, into my professional career. So I, so I taught in New York city for a while. That was a wild experience. um, and then I taught in, um, Boulder, Colorado. For 10 years. And then once I had my kids, I decided to stay home with my kiddos, cuz my husband has a big job and travels quite a lot.

Um, so that was when I started writing. Um, yeah, so it kind of started there.

Naji: awesome. And, and so from, from there, how did you, um, you know, went into this, your belief if around retreats and they’re, you know, they’re, well, I, I would say in, uh, for leaders, right. And how to thrive, uh, in your life?

Brie Doyle: So retreating became important for me for a lot of reasons. I actually, I studied abroad when I was in college. I lived in Nepal actually, and I met a Buddhist meditation teacher and I, you know, became really interested in and. Studied under him and read constantly about Buddhism.

And I started taking retreats that way. And I was, you know, in my twenties at that time. And, um, so I came home and I took, I continued to take regular retreats just as a practice, um, to, to kind of pull away from my daily life and meditate and relax. And. Dig deeper into kind of my inside life. And, um, but then I had kids and things changed a little bit.

It became harder to leave, um, as I’m sure many of, you know, uh, so, so I, you know, I had a few years where I hadn’t taken a retreat for a while and, and there was a point where I was really kind of struggling. I found myself, you know, just deplete did and exhausted and, um, Just, I, I was, I was feeling a little bit lost.

And so I said to my husband, I was like, you know, I think I need to take a retreat. I know we have three small kids. It’s a hard time for me to leave, but I, I think I need to go on a retreat. And thankfully he was, um, really understanding and I went on a retreat and what I realized is that, you know, there was nothing wrong with, with me.

There was, I was just exhausted. I just needed more of myself, you know, so stepping away was really important. And, and so going on that trip, and then I came home, I realized. Gosh, you know, I’m not the only one who feels like this. I know that other people, whether it’s from parenting or work or whatever it is, are dealing with exhaustion and burnout and, you know, feeling, feeling sad, heavy feelings like that.

So, so that’s where I started my business was from that point, just, just realizing that other people, you know, need some kind of container or, or motivation to step away themselves.

Naji: Yeah. This is social and for, you know, for many leaders, We always say, you, you have to, uh, take care of yourself to be able to take care of others, right?

Like the self-love and you even use this word in, uh, in your book around self-love, but many of us would see it as a little bit selfish. You know, if I, if I may use the word, you know, to go on a retreat or do this, um, and, and we, any times we say, yeah, we need to take care of about ourself, but. We don’t have time, you know, we always find excuses not to do it.

What, what would you, what would be your advice for, um, for many of us, uh, you know, who, who need it, but won’t do it.

Brie Doyle: Totally. I, and I, and I hear that all the time is that, gosh, it feels so indulgent, you know, and, and one of my beliefs is that, you know, if we’re really gonna take care of other people, it has to start with ourself and it’s a discipline.

You know, it seems like this really nice frivolous thing that, that people who have lots of money or lots of free time might do. But the thing is if, if we’re really leaders in our industry or in our homes, or we’re ever were leaders, you know, we have to model this kind of behavior because. When you’re, when you’re, when you’re modeling this for the people that work for you or the people that live with you, then they themselves feel permission to do the same sort of thing.

So, honestly, I see it as a sense of discipline, um, that a leader would take this kind of break because it’s not common and it’s not encouraged. You know, our society is like, go, go, go more, more, more push, push, push. And, and we’re, you know, Staggering numbers of mental health issues. You know, we think about health and we think it’s all related to our physical bodies.

You know, we have all kinds of like foods. We should be eating exercises we should be doing. But the only thing we hear about mental health are like the really horrifying statistics. You know, it’s like one in four, uh, adults right now has a diagnosable mental health, um, challenge, you know, and that’s really significant.

Um, I think it’s, I, this is in my book too, but I think it’s, um, oh, let’s see. Uh, Um, um, um, oh, 10.3 million adults have suicidal thoughts, you know, um, suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 19 year olds. So this is, this is really significant, you know, it’s not any it’s, it’s not something that we can treat lightly anymore, like dealing and, and making space for our mental health is really significant.

If we’re gonna talk about health, we have to talk about the mental, emotional components, not just like what’s going on with our heart, what’s going on with our lungs. You know, it’s a lot deeper than that. Yeah. Yeah.

Naji: We, we, we don’t know. We, we never learned right in school, how to deal with emotions, how to talk about them.

Like how many times, you know, with my team, we, especially during, uh, this past year that we had, right. With the pandemic, starting to talk about emotions, how important it’s true. You know, technology connected us, but there’s myth of human warmth. Yeah. That is definitely bringing, uh, I, I hope we won’t get into a new pandemic.

With mental health, but it’s, it’s definitely a big issue that we will, uh, we will be facing. So, yeah, it’s, it’s great. What you’re doing and spreading this important, uh, notion about taking care of ourselves. Uh, Bria, how would you define we? We talked about retreat. I’d love to hear. What do you mean by retreat?

Brie Doyle: Yeah, of course. So for me, a retreat is really just taking time, a set period of time and pulling away from your day to day life, you know, pulling out of your daily duties, all the shoulds and the have tos and unplugging. I, I suggest on my retreats that all my participants, you know, they shut off their phones.

They send one final email to family and work say, Hey, you know, I’ll be back in touch. After the weekend or after the week or whatever duration you’ve decided and really kind of shutting out that world to focus on your inner world and really just to kind of realign realign yourself, you know, I mean, it starts with very basic things.

So like getting proper sleep. I mean, these are things we totally take for granted. And in our day to day life, we. We don’t value things like sleep or eating, nourishing food, or being out in nature. These things that are very basic and fundamental to our species, but we, this is not, again, these are not values that are honored in our society.

So it’s coming back to those really basic principles that seem like, oh, of course I do that. But over a lifetime, we start as. To slip away from some of those habits. So it’s bathing ourselves in those habits again. And that’s how retreating starts is really kind of allowing yourself to sleep. You know, allowing yourself really basic things and then, but it goes much deeper than that.

You know, I, I believe on retreat that it’s different than like a vacation it’s different than like a weekend away with friends. You go away for like a higher spiritual intent. So I always suggest that people bring either a podcast or a book or something that’s gonna challenge you or help you grow in a certain way.

Um, particularly if you’re going on your own, you know, you can either join an organized retreat or you can retreat by yourself. So it, it, you, my book kind of breaks down how to choose what is best for you, whether you should just go by yourself or to join a group. Um, there’s so many ways to retreat right now.

It’s. It’s wonderful. Um, but it’s worth considering, you know, what is best for you at a certain time. So it’s really just pulling away, um, shutting out your day to day duties and just allowing time for yourself

Naji: a and would this be something that you would do like once a year, once a semester, is there any advice around, you know, timing of those.

Brie Doyle: Yes. I, you know, I, my husband and I have this packed where we each go once a year, that right. We are kind of in the throes of life, you know, we both have big careers, we have kids. And so that feels reasonable. I mean, I, of course I’d love to go more, but that feels like a reasonable duration. If I can go more great.

But typically once a year, and that’s a pact, I keep with myself because one of the things that happens is once you say, okay, I’m gonna go on a retreat, then you easily start to talk yourself out of it. Like, oh, I don’t really actually have time for that. Or, oh, this is a bad weekend for me. So I suggest like committing to some duration or some or some, um, you know, every year, something like, like that, that feels reasonable and sticking with that because you will try to kind of weasel your way out of it.

Naji: and, and in between. Like this one year D which, uh, I, I definitely agree with you, like shutting down disconnecting is, is so important, right? At least, uh, we need it at least once a year. Right? Absolutely. What any advice on, in between those times? Right? Because our brain, uh, I’m also a big believer of, uh, the not only intensity, right, but more being consistent, uh, with, with what we do.

Yes. Uh, and our brain has always turned on with many different hats that we have. Yeah. Any advices or anything that you do personally, between those retreats to keep on reenergizing yourself, stepping back, being mindful, a any tips for, for us as leaders.

Brie Doyle: Sure. I mean, I, you know, I really think committing to some sort of daily practice.

I mean, we hear this all the time, but I appreciate that. You said, you know, consistency really matters. Cause I agree with you. I mean, I think it’s our habits that really determine who we become. So for me, my personal practice, I’m a morning person. I think you have to kind of. Consider am I morning person or a night person, but for me, I’m a morning person.

So I like to get up in the morning and I, you know, do yoga, do some meditation before the kids get up. And, um, you know, there’s so many different apps out there. There’s so many different supports to do meditation or yoga just from your living room. And that’s. Those are the things I do. And then also breathwork.

So I do those three every single morning and you know, occasionally here and there I’ll miss, like if we’re traveling or if I wake up, I don’t sleep well and I wake up late, then I’ll just do like just meditation or something like that. But I, I try to have a really firm, um, Practice for my internal, you know, wellspring, because I feel like, like you said, it’s, it’s a stacking effect.

It’s not something you do once, just like a retreat. I mean, it’s not something you do one time and say, okay, I’m, I’m good. , it’s a, it’s a regular practice. So again, finding the time of day that works for you and committing to that. And again, if you, if you commit really firmly to two weeks of that, then you’ll have a new pattern, you know?

So finding that, finding that time of day and. Honestly, I mean, 10 minutes makes a world of difference. It doesn’t have to be hours. It can be 10 minutes. And frankly, if you don’t have 10 minutes in your day, then, you know, I think it’s time to reprioritize.

Naji: yeah. Take a minute to plan for it, right. Exactly.

Brie Doyle: Exactly. Yeah.

Naji: Uh, brief from, uh, from your, uh, you should leave now. That is. That is going to be published very soon. July 13th, right? Yes. Awesome. Uh, you, you, uh, you share nine elements of a retreat. Uh, what would be the top two that, that you can share right now?

Brie Doyle: Yeah, the top two. So, um, you know, we spoke about one briefly, which is, um, disconnecting from work and home life.

So again, that’s just being really clear and I, and I again suggest sending an email or, um, some kind of communication. So there’s a hard line when you leave. Like, I love you all so much, unless there’s an emergency, we don’t need to be in touch. Um, because it’s hard, you know, we, and you get on retreat, you start to feel bored or you start to miss your people and then, or you start to think, gosh, I really should be working on that.

And that pulls you completely out of your. Phase. So really being firm about disconnecting from work and home life and another practice that this is a hard one for people, but I, I believe really firmly in this practice is using silence as a tool when you’re on retreat. So when you’re, when you’ve pulled away, this is easy to do when you’re by yourself, right?

Because you’re not interacting with lots of people, but if you join and program, it’s harder to find moments of silence. And the reason that I, that I feel this way is we. Been so much of our lives, just inundated with conversations and opinions and constantly bumping up against people, whether it’s via zoom or seeing people that drop off our kids’ playground, you know, at the school or friends or family, whatever it is, we’re constantly chatting.

And sometimes we lose that, that sense of like what we really, that felt sense that inner voice that we know is there. And so when you, when you take out that element of. Speaking all the time, then, you know, different, different, um, different things start to bubble up for you. Different ideas, different creative insights, different, um, synchronicities, all of these things start to come forward.

So using silence as a tool on your retreat, like for me, when I go by myself, but I’ll stay at, usually I’ll stay at a, a retreat center. I’ll have the morning be total silence. So even though people are having breakfast and some people are having conversations, I just sit by myself and stay silent. .

Naji: I, I love this.

I, I miss silence. So , I love that if we try it.

Brie Doyle: yeah. Sorry. When you have two, when you have kids at home, you realize it’s like, you really value it even more.

Naji: yeah. What is, if, if I were ask, like, what is your best learning or, you know, the best experience you had during a person? I retreated.

Brie Doyle: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a great question.

I, um, you know, so one of the was my idea for this book actually came as a result of a retreat and all the chapters, it was like, I had had two days of silence, you know, the first day is kind of hard. You’re kind of battling through like your old patterns of home and you’re feeling like bored and like you to be doing more.

But by the second day, you kind of start to drop down a little bit and settle down, calm down. . So after that second day, it was. The third day came and it was, I, you know, I was meditating and then I had gone for a hike. And on that hike, I had the idea for, for this book, that’s now being published and it was like, it all came to me in a matter of, you know, an hour.

And I couldn’t, I couldn’t get my pen to move fast enough. I mean, I was just joting down millions of ideas. And it’s funny because that’s that journal is the journal that I use to kind of reflect back on when I was writing the actual book. So to me, that was really a big moment because I, you know, I’ve always wanted to have, I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I’ve, I’ve always been a writer.

Um, and I’ve worked with fiction. I’ve done all kinds of different things. So, so this really came true as a result of, for me, pulling away for retreats.

Naji: That that is. That is great. Thanks. Um, re uh, you know, our podcast is called spread love in organizations. I have to ask you, what do you think about this?

So what is your reaction when you hear spread love in organizations?

Brie Doyle: Uh, I mean, I think it’s an amazing way to use your gifts because I think, you know, I know you personally have had so much experience with like in the medical world, but to spread love in organizations is such an important thing, because if you wanna be a leader, right, we have to model this work and to share it among the business world, I think is.

So, so critical because we kind of tend to separate, you know, like thinking spiritual or personal over here, business over here. But when you can bring those two things together, then you feel so fulfilled. You know, I think that’s, I think you’re doing something very important and to have these conversations with people that coming from the heart, I mean, that’s.

We’re all desperate for deep connection. You know, we spend too much time with like surface level garbage and we’re all yearning to have real meaningful connection. So I think, you know, to have these conversations with people is really important. And to hear other people’s stories is this is an awesome way to spread love.

So I really honor what you’re doing. Thank you.

Naji: Yeah. Uh, I, I know you had different mentions in your book, uh, from great leaders, uh, who inspired you, uh, personally, spiritually, uh, anyone specifically that, that, uh, you would mention today?

Brie Doyle: I mean, Eckhart tole is to me, one of the all time rates of ever, you know, I, I reread his book, a new earth just on repeat, because I think.

There’s so much profound wisdom in that book and it’s so grounding. And so to me, I read that book regularly and I think his, his work really informs a lot of my opinions and I can listen to it or read it a hundred times and come up with something new every time. So I think his. His bit about, you know, um, the importance of meditation.

I mean, that’s another, one of the elements of retreat is meditating. Again, having some kind of way to handle are constantly ruminating thoughts. And, and my, my view of how to handle that is through the practice of meditation. And he talks a lot about this, really just creating spaciousness with inside your internal life.

So I think Ekar whole lake to me really stands out.

Naji: Uh, and any, any app or advice, you know, for busy business people, as we always, as we always would say, uh, that, that you would recommend, or that you use, or even any dip, like a habit that I can bring. Starting

Brie Doyle: tomorrow morning. Yes. Um, so have you, there’s a, there’s an app called insight timer, which I find it’s a meditation app and I think it’s really easy to use.

It’s really manageable. So that’s a great setting, a timer for yourself when you’re starting a meditation practice, I think is really important because you, you kind of sit down and suddenly you’re like, I wanna do this, or I need to do this. Your mind starts going all the over the place. So I think setting a timer is a really great practice cuz then you know that like you don’t have to be constantly thinking about when is this over you can, you can kind of relax.

Into what you’re doing. So it doesn’t have to be inside timer. It can just be a timer, but there, there are guided meditations on inside timer. So if you’re someone who’s a very busy mind, sometimes listening to a meditation is a really helpful thing, you know, if, if you wanna experiment. So, so in my book I talk about, there are two kinds of meditation.

There’s form meditation, and there’s. Meditation. So form meditation is when you’re focusing on something like you’re listening to music like Ural beats, for instance, you know, these are those beats that, that have the theta brainwave vibration. So then your brain matches them. That’s a really great thing to listen to too.

So Ural beats is great, but this is a, this is a kind of form meditation, or maybe you’ve heard of walking meditation again, that’s for meditation. And then. Form less meditation is just where you’re sitting down. There’s no music, there’s no stimulation. You’re just allowing your thoughts to come in and allowing them to go out.

So. So, you know, choose which, which, which direction you wanna go, um, form or formless. And I would say, you know, if you have a very busy mind, you don’t have a lot of experience meditating. I would start with form meditation. I would start listening to meditations or listening to the Ural beats, something like that.

So it feels a little bit more manageable. And I would also say do it in bite size pieces. So maybe 10 minutes is a great goal. 10 minutes every morning for two weeks or 10 minutes every night before you go to bed for two weeks. Um, I think that’s a great starting point, you know, from there you can add on breathwork and different things like that.

Um, Or yoga or any other or prayer or whatever practice feels connective to you. But I think meditation is just such a foundational. It doesn’t have to have any religious connotation whatsoever. It’s just a really important practice to my meditation teacher talks about, he calls it, um, making friends with ourselves.

So I love which I love. I love the lightness of that. You know, there’s no, sometimes the Western mind comes in with such like aggressive tendencies. Like I’ve gotta be the best meditator in the room or something , you know, and I, and I love the idea of just like, Making friends with ourselves just kind of softening softening, you know?

So, so that would be one tip is, um, you know, using it a timer using insight timer and choosing, do I wanna do form meditation or form less meditation? Um, another tip that I have is to, to UN start to understand your state and what I mean by that is. You know, we have times when we, we have habitual behavior.

So sometimes we, we feel lots of energy during the day. Sometimes we feel really low and tired during the day. So starting to notice where our energy dips and taking responsibility for it, there are three things we can do to change our state. So, you know, sometimes for me, I’ll notice like after I’m kind of like, Ugh, you know, a bit of a, a bit of a dip, I feel tired.

So there are a couple things you can do. You can change your focus. Change what you’re focusing on. So if I’m working up and working on the same thing for a long time, and I feel that dip in my state, I need to change what I’m focusing on. So I need to try something different, work on something different, you know, get up, move, something like that.

So if change your focus, you can change your physiology. So like I said, you can get up and move. You can go outside, you can run up the stairs really quick. You can jump of up and down 10 times. so that’s another way to quickly change your energetic. State or you can change your language to me, this is the most nuanced one changing, noticing how we speak.

If you’re saying, if it’s after lunch and you’re jumping in a meeting and you’re like, oh, I’m so tired. I’m just so tired. I can’t believe how tired I am then it’s just this reaffirming thing. So kind of starting to pay attention to the Lang language that we use around everything around how we. Speak about our state, around how we speak about our partnerships, about our work, all of these things.

So those three ways, and starting to take notice in your own life of how you can manage your state. Because I think sometimes we think we’re just victims to like, well, I’m just tired. And it’s like, no, actually you can do something to shift that. So to, so managing those three things would be another, um, and noticing in your day, like where do I dip or where, when do I get really angry or when do I get really sad, you know, starting to take notice and then taking ownership of that.

Naji: That’s that’s really great, great tips. I will be adding, you know, I’m like to share with you the, the one thing, uh, I’m trying to make it a habit now is, uh, but, but I need to move to 10 minutes. I’m doing like the triple two. So it’s two minutes of mindfulness, two minutes of, you know, planning two minutes of prioritizing every morning and I feel it changed your day.

Yes. But I need to get more into the 10 days, uh, 10 minutes, your meditation. I’m I’m taking a lot of. Fits from you today. And thank you so much for that.

Brie Doyle: Of course, I’m, I’m honored and that’s, that’s amazing that you do that practice. I mean, clearly you’re a leader, so you have these things in place, which is awesome.

It’s, it’s so fun to talk to other people too, because then you start to get new ideas, like, oh, I might wanna try this or read this. And so I think that’s a fun thing too. Just sharing different ideas. Like what do you do for your mind for in this practice? You know, another thing I love is thinking and feeling gratitude.

So like, Adding that at the end of your 10 minutes and not just thinking like here, like writing a list, here’s what I’m grateful for, but like really feeling it in your body because the body is so amazing. As you know, it’s like, you don’t have to, you don’t have to go through an experience. You can actually just think about an experience and physiologically all the same hormones are gonna go off.

So if you’re remembering and you’re heart, like the moment you met your amazing wife, Or the moment that you had your first child, it’s like, I get chills just talking about it because, and then, and then you feel energized, you know, you’re like, gosh, I do have so much to be grateful for. So it’s not just making a list of things.

That’s a fantastic thing to do of gratitudes, but it’s like feeling it in your body. It’s a whole, it’s a physiological reaction. And so learning to feel. Those emotions and practicing them, right? Because the emotions that we feel over and over again are they become habitualize right. So if we’re constantly pissed off , then we get really comfortable being pissed off.

And then everything in our environment shows us like, well, that guy is awful and this work sucks. And I don’t like, you know, so it becomes this habitualize thing, but if you like. Oh, wow. Like, I feel, I feel so grateful right now to have rain. I mean, we don’t usually get a lot of rain in Boulder, but it’s like dumping outside and it feels like it’s really green right now.

And it’s, it’s a silly little thing, but like to start to look for little things, to feel grateful for and then feel it it’s a whole different experience.

Naji: and, and you find a word, uh, real of, uh, final word of wisdom for leaders, uh, around the words specifically in healthcare. I’d love to hear something from you to yeah.

Healthcare leaders. ,

Brie Doyle: you know, I, I hate to go back to this always, but I actually, I don’t hate to go back to this at all. I think, um, claiming fully like taking planning a retreat for yourself and putting it on your calendar well, in advance. So being really, really disciplined about when your retreat is like making this part of your regular practice.

So that you have it on the calendar, you have something to look forward to and that’s gonna come for you. I think that’s critical. Um, and I, and so the tips are the same, whether you’re in healthcare or anywhere. I mean, I think these are so valuable, no matter what you’re doing, but again, putting a retreat on the map I think is incredibly critical and then meditating that’s that, that would be the other tip.

I mean, those tips are, I just harp on them over and over, but I think they’re so important.

Naji: Thank you so much. Uh, yeah. Agree for such an amazing discussion and definitely in healthcare, uh, you know, people mainly on the frontline, even more, they I’m sure they need to, uh, step back disconnect recharge and all the tips that you gave us today, uh, are definitely needed for us to be able to continue on serving the word, uh, in the, from a healthcare standpoint.

Yeah. Thank you so much again for joining me today.

Brie Doyle: Thanks so much for having me. I’m great. Glad to be here.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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 for this podcast, having the honor to be joined today by Bridget Scott Akinc CEO at Building Impact. Passionate about innovation and finding new ways to work toward solving complex social challenges, Bridget leads Building Impact, a nonprofit organization that engages leading companies and brands in local communities through volunteering and capacity-building. Prior to this role, Bridget led dynamic teams focused on accelerating growth and innovation enabled by technology across multiple sectors including finance, retail, automotive, high-technology, and education. She led strategic consulting and marketing teams for high-growth Silicon-Valley based software companies like BEA Systems and Oracle, as well leading non-profit organizations like The New Teacher Project. Bridget also serves on the faculty of MIT Sloan, teaching the “Leading With Impact.” Course I had the privilege to be part of! Bridget is a marathon runner, youth soccer coach, and an avid visitor to national parks with her family.

Can, can you please share with us a little bit, a little bit more about your personal story from finance marketing consulting, to now leading an incredible nonprofit organization impacting lives of thousands in local communities.

Bridget Akinc: I think that if we think about it, my start was in education. Um, back in the days that I was in college, I trained to be a teacher. And, um, one of the things that I, I think was, you know, in, in the forefront of my mind at that point in time was that. This idea of systems change in a system is complex as an education system with so many different funding models, um, across charter schools, local schools, and then obviously private and independent schools.

Um, begged a question of what I, um, I hadn’t studied, which was to really understand the mechanics of business, to be able to make a systems level change in a, in a social system like education. And at the time that I was graduating from Princeton, Teach For America was a model that a lot of people thought about and pointed to as being a real, you know, um, turn things up, upside down, um, type of innovative model.

And at the same time it was running near bankruptcy. Now this of course, is the same time that Apple was running near bankruptcy. So if you think of these two organizations sort of simultaneously being, I think somewhat critical to the way in which we’ve thought about education reform and education innovation in this country, um, over the course of the last 25 years.

I think Apple has played a critical role in the way that it has enabled technology adoption and usage in, um, in, in the way that we think of education today and certainly made education possible during Covid and Teach For America, I think has fundamentally changed the way that we think about education, leadership, and education.

Um, uh, you know, the teaching profession, I would say. As a springboard into having informed discussions about education and its impact in our, in our world now more broadly even than Teach for America and Teach for All. Uh, and and so as I think about that from my mindset, one of the things that was sort of fundamentally, um, A fundamental belief that I had at the time that I was graduating college was that I wasn’t becoming a teacher so that I could just teach I was becoming a teacher so that I could think about systems change.

And I knew that there were lots of areas, the more that I delved into that, that I needed to learn about in order to be a credible leader, um, in that work. And I think that sitting at the intersection, Of education and for profit and nonprofit at the same time, as well as sort of the government policy work, uh, that I had studied was, to me the most fascinating place to sort of think about the, the role that a leader has, uh, in trying to actually influence systems change.

Naji Gehchan: I, I love this, so I will double click on it immediately. What, what is the role of a leader in influencing system chains for.

Bridget Akinc: So I think in the nonprofit sector we talk a lot about the importance of proximity. And I think that we are hearing that more and more as we think about impact investing. We talked during the Leading with Impact program with Dr.

Maba McClury, who’s leading this work in uh, many ways with leaders of color in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and thinking about impact investing. Relative to impact measures not designed, uh, or preordained by grant giving organizations, but rather by the leaders that are on the ground. Um, I think Ayanna Pressley speaks about this in on a public policy front in incredibly powerful ways.

