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 those days and was my boss. And he’s for me, the, the clear role model on how to balance, uh, being strong with operations and management and smart and soft and close to people, uh, on the, on the people’s side.

Uh, and I learned a hell of a lot looking at team, um, competencies when you are a young leader. Well, I think that the ones I’m going to name are. Maybe especially important when you are young, but probably are the ones that I try to still use these days when I’m not that young. Um, I, I think that trying to be humble when you don’t know things, um, has been useful and powerful in my case, um, I think that cultivating empathy, eh, when you’re talking with people is key, especially when you don’t know about your business yet.

Um, I was lucky or, or blessed us again, uh, to attend plenty of training courses, but there is one that I, I use and I still use very often, uh, related with a book, the mood and with a, a single line that I keep very close. In fact, I have it in my, in my, in my office. Um, be here now, uh, when you are talking with someone you have to be, or that person has to be the most.

Important personally in the world when you’re talking with him or her. Um, and, and then the other two, that again is not only when you’re young, I guess that probably they are forever is if you are able to lead by example, most probably people will be following you. Um, clearly when I was 34 or 35, I was not able to articulate this the way I have said it now, but probably those were the things that at that point with a mix of intuition and, and knowledge were the ones that allowed me together with many people around to be somehow successful.

Naji: Yeah. This is so powerful, really. So, so powerful. Insights. And you know, many times I say you set it combining two things that for me are, are really crucial for, for leaders. I, I usually say love and discipline, right? Like this is, this is what makes leaders successful and, and you shared it. So you, you then led throughout different countries.

You led globally Canada, Europe in moment of transformations, as you said, in marketing and. Anything from a leadership learning, you know, as you went there and didn’t, cross-function cross operationally cross-functionally and cross country also culturally mm-hmm and anything that, that stood out for you as a leadership, did anything change from those early learnings about, you know, genuine care and, and making sure operationally things are done.

Do you think it’s the same recipes, but that you just need to adopt them?

Angel Perez: Probably it is the same base. I mean, it’s like, uh, olive oil for any dish you cook in Spain, you start with olive oil and garlic, maybe. So the, the, the main, the main ingredients are the same, but then you need to use some other, uh, tactics to, to put it that way.

Um, when I move into a regional role, and again, what I’m going to say in the now sounds very natural to every one of us now with COVID, but again, back in 2009, uh, excelling your skills. And how to lead, uh, from the distance that was not so common. Uh, at a point, I mean, I was based in Spain only with one diary report next to me, Madrid and the group of 15 people reporting and then longer groups, uh, were spread all over the place.

Uh, so for instance, I might only go three times a year to Canada, uh, because of the functional structure. I was not the owner of their budget. So how on earth can you be leading a group from the distance, not controlling the OPEX, but making things happen. And, and I think that the, the, the key recommendation or advice on that situation is you, you need to make sure that you try to lead by influencing and the, the time you spend with people face to face that you try to, to deliver, or to provide some kind of lasting, um, trusting experience.

And then you keep building on that while you are not there anymore. So going back to this, be here now, and that you can do it virtually as well. And that the last year we are excelling on that because there is no choice, but if you could only talk over the phone with someone in Australia every month, how do you make sure that that half an hour, that you are linking previous conversation, that you are keeping an eye on the loft side, as you said to then get deeper into the discipline piece and to try to keep some.

Cannons or momentum despite being far away geographically. And, and during the time as well, on, on during the, the daily work, I, I think that the, by cultivating this trust in the distance and this sense of, eh, feeling that the one who’s talking with you is really important for, for you really was a relevant bond that made.

The ongoing, uh, managing and, and business discussions successful.

Naji: Great. Uh, and, and I want to switch now into, you know, you, you shared about CSR social impact. Uh, and I, I wanna double click on this. And you said in the beginning in healthcare, it’s sometimes so obvious, but we don’t look at it that way.

Right? Like our social responsibility, the impact that we bring with medicines with, with care devices, whatever. And out here we are is so massive. But then there’s always, you know, the CSR that feels a little bit disconnected, right? Like this corporate social responsibility, you took it to a different level, right?

With, with you being curious in the beginning and now actually helping companies to, to have a social impact. Uh, tell us a little bit about your journey here. How would you separate CSR from social impact? Uh, I, I, I saw you, you shared this and, and I agree with you, you say like only companies that include social impact in their core business would exist to more.

It’s a very provocative way to saying it. So, so help us understand and how we as leaders can, can bring this social impact to our, our

Angel Perez: companies. Very good. So first of all, disclaimer, I’m clearly positively biased to pharma industry because that is home. So, uh and, and, and I guess that despite these bias, I think it’s fair to say that the healthcare sector and the pharma industry does deliver a strong, positive impact in social society full stop.

Now, whether that is being properly perceived, whether that is considered as it should. Whether the companies that are perceived to be changing the world are pharma companies or others. And it should be the other way that is another debate. I guess that’s another podcast, um, going to your question and, and trying to not to get very techy or, or sophisticated on the wording, the, the, we talk very often not transcendent on the business impact journey.

And this is agnostic of sectors, basically saying companies. From the very beginning, imagine that a company has different boats or ships, right. And there is one sip, which is the, the business, the core business ship with the best, um, boat, the best, um, uh, crew. With plenty of OPEX and resources and they need to do better on the business side.

They go that way. Then there is smaller boats that are the ones with corporate resource and responsibility that are trying to get some impact in society, but it’s far away from the core of the business. Okay. So when talking about CSR, this is like the, what do you do that is far away from your business?

That is good for society. And that, that was like the bread and butter until. I’m making, I mean, nobody statement five years ago now, as you move into the next territory or island, many times companies realize that, wait a minute, we might be doing better business by monitoring what our people in corporate social responsibility or in sustainability as such too, and suddenly they start getting together.

And that is the next step. And that is what is starting to happen this day. So saying. If we are a smarter with our, these, these letters that are like best letters lately, this if for environment is for social and G for governance, this ESG, and you realize if we as a company, not only report because it’s mandatory to do this, non-financial reporting, but we manage our ES the output properly.

This is good for business. And that is the point when I go back to pharma and say, come on. I mean, the essence of pharma is the good. Um, and it’s not only to do better on the environment. It’s the impact you have on society by having better molecules, better products, I’m providing better lives for the people who benefit from us.

And that is what I, we want to believe that we help companies together at that point to understand putting the core of your business. Close to the effect you have on the environment on the society and how you do governance is good for your business in terms of output as such. And that is the next step.

The, the, the, the, the promise land, I mean, the, the purpose island, and that is next is when you realize that is not only about the output about the outcome, where is the effect of your action on the people and on the planet out there? And that is one instead of measuring output, you measure the outcome of what are you doing there.

So it’s not only how many, um, pills, how many treatments you have, what is the impact on the patients on their lives? What is the impact you start building process to put into well, to value all the effect that you’re doing in the case of pharma. I, and it’s the same across sectors. So. From CSR out of business to ESG where suddenly business look at these outputs as an opportunity to perform better.

And to finally think about what is the impact I want to proactive. I want ask, I want to make proactively in. So with society and, and, and basically the planet, if you look about, uh, environmental topics, those are the three stages of this business impact journey that we see, um, in a very quickly. And I don’t know if an organized way.

Um, happening with companies and that’s what we are trying to do. We try to accelerate their journey to understand that the farther or the closer they get to their purpose, to this territory of purpose, the better it will be not only for society, but clearly for their own business.

Naji: Yeah, that’s that that’s powerful.

And I’m gonna do the link. You talked about social entrepreneurship and health that, that you, you built. And, and I know you’ve been always very active with, you know, startups and building things differently and really an adapt of like small experiments and then you can grow it. So how, how do you see this?

Because the transformation you are helping companies to get to is obviously really, as you said, this, this promised

Angel Perez: island, right?

Naji: And. I’m not gonna go into politics, what we’re seeing globally, but obviously a lot of movements are not going there. So how, how are you helping people get there? Are you really looking at small things as you’ve done that have a big impact, right?

Like with small entrepreneurship, within a company and then building on this for people to get there, or, or do you think at some point policies will change for us to get there? Like, like how, how are you naing this down for you to be able to work with companies? Very good.

Angel Perez: Great question. Not, not easy to answer, because if I, I, I will try to, it is, it should be different company by company, but I guess that there are at least four, um, driving forces out there suggesting, or even obliging companies to move.

As you said, one is clearly regulation. I mean, I mean, in the case of Europe, we were farther ahead now in the us, it’s moving, moving forward quickly. Um, companies do see now their obligation to report properly on this. And this is great because even the, the laggards are feeling that they need to raise the bar.

That is one thing. Uh, peer pressure. Luckily we start to have champions almost in every sector of companies leading the way. And you don’t want to be a Lagar, as I said, so you want to do that as well. Mm. Society, customers, clients, I mean, very clear, even, even if we don’t do what we say in surveys, that we will always go for the super environmental, uh, opportunity and product.

But the reality is that that rent is irreversible and, and not last clearly not least, um, money itself. So today we see that investors are looking for opportunities to invest on ESG related, uh, companies or opportunities or even opportunities where you can measure the impact. So those external forces, we want to believe that I are making the positive, perfect storm for companies for the smart business leaders to realize, wait a minute.

This is not lateral. This is not CSR. This is not a cost center. This this could be profit center. And, and that is a time when you can engage on a pure management business conversation with the C-suite, uh, not talking about funding, which is fantastic and NGO it on improving your performance based on impact now.

How do you make that happen? How do you get the spark in different companies? Well, depending on their reality, their sensitivities, the challenge from the competitors and going to your, to your first point, in some cases that you might, uh, align the fire with the opportunity to put together companies with social entrepreneurs.

And that’s what we did at really starting in 2016 with this program where basically. Lilly together with unlimited Spain, an NGO, uh, that is, uh, which expert has the expertise to accelerate social entrepreneurs. Um, healthcare, uh, social entrepreneurs were incubated by Lilly and unlimited Spain for six or eight months.

So that. These, uh, guys with fantastic concepts, uh, at the very early states, got all the knowledge from Lilly employees in Spain to know about the sector. And, and that was a great time when you realize, you know, a lot about the sector, how many people don’t and then Lilly was able, I always put the, the analogy of like opening the windows to get a there, um, no fear to failure, uh, being far more curious, And looking at opportunities within pharma that potentially were unknown or non explored by traditional pharma companies, so that you could truly get into some kind of cell value concept, uh, on, on leverage team from social entrepreneurs in big pharma and help, and truly helping these guys to move up next, accelerate their businesses.

Naji: that’s a that’s that’s powerful, uh, example. Thanks. Uh, and for sharing this, uh, I want us to jump into, uh, kind of a different section, a game. If you wanna call it, uh, I’m gonna give you one word, uh, and you will give me top of mind idea that you, uh, that you will have sounds good. Yes. So, so the first one is startup.


the, the second one, uh, is, um, transformation,

Angel Perez: mandatory to survive.

Naji: You you’ve led many of those, tell us a little bit more. It’s mandatory to survive, but it’s usually tough to, to, to implement, right?

Angel Perez: I mean, these, these days, um, no one on earth is going to have a successful business without two levers. In my view, one is, uh, technology and the, the other one is impact.

Uh, and, and not many companies are there yet. Unless you truly transform and understand that those are the new peak levers, uh, of success in the future. You will not, will not even be successful. You will not survive as a business. I’m convinced.

Naji: Yeah. The, the third one is responsible business.

Angel Perez: Uh, I mean, in one word, I would say mandatory.

We have a couple of analogies we use quite often here at transcendent. Um, one is some, I mean, I’m older than you Naji. Uh, not many years ago. People could smoke in the airplanes and not many years ago. I mean, our parents put at, at the back of the car without a safe belt. Um, and they were not doing it because they didn’t want us.

It was because that was not the time for it. Um, we are very close to go back and look in five, six years ago, look back to 2021 and say, wait a minute, this, these guys allow business to run, not having their business with a minimum check of being responsible. I mean, well, that is, that is my big bet on, on, on what we are doing these days, but that will come.

Um, and, and luckily due to. Technology that is allowing us to have businesses being extremely more transparent than ever. You. We will be able to see who, which businesses are being responsible, which ones are not. And the ones that are not, they will need to evolve or transform, or they will not have a chance.

Uh, because, because this will be a mass, I mean, going back to labor conditions, going back to those topics that are already luckily, already a part of our. Routinely way of doing business very soon. We’ll have a minimum check to be responsible business, or you are out of here.

Naji: Yeah. Yeah. So try I’m so needed, right?

It’s we, we can’t, we won’t be able to survive as a humanity if we, if we don’t deal with this. Immediately, you know, there there’s some I’ve read something like it’s even already too late. I’m not gonna give I’m, I’m an optimistic like you, but it’s, it means that really we need to, we need to ramp up our capabilities on, on social impact for sure.

The, the last one is spread love and organizations.

Angel Perez: Yeah. I mean, I was expecting this one, not the other ones. It’s, it’s funny. Because very early in my career, I met someone who was joining my team and, and she was asking me, so what, what do you want to, to do, I mean, with your business career? And I was very naive, but I said, well, I want people to, to, to be enjoying what they are doing.

I want them to enjoy being at work. And I probably, that was a very naive statement. Or at least I was not able to support it as properly as I think I can do to today. Um, at this stage of my career. I struggle to see successful companies, not spreading somehow love in their organizations or to put it in another way.

Successful companies that do not spread love are missing great opportunities or being of being even better by taking care of this as, uh, very true, um, business and managing tool. Um, I’ve seen, um, very successful business, very successful teams and very, uh, productive teams, uh, working with and without love and care, uh, the ones where you can install and cultivate and work, because this is something that you can make happen.

Uh, this, this handle and love and care between each other. They perform better. I think that the, the, there is evidence and empirical evidence that that is, that should be there now far is easier to say than to do. Unfortunately, the current circumstances with COVID, uh, I was talking this morning with a big multinational saying, we, we need to go back to finance more than we used to be a year and two months ago.

Of course. I mean, again, dealing with a big company is not easy, but, um, not forgetting this. As a, as a nice managing management level. I think that, um, I, I, I think that spreading love in organizations, uh, is a, is an opportunity and a key success factor. If you can do it properly. Yeah. And again, I mean, sorry, and I can be biased because I was blessed by, by having my development as a, as in my professional career in Lilly.

And, and it is a culture where I would say spread a love is part of the culture. So I’m, I’m again, positively maybe biased on that, but I strongly feel it.

Naji: Yeah. And, and as you said, I think, you know, during those times it’s, uh, you link it to performance, right? And there are bunch of things out there that show perfor high winning, performing teams have the genuine care.

Right. And. And I love that you’re sharing. You’ve experienced that you’ve done it with, with your teams very early on, uh, as a GM and then growing into organization, you kept on doing it. And, and I imagine now with, with your company, you kind of do it daily and you help others kind of build it.

Angel Perez: And, and if, if I may, and then, I mean, and suddenly you, you see that spreading love somehow can link fully with any company’s purpose.

I mean, why are you as a company? Why do you exist? And this is not, and it cannot be making money because you want to do something better, uh, than, than, and, and if you are not here, what the world or society miss, there is an element of care, uh, within any company. Um, and, and even the ones that are there just for the money, well, they will not last for long and, and looking into the future, they will last even less because all of them, at some point, whether it is genuinely or because they are forced again, going back to peer pressure, this is an element that needs to be embraced as a core competency in any business.

Naji: That’s strong core compet competency. I, this is strong. I like that. Uh, tell you, you shared about, I know you’re a big fan of, uh, reading things. You’re so curious. I, I follow your curiosity and the things you look and as you’re courageous to change things, Anything you’re reading these days or anything that you would advise us to have a look at or to follow for us to get into this transformational leadership and, and the social impact that that you’re at?

Angel Perez: Yes. If, if one book, uh, by Sarah Ronald coin impact, um, I’m not going to spoil the outstanding story of, of Ronald going, uh, a book that is. Easy to read outstanding, at least for me, effects on how do you look at business? Um, another author, he has three books that for me has also been very influential Mohammed jus uh, the father of micro loans, um, uh, Nobel this no prize, outstanding, uh, writer.

The last book is like the three, uh, zero sum effect, something like that. Um, those two books for me are key. Another one that I enjoyed reading last year is reimagining capitalism, uh, by a professor at Harvard business school called Rebecca Henderson.

Angel Perez: and, and then, I don’t know. I mean, I already mentioned it, another one.

Um, I mean, I we’ve been talking a lot about, um, aspiration and, and wishes and the like, but at the end we are here to perform and we need to deliver right. And, and a book. And, uh, that has been, and I, you still have a very, and I use very often is called the four disciplines of execution, uh, because at the end, This is about executing

Uh, so I mean, don’t get me wrong. Uh, I’m not becoming more naive as I get older. Um, after we talk about all the things we’ve been talking, this is about making a business successful and for disciplines of execution is something that I’ve been, uh, using for more than eight years. And at least for me, it, it works,

Naji: but yeah.

Great, great, great books. Uh, and yeah, you said it many times is how you combine both, right. Little care, love and discipline about the, how, uh, well, any final word of wisdom and how for all those leaders and executive around the word, and maybe on the social impact that you need to have. Any, any advice, any word of wisdom

Angel Perez: is been a, it’s been a pleasure talking with you Naji. First of all, the, the not, not only about impact or, or business impact. Um, probably the biggest learning for me and that I’m trying still to keep it as alive as, as possible is you can foster and cultivate and everything in my career over the last seven years or so has been based on building my career city.

Of reading different books of following different people. Um, whether it’s tweeted, whether it’s LinkedIn, whether it’s, uh, looking at the book reviews. Um, my, my, my stay curious is the, the name of the game. Um, and as a business leader, I, I think that you cannot afford not being curious. Unless you have a team of curious people around you, which is a good plan B, but it’s less fun.

So, um, find something that is not your core. Again, it can be impact. It can be technology. It can be both, but keep your brain, uh, fresh by cultivating your C that be my well advice. My suggestion.

Naji: Well, uh, thanks again for this great conversation. I’m sure you use part of this curiosity for all of us to go and look more into what social impact means, uh, for us to, um, really make the word a better place for, for ourselves today and for the future generations.

Naji: Thank you so much Angel for your insights and, and this great conversation.

Angel Perez: My pleasure. Thanks a lot for inviting me to talking with you Naji.

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, joined today by Andrew Bunton Vice President of Omnichannel customer experience and at CVS Health, Andrew leads the efforts to create a differentiated, frictionless pharmacy experience leveraging cvs, digital and physical assets. He has worked at CVS Health for 10 years, including leading the retail pharmacies, development, and management of clinical services, retail health services strategy, and new product development. Prior to CVS, Andrew worked at Bain and Company and also as Vice President in the corporate and investment banking group at Bank of America. Andrew, I am so excited and honored to have you with me today.

Andrew Bunton: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited about this.

Naji: First, I would love to hear your personal story. What’s in between the lines of your journey from purely business to banking and now leading in the healthcare industry?

Andrew Bunton: Yeah, I’ve, I’ve always been driven by wanting to make an impact and, and it’s, uh, and it’s interesting cuz I think even when I was in college, you know, flirted with maybe going into ministry and kind of thought, thought some about that.

Um, but ended up seeing that that was not my, my calling. Um, but, um, but then, uh, had an experience, um, had an experience at the Tuck Business Bridge program that kind of opened my eyes to. You know, just how invigorating and, and exciting the business world, you know, really was. And that’s what kind of lit my fire and desire for going into business.

Um, but along the way had always been looking for, you know, how can I make sure I’m making as big an impact as as possible, um, you know, through, um, you know, through business. Um, and that’s, and that’s really. Brought me to, you know, to focus on the healthcare space where I, I feel like I can kind of give back using the talents that, that, that I, you know, that I have, you know, leadership, you know, analytic, capability, strategy, toolkit, Um, you know, but, but, you know, make a difference, make a difference for, for folks.

Um, and, and so, uh, that that’s really, you know, been, been part of, part of that journey.

Naji: You definitely are doing a huge difference leading such a, such a large organization. So with CVS Health, uh, and specifically you’re using, and you talked a little bit about it, uh, data analytics, omnichannel, We hear a lot about omnichannel and all, you know, all of us in a healthcare want to get and become an omnichannel company.

So you’re reading those efforts. Uh, can you, can you tell me a little bit your definition of what omnichannel means?

Andrew Bunton: Yeah. At at, at the end of the day, for us, it’s really, you know, how do we meet our customers where, where they’re at. Um, and, and if, if a patient really wants to get their, say their medications delivered, um, you know, at, at, at at home, making that as easy as possible, if they want to come into the pharmacy, that’s great as well.

But how do we take a lot of the friction that’s historically existed within the pharmacy industry, you know, out and, and. You know, give, give the patient more power, you know, right at their fingertips to, to control their, you know, their medication and their overall, you know, health, health regimen. Um, it’s interesting and, and healthcare, you know, so much comes down to the little micro barriers, um, in terms of, you know, taking the right steps.

Um, and so what, what we’ve seen is, is if we can really focus on making things as easy as possible, you remove a lot of those micro barriers. And really help help patients to, you know, to stay on their medication therapies and live, you know, healthier, more active lives. So when

Naji: you started this transformation or this journey around omnichannel, I imagine those are large changes for the teams, especially when you have physical retail stories and, and now moving into digital, we face the same in the corporate word with, uh, with pharma.

Uh, obviously how, what is the key capability in your leadership style and the way you led those teams to be able to deliver, uh, on the omnichannel strategy?

Andrew Bunton: I think a lot comes down to, um, really, you know, energizing, exciting the, uh, the team around, you know, the, the, the art, the art of possible, you know, what, what could actually be, you know, delivered at the end of the day if, if we really get this right.

Um, and so a lot of it’s kind of starting with the patient and kind of grounding it in the. What is the, what is the patient looking for? What are some of the pain points that exist for our patients today? Um, and then how can we, how can we work to close, to close all of those gaps and getting folks excited about a world in which we really could deliver, uh, a frictionless pharmacy.

Um, and then, and then as we go, um, you know, it’s great to have some, some quick wins to really, you know, start to energize folks and, and get folks excited about, you know, about what, what is, uh, what is possible as we also work on some things that, that take a little bit longer, um, and, and, and are gonna require more persistence to, to chase after.

Naji: I love it. The art, uh, the art of possible. And you share, starting with the patients, and you, you said in the beginning, your purpose driven, uh, leader, and this is what made you ca come to healthcare. Uh, also, so how do you make sure that the patient is alive? When you’re leading large organizations for your teams, many time we get into, you know, our operational things into our, uh, the weed of what we need to deliver, like the website, how it’s looking, what, what we need to do a little bit more, a little bit less.

And we forget that actually at the end of the day, we are helping a patient live better. Do you, do you have any tips for leaders in healthcare on how to make sure that the patient is alive? Whatever we are doing, uh, in, in our work daily.

Andrew Bunton: It’s a great, uh, it’s a great question. Um, and I think that, that there’s a lot of things that, that can be done.