Um, but also Gerald Churchian, who leads Europe up, um, speaks about the importance of proximity. Brian, um, Stevenson talks about this. I mean, I think this work is, um, you know, the work of systems change on a ground level for social systems, I think requires having proximity. And one of the goals that I have, you know, I think it, it’s interesting because I have a, um, a candidate who came, um, to interview with us, having come from.

Um, she had been in the Peace Corps. She was a part of the Harvard, um, Graduate School of Education before arriving at us. She had been at Georgetown, um, uh, as an undergrad. So like, clearly she had a lot of, um, both knowledge skills and really social justice awareness in terms of the work that she had done before.

But she sort of said, I don’t know, you know, this work around volunteering doesn’t really seem, it seems like a scratch the surface type of thing. And I said, For me, The first part of systems change begins by understanding the complexity of the systems that we’re working in. And oftentimes people think of volunteering as being sort of, oh, a tow dip into the water.

But if that volunteering experience can ignite in someone a deeper level of understanding, inquiry into why the root causes of these social challenges. If spending that day doing that activity as we do with leading with impact, um, can provide an on-ramp to an immersion, into a social impact area that you want to learn more about, vote more consciously about, um, and enact change through, you know, investing, um, and change in policies.

Then I believe that actually volunteering is the very first and critical step. For this intersection of corporate, nonprofit, and government work to be happening?

Naji Gehchan: Yeah. Well, I can’t agree more. I’ve been a volunteer, as you know, for years. Uh, and what really struck me about this, like even me being volunteer of large, uh, NGO with the Red Cross, um, you talked.

And you think about NGOs in a very different way, uh, about nonprofit organization. Um, and I would love if you can share with us here the perspective you have about nonprofits operations and also how they can sustain what they do at the long run. Uh, because I really think this is a critical point.

Sometimes we don’t think of it that way.

Bridget Akinc: Yeah. I think oftentimes we think about nonprofits in the context of. The mission that they hold, uh, sort of the problem that they’re trying to solve and the funding that will be needed to do it. And oftentimes we measure nonprofit leaders relative to the growth in that funding.

Um, and, and sort of outcomes remain a question, right? We certainly do this in, in the education sector. We wanna know how much, you know, how much have we, um, increased the funding associated for each student. But relative to the kind of things that we think about on, on an outcome measure, um, and thinking about whether or not our impact investment has been made in, in terms of the, you know, the outcomes that we’re designing.

I really think we need to be thinking about nonprofit work in much the same way that we think about it in the for profit sector, which is to really think about, uh, the context of the business model and. If our goal is to have a sustained system level change, then we have to have a sustainable model in which to build that work.

There is enormous value created by the nonprofit sector that is revenue worthy, revenue generating worthy, I should say. Which is to say that, um, you know, I don’t think that we should relegate the nonprofit sector. To fundraising. Uh, fundraising can be an important, you know, jump start in the same way that a kickstart or angel investment or any of the other, you know, sort of tools that we use in the for profit sector can be.

Um, but I think at the end of the day, a nonprofit endeavor to really close a gap or achieve a change. Requires an investment that is sustainable on a business model level. And so when we look at the kinds of changes that we’re trying to recommend and, and help our organizations on the ground implement through the Leading With Impact program, we’re really trying to look at how it is that we can build a sustained business model.

That doesn’t necessarily just mean fundraising , um, where it is that we can look at, you know, tranches of impact made, uh, through investment in a calculated and, and sort of time oriented way relative to the outcomes we’re trying to achieve.

Naji Gehchan: I want, uh, now to, uh, go through across the industries and the different experiences you had, profit and non-profit from a leadership standpoint, uh, do you see any common thread, uh, that you really took with you across all those experiences and that you think is really essential for leaders?

Bridget Akinc: Um, so I think that I would go back to this notion of communication as being one of the most critical elements. Um, when I started at bcg, uh, you know, back in the late nineties, I remember I was working on a project where we were doing, uh, basically a worldwide education program for all of the partners globally on.

What the internet really, you know, the dawn of the internet and what it really meant for these Fortune 500, Fortune 100 businesses that we were consulting to. And so in order to do that, my background in having done a little bit of coding and, and, and a little bit of teaching meant that I was, um, you know, the associate on the project that was meant to pull this, this curriculum together with a set of folks that had deep expertise.

In both our client base as CIOs, as well as in, in the, in the space as technologists and engineers. And for me, uh, you know, the most critical element that happened in, in that experience was to learn the power of education through really strong communication. Um, and I, it was really no different at some level to the kind of communication skills that we learned in becoming teachers, uh, fundamentally.

We have to begin by thinking that we’re communicating, not a subject matter, but we’re communicating to people. We’re not educating on a topic, We’re educating individuals. And I think in order to be able to, you know, meet folks, um, at a place where, you know, they’ve arrived, It’s communication beginning by listening.

I think we talk about this in the context of the, the work that we do with nonprofits, um, in the Leading With Impact program a lot. We talk about this at Building Impact a lot. You know, there’s a lot of programs that are designed to benefit communities that never, ever begin with listening to those communi leaders and those communities for what the need actually is.

Um, There’s a, a leader, um, who’s been, um, sort of a celebrated leader now within the innovation space, um, coming out of Africa. He’s Ghanaian, um, Sango. Who is now also on the board of receivers at Harvard and has, has done a number of things to really evangelize this model of listen first, whether it’s an impact investing or a nonprofit.

And he talks about his own journey in sort of coming to an understanding of really beginning with innovation by listening to community, um, need and to to community generation. And I think Sango hits this on the head. I think that it. The idea that we listen first in any context, , to understanding what it is that our audience is, is looking to, to learn, and to looking to, to know, and to look to utilize, um, that that is the foundation for the principle of of leadership.

And I think it is only in. In listening that we can then co-design and, and develop a solution and develop an idea of, of, of innovation to really achieve the goals that we hold, um, in working with, um, that, that constituency. So it was, it was an interesting, you know, thing to think about relative to the work that I was doing at bcg because I was told, you know, your, your ideas are fine.

Everything is there. But you talk like a Californian, like, can we, can we back this up because you sound like this, you know, kid from California. And I really appreciated the feedback at the time because what it meant for me was I was learning how to operate in a. Corporate sphere, whereas, you know, maybe my, uh, California child worked in a classroom with, with eighth graders, it was not gonna impress, uh, the C level executives that I was working with.

And so it was really this partner pulling me aside saying, you know, you gotta substitute a few of your filler words in a different kind of way. In order to be taken seriously. And you know, as much as the feedback was, um, difficult to hear at the time because I thought, Well, the ideas are all here. Look at my charts.

It was a really important ingredient into thinking about the investment that he was making in me relative to the way in which I would credibly be. Um, taken seriously in the, in the ideas of that were being conveyed and in the, uh, in, in the data that we had. And I think that that is something, um, both in developing in innately the confidence to be that.

Spokesperson for those ideas. Um, but also to be thinking about how it is that, you know, our, our presence is met , uh, when we, you know, when we show up. Um, that was a really important, uh, element for me in, in toggling between these sectors and something that was very effective for me when I hopped into, you know, boardrooms in Detroit or boardrooms on wall.

Naji Gehchan: Uh, thanks for that. And so I will go on this. Listening in crisis management, you, you’ve obviously been managing, you know, challenging time, uh, with Covid. Uh, we talked about it like short staffing, lack of resources, uh, but also, well, we’ve seen it in l wwi obviously every. Can be a challenge for nonprofits on a daily basis with the communities they serve and, and they have to deal with those uncertainties.

What is the place of listening in crisis management? Or is there something else that you think is crucial to, to lead teams? How have you led your teams during those times? And I think that they are not done though, You know, some of us wanna put all the pandemic behind us. Unfortunately, the consequences of this, you’re seeing them daily in the communities.

Bridget Akinc: Yeah, I mean, I think Naji for me, one of the most important ways that I’ve learned about listening in the course of the last two years has been around, um, leading a diverse team during a time of racial racketing in this country, but also in the world. And I think that for me, the. Element of listening that is, has been a really important element that I have been, uh, learned and learning in the process, um, from my team here and also in the organizations we work with.

Is how important it is to give space and validation for all of the feelings that people bring when they bring their whole selves into the work. Um, you know, there have been times where we just take a pause and we as, as an organization, um, take a pause so that folks have an opportunity to. Uh, be mindful of how they’re feeling at the time of doing this work.

Um, it can be, you know, time to be angry. It can be time to be sad. It can be time to, you know, be joyful about, you know, the work that we’re doing and the outcomes that we’re having. But it’s so important that we take time together collectively and also take time individually. Um, you know, it’s something that I talked about recently, uh, with.

Um, a group on a different, um, uh, topic, but it was around this de and i, um, work that I had said. You know, I think for us in the nonprofit sector, one of the things that we have to acknowledge is that the communities that we work with and the communities that we are in experienced on a statistical level, a much greater degree of loss during this time in terms of loss of life, loss of freedoms.

Loss of financial security, loss of housing, loss of jobs. Um, and if I come back to the loss of life for a minute, the, the gravity of that has been felt, There’s no question across the board globally, but it is not possible to move through an experience like that and be the same, not on an individual level, but certainly not on a, on a organizational level.

Um, when we were going through leaving with Impact during 2020, our TA found out during our, um, during one of our sessions that she had lost an aunt to covid in the middle of the session. Um, it’s earth shattering when you lose someone close to you and when you’re losing someone close to you with so much uncertainty and so much distance, how troubling it can be.

You know, I think for, for all of us, and I. This notion of really being able to give time and space to people as they need it, but also time and space to the team. When you are collectively experiencing a set of those, um, challenges is, is so important. And I think that there have been moments where I’ve called for it, but there’s moments where my team has called for it and said, Hey, like Bridget, we need to take a moment here.

Like we need to take a pause because look at what. Look at what, what has just transpired. Look at what you know our community is experiencing. And I think that there has been time and space where people have needed to really voice those feelings and that type of, um, creating that type of environment is oftentimes the thing that our team does for others.

When we’re doing volunteer projects, we ask people to take a moment to think about. Maybe some of those topics that we don’t discuss often in a work environment, like let’s take a moment during Pride Month here to acknowledge the loss of life that has existed in the trans community, even just over the course of the last year.

Let’s take a moment, because this project that we’re doing to support trans youth means that these are youth who are going through an experience of collective loss for a community. They call their. It’s important that we take that time to think about that loss in the context of. Helping to really make an experience for them of going to camp, joyful.

Um, but let’s be cognizant that when we enter this work, it’s not being entered, you know, sort of shallowly. And I think that that type of opportunity to have a discussion, oftentimes our facilitation will then elicit a conversation with the companies that we’re working with that they’ve never had before.

Oh, well, you know, my, my son experienced this, you know, when he was going to camp, or this is an experience that my brother had when, when, you know, he was in the midst of his transition or whatever. Those are kinds of conversations that just bring out the humanity in all of us, and I think that that notion of being able to connect on a much more human level is something hopefully that, you know, we can do more and more of in all of our circle.

Naji Gehchan: So, so sovereign and profound. Thanks for sharing, uh, this project. Project. It’s, uh, yeah, our role as leaders is really crucial to create those spaces, and as you said, for our team to sometimes also ask for them when needed, but we definitely, we all can do more on it. I, it’s tough to transition now, but I want to give you, uh, a word and then get a reaction to it, uh, in this next part.

Okay? . So the first word is leadership.

Bridget Akinc: A reaction to that, to that word. Um, I, I think that it’s earned, not designated.

Naji Gehchan: What about impact?

Bridget Akinc: Yeah. Um, I, I look for the little things, . Um, it, it begins step by step. So I think it’s so important that we, um, we think about it incrementally and not just on an aggregate level. Belong ink, the glue belong is the glue for, for, I think for every c. Can,

Naji Gehchan: can you say more about this? I, I, I loved how you framed it during also the discussions we had, the different, like the journey from DNI to belonging.

I think a lot of, uh, organizations focused on dni, well D first dni, then the eni, and I think this belonging just gives it such a powerful next step as a meaning. Yeah,

Bridget Akinc: I mean, I think the power of belonging is, or an understanding, belonging is the, is the power of, of, um, understanding being othered. We have all experienced a time and place in our lives where we have been othered, and that can be for so many different reasons.

Um, but the feeling of being othered, um, carries with it a certain weight to it, right? A a certain weight that oftentimes can be. Um, A, a loneliness, an isolation, a, a feeling that you’re not cared for. You know, that, that there is, there, there isn’t care there. And I think that can happen in a crowd as easy as it can happen.

When you’re alone. Um, and so one of the things that I think we try so hard to, to do in the, in the projects that we create, um, is to really attach a sense of community, um, to the work that allows for reflection in people being able to bring their full selves to that work that, um, allows for that empathy building to be built very organically.

Through that sense of their own introspection about a time when they’ve felt othered, um, or felt outside of it. And I think that that can be a very powerful, um, ingredient to, to really captivating people’s imagination about how they might actually enter that space differently if they, um, are cognizant of.

Um, it’s interesting to me because, you know, one of the people that I oftentimes talk about, um, as having a very influential role for me in my concept of this, um, uh, of othering and this concept of this work was Tony Morrison. So Tony Morrison was a professor of mine at Princeton when I was an undergrad.

And had written a book actually that was a non, uh, nonfiction book about the origins of othering, which is not as often read, um, honestly is, you know, beloved and jazz in a number of, of her, um, very, very popular novels, rightly so. But the origins of othering, um, you know, has a system level systematic policy basis calculated financial, aggregated, um, Uh, construct in our society, the origins of others, and when we recognize that there are, that, you know, the experience of being othered is one that we can all identify with, but there are also systems level othering that create that construct for others in the times that we, whether intended or not, at the times that we construct them.

Will force us to have, I think, a different level of scrutiny to the work that we do relative to how it does impact, um, those in the community that we, we think, that we, you know, are, are helping, um, or are supporting.

Naji Gehchan: The last word is spread love in organizations.

Bridget Akinc: So, Naji, you and I talked a little bit about this. I think that the, the concept of love inside of organizations has such a, um, new pervasive element because of this important work on belonging. I think. But also because I think it is now one very positive silver lining coming out of, I think the last couple of years, is that it is a part of the vernacular.

I think the challenge is how do we move love to action, and I think that there’s now a lot that is in the vernacular about. Love in the context. Maybe not love, but kindness and, um, and compassionate making. You know, organizations feel more like, um, a a place where, you know, a safe space where people can come.

But I think the challenge of now moving to action, what do we see in the actions that we, that we hold and that we challenge ourselves to do? Uh, that to me is, um, I think the important next. I

Naji Gehchan: hope with this, with this podcast and episodes like those, we’re giving some hints, some, you know, advices to, to build a more caring and kind workspace and that that will have a ripple effect on the community and the Yeah.

And the organization. Any final word of them, uh, Bridget, for the leaders around the.

Bridget Akinc: No, I just, I mean, my final word is really one of gratitude, I think, uh, to you for hosting, um, this and for hosting this conversation, uh, not only with, you know, your peers, but those that you know, you can, um, reach more broadly through, through a vehicle like this tool, um, of the podcast.

I think it is. Remarkable to be able to spend some time thinking about and reflecting with others, uh, on how it is that we can express love in organizations and spread love, um, in those ways. And I think it’s kind of the essence of, of everything, isn’t it, in terms of making, um, making it worth, um, all the work that we put in.

Um, so I think, uh, it’s, it’s just a joy to be a part of the discussion and it was certainly a joy to watch. That love manifest in the work that your classmates did in the Leading With Impact program. This. Um, I, if I, if I could just one little plug for your class. It is the first time that we have ever seen a 100% NPS score from the nonprofits that we have worked with.

Uh, so, um, you know, companies out there, brands out there, take note at the, uh, the amba class of, of MIT was able to get a hundred percent of the nonprofit organizations that they worked with to recommend this to others, which to me speaks volumes about the kind of impact, um, that you were able to have in that.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much, bridge, truly it means so much. Uh, your words, uh, what you said coming from you means so much. So thank you for this and I’ll make sure all my classmates know about the NPS we got. So thank you so much again for being with me today and for this incredible, insightful discussion.

Bridget Akinc: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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, having the pleasure to be joined by Dr Dominic Abrams Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School, Cardiovascular genetics and cardiac electrophysiology expert. Dominic specializes in cardiovascular genetics and cardiac electrophysiology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and he is active in both clinical medicine and scientific research. With his team, Dominic provides personalized, multidisciplinary care to individuals and families, and drives novel research strategies in varying aspects of cardiovascular genetic disease. He has developed clinical programs in both the UK and US, with attention focused on organizational culture, leadership, clinical innovation and maximizing value to multiple stakeholders. Dominic has developed excellent collaborative relationships with individuals and organizations within the wider healthcare ecosystem.

Dominic Abrams: Thank you so much. It’s really great to be here and thank you for the invitation.

Naji: I would love first to hear a little bit more about your personal story and really what brought you to become this amazing physician and specialist and leader you are today.

Dominic Abrams: Thank you. So I originally started, as you can tell, I’m from the uk. Uh, I grew up in England and then moved to London for medical school when I was 18 and went through the British training system in the. Way it was in those days, which if you look back, is rather chaotic. But actually at the time was fantastic cause I was able to experience lots of different areas of medicine and train and lots of different things, but ultimately settled on cardiology, uh, because it just generally really interested me.

And then over time evolved to how much of a, more of an interest in electrophysiology and then. Cardiovascular genetics, which sort of to some degree goes hand in hand with that because many of the heart rhythm disorders that we care for have a genetic background. Um, at the time I was training in pediatric cardiology, but really wanted to get a broader understanding of the, um, Specialty.

So I went to a hospital called Barts Hospital in London, uh, which is why I did most of my electric physiology training, which was just a fantastic experience. And I stayed there for, um, many years initially as, as a fellow, and then on fa on then on faculty. Um, and I was there for about four or five years before moving to the us.

So it’s sort of an opportunity that came up to come over to Boston, which has, uh, has been really exciting and challenging in many different ways, but in, in a, in a good way. Uh, it’s been a lot, a lot of fun to do and makes you look at yourself in a different way and sort of what you’ve done and what you’ve achieved and what you wanna do.

Uh, it’s always a good thing. Change is, is exciting. Um, so I’ve sort of been working here for some time now and really, Clinical work has evolved into doing much more cardiac genetics, uh, than electrophysiology. And we’ve sort of built a very exciting team and a program at Boston Children’s, which has been very re rewarding and very enjoyable.

And I get to work with many, many great people, and the patients and the families that we care for are fantastic. So it’s a great position to be in and I’m very lucky and honored to, uh, be able to do what. And

Naji: David, have you always wanted to do to become a physician? ?

Dominic Abrams: Have I? Yes, I have from, from quite a young age, but I couldn’t really tell you why.

Um, I remember as a, as a young kid, I always wanted to be a doctor. No one in my family was a medic. Uh, there was no sort of pressure for my parents to become a doctor, but it was just something I always wanted to do. And apart from a few sort of flirtations with other things that most kids go through, Yeah, it was always medicine, so something I’ve always wanted to.


Naji: that’s awesome. And you’re doing, and you’re obviously helping so many, uh, so many patients today. And as, as you shared, this is something I would like to, to go first, um, and discuss with you. So you’re a cardiovascular expert. You manage very challenging, uh, situations. Uh, with, with families, um, while ensuring, uh, one of your passions is this personalized medicine, but also in a multidisciplinary way.

So really leading those cross-functional teams, uh, treating and caring for patients and families. So I’d love to hear how you combine both personal approach. While also working in it with large cross-functional, multidisciplinary disciplinary teams to keep it personal at the end of the day for the patients when you have so many different, uh, people

Dominic Abrams: managing them.

So I think, um, We have many different people in our team who all have a very different and complimentary role. So I think it’s about understanding what each person in the team delivers, what their specific function is in regards to any one particular patient or family that we see. And everyone does a slightly different thing.

And it’s very interesting to see the way that patients perceive the team and how we look after them and, and I think they sort of, Many have reported back to us. They really like this sort of wraparound care that different people provide, and I’m sure that different patients have a different. Um, or have different relationships with all of us in different ways and may particularly gravitate more towards one or towards the other.

Um, so we have sort of the clinical piece where we actually make the diagnosis. We look into the clinical findings on ECGs and cardiac imaging cetera. Then we have the genetic piece, which is again, different people coming in for that. Uh, we have a psych. Uh, team as well involved because the stress of having these diagnoses, often they’re made in people who are completely asymptomatic.

So it’s all of a sudden I was fine and now I have this dag diagnosis, this label that’s attached to me. And just coming to terms with that, understanding what it means is very, very important. So I think that yes, ultimately we all work in a slightly different way, but ultimately we’re kind trying to bring together.

A strategy for the patient that makes sense for them. And it’s not just about sort of this is what you have to do medically, that’s what you have to do medically, but all of a sudden many of these families are adjusting to a new normal, if you like, a new sort of state of their life. And so it’s about helping them adjust to that, coming to terms with that, but also not letting that dominate their life.

I think that’s really important and we sort of very much emphasize. Um, you know, many of these many things they were doing before should go on and can go on. So exercise is a classic example, but there are many other things as well. So it’s about helping them navigate this journey. And, you know, I always say to patients at the beginning, once we’ve made the, uh, once we’ve met ’em for the first time, now you will look back in six months and things will look very different and you will look back again in 12 months and things will be different again.

So it, it’s a process of evolution and I think it’s our job to sort of help guide them through that in different. Can

Naji: you share with us, uh, your leadership learning along, along the way, doing this and also with the, the, the word evolved, obviously, and as we discussed last time, uh, both of us, there’s, there’s so many.

New innovations coming for the patients. So I imagine the way you’re caring for them, as you said, this is your main focus as a care team. What are your leadership learning for you to be able to provide what you’re trying to provide for those patients, especially with those new innovations that they are dealing with

Dominic Abrams: too?

So I think from the leadership and team perspective, I was in a very lucky position that in 2016, a number of. Events, if you like, came together that allowed me to start to build this team, uh, and obviously be very much part of it, but to build it from scratch. And I think that’s a very exciting thing to be able to do.

Really. It was triggered by a wonderful philanthropic donation, um, that we got, which allowed us to build the program, uh, by someone who personally had to experience this, uh, a sudden death in a family member from a cardiovascular genetic disorder and his. Uh, fundamental request is that no other family should go through this.

So ultimately what we’re trying to do is get towards that point. We’re still some way from it, but I think we’re making progress in many different ways and trying to understand the condition, prevent these things happening, and, um, In some ways develop new treatment strategies that allow us to overcome these disorders.

So really, I had the sort of a mandate to create a team and without a team culture from scratch. And there were sort of many things that I look back on at that time in my life to sort of help myself understand. How I wanted to do that and what examples I could take from my own experiences. And in 2016, I started the MBA at mit.

So that gave me a really sort of rigid construct around which to think about this and actually sort of to put some of the academic principles of leadership, of organizational culture, these things into play and allowed me to write about it as well and, and, you know, have it sort of assessed and graded by the professors at mit, which was very interesting and exciting.

But it was actually a conversation with, um, Gail Grad, who I know we both know well. And she was talking to me and she sort of said to me, So what does life look like post mba? And I just started talking and I, which went on for about 25 minutes I think, and she stopped me and said at the end and said, halfway through that conversation, your face completely changed.

And that was when you spoke about your team. And I was completely unaware of this, but that’s, at that point, it’s sort of really made sense to me. This is what was really important to me and having these people around me and really building that and how valuable that is and how much I enjoy doing that, and how much I enjoy being part of that and belonging to that team.

So I sort of started to look back at my own training, and when I was a junior doctor in the uk, we had this concept or this, um, the way the medical system was structured. We had these things called firms, which was basically a team of doctors with one or two taken from each grade throughout the junior doctor, um, hierarchy, if you like.

And I was the real, I was at the bottom of this team, but, um, it was a, it was a really tight knit group. You know, you worked with these people day in, day out. You saw them every day. You were with them at three o’clock in the morning in the emergency department, seeing people who were really sick and ill, and then you were with them on Friday after the after work having a beer.

So you got this really tight team bond, and I think that was something I look back on and felt really was a very powerful way for me to learn about medicine in so many different ways. Not about the academic aspect of medicine, but about being a doctor and how we deliver the. For our patients and create that real sense of empathy.

And I’ll never forget, at one time, one of our team, we admitted this lovely gentleman, he was in his mid to late seventies and he was clearly dying. He had motor neuro disease and that was, you know, we, we knew he was gonna die by the end of the day. And we went to see him and his wife was sitting by his bed.

And this doctor just said to her, Tell me about him. Tell me about him as a man. And it just gave her this 20 minutes to just reflect on his life and to speak to him in front of him and tell us what a wonderful man he was and all the things he’d done. Uh, it was a really moving and very incredible experience for me to watch is a very junior doctor.

So learning that empathy, learning. Not the medicine, but learning about what it means to be a doctor. So I think that sort of sense of team, that sense of togetherness became very important to me. And again, I look back at different people who’d influenced me in my life in different ways. Um, both through medicine, through sport, through different team concepts, and started to read and think about this a great deal more and how I wanted to take different aspects of what I’d experienced and sort of build that into the team.

So it’s a real pleasure to be part of that. I, it’s something I really, really enjoy. And I think it’s very important. It’s like how do we function as physicians, as a a, a group of people in very complex situations to maximize our own performance, uh, both as individuals and as a team. And then how that translates into patient care.

Um, so. Can

Naji: you tell us a little bit more on, uh, the culture, because you’re passionate and this is how you look at things, developing this culture, uh, and the leadership in the culture. So can you tell us a little bit more what culture you try to build and how do you, how do you do

Dominic Abrams: this? I think one of, um, you know, I see my role in the team as.

Creating an environment where everyone can be their best, everyone can achieve the best that they can be and achieve what they wanna achieve. And I think that’s a sort of really important thing for me to try and create. Um, and people sense that people know it. And if you. Actually deliver on that. And you, you act that out and say, Well, how can I help you do this?

How can I help? What are the obstacles to stopping you doing what you wanna do? I think it’s really, really important and different people respond in very, very different ways. Um, you know, as I said, I’ve taken sort of experiences for my own life, some of which. Would come from very, very different contexts.

So wouldn’t necessarily work in a medical team, but did work in a sports team, for example. So how do you contextualize that? How do you take that and reframe it and change it? But I think that’s a really, really important thing to do, is to, um, create that sense of you are, you care about you, you know, the, the environment should be very caring.

You should really care about your team. You should get to know them professionally and personally, uh, and understand. And I think that’s really important. And we just have this amazing group of people who sort of come together and everyone was sort of, I think, thinking in a similar way about what they wanted, what culture they wanted to be part of.

And I think it’s understanding your own perspectives on it and helping to shape that. And then everyone helps to be part of that as well. So I think it’s one of great honesty, It’s openness. Um, you know, we have conversations. I think as a leader you need to. Humble. Um, you need to recognize that you’re never gonna have all the answers and that different people are gonna see things that I just don’t see, and that’s really important and valuable.

So I always, you know, I might have certain people in conversations cause I know they’re gonna pick up on different things from me, then they’re gonna see things differently and their perspective may be much more important and relevant than mine. So it’s understanding the value that each person brings and how you can sort of shape those together and mold those, uh, to, to get a team that where the performance is maximized.

But everyone feels that they’re gonna be their best every day and they have the opportunity to do that. So I think it’s a, it’s a fascinating thing and it’s. When you look back at great cultures I’ve been part of over my life, it’s often very difficult to say, Well, why was that great? But you just know it was.

But it’s been a sort of interesting process to try and through, think through that in a bit more depth and how can we reproduce that and how can you, um, adapt to that? Because the situations change all the time. So our situation change, our team grows, people come, people go. But you’ve gotta sort of keep that central culture there, uh, at the core because that’s ultimately what sort of shapes and drives the team.


Naji: I love that. And obviously you’re a part of what you do is also to maximize value to multiple stakeholders. So I imagine your experience have shown, starting with this culture of care as, as you shared, is ultimately giving you those results.

Dominic Abrams: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s, that’s front and center what we do as a group of healthcare providers.

But you know, everyone, as I said, everyone brings a very different component to. The patient experience and you know, one of our team who’s now our team manager, You know, every week in clinic we hear from patients, Oh, she’s so wonderful. Thank you. You know, just please say, Is she here? Can I meet her? Can you say thank you to her?

For us? And she’s never actually with the patients, but she does all the organization collecting data, collecting information, helping the patient. Get to the clinic or you know, where do they need to go? Everything. And people are so, so grateful for that. It’s really, really interesting. Um, but we hear all the time about her and in often in very difficult circumstances, people have stopped me to say.

This is the best experience I’ve had in 20 years with this individual because just of what she did and how she helped and organized and structured things. So it’s not just the sort of clinical patient facing time as well. It’s the whole team, often behind the scenes who make what we do possible, but also who drive the patient experience so forcefully.

Naji: And can you give us some practical examples? You said the team grow. It shifts, I’m sure during the pandemic Also, things were different. Like is there like a key piece that you always try to keep as a practical thing you do in a team to keep this caring culture, to keep the team, All the togetherness, as you said, towards your purpose to be able to serve patients is, is there a key learning of a practical practice that you do and we’ll keep on doing as you

Dominic Abrams: move forward?

Yeah, I think it’s really important to get to know the people that you work with and get to know them individually. So, for example, um, you know, when I was in, in the UK it was always about going for beer on a Friday night after work. And it was something that sort of, you know, oh, the Britt’s always popping down the pub after work.

But it was, it was a very culturally powerful experience. It was very level. You know, the senior people were having a chat with the person and who was there for their first week coming in at the, at, at the other end of the spectrum. So it was always a great, to me, a really great experience. And of course at the time you don’t realize that, but looking back, that’s exactly what it was.

So I’ve tried to replicate these kind of social, um, uh, events. So we always try to go to lunch together on Friday after clinic, you know, and, and have lunch and not really talk about work, but talk about other things. Talk about. You know, someone’s dog or you know, what, whatever it may be. But to have that personal connection between people, uh, and I think that’s really, really important.

And if you, if you like and care for the people that you work with, it really drives that cohesion. It drives that maximizing performance when you’re in the professional situation because you understand the people so much better. So that’s something that we’ve always really tried to do and it’s that social context as well.

We’re all humans and we all need that social contact and that was why the pandemic was so hard because we sort of lost that. And so, you know, it was great now that we’re all sort of back and it’s interesting speaking to people, you know, recently about really liking coming back and sort of being part of the team and being physically with people again.

I think that’s really important. So I think that social. However hard you work and however much the cohesion is in the professional setting. I think the social piece is really, really important to me as well, because it just allows you to get to know people on a completely different level and I think really enhances the culture and the collaboration between individuals.

Naji: Uh, can, can’t agree more, and, and it’s true. Pandemic was hard and at the same time showed us the importance of this human war, right? Like this human connection. Absolutely. So tha thanks for sharing this. Uh, I’d love not to give you a word and get a reaction to it. So the first word is leadership.

Dominic Abrams: So I think, um, when I think of leadership, I like to think of a, of three words that summarize that best in my mind, which is value, belonging, and purpose.

I think you have to value people that you’re with. There’s a great quote. From Ed Cat Capal, who was the CEO of Pixar, who says, Great ideas can and do come from anywhere. And so if you really value the people you work with, recognize that everyone brings something unique, an individual, um, and let them know that really, really value them.

Let them know you value them, and that people are there for a reason. They’ve been chosen to be part of that team for a reason, because they bring something special. You’ve gotta give people purpose. That’s really, really important. If people believe they have a purpose and they understand the purpose individually and as the team, then it really sort of helps drive things forward and people feel motivated and their performance undoubtedly goes up.

Another great quote I love is from Greg Dyke, who was Director General of the BBC at the time, and someone said to me, What, what? What do you see your job as being in charge of the bbc? And he said, very simply, my job is to give people a reason to get up in the morning and come to. So you have to give people purpose.

You have to make them feel that they’re really part of something that they’re helping towards improving that. And for that us, obviously that’s the patient care and people have to need to feel they belong. I mean, that is an incredibly powerful human. Emotion to belong. And I think that’s why I sort of went back to my early experience in London as a junior doctor, that sense of belonging to that firm of belonging to that team.

This was your people. And I think that’s really, really important. And Amy Edmondson’s done some wonderful research on this in. Uh, the medical set set setting, I think it was a big emergency department where people felt when they were in teams, they belonged in their performance. Measurable performance improved significantly.

So that sense of belonging to me is very, very important. And there’s a wonderful book by a guy called Owen Eastwood, uh, called Bonging, um, which I would recommend to anyone to read. It’s a really, really fantastic book, which goes to that in great detail. And of course it goes back. Many hundreds of thousands of years when if you didn’t belong to a tribe and you were on the outside, you were in trouble because whatever was gonna come along and you would do so because you are isolated and on your own.

So I think it’s a really, really important concept. So that’s how I like to think of it in those three words.

Naji: This is, this is great value, purpose, belonging. And you touched on so many important things. You know, when we talk diversity, inclusion, equity, belonging is now a big part of it. And I had the opportunity and pleasure to, uh, host Amy Edmondson where she shares her work on this.

Um, so thanks for that. Uh, the second word is innovation.

Dominic Abrams: I think innovation can, you know, be thought of in so many different ways, but I think sometimes it’s looking at things and just seeing things from a very different perspective sometimes and understanding that although certainly in medicine, we like to think of things. Being causal in a certain way or a certain mechanism, that’s not always the case.

And sometimes you can look at it from a completely different perspective, and that’s why I think that having multiple voices at the table, having multiple people who feel they can give their input. Is fascinating, uh, and really, really helpful to innovating because someone might say something as a bit of a joke or off the cuff and you think, Hang on a minute.

No, that actually is really important. That’s a really useful insight. So to me, innovation is just constantly bringing new ideas, constantly thinking of things in a different way, and driving our understanding of different situations forward. And that can be, you know, innovating from. How the patient gets into clinic to innovating a new therapy for a rare disease.

So it, it’s such a spectrum of different things, um, that it’s, uh, always exciting and it’s always something that’s present in our minds. Um, the, the gentleman who I spoke about earlier, who was the philanthropist who gave us that wonderful donation, that kickstarted everything used to come to meetings. And he would look at me and he’d say, How do you define.

And that was a great question because you can think of it in so many ways, and I think innovation can be thought of in many different ways as well. And it, it, it’s really interesting just to hear different people make different comments, uh, and just throw out different ideas that can, Sunny, yes, we need to think of it like that.

So that’s how I think of it. What about health equity?

I think we need to provide. Equal healthcare opportunities across the spectrum of human race, of human culture, all different ways that all, all the ways that we as human beings are different from each other. And I think it’s really important to understand what different things mean to different people and not just to draw.

The sort of traditional healthcare models of looking at one specific race, or one specific culture, or one specific, um, tree, if you like. A great example of that is the genetic. Makeup of, of us as human beings, what can be very relevant in one, um, ethnicity in terms of may cause a disease or a different disorder may be very, very different in another.

So that’s a sort of just a very simple example of thinking about how we need to understand everyone to provide the best treatment. And I think things are really improving now in terms of changing, um, how we think about things, not just perhaps from a medical and a genetic perspective, but also. What do these people actually really want?

What’s important to them? What are the meaningful outcomes to this group of individuals? Cause it may be very different to someone else. So I think it’s, it’s really important to understand what is important to our patients. What, what do they care about and what’s meaningful to them.

Naji: The last word is spread love in organizations

Dominic Abrams: Be. To be kind. It’s really two very simple words that can be thought of in so many different ways, but I think when you witness it, it’s so evident and it makes such a difference to people’s day. You know, it’s, it’s, um, really impactful and powerful in both ways when you are kind. It’s very empowering.

It’s very positive. It’s inspiring and uplifting, and. People are unkind. It has the opposite effect. So I think it’s really, um, that is a good way just to think about how to do it. Be kind.

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

Dominic Abrams: I think,you know, I think it’s, it’s, I. Stress, the importance to me of team, of being part of a team, of being part of that, of understanding how that works and how we work together. It’s a very multifaceted, multidisciplinary specialty medicine, and you need all those different people at the table. You need different people bringing different ideas of interacting with patients and families in different ways.

Um, because. That ultimately is how you maximize their experience, how you improve their outcomes, uh, from doing in many, many different ways. So I think anyone who’s starting up and, and I think that’s a great way to think about things, is be part of a team. Understand that team, understand your own perspectives, what you are trying to do, and how that team comes together.

And then it’s about building that team and moving forward. But I think it’s a really. Important and key components of healthcare, uh, the people you work with and how you function as a group. And that’s been shown in many, many different situations. And I think it’s gonna get more and more important as we think about how we can improve both the experience and the outcomes of the patients that we serve.

Naji: Well, thank you so much for those, uh, great final words and for all this incredible chat we had together today. Thanks Dominic for being with me.

Dominic Abrams: Thank you. It’s been fantastic. Thank you very much!

Naji: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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’m Naji, your host for this podcast, having the pleasure to be joined today by Lisa Matar, a global life science senior executive with more than 25 years of experience leading organizations and driving significant impact across the globe. Lisa served as President and General Manager of Eli Lilly Canada for several years and was member of the North American Executive Committee. She served on the Board of Directors of Innovative Medicines Canada and chaired the ethics and compliance committee. Lisa currently serves on the boards of directors of Delphi Diagnostics and chares the Compensation and Governance Committee for them. She also serves on the BOD of Starpax Biopharma. Lisa earned her doctorate in pharmacy from University of St. Joseph in Lebanon. And I met Lisa a long time ago in France and she has definitely been an inspiration to me in so many different ways. Lisa, it’s so great to have you with me.

Lisa Matar: I’m really happy to be here with you today and, uh, I just wanna say like, congratulations on all the progress you made, uh, kind of from this mission of spreading love and compassion in organization. What you have done so far is simply amazing.

Naji: That means a lot. I would first love to hear your personal story from Lebanon to France to Canada and what healthcare, all that you’ve done in, uh, in this field too.Uh, what an, an incredibly inspiring career. I’d love to hear, uh, what’s in between the lines of this great career you had?

Lisa Matar: So I think we’re all shaped by our own experiences. Um, so I was born and raised in Lebanon. Um, and I spent most of my formative years, like in a war zone, uh, in bomb shelters. I’m sure you can relate to that.

Uh, naji uh, data has definitely shaped my identity. It has shaped me as a leader. It has shaped me as a, as a person. Um, and it made me no stranger to hardships. So during those. Very difficult times. Like we had really to work hard every day, not only to stay safe, but we had to work hard every day to bring a sense of like normalcy into our life.

So the word that I would use is determination. Um, it has always served me well. Uh, it has always pushed me to bring the best of me to the front. While under pressure, and it has fueled my success both professionally and and personally. So I’m, I had graduated from, uh, University of, uh, San Joseph, like pharma school, and after I, uh, graduated, I immediately joined Eli Lilly in Lebanon.

I was so lucky because I joined in a time where the whole, uh, regional hub, uh, was getting formed. So, I can say it was love at first sight. I immediately felt in love with Lilly, uh, with the people mainly and the culture. Second, I would say, uh, and I was so lucky early on in my career, uh, that I’ve met great mentors who really, really helped me, uh, not only in guiding me and coaching me, but I do believe that they saw a potential in me that I was unable to see.

And they took a bet by sending me as like, Talent from the Middle East to go on international assignments. So this is how I ended up after being area manager in Lebanon, I ended up in France, uh, on international assignment, uh, on the best adventure ever, which is launching Cialis. Uh, we both work on that product and my career took off from there.

Um, I wish I can tell you to be honest when I think about it, that I had a very clear outlined plan about how to grow my career. It wasn’t that at all. It was total freeze time. I simply kept saying yes to every job offer. Uh, and I ended up being, uh, Chief Medical Marketing Officer, business Unit, uh, like all different jobs.

That all prepared me to my last assignment with Lily. General manager, uh, of Lidian Canada. Um, like when I think about my whole career, like I moved a lot, changed therapeutical areas, changed geographies, but they are like, the whole career has been set on two major principles. One which is challenging the system, and second is challenging, uh, my own.

Uh, challenging the system. Um, I don’t know. Like I feel like I was not, the system was not set up for me to be successful. Uh, I should not get where I am today. I was a young female leader in the Middle East, uh, in a male dominated culture. So I didn’t have like a female role model to look up to. I didn’t have a modu operandi about how at the age of 23 you can manage a large team, a very seasoned sales rep, mainly male sales rep.

But I had to carve my own way. And later on, like years later, you would think that the system would have been probably more ready for like female ceo. When I became, uh, uh, CEO of Lillian Canada and I was elected to the board of, uh, in Medicine of Canada, uh, which is the industry association, I remember walking into the meeting and I just opened the door and I had like a view of probably like 20 male all in dark.

Like I used to call them, like the man in Black. And I was the, the only female CEO walking into this room. And I remember that I was, I kept saying to myself, You deserve to be here. You deserve to be here. Like all the way to this meeting room and. In reality, like when you condition yourself that you deserve to be in this room, that you have earned your right to be at the table, uh, you develop a confidence that other people will pick up on, and then it’ll give you all the legitimacy.

Fast forwarding, we, they have been incredible, the same men and black, they have been incredible, uh, uh, like war compan. Some of them, I kept them as great friends, and when I left the Boards of Innovative Medicine, Canada had 30% of female representation, which is an achievement. The second point is challenging my limits.

Um, I think we all have to work on a daily basis to challenge ourself. Like it’s easy to stay in a comfort zone, to be honest. I was just telling you like now I don’t know why I was, I, I had a little bit like of a nod in my stomach. Even on, on, on this podcast, like every time you try to do something new, like you have a kind of like a fear, which is really good.

Like it has always been my. And I have always said, I’d rather challenge my limits instead of limiting my challenges. And this is why, um, in my whole career, I don’t remember one position that I was comfortable with. By the time I was getting comfortable, it was time to move. And even now when, like after 25 years with Lily, uh, I was getting comfortable and I said, Yeah, it’s time for me to do something new.

And I took a leap and the unknown word of startup, which wasn’t easy by the way, it’s been 18 months. Um, it’s um, a lot of work every day, but I’m enjoying every minute.

Naji: Oh, thanks so much gi for sharing. Like, how can’t we be inspired by all that you shared and all that you’ve been doing and what you said.

Uh, you know, I, I really want to talk about a thing that you brought that made me think about this imposter thoughts that we might have. Um, and you’ve been vulnerable sharing those moments with us. Uh, here. So you said you deserve to be here. You deserve to be here. You kept saying it to yourself, and obviously you’ve been, definitely, the system is not helping even though we made improvements and you should be proud of what you’ve done having 30% female.

There’s still such a long road, uh, for us, and you touch on many different identities, right? Women, Middle East, going from other countries, et cetera. So my question to you, like, how do you. Do you have those imposer thoughts? How do you fight them? I frequently talk with people. I do have them, so I frequently talk with people who, uh, constantly have those i’d.

I’d love to know how do you live with them if you have them, and if you have any tips for us.

Lisa Matar: Like for me, like I said, we all have them. Like you all challenge. It doesn’t have to be only female only. Like you always question whether you’ve earned the right uh, to, to be at, at this spot. For me, it’s okay. I think we have to be okay with that, say, but don’t stay there for so long.

Um, it’s not about whether you have this imposter syndrome, it’s more about the image you portray. If I walk in and I feel like I’m extremely confident, That’s gonna be very communicative. It’s very contagious. People will see in you what you let them see. If you believe that you have an added value, if you work and demonstrating the value, that’s it.

That’s gonna be the end of imposter syndrome. But if you stay in the fear, Oh my God. I’m Lebanese. I’m a female. I don’t know how I’m gonna do it. If you stay in the why this is happening to me, and you stay into this self-doubt and victimization. This is like a negative place to be. If you very quickly move on to what’s next, What do I need to do for them to see my real value?

You’re already in the focus. You’re already in the projection. You’re already in the hope, and you convey the confidence that you need to convey for people to see exactly who you.

Naji: I love it. Use it practically. Use it for you to be even more confident and move forward. You, you let teams in so many different cultures, uh, we had those discussions between leading and, and Lebanon, France, Canada, and globally also, uh, teams.

Any, what, what are your key leadership learning, the leading in those different parts of the word?

Lisa Matar: Um, there is some tweaks from a culture to culture. But I have found, um, that people are the same. We are all the same, regardless from where we come. You may tweak the how you deliver the message, but at the end of the day, uh, human beings are very complex, uh, and they’re still different.

So it’s hard to say, This is the way you need to manage people in Lebanon. This is the way you need to manage Europe. Uh, this is said. There are some trends that you can see, like when. When I moved to Europe, I was so impressed by the technicality of people, like people really had in depth expertise. Um, and then I moved to Canada.

The culture of, Yeah, I wanna take on more, like give me more, and the, the, the whole loyalty to the company. So you, you can see some trends and the culture, but the leadership, I would say, style remain the same. What I struggled more with is when I got to Canada, it’s more about the title. Like, um, on my first week people were coming to me.

Okay, now you’re the GM of Canada. Uh, it’s a very big job. Watch out. Uh, like you have to get a certain posture of, of leader, uh, like the podium one, which is, which is okay. Uh, somehow they were encouraging me to be like, Touch kind of like the, the, to convey the image of strong leader. I didn’t know better at that time.

And for the first probably like 30 days, I was trying to be someone that I was not naturally, like I was kind of keeping my distance, uh, trying to give all the answer, like I know what’s going on, give the impression like, you mastered everything. But very, very quickly it drained me. Uh, I was so tired, that wasn’t me.

And I said, You know what? I’m gonna give it my try. I’m gonna be my. Uh, and, and see where it’s gonna take me. And the style, like leadership style that best worked for me across geographies is the authentic, imperfect leadership style. I am authentic and I’m far from being perfect. Uh, I know my shortcomings.

I know my flaws. I’m okay with my flaws. I am aware of those. I work on them. But I like, I, I feel like if people know that you’re authentic, they can. Accept your flaws, but they will never accept a phony leader. And that has always served me well. I believe authenticity, um, with imperfection, uh, kept me grounded, especially when you be, you get to a bigger job, like you can get fall victim of your own ego.

But acknowledging that my leadership studies far from being imperfect and being upfront and vocal about it, kept my ego in. Everyone knew, like I had some area was I was not really good at. And I kind of like pushed myself to, um, surround myself by people who are better than me in some areas. And, uh, the beauty of it, uh, people start coming to me with their own imperfection.

I didn’t have to dig a lot, dig deeper to know where I can. It was like an invitation. If my leader is not perfect, I can bring my true self to work so we can work on a better development plan. So it was a win-win. I spent less energy pretending to be someone else, and, uh, people felt much more comfortable, uh, talking to me, so I became more accessible and the conversation was very genuine.

Naji: I love it. I already heard, heard this before, authentic imperfect leadership style. It’s, it doesn’t t No, I . It’s yours. It’s yours. And I love it. Uh, a very personal question I have, you know, as, as you were talking about all those different countries, for full disclosure, I ask myself this question, I don’t have an answer, but I, I what, how so you always led in a different language than.

Own language. And you led in French, you led in English. Any, do you feel it’s different or is it harder, easier to do? So did you have to adapt some things? What, what are your thoughts about this? Um,

Lisa Matar: like, again, like if you’re not trying to be perfect, It’s okay. Like I’m not trying to speak with a perfect French accent or a perfect English accent cuz I’m not like, I’m Lebanese.

I speak like three languages. So that’s the beauty of it. If you accept it, you’re not, again, you, no one’s supposed, um, to see like the perfect leader. Then it’s, it’s, it’s fun. Uh, most of the people like I work with, they said because of the language and the accent, like we pay attention more to what you say.

And I always like, I all abused this to be honest, . Uh, so it’s fun. It’s part of your identity. Like if you see someone struggling in English, Goodest. To him, that means like he has another, um, he masters another language. So it’s all about accepting, being vulnerable and accepting to try and learn new things.

And this is exactly what we should like role model.

Naji: Uh, you, you mentored and coached so many people. Um, I was one of them. I still remember very well what you told me, uh, the first time we met. Uh, I, I, I won’t repeat it here, , but I would love to hear what’s, uh, the one advice that you’re giving today for, um, people you’re mentoring if they’re starting their careers in the healthcare sector.

Lisa Matar: First, like it’s not something that I say. I always check that they are in healthcare for the right reason. Like some people come to healthcare for. The money or they come to healthcare for, because they have a friends for people. But I always check that they are staying in healthcare for the right reason.

So my my first question is like, why you’re here. If your individual mission does not match with the company, you can do some tweaking. You can make some adjustment. Honestly, it’ll be a waste of time for them because they will do much better somewhere else. So I always like spend my first session if I wanna talk, like, why, why healthcare?

Why Lilly, why, uh, this startup? Like, that’s very, very important for me. Once you manage to get there, it’s very easy for, for, for them to say, Okay, how you can contribute? What’s the role that you wanna play? And like, and we’re not perfect again. Do you need to get from where you are to where you should be, But it’s all under the overarching umbrella that we are here to serve.

We all have a role to play. So what’s standing in the way of you doing a better role? I always take it from the mission and I will drag it from there,


Naji: with with the purpose. Uh, I will give you a word now and I love your reaction to it. All right? Sure. . So the first one is leadership.

Lisa Matar: Uh, leadership. Like we were talking about it. For me, leadership is work in progress. Um, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And we leaders, we benefit from every mistake we make, every challenge we overcome.

Um, like I said, my style is totally about the imperfect, imperfect, genuine, uh, leadership. Um, and I really like hate the image that we draw about the leader who is completely like in total mastery. I don’t relate to that and I fight every day to bring this kind of like authenticity to the, to the leadership style.

What about resilience? Uh, hard not to talk about resilience. Um, especially from where we come both. We come, uh, I always, um, believe that succeeding is easy. If succeeding is the only option that you. Working hard is easy if working hard is the only option that you have. Look, when you always put your alternatives and you pick one, whatever path you choose, you put the resilience behind it because that’s the only option that you have.

And for us, like coming from, um, from Lebanon and having to go like on international career, definitely we had a lot of adversity, um, in, in our personal life and in our professional life. And I’m a great believer that adversity shapes identity, but because of the resilience, um, I’m not saying that a life with privilege is not fun, but I always say that people who lived with adversity, they appreciate life more than people.

Resilience. This is where I get there is a pride into it. I overcame all the obstacles and any resilience story is an excellent story to tell to your children.