Of course, it starts with grounding it in the consumer, the consumer research and kind of keeping that, that front and center, like what are the jobs to be done, what are the, the real things that we need to be working on? Um, but one, one thing that’s really helped. Thus along the way is making sure that we have some, um, some design thinking, you know, experts who are in charge of really monitoring and tracking the overall customer, you know, customer experience as we go.

What, what if, what sometimes can happen is, um, is when you have folks who are pushing on certain features or certain innovations, um, you know, that might be a great success, but it might conflict with something. That, that’s being worked on. So, so at the end of the day, making sure that there’s some folks who are really tracking the overall customer experience and how everything is kind of coming together at once.

And then as, as we go really, you know, testing, testing out innovations on, on patients. And so, Not, not working all the way until something is fully developed and then launching it and seeing what happens instead. Um, you know, ex exposing, exposing, you know, customers to, to prototypes, um, and, and, and really getting there, getting their feedback and, and what, what they use it and what do they like about it, what don’t they like about it, Cetera, et cetera.

To make sure that we’re kind of staying grounded and really what are our patients looking for and what’s gonna resonate with.

Naji: I love that you’re, you’re talking really about those iteration and innovation that you can go fast with, you know, like MVP and test and improve. Uh, I’m, I’m interested to know how in a large organization you manage to.

Push those ideas in and more from a leadership standpoint. Right. It’s, uh, because usually large, the, I’m feeling the larger the organization is, the less nimble sometimes it becomes. So how did you manage to get this, uh, culture or mindset in your team?

Andrew Bunton: Yeah. Um, I, I love, I love continuous improvement. I love thinking about kind of iterative, iterative design.

Um, and, and at the end of the day, I mean, I think the, the, the nice thing with it is it, it really aligns incentives as, as well. Um, you know, if, if you, um, it’s very difficult to, to fund something when you don’t have a proven business case. Um, but if you can, if you can go test something out, even if it’s in a very scrappy manner.

And show that patients are really interested, um, and, and show some of the potential benefits that can come from it. Um, then it becomes much easier to kind of gain the, the, the capital, the operating, um, the operating expense that, that you’re looking for to actually fund something. Um, so it’s nice. Is it, it’s actually kind of aligned with.

You know, doing kind of quick snap tests, doing mini tests to, to then build out a business case. Well, you’re also making sure that it’s grounded in, you know, in the customer and what they’re looking for. Um, and then, and then keeping, keeping the team focused, you know, focused on, you know, on that. And, and what I’ve found is, uh, is generally.

Teams love to test. Um, it’s really invigorating and it’s, it’s fun to be, you know, on, on the front lines actually executing, you know, executing something at a, at a super small scale. Um, so, so I found actually teams, teams generally embrace that and, and, and would, would prefer to test things and, and then of course the solution is so much better for having done it anyway.

Naji: Andrew, I, I wanna look a little bit, The last two years, I imagine the challenges for you has been even more, even bigger than the normal transformation that you were leading. Like ha having to immediately move into practically digital, the vaccine, the platform, all that you have done with appointments, scheduling.

I, I, I just like being. Customer, I imagine all that you had to deal with at a national level, uh, to make, uh, to make this happen. Uh, how, how, how did you really reinvent those things and be able to serve patients more? Your personal, uh, experience, I would say as a leader to make sure that, uh, your teams are delivering.

Andrew Bunton: First I would just say, you know, I think the, the real, the real heroes at the end of the day are, you know, our, our pharmacists, our technicians, our front store staff that were kind of on, on the front lines, you know, throughout, you know, throughout the Covid, the Covid pandemic, Um, you know, because, uh, because they, they, they, uh, they were the ones who, you know, who actually.

Stood up so many of the, the things that we brought to life, whether it was the, you know, the covid testing or the, or the Covid vaccine or, um, you know, uh, providing people access to, um, to, you know, p, p and E. Um, and so at the end of the day, they, they, they were the true, you know, they were the true heroes at, at the end of the day.

Um, I think it, um, we were, we were challenged. I mean, I think that it was a. Period of, of unprecedented, um, transformation, whether it is the, you know, the ability to, um, you know, to, to really quickly, um, ramp up our delivery capabilities, um, to make sure in those early days of the pandemic we could, you know, deliver, uh, you know, patients their prescriptions for those that didn’t feel comfortable coming in to, to pick it up.

Um, you know, making sure that we were. You know, um, you know, sending out new kind of cleaning protocol and things like that. Um, changing our, our hours of operation to make sure that we were, you know, reflecting the needs of, of the community. Um, standing up the, you know, the, the testing, you know, the testing and vaccine.

Um, I think at the end of the day, um, a lot of it came, came to really making sure, um, that, that for our, you know, for our colleagues, for our teams, we were keeping, you know, front and center, the real purpose behind it all. Um, you would think that that was easy to do, you know, in the pandemic, but sometimes it could be challenging when, when folks are working really long hours and, and having to invest, you know, so much.

Um, but at the end of the day, you know, really constant reminders and celebrations of, of just the magnitude of the, of. You know, of the, uh, the purpose of the, of the work and where, where it was all, you know, heading, you know, heading.

Naji: Sure. Thank you for that. And definitely we, we celebrated them in the beginning of the pandemic and we should never forget to celebrate all the frontline workers, pharmacists, physicians, technicians, all of those all the time. Um, looking back at those experiences, uh, would you have done something different when you look back at.

And what is the one thing that you wanna make sure that you’re gonna keep on doing moving forward?

Andrew Bunton: I think. I think one thing that, that it’s definitely opened my my eyes to is, is kind of the, the, the importance of work life balance. And of course, you know, we’ve all, we all talk about that a great, a great deal, but I think it, it helped reinforce for me, um, you know, the, the, the import of, of, you know, you can’t just.

Talk about it. You need to be very mindful. You need to be watching out for, you know, for colleagues that, um, that, that you, you know, uh, to make sure that there is no, no burnout and being much more kind of proactive, um, you know, proactive and kind of managing and managing through it. Um, because I, I, I would say, um, you know, it was a, it was a challenge.

It was a challenge throughout the period, just where I think throughout, throughout the, throughout the pandemic, um, at every, at every turn, you’d think like, Okay, we’re gonna push through. For the next month, and then it’s gonna be better. And, but then it would be another twist in turn, you know, within the pandemic, uh, a as as we went.

So it ended up being a long time running for a lot of folks. And I, and I think that’s the, that’s the piece that it kind of helped open my eyes to is just the, the, the importance of, of being, you know, of being much more proactive and having, and having a lot of dialogue with patient, with our, you know, with our colleagues in terms of how.

How they’re feeling, how they’re managing and encouraging folks to take, to take time off. It was also in a period to remember where a lot of folks weren’t taking vacation because, you know, because they, they’re used to vacation being someplace that you, that you travel to. And so, and in the pandemic that wasn’t happening.

But, uh, you know, making sure that folks are even taking staycations and things like that. I think that that’s definitely, you know, been much more of a priority for me, you know, and it was a big learning coming, you know, coming through, through the experience.

Naji: Are you able to, uh, to maintain this now moving forward?

Because it’s definitely something that we’ve seen in all organizations and a lot of organization. Talked about wellness, talked about life, uh, life work balance. But now after two years being in the pandemic, we see those kind of. Pointing down and, And now it’s, Yeah. Yeah. It’s worth life balance, but maybe not as we expected it or as we said about it, like how you make sure, how are you making sure that this is truly now embedded since that was one of the big learnings for you

Andrew Bunton: Yeah, I, it’s, it’s interesting. I think one of the things that, that I’ve, that I’ve worked on and tried to do is, is having, you know, the, the shadow of a leader. I mean, a lot of it starts for your team. It all starts with you a, a as a leader. And so, um, you know, making sure that, that I’m, I’m practicing the things that, um, You know, the, the, the things that, that, that, that I preach.

And so, um, taking, taking, you know, pto, um, you know, um, being okay with kind of, um, you know, stopping work at, at, at 5, 5 30 in the evening when I can, like the things, things like that. I actually had an experience with a, um, with someone on my team who I respect, uh, greatly, who, who gave me the feedback on.

Um, I know that you’re sincere about work life balance, um, but if you, if you stay at work until six 30 every night, then everyone else is gonna stay at until at work until six 30 as well. And so, you know, being mindful of, uh, of, you know, of the actions that, that, that you take as a leader. Um, and also having, like I mentioned before, proactive conversations with folks and making sure that, that where you see a little smoke, where you think that, that they’re, that they’re, you know, perhaps working too hard.

How can you do something about that?

Naji: I love it. Leading by example and yeah, actually kind of walking the talk , this is, this is really crucial. I, I will now give you one word and I would love to get your reaction to this word. So the first, the first word is leadership

Andrew Bunton:. Hmm. Um, I, I’d say servant leadership, um, for, for me it is, it, it is, you know, how, how can you as a leader, um, really, you know, empower, empower, um, your, your colleagues, you know, invest, invest in them.

Something I’m passionate about is, is like really making sure that you have an eye on what’s important for the colleague. Um, really what are they working toward? Where do they wanna get in their career? What’s, you know, what is it that really drives them? Um, so that then you can be structuring the work, you know, around, you know, around that.

Um, and, and, and making sure that, that, at the end of the day, it’s not just the output, it’s the, it’s the journey. The journey as well, and that they’re gaining from, from that, you know, from that journey. What about in. Ooh. I, I, I’d say, uh, I’d say mini test. I, I mentioned it before. I, I love, I, I love to, you know, to test out, you know, to test out new, you know, new concepts, challenge, you know, challenge the status, you know, the status quo.

Um, I’d also say, Diversity, um, you know, diversity brings, you know, brings innovation, you know, innovation to it. And so, um, you know, it’s, I always strive to have a, a diverse team and, and that, that of course means, you know, racial, ethnic, uh, diversity, but also like diversity of background as, as well. Um, we’ve had a lot of success in, in kind of having our, our teams be comprised not just of folks who have, you know, MBAs say, but also we have, you know, pharmacists on the team, technicians on the team.

People from more of a public health background, kind of all, all collaborating, you know, together to bring, um, to bring, you know, innovations, you know, innovations to, to the.

Naji: Can I double click on this one?

Andrew Bunton: Uh, well, you know about it, right? Like diversity comes inclusion, uh, especially when you’re talking about a lot of diverse backgrounds and diverse thoughts and innovation.

How are you making sure in a large organization this is actually happening and those who have a totally different experience, different plans, that worst things, their ideas are being heard and. It, it’s a great, it’s a great question. Um, and, and something that that, that, um, that you do have to be really, really mindful of in terms of how are we, and, and it’s interesting.

It’s not with that, it also brings into, into account like diversity of personalities, you know, And so a lot of times like. How are we making sure that we are pulling insights out of folks who might be more introverted or, or, you know, and, and making sure it’s not just the extroverts who are kind of dominating, dominating the, the, uh, the conversation as well.

Um, At the end of the day, a lot of it is, you know, is, is again, getting to making sure that you’re setting that right culture and that it is one where, where everybody’s voice, you know, you know, can and, and should be heard is making sure people feel safe and feel, you know, and feel that, that, that sense of, of belonging to.

Um, I often refer to it as kind of a work family, you know, that, that at the end of the day we’re, we’re a work family. Like how everyone plays, you know, plays a role as part, you know, as part of that, of that family and everyone belongs. And then hopefully that’s kind of empowering folks to be confident in kind of having their, their, their message, their message heard

Naji: Customer experience. As a marketer, I had to ask you your lens on this .

Andrew Bunton: Yeah. Uh, customer, customer experience. It, um, I guess I’ll say feedback channels. Like what are all of the ways in which we are truly listening for, you know, for what that customer experience is. Um, and so that’s something that’s definitely been, you know, I’ve learned a.

Through, through time and, and that you have to have a lot of different listening channels. Um, and so, you know, whether it’s, um, how are we making sure that we’re getting, you know, great customer feedback in as near real time as possible? How are we making sure that we’re listening to what our frontline colleagues have to say and kind of taking their recommendations and hearing from them, uh, how we can help them better, you know, better serve our customers, you know, as it as, uh, as well.

Um, how are we doing cons? A lot of consumer research, making sure that we’re staying ahead of, uh, not just like, what’s the feedback on what we have now, but what are the, what else are, are our patients looking for? How else can we, you know, really be, be helping them as as we go.

Naji: The last one is Spread Love in Organizations.

Andrew Bunton: Yeah, I’m, I, I’m passionate, I’m passionate about spreading love. At, at, I mentioned before that, um, at one point I had thought about even, even going into the ministry. Um, I think for me, what I’ve kind of realized is that you can minister in most any role that, that, that you are in. Um, and so for, for me, it’s, it, it is, you know, how, how do I make sure that.

um, you know, whether it’s a, a, you know, peer peers, whether it’s leaders, whether it’s my, my team, um, that I’m treating people as a a as people, as people first and as, and as colleagues, and as colleagues second, um, and really investing and really investing in people and sometimes it. It takes forms in the most, in the smallest things like I, I’d say, you know, even though I’ve, even though I lead a large team, it’s important to me that I have, uh, touch bases with, with everyone on the team at, at, at least, you know, at least, and some periodic basis to make sure I’m really getting to know folks and kind of hearing from them.

What they’re, what they’re looking for in their career and kind of, and engaging and kind of that, that, that level of, of dialogue. Um, so yeah, I, I’m, I hope, I hope that I’m bringing love to, uh, you know, to, to CBS and other places that I work every day. I love

Naji: that. Uh, any final word of wisdom, Andrew, for healthcare ideas around the world.

Andrew Bunton: Um, what I always tell people is, you know, is, is find, find your passion. You know, fi find your passion. Um, and um, and I think what I’ve been, what I’ve been impressed by is if, if you find your passion, you can identify it. Um, In most any role, you can start steering more and more of your day toward, toward that, uh, toward that passion.

And if you find your passion, then, then chances are you’re gonna be working alongside people who share a very similar passion. And, and, and that’s what helps with kind of bringing together that, that, that, that work family, because you, you’re, you know, you’re together, you know, driving toward, you know, you know, big audacious goals, you know, together.

Naji: Thank you so much again, uh, for being with me today, Andrew.

Andrew Bunton: Yeah, this has been great. Na said, Thank you so much for having me. 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 Alon Shklarek serial entrepreneur investor, and a serial entrepreneur. Alon has founded co-founded and invested in over 25 businesses across 16 countries. Whether it is duct plexus, the largest Indian doctors platform that solves thousands of patient cases every day, or sky plastics, a leading European recycling company that recycles over 100,000 tons of plastic waste every year. All his companies are focused around leading with purpose and impact as active impact investor. Alon directly supports and mentors selected social entrepreneurs and is an ASN member of Ashoka. The words leading social entrepreneurship organization. Besides a teaches leadership and entrepreneurship as guest lecturer at MIT. I am so humbled to have you with me today, live from Vienna.

Alon Shklarek: Well, actually live from Boston. We’re actually not far away. I’m actually, oh, you here. yeah. I’m I’m at MIT. Well, I’m, I’m really pleased to be here. We’ve been working on that date for quite some months now. So it feels like finally we’re, we’re getting together.

Naji: Alan, I would love to hear your personal story. Uh, what took you from to Syria, entrepreneurship, and more specifically your passion for healthcare and social entrepreneurs

Alon Shklarek: Well, you know, so, uh, I, I guess I’ll start by saying, I, I made it a whole three months as employee, uh, many years old and luckily realized very quickly that this wasn’t the right path for me.

Right. And mainly. It was because I predominantly had to do stuff that I thought to be wrong, uh, and that went against my beliefs. And, um, I think when I reflect on that, I was lucky to have had a mentor back then that asked me a really interesting question. And, you know, remember I was really young, like 20 years old and the mental.

Asked me a question that had a very deep influence on my life, which I realized only later. And the question was what makes you tick? And he told me that I can take as many days or weeks or month that I needed to answer this question, but the only guideline was the answer could only be one single word.

Um, and you know, if you think about that, what makes you ticket? Like, what is it that gets you up in the morning and makes you excited and, and what is the energy really that fuels your life? And, uh, you know, one word is really hard, you know, is it harmony or independence or love, you know, speaking about your, uh, your, your podcast.

Uh, and so it, it took me really quite some time. Um, But I understood that what really makes me tick is, um, freedom and that in order to get that freedom, I would have to be able to, um, follow my passions and my purpose. And I can’t. Follow someone else’s passion and purpose. Um, and that is really what got me into starting my first company, because I, I really felt this is what I wanna do.

And this would give me the freedom of, um, you know, turning my passion into, into a business that really, uh, would improve the world. And, um, So 30 years later when we, you know, we’re sitting here, I’ve founded co-founded and later on invested in quite a number of businesses. And I guess I, I, I should put a full disclosure here that I do enjoy making profits, but not in isolation.

And I always try to focus on businesses that do some good in the world. Uh, although I have to say, I never had a word for that. Um, it, it, you know, and. That’s why I really love the fact that in the past few years, the word impact has become mainstream has been coined and then become mainstream. For me, it was a little like, uh, you know, loving a avocados just for the way they taste.

And then, uh, um, basically learning they’re actually called super foods. And, uh, so my super, my entrepreneurial superfood is impact. And that is at the core of, of really, uh, everything I do. And I. Also interesting is looking back is my most dismal failures are actually with businesses that didn’t focus on purpose and impact.

So it’s really no purpose, no passion, no passion, no success. Obviously no impact, and it sounds like a tourism, but it it’s one that I hold very dear.

Naji: I, I would love to hear a little bit more stories about the different companies that you co-founded and the massive impact you actually have through each one of them.

How, how did you end up in having social impact in healthcare specifically? You built one in, uh, in India. We talked about last time. Yeah. Can you tell us a little bit the stories and kind of the common thread of all the companies you’ve built or you helped build, uh, across the word.

Alon Shklarek: Yeah, so , so first of all, uh, it’s never alone.

It’s never me alone. It’s not the story of a guy that of, uh, has all, all it himself. It’s always with people it’s the co-creation of impact and, and, you know, coming back to that purpose. Element. This is so important because when you find people with a shared purpose, it’s like compounding your energy.

It’s not one plus one is two. It’s actually much more than that. But back to your question on, uh, you know, we, it really, and I’m sorry to, uh, disappoint you. There is no strategy in my entrepreneurial journey. Really? There is none. Uh, it’s not like a fund that has a focus. Okay. We are a healthcare fund. It’s really.

I guess the best way to describe it is when I see a problem, I start a business period. Like when I, when I see a problem that really touches me or I care about, I really want it solved, I think about, okay, how can, the only thing I know is building businesses, how can I actually use that knowledge and that, uh, uh, power that I.

To actually address that problem. And it’s, it’s, I think it’s coincidental, uh, to be very honest, like I, I, I get to some kind of, um, you know, problem and I dig into it and I I’d love to get into the detail and double click on it. And, and that’s something leads to the other, uh, specifically about healthcare, like 12 years ago.

And we started, um, in Germany, we’ve actually built the largest Germans, uh, German, uh, doctors network. And then we went on to India and actually a few years ago we started in Latin America, uh, which goes very well. And the, the idea was that it’s, you know, It is really interesting if you look at, uh, doctors are the, at the heart of a healthcare system and every single dollar that exchange, uh, hands in the healthcare system is because of either a therapeutic or a diagnostic decision of a doctor at the core really that’ll simplified, but still, and.

You as a patient. And we all know that ourselves or family member, someone that we love when they have a problem, it, there is a lot of luck involved, whether you get to the right doctor, even if it’s a specialist and very well known, you really need. Uh, to, uh, you know, be lucky to get to the right person that knows exactly, uh, how to, how to diagnose the right thing.

And I’m sure you, I mean, you come from that field, you, we all know these stories. Like it took three years to finally find something or in more, you know, sad cases where you don’t find the right approach. Uh, and on the other side, you have that collective knowledge of all doctors. Around the world. And if we could actually link that together, Wouldn’t that be wonderful.

So that was the problem I tried to address. There is a patient with a problem and it’s absolutely coincident whether he sees a doctor that actually can help him or not. But for sure, out of the 10 million doctors we have in the world, that will be someone that we would have seen that already or whatever.

So how can we get that together? That was the idea. And, uh, what I love about that idea really is that what we. Achieve this to make it free for, uh, patients free for doctors it’s completely free. And the only way actually that business is monetizing is by aggregating and anonymizing, all the data that we generate on a daily basis, through all these conversations and actually making meaningful insights for the healthcare community out of that.

And I think that’s great. It’s win. Win-win.

Naji: Oh, that’s that’s great. Uh, and as a founder and investor, you know, of several other companies, what are the key capabilities or traits you look for in leaders you recruit or interpreters who invest in?

Alon Shklarek: Hmm. Uh, well, they they’re quite some, but I think authenticities is probably the first thing. I, I, you know, I, I look for. Because, um, you know, we, we live in the world where everybody tries to. Make us be something else than we really are. I mean, it starts with all due respect to all the parents out there and my parents and everyone, the parents have a very clear view of what their kids should do very often.

And then the teachers. And then if you join a company, I mean, there’s the whole world constantly tries to make something out of you that you’re maybe not. And that you. Focusing on, on what you really want and what your purpose is when coming back to that purpose. Uh, part that is something I really look for first.

I’m not sure it’s a capability really. Uh, but, but that, that would be one. And then one thing that I really, uh, specifically look for and I try to. You know, also train myself all the time is, is listening and it may sound super simple. Uh, you know, okay. That’s clear everybody is listening, but I, I, I talk about a specific way of listening.

It’s listening to understand rather than to reply. And, and that requires a lot of training. If, if we think about it very often, it’s, we’re in a convers. The moment someone opens his mouth and starts to talk to us. We already think about what want to reply in training yourself to really listen, like until the end, and really try to get to the bottom of what others are saying.

That’s a really important leadership capability because it helps you to make sense of the world around you. It helps you to build relationships. Uh, it helps you find new ways to address problems. It helps you to drive diversity and differences of perspectives. It helps you actually bring out the best in others because you give them time and space.

Uh, so I, I guess if I have to choose one, that’s like my core, uh, key that I would look. Those are great.

Naji: I, I so agree with the listening, right? Like taking this offer the yes. And, and really looking at how you can build on someone else’s, uh, proposal every single time. Yeah. Uh, I, I also remember, um, in the, in the class I had the privilege to be in where you, you gave us, uh, a talk, um, on entrepreneurship, the framework you shared with us.

I still remember it had teams in the center and you talked a lot about the purpose. First for this team. Uh, and it was really intriguing for me because many times we’re focused on the product on the problem. We want to fix the solution, the, you know, the invention that we have, but really focused on teams and purpose.

Can you detail a little bit more, your thoughts on this?

Alon Shklarek: Well, you know, Of course they’re, you know, a great team with a really bad idea will also not be successful. Let’s be clear about that. So, you know, level playing field, we are talking about comparing good or okay. Ideas with potential. With other good or okay.