Naji: Have you thought? So I’m, I’m going out of the, Yeah. The one word, but I wanna double click on this, uh, piece, resilience. And you shared in the beginning your, your childhood and bomb shelters. Um, have you reflected back on this and what it brought you or how it shaped you as a leader? So, I’m hearing a lot around, uh, resilience.

Great. Uh, having the only option is when is practically succeeding. Uh, anything else from, from those days that kind of you feel really shaped who you are as a leader when you are managing your teams?

Lisa Matar: Like I said, it’s the joy. Um, again, like when you have worked hard and you’ve been resilient, you start to appreciate things even more than when things come to you easily.

So I will add to everything that you spoke about, resilience, which is like you’re passionate about something, you focus about winning. You put all the efforts, the severance and the grid and the determination, but you take out of this bigger. There is a lot of pride of, of pride when you reach some something that was like, the past was not easy and now probably like more on, on, on this side of my career where I’m more enjoying this and said, Okay, look, from where I start, like 25 years ago.

Like this is, this is from where I come and look for everything that I have achieved. And I keep telling this story to my kids, to my boys. They’re no longer kids and they keep saying, Okay, mom, we got it. We got it, . But it’s something that you keep reminding yourself like it’s amazing. Like there’s a feeling of accomplishment that like no one can take it away.


Naji: for sure. And yeah, you should, you should feel proud. And along the way, you impacted so many lives, whether by coaching them or helping them out with the, with the different drugs you, you managed to put on markets. Uh, what about diversity?

Lisa Matar: Um, like diversity by itself means nothing. It’s diversity, it’s equity, and it’s inclusion.

Like you need the three words for this to make sense and for you to reap the benefit of, of it. But I’m gonna try to be like, probably a little bit creative and, and this, uh, question with a small story. So, um, stay with. There once was a time in, not like a distant path, where penguins, they were ruling like a large lens in the sea of organization.

You know the story or not. Okay. I, I do not. So they were doing extremely well. The penguins were extremely, like, very successful until a point where they were struggling with one problem. They did everything they can. They brought their top talents, but they were unable to solve the problem. So they said, Oh, you know what?

We’re gonna leave the land of penguins and we’re gonna go and seek. Talents somewhere else. And this is where they had met Perry the peacock said, Oh my God, impressive. He is so charismatic, so fun. Um, he’s so loud. His feathers are so colorful, and they had to do the whole penguin dance for him to, for him to accept, to join them.

He finally accepted flattered by their offer and start working in the Land of Penguins. At the beginning, everyone was happy. They were all self congratulating themselves, saying, Oh my God, we have the best recruit, but very, very, very quickly as time passes. Um, the penguin started kind of like complaining about how loud Perry the pickup was that his colors were so bright, like it’s really like annoying that he is so creative, which is very much distracting them from doing their daily job.

So the top managements in the penguin called on for. Very, and said, We acknowledge that you are brilliant, that you have penguin potential, but we believe that you can benefit more if you, um, speak, like, turn the volume a little bit down, um, maybe you can go on wearing those distinctive suit like black and white and it’ll not even hurt if you start walking like a.

At the end of the day, to cut the long story short, bury the peacock. Said Thank you so much. Left the land of penguins and went to see his future and other lands. The land of opportunities. I always like tell this story because this is all about diversity and and inclusion. You can bring. Uh, people like you can have a diverse team, but if you do not create an environment of inclusion, you will not get the benefit of diversity.

And this story in particular make me like laugh and makes me sad because I have been the penguin so many times in my career where you go out, you try to bring people creativity, and then you stifle them by asking them to be conform to what we. So that’s my short answer to diversity, equity, and inclusion, ,

Naji: and it’s such a powerful example in how you ended it.

Yeah. The last one is spread love and organizations.

Lisa Matar: Okay, so we’re gonna be very honest here. When I first saw the Spread love in organizations, something didn’t sit well with me. I said like, Oh, Naji, what’s wrong with you? Like, why love? Like, no one’s gonna take you seriously. Um, I still struggle with the word love.

I think it’s very, very bold, but I have to give you the, the like put is to you because it has the merit of thought provoking. I am much more comfortable with a world like, Spread care in the organization. But put this aside, uh, the concept is phenomenal. Like seriously, it’s, it’s not only, I would say, um, um, moral imperative.

I do believe like morally we have to care and love each others. But I do believe in the bi it’s business imperative cuz if I care, I take care of my team, They. care of their customers, and then we will all benefit. But at the same time, I feel in my own experience, if people know that you care, they, they, they allow themself, like the masks are down and they allow themself to be like completely to bring their true self to work.

Um, I was reading two days ago, um, about. Experimentation that took place in some universities. To be honest, I don’t know which university, so apologies for that. Where a professor asked, uh, his students to inflate balloons and put their name into the balloons. Very, very simple task. And then he took all the balloons and then, uh, put them in the hallway way, mixed the balloons, and asked the students like, You have five minutes.

Find your own balloon. The balloon with your own name. Of course after, after hectic search, no one was able to find within five minutes their own balloon. And then he said, Okay, let’s change tactic. Um, now pick a balloon and give it to the person whose name isn’t. Of course, like within less than two minutes, everyone had their own balloon.

And I do believe that um, success in organization is very much like balloons. If we are all looking for hours, we will never find it. But if you really care and. Those, you will find yours as well.

Naji: What a great reaction to this, to this word. Yeah. And it is thought provoking as you said, and I totally believe that it’s, um, it’s, as you said, morally important, but also for business.

It’s, it’s key. Yeah. Any final word of wisdom visa for healthcare leaders around the world?

Lisa Matar: Um, it’s not, uh, words of wisdom. Um, it’s probably like a, uh, Like a call for all leaders, which is, um, the pay it forward. Uh, I don’t believe like any leader is where he is today. If it wasn’t because of the help of some individual or individuals who ha like gave him a hand along the way and pulled him up, uh, the ladder of success.

Um, I believe we should do more. Uh, we should be deliberate about paying it forward, whether through like coaching, whether mentoring or side conversations like pick whatever works for you, but we have really to do it. Um, if you’re only like leader with grit, you will run a successful business. But if you are a leader paying it forward, you will def definitely create a better legacy.

Naji: Thank you so much Lisa for this incredible chat and for being with me today. And also, again, I need to recognize the amazing inspiration you’ve been throughout my career. Thank you.

Lisa Matar: Oh my God, it was really my pleasure. Always, uh, a pleasure talking to you and, uh, to be honest, um, great job, what you’re doing.

Naji: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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’m Naji joined by Dr. Bogdana Coudsy, vice president, head of global medical franchise for vaccines, specifically at Sanofi Pasteur a medical director, uh, medical doctor by training and pharmaceutical marketing, uh, by trade.Bogdana has an impressive resume and career. She’s held consequential leadership roles across the globe at Johnson and Johnson, Procter and Gamble. And now leading the medical teams of influenza franchise for AOF pasta as a leader and expert in vaccine and immunology, she makes a daily population level impact on public health on the front. And, I can go on and on presenting and talking about Bogdana but I’m eager to hear it all from her. So I’ll stop here and Bogdana, please let me welcome you. Thank you so much for being with me today.

Bogdana Coudsy: Thank you, Naji. It’s a, it’s a real pleasure being with you and, uh, being able to add my voice to your collection of inspiring leaders.

Naji: Great. And let’s start with your story with your personal story. to, uh, to hear all that you will give us. I, I always like to start with amazing leaders like you by if you can tell us a little bit what’s in between the line of your impressive resume of your career, uh, who you are as, as a person, and what brought you to where you are today.

Bogdana Coudsy: Oh, thank you so much. Yeah. Yeah. What, what I can say, uh, I would say just that I’m, uh, a normal person, a person with, uh, a purpose in life that is not different from what other people are having. Um, I think I always wanted to make the difference to bring my contribution to, for a great purpose to impact positively the, the life of people around me.

So maybe. Maybe I build this in a different way than other people, because I started, uh, with a profession looking to help patients one at the time. Um, but finally, yeah, it felt maybe it was not enough. So. I did not follow my initial scenario and I wanted something different, um, a job that was giving me the possibility to contribute, not a patient at the time, but a group of patients and even population.

And, um, so entering in the pharma industry was an evidence for me. And, uh, I started my career having a vision, um, this vision and, uh, an ambition, but not really a plan because I, I was not knowing exactly where this path, uh, will bring me. So as many people, I, I build a career step by step, following this purpose, following the opportunity, um, to grow and, uh, to learn, uh, in my career.

And, um, yeah, I worked in, in big companies in different roles, uh, that each of them brought me a lot of learning opportunities, satisfactions, but especially, I would say true encounters with people that, uh, counted for me and are, and still count for me. And I would say that, um, finally my leadership journey was very much in influenced by the people I met and, um, It’s really something, uh, that I consider as luck.

Uh, I had, I had a lot of luck to, to meet great leaders, um, amazing people that, uh, inspired and that motivated me. And I, I, yeah, I can say that. Um, I follow their path, uh, uh, while trying to build mine and, um, to learn, to manage and to become a leader, uh, myself. Um, and again, the fact that, uh, I had opportunities in the career, uh, and I was building on, on this, I, I think was the, the key success factor here.

Um, I had opportunity to manage people, um, and I. Discover that I like that very much. Um, I like developing, uh, young talent and, uh, helping, uh, at their tone to find their past. And this is giving me a lot of satisfaction. And, uh, also a lot of positive energy that I will say is, uh, fueling my tank in order to continue this leadership journey.

Naji: Yeah. With all that you have to do, especially these days running the vaccine franchise for a. Specifically respiratory influenza’s. Yeah. I’m sure you have tons of things to do and inspire people. And what a better way. I, I love how you framed it from one patient at a time to now impacting the population and, and being part of the public health.

Um, how would you, uh, if, if we take this as you’re a purpose driven person and you were. As a physician, helping patients immediately, how are you driving this purpose across your team? Making sure that you’re telling me you were in a meeting with 50, with 5,000 people that before we were together today, how, how do you drive this passion for patients in their day to day jobs?

Where sometimes it’s, it might be child. We, we, this big picture and the no.

Bogdana Coudsy: Yeah, it’s a very, it’s a very, very good question. I, I think that, um, uh, you know, we, we don’t, uh, have to forget that, uh, the companies are made by people and all these people are having a purpose. And very often in the pharma industry, um, the, there are a lot of people with the same purpose that are searching, uh, to impact in a positive way.

The, the life of patients, the life of population, uh, So finally you are building on, on the same, um, common values. And when you are, um, considering the, the different activities, the different clinical trials that we are wishing to build the, the, the different, uh, I would say, ask. Of, uh, a better, uh, care for people that is, uh, at the core of everything we are doing, I would say everything is based, uh, you know, on, on this desire to, uh, to bring, uh, a better health for the people around us.

And, um, I would say it, it, it’s really easy to speak about this with the different colleagues from the different functions, because we are having this, uh, profound, um, belief and, uh, and sense of purpose that we are doing our job for that bringing new S or new vaccines to, to the population that are needing it.

Um, having a way to. Check, I would say also to, to, to do a research, to be sure all the time that, uh, what we are bringing to the markets as pharma, um, industry is really well used. And it’s in favor of the people that are using it. I think it’s at the core of everything we are doing, uh, in, in the different departments.

So, um, I would say it, it’s not difficult to be a, a physician in pharma industry because very often we are speaking the same language, uh, between the, the different departments between the R and D um, uh, with our colleagues from regulatory, et cetera, Pharmac vis, but also the others in marketing, et cetera.

Um, because at the end, we are all, uh, concern about the patient and we want to do what is the best. So I would say from that point of view, I, I, I found my place quite rapidly when

Naji: I and just added beautifully, right? Like sharing, sharing the same, uh, values and then being committed to the same purpose of helping patients live better is, is.

What you’re, how you’re uniting the teams cross-functionally towards it. Um, and , I, I can, but ask you the question with the pandemic. Like you’re in the vaccines. You’re. I imagine you and your team are relentlessly working to take the population and all of us out of this, um, of this pandemic and what’s going on, um, you know, without going into the details of, of what you’re doing, but, but I’d love to have the learning.

What, how you’re driving those teams. Obvious. Obviously the purpose here is even bigger. I it’s palpable. They can feel it live it every day. Uh, with ups and downs, I imagine. Also there is the complexity. I find the vaccines out, the resilience that you have to build as you are building, um, the different programs.

Is there any, you know, major learning that you had working in such a crucial team in a crucial time? I would say for humanity, is there any, any specific fake learning that you have.

Bogdana Coudsy: A lot of learnings, I would say, uh, really, uh, and I, I think that this is, uh, unprecedented era to live in. Uh, and, um, while working in, uh, in vaccines, uh, I would say, uh, as, uh, as a medical professional, you are feeling that you are having double responsibility.

Um, Everybody was feeling frustrated, uh, when this pandemic started and expanded so much. Uh, and, uh, you know, we were frustrated not to find a rapid solution because everybody was thinking that with the level of the techno the technological level that we are having today, it’ll be. Uh, rapidly, uh, possible to find a solution, uh, at least, uh, for several aspects for, and we learn finally that, um, we were not prepared really, uh, to face this kind of situation.

So even in if in, uh, the. Biggest countries you are having, um, organization that are looking to the pandemic prep partners. Um, it was more authority model that the people were taking. And, uh, when this is happening in real life, you understand that it’s so complex. There are several, um, important, very important aspects that you need to master that finally, um, you know, it’s, it’s not, um, possible to have, uh, a very rapid response and I’m.

I’m still very inspired, but what happened in front of this threat? The fact that, um, the big pharma started to create partnerships and alliances with the academia that, um, we, we had, uh, this, uh, really strong, uh, positive dynamic and, uh, energy that was put it in order to together in order to describe the virus rapidly.

To find, uh, solutions, uh, what are the antigens that, uh, will be needed to, to be using the vaccine? A lot of exchanges between the, on the scientific topics between the, the different partners and the, that are, uh, influencing the ecosystem that it’s around all the infectious diseases, uh, including the, the, the Pharmac companies.

And for me, this was a very good sign to, to show that when there is a major threat for the humanity would be. Find the power to go in the same direction to have a convergent, um, of a conversion vision to, to, to go on the same, uh, you know, over the same, uh, the same purpose, whatever, if, uh, you are a physician working in a, in a hospital or if a healthcare professional taking care of this.

People, um, also happy to give feedback and to inform, uh, what work, what didn’t work, uh, as in the beginning or not having any protocol, nobody was knowing how to manage these, these patients. So that was the second frustration. I would say, where as physician, you want to go there, you want to go to hospital and to help people.

And sometimes it’s quite frustrating to say, okay, you have to accept that. Um, There are processes, uh, for the development of new, new drugs, new, new vaccines. And this is taking time, uh, and in the same time to manage this inpatient and this need to do something rapidly to find, to, to be part of the solution for this pandemic.

Yeah. And I would say on, on the other hand, uh, when you are looking to the situation as leader of a team, as, as manager of the team, there is, uh, I would say a certain aspect of all this frustration that it’s it’s arriving is that a. The people are wishing, uh, you know, to continue to produce value, to, to bring their contribution to all this.

Um, but with the social distancing and the fact that we are not really having, uh, um, I would say the reflects to, to work a distance for. Long time, like, uh, like it happened now months and months not to see each other, uh, it’s creating a burden on, um, I would say really the, the wellbeing, the psychological wellbeing of people, because they’re having the frustration they want to do.

A lot of things, very fast to contribute more and the same time to be far away from the others and to have to accept, uh, this kind of engagement to be the others only via telephone or via zoom meetings. So that’s another aspect that I had to manage and I, I was trying to, um, add even more humanity and even, uh, warmer, uh, Words and, and kindness to my team in the exchanges we were having, having also moments where we were speaking person to person, not, um, only about, uh, the job, our activities, but, uh, what we have to do and how to track that.

But also about how you are doing, how your family is doing. Um, let’s have a moment together to, to, to laugh, to take things less seriously, because it’s important all this in order to continue to have this relation and to continue to build on the trust. Yeah. Uh, it,

Naji: it unfortunately took us a terrible.

Pandemic right. To get back to the human side of us at work as human beings. And, and what you’re saying is definitely one of the key pieces for us all as leaders and well, what, what you lived even on the front line as vaccines is, is really great to hear, right? Like the collaboration, how healthcare overall.

Pharma regulators, uh, patients, physicians, we, we tried at least to stand altogether to bring us a solution for humanities. So, yeah. Thank you so much for sharing, um, your experience with this. Uh and you know, one, if, if we talk about this leadership. Uh, spec in, in this specific moment, you talked about kindness.

You talked about how you are building relation virtually with your people, even at an individual, um, basis. Uh, can I imagine for you even more, as you are kind of on the front line of, of the vaccines, the pressure you’re getting, not only internally. Everyone is looking at me like all the companies, the government, uh, I meant, well, Sanofi is a French company.

Like we, we heard how many times even the president was talking about it. So how, how well I’m interested in twofolds first, you personally, as leading this team. How did you manage this? How did you get the energy for yourself? Making sure that you take care of yourself, you take your kind to yourself and then how you manage to get this kindness to your team.

Uh, you know, looking, looking backwards and forward. I don’t think those pressors stopped for you. So we would love to hear this.

Bogdana Coudsy: It’s a very good question. So I would say first of all, um, uh, you know, for me, people are counting very much. So I, as, as I was saying, this sense of purpose, uh, for me is what is driving, uh, driving me in all situation.

And, um, I, I. Care about people. So, uh, when, uh, you know, I, I know very well that, uh, all this, uh, situation, uh, is not, uh, easy to manage. Um, having my teams working in teleworking from home with small children, not having a space for them to, to, to work or, you know, we were, um, looking also from that point of view, how we can support them better.

And for me, You know, it was, um, really the challenge was to mix between my role as manager and my role as leader, because, um, to, to explain a little bit, first of all, as we are having the commitment, uh, a public health commitment to, to deliver what was needed, uh, you know, in terms of vaccines, everything around and the development that.

The, the, the program of development that we are running, it was important at the same time to check that the people can continue to work in an effective way. Uh, so this is a management part to say that you organize the work differently in order to allow to people, to, to, to continue to create value and to, to contribute.

To, uh, these objectives that we are having in terms of vaccine development, uh, clinical studies, communication, et cetera. But in the same time, I was needing also to, um, to balance with my leadership role, giving to people, uh, also, uh, moments, uh, where they were. Able to, to, to share, to, to say, yeah, it’s tough.

It’s a complex situation. Uh, it’s not only about delivering, but, uh, it’s, it’s also about how best to, um, deal to cope with the situation as people in order to, to stay in good healths, uh, in order to. Stay motivated and to, to be able to continue to produce, uh, value for, for our company, because the purpose is so important, as you were saying, the responsibility is so high.

Plus the visibility is so high that you cannot miss your target. You cannot, uh, do your work only at 50% cause it’s having a lot of consequences and you cannot afford that. So. You know, having the balance between these two roles, uh, continuing to, uh, lead people, to inspire them, to show the direction, even if, uh, sometimes was hard.

Uh, we were having, uh, to, to keep the people engaged and motivated, but the same time to recognize, to acknowledge that it’s hard for everybody to, to, to be able to organize their, uh, work life in order to allow a personal life. For me, it was very important. And again, I’m coming back to, uh, people are counting very much.

I, uh, you know, I have a style of management that I, I think it’s based on good sense and a lot on empathy and, um, I’m thinking about, uh, what the, the person in front of me is experiencing and, uh, having, uh, you know, all the time, this in mind, uh, in terms of how we do things and, uh, how we can. Support and have, uh, um, have all the en environment, allowing them to organize themself better, for example, to deliver the work that they were needing, uh, having, um, hours, for example, to let them have lunch, uh, with their families to take care of small kids, et cetera.

So this is not something that in the, I say normal conditions, uh, a leader is putting. You know, as high priority, but for me it was because it’s, it’s, you know, really so important to be able to, to, to keep, uh, our, our teams motivated and in good shape. Psychologically and physically that, uh, it’s, it’s really, you cannot miss that as manager.

It’s really, really important.

Naji: Yeah. And the, the first sentence you said was I care about people. I think this is this it’s really, we feel it as you’re talking, right? Like this balance of leadership management. I know you are also, we, I had the opportunity and chance to work with you, uh, for some time. And it’s you, you, you have it, we feel it, you care for people.

And, and as you said, like, this is how you drove it. And this is obviously what’s getting this balance and the results, uh, in your organization. Right. And keeping you move forward.

Bogdana Coudsy: Absolutely. And I haven’t, I, I have the chance to work in an organization where, you know, uh, this type of leadership and, uh, I would say, um, possibility to, to shape your leadership in a personal, authentic way.

It’s allowed. Because I think that this is important. I, I don’t have a lot of experience of, uh, other industries and, uh, how did this, uh, can happen in, in, in other companies? Um, but, uh, I think that in, in pharma companies, as we are having this. Uh, um, important purpose of, uh, human health and supporting human health.

First, I think also that, that there is, uh, more sensibility in terms of source of senior management to allow to people to bring this kind of management that is really, um, Influence by the humanity, by the empathy and where you are driving, uh, people in a direction that is, you know, really following the, the, the better good, the good of, uh, say the impact, the positive impact on a society and being kind once with the others, especially in periods like this one, for me, it was the only way and working the company that is allowing this was very important.

Because you need the same time to, to feel this support from your management that, uh, you know, it’s not considered that, uh, it’s a weakness, but it’s considered that it’s a strength because you ensure that the, the, the people you’re having in the team, you know, are continuing to live, uh, you know, the life of most normal possible, and to continue to be able to focus also in the work that is, uh, very important.

Naji: Yeah. And that’s a crucial point. And as you said, it’s, it’s a strength, not a weakness. And, and I, I think the fact that you’re saying it spontaneously, because many times we heard around genuine care or, you know, I, I, I call it spread love. Right. Which is really genuinely caring for one another. And being here for one another many times, you would hear, okay, Yeah, this is the soft, soft things, right?

Like it’s not what, what will work, where in fact, what I’m hearing from you and my personal beliefs is this is the core. Of how we make sure that we’re driving our shared purpose, we’re driving our people towards a bigger why, and it will bring amazing results. And, and, and again, you gave this concrete example, uh, a moment of crisis where the word needs you most, the first thing you said, I care about people and I’ve been leading people with genuine care for, for you to be able to deliver as a team on what the word is expecting from you.

Bogdana Coudsy: Yeah, absolutely very important moment. And I, I hope that, uh, after the pandemic will be controlled, we will still, uh, consider this kind of management more and more. And, uh, this kind of leadership allowing to spread it more. Cause unfortunately it’s not, uh, in the majority of the minds of leaders, Uh, there are some people that are, you know, not yet considering that this, this is maybe for me, it’ll be for sure the way in the future, we will be able to, uh, mix generation to work with millennials to, to, to be able to in the same time to work with seniors, because at the end, what we are having in common are our values and our humanity.

Wow. So yeah, from my side, I really, really hope, and I’m very optimistic about this, that there are profound changes in our society, but also in the, the way we are considering the leadership, uh, in, in the future that this will change. And, um, I think this authentic leadership will based on kindness and, um, recognition of the human being needs.

Because for me, that’s a need having, uh, you know, that that kind of approach it’s really important. So I think that this, this will be the future. You tell me if you are having the same vision

Naji: I, I definitely am. And it’s really the core of why this podcast even started and exists. It’s it’s really this, uh, I, I have the vision and I’m, I’m committed like you, uh, as a leader to make sure that we are, we’re changing the way we, we lead people and we manage with humanity and care, as you said, for, for a bigger purpose.

So I, I would love to play a game with you now. Uh, what, yeah, what I will do is saying one or two words, and I want your top of mind, uh, thought that would come. Sounds good.

Bogdana Coudsy: Yes, absolutely.

Naji: Right. So the first word, um, women in leadership,

Bogdana Coudsy: I didn’t catch it. Sorry. Can you repeat? Yes.

Naji: Women, women in leadership.

Bogdana Coudsy: Wow. Women in leadership. Wow. F for me, this have to be M in the future. I think that, uh, it’s something that we need to support, uh, to, to, to have more female leader. This is a lot of articles. A lot of books were written on this topic, but I’m convinced that, uh, this, uh, this is something that, uh, will happen.

And, uh, I I’m a really. Um, support for the young female leaders that I’m having in my team and my organization to help them to arrive these future leaders, to arrive, to become a true leader recognized in the, in the organization. And I think that it’s also part of the responsibility for, uh, professional like me, uh, that, uh, have already, uh, quite a, uh, quite a solid experience behind that is a responsibility to help the.

The future female talents to arrive to leadership positions.

Naji: Totally agree. And yeah, each of us, you know, as, as man leader being sure that we’re advocating for, for women and women in leadership, I don’t have you framed it. Synonyms. What about the word digital? I know you’re passionate about this.

Bogdana Coudsy: Yes, uh, digital for me.

Uh, it’s a chance. Uh, I, I think that, um, it was a real chance for all of us that the, the digital channels of communication were developed already that the internet and this connection was existing, uh, because I can even not imagine what would be a pandemic like this. Without being able to, to connect at all, to have the, uh, you know, the, the, the, all the tools that are need in order to continue to, to interact exchange with people.

Uh, so yeah, it’s a chance we now need to take advantage of the revolution that this pandemic make brought in same time in terms of the. Digitalization the interest of the companies and also the way we are considering the digital channels. Um, I, I think that, um, the progress will arrive. Thanks to the digitalization.

So let’s, let’s look to the future. I’m convinced that, uh, uh, it’s, we will learn a lot from this pandemic period and, uh, we will, we’ll continue to build on this, uh, you know, and I’m looking to the importance that took telemedicine, for example, uh, and, uh, how important, and it was when the people were, uh, in the first.

The wave of, uh, pandemic and, and we were having, uh, lockdowns everywhere, uh, being able to have physician that consulted in, in teleworking and doing, you know, telemedicine was really critical. It was the only way to, to have, um, uh, a medical support, uh, sometimes. So it’s one of the aspects, but there are so many that I don’t I will not take the time to, to go in all this, but I would say is the, the one that for me, I think it was, uh, for people, for some people it was life changing.

Naji: Yeah. Yeah. The, the third word is red queen

Bogdana Coudsy: red queen.

Naji: Yeah, I, I saw something mentioning red queen in your, in your studies, on your, your all on top of all you have, you’re currently you’re currently studying, which is again amazing. So, so I read red queen and I’m intrigued to hear it from you.

Bogdana Coudsy: Yes, it’s, uh, it’s I would say my metaphor of the year.

Uh, in fact, indeed, I’m, I’m, uh, following an executive MBA here in Paris, and I have a very inspiring professor that is called Jeremy gas and, and he. Uh, share with us, uh, this, uh, this metaphor of the red queen from Alice, uh, on, in Wonderland where this, um, Alice was wishing to meet the red queen, but the red queen was moving so fast that, uh, Alice was seeing her on the right and she was running there, but, uh, the queen already, uh, going in another direction in the left.

And when Alice was arriving in the first. Place. She was finding that the queen is already not there, but, uh, she already moved. And for me, this metaphor is really important. Why? Because it’s showing, uh, you know, how important is to adapt to the en environment. The only way for Alice to catch the, the, and to speak to the red queen was to anticipate and to look not what will be, uh, her first, her next direction, her next step.

But the one after. And to be all the time, uh, you know, open to, to listen from the on environment and to understand, to try to interpret, uh, what is happening in order to stay on the top. Because otherwise, if you don’t change, uh, at, at the, the, the right speed, you are staying behind, and this is. For me, uh, really, really showing how is the current period with the pandemic, with the amount of scientific information, for example, that is existing with the, you know, with everything it’s happening.

That it’s really, uh, a metaphor that is showing how important is to adapt, to anticipate and to be in change, to, to, to embrace the change and to try to anticipate, uh, you know, not the next move, but the, the, the one after. And this can be applicable for a lot of things. Yeah. Career science, whatever you want.

Naji: Yeah. I’ll, I’ll definitely remember thread queen, uh, the last, the last word spread love in organizations.

Bogdana Coudsy: Yes.

Um, Maybe in some organization, this is Anno. Um, I, I think that for the moment, um, uh, I would say is, is rare to, to, to speak about love in the organization because, um, Uh, love is more having, uh, a link with a personal life and, uh, where you are opening yourself to say what you love. I love arts. I love theater.

I’m I’m, you know, I’m a, I’m, I’m a person that is affecting emotions and, um, Building on, on all this and having, uh, you know, I would say this soft part on us that is more exposed in personal life, that in, in the organizations, so. I think that for the moment, um, in a lot of organization, it’s not something that you can say that it’s, uh, uh, it’s a concept that is not existing yet, but I would, uh, I would like very much to, to, to support as you are doing today, uh, to have this concept spreading around and, uh, you know, having this soft part in us, Uh, accepting, accepted even at work.

This is the way I’m interpreting it. When we are speaking about this is that to accept and for the leaders and for the employees, that we are all having the soft parts in us, um, you know, that, uh, everything related to our emotions and this, uh, and our in general, the, the sentiments that we are having, and this is part of human beings that we are.

So this have to be. Integrated, uh, with the work in order, not, uh, you know, to deny at work, what is the most beautiful in human being the possibility to have this emotion?

Naji: Yeah. Yeah. Well, we, with, with this, um, you know, I’d love to hear from you what you will be taking. You talked about genuine care. We just shared about how you perceive spread love, which is between genuine care emotions, hearing about the human side of us and, and being us at work.

How, how will you continue as you’re continuing this journey with vaccines and done, still to be done, how would you continue this, uh, in your organizing a stand.

Bogdana Coudsy: Oh, yeah. yes. I, I will say I will, um, especially continue what I started to do, uh, continue to, um, to show to my team, uh, empathy and understanding. Um, I hope that I will be able to find, uh, the words are resonating for them, for the people in order to feel that it’s a real. Um, you know, it’s a real care. I really care what is happening with them.

I really care. And, and I wish to help. Um, when, uh, you know, I, I want to, to bring this message inside is that we are stronger together and it’s not, uh, it’s not a political slogan. It’s something that we have, have to accept and to make it, uh, a strength, um, accepting that we are. Needing to connect the ones with the others to spend time, uh, in, uh, just Chi chatting, just, uh, uh, give a call to a person, even if you are having full of meetings, organize your time to have, uh, you know, also real exchanges about how you are doing genuinely, how it’s, what is happening in your country, where, what is happening in your environment, how you are coping with the lockdowns, you know, having being able to have this kind of mix between a.

Uh, I, I will say, delivering on the work and everything that’s expecting and, and, uh, yeah. Speaking, uh, from human to human about the emotion, about what is difficult to face for me, it’s important. So I hope really, as a leader that I can find the right words in order to give this message to, to, to my teams without being.

Blame and without, um, you know, having the impression that, uh, it’s more politics that, uh, that, uh, that anything. Yeah,

Naji: no, it you’re, you’re authentic and inspiring. Uh, Boga. It comes with authenticity. I think this is the main difference, you know, from yeah. Feeling it’s not genuine. The word it’s not politic.

Uh, you said you talked about leaders who inspire you. Uh, and also a professor who inspired you any specific leader or even a book potentially that you read recently that inspired you during those times and that you would recommend to our audience.

Bogdana Coudsy: Oh, yes. . There are a lot of, uh, there are a lot of, uh, good books and, and, uh, articles about management, about leadership that, uh, inspired me.

So I, I will maybe mention one that I, I really, I think that everybody already, uh, uh, had have this book, but anyway, uh, the is the Armenia Barr’s book, uh, think as a leader act as a leader, Um, for me, you know, this book and even his title be became after I, I, uh, I bought this book I read it. Uh, it become not only my motto, but also my everyday objectives.

Uh, you know, my everyday objective because what I want to, to do and to continue to build, uh, is a leadership that will allow me to, you know, to continue my part. And, uh, uh, have more impact, even more impact that now continue to grow, uh, in my career, continue to grow as a leader and bringing, um, this kind of leadership to be more recognized.

Um, so for me, this, uh, this book, uh, that was, um, yeah, that I, I had the chance to read was, uh, like an eye opener. Um, regarding inspiring people. Yeah. There are a lot now, as I’m, I’m doing this executive MBA, I’m, I’m having also the chance to, to meet very, very interesting personalities and, um, very clever people that are inspiring the others, uh, and the, the, the professor Jeremy guess is one of them.

But I would say at, uh, the last but not least, I, I have, uh, an amazing manager, uh, at work, uh, a woman leader that, um, I think, uh, shape, uh, what I am today because I’m working now with her for more than three years. And, um, I, I think that the fact that she’s trusting me and having the, the same values and the same, uh, giving the same support for this, uh, um, leadership that is an authentic and human, let me arrive at this stage where I consider myself a better leader.

That was three years ago.

Naji: Wow. With this. Do you have any final word of wisdom for the leaders in healthcare around the world?

Bogdana Coudsy: Um, yeah, I, I would say first of all, uh, trust yourself and, uh, in same time, uh, try to find around you, um, uh, role models. For me, it was very helpful, uh, to find role models, people that are inspiring you for this or that reason and learn from these people, uh, and be open to, uh, Taking, what is the, what is good in people?

Everybody is having something good and something you can learn from them, not only from the big inspiring leader, but also from your colleagues from also from your teams. And I have, yeah, I would say the, the, the lack to have, uh, an extraordinary team, uh, that have to live in order to go now on, on, on a new.

But, uh, you know, everything that I, uh, I experience with, uh, with my colleagues, with my team, uh, brought me where I’m here, where I’m now, uh, at, at the level where I found that I was inspired by all this, uh, People and I learn from them and I’m wishing to continue to learn from the other people that I will meet and to continue to inspire and to bring, uh, I would say again, uh, a positive dynamic and my, I would say my contribution.

For, for a better society, a better health. Uh, and, uh, yeah, this is what I would say to the young manager, trust yourself. And, uh, don’t forget to be authentic, to be the real you to be in line with your values, because it’s the only way this can function.

Naji: Thank you so much Bogdana again for being with me today, finding the time between studies work during a pandemic where your teams are relentlessly working to help us get out of it, uh, and, and sharing your story for, for us all, to continue leading with genuine care, with love for a better healthcare, around the world.

Naji: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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’m Naji, your host for this episode joined today by Bob Jones, serial healthcare industry, entrepreneur. Bob is founder and currently CEO of scientific nutrition products, a company addressing medical conditions by creating and selling nutrition based products. Bob was previously a principal at CIA advisors, a strategy consulting firm, where Bob led the nutrition and wellness practice. Prior to that, Bob was president and CEO of Viso USA.The nation’s largest marketer and manufacturer of tofu and the pioneer of soy milk in America, where he let successful turnaround before joining, uh, Bob launched three startups in the medical nutrition field, each company addressed chronic medical disorders, such as diabetes via specifically targeted nutrition products, all selling through retail pharmacy. Bob has also held executive positions at several other companies, including Abbot and Baxter. He has two awarded patents in the feed of nutrition. He’s an active mentor with MIT and several other organizations where I had the opportunity to learn from his wealth of experiences. He is also an incredible guitar player and part of a volunteer group that plays and sings in homeless shelters.

Bob, I am humble to have you with me today.

Bob Jones: Well, I’m flattered to be invited. Thanks for having me.

Naji: First I would love to hear your personal story from biology to serial entrepreneurship in, uh, in healthcare and nutrition. What’s in between the lines of this incredible journey.

Bob Jones:: Uh, it’s a long and winding road Naji.

Um, When I was studying biology and doing a research thesis in neuroendocrinology really what I cared about was behavior. I was trying to reconcile what the psychology professors were discussing with what the neurophysiology professors were. And of course that. That quest continues. Uh, but what I cared about was behavior and through an odd set of circumstances, my first job out of college was four years, uh, teaching school in the projects in west Philadelphia.

And. I walked in thinking, well, really what these kids need. They just need a friend, which of course was the height of naivete because that flatly didn’t work. Um, and I was required to dig a little deeper and. I would walk in and say, well, good morning kids today. We’re gonna learn how to find the area of a square.

And they would look me in the eye and say why we don’t care. And I had never thought about that. And, um, anyway, I had to dig a little deeper because I knew the material that I was being charged with teaching would make their lives better, but I had to sell it. I had to create the motivation because if they wanted to learn it badly enough, then even if my pedagogy, uh, was clumsy, they’d get it.

Anyway, on the other hand, even if I offered elegant explanations of stuff, they didn’t care about it was not gonna go anywhere. So, um, I. Had sort of a, a crisis rethought. All of this regrouped had at it just refused to quit. And, uh, discovered that I started having some real successes with these kids. They began accomplishing things.

You could see their self self-esteem go up. They moved up within this school hierarchies. Some of them got out of the gangs that they were in and actually ended up going off to college. Um, it was quite rewarding. but I left after a while, took a few more jobs and went to business school and, uh, was exposed to a completely different ethos.

We all were sort of told that we. Spring out into the world to become, uh, corporate leaders. And at that time, when I heard the word entrepreneur, I thought it was a French word. And I thought that it was a French word that meant unemployed and so, so I pursued the sort of traditional corporate, you know, command and control and all of that and discovered that.

It just, wasn’t a good fit for me. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t feel like I was having any kind impact that I wanted. I felt that the agendas were. Off access from, from my value structure. And so I began starting companies because I didn’t know what else to do. And so I ended up starting four companies in total with the docs out of Harvard med school.

I, I turned around a company that had lost money for a lot of years. I worked hard. I had some failures, I had a couple successes. It was much more fun, but then, um, Within a fairly short period of time. Two members of my family died and several of my friends died and all of them were younger than me. And I think we’re not well wired to lose people who are younger than we are.

And it brought home to me that one day the lights go out and I ended up thinking, I just don’t wanna waste any more of my time doing things that I don’t wanna. And it’s time to stop and think a little bit about, well, what do I want to do? And what I’ve found is that if I can help other people realize their dreams, that I find that quite gratifying.

And so I have ended up working rather. In the last few years, um, as a member of business advisory boards as a, a lecturer or workshop leader in various organizations that are associated with helping entrepreneurs, um, achieve their goals.

Naji: Thank you Bob, for, for sharing your story and, and your perspective, uh, also on, on life, I would say you, you founded startups, you started companies, you worked in, uh, the corporate world, uh, to, and now you’re advising so many different, uh, companies at different stages. What are your leadership lessons for, from really those diverse experiences you.

Bob Jones:: Well, I thought about your organization a little bit. NA and, um, and I think there’s a lot of merit in what you’re doing, but I may have a, a slightly different perhaps somewhat more constrained view of. Love Vivi, helping people realize their dreams. And, and that I found that sometimes the best way to show love is to tell people things that they don’t necessarily want to hear, but get ’em back on track.

And as an example of I’ve spent some time working with an excellent group called pipeline entrepreneurs that helps high growth entrepreneurs in the Midwest. And, uh, I lead a two and a half day workshop every February for the incoming group and a year or two ago at the end of the three days, couple of came up to me and said, Bob, Over the course of the past couple of days, you beat up every single one of us in this group.

And I said, yes. And they said, well, thank you. because our employees not always tell us the, the candid truth. They’re not always. Sagacious enough to know what they should tell us. They’re not always brave enough to tell us stuff we don’t want to hear. Um, but the net is, I think you transformed our businesses.

So in a potentially perverse sort of way, I was showing them love. And I was showing them a respect by helping them accelerate their path toward. The, the goals that really mattered to them. So I, I guess if, if there were a lesson in there, um, it would be candor if I were to summarize it in one word, and sometimes it’s not showing love to gloss over the gross mistakes that you see people making.

Sometimes you just have to tell ’em even if you think they, um, don’t want to hear it. But I also find that just spreading love universally is, is potentially a recipe for disaster because I’ve found that sometimes there are people in organizations who just don’t contribute. And if that’s because there are hurdles and I can remove the hurdles, then it’s a good thing.

If it’s because they’ve lost their motivation and I can help them find their motivation or help create some motivation. That’s a good thing. But I have run into people who just don’t wanna work. And I run into people who embezzle corporate funds. And, uh, and they have to go because on a professional basis, it would be a violation of showing love to those people in the organization who are motivated to create value.

If I put up with that kind of behavior beyond a certain point, and there have been times when I’ve. I have pulled aside the people after I fired them and said, look on a personal basis. I think you have a lot going for you. I think you could be very successful. I think you have a personality characteristic.

That’s a lot like having a pebble in your shoe. It may strike you as a small thing, but you’re never gonna sprint with a pebble in your shoot. You’ve got to address this and I don’t have the time to wait while you address it for us. And I haven’t seen any real commitment from you that you will address it.

So I have to fire you and I’m going to, but personally, I think if you could get this pebble out of your shoe, you could be a real runner. So, so as I said, I have to a constrained, maybe bounded view of.

Naji: Can I can I say I love it because it’s, , it’s not a thank you. It’s it’s not portrayed and it’s not bounded.

It’s, you know, it’s what I, when I think of love, this is true love. Right? You talked about candor, you, and this is when genuinely you care about someone. You need to tell them when things are going wrong. I, I don’t think people show up and wanna do it back job. And it’s our responsibility as leader. If we care.

To tell them that it’s going wrong and to, to, yeah. To help people go out of an organization, if it’s not where they’re getting at, where they’re being at their best. So you, you really touched upon two things that many times when we hear the word love, we think it’s. You know, like just love and it’s never those true discussions and those crucial conversations or taking some decisions sometimes on people.

It’s exactly this when it’s read off. So thank you for mentioning those. Um, yeah. I love how you framed it.

Bob Jones:: Well, you’re welcome. Um, as a, as a footnote, uh, you, uh, as a healthcare professional and I, as a healthcare entrepreneur know that though, this fact is tragic. There are people out there who simply have no interest in taking care of themselves, and you can do Mo motivational interviewing and you can salvage some of them.

But there are some that you simply can’t salvage. I’ve talked to many, a visiting nurse. Who’s told me terrible stories about calling on people who are stuck in a wheelchair with diabetes, with the oxygen in their nostrils. And they’re still smoking cigarettes. And of course, oxygen likes flame. And sometimes they blow the top of, of the building.

They live in. And so I had to conclude that I might have a lot of love, but I don’t have a limitless amount of love and that I should, I should love the people who have some interest in growing and living a fulfilled life.

Naji: That’s that’s awesome.

Bob Jones:: Call it conservation of resources. yeah.

Naji: Yeah. Limited amount of time and resources and, and yeah, it’s, there’s always this challenge, like.

Where you put your time and resources and love for people who generally care and what I would love to, uh, what would be your advices as a, now a serial founders and advising so many entrepreneurs. If we wanna boil it down to one or two advisors for those, uh, founders in the healthcare word, specifically, as you know about it, uh, in what.

Bob Jones:: Make sure that the need you have identified is genuinely unmet rather than you just being seduced by a really cool idea. Make sure that what you are offering is something that your clients or customers will think is better. Not that you will think is better, but that they will think is better. Make sure you’ve figured out a way to do this so that you can actually make enough money to continue sustaining your company.

Otherwise you don’t have a business. You have a really cool hobby or maybe a philanthropy. But, and, and for those who are interested in social entrepreneurship, I think the bar is even higher because if you wanna give away a pair of shoes for every pair of shoes you sell, you’ve got a lot of make a lot of money on the shoes that you sell in order to fund the ones that you give away.

And so your initial, no motivations might be noble. But they will founder and flop if you’re unable to make enough money to keep the lights on. So, um, look for that combination of creativity, maybe noble intentions and a practical, pragmatic view of, of how you’re actually gonna grow a business.

Naji: That’s great.

Noble and practical. I’ve I’ve heard about this word of pragmatic idealistic. I, I, and I think you’re summarizing it here, here, somehow. It’s

Bob Jones:: a tricky synthesis as you well know, there, there are people who genuinely want to be noble and they don’t know the first thing about making money. And there are people out there who genuinely want to make a lot of money and have zero interest in helping their fellow man.

Yeah. And what we’re looking for is the synthesis of those characteristics in some balanced fashion. Totally.

Naji: You led, uh, obviously your company through, uh, through those moment of crisis. I’d love to hear more first about your current company and what you’re doing, cuz you’re working on a noble, uh, purpose with, with your teams.

Uh, and also how you led through those those times. Uh, it’s always challenge in healthcare specifically with the pandemic and you’ve been working with, um, what, what, what your, the people, your company serve is also people who were. Highly touched during, uh, the pandemic. So how have you led through those, uh, those moments internally and externally?

If I may say.

Bob Jones:: Well, let me, uh, set the stage that I’m in the process of exiting the fourth business right now. And so there’s at least some of this that I probably should be discreet about. Um, having said that, I think it’s a very rare startup that doesn to encounter, uh, several crises along the way to stability.

In fact, this. Book that I’m in the process of writing has a whole chapter titled of don’t it right? The. And, and I have some remarkable stories from entrepreneurs that I’ve interviewed, fleshing that out back several of button hold me last week and said, put my picture up there next to that chapter title

So I think. Leadership through crisis is unavoidable. If you’re starting a company. And I, I think that the pandemic is a convenient heading, but maybe a more broad heading equally applicable is just growing pains. Because every company gets to the point where they’ve grown too fast and the quality assurance has gone to hell or they’ve hired a bunch of employees, some of whom they should not have hired and they don’t know how to fire ’em.

Um, they, they hired their relatives because they thought this would all be great. And then over that their relatives were a bad fit. And can’t figure out how to fire ’em without, uh, ruining family relationships. Um, there’s just all sorts of, um, hurdles that entrepreneurs inevitably have to clear. I think, keeping your team advise of what’s going on.

I mean, you can sell it a little bit, but there can’t be too much smoke. I, I think your employees almost always know the truth, even if you think they don’t. If you have an employee that is not performing, they probably know it before you do. And to try to pretend otherwise, uh, lowers your credibility as a leader, uh, damages your ability to lead the firm.

And so I think, I think you have to be candid. I think you have to be forthcoming and forthright. I also think. And this might seem counterintuitive. You have to make your employees go home. At the end of the day, spend time with their families, spend time on the things that recharge their batteries and take care of themselves because just driving them slavishly to comp, say for your management mistakes is.

Or a healthy way to lead a business. I think you have to tell, ’em go home, do something good for yourself, whether it’s exercise or play music or whatever it is, go home and, and recharge your battery. Step away from this. Come back in here tomorrow. Bring me your best act. You your be at the top of your game, but go home.

And, and as the leader, I think sometimes you have to exemplify that yourself, even though it’s sometimes hard to do to pack up at five or five 30 or whatever it is and say, well, goodnight, everybody. And I hope you’re not more than about five minutes behind me. I’m leaving. And it makes them realize that, okay.

It really is. It really is. Okay. He’s gone. maybe I can be home in time for dinner with my kids. So I, that is particularly important during times of crisis.

Naji: Yeah. Yeah. Uh, I wanna move now into, uh, a section where I would give you a word, oh God. And I wanna get the reaction so the first word is, uh, leadership.

Bob Jones:: Well, I think leadership requires courage. I don’t think I’ve ever been in an organization where. People did not criticize the leader. I think if you have a really high need to be liked, you are not well suited for a leadership position. I think you can be loved, but not liked. paradoxic though. That may sound, they may love you for your leadership qualities and not necessarily like you, when you hold them.

So I think I also think that.

Let me give you a better example than one that I would offer. I spent some time with the, uh, the top guy at about a $3 billion firm out there. We were having dinner one evening and he said, you know, Bob, I’ve got a whole squadron and very experienced executives working for me. And fact is I could probably leave the business for a month and they would do a great job of running the business.

What they need me for is to look over the horizon, see what’s coming. That could either be a great opportunity for us or a great threat to us and come back and make a risk, determination that we should address those things. That very few of us actually see. And sometimes I’m. It’s not easy, but that’s what I signed up for.

And I thought, wow, I should write this down. It’s brilliant.

Naji: What about entrepreneurship?

Bob Jones:: Uh, insanity, Lecy, character flaws, uh, psychosis and, um, Well, as, as I said, I’ve been interviewing fellow entrepreneurs, um, as part of cooking up this book, I’m writing, um, the startup starter kit and. I have to say it was a revelation that people that I already knew and thought of as having a lot of self confidence and a lot of swagger ended up saying things to me like this is excruciatingly difficult.

It’s absolutely not a life that’s for everyone. It challenged my. Self-esteem it, in some cases crushed my self respect. It did, uh, damage to some of my valuable and intimate relationships and, and entrepreneurship is over promoted and over glamorized and people, people should be told about entrepreneurship, but given enough information to make a eye decision.

And of course I couldn’t resist saying, well, would you do it again? And in every case they said,


And, and then of course I couldn’t resist saying well, given, um, that this was about as much fun as taking a hammer and hitting all your fingers. Why on earth would you do it again? And one of them said, well, I think an awful lot of people trade their dreams for security. And there’s two things wrong with that one.

If you think you’re gonna find security in a big company or delusional, it’s not there. And two, for me personally, Bob, I can’t think of anything that’s worth trading my dreams for. So I think entrepreneurship is creative. It’s exciting. It’s fulfilling, it’s exhilarating. It’s incredibly difficult. And when your business fails and as most of them do, it causes you to reevaluate a number of your personal full philosophies.

And I think that. Many of us take refuge in the analogy of the jockey and the horse. I’m a pretty good jockey. I happened to pick a horse that wasn’t gonna win the race. So the poor thing died in the middle of the race. So I guess I’ll mourn the loss of my horse. And then I’ll go find another horse. As opposed to thinking if the business fails, I’m a failure.

Everything I do from here forward will be a failure. I think that’s wrong. I think entrepreneurship incorporates failure that those who are successful view that failure as a learning event, rather than as a terminal event.

Naji: Love it. And I’m eager to get your book

Bob Jones:: out. well, uh, September and, uh, there’s a waiting list getting built at, uh, the startup starter kit.com.

So awesome. We’ll go there. Pedal the book co sign up. I’ll be glad to send you a personal.

Naji: Blues dogs

Bob Jones: well,

Working musician since before I was an adult and played a lot of different kinds of music, uh, thought I was pretty good until I started playing with people who made me realize I wasn’t any good. And at one point in my checkered past, I ended up playing in a seven piece fan on the south side, Chicago, where you had to go several miles to find anybody that looked like.

And I realized that I didn’t know how to play the blues either. And I had to really dig in, I, I learned the merit of space in your music that the next step in sophistication for me was learning when to not play and leave some room for everybody else, learn how to play and listen at at the same time, these were skills that I, as a hot dog, young guitar player, never assimilated.

And when I ended up with this group that I’m with now wonderful bunch, uh, we thought, well, we’re not actually playing at country clubs. We’re playing in some kind of down and dirty places along with the dogs. and the name blues dogs, uh, sort of evolved and that’s us.