Ideas with potential. And then the team is really what makes or breaks it, uh, very obviously. And, and the connection between team and purpose relates a little bit back to, uh, what I, what I, um, a few minutes ago is around understanding. And compounding the energy that is created by really, um, focusing on what makes you tick.

So if you know, a team of founders meet at MIT where we met too, and, uh, um, you know, the dorm room type of startup, but then one, one of them really. Pursues that startup idea, because he deeply cares about for example, healthcare and improving patient outcomes and the other one really. Um, and, and I I’ll I’ll use that kind of little extreme example really just wants to, uh, join that startup because he wants to get rich really fast.

Now, if. If these, if the purpose or if the drive and the motivation behind why people are doing it are not compatible very, very quickly. Those teams usually, uh, you know, just fall apart, uh, or in even worse cases, you know, when it falls apart quickly, that’s actually good because then you can move on, but very often it’s kept together and it’s under the surface.

It actually, uh, you know, explodes at the wrong worst possible, uh, uh, time. But I think having alignment around purpose is, is so important because building a startup is so hard and you have so many, uh, setbacks and, you know, you take two steps, forwards, three steps backwards, and you always need to. You know, take hold problems every single day and only having that glue between the people that you really understand why you’re doing that.

You can remind yourself about it. That is really what, what will get you, uh, to the finish line really?

Naji: Any story about a social startup you want to highlight today,

Alon Shklarek: Yeah, there there’s so many, I, I don’t even know where to, uh, honestly, that’s it. It’s like, you know, I have three kids, um, it’s like asking me, you know, you have to pick one.

I, I can’t , you know, there there’s so many incredible, uh, incredible social entrepreneurs now. And yeah, it starts with what is really a social. Social business. And may, maybe I’ll use that even though it’s not a real answer to your question, but it, I really believe, um, social business is not about not making, making profit.

It’s it’s really about, uh, because profits are not bad, you know, if you think about money, The question about it is where does it come from and for what are you using it once you have it? So as long as your business model is focusing on, uh, uh, you know, on, on, on revenue streams that are actually not, uh, not having giving any concern, social, uh, um, concern and you’re using the money wisely, I think you can think about being a, uh, a social business.

I actually think every single. Company, every single one, uh, can have a social fo social impact, focus, or impact focus, whatever you do. Let me give you an idea of, uh, an example of one company, uh, that, that, that, that I built in the additive manufacturing space. So it, it really. We, we took that company from a more or less bankruptcy situation and they were, um, building, uh, projectors for a movie theater.

There, there is no, there’s not a lot of social impact there. Right. And we transformed the company because it’s the same technology that is at the core for, uh, 3d printing technology. So if you think about a projector for a movie, it is a light source that goes through an electronical system and then the light hits a screen.

And that’s what you see in the movie theater, 3d printing, same principle. You have a light source, goes through an electronical system. And then it hits liquid polymer and where liquid polymer, oxygen and light meat, the polymer cures. And this is how you 3d print. Uh, and so. The interesting thing was switching kind of the whole company’s idea to a more Futureproof, uh, industry than movie theaters.

And then again, no impact there, but then using our competence in really high precision 3d printing to look at organ printing. Uh, and I’m not sure if I used that example in our class, but just for, because I think it’s so interesting today, if you think talk and it’s healthcare related. So if you think about lung transplants, for example, it’s done by, uh, growing lungs in special pigs.

And then when you need the lung, you kill the pig. You need to chemically wash the lung, uh, because it is animal DNA. Of course, then you’re enriched with human DNA and then you’re actually implanted, uh, into the patient’s body. Of course, many complications, et cetera. It’s not humane obviously for the pig.

I mean, it’s not nice to kill animals, et cetera, et cetera. What we are looking at is trying to actually. Uh, lungs for transplants, uh, and we are pretty close to, to, to getting there. And this is J just, if you think about it, if any single business, I think that you have, you can think hard. Okay. How can I impact the world and how can I use what we do best in this company to actually make the world a better place.

Now is jokingly. Maybe you can’t do that. If your idea is. Build Tinder for cats. Um, but for any other business, I think you can have impact.

Naji: I love it. This is such a powerful example. I, I will give you now one word and I’d love to get your reaction. First is leadership.

Alon Shklarek: Um, well, my reaction to one word, it’s kind of it’s it’s, uh, I. My first reaction to it is that it, there is a myth that good leaders are super humans. That is, that is my first reaction. You know, there is, uh, Very often. And I think it changes, but especially if you look a few years back, we always had that.

Or a lot of people had that feeling that leaders know, have all the answers and, you know, they know everything best. It’s actually the opposite. If anything, the advantage great leaders have over others is that they know that they don’t have it all figured out. But, uh, They actually, um, see the advantage in having others around them that are better and more diverse.

And that leadership is a team sport. Maybe that’s the answer. My, my, my reaction to the leadership is leadership is a team sport. What about entrepreneurship? Um, yeah. Entrepreneurship is about turning your passion, uh, into businesses that improve the world. And entrepreneurship is definitely not, uh, owning a business that, that, you know, And a lot of people think about it this way.

Uh, you know, being an owner is okay, that, that you own a business entrepreneurship is about really understanding what you care about. Uh, you know, showing up, standing up, speaking up for what you care about, inspiring others to follow you on that path and turning your passion into, uh, into a business. And you could do that as an entrepreneur, too.

That’s for me, all the Impact impact, uh, making the world a better place, very simple. And, and, and it needs to be measured as a side comment. All of our, uh, companies we have actually, we, we define. What the actual impact is and whether it is, you know, uh, number of people that have access to, uh, uh, medical, uh, medical information or whether it is the millions of pounds of recycled plastics.

I mean, whatever it is, we actually measure that on a day by day basis on the dashboard. And we always look at how are we doing in creating that.

Naji: And that’s super powerful. I imagine for, for all the stakeholders you have, right. Your employees who wake up and see the impact that they are having on the word, but also all the different stakeholders, the customers, patients, et cetera,

Alon Shklarek: it it’s really, it’s really help.

It’s really powerful. And you know, that, that, you know, management quote, what, what gets measured gets done? Uh, uh, I mean, that’s not for me. I think it’s Peter drer if I’m mistaken, obviously, but, uh, it’s not only about getting. That purpose piece, it helps you align and curate the right people around that.

Cause you know, if, if it, if it’s so clear, what is the center of your universe? The stars that rotate around that center usually gravitate towards that thing. And that’s why it’s so powerful.

Naji: The last word is spread love in organizations

Alon Shklarek: Well, I, I, I’m not judge. I’m not judge Clooney, but my answer is what.

You know, what else would you wanna spread? You know, stress, anger. I mean, of course we need to spread love. Uh, what else really? I mean, if you think about that, you know, what makes you tick and the energy that you have really that gets, gets started in the morning and, and excited for what you can achieve.

And that day. The, so the, like the, the common ground for all of these are love because without love, you know, uh, you’re not touching the hearts, uh, of people and you’re, you’re not going anywhere without love.

Naji: This is so powerful. I, I love it. What else? any final word of wisdom for healthcare leaders around the word?

Alon Shklarek: I think a great leader, uh, is. Someone that is barely noticed. You could say where like, if, when things are done, the team actually is proud to have done it themselves. Uh, a little bit about like poor leaders, I would say 10 and average leader explain and. Good leaders demonstrate that great leaders inspire and they do that, not by being super humans, but by helping all others around them to be the best versions of themselves.

Naji: Thank you so much, Alon, for being with me today and having such an amazing and inspiring discussion.

Alon Shklarek: Thank you. Well, I thank you. It was really, I enjoyed it. The love.

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 and I have the pleasure to be with Aden Eyob, a leader in mindset. Aden is a clinical neuroscientist and author of the book on mind training, the secret of positive living. She is the founder and CEO of mind medication. A fusion of neuroscience, psychology and SP spirituality based mindset consulting and speaker service that helps uncover people’s why unlock potential and free limiting beliefs to achieve the impossible. Her customers include CEOs, entrepreneurs, and celebrities. Aden’s mission is a word free from limiting belief. I’m sure you’re eager like me to hear from Aiden and learn more from what she does. Aden, I am excited to have you with me today.

Aden Eyob: Thank you for having me here. I’m very excited to be here

Naji: first. I’d love to hear your personal story, Aiden, how, how you became leader in mindset.

Aden Eyob: Yes. So it’s a bit of a whirlwind journey. Um, I think for me, honestly, I started when I was young, six year old self I’ve always had visions and dreams of, uh, being in leadership, taking control of my circumstances. I remember having arguments with my grandmother about the house rules and challenging her.

And she’s like, don’t question me. This is how things are done. I’m like, but you don’t know why you’re doing it. So I will continue to question you. So obviously naturally that got me in a lot of trouble, but I was willing to sort of, uh, challenge the state of school, starting with my grandmother, and then also led into school and also at, in the workplace challenging.

The status in terms of what a leadership looks like. Um, there’s diversity in leadership, but you know, the typical way to lead for me was always something that if I don’t understand the why, then I’m gonna be the one to ask those questions. Um, even if, if it does. Come with a little bit of a blow back because that’s how change, um, begins.

And so really I started my journey in academia. You know, I studied neuroscience and psychology, so I, I worked within the, the space of, uh, academic research, but I found that it was a little bit too stagnant for, for my form of leadership. And so. I moved into business. I went into pharmaceuticals. I spent a great deal of time doing clinical trial management and, you know, working with pharma, there’s a lot of, uh, mindset shifts that must happen.

And so I found that as an opportunity was more of a challenge, but an opportunity to lead better because what I was seeing in my, in my role as a clinical trial manager was. Ideas that I’ve had, but there were stagnant and very stale ways of doing things. And so there was a conflict in, in how I could lead and, and really do my best.

And so there were opportunities in that, that I created so that I was able to bring different perspectives into the organization, but ultimately my vision was a little bit too much more than, uh, for that space. And so I found myself going down the entrepreneurial path to really explore how far. I can take my vision and, and, and really lead, but most importantly, lead myself.

So then I can lead others better. Right. Uh, leaders are learners. Leaders are ones who know how to lead themselves first. So in doing so, that’s how I found myself in, in the maze of entrepreneurship. And, um, navigating that the ups and downs of, of, you know, uh, building a business, but also bringing others along in that process and journey and, and managing people’s different, um, mindset and, and change states.

And so I think for me, the mindset element really stemmed from my childhood. I grew up in a rather chaotic environment. I, you know, my mother was mentally unwell. I’ve had various family members who suffered from mental illness. And so I was just very curious about. Why they were thinking that way and how they were, I guess, in that sense, unable to really lead themselves because of, of the mental illnesses that they had.

And so that’s really where the mindset element came. But in, in all my studies, I then also realized the power of the mind and in terms of even leadership, a lot of times we make such emotive based decisions. And so. My journey down the mindset realm really stemmed from the fact of really wanting to understand how we think and how our thoughts and emotions and behaviors are all really correlated and how that really plays out into how we lead ourselves and, and lead others.

Naji: Thank you so much, uh, Aiden for sharing your journey and how you, how you got there. There’s different pieces. We will discuss, obviously between entrepreneurship, your, your work in the pharma and in development, uh, and clinical trials. But I can’t, but start ask about the secret for positive living. This is, this is the title of your book.

So can you share with us. The secret.

Aden Eyob: So the, the secret really the formula is, um, is the thought plus emotion equals behavior. And so oftentimes when faced. With challenges, it’s actually an opportunity to grow and, and adapt and learn. So the environment that we’re placed in is for a reason, there’s a purpose to it.

And so when you, when you understand the formula, that really the seed is the thought that you’re thinking about that environment. That’s gonna play the emotion and then play the behavior. That’s. That’s what’s gonna happen. And so even if the environment is not conducive for growth or for a healthy form of leadership, you have the ability to apply the growth mindset by applying that principle of thoughtless emotion equals behavior.

So when you change the thought to be positive intentionally, that’s how you change the emotions and then behavior, because oftentimes, um, in terms of neuroscience, our brain is really hardwired. To have a negative T bias. And so we’re more four times more likely to hold onto bat situations and that plays out into our leadership.

And so when you apply the secret formula of adapting that negative bias into a positive by intentional, um, Thoughts of positivity. And that comes with practicing mindfulness, which isn’t something that’s typically associated with leadership, but is really relevant and pertinent. Um, what that happens is then it frees up that negativity bias so that it’s positive.

And then the emotions will correlate with that and then so forth the behavior. And so the, the, the POS the, the part of being positive is a choice. And, and. As resilient leaders, the choices, do you wanna stay stagnant or do you wanna take this stagnant opportunity and turn it into an opportunity to bring light into a situation, a broad perspective, a new horizon for yourself and for others?

Naji: So you talk about mindfulness, uh, right in this idea of bringing positivity, uh, to the thought. So I love how you framed it. Thoughts, emotions, equal behavior, um, you know, in, in this word of constant change movement and unfortunately sad news, right? We, we can’t, but think of the tensions and the word wars around the word happening and, and people suffering.

How, how are you helping out leaders? Think positively. So, and if you have like a specific example or exercise, you can, you can give us for also people listening to us today, uh, on how they can foster this positive thinking. Yeah,

Aden Eyob: absolutely. So, um, the framework that I really apply, all these principles is called the calm mindset system.

So it stands for clarity. Accountability. It’s your goals, love and motivation. So the, the clarity element is really digging into your why, why are you here? What is your purpose? Right? It’s it’s not money. Money’s just the tool. What, what is it that you are gifted to do? So we, we do a lot of reflective exercises.

Um, to really dig deep in a bit of mind mapping to get to the why. So oftentimes it’s just the what and the, how that people get stuck on and really don’t understand the why. So the clarity comes with really understanding your why the accountability of goals is actually applying measurable ways of, of testing your why and your desire.

So it really it’s about understanding what your desires are and then breaking them down into goals because the goals are just the vehicles that. The why, which is the desire. And so there’s a system and a process, um, that I’ve developed that basically allows you to push forward with getting your desires, but in a very strategic and tangible way.

And then. Motive love is really about self care because especially as leaders, we’re often last to take care of ourselves, cuz we’re busy taking care of everybody else and, and fighting fired. But in order to be a really effective leader and resilient in times of chaos, it’s really important to take care of yourself first.

So we look at ways in which we can bring holistic. He, um, mindfulness practices, mind, body spirit. So that looks like, for example, one of my clients has. Decision fatigue constantly because being pulled in different directions. And, and what that did over time was that they were just not able to make any more decisions.

They were tapped out, they were burnt out. And so by really focusing on the self care element that looked like setting healthy boundaries, saying no to things that they may look like good opportunities, but long term, when we strategize it, it doesn’t work in terms of where their, why is. Um, it also looks like setting, um, Nighttime routine.

So I call them power habits. So morning and nighttime routines creating these buffers that help them to stay in a calm mindset. So in the morning, the first thing that they’re doing is taking care of themselves. And then. The the chaos of the day or, or leading the day, and then at night taking care of themselves and I call this like the calm, calm sandwich.

So when you’re in ability that the first thing you’re doing is taking care of yourself. You’re in a better position to take care of others. But when the first thing you’re doing is social media or so forth, that puts the mind at a state of sort of anxiety. It puts us in high beta state. And so with, with the calm mindset system and particularly the love element of the component, what we’re doing is creating bespoke.

Rituals so that they’re able to stay in that alpha theta state of mindset and then be able to really make better decisions and really take care of themselves. And then for motivation is really identifying their motivators. Are they intrinsically motivated, extrinsically motivated and how that will play into their, their self leadership, but then leading their teens as well and understanding their teams better.

So if somebody else is. Different to them. It’s not an opposition, but an opportunity to, to work together and understand that. But that only comes first when they understand how they operate as a leader.

Naji: I love it. And you know, it seems simple as you’re saying it, but many times, I’m sure you’re hearing from readers.

Uh, like we don’t have time for this like seriously mindfulness in a busy day. Like how can I do this? And sadly, many times it happens as you, you talked about one of the leaders you’re, you’re helping. It happens too late. Mm-hmm right. So any small habits or tricks that you think as leaders, we can cut off, put in our schedule for us to be intentional about it and, and be better with

Aden Eyob: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things I say is like the box breathing, the Navy seals use it. So if it’s good enough for them and they’re in high stress environments, it’s definitely good enough for most leaders. So it’s a very simple box breathing exercise. You imagine yourself as a box, you breathe in for four count.

You breathe out for four count, you breathe in for four count. You breathe out for count and there’s apps that can do it for you. If you don’t really wanna like breathe and time up the same time. um, but what that does is it instantly takes the mind from. Alert down to being calm. And so you’re going within a span of five minutes, which I think we can all say we have in our, in our schedule from, from that state of hi beta to alpha theta.

And so, especially when you’re in a situation where you’re having to make decisions on the snap, this is a great tool. That’s gonna help you to make that decision a little bit more strategically and with a broader perspective, as opposed to just. That’s emotive based. Okay. I’m just gonna make a decision, cuz this is where I’m at in terms of my feelings.

So less emotions, more logic and

Naji: wisdom. Love it, the, the box pretty I’ve been, I’ve been using the 2, 2, 2. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, like two minute of mindfulness, two minute of, uh, yeah. Of planning and, and prioritizing. So it’s yeah, it’s, it’s an additional one. I’ll try to use the box breeding.

Aden Eyob: Yeah. And I think just generally pause, it sounds so basic, but when you’re pausing, think about your brain. It’s, it’s like a Google server. It’s constantly churn out data, right? The minute you pause, it’s almost like a refresh. So if you know that you’re feeling your body’s a great signal, it tells you where it’s at.

If you’re struggling. There’s a reason for that. So when you pause, take five minutes out to just breathe in, breathe out. What happens is then your mind is then able to see a situation that you may be mulling over in a different angle, but also asking yourself open ended question. Like wh why am I feeling this way?

Is this true? Challenging, your own thought processes will oftentimes also help you to come up with a better, um, answer.

Naji: So, so this was the L part, like the love part of your club framework that I really, I really like, um, I wanted to go to the clarity of the why. So, and this is part that you’ve, you know, your research you worked on and obviously your coaching, uh, people on it.

And as you shared also in your experience in healthcare, I’d love also to understand. Is this why still kind of interlinked between healthcare and what you’re doing today. Uh, and really what I, what I’m interested to hear your thoughts on, um, is we all know the important of this why and how it will unlock the potential, right.

And what we can do and the possibilities for ourselves, but also for the teams we’re leading. Uh, but many times. It’s limited, right? Like people keep on doing their jobs without thinking of it. What for you is kind of this limiting factor. Why aren’t we taking it to the next level a little bit more broadly, uh, for, for leaders?

Aden Eyob: Yeah. So it’s, it’s down to, um, fear of the unknown uncertainty. So as a lot of the leaders I’ve worked with. It’s all for them. It’s become more mitigating risks, right? So less of the uncertainty, but as leaders, that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do is go forward. When there are seasons of uncertainty, just like the pandemic we’ve we’ve endured.

Right? And so a lot of the times when a process isn’t working, it’s not being changed because of the effort that it will bring in, in actually changing that at an energetic level, at a strategic level at implementation level, but deep down, it’s that fear of what if it doesn’t work? And then the blame is gonna go back on the leader.

Right? So it’s that real internal fear. Is this now gonna be a reflection of me as a person and my identity and I I’m no longer a qualified leader because I’ve set this new process. It didn’t work and the backlash is too much. So I’d rather just maintain the status quo even though it’s not working. And so it’s, it’s often down to fear of the unknown, but also perfectionism.

So if I’m gonna, if you’re gonna start something new, it’s gonna come with a lot of unknowns. It’s gonna come with a lot of imperfect methodologies. And so for someone who is a leader that borders on having that perfectionist tendencies and high standards, it’s gonna be a clash because they’re gonna have to not face leading teams who may not perform to the standard that they’re accustomed to because of the new processes that have been implemented.

So a lot of it is perfectionism, um, fear of the unknown, but also procrastination plays a big role as well. There there’s so much. As leaders we’re having to do. Oftentimes the, the, the stuff that we’re not certain becomes low on, on the, on the level of priorities, but they’re the ones that actually will push us further into our purpose driven leadership.

Naji: I love it and really agree with you. I’m I’m in one of, uh, I’m in a great sessions on improv improvisation in leadership, and really boils down to, as you said, like this fear of the unknown, and in fact, the importance of embracing uncertainty, because this is. This is usually where leadership is needed at most.

Aden Eyob: Well, that’s the thing we’re leading, right? If you’re a leader you are leading, so what are you leading? You’re creating a new path. And so, and I think COVID was a really great opportunity for leadership to really show itself. Right. There’s many as. Various types of leadership. And, and the one I tend to ascribe to is more on the resilient type of leadership, just because of the life I’ve led.

There’s been a series of challenges of having to overcome, but as leaders, the common core of us is that we’re paving a new path. You can’t pave a new path. If you’re still on the same path that has already been paved by someone else.

Naji: So in, uh, talking about the why and the purpose, uh, you worked in pharma and usually many of us in the industry, healthcare industry, uh, even larger than only the biotech or the pharma industry, we are really driven by this purpose of making life better for patients and trying hard to improve patients’ lives by bringing you know, novel medications or services for, for the communities.

Um, have you. Sense this. And how would you describe, you know, what you’ve experienced in the pharma? Where is it different from now being an entrepreneur and working with leaders across different industries? Uh, what are your thoughts about this?

Aden Eyob: Yeah. So I think, you know, health, the healthcare, um, industry, and, and so the leaders I’ve experienced it.

They have great intentions. They definitely do wanna help. But what I have also seen is that somewhere down the line, it gets lost with all the, the logistics of it, uh, uh, with all the bureaucracy and all the egos. Go into that. And, and also the bottom line. So unfortunately, people, you know, a lot of the people I’ve worked with, they start off with that intention of I’m gonna lead.

I’m gonna bring change healthcare equality into this, and then they get up the career ladder. And as they’re getting there, it’s almost like a little piece of them dies along the process. And then their leadership starts to dim. And by the time they’re there, they’re no longer leading from their heart.

They’re no longer leading from purpose. It’s pre pretty much. Let’s just make bottom line work for us, as opposed to why they were really there to begin with was to really create opportunity for, um, for the masses who can’t get the healthcare that they need to have that. And so it’s, and then when I look at it from, you know, Entrepreneurs.

They’re very much driven on the passion, right? They’re, they’re fueled by that, that why, and that’s why they’re, they’re still able to, to keep pushing forward. And so, um, a lot of the times when I’ve worked with various different leaders, what I’m seeing is that there’s a gap between their why and what they’re doing currently.

It there’s there’s. They’ve sort of lost that passion or they’ve lost the, the desire to continue to pursue that because of the external challenges presented, whether that’s the systems and structures of, of healthcare, where there’s so many regulations as well. So how do, how do they stay on track and, and be authentic leaders while still navigating the terrains of all the different regulations that come with the healthcare space?

Naji: Yeah, this is definitely the focus of this podcast and my personal fo uh, focus. It’s we, we are fortunate enough to work in an industry that can literally change people lives, uh, for the better. We should never forget about it. And I totally agree with you sometimes, you know, down the lines and with things happening, operations, et cetera, we forget actually why we wake up every morning, which is trying to make life better for one patient at a time.

So, yeah, definitely. It’s definitely my journey to making sure that as leaders, we constantly keep this in mind throughout all our decision process. Aiden. I, I want to go now into a se uh, into a part of the podcast where I will give you a word and I want your reaction to it. Okay. So the first word is leadership

Aden Eyob: taking care of others for the greater good.

Naji: Love it. What about diversity

Aden Eyob: embracing? The parts of you that you have not been aware accustomed to.

Naji: Oh, wow. I love this framing. Can, can you share more?

Aden Eyob: Yes. So for me, when I think of diversity, so when I see people who come from different walks of life, that means there’s a part of me that needs to learn embrace, but is, is a projection.

So if I am reacting in a positive or negative way, it’s oftentimes because there’s a part of me that resonates with that person, either in a, in a positive way or a negative way, but then it’s also an opportunity to embrace it because what you resist persist. So if I, if there’s somebody with a different thought than I.

And I resisted I’m I’m now finding myself in a stuck state, but when I actually take the time to listen and hear what they’re saying, oftentimes I’ll hear part of me that may have been resisting to them. And then it’s also creating an opportunity to create harmony. So that’s an opportunity to embrace a new perspective that they’ve brought into my life will then help me to lead better.

Naji: Love it, mind medication.

Aden Eyob: Bringing a state of calm into a chaotic environment.

Naji: What about spread love in organizations

Aden Eyob: leading from heart rather than ego?

Naji: Thank you so much, Aiden, for, for those reactions, any final word of wisdom, uh, you have for leaders generally, but also healthcare leaders, specifically as you, uh, you’ve been in this industry before your entrepreneurship journey. Yes.

Aden Eyob: Around the word. Yes. I think, you know, isn’t not an easy space to, to bring change and healing, um, to patients and, and I think with leadership, it’s also giving us, give yourself grace.

You don’t have to figure everything out in one day, you don’t have to get everything. Right. What matters is the patient? Think of the patient first, if you can heal one person that’s leadership, right there, leadership, isn’t all about taking care of the world once one person at a time. So whenever you find yourself in situations of, of uncertainty, think about the effect you’re gonna have impact with just one person.

And then that will be the ripple effect. You will. With a mess.

Naji: Thank you so much. Uh, Aiden for being with me today and for this great inspirational chat.

Aden Eyob: My pleasure. Thank you for having me here. Such a great time.

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 word. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the podcast for purpose driven healthcare leaders, striving to make lives better around the words by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership and love. I’m Naji, your host for this episode, we’re joined by Professor Loredana Padurean, associate dean at the all new Asia School of Business, the collaboration between the central bank of Malaysia, MIT Sloan, and the international faculty fellow at MIT, Sloan.

Loredana is the faculty director for action learning and innovation and entrepreneurship at ASB. She has been an energizing force behind the establishment of the school. Under her leadership, the action learning program at ASB was recognized repeatedly as one of the most innovative program in the world.

She is an international keynote speaker and TEDx speaker. She has taught in various MIT Sloan exec programs, at AMD as well as in major companies. Professor Loredana has a MA in communication and economics and a PhD in management from USI, Switzerland.

And I am just so thrilled to have you Loredana with me today and looking forward for our chat.

Loredana Padurean: Thank you. I’m very excited to do this with you Naji. Thank you for having me.

Naji: Loredana, I would love to learn more about your personal story from Romania to Malaysia, economics, management, three known international leader and professor now, what’s in between the lines of this amazing journey.

Loredana Padurean: So, I always say that I’m an accidental professor.

I actually never really wanted to be a professor and before I became an academic, I had 19 different jobs anywhere from working in life insurance, to hospitality, transportation, construction, sales, marketing, media. I used to have a TV show called Fashion Police, where I used to arrest people on the street for bad taste and give them a make-over life on camera.

So, I’m purely an accidental professor. So I was born in Romania and I was born in Romania during communism, towards the end of communism. And I actually spent most of my early, and mid twenties in Romania. And I had a couple of attempts to try to figure out what do I want to do with my life.

And, I had a startup, right after college because it turns out nobody would hire me. So I decided to hire myself. That’s what entrepreneurs do. And I learned very quickly that I’m really, really good at marketing and I’m very creative, but I was terrible at accounting and finance. So the business failed.

And with that realization in mind, I applied for a masters in economics and communication in Switzerland. I got in and while I was there, I was one of the first generations. It was a brand new university, and I was one of the first generations and the program needed some hands-on management. And as a student, I decided that I’m going to be the leader everybody’s waiting for. So I became the manager of the program and that’s how I got involved with the academic life.

But even so, I didn’t think, or I never considered that I wanted to be a professor. I wanted to be an entrepreneur, so I wanted to graduate and start my own business. But before graduation,  I was actually offered a scholarship from the Swiss National Foundation. I had to compete for a scholarship and the scholarship covered about two years of a PhD program, during which I got exposed to MIT and especially MIT Sloan. And I have to say, I have met a few people at MIT that changed the way I thought professors were. So I don’t know about you Naji, but I grew up with pretty conventional professors, you know the kind of old men, mostly white, at least in my culture who would sit down at the teacher’s desk at the professor’s desk and read from a book in the most boring monotone voice ever and they would expect you to get excited about the subject. And even during my master’s program, I had a majority of them were like that. I had a few exceptions, but there were so few and there were no women, especially when I lived in Switzerland, we only had one woman professor.

And, when I came to MIT just as a visitor, I remember sitting in Charlie Fine’s class and Roberto Rigobon and Roberto Fernandez, three outstanding professors at MIT who I worship. And I thought, Whoa, people can be like, this teachers can be like this. Professors can be like this. Well, then I decided that, I mean, I didn’t even decide. I realized that, you know what, I actually, I can actually be whomever I want. And I think this is why role models and representation is so important because I never, ever, ever imagined that somebody like me, I’m very boisterous, I’m very outgoing, I’m extremely unconventional on academic terms, could be an academic. And then I saw Roberto Rigobon through, I don’t know, through a puppet, somebody, and he started speaking in Spanish and then he started singing a song and it was like the most entertaining thing that I’ve ever seen. And I thought I can be like that.

So, I did my PhD, but I also got very excited about the MIT culture of action learning and action research. So I decided to do my PhD, but I did a PhD in action research because I’m very entrepreneurial. And instead of just writing a thesis, I actually took over a bankrupted ski resort in Switzerland and I spent two and a half years in the middle of the mountain, recovering the resort and writing my thesis. And then after that, I got my PhD. I moved to Boston where I taught for a while at Brandeis University, and then I continue my relationship with MIT by teaching for MIT at the Indian school of business in India.

And that’s how I got recruited for Asia school of business. I was in India, and they were looking for somebody crazy enough to start, to join the startup in Malaysia. And, I thought, I don’t even know where Malaysia is, but it must be interesting and it must be fun to start a business from scratch. So in a nutshell, that’s the story.

Naji: Wow, amazing. And you know, you gave so many topics. I’d love to go to the first one. You said unconventional, and I know even on your personal page, you say unapologetically unconventional, and you’ve talked about being, you know, different, being yourself. This is one of the hardest thing I feel for leaders. Like, be yourself, everyone say it, but it’s so hard, you know, in the society.

So why unconventional? What are conventions that can probably even harm us sometimes right? And how to fight those and be yourself? I’d love to have your reactions on this.

Loredana Padurean: So my handler is the unconventional professor and unapologetically unconventional. And I have to say, I didn’t think of myself as unconventional. I didn’t use this word, but it was very much my audience, the market, the people that met me that said that I was unconventional. I think because I didn’t plan to be an academic and I didn’t have role models from the academic traditional world. When I joined the academia, I joined us myself.

And my self is a pretty colorful, very open, very direct, very straightforward, Easter European woman with a big mouth. And it turns out that it’s not a typical model, is not a conventional model that you see in, especially once I started living in Asia, but even in the US, I was pretty out of the box.

And for a while, every time somebody would say, oh my God, you are a professor, but you don’t look like a professor or, oh my God, you are a professor, but you don’t act like a professor. I would always say, what is your expectation? How do you want me to act? How do you want me to behave? What is the model that you have in your mind that I’m challenging? And is it me that I’m the challenger or easy view that maybe you should open your models? And you say that it’s hard to be unconventional in general, imagine how hard it is to be a woman in a leadership position. So let’s not forget about that.

And, so I had this interesting relationship with how people would perceive me and how I had to make not only peace with being perceived as a very different than unconventional person, but to own it, to embrace it and to make it into my own brand. I didn’t start as a branded professor quite the opposite, but at some point I said, you know what? Everybody else thinks that I’m so unconventional, and I think once you see me teach, you realize that I’m pretty theatrical. I think of my classes upstage, I’m a performer, but once people sort of branded me as unconventional. I took it, I owned it and I literally ran with it. And, we actually built ASB with unconventional as one of our attributes.

So ASB stands for two attributes. It’s a school of business, extraordinary and unconventional, because I realized that I have to be other people like us out there who are crazy enough to join a brand new startup in Malaysia. Other than association with MIT Sloan, but it’s still a brand new school. You have to be a little bit unconventional.

You have to have a little bit more of a crazy streak, right?

Naji: I love it. Moving from unconventional to owning it, embracing it and running with it. I think it’s a great inspiration for many women and leaders that are listening to us.

One of the things, you know, I’d love to jump into a key topic we both discussed, soft and hard skills, right. So outdated, type of definition. And the podcast here, our podcast is all about love, all about caring for one another. And many times I hear these are the soft skills while it’s, I’m convinced, these are the core skills, right, for any business to succeed. And then I heard what you say, smart and chart. So this is it. Tell us more about it.

Loredana Padurean: So, since this is very much a podcast about healthcare, I’m sure you know, but if you don’t know, the concept of soft and hard was actually invented by a US army doctor in 1972, who noticed that different troops have different type of skills. There are people in the battalions were very good at machines, guns, you know, the technology, I guess, shooting people, I don’t know. And he called this the real skills, the hard skills. And for everything else that he didn’t know how to name, he called them the soft skills, like dealing with people, paperwork administration, et cetera. So this was in 1972 Naji, and if you think about it, this is a 50 year old concept, which served us well for a while, but as society has evolved as values evolve, as the way we interact with each other, and we think about our values evolve.

When I started ASB, I was thinking, you know, I’m so fed up with hearing that, oh, this is soft skills. And I remember when I moved to ASB, I left Boston and I went to my previous boss who I adored. Her name is Nancy Waldron, she’s a professor at LaSalle College and, I told Nancy, I said Nancy, I’m really worried about this job, it’s a big job, I’ve never done anything like this, I don’t understand much about financial statements and I’m not sure that I even know how to balance the books even today. And Nancy looked at me and she smiled a little bit, like the way you smile at the dumb child. And she said, oh, Loredana don’t worry, the job is easy, the people are not. And boy, was she right? Because it turns out that it was not the hard skills that I needed to master, but it was the soft skills that made my job and myself very difficult to work with and work with others.

So everyday I would hear about a conflict or be part of a conflict or experienced somebody who would have a conflict about managing that, about keeping their emotions into check because of stress, about dealing with diversity, about dealing with their board and all of this came from the soft skills, so-called. So I started thinking, why do we call this skill soft? I mean, there’s nothing soft about it. The dictionary defines soft as gentle, tender, fragile, and there’s nothing fragile about this skills. There’s also feminine association to soft skills. Oh, women are very good and soft, because they are soft. Well, you haven’t met me, honey, because not all women are soft.  And then, I also did not like the way we think of hard skills as hard. So you’re obviously MIT, right? MIT is the godfather, the godmother of hard skills, right? It’s all about engineering and math and finance and chemistry and astronomy and et cetera. But as a child, as a young person growing up, I would always hear that, oh, these are the hard skills. And there was such, you know, implication that they were difficult. They were challenging. They were more, you know, more, tasking then the other skills. And there was an implication that they were also rigid, that once you know them, you know them, right?

So I said, no, no, no, no. I don’t like this, enough for the soft and hard skills. Let’s get smart in sharping stuff because the truth is, in the absence of smart skills, you’re actually dumber, right? Somebody who doesn’t know how to work with other people, somebody who doesn’t know how to navigate multiple cultures, somebody who doesn’t know how to deal with stress, that doesn’t make you, you know, harder. It just makes you dumber. And then sharp skills, we call them sharp skills, and this is the idea of my co-author Professor Charles Fine from MIT, who is the president of ASB. Charlie said, you know, the truth is that this technical skills today, especially, are not static, which the word hard implies, but they actually have to constantly be updated. You can’t really say, oh, Naji, congratulations, you learned a software language, you good for life. Probably in two years, it’s going to be obsolete. So you constantly have to sharpen them, constantly have to update them. So enough with soft and hard, people, get smart and sharp instead. That’s what I’m doing.

Naji: I love it. That’s what I will be doing too. I think, you know, for the 50th anniversary next year, we should like stop using soft and hard. It’s all about smart and sharp. Let’s do it.

Loredana Padurean: Yay, I love that!

Naji: It started in healthcare. So that’s make sure that healthcare disrupted too. You know, we got started here. I know each one of the letters has a meaning and has a specific skill or capability within smart and sharp, and I will definitely put them, you know, on the page and people can look at them and look at the great work you’re doing at ASB.

I have maybe a challenging question for you on this. If there is only one, between those that you would definitely think a leader should invest and, or half, you know, I don’t know if it’s something that’s can be built or if it’s something that, you know, can be nurtured, what would be this one skill?

Loredana Padurean: Yeah. So believe it or not, I get this question all the time because people want to know what’s the number one. So I came up with top 10 for each category, and now you asked me to choose one. I would say for smart skills, probably the most challenging and comprehensive inclusive skill is cognitive readiness.

And for sharp skill, I’m going to choose an MIT sharp skills, which is a system dynamics. And believe it or not, this two feed off each other, they co-exist, they have a ying and yang relationship.

So let me start with cognitive readiness. I used to only be a professor of management and my life was very easy, and then I got promoted and I became a manager and my life became very hard. So warning to people listening, if you get promoted, it’s not always for the better. So,  one of the things that I heard a lot as a manager, as a leader, as a director, et cetera, was that I always had to be mentally ready, for no matter what. And I kept thinking, how does one stay always mentally ready? I mean, I know when Olympians train for the Olympics and they managed, probably working in two Olympics or even three, if they’re super humans, they train all the time. How do we train our brain all the time to be cognitively ready? And the more I started to learn about this skill cognitive readiness, which is defined as the ability to be mentally ready, no matter when, no matter what in any kind of circumstance. I realized that it’s actually a little bit of balancing of system one and system two, which is slow thinking versus fast thinking. On one hand, I need to slow thing, new problems, new challenges. So thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman, I’m quoting now, but you’re on one hand you have to slow things that you see for the first time that you face for the first time, or they’re too complicated to go into your automatic processor.

But at the same time, you have to practice fast thinking. So it’s almost like you’re driving on two lanes at two different speeds at all time. So your brain has to co-exist in this two dimensions, and I think Professor Kahneman was talking about the fact that slow thinking is something that requires a lot of energy, you know, requires a lot of mental space, it’s very taxing. And you tend to do it when you learn things for the first time, when you approach a problem for the first time when you face something for the first time. Versus, you know, fast thinking is thinking about driving. If you know how to drive or, you know, even walking, if you think about it, when you were a baby, you don’t think about those things.

So cognitive readiness, the way I understand, it is balancing fast and slow thinking, but doing it simultaneously, which is very hard. And that’s why, and I’m sure as a medical expert, you probably heard this a lot in the past 18 months that people accused very high levels of mental fatigue during the pandemic.

We are actually a lot more mentally tired in the past almost two years, because we exist in this two lanes. We are constantly in this two lanes and the transition in between the two lanes is very fast and also these two lanes are running at the same time. So that’s cognitive readiness as my number one smart skill.

If you want to know more about the sharp scale, like I said, system dynamics for me is probably one of the sharpest skills in the toolbox. And Professor Nelson Repenning at MIT, he’s extraordinary at teaching system dynamics, and Professor John Sterman as well, and system dynamics is just teaches you how to think, in function of systems and how to understand the different parts of a system co-exist, co-relate, co influence each other. And it’s so interesting I’ve noticed that during the pandemic, a lot of great leaders who sort of were ready, cognitively ready, they were ready because they applied the system thinking. They said, all right, if we’re going to have a pandemic, the first thing is going to get affected is travel. If trackable got affected, supply chains will get effected. If supply chains will get affected, production will get affected. Consumptions will got affected. Retail will get affected. Banking will get affected. So I noticed that true successful leaders during this 18 months of pandemic or two years almost by now were great because they applied both cognitive readiness and system dynamics.

Naji: Those are great insights and yeah, definitely being a student of system dynamics, I think that, everything changed in my view around the world, like it’s all interrelated with the loop. So I am definitely conquered.

So you talked a little bit about the pandemic efforts, that we’re still going through. Did you see, or did you rethink any of those smart and sharp skills relative to the virtual world or the pandemic itself?

Loredana Padurean: I did. I actually, so I’m about to release a white paper in December. So whenever we’re gonna feature this podcast, I will share with you the link to the white paper and I’m also working on a book called The job is easy, the people are not: top 10 smart skills to help people become better. And one of the skills that I learned, actually, I don’t know if I learned, but it was definitely validated by the pandemic was emotional maturity and validation. So emotional maturity, which is very different than emotional intelligence, emotional maturity is defined as the capacity to understand, manage your own emotions and emotions about those around you, and, actually for the the book I interviewed Professor Roberto Fernandez from MIT, Sloan, and Roberto talks about emotional awareness as well, not just emotional maturity. So why am I saying this? The workforce during pandemic accused very, very high levels of stress because of all the changes that we were going through and like I said, because of this constant state of being alert, of being cognitively ready. And when you are in very stressful situations and you know, your doctors are not going to tell you about adrenal glands and cortisol, and you know, all the hormones that get released during negative situations, but during very stressful times, you either fight or flight or run, right?

And most people started to lose the shields that made them nice to work with, easy to work with, great colleagues because you go sort of like in survival mode. So emotional maturity became very, very important during the pandemic because you have to practice a lot more self-awareness about what your emotional state, how would that impact or affect the meeting? What kind of energy do you bring in a meeting and how it will, that energy can teach others? And then another skill that I learned, and I have to say if there’s one smart skill next to next to cognitive readiness that I worship, and I pray to is validation. So I used to think that validation was just another way of giving a person a compliment Naji, great job with a podcast. I listened to three episodes, I was in Prague. Great job. That is not validation. That actually is just cheering, right? It’s trying to provide a compliment. Validation is saying, you know Naji, I listened to this podcast with Dr. Adam and I learned about the importance of having medical equity and medical information as a patient. And once I learned that, it made me realize how important it is for me to be properly educated as a patient. And I could go on and on. So validation is evidence-based affirmation, evidence-based detailed description of the value that you provided. Now, why is that even more important during the pandemic?

Before pandemic, we had body language, right? I can see you now on the screen. I can see that you’re smiling. I hope that you’re smiling because of what I’m saying, you could be smiling because you have a cat under your table, I don’t know. Because of the Zoom environment, we make assumptions on how the other person perceives us, reacts to us, engages with us, thinks about us, but we are very much in the dark. Validation becomes a massive positive management tool to help people understand what is it about their job that creates value. What about their job helps you and helps others. And because it’s evidence-based, right, it’s specific I’m telling you what I like about Dr. Adam’s observations about medical equity. You also understand how to further build your next step. So I’ll end here. But before that, I’ll say I learned about validation from Oprah, Oprah Winfrey. Oprah interviewed, I don’t know how many over 2000 top celebrities in the world and she said that she realized that if there’s one person that, if there’s one thing that every person she interviewed has in common is the need for validation. I saw her in an interview saying that Beyoncé was on her show and at the end of a song, she sang a song for the small audience in her studio. Beyoncé sort of looked at Oprah and she said, how was it? Was it good? And Oprah was shocked. You’re Beyoncé, why do you even bother asking? And then in that moment, it clicked for her that it doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re Queen Elizabeth or Queen B validation is equally important because we want to know through evidence-based affirmation, that what we do creates value.

Naji: Wow, I love it. Well, thanks for the validation first, I have to thank you for it.

Loredana Padurean: Very well deserved.

Naji: And it’s so powerful. Yeah, I think it’s just all that you said, this really is a managerial powerful too, but even a human too, right? For all of human. Yes.

Loredana Padurean: Yeah, by the way, guys, if you’re listening, when your wife is asking, does this dress make me look fat? The answer is never, I don’t know, right? She’s not looking for feedback. She’s looking for validation. Very good for relationship too.

Naji:  I will give you a couple of words, now one word, and I would love to get your reaction to this word. So the first one is leadership.

Loredana Padurean: Hassle. You want me to expand?

Naji: Yes, that’s unconventional.

Loredana Padurean: Well, like I said, I had the best job in the world. I was a professor of management and then I got promoted and I became a manager and the director and the leader. Maybe it is because as a professor, you feel like you have a lot of freedom and a lot of oh, you have a lot of responsibility, but you have a lot of autonomy. Whereas a leader, one of the smart skills that a leader must practice is followership.

So followership is top 10 of my smart skills and followership doesn’t mean that I’m following my boss because as a leader, assuming that I don’t have that many bosses. Followership followership means that I have to follow my vision, my mission, my standards, my stakeholders, my community, people that invested in me and let me just say that leadership comes with a pain of the job is easy, but the people are not. I am an executive education,  professor as well, both at MIT Sloan and at ASB. And I talked to a lot of much more accomplished leaders than I am. And they all say I spent 80% of my job, the higher I go in my career, the higher the percentage dealing with people, and most of the time, is related to validation, emotional maturity, humility, the lack of it, conflict, etcetera.

So, hassle. I don’t want to get promoted anymore, by the way, if anybody’s listening.

Naji: What about jungle?

Loredana Padurean: Oh, so now you’re coming very close to my second favorite child, which is entrepreneurship. And it’s not second favorite child, I have twins. I think of my research as my twins and, for the past six years I’ve been developing a new entrepreneurship concept called Nail it, Scale it, Sail it, which I’ve been teaching at MIT and the days before a few years, very successfully, if I can say so. And it’s it defines a roadmap for how companies evolve. I believe very much in evolution and the first stage, the nailing stage, the startup stage feels very much like going through the jungle with nothing but a machete.

So the startup world is very much a jungle world where you have to carry as little as possible, but choose that little bit care. You have to realize that the jungle is a very dynamic, very animated and very dangerous, constantly changing environment. And only the very few agile, brave and highly entrepreneurial survived.

Naji: Yeah, you talked beautifully about it. So, I recommend listeners to go and watch your TEDx about the jungle and, that it’s really great.