Naji: That that’s awesome. And when, when you were talking about it, you talked about listen and play and give space.

I imagine you took some of those into your leadership style too, right? From the lessons of music.

Bob Jones:: Oh, absolutely. No. It’s profoundly affected my view of, of managing and. Employees on the Syrian site for a moment. One of the things we were taught in business school was concept called command and control, which was every bit as disagreeable as it sounds.

And it just didn’t work for me. I might lead the band, but I don’t know how to play saxophone. And I’m perfectly willing to suggest the direction to the sax player and get out of his way. And if we can do it in a way that is collaborative and there’s a creative synthesis that comes then sometimes a four piece band can sound like an eight piece band.

Because everything’s working and that’s a pretty good analogy in my view for how a small group of quality employees that are really in sync can move mountains.

[00:29:42] Naji: I love it. I’m a big fan of music, definitely worse than you playing guitar or piano, but , I’m, I’m a

Bob Jones:: big fan. Well, you must come see us.

Naji: uh, the last word is spread love and organizations.

Bob Jones:: Well, I’ve had a bit of a turnaround on that one, um, because. When I first, um, encountered you and the name of this organization, I thought, oh, I’m not gonna like this at all, because this is gonna be like one of those things where every kid that plays on the sports team gets a trophy just for being there.

When, in fact I’ve coached some of those teams and the kids don’t want that stuff. The kids wanna know, did we win or not? And, and independent of whether or not I’d push ’em. And coupled with some of my own insights is I really have caught employees embezzling from the company. And so I know that not everybody out there is a good person, most are, or I wouldn’t be doing all this volunteer work I’m doing, but not all.

So I was. And then I went to your website. I listened to a couple of your podcasts and thought, okay, I was wrong. That what you’re doing is shining the light on something that really will help people be effective. And.

I don’t know, maybe it sounds grandiose, but maybe leave the world a slightly better place than they found it by collaborating, working with supporting and sharing the love with, within the confines of who, uh, accept this gift and understand that it’s a gift.

Naji: Oh, thank you about this. It means so much what, what you just shared now, any final word of wisdom for leaders around the.

Bob Jones: You know, Naji I have hired people who were overqualified and making way more money than I, as the leader of a startup could afford to pay them. And when I asked them why they took the job. What boiled out of all, that was because I want to feel like I’m making a difference. I don’t want to be somewhere where I can sit all day long and shuffle paper from one side of the desk to the other, collect a fat paycheck and go home feeling like I didn’t make a contribute.

And, and I think. Is a kernel of real wisdom for leaders. If you can show people that what they are doing makes a difference and have them feel that what they’re doing is important and makes a difference. Then the next thing you have to do is just get out of their way. Sure. They understand where you’re trying to go and that they have an important in getting there.

And. Maybe step back in now and then, and help ’em clear a hurdle or something, but find out what it is that they think is important. Try and connect the dots to what your mission is, inspire ’em and get out of the way.

Naji: Love it. What a great advice. Thank you so much, Bob, for this genuine and straightforward discussion we had

Bob Jones: Thank you. Well, I’m flattered. Thank you for, uh, including me. It’s been a pleasure.

Naji: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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’m Naji your host for this episode joined by Elizabeth Sawin founder and director of the Multisolving Institute. Beth is an expert on solutions that address climate change while also improving health, wellbeing, equity, and economic fire fatality. She developed the idea of multisolving to help people see and create the conditions for such win-win solutions. Her work has been published widely. She has trained and mentored global sustainability leaders in the Donella Meadows fellows program and provided systems thinking training to both Ashoka and Delai Lama fellows since 2014. Beth has participated in the council of the uncertain human future. A continuing dialogue on issues of climate change and sustainability among a select group of humanities, scholars, writers, artists, and climate scientists, a biologist with a PhD from MIT, Beth co-founders climate interactive in 2010. She has two adult daughters and those in rural Vermont where she and her husband grow as much as their own food as they can manage.

Beth, I am so excited to have you with me today.

Beth Sawin: I’m excited as well.

Naji: First, I would love to hear your personal story from biology to climate change being part of the UN convention on the climate change. What’s what story behind this impressive work.

Beth Sawin: Yeah. Um,

I would, I guess, you know, it’s always a, a, a challenge to think where a story starts, but I would start it as a little kid who just played in nature a lot. You know, I was the kid with the rock collection and the, um, the seed collection and playing in the Brook. Um, and so that led me to an interest in science as an undergraduate.

I saw at a biology and chemistry. Um, and I, I followed those two threads to MIT where I studied neurobiology. Um, I worked on a small soil organism, a nematode called sea elegance. Um, this was in the late 1990s. And the research question we’re interested in was about learning and memory. And the fascinating thing about this organism, um, you know, is so beautiful.

It’s a transparent about a millimeter long worm. Um, it has. A limited number of cells a little bit more than a thousand. And they’re the same in every single elegans there is, and they have 302 neurons, very specific number. Each one had a name, um, that was worked by my PhD advisor and his colleagues to make this map of a nervous system.

Um, so I was, I had little tiny piece of that to try to understand. Learning and memory and how neurons connected, um, to, to enable this organism, to navigate its environment. And I loved the re I loved the organism. I loved the research. Um, a lot of it was very quiet actually, because I had to work in a dark room, um, at a cool temperature, like 45 or 50 degrees.

Um, I did lots of microscopy. Uh, one experiment I did was using a laser to kill single, no Iran, and try to understand how the behavior changed. Um, So in some ways, you know, that’s a big departure for where I, I sit now, um, 30, more, 30 plus years later, right. Leading an organization that works on sustainability health, climate change, equity and justice.

Um, but the, I think the threads are still there. Um, Because I was studying a system and I was really interested in the whole system. Um, how, how, how do you put 302 pieces together and get, um, emergent behavior? So that interest in systems, um, led me to start following the work of one of the most important mentors in my life, which is Danella Meadows.

Um, she was the, she was the, um, co-author of a book called the limits to growth, which is actually the 50th anniversary of that book. Um, just this we, uh, so that was the first real global modeling study that used. Systems theory and computer simulation to look at what at that point was, you know, something off in the future.

Um, it was, they were asking the question, the human economy is growing exponentially on a finite planet. Um, what are the scenarios for, for that? Like, Obviously it can’t keep growing forever. Are there pathways to fit within the, the economy within the earth system? And in 1972, there were all kinds of options.

Um, of course today we, we know that the advice of those authors didn’t really get taken by the world and we’re all living through some of the implications of that. So , um, While doing this research in biology, I got to know Janelle Meadows. I was interested in systems theory and she was starting a research Institute in 1997.

It was called the sustainability Institute. Um, and she needed a group of, of young researchers because there was more work she wanted to, to do in the world. Then she could accomplish as an individual. Um, the only problem was, you know, I knew a lot about biochemistry, genetics, and neurobiology, and she needed people who could make computer simulations of complex systems.

Um, and, and so this is one of those leaps of faith in a career. Uh, cuz she was, she said, well I never studied systems theory as a, you know, in a formal way. Um, her husband at the time, Dennis Meadows. Was a PhD student at MIT studying systems theory with Jay Forrester and Della taught herself systems theory at the kitchen table using Dennis’s books and notes.

She was like, I taught myself, you could teach yourself. I was like, oh, okay. I’ll teach myself. Um, You know, now I look back, she’s probably the most brilliant person I’ve known in my life. So the fact that she could teach herself something, uh, was not like a universal that anyone including me could just sit down and, and master that.

Um, So it was a very steep learning curve. I did take a few classes, um, and I learned the basics of the, um, of the math and the computer science to build, um, what we call system dynamics, computer simulations, which are ways, um, to use computers, to handle the complexity and the interconnection of world. Um, there’s, there’s more of it than we can mentally simulate, which is, is one of the reasons so often that our systems, whether they’re.

Families organizations, countries, um, uh, international relations, you know, things go off the rails because of that complexity because of especially feedback loops, where we make changes in the world and then they feed back in ways we don’t expect. Um, so that was a big leap for me from, from biology to sustainability and systems theory, um, that led to.

You know, so many other important things in my life. One is, um, where I ended up living and raising my family because Janelle MES was really committed to the theory of sustainability, but also the practice of it. And so she had a vision around that same time in the late 1990s of a, um, a community of people, um, living more cooperatively than most Americans sharing land and.

Resources and, um, practicing sustainability to the extent they could. So, um, my husband and I got inspired by that vision and we joined as the, some of the founding members of that community where, where I still live in Vermont. So it’s 23 families on 280 acres, um, that, uh, you know, far from perfect. But we, we practice and learn about, um, you know, Everything from sustainable energy to composting toilets, to energy efficiency and agriculture.

Um, so that’s been. Really important throughline of my life is the more grounded practice of what does sustainability mean. Um, and then of course this introduction into the wor world of systems has framed pretty much everything. I think about, you know, our, our work in the world, but also how we try to organize and participate in teams and collaborations with, with just this underlying belief that.

The world is actually, um, a unitary complex system. They’re the, uh, the boundaries, whether they’re between disciplines or nations are usually, uh, we call them mental models, things that, that human beings have made up, but they’re not. They’re not the physical substance of the world, you know, there’s between Russia and Ukraine, because we’re talking right now at this moment with the world’s attention, there there’s a line on a map, but in the ecology of that part of Europe, there’s, there’s no line.

Right. And of course, Anyone who’s, who’s been to space and come back and told the rest of us what that feels like. That’s one of the most pronounced things that those explorers of of space say is, you know, this, this small unitary earth that we all share. Um, so that, that journey through sustainability Institute eventually led to a project at sustainability Institute called climate interactive, um, which grew to the point where it became its own organization, um, where I was a co-founder along with Andrew Jones and co-director until.

Little more than a month ago. Um, and most of those years that climate are active, were focused on, uh, these same type of computer simulations, focused on climate change and what countries and, um, businesses and leaders could do to, um, meet climate targets. The. So we use computer simulations to help people ask really fast.

What if questions? What if, what if China rapidly decarbonized? What if the United States switched to all electric vehicles, questions like that? Um, and, and playing that out for the a hundred year future, what would, what would temperature and sea level rise and, um, droughts and air pollution look like under those different scenarios?

Which was F fascinating. Um, you know, just like I loved the biology and the, the intricacy of that one organism. Um, this was a different kind of in intricacy of trying to represent, you know, the whole global economy and the whole planetary climatology. Um, And that work led to so many fascinating places, um, including you mentioned the UN climate conferences, um, for a group of scientists, uh, you know, to find our way into advising some of the world’s governments and.

Civil society via, and also, you know, journalists who are telling the story of these, of these meetings. Um, one role that we ended up playing was, was saying if all the countries in the world accomplished what they’re promising, because in, in these negotiations countries, each say, you know, they’re gonna reduce their emissions by a certain percent, at a certain time.

And we became really good at. Um, asking if every country did what they said, what would that mean for the a hundred year climate future? Would we meet the goals that they said they were making these pledges for? Um, and year after year, our message, there was pretty much, um, you’re making progress and there’s further to go.

Um, and, and I are really frustrated to be honest, like saying that you year after year, cuz you know how urgent these issues are. Um, we don’t have. Time to just slowly make progress and have further to go. And every year of delay, um, means like losses and suffering, right. It means communities and ecosystems that we can’t recover.

Um, so, um, that, I guess that frustration gave birth to the old strand. I’ll tell you about which kind of leads up to, to the present moment. Which is this idea of multi solving, um, with, within the climate negotiations, um, there’s, there’s kind of a, laser-like focus on the greenhouse gases on, and particularly on CO2, um, which is.

In some ways as it should be like, that’s the source of global warming is CO2 and countries need to come up with ways to limit that. But, um, we’ve been talking about complex systems and interconnection and of course, CO2 doesn’t exist in a bubble it’s connected to, um, fossil fuels, which end up, you know, having other than just CO2.

And I know a lot of your audiences. Comes from health. So of course, people know about air pollution and all of the impacts, um, on, um, developing embryos on people’s, um, circulatory system, their respiratory system, their nervous system. Um, but, but in the space of talking about climate, all of that’s often ignored.

And so you have two problems that could be, um, improved at the same time by weaning countries and economies off of fossil fuels. Uh, But, um, and this is improving, but it’s still far from where it could be too much of the time. Those are two separate conversations with public health, thinking about air pollution and climate and energy leaders thinking about transportation and, um, the global climate.

and that’s really important because by bringing issues like that together, you bring together timescales. Um, the health impacts are often a lot quicker, you know, though, we’ve been talking about the a hundred year future when it comes to climate, but if you remove tail pipes or coal-fired power plants, the air in a community gets better in days to weeks.

Um, and incidents of things like asthma gets better on that same kind of time course. Um, so. Bringing these issues together, um, can can help with this problem of long term problems are hard to face. Um, politically they can be hard to get the energy for. You can combine that with short term short term benefits.

Um, and the other thing you start to pull together with more of a whole system view is the costs and the benefits. You know, we, we have to spend money, time and effort. To build a low carbon energy system, but what we would get on the health side, um, and the world health organization has been saying this since 2018, the health benefits outweigh the costs of the energy system transformation, um, expenses.

But when those two things are in silos, Then the net win overall for the whole system. It just stays out of reach. So, um, multi solving is this idea of solutions that tackle more than one problem at the same time. And as of a month ago, that work on multi solving, which was incubated at climate interactive.

Um, now is part of a freestanding organization called the multi solving Institute, which I’m the founder and director of. So that’s the long and winding story. Well,

Naji: it’s, it’s an amazing, inspiring story, Beth. Thanks for sharing part of your, your story and journey. Um, and you ended with the multi solving Institute.

So let’s double click on this. And I remember when we first discussed about it, uh, you, you gave an example of a simple town with bicycles. And then with system dynamics, the impact overall about it, and you kind of touched it and you really frame it as a win, win, win solutions. So can you tell us a little bit more this story or any other story where you think we can have immediate impact, in fact, and, and in the word.

Beth Sawin: Yeah, multi solving definitely, um, is best communicated through stories. So I’m glad that you asked that. Um, and one of the things that we do at the multi solving Institute is collect case studies that show the variety of possibilities. Um, so maybe I’ll just mention a few that my colleagues have researched that are some of my favorites.

Um, one is a project we learned about in New Zealand called warm up New Zealand. And it was a response to the, um, energy crisis or sorry, the economic crisis of 2008, 2009. So it was meant to be a jobs program for the construction industry in New Zealand to upgrade homes that were energy inefficient. And it, it was successful at that.

Um, homes got upgraded, there were good jobs. Um, and so that’s a win, right. But we’re talking about the win, win, win, as you said. So, one interesting thing that happened was, um, researchers from the health side looked at the residents in these homes that had been upgraded and they tracked things like ha um, emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and, um, the costs of medications.

And found really remarkable savings on the health side. Um, and that’s simply because people were living in more comfortable, less drafty, um, homes potentially with better air quality. And, and so there’s, you know, there’s the second win and they’ve, they’ve developed that now, so that they’ve included, um, you know, public health, health leaders and primary care physicians, people through this program, we understand can a doctor can.

Can refer, um, patients for home energy upgrades, right? So, you know, we laugh about, instead of taking aspirin and call me in the morning, it’s like, go get new windows and a new boiler. Um, and, and so that’s an example of this stretching across boundaries that we’re talking about. Um, and the, the power of these, uh, solutions, really the engine that drives them is people being able to connect across these sort of arbitrary made up.

Lines in the world, right. When we say this is the department of energy, and this is the department of health and they’re, they’re in different buildings and the people have different training and speak a different technical language and likely don’t know each other. Um, and so those are all hurdles that have to be overcome by people leading this type of work.

Um, do you have space for another example or is that, is that yeah, please? Um,

I’m well, one that has my, uh, my interest these days, uh, is happening, I think, around the world, in the United States, there’s 19 different states experimenting with electric school buses. Um, so the first real advantage of electric school buses is for the children who. You know, are, are waiting, um, at school or on their corner in their neighborhood and breathing in diesel exhaust fumes from traditional buses.

And, you know, kids are right at that level of where the air is the most polluted. Um, uh, so an electric school bus removes right away, some of that burden of air pollution, which has so many health impacts on people. But the other thing that can happen, um, is, uh, during the parts of the day, when the school buses aren’t in use, they can be charging, but they also can be connected to the grid as giant batteries.

And we know that part of getting a really clean energy grid is using these. Intermittent sources of power, like wind and solar. Um, and so there needs to be a smoothing process to balance out demand with the generation. So school buses or any kind of BA are, are also big battery, right. And they can be used to help smooth out those highs and lows.

And the other thing that they are is, um, mobile battery. And so in, um, instances where there’s. Impacts like climate impacts say a storm that takes out the power grid in a place. Um, you can send fleets of, uh, electric school buses, which are, which then can be used for people to charge their phones or keep their medicine cold or whatever is needed, um, in a community after a disaster.

So, you know, these are, these are pie pilots. People are trying to figure out the. So, you know, the budget, how to make it all happen. An electric school bus is more expensive right now than a diesel bus. Um, but it shows you how you can put these really different problems together. Like on the face of it.

You wouldn’t think kids with air pollution, getting to school is connected with making the electricity grid work better, but this is some of the just innovation that’s bubbling up all around us right now.

Naji: I love it. And you said the arbitrary lines in the word, I love how you framed it. When we start taking off those lines that we created, obviously we can imagine the possibilities and what we can do.

Beth Sawin: Yeah. What about, and you know, that’s, I mean, that’s the human element of multi solving, right? Because it’s you human beings who transcend those. Those boundaries agree.

Naji: So what about, uh, leadership as we were talking about human being, do you, do you see, uh, multi silver as a key capability for a leader in the 21st century?

Beth Sawin: Yeah, we, I mean, we’re really curious about this and, um, we, we think of our role as.

The, I think the contribution that we in our little Institute can make, or one contribution is to look across these examples of multi solving and really try to notice what are the attitudes and approaches that are enabling this way of working to happen. I mean, even from those two examples of home energy upgrades and electric school buses, you can start to see how the variety, you know, we haven’t talked about, um, agriculture projects and walkability and cycling and, um, you know, photovoltaic farms, like there’s, there’s endless variety in the what of multis, but the common threads seem to be about the way, um, that it happens.

And. And, and so that is. You know, of, of continuing interest to me is how is that way different than the sort of status quo way within our dominant culture and institutions. And I don’t feel like we have it, um, you know, a hundred percent understood yet, but, but some patterns, um, are emerging for us. Um, one of them.

I would say is that multi solving projects tend to start small and iterate and be, um, really led or driven by a learning approach and by curiosity. Um, and so you might think while there’s all these different players involved and there must be some giant vision, um, about how to put it all together and how to convene it all.

Um, and that’s not so much what we see, you know, we see, um, sometimes. Just a, a few people working together in a small way. Um, having some success sharing what they’re doing, which builds excitement, which pulls more partners in. And so they try a little bit more, um, they carefully measure and document the impacts they’re having.

And that’s part of the driving force that, um, allows projects to get kind of like a accrete, more and more energy and attention and collaborators. So I would highlight that as kind of, um, Both a learning, learning attitude and an openness to kind of reach out to others. Um, we, we also see, I’m trying to think how to turn this into a positive.

I don’t quite have it. So I’ll just say the, the reverse, um, people who are too attached to the identity of, of an spurt, um, is actually counter to multi solving. Um, You need expertise. Like there needs to be someone who understands the power grid in that school bus project I was talking about. Um, but you also need curiosity about the parts that you don’t know about.

Right? You need the transportation planner. Who’s like, tell me more about public health. I don’t really know what air pollution does to somebody’s lungs. Um, and you need the public health act expert being like, what are the obstacles to redesigning our streets? Um, so. Maybe you could, you could just really emphasize, I guess, the role of learner versus the role of expert and a certain kind of humility, um, that I think is really needed for these projects.

Um, so there’s think there’s more, but maybe those are the two that do really highlight, like learning organic iterative, curious and humble.

Naji: Thank you. Thank you for that. It’s these are so powerful and, you know, I love the framing within expertise, but also curiosity for the things you don’t know. So it touches the humidity side of things for us to be able to Multisolve in a, in a dynamic where

Beth Sawin: you were.

I think there’s, you know, there’s one more. Can I add, cuz I think it’s important. One more to add, um, all of these projects. Are playing out against a backdrop of a world with all different kinds of inequities. That’s just the nature of our world right now, whether it’s, um, racism and white supremacy or, uh, patriarchy and gender inequity and, and so on different places, the, the inequities are different, but.

They’re part of these systems we’re trying to transform. Um, and for multi solving to be effective, uh, leaders have to be willing to grapple with, um, those inequities and make disrupting those inequities part of their strategy. Um, Because multis solving is about healing fractures in, in this kind of way.

We’ve drawn lines and broken systems into parts, um, inequities of all sorts do that same thing. Um, and so the, um, the people who have historically been. Um, marginalized or disenfranchised from decisions about the infrastructure, say in their neighborhood, um, need to be included in a multi solving project.

And so right away you have, um, potentially, you know, experts with economic, political credential power, uh, needing to work together. Other with neighborhood residents say who might know the most about, um, you know, What the problems are and what the potential solutions are. And, and so people need, um, support and skills and patience, uh, for, for working together across those boundaries and, and dismantling them as they go.

Naji: You, you worked, uh, Beth closely with Donella Meadows and you, uh, shared in the beginning, her, uh, her book, the limits to growth. Uh, so she’s an incredible thinker teacher, researcher and, and leader. Um, I read one of her articles with a title. There are limits to growth, but no limits to love. So I was intrigued to hear from you about this, this title, and also love in system dynamics for a sustainable word.

Like what does love gets into this?

Beth Sawin: Yeah. Um, one thing that really interests me is. For sure. Danella Meadows, but other systems theorists too. I think of Gregory Batson, um, who wrote several articles about love, um, uh, who was also in that even, um, earlier than Danella Meadows and her colleague, one of the kind of founders of systems theory.

Um, and then for Dan or Dana, as we called her, um, you know, she was very forthright of talking about love, um, which was. Was, and is unusual, right? For, um, a highly credentialed scientist building computer simulations, very rigorous and analytical to also be talking about love, which is so often not in our scientific discourse.

Um, Danella died. Um, far too early, she, she died in her late fifties and I had only been working with her for, you know, a few years. I, I thought I would have a whole career to learn from her. So I never asked her why love was such a prominent thing, but for her, but you’re right. In addition into that article you name, um, uh, in.

In the follow on books to the limits to growth. One is called beyond the limits, which came out in 1992. Um, there’s a chapter that’s about, um, what, what do we need in order to, uh, address the sustainability crisis? And she named, I think it’s eight different things, um, vision and networking. Um, can’t give you the whole list, but one of those is love as well.

Um, another thing about her. Is, and I’ve only reflected on this in hindsight, but any email that she would send and it might be like, I question the parameters in equation, number 45 of your model. Would be love Dana, um, which is a, a countercultural thing to do, you know, certainly my MIT professors didn’t write emails, sign emails like that.

Um, but I, so all I have is my theory, I guess I would say I’ve thought about this a lot, like you, but I never got to ask her. So these aren’t, her are words of why love became such a, a force of her thinking. Um, but I have. Put myself in her shoes and you have to picture 1972. They were very young. These authors of the limits to growth.

I think they were in their early thirties, um, such important information for the world at a time where if they had been listened to the tragedies that we’re living through now, the flow floods, the fires, the diseases wouldn’t be happening. Right. We would be 50 years later. Coasting into an era of balance and sustainability.

It probably would’ve taken these five decades. Um, so knowing what was at stake, knowing that there was an alternative, uh, knowing to some extent the suffering that would happen by not being listened to, and you’re not listened to, you’re not listen to for decades. Right. Um, To keep going under those circumstances.

I can’t, um, you know, imagine the loneliness of that. Like those of us working in climate and sustainability today often I think feel lonely and feel like we’re not listened to. And yet our movement has millions of people. And this was the very planting, the very first seeds of that. So I think she was looking for what is the.

What is the force that can bring the human global society, you know, to safety. Um, and I, the other thing she wrote about a lot, you might know this is about worldviews and paradigms. Um, uh, because I think what they experienced was what they were saying at those scientists couldn’t connect because people couldn’t imagine that this life based on extraction from the planet, that they couldn’t even imagine alternatives to it.

Um, and so I think talking about love and talking about, um, being motivated by what matters most to us was. Was the best solution she could come to, you know, for the transformation that was needed. Um, and I think the reason love shows up so much in, in this discourse of, of systems theory, um, is that when you work with systems, you see the interconnections, you see there’s, there is no separation.

Um, and so, you know, whether it’s. Domination that happens in a workplace with an abusive boss or domination that happens between one ethnic group and another there’s no systems basis to justify that. Um, and so I think also this tension between how the world was and what her systems models were telling her, you know, the reality of the world was resolved itself somehow in this, this, uh, Through line that she U she used the word love to describe.

Naji: Thank you for that. Uh, I will move to a section where I want to give you a word and would love to get your reaction to it.

Beth Sawin: Sure. Sounds fun.

Naji: So the first word is leadership,

Beth Sawin Beth: uh,

open and available.

Naji: What about sustainability?

Beth Sawin: Um, join. Do you want just one word I’m having have trouble with one word? No, I would say you can re okay. It can be, uh, sustainability, I would say, uh, rejoining the flows and networks of the earth.