 Another word: lazy.

Loredana Padurean: Oh, my comfort zone. I’m a person who enjoys being lazy. When I think of laziness, I think of myself as a couch potato. I love myself a really good couch and 10 hours of uninterrupted Netflix and YouTube prime. But I have to tell you Naji, I used to feel very guilty for, you know, pretty much being lazy. And then one day, I was on my iPhone and it was running out of battery because I don’t know if you realize, but the latest generations of iPhones are crap, ever since Steve jobs died, excellence is not the baseline anymore. But anyway, so I got very frustrated with my iPhone and I was like, God damn it. You ran out of battery again. You know, I can’t rely on you. Then I put it in the charger and then I stopped for a second and I was like, Huh. So isn’t that interesting that even my phone needs time to recharge. And when it has to recharge, it has to recharge it. No matter how much I scold the phone or I motivate the phone, like, come on, I know you’re only 2%, but give it some more. Let’s go, let’s do it 110%. And I thought, you know what? This is a bunch of idiots because we expect humans to have unlimited capacity, unlimited energy. We expect this energy to be expandable. And what I realized that my laziness, and by the way, I’m extremely introverted. Like I did a bunch of tests and I’m like 98% introverted. I realized that my laziness is my charging time. When I’m lazy, it is my productive time, it is the time that allows my brain to go into charging mode.

And, another thing that I hate, absolutely hate when people say, what’s your guilty pleasure. And I say, honey, if it’s a pleasure, I’m not going to feel guilty about it. If I watch six hours of YouTube, and I enjoy it and he helps my recharging process. I’m not going to feel guilty about it. I don’t care if it’s the Real Housewives of Boston or whatever that is.

Naji: Yeah, you know, it made me reflect so much when we discuss this. Yeah, I’m proud to be lazy too, now.

What about spread love in organizations?

Loredana Padurean: So, I used to tell people all the time, that I really don’t like people very much. And most of my talks start with saying, I have to admit that I hate people. If there’s one thing I learned about management is that I hate people. The truth is that I don’t hate people, but the job is easy and the people are not. Unless, unless you treat them like people.

I think organizations that treat people like sort of mining machines or, you know, heartless and soulless entities are the ones that make you think the job is easy, the people are not because I worked for an organization where, I mean, I think I like about 95% of the people I work with those 5%, you know, everybody has an admissions failure.

But it’s about how you contribute to an organization, and how that organization contributes back to you. I teach the Ritz-Carlton case study, which you also learned at MIT Sloan in service organization, in the service organizations course. And one of the things that I learned from the Ritz-Carlton case is that during a seven day training program, the first two days are all about love. They teach you about the vision, the mission, the values of the company. They validate you. They validate themselves. They make you fall in love with the organization. And then the rest is technical training. And why do they make you fall in love? Because you cannot give 110%, because humans do actually give more than the iPhone does. You cannot give 110% when you’re not in love. And then one more thing that I do when I teach, when I teach service management and I teach about service excellence, I always say, before you reach into my bank account, reach into my emotional account. Make me love you as a company, and once, I love you, and I feel that love back, I will find ways to justify the most irrational behavior like paying $3,000 for a pair of Prada shoes that are killing me. It’s all about love Naji. That’s why I love the title of your podcast. It is all about love and love justifies irrational behavior. Love justifies 12, 16 hours a day. Love justifies, you know, when the job gets hard, why do we push through? And as a doctor, I think, you know that better than anybody.

Naji: Wow, I won’t comment. It’s just beautiful. Any final word? Any final words of wisdom to all those leaders listening to you today?

Loredana Padurean: I don’t, I’m still trying to find wisdom to be honest. So far, all I’m learning is that the more I know, the less I know, which is why humility is one of my top 10 smart skills. I would say that love should also come with a massive pill of humility because if you don’t, that’s why I’m saying, I don’t have any wisdom in me because I still don’t know a lot. The more I know, the less I know. And I think that’s why we’re both in education because you know, the more we know, the less we know and learning is fun.

Naji: It definitely is. Thank you so much, Loredanna, for an amazing, incredible inspiring chat we had today.

Loredana Padurean: Thank you, so very much. And, I will share with you the upcoming title, the upcoming book title, The job is easy, the people are not, and the white paper. Thank you so very much. Get smart and sharp, get smart and sharp. Remember that.

Naji: So much looking forward to reading it.

Thank you all for listening to Spread Love in Organizations podcast.

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, a podcast for purpose driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world, by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership and love. I’m Naji, your host today, honored to be with Dr. Barry Stein, chief clinical innovation officer and chief medical informatics officer for Hartford Healthcare.

He also practices as a vascular and interventional radiologist. Dr. Stein is also an assistant clinical professor at the University of Connecticut school of medicine and has held numerous prestigious leadership positions at Hartford Hospital. Barry graduated with his executive MBA from MIT Sloan school of management, where he received also his postgraduate medical training at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard medical school and his medical degree from the University of Stellenbosch in Cape town, South Africa.

Dr. Stein is a recognized and expert in cardiovascular MRI and CT, and was one of the pioneers in magnetic resonance and geography. Barry continues to remain engaged at MIT participating as an invited lecturer in courses on innovation. He’s also mentor for LinQ programs in the MIT Institute for medical engineering and science, a host to students from the MIT initiative for health system innovation, as well as co-principal investigator conducting clinical and operational health systems analytics research in collaboration with Sloan faculty at HHC. He is currently focused on leveraging technology and building a differentiated healthcare innovation ecosystem at Hartford Healthcare to accelerate clinical transformation.

I can go on and on about Barry, and I’m delighted and excited to have you with me today on this podcast.

Barry Stein: Hi Naji. Thank you very much. I’m very honored and looking forward to our discussion today. 

Naji: Barry, I’m eager to hear more about your personal story and what’s in between the line that took you from South Africa to now leading one of the biggest health institutions in new England.

Barry Stein: So Naji, thanks for that question.

 I grew up in South Africa during the apartheid era, a horrible time in South Africa. A time where oppression was the law of the land and, just a lot of injustice. I grew up in a wonderful,  family with parents that were both immigrants, one of which who fled Nazi, Germany and the other from Russia, and grew up in a very modest home with a lot of love, a lot of caring with a lot of focus around education and, serving our community at the same times. Our parents,  always role modeled that was the only thing to do, the right thing to do.

We felt it and lived at every day. I was one of three boys, and always had a passion to become a medical doctor from the age of four. Again, just with an absolute sort of drive to want to serve others, to heal others, to impact others, in a selfless way as possible.

I went to medical school in South Africa and that in of itself was very sensitizing to the atrocities of oppression, apartheid, and I can remember very vividly being at a medical school and one of the hospitals in South Africa, of close to 2,000 beds. And, the hospital was literally splitting off, mirror image, one for whites and the other for everybody that wasn’t white. Duplicated services, different class of services, but an absolute distinct difference between the two.

I also grew up when Nelson Mandela, who is, I believe one of the greatest human beings that ever lived was imprisoned on Robin island. And actually, an island that we could see in Cape Town, seven miles from the coast, very easily visible, but at a time where someone was not able to have a book written by Mandela, a picture by Mandela, without being worried about police repercussions. So it was really a very, very intense time. And then I remember right at the end of medical school, when I was doing my internship at a really famous hospital where they did the first heart transplant hospital. And I remember taking care of a patient without mentioning names, a very famous patient, a very famous prisoner together with Nelson Mandela in the hospital, shackled to a bed for one reason only: because he was fighting apartheid. He was deemed a criminal, a terrorist because he was fighting apartheid.

And I think that backdrop really lives with me every day. And, it was really difficult to live in that country for that long. And as soon as I could, I left the country before military conscription, I left the country and didn’t really have much money. I had a few hundred of dollars in my pockets. I had two suitcases. I had just gotten married a few weeks and immigrated to, or left to go and work in Canada, in Saskatchewan, the boonies of Canada. And think about Cape Town being an absolutely spectacular country, with climate, with beaches, 80, 90 degrees F, no humidity in the summer. And then immigrating to Canada as a general practitioner, family practitioner earning some money before immigrating to the United States.

And I remember very clearly arriving new in Saskatchewan, it was minus 78 within a winter. And I remember as a young person just being stocky aware of the privilege that I had in South Africa, of having amazing experiences around me, good and bad, in a beautiful climate. And then sort of going to another part of the world where people were equally happy or unhappy, living in a very, very, very extreme kind of environment, but sort of functioning in the same ways as all of us. So it was just really difficult to reconcile, and this is a young, I was a young physician.

I then went off to Philadelphia to do some research, two years of research, not necessarily because I absolutely had a passion to do so, but it was a way for me to get my immigration,  status correct. And actually that was a really fantastic time, where I got off the wheel of having to work 18 hours a day and do research and actually reflect on what I really wanted to do and, enjoyed the academic rigor of the research. And then decided I’d go into radiology because of the lifestyle at the time, appealed to me. And very quickly, once I started radiology at Mass General, realized how much I missed direct patient impact, really serving others, helping vulnerable people.

And as soon as I could, then went in to do interventional radiology, which is procedurally based angioplasty, stents, biopsies, embolizations really making a difference every day to every patient in a very, very impactful way. Now, because of that specialty being such a cutting edge specialty I developed and always had an interesting technology. And when I discovered using the wonderful privilege of my education, both in South Africa, as well as at Mass General at Hartford, really wanted to make a difference. And I used technology as well as my training to help develop a technology, magnetic resonance angiography, so that you could visualize blood vessels in a non-invasive way, as opposed to an invasive way.

And what I learned at that time was, it wasn’t just about taking your education. It wasn’t just about caring, but it was really having to develop a capability of change management, leadership. How do you change paradigms that are fixed in mindsets, not just regionally, not just nationally, but globally? And quickly realized that you either get lucky, like I may have been, but to be able to do it in a sustainable, repetitive way in a bigger organization.

In the years to come, some of the skill sets that I was lacking, I wanted to go and immerse myself in to crew to get. And that sort of led me to MIT, where I realized it was important to do big change management, to make huge impact in a sustainable organized way. There were a lot of capabilities as a physician I never developed. I didn’t understand strategy in an immersive way. I did understand it, but could never sort of articulate it or execute upon it in a meaningful way that others could understand, rather than instinctual, I wanted immersive marketing, finance, accounting. But the real reasons why I wanted to go to MIT was to understand innovation, entrepreneurship, which I believe was the catalyst, the frameworks, to be able to take technology and solve real recalcitrant problems in healthcare in a way that perhaps here to four was not possible or difficult to do.

I wanted to understand how to accelerate new ideas, matching new ideas to problems and accelerating them to impact. I also understood that one of the fundamental fuels for innovation and entrepreneurship and transformation in healthcare was next generation analytics, understanding how to apply predictive and prescriptive and optimization analysis to do so.

So I went off to MIT and I was very honored and privileged to be able to go there, and of course learn a ton of frameworks. And then came back to Hartford Healthcare to start an innovation ecosystem as the chief clinical innovation officer, to be able to develop an environment, where larges amount of people, organization is 33,000 plus, understood what it meant to be innovative, to be entrepreneurial and to be able to accelerate good ideas to impact. 

I’ll stop there. I mean, I could go on and on and on, but I think the most important thing for me was the privilege of education, the privilege of wonderful mentorship and colleagues and the influence that those folks had on how I developed over time as a leader. .

Naji: Wow, that’s powerful, inspiring, Barry. Thank you so much for sharing your story. 

Barry Stein: Yeah, and there’s one other thing that I wanted to mention that I’m married to somebody who really with her guidance, her support, her teaching me right from wrong, Reagan, a marriage and family therapist, an executive coach. Those are the privileges. Those are the fortunes that someone like myself has being surrounded by persons like that. That can guide you, support you and show you the north star. 

Naji: Thanks Barry. And I can’t agree more. My wife is also my coach since many years. I’m totally with you. It’s definitely the support system, it’is super important.

During your leadership journey, all that you learned, you know, coming from South Africa and in those moments of tension. I’d love to hear from you and potentially I’m sure last year, without going through the pandemic, even though, you know, we all wanna forget it, but I think there are so many important lessons that I hope the word will not forget.

What is the one leadership trait or one leadership piece that you really take with you throughout all those experiences globally? And now as you’re leading your teams?

Barry Stein: You know, I’ll go. And that’s such a wonderful question, because obviously there are many, there are many, many different pieces, but I think at the core of this, it’s combining something that crystallized with impact for me at MIT, together with my experience since South Africa and this was it. Growing up, as I said, one of my idols, a folks, person that I looked up to was Nelson Mandala. How somebody like that, who had every reason to be angry when he was liberated, it was never about him. It was never about spinning the rest of his life with paybacks, good and bad. It was solving the most difficult problems it had, collectively. And when I think, I didn’t realize when I was young, but as I got older and as I started to be more and more blessed with more and more incredible people around me, certainly like MIT, I realized one thing and understanding the problem to solve is key, and then surrounding yourself with folks that have different talents.

And some of those folks, you may not agree with. In fact, some of those folks, you may not even like, some of those folks, you may actually even have a reason to want to have resentment towards for all the reasons. But the magic happens when you forget about the persona, that’s sitting around the table and you can focus on a team of people that are very different. That’s a lot of interpersonal potential tension and conflict, and focusing them on a problem, a vision that excites them all. And it may sound cliche, but it proved out last year, over and over and over again, when we had to rapidly create solutions for problems that we had never confronted before. And we could either do it in silos and with the exclusion, or we could bring everybody in with that talent, focused on actually solving a meaningful, impactful problem, and it just simplifies it and sort of distilled to that essence. Forget about yourself, forget about all your interpersonal issues, focus on a mission and a vision that is meaningful, not just the group you’re working with, but your community, your region, the world. And extraordinary things can happen.

Naji: Can you share with us? Can you share with us one of the examples, I’m sure you’ve done amazing things, obviously, you know, before the pandemic hit and the pandemic, as you said, well, I know that you have done really impressive things for the communities you serve and even more globally.

Can you share with us one of those example where, in moment of tension, how you manage to get your people together, to be able to deliver on those. Especially in healthcare, where you guys were really on the front line all the time with, with tough moments for the healthcare system. But yet, you manage to overcome and serve us all and be able to take us through it the best you could. Any example that you can share with us on this?

Barry Stein: Sure. You know, there’s so many and it’s not me. It’s the environment that you work. It’s the people that you work with and then certainly the opportunities that arise. And I’ll give you a few examples that may sort of reflect on what at least I believe servant leadership can do, and all the possibilities available. And I remember very clearly, let me give you some of the anti-scene history to this. For years and years and years, we all, all of us believed that virtual delivery of care had a very significant purpose, and potential of removing a lot of friction to get access to healthcare. And by that, I mean is why do I have to get into a car to go to a doctor’s appointment for her or him to tell me something that I could easily have done in a virtual way? Why does it take me to block off an entire afternoon from my work, weeks and weeks ahead of time to go and visit a provider, a clinician for something that I could do in my car, from my house, from my vacation, from my work, wherever. Simple stuff. Why was that the incredible friction in the system to maintain status quo? and in a self righteous way, in a way, and I’m just bringing that up. The payers, oh, it’ll cost too much money. The providers, well, how do we support our bricks and mortar? All the different things. And as you can imagine before, COVID just moving that concept through a system that had business models that were hardwired, created enormous friction on itself. Incredible antibodies, incredible resistance. And those discussions created animosity and sometimes ill feelings and ill world, not just in our organization, and I am not saying it happened in our organization. No ill world, just tension, but that played over and over and over again around the world.

We have an existential threat that comes upon us in a second, without the virtual ability to take care of patients, there was no connection between patients and clinicians. That’s an existential threat. We understood the problem to solve, which was very clear: connect our clinicians to our patients, so that they can remain healthy. That was the singular problem that everybody, no matter what walk of life they came from was super focused on solving. So something that would ordinarily take five years of change management, simply took within 10 days, we were doing thousands of visits a day and within three weeks, tens of thousands.

That was done by a very clear focus, bringing the right people to the table to solve a problem. Here’s another example. Analytics in healthcare. I would argue that healthcare has been way behind other industries in using analytics. What can it do? What does it mean? We can’t change this, we don’t believe this, et cetera, et cetera.

Pandemic hits. How many patients are gonna get infected? How many patients are gonna be coming into your hospital tomorrow? How many patients are gonna need an ICU? How many patients are gonna need a ventilator? Where are your ventilators? You’ve got eight hospitals, seven hospitals. How do you plan your PPE? No one knew. How can you operate a huge multi billion dollar company providing healthcare without knowing any of that?

So we were very fortunate. And again, this is relationships, caring, having community that coalesced around solving a problem. We had a wonderful relationship with MIT Sloan Professor Dimitri Bertsimas and in his team. We had been working on lots of different analytics before, but this was the moment where the resistance, the sort of trepidation disappeared. The operational folks in our organization, the clinical folks in our organization, the ITS teams in the organization all came together to convert the data that we all know exists into clinical intelligence, into operational intelligence that allowed us very quickly to be able to plan ahead and be equipped, to be able to take care of the patients that we predicted that would come in, the number of patients that would need ventilators, our PPE inventory, we were able to really manage more effectively than we’ve ever ever before. And what happened in that moment was the resistance, the black box kind of what is this? All of a sudden disappeared. The animosity just disappeared because we were focused on solving a problem, the same people that were at log ahead, sometimes with one another. All of that disappeared. And we were all able to collectively with all the talent around the table, solve that problem.

I can go on and on and on about how important it was to make sure that everybody thought that the problem we were trying to solve was impactful. Then everybody wanted to get up 18 hours a day, 19 hours a day in the middle of the night to work on this, to solve it, and to forget about the interpersonal disagreements. .

Naji: Yeah. It’s this laser focus, as you’re saying on the purpose that is beyond individuals. You know, as I reflected on now, we’re feeling in some places in the world,  we are starting to get back to normal, somehow.  I’m always afraid that all the energy that we’ve seen, all that you’ve shared, my question to you is how you gonna make sure that we keep it? Like it took us so many years to get into those transformations that might have been crucial to your eyes, but as you said, many barriers didn’t let us go there. So now that we’ve seen the power of being together, to actually act and change radically things, how are you going to make sure that it’s maintained in your organization?

Barry Stein: Great question. I’m sure you ask many great questions. And I think that the most important piece is first of all, to name it. We went through a lot of change last year, because there was an existential threat. We had no choice and we managed to do amazing things, and we had to change. So change was not an option.

What I’m hearing you ask is now that change could be an option, how do we guard against the strong gravitational pull to go back to the way we used to work? Because that’s our comfort zone. The way, and I can give you an example. It’s first of all, name it. Say last year, look at the amazing things we did, look at the impact we had, and actually describe how we did it. Not to say we did great things, but actually use examples. We had a clear problem statement and rather than sequential kind of activity, we got around the table once a day, three times a day, once a week, depending on the cadence necessary to talk about number one, agreeing on the problem, and number two, clearing up ambiguity, to be able to rapidly translate the task.

What we’ve learned at MIT, from also repenting and team, is dynamic work design. Understanding the problem, and creating teams to solve the problem, cross-functional multidisciplinary teams. And to make sure that’s the norm, rather than the exception and the exception is working in silos, not really understanding what the others lens is appreciating, generating multiple emails, amping up the friction and the misunderstanding, not understanding the elective goals. And I can give you many examples, but just in my world of innovation and clinical transformation using technology, what we are in the process of doing is number one, we all recognize the magic of being able to work as teams and respecting one another ideas.

And again, going back to understanding the problem, not bringing solutions until we understand the problem and everybody on the team being excited to solve that problem to impact. And what we’ve done now is rather than the exception of using that model of getting together, listening to one and other it’s become the norm, of work groups that understand the problem, multiple lenses, take off your hats of which silo and which function you’re in there as a team to solve a problem. And you’re there because you have the talent and the lens, and you leave everything behind and it does require reinforcement around that model. And here’s the wonderful thing, Naji. It’s not abstract anymore. I believe many organizations, most organizations that thrived during the pandemic, meaning they were able to continue to impact have many, many examples of how they worked to call on, to support a different way of working, to support a different kind of purpose, a different kind of meaning to the work and the gratification on being able to impact others in that way.

So it’s naming it, we can’t go back, naming an alternative, and having last year with many examples to support the alternative. Before COVID, I would’ve say before the crisis, the alternative was somewhat abstract. I think our job and our opportunity is much easier now because we’ve got multiple rich examples of impact working differently.

Naji: Yeah. I love it. You know, I will take it even for myself, for my work, you know, what you’re bringing is actually we’ve seen what we can do. So, how we frame it, we frame the problem. We see actually what we did with examples. And I love your idea of actually practically building in the process we’ve done to get to this solution and making it now part of the way we operate.

So great, thank you so much for those advisors, Barry.

I’m gonna switch to a session that is a little bit different. I will give you one word. So I have three words. I’m gonna give you, and every time I give you a word, I would love to have your first reaction to it.

So the first word is innovation.

Barry Stein: Taking new ideas that solve real problems and executing upon those ideas so that they have impact. Matching new ideas to real problems and taking those ideas and translating them to impact.

Naji: That’s a great frame for innovation. What about LQ2?

Barry Stein: Oh, Qualitative, and quantitative leadership. Left brain and right brain. Harmonizing, leadership, emotional quotient, sensing how people are feeling, wanting to help one another, inspire one another, that’s leadership. That’s the qualitative part. The quantitative part is the data that helps you drive in the direction that you’re trying to get to, and making sure that both are harmonized. Using the quantitative and the qualitative in a harmonized way has a force multiplying effect.

And I would you argue that one without the other is not even additive. That you really need both. And without either one, you’re not gonna get too far anytime soon.

Naji: Thanks. And, that was where we met. I had the pleasure to listen to you during the lecture, and it’s such a powerful lesson for me, this Q squared, in fact, right? Quantitative and qualitative, as you shared. The last word is spread love in organizations

Barry Stein: And I couldn’t think of a more powerful few words, that opened up the doors of opportunity. And I think to spread love is probably the most important thing that we as leaders in an organization can attempt to do. And I believe the way we can express love and feel loved, is by feeling heard. When somebody’s in pain, really understand where that pain’s coming from and how we can help them. And vice versa, it’s really feeling heard to me is another way of expressing love. Having deep interest in what matters most to the person that you’re working with, and being sensitive to that, as often as you can, whenever you interacting with that person.

And that is what my wife taught me, how important making the other person feel heard. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, that you hear them and understand them.

Naji: Yeah. You know, I think many times of each of those interactions you have, as you’re saying, it’s the person you’re interacting with, they should be on the scene, right? Like you’re here for them and they are heard.

Barry Stein:  Yeah. And much like our kids. Those of us who are privileged to have kids and I do too, two beautiful young men. To teach me about the importance of making them feel heard, and often we forget. We use the word love, but love means making somebody else feel heard.

So thank you for asking that and thank you for your leadership and your beautiful wife’s leadership in spreading that word and that concept. 