Naji: So I wanna double click on, on this one. What, what, what should we do as leaders personally, individually? Like what is the first step that I should be doing that you would push towards sustainability towards sustainability

and rejoining those forces?

Beth Sawin: Yeah. Well, the beautiful thing is that because sustainability touches everything. It’s literally, how are we on this planet and how are we with each other that, you know, whatever field we’re leaders in, there’s a connection, um, to sustainability, um, You can find all kinds of lists of, you know, flying less is more important than getting solar panels.

And so I’m gonna not go to that level of detail. And maybe because we’ve been talking about both love and paradigm, um, I’ll put forth a, a way that I think about it. Uh, right now I, I believe that among. Our societies, there’s two different worldviews that are battling each other. Um, one sees, sees humanity and the earth as a pyramid that has white men at the top of that pyramid and then white women, and then people of color with animals and plants somewhere down below.

And, um, that theory has of course, um, comes with colonization and empire and has been. Dominating, um, most of earth for 500 or so years. But it is, it is only a, a theory of how the world works. There’s another way to see how the world works. And, um, many wisdom traditions and indigenous cultures, um, are embedded in, in this world view and carry it forward and, and live it today.

Um, and I think of that as a, um, an inner connected web. Um, so there’s no, there’s nothing on top. Um, and it’s all connecting and flowing in all directions. Um, I attribute most of the crises we’re in as coming from the fact that that pyramid view doesn’t actually match reality very well at all. Cuz in fact, if you look at biochemistry or climatology or ecology, it, it is all this flow and interconnection that we’ve been talking about.


But whether it’s the extraction of natural resources or the extraction of labor from people that you somehow deem, you know, beneath you in that pyramid. And it could be literally slavery, um, at certain points in history, but just as well, you know, unfair labor practices. Um, so there’s this, this extraction from nature and people falls out of that pyramid view.

Um, it creates crises because. The world, isn’t a pyramid. The world is an interconnected flow and there is no other, and there is no away. Um, and so I am gonna, I am trying to work my way back to your question of what can leaders do. And what I would say is. Occupy that worldview of interconnection of a web.

Um, and the, the beauty of that is that you are gonna have a hundred times a day to do that. Um, maybe it is, you know, choices about your physical plant. Okay. So your physical plant is part of an interconnected web that includes all life and all flow of carbon oxygen nitrogen on earth. Um, If you’re thinking of it as an interconnected web, you’re gonna think about the circular economy.

You’re gonna think about, um, very, um, intentional use of energy and materials. So you’re brought to sustainability, um, but you might, your next meeting in the day might be staff meeting with your team. Um, and are you gonna conduct that as though your company is a peer or amid with you at the top, or you’re gonna conduct that as an interconnected.

Web of mutual mutuality and responsibilities to each other. Um, which doesn’t mean there’s not authority, right? Um, there’s there’s situational authority. If you are the. The founder or the director or the senior member, you have experience and responsibilities. So, you know, it doesn’t mean all decisions will be by consensus, but it means you’re thinking about that staff meeting in a way where all voices, um, And all, you know, there’s, there’s, um, a climate for all of the voices to be heard.

Um, even if the, in the dis and the decision may or may not be by consensus. I, I hope that makes sense. That that

Naji: is super powerful. See, stop, stop seeing the word through a pyramid lens and, and just distrac, as you said of labor from people nature, but more an interconnected web it’s. It makes more that sense?

I think it’s, uh, yeah, it’s a responsibility. We have to, to think that way as leaders. Thank you for sharing this, pat. Yeah. On, on a related topic that you also work on, the, the next word is equity.

Beth Sawin: Well, of course equity is. Completely related to, to what we’ve just been talking about a world ver of, of a pyramid versus a web. Um, uh, the inequities around us are justified by different, um, theories of supremacy that are, um, if, if you’ve been socialized is in the dominant culture as I have so white woman in the United States, um, uh, Two of the most important ideologies of supremacy are, are white supremacy and male supremacy are patriarchy.

Um, and.

Those have to be grappled with unlearned brought out into the light where we can see them. Um, because of course they’re not, they’re not justified by the web view of the world yet. All of our science from, you know, particle physics to ecology says, actually, you. The world is this web, um, all of the consequences, um, from climate change to lead and drinking water, to, um, you know, child labor in different parts of the world, all these horrors that we say we want to, you know, quote solve are justified by these ideologies of, of supremacy.

So, so equity is choosing, um, To reject those ideologies and to live in ideologies of gender equity of racial equity, of ethnic equity. Um, and in systems theory, we talk about the interplay of worldview and systemic structure by systemic structure. We mean physical things like how our city, these are constructed.

Um, but also, uh, Laws and rules and incentives and investments. Um, and so because we’re, we are at a point of 500 or more years of those ideologies. Everything we inhabit is shaped by those ideologies of supremacy. And just like one example in the United States, um, the urban heat island effect is when parts of the city are, are warmer because of all the buildings and pavement.

And that can be counteracted by greenery, especially by trees, which help cool the environment. It, so it’s an important climate change solution. And. Recently people have been looking at maps of urban tree cover and in city, after city, in the us, those maps super superimpose with a great amount of alignment over maps of historic red lining, which are, um, the places where especially via lending practices, African Americans were prevented from living in certain neighborhoods.

Those neighborhoods are the ones that today don’t have tree cover. So that’s just an example of how the structures. Um, you know, we may feel like, well, redlining doesn’t exist anymore. And it’s many of those policies are no longer on the books, but yet in the trees, in the structure of the city, that inequity is still there.

So if you’re gonna address climate change and adapt to climate change in a way that dismantles inequity, somehow you need to bring the community together or to grapple with that fact and look at that history and figure out how to make amends or reparations for it. Um, and. That’s still far too rare, you know, in our, in our discourse.

Um, and time is getting really short. The I PCC report that came out, um, last week, Monday, last week, uh, You know, ends with these lines about a, um, shrinking window of opportunity to preserve a livable climate. Like those are the words of the scientists shrinking window of opportunity, livable climate. Um, but when you start looking at it with this lens of a web and not a pyramid, then you can understand why so many, especially environmental justice leaders say that equity is inseparable from climate and.

From addressing climate change. And I think this one example with redlining, but we could look at, um, other studies that show that in the us people of color. Breathe in more air pollution than their economic activity produces. And white people breathe in less air pollution than their economic activity produces.

Or we could look at how, um, refineries for fossil fuels that produce all kinds of toxic chemicals like benzene, um, are predominantly situated in NA neighborhoods, um, of people of color. So these things are tangled together and like any systems problem, you, you can’t separate them and you have to. You have to zoom out enough to see how they all fit together.

Naji: Yeah. And those are, you know, the systemic, uh, type of inequities. We can see it in healthcare also, as you mentioned, like from pollution to also health, uh, health problems. So yeah, definitely something to keep in mind as leaders as we move forward and start with.

Beth Sawin: Yeah, and we should name that pandemic as well.

Right. Which just has revealed again and again, the inequities, um, that tie all of these problems together.

Naji: Yeah. The last word is spread love and organizations.

Beth Sawin: Well, one it’s interesting question for someone who’s one month into starting a new organization. Um, one of our aspirations, uh, is to not instruct the world to do anything we’re not willing to do ourselves. Um, right now ourselves as a team of three, me and two colleagues and we have, I have plans to, to grow.

And so we’re also thinking about welcoming new people. We’re thinking about setting the patterns that we want to have as we welcome new people in, and our touchstone, um, kind of goes back to the beginning of our conversation of these attitudes that we, we are seeing promote multi solving. Um, and so. Be a learner was one of them, uh, bring your expertise, but not your identity as an expert, uh, is another way to say that, um, uh, I’m creating a white led organization, at least for now.

I’m the, I’m the director and I’m white and middle class. And I’m talking about multi solving, only being effective when you’re conscious about equity. Um, But we also know about systems and worldviews that it’s really hard to see, um, worldviews, especially if, um, you’re more a beneficiary of them than someone who’s, who’s felt the sting of them.

So, um, I’m thinking a lot about. Um, creating the conditions where my own worldview and blind spots don’t hamper, um, our, our effectiveness as an organization, um, that don’t create, you know, uh, for lack of a better word, white culture in an organization that hopes to, um, have a, have a, to that matches the diversity of the country.

Um, So I don’t have answers to most of these. Most of them are, uh, you know, questions to discuss more at our retreat or, um, uh, things that I know I need other people to help me with. But I think the lucky thing for us is that by learning from multi solvers, we have at least some amount of focus on, uh, you know, what we need to pay attention to and be deliberate about.

Naji: Yeah. And I’m eager to see how your organization will, will grow. It’s such an important topic and capability or even leadership, uh, principle to work on. So I’m, I’m eager to see how your organization will grow and help the word be a better place. Any final word of a final word of wisdom, best for the leaders around the world.

Beth Sawin: Maybe only just to beep across a, a little bit, because healthcare is a, a focus of your work and, and your podcast. Um, I think there’s. There’s a lot. I have learned from your field. When I think about social determinants of health and the phrase creating a culture of health, um, in some ways I feel like, uh, health, health, thinkers, thought leaders are a bit ahead of the climate space in understanding the.

The ways in which the conditions in our system create outcomes like health, um, and, and maybe more of a whole system view sometimes. So I don’t know if that’s a word of wisdom or more, just a shout out to say that, um,

I see a lot of potential from the climate movement to learn from some of, of that thinking. And, uh, and for me, myself to learn more from it too.

Naji: Yeah. And I, you know, as we discussed before, I think we also have a lot to, to learn and, and contribute to what you’re doing. Because as you said, when you think of it from an interconnected web, every single example that you gave today, touches health.

At some point somehow, right. And touches, you know, climate and E everything we, we talked about. So, so yeah, looking forward to, uh, to your work, and I’m sure you will be, uh, working closely with healthcare leaders to, um, thank you so much again, Beth, for being with me today and for having this amazing discussion.

Beth Sawin: Yeah. Thank you.  

Naji: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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’m Naji your host for this episode, joined today by Ben Shields, senior lecturer in managerial communication at the MIT. Ben studies the multibillion dollar sports industry to identify broadly transferable management lessons in areas such as leadership, communication, data driven, decision making and innovation. Ben teaches a number of courses. And I had the privilege to be in one of those where he’s the faculty and he’s faculty director of two programs, the formula one extreme innovation series and the global executive academy. His other sports work at MIT included co-hosting counterparts podcasts from MIT, Sloan management, but also other podcasts that he built before that. Prior to MIT. Ben served as the director of social media and marketing at ESPN. He oversaw social media strategy and also worked on marketing strategy for several ESPN brands and sub-brands including the sports center, da da da campaign, an Emmy award winning: It’s not crazy. It’s sport brand campaign.

Ben. I am thrilled to have you with me today

Ben Shields: Naji. It’s such a pleasure to be with you. On your podcast. I am a big fan of what you’re building with this podcast and honored to be included.

Naji: Oh, thank you so much, Ben. Uh, I would love to hear first your personal story from communication to sports to now being, uh, senior lecture and professor at MIT.

What, what’s the common thread what’s in between the line of this amazing journey you had?

Ben Shields: well, I’d say there’s probably three common threads. One is passion. Two is hard work and three is luck along the way. I have been so fortunate throughout my career to be working on interesting projects with interesting people and doing very rewarding work, I guess, just to foreground a little bit for your audience.

This is my eighth academic year. At MIT Sloan. And as you mentioned, my work largely focuses on the impact of digital technologies on the sports media and entertainment industries. And I also have a soft spot for leadership and communication. It is what makes the world go round being effective at both leadership and communication.

So that’s another key area for me prior to my life, as an academic at MIT, as you mentioned, I was at ESPN, the sports media firm of the Walt Disney company and had an credible opportunity there. To help them build and implement their social media strategy in the earlier days of that space. And prior to that, I had a life changing experience at Northwestern university where I was an undergrad and as part of my finance aid package, I had a work study obligation.

And my freshman year, I got a job through the work study program at the gym. I love sports. I might as well work at the gym, but then there was a staff member within one of the schools of communication at Northwestern. And she said, Hey, there’s this professor Irv rain who is looking for a research assistant.

And he can pay you through the work study program. I said, sign me up. He’s interested in sports. He’s interested in media. He’s interested in entertainment. Sounds great to me. And I signed up as a work study student for him, ended up going on to do my master’s and PhD at Northwestern, with Irv as my, my advisor.

And that changed my life. And that’s because of the, the chance that he gave me. And I’ve just been so grateful for that throughout the entire ride that I’ve had. And we’ll never forget it for as long as I live.

Naji: Thank you, Ben, for sharing, uh, this part of your, uh, your story. Uh, I I’d love to go into your research on the sports industry.

And as you said, your, uh, you, you have a, a passion for leadership and coming, uh, what are the transferable. Management lessons that you think we should all learn from, from what you’ve seen and what you’ve researched more broadly as leaders. But if you have any idea also for the healthcare leaders, is there any transferable skill that you think we should focus on?

Ben Shields: You know, Naji? It’s a really interesting question. I enjoy studying sports because I do think there’s so much that can be learned from the. Other industries about how successful teams operate. You know, there’s a couple things that come to mind. The first that’s really interesting about sports is performance is measurable and there is a common goal for teams and that is to win.

Win enough games to win the division, win enough games to win the championship, whatever the case may be. But the goal is to win and every single person on the team, whether they play the game or on the coaching staff, or are in the back office, they’re all aligned on that singular clear goal. And the way it’s very easy to.

Put in place performance measurements to understand how people are contributing to that overall goal, that type of performance measurement, as it relates to an overall goal, seems like such a simple concept, but it’s really hard sometimes to apply in context outside of sports. You know, often when I’ve worked with other organizations, they, I think rightly so push back and say, look, you know, we’re not playing a zero sum game here.

We don’t have a competitor, like a sports team would have on the other end of the court, but there are still ways that you can create sense of what a win or a loss can be and rally people around achieving that common win. And measuring people’s performance along the way. So I think that’s the first thing that I would say that’s really inspirational in sports is having that clear goal and measuring performance as it relates to achieving that goal.

The second is less data focused and I think a little bit more on the soft component, which is around creating and maintaining, uh, winning culture and. What I appreciate most about studying sports teams is that the culture doesn’t necessarily just start and end with some words that are plastered up against a wall, right?

In the locker room. It is the collective set of actions. On a daily basis, even minute by minute basis that the coaches, the players, the trainers all take that form, the culture and the best teams we’ve seen over and over again are almost obsessive about ensuring that the culture is sustainable and that all the little actions ladder up to.

What the team wants to be and how it relates to their efforts to win going forward. So those are the two things that stand out to me about studying sports teams and, and how they do their business. One is that measurable performance and relation to a overall goal. And the second is the creation of culture.

And then the mainten and instance sustaining of that culture on a minute to minute, minute to minute basis with daily actions, behaviors.

Naji: I love it. And it’s definitely relatable to what we do, having this common, the shared purpose, right? As, as a company and also building those small steps, we talked about how each one contributes towards this shared purpose or this common goal, right.

For, for getting, for getting there and performance management and on the winning cut. Um, do you have like specific examples? Right? We hear a lot and we’re seeing today and I’m personally convinced what’s going on with great resignation and all other things that there’s been a bunch of research showing that toxic cultures in fact are the first, the first reason.

And it’s always. Linked to management somehow, right. There is definitely a culture environment that you can build overall in a team. Uh, but then there’s really the management. Who’s the first line with his people. And what is the culture being built inside the culture? Have you seen this in. In sports team.

Any thoughts about this? When you say winning culture, how this is built and is there subcultures that sometimes can ruin this winning culture?

Ben Shields: Sure, sure. Well, Naji, I’m so glad you brought that up. There is a culture that I’m been following for a long time, and that is the Miami heat NBA team. And if you are an NBA fan, You have probably heard about heat culture, some of you that are NBA fans may have great respect for it.

O others may. Be tired of hearing about the heat culture, but the reason why you might be tired of hearing about the heat culture is because it consistently has produced results. And the heat culture is I think almost become institutionalized as a team and a place where certain types of players that are focused on hard work.

Team play physical, mental strength, sacrificing yourself for the betterment of the overall team. Those are the types of values that have been almost inculcated into heat culture over time to the point where. The team has developed at least externally this competitive advantage where they now have a reputation for finding undeveloped talent, bringing them to the team and to, into the heat culture and taking that undeveloped talent and turning it into.

A highly capable NBA player. Even this year’s team has a number of different players like max STR Y. Before them people like Duncan Robinson. And for those of you that aren’t NBA fans, I apologize for dropping those names, but what’s really interesting is that that the, the culture has produced results.

And then it is almost a virtuous cycle where people come get better. And the team gets better and then more people come, they get better as a result. And I think that’s the combination of both having the structure in place. And then also making very clear to the players that if you buy in, you’re going to get results.

So the benefit is on their side too. What’s in it for them is they’re gonna get better or two. And so that’s a, I think a really interesting model. Clearly there are other examples in other sports. Winning is very hard. And the, the through line of winning teams often is the culture and the leadership as stabilizing forces as players come and go.

Naji: That’s a, that’s a great example. Uh, you shared with us Ben, um, you should, you said in the beginning around leadership communication, and this is practically what keeps the word going, uh, in those, in those days, crisis after crisis tensions, war, uh, unfortunately these days, um, where do you think leadership communi is?

And as a, as someone who teaches this, where do you think we should take it?

Ben Shields: Well, that’s a very big question. NA and I appreciate you asking it look fundamental to effective communication. At least in my view is mutual understanding. And I think part of the challenge that we face as a society. Is

there, isn’t the mutual understanding between differing groups sometimes. And when you don’t have mutual understanding, then everything else crumbles, right. By the way, mutual understanding doesn’t mean you have to agree with the other person.

But in some of the communication challenges that we have as a global society today, party a and party B aren’t even operating from the same set of information. They’re not even operating from the same mutual understanding of the issues. They, and so when we get in that type of situation, That foundation of mutual understanding.

If that’s broken, then that’s going to set off a whole host of other challenges. So from my standpoint, it is absolutely critical whether it’s in our teams or organizations or other parts of our society, that we prioritize immune mutual understanding because if we understand one another. Then we might have a little bit more empathy or even more respect for one another’s opinions and we can engage in a dialogue to productively move things forward.

But without that foundation of mutual understanding, that’s gonna be a real challenge.

Naji: I love this. And so agree with you, Ben I’m, you know, I talk a lot with, uh, with my teams and even through MIT with the class about healthy debates as leaders, creating those safe places for us to share what we think, our experiences, our, our biases, because we all have different lenses right through this and have those healthy debates.

So I love how you framed it into mutual understanding as a beginning.

Ben Shields: Yeah, well, I’m, I, I applaud you for, for focusing on that, you know, there’s, there’s just so much value in creating a safe space for debates. I mean, you know this as well as anybody, when someone can share a different point of view that might lead to a, an idea that no one else was thinking about, right.

If someone can share a different point of view and also be heard. Well, then that’s just gonna encourage the person to share the next time. They’ve got an interesting idea. And so, so much of our work is relationship based and we’ve gotta create those conditions for people to feel comfortable sharing their points of view and being open to those points of view as well within our teams.

It’s critical. Indeed.

Naji: Uh, if we talk about data now, everyone wants to take data driven decision and you’re one of the experts helping the word and leaders look at data differently, but yet we see. So many decisions being made and critical decisions around the word, really out of opinions, misinformation, personal judgment.

I’m not gonna go into examples. Like there’s bunch of those that everyone is seeing these days. Uh, so as you see this kind of constantly happening in the word and being a teacher about those, what is what’s, what are your thoughts and how do you think as leaders we can improve this?

Ben Shields: Sure. Well, just by way of background, you know, I’ve always loved data.

When I was a kid, I would play fantasy basketball with my dad and I would calculate the scores just from the, the, the, the box scores in the newspaper. And, you know, we didn’t have the online fantasy sports that we have now when I was a kid. And then, you know, I, I continued to do a lot of fantasy. Did some graduate.

Research on the topic. Then when I went to ESPN, when we were working in social media, the amount of data that we got back on our content instantaneously was really exciting. We could start to make some data driven decisions as well, just based on the amount of information that we had. And so I, I love data and evidence based decision making.

is more often than not going to lead to a better decision. Right? I think we can all accept that. I think my main reflection, especially when working with executives and other leaders that are trying to grapple with how to incorporate data into their decision making, what I try to say is, look, it’s not an either or proposition.

It’s not either you use data or you don’t, it is both. And meaning the world is complex. I have a friend Ben Amar who often says that data can help you be less wrong in your decisions. I, and I also try to recognize in executives that look. There’s a reason why you’ve been as successful as you have been as a decision maker.

Right? You’ve got expertise, you’ve got intuition. And so we can’t necessarily completely shut that away either. So what I try to. Work with students or, or executives on is striking the right balance between what data you’re incorporating into the decision making process, as well as your intuition and being super clear about, you know, what, with this particular decision I’m going to follow what the probability says and being very clear on the times where, you know, what.

With this particular decision. I see what the probability is, but I’ve got a, an instinct here based on a lot of other external factors that are not measurable, and I’m gonna go in that direction. And I think if we could just be upfront about that and be transparent about what is the logic and reason and rationale for the decisions that you’re making.

Sometimes it’s going to be re really reliant on data other times. Look, intuition is still powerful. Right. Um, and just being upfront and transparent about that. I think we’re gonna, as, as decision makers be much better off going forward. And by the way, that’s I think I, you know, Naji, I’m sorry. I think what I would, what I would say is to me, I’m a very PR I try to be very pragmatic in my work.

That is just a pragmatic way of looking at it. It’s not either, or you it’s either you use data or you use your intuition. It’s both and, and you’ve gotta negotiate the appropriate balance.

Naji: Yeah, and this is, this is so powerful as an advice like it’s both of them and I love, uh, how you share it being upfront on how you’re making decisions.

This is, this is really powerful. Yeah.

Ben Shields: And then the great thing is that, you know, you and I both have been in plenty organizations. Now you can go back and see how effective that decision was. That’s that’s always possible. Right. You know, you can, you can have a, you can have 10, 10 possible decisions and you can say, you know what, I’m following the probabilities on six of them and following my instinct and tuition on four of them.

And by the way, you know, six months later, when you do an after action report, you see how you did versus what the analytics show.

Naji: Yeah. Totally Ben. I would go now, uh, on a section where I will give you one word and yeah, I want your reaction to it. What’s top off mind to you. So the first word is leadership

Ben Shields: I have my own way of thinking about leadership. I should say my own sort of, um, Definition, which is not mine. Um, this definition is, is from a mentor and friend of mine. Um, and it is leaders, great leaders make those around them better. Great leaders make those around them better. And as a teacher, as a and an organization, That is my north star.

Like I want, if any student comes and works with me or, you know, thinking back on, on my days in, in the corporate world, if anyone came and worked with me and spent some time with me, I, I want them to be better as a result of that interaction. That’s that’s my north star. There are other technical definitions of leadership.

There’s lots of great work and research on it, but for me, that’s what it comes down to make others better.

Naji: What about innovation?

Ben Shields: Excitement wonder the art of what’s possible.

The part of our work that gets me outta bed in the morning. It is hard and yet incredibly rewarding when you come up with a new idea and it moves things forward. I encourage anyone. And this is similar to I’ll. Just throw another big word out there to you. If you don’t mind. I don’t mean to, to go word for word, but I also, when I hear innovation, I also think creativity.

And one thing that I work with a lot on with my students is, yeah, you may think you’re more technical. You might not be traditionally creative or you might not be traditionally innovative, but everyone can be, everyone can be innovative. Right. Everyone can be creative. So I think that that’s, um, I think that’s a reality and something that I, I try to get everyone to think about.

Naji: What about influencer?

Ben Shields: I think about the fact that people connect with other people fundamentally on social media. I think that if you are truly influential, Then what you post or what your message is, should actually leave to some sort of action or behavior change. Right? Oftentimes we see quote, unquote influencers with millions upon millions of followers, but may not actually an action.

And there’s. Interesting work a few years back from a colleague at MIT Sloans and on all on that question too. So it’s a bit of a problematic term. I think that’s why the industry has impart gravitated a little bit toward the creator terminology versus influencer, but it’s an exciting space and I monitor and do research on it very closely.

Naji: Yeah. Well, I learned a lot through the creator economy that, that you teach us on how to look at this and the responsibility we have as leaders. If at some point we’re influential or we’re creating, uh, some, some content and ideas.

Ben Shields: Yeah.

Naji: What about spread, love and organizations?

Ben Shields: Ooh, I, first of all, I. I respond very positively to it.

You know, I was thinking about your podcast, you know, in preparation for this conversation and you know, what, what comes to mind? There are a number of things that, what comes to mind when, when I hear spread love and organizations. One thing that I thought would be interesting to talk about is feedback within organizations.

And I think that. Feedback often can be construed very negatively, right. Especially when it comes to constructive feedback, like how could you possibly spread love in organizations and also give people constructive feedback? You know, it seems like those two ideas could be op in, in opposition, but I actually think that if you have very strong relationships with your.

Employees and your teams where there is mutual understanding in place, where there is trust and crucially, where your employees know that you as a manager have their best interest in mind, then constructive feedback is not about putting the other person some down constructive feedback is not about demonstrating your superiority.

Constructive feedback is to go back to the leadership definition from a friend and mentor constructive feedback is making those around you better. And so I think it is possible to spread love in organizations while also providing constructive feedback in a way that makes others better. I don’t know.