Naji: Thanks Barry. Any final word of wisdom for leaders in healthcare around the world?

Barry Stein: Remain curious, remain curious, ask as many questions as you can, and assume that, you know, very little relative to the richness around you.

Naji: Thank you so much Barry for such an inspiring discussion.

Barry Stein: Thank you very much. Looking forward to the journey that you are and supporting and helping. Thank you. Thanks. A special person you are.

Naji: Thanks Barry. Thank you all for listening to spread love in organization’s podcast. Follow us on social media and connect with us on spreadloveio.com. We’re looking forward to reading your feedback and reviews on your favorite podcast app, and most importantly, spread love in your organization for people to feel safe to thrive and reimagine the world.

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 word. Welcome to spread love in organizations, a podcast for purpose driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world, by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership and love. I’m Naji, your host, having the pleasure to chat today with Professor Amer Kaissi and discuss his most recent book Humbitious: The Power of Low-Ego, High-Drive Leadership. Amer is an award winning professor of healthcare administration at Trinity university, the top 15 program. His previous book Intangibles: The Unexpected Traits of High-performing Healthcare Leaders won the 2019 ACHE book of the year award. He is a national speaker and a faculty member with ACHE, the university of Colorado, Denver and Boston college.

Amer is the director of the executive program at Trinity university, where he teaches courses in leadership, professional development and public speaking. Amer works with MEDI, a division of Navis, and with the leadership development group as an executive coach and consults with hospitals and other organizations in their strategic planning efforts. Amer is also a certified executive and physician coach.

He lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife and their two teenagers. Amer, I’m so honored to have you with me today.

Amer Kaissi: Oh, thank you, Naji. Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.

Naji: I would love to learn more about your personal story. What took you to research healthcare specifically and your current leadership philosophy?

Amer Kaissi: Wow. We’ll start from the beginning then. So, as you know, I grew up in Beirut in Lebanon and, you know, went to the American university of Beirut for my undergrad, but didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life and with my career, you know, ended up doing an undergraduate degree in, in public health, which I enjoyed, but it wasn’t something that I’ve always planned for or dreamt about until I took a course in healthcare administration.

That was almost the last course I took in my undergraduate degree and really enjoyed healthcare administration, loved the material, loved the fact that as an administrator, as a healthcare leader, you know, the decisions that you make impact thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of patients, you know, on the provider side, you’re a provider yourself, you know, your actions are very important obviously, and impact one patient at a time. But what administrators can do is make decisions that can hopefully positively impact patients in large numbers. So that’s what appealed to me in the field of healthcare administration, so I went on and I got a master’s in healthcare administration.

I worked at the hospital that is associated with the American of Beirut and really enjoyed my work in hospitals, in healthcare. At the same time, I started feeling that I had a passion for teaching, that teaching was gonna be my calling in this life and I wanted to teach.

So I started looking for ways where I can marry my love for healthcare administration, with my passion for teaching and I decided to pursue a PhD in healthcare administration. So I left Lebanon and that was back in 99. So, you know, I came here just after Columbus came and, you know, started a PhD program at the university of Minnesota and really enjoyed the research in healthcare administration. And part of my focus was on the patient safety part and the medical errors part, but also I had a huge interest in leadership and started looking into leadership issues within healthcare organizations, as well as at large.

Now, when I finished that degree, I took a job at, Trinity university in a healthcare administration program, you know, to two each future healthcare leaders. And as I started working with the graduate students, you know, I start realizing that, we kind of have a way of penalizing the individuals that are more humble, the individuals that are more compassionate, more empathetic, we tend to reward the loud students. We tend to reward, you know, the self-centered students. Organizational practices also favor the student, the applicants that are more focused on themselves and that brag and that, you know, talk about themselves. So all of these things started planting seeds in my head that I wanted to understand this better. I wanna figure out what are the best traits of leaders, especially the leaders in healthcare, because that’s my field.

So a few years after I got, you know, tenure here, I took a sabbatical and I wanted to read everything I can read about leadership traits, which obviously is a lot, you know, you can, you can’t read it all, but I read as much as I could and what started emerging from that research is that the traits that are responsible for high performance, especially in healthcare are totally unexpected ones.

You would expect that the leaders who are the most successful will be the confident, decisive my way or the highway kind of leaders, but it turned out, it’s actually the opposite that the research showed very clearly that, the traits that lead to high performance are empathy, compassion, generosity, and humility.

So that’s when, you know, I wrote that book that you mentioned in the introduction called intangibles, and I showed how the research supports that thesis. However, these traits are not enough by themselves. They have to be complimented with accountability, with competence, as well as with ambition.

Now, when I took that book on the road and spoke to different organizations, especially in healthcare, the one trait that was the most intriguing to people and that I felt was the least understood was the humility one. A lot of people were one wondering about humility and really questioning the research and saying really humility can lead to high performance? I’ve always thought of humility as a weakness. I always thought of humility, as you know, if you’re humble, you lack assertiveness or you’re not confident in your own abilities. So I felt that there was a need to do a deep dive on humility to better understand how is it a strength for health for leaders, but also to understand what else should be in there in addition to humility and what the research pointed to is that you need to have ambition. And that’s where that term Humbitious came from. Another thing that I realized, is that this doesn’t just apply to healthcare leaders. These two traits together can lead to high performance for any kind of leader in any industry.

Naji: Thank you so much, Amer for sharing part of your story and you know, one of the questions I usually like to ask leaders and thinkers, I have the opportunity to have here on spreadlove is the traits, the common traits are for successful leaders and high performing teams. But I think you smarized it in a new word called Humbitious. So if we take this work and start with humility, as you said, many times it’s perceived negatively. Sometimes people, you know, and we’ll talk later on different cultures and what it means also from your point of view in different cultures. I personally believe it’s one of the most important ones and obviously you just shared it, that it keeps us at check. It help us even continuously learn as leaders, and reinvent ourselves for our people. But how do you define it yourself?

Amer Kaissi: Sure. Let us start with defining humility at three different levels.

So the research points us to the direction that, you know, we can understand humility in terms of our relationship with ourselves, that’s the first level. Our relationship with others, that’s the second level. And then our relationship with the world, which is the third level. So starting with humility in terms of our relationship with ourselves, the first building block there is self-awareness, is understanding yourself really well in terms of your strengths, but also in terms of your limitations or areas for improvement, and that can only happen through self-reflection. So it’s very important for humble leaders to take the time, to think about their strengths, but also their areas for improvement, to think what the impact that they are having on others.

You know, when we talk about misperceptions about humility, it’s important to understand that humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s not underestimating your, you know, skills and abilities. It’s just about looking at them as accurately as possible. So that’s the first level, which is humility with ourselves.

And then we have humility in terms of our relationships with others. And here we talk about our generosity as leaders, we talk about whether we’re willing to give from our time and our effort, to grow others and develop, develop them. We also talk about our appreciation and gratitude towards others. When you realize that you are not always the smartest person in the room, then you have a newfound appreciation to the intelligence of the group and to the skills that every individual brings in. And then another aspect of that humility in terms of relationship with others is what we call open-mindedness or teachability.

That is the ability to go into every conversation and every interaction with curiosity, with the mindset that says I’m gonna learn from you something new, regardless whether you are the CEO of the organization or a junior intern that just started. I’m gonna go into every one of these conversations with the assumption that I’m gonna learn something new. And in order to do that, I’m gonna ask good questions and then I’m gonna listen to understand your answer. So, that’s the second level, which is humility in terms of relationship with others.

And then we have the last level. Which is a humility in relationship to the world or the universe, which is a little bit deeper, understanding of humility, and it mainly relates to our understanding of our own insignificance in the world. And, this is a tricky concept. So I wanna make sure that I explain that well. We’re saying we are insignificant, not in terms of the work that we’re doing right now in our efforts, but in relationship to larger concepts, such as the universe or history or nature, or God, if you’re a believer, right? So when you take the time as a leader to ponder these larger concepts, you realize that no matter how important the work you’re doing right now in the grand scheme of things, it’s insignificant. And when you do that kind of pondering, you get another level of humility and a better understanding of how things stand.

Naji: Wow, on this level, I imagine you’re touching spirituality at some point, right?

Amer Kaissi: A lot of experts, you know, go to that part of it, which is the spiritual aspect of it. Others like to take it more on the religious side. I think both are valid depending on what your beliefs are. So a lot of people would like to, you know, compare how they, as a creature, relate to the creator, which, you know, they believe in God, right? But others maybe don’t go to the religious part, but more the spiritual side, which can be found in terms of contemplation in terms of relationship to nature. So there is this great research study that was done in Australia, where the researcher himself was a nature tour guide.

So he took a group of participants on a full week trip down a large river in Australia, and what he asked them to do was during that trip while they were rafting in the river, after every day to record their thoughts, and then he interviewed them at the end and what most of them described their feelings as they were immersed in this beautiful nature. They had, you know, they start having these spiritual feelings of realizing how small you are, and one of the participants described it as ego dissolving. When you see how grand nature is, you realize how small you are. So you’re absolutely right. This is a deeper, a little bit more spiritual side of humility. In my conversations with leaders, when I talk about this aspect of it, it’s especially the seasoned leaders that resonate a lot with that aspect of humility, you know, what we call transcendence or humility in relationship to the universe.

Naji: So let’s take ambition and then we can discuss the word, right, Humbitious. So from the ambition side, it’s also obviously very different, right? From a culture to another, it can be perceived differently, I imagine from a culture to another. But also when I think about even gender biases, right? An ambition women and ambition men, and how we perceive those things.

So I would love to hear your thoughts about how do you define ambition, but have you seen different reaction depending on different cultures or different settings?

Amer Kaissi: Yeah, let’s start with defining ambition first. So the way I understand ambition as part of this concept of Humbitious is that ambition is about not accepting the status quo, not settling, right? It’s about setting audacious goals and executing on them. It really is about believing in your own greatness and in your teams and organizational greatness. And what that translates to in terms of the day to day behaviors is having the confidence to speak up, having the confidence, to confront difficult situations, having the ability to have crucial conversations and to hold other people accountable when appropriate.

Now, your question is very insightful about the different applications of this concept to gender, but also to culture. So let’s start with, with the gender issue. And as you know, this is a very, very wide topic. And a lot of research has been done on that. So I’m gonna try to summarize, you know, 20 years of research in two minutes by saying that yes, there are definitely double standards when it come to ambitious men and ambitious women, especially in leadership. Ambition in men is appreciated and rewarded because look at him, he’s a leader he’s so ambitious, right? Whereas in many different organizations and organizational cultures, it’s not that appreciated when it comes to women. I interviewed a lot of male and female leaders for Humbitious as well as for intangibles, and one of the common themes I heard was when you are a female leader, it’s almost like you’re in a double bind. On the one hand, you have to act like a leader, which means you have to show ambition. But on the other hand, there is a gender stereotype that you should be more accommodating, that you should be more nurturing, you know, these kind of words that people refer to female leaders.

So, female leaders find themselves in this double bind. Do I act like a leader, which means like a male leader and show that you know, extreme ambition so that I can be taken seriously. But then risk being perceived as too aggressive, or, you know, some, some of the terminology that is used, like the B word or whatever, right, versus acting like how a female is supposed to act or how they want female to act in this culture and being perceived as someone who is, you know, more accommodating, more empathetic and so on and so forth, but maybe not what people think about when they think of a leader. So it is a very difficult situation in some organizational cultures, obviously it’s not everywhere.

And, we have a lot of research on that. And here I would mention a great book called Why do so many incompetent men become leaders and, it’s a great research basebook, and it’s not an attack on men, obviously, it’s just shows through research how much easier it is for a male leader to get into a high leadership position and how much harder that is for a female leader with the same capabilities.

Now, the last aspect of your question I believe was about the culture, right? And, you know, both you and me understand other cultures because we grew up in different cultures. So for example, in our culture back home, you know, in Lebanon, but in general, in the middle east, you have this perception of humility as not being something that you want to portray to other people, right. I remember growing up in Lebanon, you know, people would say, oh, haram matwadei, kalbo tayeb, right. And I’ll translate that, you know, God bless his heart, he’s so humble, you know, he’s so nice with other people, so that’s not always seen as a positive thing. So, trying to translate some of these concepts to different cultures is a little bit hard.

And then we have the whole aspect of, for example, the Asian culture, which, you know, while overgeneralizing is more appreciative of humility, because it’s less focused on the self and more focused on serving others and other centeredness. And by the way, a lot of the research that we have on humility and leadership comes to us from a lot of research done in Asian countries, especially in China and Singapore.

So it really is very interesting to start thinking about this concept of humility. Now, when we bring it back to the Western world, sometimes it’s also not that appreciated as we started with because many people are taught since early on, that you have to brag, you have to show self-confidence so you can stand out. So you can get chosen for sports teams and, for you know, plays. And then later on to be promoted for leadership positions.

Naji: and this is definitely true, right? When we, as you’re stating on this ambitious, and we see it, right, and incorporate sometimes from your stars where you’re good at and how to brag about it, right? So when is it too much, right? Like when do you think ambitious get in the way and what is the right equilibrium and what I liked and how you were framing it also for it to be clear, it’s not only ambitious for yourself, you talked about being ambitious for your team and how you drive your teams.

So any thought on, you know, this balance between it’s too much or is it not enough?

Amer Kaissi: Yeah, you’re right. I mean, if we think about it in terms of a continuum, right, and the continuum starts with being passive on one hand and then being aggressive on the other end, right. The sweet spot right there in the middle is to be appropriately assertive.

And you’re being appropriately assertive for yourself, but also for your team and for your organization. So that appropriate assertiveness shows up in terms of standing up for what’s right. Standing up for yourself when appropriate. Standing up for your team in terms of making sure your team has the appropriate resources, so it can achieve its goals and its tasks.

So we start seeing that aspect of ambition, as being appropriately assertive and also in terms of holding others accountable, when you need to do that, right, it’s about not shying away from difficult conversations. It’s about making sure that when there is one of these conversations to have with someone who, for example, is not pulling their own weight or not performing well, you don’t just let it slide, but you address it appropriately.

You know, as Brené brown said: kind is clear, right? When you are clear what your team members, you are being kind with them, you are showing that humility that we we’re talking about. So, you know, your question was about when is ambition too much? I’d say ambition is too much when it starts showing up as being too aggressive and the kind of leaders that I talked to, and I coached when that starts showing up, you see it in their interactions with others, as someone who is always talking and never listening. Someone who is always making statements, and not asking enough questions. You know, sometimes as an executive coach, the first thing that I do is I go and observe a leader in their natural habitat right, in the organization when they’re holding their staff meetings. And the only thing that I do in those meetings when they’re talking with their staff members is I count the number of statements that they make versus the questions, and I also count how many times they say I versus we.

Those two ratios Naji, by themselves can give you a great understanding of the leadership style of a certain individual right away.

Naji: I love it, and I love this idea appropriately assertive. Can you share with us a story of Humbitious leaders, and their impact on their organization?

Amer Kaissi: Absolutely, Absolutely. You know the one that I wanna share is maybe a little bit better known outside the us than maybe audiences in the us. But, given that your audience is global, I think it’ll be an appropriate one. So this is a leader that I have been fascinated with for the last few years ever since she became prime minister of New Zealand.

So we’re talking about just in the order and here again, you see, related to connections to what we talked about earlier with the gender aspect of it. So she became prime minister of New Zealand and thus becoming the youngest female leader in the world. Now, when that happens, when you have a junior leader, especially a female leader, there are a lot of cynics. There are a lot of skeptics out there. Oh, what is she gonna do? She’s probably all talk. She’s not gonna achieve anything. And, all of that negativity.

As soon as she became prime minister, she faced one of the biggest challenges that New Zealand was facing when they had the terrorist attacks in the town of Christchurch. Her response to that crisis was textbook Humbitious leadership. The first thing that she did was to take time, to go and be with the families of the victims. And if you see pictures of that time, pictures of her of that time, she wasn’t doing what politicians do in these situations, which is pretend to be there for the victims while getting attention for themselves. She was there really to feel with people, to mourn with them, to empathize with them and to tell them that she’s gonna do everything that she can to make sure this never happens again. So first stage was all humility and empathy. And then right after that, it was all decisiveness, it was all action, it was all ambition.

One of the first things that she did was to go to the parliament in New Zealand and make them pass gun control laws that they’ve been trying to pass for a long time in New Zealand, never been able to pass. Right away, they passed gun control laws that severely limited the availability of guns and, you know, people here in the us can debate whether that is a good policy or not. I’m not interested in that. I’m not interested in the politics. I’m just interested in the decisiveness, in the leadership lessons that we can take from that. So that’s how she dealt with that Christchurch and that terrorist attack and how she combined the humility and ambition.

A few months after that COVID 19 hit, and just like any other leader in the world, she had to deal with that in her country. And here again, we see this perfect combination of empathy and compassion on one hand, but also decisiveness and action and results on the other hand. One of the first things that they did in New Zealand was they closed the border right away, when no one was even talking about closing borders. And then they did an immediately a lockdown. Again, you can debate whether these are good policies or not in general, but for them that’s what they felt was the right thing to do. While she was doing that, she was doing daily interactions with her citizens on social media. So every day she would have a Facebook live or a LinkedIn live event where she would be talking with regular citizens off the country about how the government is going to be helping them, especially the small business owners. What are the programs that they’re putting in place to make sure that, you know, they’re not losing money and so on and so forth. You know, in June of 2020, we’re not talking about June of last year. We’re talking June of 2020, they had zero active cases of COVID 19 in New Zealand, zero! Sure, it’s a smaller country. It’s, you know, it’s an island and all of that, but I mean to talk about that kind of results with that leadership style, I just feel it is very impressive. So when I think of Humbitious leaders, she’s probably one of the few that come to mind.

Naji: It makes me think about something. We talk about women, men, right, and, and those type of leadership. Another question is generation that comes to mind. Do you think there’s a generational difference? And we might be seeing more Humbitious leaders? Or no, like any leader can be Humbitious and can work to become Humbitious regardless of a generational gap.

Amer Kaissi:  I certainly agree with those last, you know, last statements that you made there Naji about it can be any generation that embraces ambitiousness or not, right. However, what we are seeing, what the data shows us is that there is more appetite for this kind of leadership among the younger generation.

So the latest surveys that were done by, you know, divided and slice and dice the data by generation showed that it’s especially the younger generation, you know, people under 40 or even under 30 in their twenties, they have a very strong appetite for the leaders who are in touch with their followers, for the lead who are available, who are accessible, who are open-minded and there is much, much less tolerance for the leader that leads through my way or the highway.

Naji: Yeah. You know, and the more I see all those topics on the great resignation, the more I think, you know, what you’re proposing is what maybe the first solution for organizations to have Humbitious leaders and leaders who lead from a place of love.

Amer Kaissi: Absolutely, absolutely. You know, leading from a place of love, like you call it, I think is probably the most important factor in impacting employee engagement and employee innovation in our organizations these days. And this is not just touchy, feely stuff. This is not just, oh, let’s just hold hands and love each other. There is tons of research. There is tons of data that shows that this is the right way to lead. If you want your employees to go above and beyond, if you want your employees to generate new ideas and solve problems in creative and innovative ways, you know, this is not your opinion or my opinion. This is based on research that has been done in the last 10, 15 years, all over the world that shows that when the leader is inclusive, when the leader listens to inputs, when the leader asks questions, when the leader makes development, something legitimate in the organization, professional development, you know, when the leader admits and say Hey, I’m work in progress here, I’m not perfect as a leader. When you have that kind of leader that just rubs off the whole team and then everyone starts feeling like Hey, it’s okay to be work in progress in this organization, it’s okay to develop, it’s okay to learn, it’s okay to admit mistakes and limitations. And when that happens, the magic happens in teams and in organizations. Burnout is reduced. Engagement is increased and all of a sudden you have innovation and creativity that is unleashed throughout teams and throughout organizations.

So I agree with you a hundred percent about this could be one of the best ways that we fight the great resignation, that we fight burnout and, and chronic stress in our organizations.

Naji: Amer, I’m gonna go to a session now where I’m gonna give you a word and I would love your reaction to it.

The first word is leadership

Amer Kaissi: Leadership, I’d say misunderstood by a lot of people. There is this misconception about leadership being someone who is loud, someone who bangs on the table, someone who brags and yells at people, someone who overestimate their own abilities and underestimate others’ abilities.

And I’ll say all of these are misconceptions, misperceptions about leadership. So when I try to understand leadership, I always try to go back to that data and see what the science shows and what the research shows and the science is very clear. These kind of leaders that I just described do not get results in the long term.

Yes. They may be able to come in and change things in short term and do a turnaround what have you, but if we really want leaders that achieve a long-lasting impact, then we have to look for things such as love as you talk about, empathy, compassion, humility.

Naji: What about narcissism?

Amer Kaissi: Hmm. That’s a really good one. So narcissism is very interesting in leadership because again, if we look at the research, the research shows that narcissists tend to be chosen more for leadership positions. So if you and I are interviewing an applicant today and that, you know, we have two applicants, one is narcissist, and one is humble, chances are, even if we’re aware of the research, we’re gonna choose the narcissist because the narcissists tend to be more entertaining, more charming. They interview better.

However, and this is what I was just touching on a minute ago in the long run, narcissists are not effective leaders because they are poor team players. They’re lousy managers. They’re so self-centered, they’re not gonna get results in the long run. So when we think about narcissists, it’s very important to make a distinction between leadership, emergence and leadership effectiveness. Yes, they can emerge as leaders, but all of the indicators are there that they’re not gonna achieve long term success for their organizations.

Naji: The last word is spread love in organizations

Amer Kaissi: Spreading love in organizations, the way that I understand that, is that there are two levels of doing that.

There is first the superficial level that most people get stuck on, which is to be nice to say, please, and say, thank you. And you know, you’re standing in line in the cafeteria and you pay for the person behind you and all of that. Now all of that is good. You know, I’m not against any of that, but I think the real love being spread in organizations is done by being generous with others, by mentoring the young comers by taking time from your busy schedule, to sit down with someone and help them work through a problem or listen to their personal situation and being empathetic and being compassionate with them.

So the first level of spreading love, you know, we can call that confetti kindness. We can call that superficial kindness because it really doesn’t take a lot of time and energy and it’s very convenient, right? But the real work of spreading love in my opinion is the type that takes time, takes energy, takes commitment, and is sometimes inconvenient, but you still do it because it’s the right thing to do.

And as we just explained in terms of the research, it’s the only way to do it going forward with the challenges that every organization is facing right now. I truly believe that no organization is gonna be able to survive this, you know, COVID pandemic that we’re going through and burnout on all of that without love being one of its values.

Naji: Wow. That’s super powerful.

Any final word of wisdom for leaders around the world and even more specifically healthcare since this is also where you’re passionate is.

Amer Kaissi: You know, on the healthcare side, I’d say everything that we just discussed is amplified times hundred, right? I mean, if you think about it, healthcare is really the business of compassion. It’s the business of empathy. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to end with a little story that a doctor friend of mine shared. Okay. So let’s call him Dr. Lee. So Dr. Lee shared this story with me. So Dr. Lee is an endocrinologist and he had a diabetic patient, come see him one day for a foot exam, okay. Now that patient is severely obese. So after the foot exam was over, Dr. Lee was, you know, was done with the examination. The patient was trying to put back his socks and his shoes on, but he couldn’t do it on his own because of his large size. So, what Dr. Lee did is he noticed that the patient was struggling, so he went straight and he knelt on his knees and helped the patient put his shoes on and his socks on. Now in that moment, the patient was embarrassed, but at the same time, he was deeply appreciative of this amazing act of kindness. Here’s this prestigious doctor down on his knees, you know, helping me put my socks on and put my shoes on.

Six months later, that same patient came back to Dr. Lee having lost 60 pounds, and he told him, he said I lost 60 pounds because of that one act of compassion and love that you showed me. I’ve been trying to lose weight all of my life, and I’ve never been able to lose more than five pounds at a time. But because of what you did, I started showing love to myself and that’s how I lost the weight. And not only that he told him, he said, I promise you Dr. Lee in six months, I’m gonna come back and. I’m going to have lost another 60 pounds. Now, I like to tell this story because it shows that in healthcare, we are in the business of love and compassion and empathy.

But my advice to leaders in healthcare is that it is not enough for us to show that love and compassion to our patients. Yes, of course that’s required. That’s great. But we need to show that same level of love and compassion and empathy to each other, within the healthcare team, within the leadership team, between leaders and clinicians, that is the kind of culture that we need to create in our healthcare organizations, otherwise we’re not gonna make it.

Naji: Thank you so much Amer, for such an inspiring and transformational chat, and definitely healthcare is a need of love as many organizations. But I agree with you. Healthcare is definitely in this need. Thank you.

Amer Kaissi:  Oh, it’s it’s been a pleasure. Naji, thank you for having me.

Naji: Thank you all for listening to spread love in organization’s podcast.

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, a podcast for purpose driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership and love. I’m Naji your host for this episode. And I am thrilled to be joined by an outstanding communicator, a visionary leader, a healthcare thought leader, and one of the most amazing frontline emergency physicians.

Dr. Adam Brown, Adam began as a frontline emergency physician with progressive clinical and administrative roles throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest becoming the president of the nation’s largest emergency medicine practice at envision healthcare. During the first waves of the COVID pandemic, he continued to serve as president of emergency medicine and was named chair of the COVID taskforce for all specialties at envision.

That year, the CEO also appointed him to the role as an executive sponsor of diversity equity and inclusion in 2021, he assume the role of a newly created position at envision as the chief impact officer and has continued in his role in the pandemic response at D&I.

As an emergency physician and healthcare executive, Adam has a driving passion to improve the lives of patients using all his skills and influence he’s gained as a healthcare business leader and physician. He has expanded his reach and is imparting and improving the health of millions of lives. Adam, it is such an honor to have you with me today.

Adam Brown: Hey, it’s so great to be with you today.

Naji: From frontline physician, Adam, to now chief impact officer. And I’d love afterwards to, for your vision about this title. But before that your constant thread around improving patient’s lives, I want to know what’s behind this. What’s your personal story for you to do this journey and what you are today as a leader, and who you are.

Adam Brown: Yeah, I think that’s a really great question. You know, I’ll first start with a simple answer is that, I saw that as I was working as an emergency physician in different areas around the country, that there is an opportunity to take some of the things that I was learning. Some of the best practices around clinical medicine, the operational practices around how you take care of patients in an ER, or even in the inpatient units.

How to export that to other hospitals and by extension, as you start to export education and best practices, and you really start to scale that I started recognizing the opportunity there was to impact patient’s lives. And so I think, you know, as I’m looking at where I sit right now, one of the things that gives me a lot of energy and, gives me a lot about, of joy in the work that I’m doing is knowing that many of the things that I am doing really has the potential, either directly or indirectly to impact millions of patient’s lives.

But the question about the personal story, you know, I’m from Eastern North Carolina. I grew up at the beach, going to out on the water on Saturdays with my dad and a flat bottom kind of looks like a swamp boat almost, fishing and, fairly humble beginnings. My dad and mom are both amazing people.

They grew up in Eastern North Carolina in, what we called the country, in the country part of the state. And, my dad was the son of a sharecropper. He actually didn’t have running water to he was 18 years old and my dad’s only 68. So he did not come from wealthy means by any stretch of the imagination.

My mom, my grandmother was a school teacher, English school teacher. I think that’s where a lot of my communication interests came from. My granddad still to this day at 87 years old runs a barbecue restaurant in Eastern North Carolina. And so, you know, my background was definitely not one in medicine, but where I think is very important to me and how it’s shaped and informed my decisions along the way is the importance of people and really the importance of making an impact in people’s lives, no matter what you did whether it’s making really good barbecue that people wanna wake up for on a Saturday morning to drive an hour, to get to, to see people smiles as they’re coming to get that barbecue, or to hear the stories from my grandma talking about in her very Southern drawl about kids that have come back, who are now adults to thank miss blizzard. My grandmother’s last name was blizzard, to thank her for the education that she provided. And so I think that’s some of the pieces and parts of what kind of shaped who I am today.

Naji: Well, thank you so much for sharing this part of you. And I love how you framed it, right? You had it early on and you’ve seen it how to help people, right? How to make people happy. So it will take me to this idea of chief impact officer. And I think it’s coming again from the millions of patients who are impacting and helping, but also your teams, right? You’re passionate about D&I, you’re running today one of the largest teams in the us and emergency medicine and beyond. So tell us a little bit more about why chief impact officer, what do you put behind this as a daily job?

Adam Brown: Well, this actually goes back to during the pandemic and at the beginning of the pandemic. So in 2020, I was named president of emergency medicine for envision how healthcare and, just to give folks a little bit of idea of what and who envision is we’re a large medical group, one of the leading medical groups in the country, and we have clinicians over 25,000 of them taking care of patients in 45 states across the country. And actually now, even across the world, as we have medical type mission trips that we’re going actually going to Dominican Republic on Saturday. But we are an organization with very different types of skills, whether it’s emergency medicine, pediatrics, neonatology, anesthesia surgery, OBGYN. Those are just a few of the areas where our clinicians work. And so at the beginning of the pandemic, I was president of emergency medicine, but I could see what was I thought was about to happen, that we were going to be heading into a pandemic. And so there was a lot of concern that I had about that. It would not take long for that virus to come onto our shores as well, and was probably already here. And so at that point in time, our CEO, asked me, you know, I’m an emergency physician, emergency physicians deal with that type of training crisis training, even pandemic training. I had done some work of course in the us when we were worried about Ebola coming around.

So I had an idea about what we would need from a personal protective equipment, how we would need to have, you know, information control, crisis control, et cetera. So he asked me to start working on the pandemic response. And I think what was a really big challenge at the time was I was not just now helping the response of emergency medicine, I was having to think through how do we take care of our clinicians in the hospitalist inpatient unit? How do we take care of our clinicians in the anesthesia, in the operating room suite? How do we get them to the protective equipment that they need, but also how do we get them the educational information that they’ll need to take care of patients? So folks, remember back to March and April of 2020, all that we knew was that, there was a virus that was coming. It could be respiratory, it could be droplet. It could be, we were wiping down our Amazon packages. We were doing all these things to protect ourselves. So there’s a lot of unknowns that now we know today. And so a part of my job was to identify best ways to take care of patients, best ways to protect our clinicians best ways to distribute information and really to become the trusted voice. So that’s a long answer to get to how we got to the chief impact officer.

We recognized by the end of the year, there were so many societal changes, social changes, changes that needed to happen within patients and even within our own clinicians that keeping me siloed in a single service line, like emergency medicine did make a lot of sense. And so I wanted to lean into, the reason why I went and got my MBA. The reason why I went to get become a doctor is I wanna impact a lot alive. So it was a title that I said “Hey, what are your thoughts about this?” to our CEO, here’s the reason in the rationale. We already had decided what work I would be doing, and it seemed to make a lot of sense. And so that was the reason why we got to chief impact officer.

Naji: When you’re talking obviously you went back to the pandemic, you led the team in one of the most challenging times, right? And cross-functional teams caring for patients, but also as you mentioned, right? Caring for the healthcare providers, you guys were on the frontline, risking your lives to save others lives. So there’s a couple of things I would love to hear your thoughts about. The first one you said you wanted to become the trusted voice and I think in those moment of tensions, being also an emergency physician, as you know, like being able to be the trusted voice for the people to trust you right? To risk their lives and do practically what you’re asking is something big, right? So we’d love to hear your thoughts about the learning around this. And then I will go to the other part, which is more the silos also that you talked about. But let’s start with this one first.

Adam Brown: Yeah. I will never forget a good friend told me at the beginning of the pandemic, when I told her that I would be leading the response and she was so right. She said, Adam, your most important thing you can do is be trusted. That’ll be the most important thing for you, to lead the organization, to lead the team, is trust. There’s other pieces there too. You have to be trusted. You also have to deliver, which also kind of filters into being trusted. But you need to be a trusted voice. And so everything that I did laddered back up to being that trusted voice.

So it made me critically think about what information I was trying to get out to our clinicians. What would need, what was the research there? What were the proof points for that information getting out? Being honest with them about good news and bad news and becoming that person at the organization that when people said, Adam is speaking about something, we can trust what he says. But we are an organization of not just clinicians, we have 35,000 employees that work for us and so we have our teammates that work for us. And so many of them are not clinicians. And so not only being that trusted voice for the clinical persons, also being that trusted voice for our clinical support teammates that are helping our clinicians with everything, from their schedules, their paperwork, their credentialing at hospitals to our business development teams and our managed care type teams. Those also too were looking to me at times for answers on how they interact, how they should interact with their family at Halloween. This was before the vaccine, you know, in 2020, what type of information was available and how to try to help them search through all the disparate information that was coming out there because I knew that just as much information that was scientific that could be trusted, was out there. There’s a lot of information that was out there was untrusted. So I felt like the big piece and I’m gonna use a marketing term, but the big piece of my personal brand was be trusted.

But not only be trusted, but choose wisely on activities that I get involved in, because anything that could potentially corrupt that trust had a far greater concern of then me not being able to carry certain messages about how to protect yourself, how to protect your family, how to take care of patients in a certain way.

Naji: So any key learning you had, because obviously we all faced and you faced it at a totally different level. And everyone listening today knows potentially all those questions we all asked ourselves, right? But you guys being on the front line, it’s multiplied by hundreds of times. Any key learning as a leader, trying to be trusted? So I love the idea of choosing the activities being involved, making sure that you’re bringing the data that can be trusted and being the voice of this data. But many time, you gave the example of Halloween, for example, before the vaccines, many time we do not have answers as leaders. That’s right. How did you handle this, right? And brought back this voice to keep the trust but also many time people will look up other leaders and well, tell me what I need to do, right? So how did you coach our people towards those moments of uncertainties? Because we face them also in the business word in a daily life, to a minor extent.

Adam Brown: Well, I think a part about being trustworthy is also being honest about what you know, and what you don’t know. And so I think when you can say things sometimes with caveats, but sometimes you say things like, for example, let’s take Halloween. Based upon the best information that we have available, the way that you can protect your family the most is by X, Y, Z, A, B and C.

That’s based upon what we know now. And we’re early in this pandemic. But as we move forward, we’ll learn more. And as there, as that adjusts, I’m gonna give you that information to the best of my knowledge. So that was one of the ways that I think I built trust, by being honest with people about what we did and didn’t know.

But I think the other piece here and you had asked specifically about learnings is the power and importance of communication effectively. I’ve heard people say things like communicate, communicate often, overcommunicate, when you think you haven’t communicated enough, do it again. And I agree, but I disagree.

I agree that’s the right thing to do if you’re communicating effectively. And so this goes to the second piece that I learned. When you’re a healthcare company, every person that you are working with, whether they are an anesthesiologist, whether they are an anesthesia business leader, whether they are a scheduler or someone working in security at one of your operations offices, they all come with very different levels of understanding of healthcare.

They have different levels of understanding about their life experiences. Meaning some have been always in healthcare. Some have not. And so you really have to think through when you’re communicating the different segments of your audience. And so the questions I would ask, Naji, oftentimes were, who is this message going to? Is this going to my ER docs? Is this going to my nurse practitioners and PAs that are in the emergency department? Is this going to my clinical support non-clinician teammates? Because the message needed to adjust and change and so even though the old maximum of communicate over communicate and continue to communicate is true, but bad communication is sometimes worse than not communicating at all.

And so really, really thinking granularly about what are the experiences of the audience that you’re trying to communicate to? What is the level of understanding? What type of biases may they have? What type of information may they might be receiving at home or online or on television? And so crafting a message in such a way that can get to your ultimate goal, i.e protect people, give people the right information, stay the trusted voice, that sort of thing. It was an important, important piece to how we communicated and continue to communicate through this pandemic.

Naji: Yeah, so really adopting it, listening, knowing who they are. And I think it goes back to your very first words that you said, your passion for people. Like you can only do this if you’re literally, and genuinely want to understand what they’re going through and try to help them and be empathetic with them. So a lot of credits for you to be able to run those things with your teams.

Adam Brown: I think, let me explain it this way. When I talk to my mom and dad and they have had questions throughout the pandemic, of course, you know, and they have seen me at times as their son, they continue to see me as their son, despite being a healthcare executive and a doctor, sometimes they forget that but then they see me at times as the doctor and the trusted boy with them as well. And the way that I explain, a new story that may have come out, or the way that I explain the guidelines for say vaccines for them, or the way that I’ve talked to them about incoming potential risks, is very different than of course the way that I would talk to you or I would talk to someone who is a, a healthcare provider. And that seems really simple, but a lot of times, and I’ve seen the traps of this, whether it’s within the hospital or when clinicians are talking to patients, is that many times we start to get overly reductive in the way that we try to communicate. We either drop our communication down to a sixth or an eighth grade level because that’s what generally, newspapers are written on or we try to do things like make things overly simplistic without really understanding the driver of the anxiety of why someone may be asking a question that they’re asking. And so that stakeholder engagement that back and forth in the piece of the communication is so critical in crafting your message during a crisis, so that you can get that other individual to not only hear you, but also understand, absorb and take that information in.

That’s a really important thing. And I hope if we talk a little bit more about it, because I think it’s an important piece for us as healthcare executives or business executives, period.

Naji: Yeah, I totally agree. And how many times, like we come with the same message, as you said, we’ve heard it many times over communicate and it’s missing this tailoring piece to who you’re communicating and how you’re communicating, what you’re communicating.

I do wanna go into COVID questions. I can, I have bunch of questions. I love to ask you about it, but I don’t wanna get there. We’re talking about, you know, leadership and what we can learn from you as you have done and still doing this. Anything you would have done differently, during those times or earlier, if you would have known and not related to the virus more from a leadership standpoint.

Adam Brown: Yeah. I think there’s probably two things that I would’ve done, you know, as much as I felt that it was important for people to trust me, I needed to learn to trust others as well. And I think what I mean by that is, is that when you are crisis or even when you’re not in crisis, when you are dealing with a business challenge or you’re dealing with a challenge with engagement with employees or choose the problem you’re trying to solve, really quickly assessing the skillset of those around you, but also identifying those other persons that you can trust and start to anchor over to them because you can’t do it all. And I think that is, has been a bit of a, something that I realized really early on, is that engagement back and forth with, again, your stakeholders, your employees within your organization, your direct reports, your colleagues, those that you report to identifying who you can trust. And I don’t mean trust, like there’s someone that’s not a good person. I’m talking about someone who’s skilled, who knows their information, who can get what you need to get done, done so that you can depend on them.

And I think early on, I was trying to do everything. And I remember my husband saying to me, at one point, he said, Adam, this was probably in April of 2020. And this was around COVID, but I can apply it to other things too. He’s like, Adam you’re not gonna be able to get everything done and sleep and have a life. He’s like, you’re gonna have to identify other people that are going to be able to help you accomplish the goals that you need to accomplish and so I quickly had to figure out a rubric and my mind of how do I learn about, identify the skillset of another individual and then, trust them.

Naji: That’s definitely replicable and a great, great point and joining. What’s next, do you think in the healthcare leadership, you know, the pandemic is still ongoing, we are all hearing about, you know, the mental health issues, unfortunately, within our healthcare teams, but also across the globe and in the us. Any thought from your side on the next challenges as we continue on having, well, luckily with vaccines, less of, you know, the kind of the catastrophic situation we were with so many patients suffering and dying unfortunately, but it’s continuing right and isolation, people having more and more suffering from mental health and we seeing it in healthcare also being impacted way more, I would say, from outside healthcare, because of all the challenges you’re facing, obviously. Any thoughts about this and how as leaders we can help out.

Adam Brown: Yeah, I actually think there’s a couple things that kind of converge into this. I’ll say it’s not post pandemic because, you know, we just recently had a hundred thousand people die within a relatively short period of time, just here in the United States.

And the virus is continuing to spread, pretty significantly in Eastern Europe and in Europe right now. And that said, I think the first big issue that’s going to be facing healthcare and clinician wellbeing and clinical wellness and burnout are an issue and I’ll talk about that in a second, but I think there’s something higher level that we are going to be dealing with and that is misinformation and disinformation within healthcare because it transcends the pandemic. It has, we’ve seen now with this pandemic, this has been an opportunity for us and although a negative one, that for people that have anchored to misinformation or disinformation about the vaccine, the last hundred thousand people to have died from this virus, a large majority of them were unvaccinated, which means could have prevented their death.

So think about that for a minute. Think about how individuals chose to listen to something other than the prevailing science, trusted voices. Those voices to them became distrustful and they made decisions that affected their lives and that’s just the people who died. There’s people that have had other type of long COVID symptoms or will continue to have sadly some long COVID symptoms, at least to what we’re seeing.

So here’s my point to this COVID is an example of a broader problem that we have around misinformation. And why is that a big problem? Well, if there’s so much distrust where people are not believing physician or people are not believing organizations that are trying to protect the public, then what are they not going to believe when there’s new cancer treatments, when there’s new other emerging pathogens, when there’s other diseases that we want to treat?

What happens when patients are coming to a hospital and their loved ones in the ICU for a different type of infection and the family members are coming with an inherent distrust of the clinicians because of information that they have seen that has been mis or disinformation. I see that as one of the biggest emerging and continual problems that we have.

So that’s the high level problem that I see that we are going to be facing with healthcare. And I think that the answers to that come back to a marketing and influence answer of identifying segments of the population, identifying what influences and drives decision making in those populations and how can we do what we need to do to address the needs of those individuals. Now diving into the healthcare sector specifically. Yeah. You were gonna ask something.

Naji: Yeah. Just before diving, because I love this point. When you’re saying we,  who do you see around the table being able to get back to this trusted information because there’s many actors, right? Like I’m in the pharma industry, you’re on the front line. There’s regulators, agencies, authorities, you know, patient advocacy group. Like when you say we do see us getting together and doing this, how do you see things?

Adam Brown: Well, I think you have to take a step back and even look for, to answer that question.

You have to take a step back. What drives your decision making for anything right now? What drives informs your decision about why you make a decision for whatever product you want to buy, where you wanna go on vacation? Why you like one thing over another, or why you believe one health type food is better than another health type food?

I believe that healthcare decisions. and any decisions for that matter are really, really complex. And I think that we’ve made the, the grievous error and I learned it in medical school that you have to talk to your patients in such a way that they can understand. Well that’s right. But I think what’s wrong is that you’re not the only one talking to that patient.

It’s their person at their church. It’s their Facebook group. It’s, you know, a celebrity, someone from the green bay Packers. There’s someone that is talking to that individual in such a way that is triggering in their mind connection and influence and driving decisions. And so I think what we have done wrong in, and when I say we, I say the healthcare community in general, is we have assumed that there’s health literacy and then by contrast health illiteracy, meaning that you either know healthcare or you don’t. And I think that’s the wrong setup because every single individual believes or knows something about their healthcare. Let me, let me just tell you a personal story. So I’m from Eastern North Carolina. I started working in an ER when I was 19 years old.

I was a tech in the ER. And I remember one day sitting with the nurse in triage, that’s the area where patients come in, the intake process and a guy had a burn on his arm. I’m probably gonna slip into a Southern accident a little bit, cuz I’m being a little nostalgia. And so anyway, guy comes in with his arm, he sits and I’m like, what happened to your arm?

He’s like, well, I burned it. And I’m like, well, why is it so shiny? He goes, oh, I put Crisco and butter all over my arms. I did, I just put it all over it. And I’m like, why? You’re not trying to make biscuits. Like, why are you putting this on your arm? And his response was, well, that’s what I’ve always been told.

Now, this a guy who worked at a farm, he was not a healthcare professional, but he had knowledge of healthcare in his mind. That he was doing what was right for him for his healthcare. So I think it’s wrong to believe that people are illiterate. It’s just their understanding of healthcare and their personal healthcare is very different. Now, clearly he’s wrong and I’m encouraging anyone who’s listening to never do that because that’s not the right thing to do. But the point here is that people are not empty vessels just waiting for information to be poured. People have made up in their minds stories and, stuff from their grandma and their granddad and their aunt and their uncles of what you do.

I mean, I remember one day working on a tobacco field and yes, I did this, when I was, my dad made me do it, when I was like eight or nine years old. So that I would ever A, want the smoke or chew tobacco, or B ever that I would want to do something other than work in tobacco field. But I got stung by a bee or a wasp or something and I remember someone saying here, let me chew up some tobacco in my mouth and put it on your bite because that sucks out the sting. Now kind of look, and that was accepted and thought it would be a really great thing and a really wonderful thing to do or take like raw meat and put on your arm. I mean, these are the things that I grew up with knowing.

They’re clearly really bad things to do. They’re not good things to do to protect your skin from infection and all the other stuff. So the point here is that those individuals believe fervently, and that is the way you treat a condition. So what we have to do is we have to not make the assumption that people are just quote illiterate.

I find that offensive. We have to make the assumption that people do come with certain levels of information, albeit wrong at times, but identify how then to communicate. So to your early question about who’s the we? The we is not just doctors. We have to think, or clinicians or healthcare providers, we have to think like a marketer.

We have to think like a disinformant. We have to think about what are the drivers of influence, the complex drivers of influence for people in their decision making to get them to understand truth in medicine.

Naji: What an amazing perspective Adam really, really great, great different perspective. And as you were talking, I was thinking about all those different beliefs patients can come with and me included, right? As you said. Yeah. And it’s, yeah, it’s definitely a different perspective and a challenging one, right? Like to unlearn and relearn, and make sure we trust people to be able to listen. 

I would love now to give you one word and get the reaction to it. So the first word I have in mind for you is leadership.

Adam Brown: Ooh, one word I’m gonna give you a second one back, challenging, but opportunity. I see that being a leader is a challenging job. Being the leader of people is not easy and nor should it be. But I also see great opportunity in the job. And that’s been such a driver for me.