How does that resonate with you Naji it?

Naji: Yeah. I, I love that you’re bringing this because it’s something I think people we always have in mind as leaders and for me, it’s it spread love an organization is exactly this, you know, if you genuinely care about someone. You will tell them the truth you will get, you will help them outgrow you will, you will be here for them.

Right. So I think you summarized it beautifully around this trust about, uh, yeah, really this caring culture that will help you go there. Right. And I’m sure you’ve had. Mentors. And usually the toughest feedback are from people who loves you most, and it can be tough, but you know that they are doing it for you and for you to be able to be at your best.

So, yeah, it’s spread love is really about this is having this level of care mm-hmm for, for us to be able to be at our best and for us to be able to deliver on our shared purpose. So I think,

Ben Shields: yeah, I, I, I think that’s outstanding. I see that very clearly. And you know, the other thing that I would say is that the, the other side of that constructive feedback coin is around positivity and optimism.

And thanks to my mom, I am built as a positive and optimistic person , but that doesn’t mean that. You know, you mistake my kindness for weakness, right? That doesn’t mean that because I look at things optimistically. I can’t offer. Critical point of view or a piece of feedback that’s going to help you as an individual and us as a team.

And so I, I think it’s possible for both optimism and positivity to coexist with, uh, a, a, a strong pension for, for constructive feedback and, and the ability to do so, again, with, with some love and some caring. Yeah.

Naji: Yeah. I’m I’m I totally agree with you. You know, I reflected a lot about feedback in organizations because some would give and some others would just, you know, go through processes and we don’t even give this feedback.

Right. And at the end we cheer, we cheer up. Like it was great, even though it’s not. And it took me back to my humanitarian work know in moments of war and tension. And one of the aspects we always did. Every single urgency, every single. Every single time we went out in an ambulance, we would come back after, regardless how it went.

We would do a session of debrief and we will literally tell each other the truth. Positive or negative, but we will, like we debrief. And, and again, it might sound obvious because we had people’s lives in hands, but actually this discipline on doing this built out of a culture where we, we cared for one another and we were all here for the same purpose, which was helping people build this.

Amazing culture of being always at our best and saying, okay. Yeah, like it was a hard discussion in the ambulance, but this is where it happened and it helped me grow. And next time I’m not, you know, I’m gonna learn of it. And if something was positive, well, great. Like let’s all learn from this and move forward.

So I try to Institute this, you know, positive feedback group, not all, only when things go bad in, in companies, but constantly for us to be able to grow and learn.

Ben Shields: That’s right. And it builds trust too. NA yeah. I mean, I just think about people that have given you valuable, constructive feedback in the past, you know, you’re probably more likely to trust them and then go back to them in the future.

You know, if you’re really, at least I could just say with, with my own life and my mentors and the people that have had an impact me, you know, I’ll pick up the phone and call them, Hey, I’m working through this issue. I know. That I’m going to get an unvarnished point of view. I may not agree with it. I may not follow the advice, but there’s that trust there based on the, the numerous of, of, of more difficult topics that we’ve, we’ve covered in the past.


Naji: totally agree. Any final word of wisdom, Ben, for leaders around the.

Ben Shields: Well, I’m not necessarily in the business of being able to provide wisdom or advice. I would only say that reflecting on. What you are doing, the message of your podcast is just to remember that in the day to day hustle and all the different deliverables and all the data and all the communication, all the messages, information, overload, everything that we deal with on a day to day basis.

Our work as leaders is about connecting with other people. Building trusting relationships based on mutual understanding. And if we can do that, whether it’s in the sports context or in the academic context or in healthcare or whatever it may be, then we’re gonna have more fulfilling organizations and reward more rewarding lives.

Naji: Thank you so much, Ben for this inspiring discussion today.

Ben Shields: Thank you, Naji, it’s a pleasure. I appreciate you having me.

Naji: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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’m Naji your host for this episode joined today by Dr. Angelique Adams, an author speaker, and executive coach focusing on leadership development for scientists and engineers. Angelique is an engineer with 25 years of experience in operations strategy and innovation. She was director of R and D. At aluminum, giant OAA and chief innovation officer at multibillion dollar steel maker, ARA after leading hundreds of scientists and engineers around the word, she discovered her true passion is developing people, not products.

Following the successful publication of her first book for women in stem in 2021, she launched Angelique Adams media solutions, a distribution platform for her books, online courses and coaching programs. Her second book be be on the lookout for women executives in college. Athletics will be out this summer Angelique lives in Knoxville with her husband and two children.

She serves on the board of several local nonprofits and volunteers, her time to mentor entrepreneurs. I am so thrilled to have you with me today.

Angelique Adams: Thrilled to be here. NA thank you

Naji: first. I would love to hear your personal story from engineering leadership and now author and executive coach what’s in between the lines of this incredible, uh, journey.

Angelique Adams: Thank you. Well, let’s see. So maybe I’ll start with, uh, a little bit about how I got into engineering, um, which is very much a story about wanting to improve my financial situation. You know, I grew up as a char as a child from the military. My father was in the us army. And so we moved around every three years, um, in all over the United States and in, in Germany twice.

And, uh, money was tight. In fact, I, I, I attribute my math skills to, uh, helping my mom at the grocery store and sort of rounding up the sum of each of the, the. Things that she bought so that when she went to the counter to pay for the groceries, we always had enough money to pay for everything. Um, and I knew I went to go to college because I figured that would improve my financial situation, but I had no idea what I wanted to study because everybody around me was soldiers.

My doctor, my dentist, you know, everybody was, was a soldier because we lived on all the military bases, went to school on military bases, et cetera. And when I went to a college just for a visit, they said, if you’re good at math and science, we have scholarships for minorities in engineering. And I said, okay, uh, I’ll apply.

And I got in. And so I be decided I was gonna study engineering, even though I had no idea what an engineer was, what they did, um, or anything like that. But. I went to Penn state and studied chemical engineering. I picked chemical engineering simply because at that time there were these, uh, magazines that would tell you like the top salary.

And that was the top salary in engineering. So, I mean, it was . So I started and I say all of that, just to say that I. Started my career journey, not be of a, because of, of a necessarily an engineering mission or a love of the science, but a purpose to improve my own financial situation. And, um, and then I, you know, I studied engineering.

I had an internship, I was starting to do a little bit of undergraduate church and it just so happened that, um, There was a, you know, lots of times at universities, uh, companies will come and take students out to dinner. And a company OAA took a group of us out to dinner, and I was telling them about my undergraduate research.

And they said, if you would be interested in pursuing that. At the graduate level, we would be interested in having you come and work for us and we’ll pay for your graduate education. So of course I said yes to that, to that offer. And that’s how I started my 20 year journey with OAA. They paid for my PhD.

Um, And then, you know, I started to work with work for them pretty early on. I raised my hand and said, I think I wanna be a manager. And I’m honestly not really sure exactly how I thought of that, but I just felt like this was something I wanted to try. I felt like I was pretty good with people and it’s something that I wanted to try.

And of course I it’s a, and my father manage, you know, as a Sergeant in the military manage teams of people that way. So I thought I wanna try it. And I was hooked immediately. I really enjoyed the process of trying to get the best out of people trying to deliver results that we couldn’t do as individuals, we had to work together collectively.

And I also. Really got a sense for what managers and leaders really do is care for the whole person. And I had two really shocking experiences early on. So the first thing was one of my, I had a very small team of just three people, one person, their home burned down and they had to run out of their home with only the clothes on their back.

And so, you know, as that this person’s leader, I. Realize. Okay. I have to try to help this person, you know, financially, but also make sure they’re safe. Um, make sure that they, you know, have what they need in order for them to, when they’re ready to return, to work, to be able to, to work in the best cap capacity that they could.

I have to really help help them manage their whole life. I had another person who was trying desperately to, to get extra vacation because he was managing his sister. Who had a mental health illness in Europe and we were in the us. So here’s somebody who again, was bringing his whole life to work. And he said, you know, I need help Angelique as my leader, how can you help me?

And both of those two experiences really shaped my kind of view of leadership as being much more than just getting business results, but really how. People to, to be their best, um, throughout their whole lives so that they can bring their best to work. And then I just continued to grow. My leadership got bigger and bigger teams went from three people to eventually 150 people.

And, um, then went back to school to, uh, MIT to get my executive MBA. Use that as an opportunity to do some product development work found a job in Europe to do some product development work. And I thought that product development was really my true passion, but I realized that leading the team and really helping them to advance in their careers, um, was much more into interesting to me.

And so at that same time, I happened to be working on a book. It was something that my MIT classmates inspired me to do. And so when the book. Was published and did well. I thought, well, maybe I’ll use this as an opportunity to actually pivot my entire career to focus on the, the thing I love the most, which is developing people.

And so that’s what I do now.

Naji: Well, thank you so much for sharing part of, uh, your story and those incredible stories along the way, uh, as you were, as you were developing others and growing in your leadership, uh, and, and you said, you know, you define management and leadership as caring for the whole person.

Few people do this. So I wanna recognize the fact that you lead with, um, with genuine care and, and love. This is, this is the way I believe leaders should, should lead. So, um, but it’s not that disseminated. Let’s say it in the word.

Angelique Adams: Yes. We have some work to do to spread that. to spread that mindset, Don, we, yeah.

Naji: so you’ve been, you’ve been in highly technical, uh, engineering environment, leading experts, right? And many times we hear this differences, right? When you are a leader and when you’re an expert and also leading experts, uh what’s what’s your leadership learning along the way. Cause you’ve had different experiences in different organizations and even leading different functions, um, at some point, so.

Anything specific you feel as a leader when you’re in this high technical environment, you should be focused on.

Angelique Adams: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think you made the, one of the first ones to ask me that. So I do, I do think that, you know, experts leading a bunch of PhDs. They’re very demanding of their leader.

They, you know, really want to make sure that they clearly underst. Stand the direction, the policies they’re very often gonna challenge things because of their level of expertise and, and, and wanting to feel like, you know, this, it makes sense to them. So that’s one thing I would say about, um, about managing technical experts.

and my approach has been. To one, make sure I take that into consideration. So make sure that as I am perhaps sharing new policy changes or sharing my vision and direction, that I’m very clear to one think in advance about objections. They may have through the lens of their technical expertise and be prepared to answer those questions, but also to be patient and to expect that, okay, even though.

I’m a technical expert in one area. I’m not a technical expert across every discipline. And so be patient in expecting additional challenges to come. So to not get frustrated, um, when it may be a challenge to onboard and get buy in, um, particularly on change with technical experts. The other thing that that I have found is that oftentimes when you’re in, in the organizations that I’ve been in big manufacturing firms, Technical experts were just one piece of it, right?

It’s a multi it’s a multidisciplinary business. And oftentimes the technical experts are a little bit, um, pigeonholed from the view of management. The. Oftentimes it’s because of our communication skills. We wanna talk in technical expertise and we talk over the heads of, you know, finance leaders and business leaders.

And, you know, they don’t have a lot of patience for us, but that has been because I’m aware of that fact, that’s actually been one of the ways that I’ve been very effective at gaining support of my team, because I’m able to help them TA learn to tailor their messages, such that leaders actually wanna talk with them.

And so, and that’s. So that’s, we can go from really feeling like we’re left out of some of the business conversations to now being, having a seat at the table, because we’re able to bring our technical expertise, but communicate it in a way that the rest of the organiza, it resonates with the rest of the organization.

And when you do that, when somebody goes from, nobody cares about me to, oh, the CEO wants to have a meeting with me now that you know, that’s a huge leadership. Win for, for the whole team.

Naji: Love it. Uh you’re you defined your passion as developing people, and you said, uh, purpose, you know, at the beginning, as you started, you discovered this, uh, right where along the way, uh, is this how you define now your purpose?

Angelique Adams: Absolutely. My purpose now is to develop actually, what I’d really love to do is to put 10,000 diverse stem professionals into leadership positions, partially because I think that really the way we’re gonna improve the diversity and inclusion piece of, of, uh, science and, and engineering, which is, is still very few women, very few underrepresented minorities.

Is to put people into leadership roles and have them change the culture of the organizations from within. So I really feel like because I’ve gotten myself to the C-suite and because I have a passion for, for this and, and some skills in terms of communication, in my own areas of expertise, I think that I’m well poised to really help develop diverse stem leaders.

So that’s really my, my ultimate purpose. Yeah,

Naji: you, you definitely are. So let’s double click on the subject, women and stem. Um, it’s such, you know, there is still such a long way as you shared for women and minority group in, uh, in stem, you have researched this domain, published a great book. What’s your vision on this important topic?

How can we close the dream gap for are our daughters for women really across the world?

Angelique Adams: Yeah, that’s a great question. So I think there’s, this’s a multicomponent challenge. I think there’s a lot of great work being done to get young girls and underrepresented minorities, even aware and interested in stem to begin with there’s a lot going on in universities to sort of keep the pipeline going.

And my own personal expertise is more around mid-career professionals. That transition from being an entry level person to being considered for leadership and management roles. And that’s where, whether you call it the leaky pipeline or whatever you wanna call it, that’s where a lot of things. Happen, uh, in the case of women in particular, oftentimes that’s when women are interested in having children.

And so that can cause a challenge, the work life balance issue, um, then because there’s so few role models, there are challenges about how do I actually navigate this. This type of space, this type of career as somebody who’s different from my peers or the senior managers that I’m working with. There’s lots of questions and uncertainty and, and feelings of self doubt around that.

And that’s really what I focus on. I focus on teaching leadership skills. I focus on. Helping people with their mindset around imposter syndrome and self doubt, of course, by being who I am, I’m automatically a role model. And I think I finally sort of embraced that as, okay. , there’s no way around that, which for me means really being much more comfortable being.

Out front. So I’m used to being behind the scenes in large organizations. And now I have, you know, I’m the face, obviously the face of my own small organization, but I have to be out there talking about my message, like I’m doing right now, which, which has taken me a while to get used to. Um, but those are the things that, that I think will, will help individuals.

So I focus on really helping individuals. The other area I focus on is talking to organizations and being, um, Being sharing. First of all, what I’m learning from all the women I’ve interviewed kind of the insider’s perspective of the barriers that they’re facing and the challenges that they’re having and what organizations can do to help.

And also maybe bringing a, a little bit of a different perspective because I’m not a diversity and inclusion professional. I don’t see through the, at lens I see through the lens of large organizational leader and what. People want for recruitment and, and retention. And also as somebody who has been the only, you know, the only person in the room, what, what, what that experience is actually like.

So I’m willing to talk about that to leaders and per perhaps offer them some different tools from what they were considering.

Naji: What, what about, uh, me as a man? You know, as an ally, how, what can I do? What should I do? Uh, I, I should frame it that way for, to, uh, to reinforce what you’re trying to do.

Angelique Adams: Yeah, I think that men can, there’s a couple of things, you know, that men can do. I think that men can, first of all, really help reinforce the challenges that they’re having in their own careers.

Because one of the things that often surprises organizational leaders is when I say. If you really wanna help women in under underrepresented minorities in their career, be very clear and intentional about career path opportunities, make sure that people understand how they can progress and grow and that you provide tools to help them get there.

And they say, oh, well, doesn’t everyone want that? And I was like, yeah, actually everybody does want that, but you, but many or organizations don’t provide that. So what I feel like one thing that men can do is to be vocal about. Where they’re struggling in their own career. And that may help organizations realize, okay, we have some systemic issues that if we fix we’re actually gonna improve our entire organization, which will include women in underrepresented minorities.

The second thing I think men can do is decide what level of, of comfort they have with, with raising issues. So, um, one of the things that I. Like to, to say, is that, you know, it’s actually, I think, okay. To not necessarily want to be confrontational or to, um, call people out. I, I know that. That, that is one important way of allyship, but I also think it’s, it’s okay to not feel comfortable doing those things also, uh, because a lot of people don’t feel comfortable doing those things.

So think about what you do feel comfortable doing. And my one of my favorite tech techniques, it’s a very simple thing. Is to help manage interruptions. When you talk to women, they, one of their biggest frustrations is being interrupted in meetings. And what I tell leaders in general, but including as including men is to say, can you just develop the practice of saying good point after somebody gives a comment?

In a meeting, you don’t have to, you don’t have to, um, necessarily stop the meeting and say, Hey, you interrupted this person. Stop doing that because it’s disruptive. You don’t have to do that. What about if you, if you’re proactively after somebody makes a comment, say, oh, that was a good point Angelique, then that person’s affirmed.

They’re heard they weren’t interrupted and that person’s gonna have a much better day than they otherwise would have if they tried to talk 20 times and got interrupted each time. So for me, that’s a way to both be an Allo, but also acknowledge that maybe you’re not comfortable stopping a meeting and say, Hey, Quinn interrupting everybody.

Um, but you’re still doing other things that, that are working in the, in the, in the direction that we want things to go with.

Naji: I love it. This is such, uh, simple and I think powerful technique for us to do, uh, what, you know, one of the pieces we are hearing. And I, can’t not ask you this question about steam, right?

Like what about art in stem? Any thoughts about this?

Angelique Adams: Yeah. Yeah. I, I think that it’s fine to add art to, to steam. I mean, I, to stem, I think that there are. There are some values to doing that from an educational perspective. And I think when you get to the business world and really focusing on, um, recruitment and retention of different fields, they obviously start to, it starts to starts to diverge.

And when you’re talking at a, about a big manufac extra firm, you’re talking about scientists and engineers that you need, not necessarily people in art. So. I think in some places it makes a lot of sense to add, to add art. And in other places, you know, it will naturally maybe, maybe fall out, um, of being something to focus on.

But I, I don’t have a strong sort of objection. .

Naji: Great. And there’s all this topic I’m sure you’re, you know, about, uh, on epoch, like how to develop all those smart skills, right? Like empathy, all the others to add on stem. So, so this is also another big topic. Uh, I would want, uh, now to move into a section where I will be your reaction.

Angelique Adams: Leadership to me means focusing simultaneously on people and their entire wellbeing and results and the best leaders can do those two things simultaneously

Naji: innovation.

Angelique Adams: Innovation to me is the application of new ideas. Whether those ideas are completely new or whether they’re a, uh, reorientation or a co um, combination of different ideas. I’m less concerned about where the idea comes from, but it’s a new way to actually do something out in the world.

Naji: What about spread love and organizations

Angelique Adams: spread love in organizations. I’d like to see organizations celebrate more. That’s one of the things that I talk a lot about when I talk about leading innovation is how important it is to celebrate wins. I think that it’s often a misconception that celebrating leads to complacency or people feel like they don’t have time for it.

I think the opposite is true. And not only should you celebrate the big wins, like the major milestones, but I think good leaders actually. Are constantly on the lookout for even small wins both individually and as a team that they can celebrate. And that, that positivity will radiate within the company and lead to good things.

Naji: Love it. Any final word of wisdom, Angelique for the leaders around the.

Angelique Adams: I think that that’s one topic we haven’t talked, talked a lot about yet. Maybe is this topic, you mentioned it, but is this topic of empathy? Um, and it’s a huge topic today in leadership. And, and I think that it is a little bit nebulous, particularly for, you know, the type of people that I typically work with scientists and engineers.

It like, what do you like, what are you talking about? It’s this abstract idea. And I think a way to kind of start towards empathy is actually to be a little bit more open about our own challenges and struggles as leaders. Because when we start to talk a little bit more about those people start having empathy for us and say, oh, this is a real person.

Oh, they’re normal. Like they’ve, they’ve had struggles, they’ve had failures, they’re having a bad day and that will then in turn. Allow our staff to feel a little bit more comfortable sharing those things with us. And once we start doing that, that’s how we’re starting to really UN uh, reveal our whole selves to everyone.

And then we can start taking care of those whole selves. But until we start to, to have that level of conversation, it’s really a challenge and we’re still only focused on the business results. So. I would encourage leaders to, to be the ones to take the very first step and provide a little bit of sharing of some of their own challenges.

Naji: This is super powerful, like bringing back humanity right into our leadership. Mm-hmm being just human as we beat people. Thank you so much Angelique for this inspiring discussion we had.

Angelique Adams: Thank you for having me.

Naji: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s 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.


Naji: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the 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’m Naji and in this episode, get ready to have your mind challenged with what social impact really means. We’ll dive in a leader’s passion that became now his company’s purpose to build a better word. Angel Perez is founder and managing partner at transcendent, a business impact consulting firm. He has an extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry, leading commercial organizations as a general manager and marketing leader before founding his company. He served as the senior director marketing capabilities, commercial operations and AI, heading different transformations, including marketing automation and creating closer collaborations with startups and public bodies. Angel was named one of the 2015 internationalists of the year by the internationalists. He lives now in Spain. And I’m just super excited to have you Angel with me today and so much looking forward for our conversation.

Angel Perez: My pleasure, Nancy. Thanks for having me here.

Naji: So I help between all these, you know, lines of your career, the great success that you had, both in pharma and now actually starting a business and growing business.

Can you tell us a little bit about your story? What, what got you into healthcare and now even a broader impact, uh, in the world?

Angel Perez: Sure. Thanks a lot. Um, well I guess that my, my journey within business, I. Had degree economics. I had an MBA at Chester business school and straight from that, I joined MI Eli Lilly, uh, fantastic company to grow, uh, as an individual.

And luckily in my case, as a leader, uh, having marketing a sales experience in Spain, I very quickly been promoted into opportunity and challenges. Uh, I think that I’ve been extremely blessed by the people, uh, leading or having ahead of me. Um, My career with inform and Lilly went quickly, uh, being a managing director in Denmark.

Uh, well, we might talk about this later, but most probably not being ready, uh, to perform at the age of 34 leading a country. Uh, but with plenty of people around who wanted to help and, and we were lucky in some cases and also through hard. To, to manage, to, to achieve the performance that was respected and then getting into regional positions, uh, with the need of leveraging different skills to lead or to make things happen.

And we can double click into that later as well. Um, I was having a fantastic, um, multinational C career path. And, and quickly while something happened in, in 2014. And for me, that was my aha moment. Um, we were with a group of marketers, uh, of, uh, between Australia, Canada, and Europe, uh, spending a few days in London, uh, visiting companies, trying to open our minds on the commercial side.

And how could things be done differently within, in pharma, uh, with the program organized by wavelength and well, the last visit, uh, on that trip. Was, uh, to a creative agency called Liberty based in Briston, in, in London. Um, and that company was the first time I, I came across a social enterprise. Very, um, well profitable company, but at the same time, with a huge effort on helping kids and adolescents within the neighborhood to go back to the proper path on education and going to school or university and using their insights even to, to have to win context and doing basically pitches on their, on their business.

And, and despite being in pharma and knowing that within pharma already, we were making an impact for me, that was the big aha moment, what I consider, uh, doing something else and, and not only pharma, um, coming back to Spain, uh, I, I, I very often say that that trigger curiosity, uh, for the first time, So when I came back to Spain, um, I started to know to try to know more about the, the social enterprise ecosystem in Spain.

Um, luckily thanks to the leadership in the Spanish affiliate and in the region we managed to put together the first program in Spain to support social entrepreneurs in health, uh, called them branding health, which is up. And, and this is this fifth year running in Spain. Um, well, and, and that was not enough.

And then, well, the, the big moment in my career was in 2017 when the, the decision, uh, thanks to the support of my wife was to leave almost 20 years successful career in Lilly and, and put together transcendent, which as you said, is a, is a consulting film, helping companies to leverage impact the, uh, as a, as, as a, as a platform to improve performance.

Um, Four years ago, uh, corporate social responsibility was. Somehow, um, knowledge, uh, but nothing about impact, not even ESG. Um, well, those topics that today, uh, we can, uh, know and, and, and are wider know than, than before, uh, were not concepts. Um, so, so much used in, in, in management as such. Uh, but the reality is that.

But maybe, uh, unfortunately due to COVID, but the reality is that today we are, um, growing, as you said, a company, a small service firm, helping businesses to do better and to improve their top line through impact. Uh, and that is what is driving basically when, what, what I found as my, why, uh, after being, uh, many years in pharma.

And now, now here,

Naji: Wow. Yeah. That that’s amazing. You know, how, how you’re defining your why and how you’re helping. Obviously companies get into performance through impact be before. And I want us to discuss about, you know, you talked about CSR impact. You’re seeing this trend of companies changing now finally, into getting into social impact rather than, uh, just respond to.

As we had it. Um, but before that you talked about being very early on 34 years, I think you said taking a leadership position, uh, having to drive as a general manager in Denmark, I think at that time, you know, your teams, your business, uh, tell us a little bit more about this as we were seeing more and more leaders getting into leadership position early in their career, even earlier, uh, sometimes.

And what, what are your learnings or. Words that you would tell them, uh, from what you got.

Angel Perez: I, I, I usually get the feeling that I, I had some experiences too early in my life and I didn’t make the most out of them. And this is probably one, but at the same time, something that is, I, I, another topic that I always consider, or I I’m usually quite optimistic.

And I see the, the, the last half a full always, I was. Clearly not at my best to deal, uh, with the situation in Denmark, but I was blessed and lucky with the people I had around. Uh, there was a, a leadership team in Denmark already up and running, and that helped a lot. And I was, and, and this is just not by chance, probably the, among the very good leaders I had within my career in Lilly.

If, if I come pick just one, I would pick Patrick Johnson. Um, who was the, the leader of the Scandinavian cluster on thos