Naji: What about equity in healthcare? If you want even broader

Adam Brown: Misunderstood. I think that what people have understood as equity means access, just because you have access to something doesn’t mean you can use it. You know, I could have access to tons of cars, but if I don’t know how to drive the car, or if my legs are short and I can’t reach the pedals, or if I can’t see over the steering wheel, then the car’s kind of meaningless.

So I may have access to it. So I think people, and this is something we’re kind of grappling with a bit here is there’s an assumption that there is equitable access to vaccines, equitable access to hospitals. But there’s not, it’s not because when you look in rural, there are multiple areas in the country that are well over an hour to your closest hospital.

There are areas in the country where there’s very disparate skill sets in the type of clinicians that are in various hospitals. There are areas of the country where you have some people that have access to primary healthcare clinics and some that don’t, that only have critical access hospitals. It’s not just rural though versus urban, even within urban environments.

Like I live here in Washington, DC, there are parts of the city that have better access to care, better public transportation. So, equity and healthcare is not just simply about the ability of, of saying that there’s something close by or not close by. It’s like, can people actually truly access it? And is there equity in ensuring that all parties and all persons can get there?

The other thing with equity and healthcare is that if we are looking at the future of healthcare. we have got to start addressing the issue of equity in healthcare. And where do those issues come from? They come from social determinants of health. If we don’t address those, we aren’t accomplishing the goals of improving the population’s health across the board.

And so that means identifying ways to improve education in our communities, improve infrastructure in certain areas, clean water, getting people the access they need. There’s direct correlations, between those type of big infrastructure things, those social determinants of health, it’s in the title, it’s a determinant of health. That, we have to address those issues to truly ensure, and we have to address racism before we can start to get to equity.

Naji: Can I double click on this one, cuz it’s such an important topic and you’re obviously within your organization leading diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

What should we do? Where are you starting? So I know a lot of things we’re a little bit, I don’t wanna say way better, right? Like at least there’s light on it and we’re taking actions, right, to improve diversity.

There’s a still long way I think, into inclusion, because something is to have a diverse team, it’s a different thing to make sure that everyone is included and equity is also another step as you just shared. And I love this idea about difference between access and usage. Where are you starting and what can we, and should we do, as leaders on this topic?

Adam Brown: Well, I think you started hitting on it right there. You know, diversity is not the full answer to equality. Inclusion is not the full answer to equality. You really have to take all three of them together, right? You have to have diversity, you have to have inclusion, you have to have equity. And the three pieces of those parts have to be a part of your solution in tackling the problem.

So let’s take, for example, just a few issues with social determinants of health and healthcare. Sometimes when we say health inequity, or I said racism earlier, that can be triggering of course, to people meaning that, oh my God, I’m not a racist. There’s no way in the world that I’m a doctor. I care for everyone. And there’s an immediate defense that can kind of come up.

So what I believe you have to do is you have to recognize that let’s start talking about number one. Do we have a problem? Let’s start educating populations within our own sphere of influence about the problem. Like there should not be a reason that if you live in Dallas, Texas in one part of the city that your life expected sees 30 years different than someone in another part of the city.

So when we look at that, we have to start asking a question of then why? Now as clinicians and as healthcare professionals, many of us, and even as business professionals, we’re analytical individuals, we’re intellectual individuals. We should start asking the questions to why is that? And you keep peeling back that onion and digging to the why, why, why.

Why did this happen? Why did that happen? Why is this happening? And so for us, when we started looking at how do we start to improve? Not only diversity in our organization, I can get to that, some tactics there. How do we create a sense of belonging and inclusion, but how do we get to equity?

We start to look at the reasons and the drivers for inequity, meaning what are the drivers for those social determinants health? So whether it’s education, whether it’s systemic racism, whether it’s, I mentioned education like childhood education, but are there even other types of education that we need to focus on? Targeted education, housing, food insecurity.

Those are some of the issues that we start looking at. And then we, once we identify those five or six domain, then we look tactically, or what are the things that we can do? As a large healthcare organization to make improvements in those areas so that we can ensure that patients are getting better healthcare, more access to healthcare, more equitable healthcare.

This is a long, long, long journey though. This is not something that will change in a day. So that’s the first thing is I think we first are diagnosing the showing that there is a problem we’re educating our teams, that there is a problem. And sometimes it’s not so much an issue as a new problem. It’s a Hey, we’re all into this together. And we need to recognize that there’s a broad, broad problem here, and we need to do something to to affect it. And then once you identify the domains and the areas that are creating the inequity, then you start to address tactically the issues that are supporting that inequity and turning those around.

So it’s a multi-year journey, multi-prong type of approach.

Naji: Yeah, totally agree. And yeah, we have to start it and it’s great that Envision has you as a leader and then impact that you can have across the country. That’s really great. My last word is spread love in organizations. Thoughts?

Adam Brown: I love it. I mean, I love spread love. I think that makes a lot of sense. You know, we talk about as, you know, you’re a physician, I’m a physician, you know, we kind of jokingly said, oh, we did this cuz we want to help people. And when I say that jokingly, I remember someone saying to me back in medical school don’t answer that way on a question when someone asks why you want to go into medicine, because everybody says that, but I think it’s true. I think the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing is because I wanna impact people’s lives positively. I wanna make sure that my nephew whose eight years old has the same and the other that six, has the same ability as the kid across the street, the African American kid, has a life expectancy. I hope the African American kid has the same life expectancy as my nephew who’s Caucasian. There’s love there, right, that I want to make sure that there’s equitable access, that there’s fulfilled life. It’s because the color of our skin or where we grew up or the political leanings that we had, or the religion that we had, all of those different things should not be the driving force behind how our lives look, how long we have lives, the quality of life that we should have in the negative, it should all be positive. And so I love this idea that you have of spreading love, beause it goes back to your impact. What impact do we have as business leaders of improving the lives of other individuals around the world.

Naji: Well, it’s really an amazing way to sum it up. And I think you bring love and we can feel the passion you have behind it. This is why you’re moving lines within your organization and across all the US with what you’re doing, Adam, this is amazing. Any final word of wisdom for healthcare leaders around the world?

Adam Brown: Yeah, I think the final thing actually goes back to the thing that I’ve learned earlier. You know, I do believe that we are are still very much in this pandemic as much as many of us don’t want to be in the middle of the pandemic. And there is going to be a piece as we are starting to hopefully see the ends of some of the hard, hard pieces of the pandemic, where there’s not a vaccine, but where there is a vaccine now.

But we are going to have to reestablish our trust as leaders. And I think that’s important not only when we start to think through the lens of how do we protect the patients that we see, but how do we protect the clinicians that are caring for those patients?

Because as I’ve talked to many of my colleagues, many of us are hurting, and many of us have seen things that we never thought we would have seen, something that we did not prepare for. People say, oh Adam, yeah, yeah, in emergency medicine, you prepared for crises. Yep. But we didn’t prepare for crises that would go on at this long with this amount of stress and strain. And so as leaders, business leaders, as healthcare leaders, a way for us to establish that trust is start to become very empathic and understand the challenges of the patient, the challenges of our clinicians, so that we can reestablish ourselves as the trusted leaders and many of many folks who are listening are the trusted leaders. But that trust can be lost. And so as we go through challenges through the end of the pandemic, hopefully coming out of it sometimes soon there will be new issues. And so I believe we still have to understand our audience and make sure that we stay that trusted voice.

Naji: Thank you so much, Adam again for your time, generosity and such an inspiring discussion. Thank you.

Adam Brown: Thanks again for having me.

Naji: Thank you all for listening to spreadlove in organization’s podcast.

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, a podcast for purpose driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership and love. I am Naji your host for today’s episode joined by Dr. Mady a physician scientist, healthcare consultant, serial entrepreneur, and a brilliant innovator.

Ahmed Mady is currently pursuing his executive MBA at MITs Sloan in Boston. While serving as the managing director of his family, textile business in Egypt. Prior to this role, he worked as the senior director of business development at an innovative Boston based diabetes management, startup, Healthy Nation, and as a senior consultant at Navigant Consulting, where he led nerous global life sciences and healthcare projects for pharmaceutical companies Medtech and biotech space. In addition, Dr. Maji has experience conducting translational research at the cardiovascular research center at Harvard medical school, Mass General Hospital. His lab research is focused on stem cell applications in heart diseases and diabetes, where he created han cardiac tissue engineering models.

He earned his medical degree from Alexandria University in Egypt with several rotations in the United States. Ahmed has over 14 years of experience in healthcare business, manufacturing, medical research, and technology management. Welcome Ahmed. I am thrilled to have you with me today.

Ahmed Mady: Thank you so much Naji for the introduction, and it’s my pleasure to be with you on your great podcast.

Naji: Well, I would love to start by knowing you a little bit, more, more about your personal story. What took you from, you know, your childhood in Egypt to medicine to now becoming a serial entrepreneur and a student at MIT. What’s your personal story behind it?

Ahmed Mady: Well, I can tell you it all started back in when I was, 40 years old, when my father wanted to teach me the tricks of a trade. My father owns a textile factory in Egypt and, he wants actually to just make me get involved with him in the factory. So I used to go to the factory and just play as a kid. And when I was 10 years old, he made me work on the factory floor before moving me to the cushy desk, managing the entire business with him when I was 16.

During that time, I had a great experience with the workers and employees of the factory and, I can tell you this great experience with the 500 workers had a profound impact on my life, teaching me many lessons in medicine, in consulting and, in manufacturing and mostly, recently startups. So, when I was working at the factory, everybody was expected that I’m gonna just follow my father’s footsteps and I will enter business school. I will be managing the factory after him. And, when I was working with a factory, just, I felt that all the underprivileged workers and people, they really needed something in healthcare. And, one of the biggest challenges we were facing is the lack of adequate healthcare in the country that made me become more interested in medicine, become more interested in science and I just decided to enter medicine. So during that time, I was working the factory during the first couple of years of medical school while also going to medical school and studying medicine and I decided that I really wanted to focus on the healthcare sector and I finished medical school and got a scholarship to go to the United States to do my internship year. And I would say the rest was history, just continuing my healthcare career for more than 12 years until, I got a call from my father in 2018, telling me that he wasn’t feeling very well.

And he was thinking about closing, shutting down the business. Unless I’m willing to go back and help out. There was lot of mounting losses because of the market and from health perspective, he wasn’t feeling very well to continue managing all the employees. It was a really tough call at that point that I had to make a decision whether I should continue my healthcare period, the United States, or go back to help out and save the business.

Naji: Wow. And obviously you went back and you are working now and you’re leading, right, the textile business of the family, right?

Ahmed Mady: That’s correct. It was a very tough call. I had to discuss with my wife during that time how we would make it work. We have two beautiful kids. We were in school in Boston. My wife was working in Boston and it’s very hard to really do the transition and come back to the middle east, after we established our careers. So she was very supportive and we made the decision that I’ll be spending two weeks in Boston, two weeks in the us until I can figure out a model that the factory can be managed remotely.

So since 2018, I’ve been traveling between Egypt and the United States until COVID happened. And that made me get back in Boston for a couple of months, until the oponing of airports.

Naji: And now you’re back, right? Like you’re between Egypt and Boston. Again, like we’re talking together, you’re in Egypt.

Ahmed Mady: That’s correct. So during that time, I just wanted to strengthen my business acumen and learn more about the business fundamentals. And I made a decision that during my two weeks of staying in Boston, why not just get an executive MBA out of it and learn more how to really do what I’m as aspiring to do, which is how to put a system in my factory that can that I can manage remotely while going back to the us and focus on my other endeavors.

Naji: It’s awesome. And how did, you know, like I feel this healthcare never left you. I know you even, co-founded two startups during the pandemic so that are somehow touching the textile. You’ve done the masks to heroes. You have another startup potentially you wanna talk about also for sanitizing, like you’ve, you know, there is something around this entrepreneurship that you have in your, you know I dunno if it’s in your DNA in your blood, but you have this while also having this healthcare in back of your mind.

Tell us a little bit more about this journey is, and what you’ve done is impressive last year’s and building companies. Now that answers, and again, it helps. Obviously you shared the employees in the beginning, the society where you felt healthcare needs a little bit more of support in that region and globally. So tell us a little bit more like this common thread that you have in all the different adventures that you’re on.

Ahmed Mady: So for my entrepreneurship journey I would say it all started when I was very young and I really liked the business. I wanted to start something, but starting a startup is not an easy thing to do, especially if you have family, if you have commitments. You really need to have some sort of security, to be able to put some foot on the table. So when I made a decision to go back to my father’s factory, I still have this huge interest in healthcare and coming up with ideas, but I can tell you honestly, that the moment I went back and I moved from this steady job to become, to managing the business, I just felt freedom.

You know, I really don’t really need to report to somebody. I don’t need to go back and and work towards promotion or make sure that my review will come, you know, pretty great. So I can get a raise on my salary. I just felt freedom on my end. And this freedom gave me the option to rethink out of the box and made me think about what else do we need, you know, during the pandemic when we were faced by huge shortage of medical supplies and masks. I put two production lines from my factory to produce masks. And when we faced shortage of chemical sanitizers, I came up with a small device, you can attach to the back of sanitizer utilizing some technology that I used during my lab work at Harvard utilizing ultraviolet C technology to kill viruses and bacteria within seconds.

So I can tell you that the main thing in order to really tackle problems is to free your mind and make yourself think out of the box without any limitation, thinking that you really need to report to somebody or work towards the promotion or keep put on the table.

Naji: Ahmed, It sounds so simple when you say it, it’s just so impressive.

Like you found a problem that was a public health problem with face masks. You found a solution and it’s not only business. I know for each mask that you were, you are producing, you were giving back a mask for healthcare providers and, the sanitizer, like this is such a great idea that can help us all say, so it’s, it’s just amazing how you’re, you know, you have always this healthcare with business ,so with good also behind it’s really great to hear this. 

I wanna double down on something you shared in the beginning you know, 16 years old working with 500 employees, you said you had life learning, managerial and leadership experiences that you took. I’d love to hear more about this and how you took this in a startup world in healthcare while leading today in manufacturing textile business with again, more than 500 people working for you.

What are those things that as a teenager, you learned that you are definitely keep on doing it as an executive today in the healthcare world?

Ahmed Mady: That’s a great question. I would say that it really came down to my father’s philosophy when he wanted me to learn about business. He put me on the factory floor and working with the employees, eating with them, talking to them, understanding their language was this huge, you know, has this huge impact on how I learned to do things.

When we learn things in business school, we learn how to really put strategies, how to execute on a strategy, how to do some operational management. But what’s, I would say more important and before even learning all of this, is understanding the language of who you are working with, understanding their culture, their thoughts, and understanding what they think about, you know, the place and why they are here.

And just by being around all these workers, that taught me a lot of things that I kept forward. When I was, you know, when I started managing the business with my father, so forming this great and strong relationship with the workers when I was super young, you know, when I was 10 or 11 made them feel that I’m not a manager. I’m not I’m not somebody different than them. It just happened that I’m the son of the owner. And now we are working together to achieve great things for all of us. And instead of thinking that, yes, you are a manager and I’m an employee, or I’m a worker. No, we are here for just one goal, is to do something great that will make all of us happy, that we can make that can make us feel that yes, we accomplished what we are working towards at the same time, there’s some return that will make our life better. And just understanding this, you know, very simple things will make people really work with you as great team players instead of looking at you as a manager and an employee.

Naji: Creating this culture, right, of care, of you’re all together, working, you said words common purpose, obviously making things great.

Ahmed Mady: And, understanding their pain. So when you work with somebody for example, like when you are working on understanding that there’s a huge need for healthcare and you start talking to them about, okay, let’s secure some healthcare, good healthcare insurance companies that can really help, you know, if any of you or your family members, you know, get any into any issue. Do you really understand that you are not here to make them work harder so you can get richer or, you know, make more money. You are here that for a purpose that we are all working towards better living. And when you work in a textile factory or textile business, it’s very hard to tell somebody, yes, we are here for great cause because you are just doing a product. It’s an economy scale thing, you know, where you are manufacture some goods, you’re selling these for X amount of dollars. You’re paying the salaries and it’s very hard, you know, when you explain to somebody why you are doing this. It’s just a very simple, you know, business comparing this to healthcare or to vaccines or to do something where you can really inspire people that we are doing this to save the world.

So understanding their pain points, just feel these pain points, be good human being, you know, just the empathy, you know, being empathetic with them, that can really carries a long way in managing a business and, just doing great things for people.

Naji: And, we shared what we were discussing before one, you know, there was the pandemic, there was also a moment, an unfortunate moment, recently in your in your plant that you lived with with your people.

And I’d love to go into this concrete example because it really shows what you’re talking about, how you cared about people and where you drove them towards this bigger purpose as an organization. Even though yes, sometimes in healthcare is easier, right? Like we’re living to save lives or to make people’s lives better, but you too, like, you’re managing them with care to where it’s this purpose that you created, this culture of purpose that you created.

So I I’d love, if you can tell us a little bit more this concrete story and how as a leader, you went through it and you’re back into an amazing continuous growing successes.

Ahmed Mady: Sure. So during COVID, let me start by COVID. COVID was a very challenging time, that when COVID happened we started getting cancellations for the majority of our orders. You know, stores were closed. Our clients said that we are not working and they start canceling orders. We start seeing all the factors around us, pretty much the majority of them, fleeing of people saying that we don’t have work, we need to shut down, or we need to put a pause, you know, until things will go back on track. And the way we thought about it is how we can actually go through this challenge all together as one team without affecting anybody. And from a medical background, I realized that there would be huge need for PPEs, you know, and masks and patient gowns and doctor scrubs. So I start pitching actually the first idea to my classmates at MIT saying that I’m thinking about making mask outta fabric, and that was a even before, you know people were like, just thinking about, you know, these fabric mask as a normal thing. I was thinking about two ways, two things. The first one, there would be huge shortage for medical supplies, and they’d love to help out, in this the second, how can actually make my workers, you know, continue to work.

How can I afford them? How can I make the factory, keep the factory open during this pandemic? And that helped a lot, you know, we manage to really make thousands of these masks and sell them and keep everybody’s job, we didn’t lay any layoff, any single employee. And that thing, you know, when workers felt that, oh, we have been working in this factory for years and other workers in other factors were laid off or they lost their jobs while we still keep our jobs that made them feel that we are literally working as one family and not just as, you know, as a business. It’s a family business who literally, we are dealing with everybody as a family.

Then, you know, COVID happens. We were going through COVID and then we were faced by another big challenge. And I would say this was the biggest challenge of my life where back in January, in the morning at 11 o’clock in the morning, we had huge explosion erupted on the top floor and a huge fire happened in our printing house. During that time I was actually at the nearby bank, I got a call from one of the employees screaming over the phone saying that I had to really go back immediately to the factory because the factory was on fire. And during that time, you know, I tried calling many people in the factory. Nobody was picking up. I tried calling my dad, he wasn’t answering my phone, so I had to rush to the factory. And during that time I just found five trucks standing in front of the factory, hundreds of our employees outside of the gates and were saying that we still have a dozen employees on the top word that are still trapped. I just couldn’t feel myself. I just ran, you know, towards the tough floor. And I asked the firemen if they were able to really rescue them, they said that they were facing some challenges getting, you know, knowing the weight. So I just had to go up with them and figure out, you know, how I can help.

I showed them, you know, the shortcuts and I like, we spend pretty much the next 20 minutes putting down the fire and we were successful in getting everybody out except one employee that we unfortunately lost during that fire.

Naji: oh, I’m sorry.

Ahmed Mady: It was a huge tragedy on everybody and it was just shocking experience that we had to deal with. The next day, there were a lot of things that we had to do to really bring back the team together and get that production up and running. One of them is just allow people, you know, to mourn, to listen to all of them and, and see what they wanna do and there are a lot of details here, I don’t wanna, you know, continue the details, but I would say to summarize the experience, having a huge shocking experience like that will test people’s internal motivation and people’s morale and morals. And I can tell you that the majority of our employees really did an amazing and understanding job in just working together and and getting the whole factory back into production very, very fast.

I was surprised to see our workers working 15 consecutive days without one single day off. I was also surprised to see that nobody was asking for any, you know, work and not asking for any overtime or anything like that. Despite the fact that at the end, you know, I got all their full salaries and with over time, but I felt that people were really acting as one family and instead of just taking advantage of the situation.

Naji: Ahmed, you led the way, like, it’s impressive. You went in, you were in the fire, you went with the firefighters, you went there. They saw you, right? Like, I think you’re such a genuine caring leader that this is why they are showing up. Like, it’s really this culture as you shared in the beginning, and thank you for sharing, again, this painful experience by showing again, this genuine care and leading with your heart makes people, you know, strive for whatever purpose they are on and for the company they work for. Thanks, thanks Ahmed again for sharing this with us.

Ahmed Mady: Thank you for the nice words, but I really want to give the credit to all the team. It’s not me. I just acted, you know, as a human being, not as a leader, you know, or as I would say, like, not as a manager and just everybody was working towards, you know, getting this whole factory. They felt, they told me this is our second home and we can’t let our second home go like that and it was a very humbling experience.

Naji: Well, with this, I’d love to jump into another section, where we are going to play some sort of a game. I will giving you a one word and I’d love to hear your top of mind thoughts.

So the first word for you is entrepreneurship

Ahmed Mady: Freedom.

Naji: Tell me more, you shared a little bit in the beginning, but I’d love to hear what you call freedom.

Ahmed Mady: Freedom, freedom, innovation, leaving your impact on the world. Creating jobs, coming up with something very new and making it happen, turning ideas into reality.

Naji: Great. What about disruption?

Ahmed Mady: disruption? Thinking differently. Moving, advancing the world and leaving a dent in this universe.

Naji: I’m gonna say OP.

Ahmed Mady: Okay. It’s actually, it’s very important. Organization process is very important. Having the three lenses where you have the strategic political and culture lens is a great way of leading your organization.

It’s very true that a lot of lessons that we learned in op, you can apply practically and not theoretically on the ground and see if there effects pretty quickly, including having a buy-in from your team to change an organization behavior, including anchoring an idea in somebody’s mind, or in the team’s, you know your team and making them work towards this idea, just working with your team and, trying to lobby for a specific goal or specific action. So, it’s OP all the way. If you really wanna create a good culture and lead the organization in a great effective way.

Naji: And, to finish this section what about spread love in organizations?

Ahmed Mady: It’s very important. Spreading love. Love is humanity, you know, being a human is what it takes to really have a great organization.

Naji: Great. And I wanna end this with you know, a shout out for your work with mask to heroes as the pandemic is still here and we’re still living it every day. So a shout out for everyone hearing us to go and get masks and help out also the community to give back also for the community and, for so many healthcare workers who are on the frontlines.

Ahmed Mady: I wanna actually give a shout out to all the MIT and the colleagues who made this idea happen without their help, you know, masks would just be an idea, but everybody jumped on the board and we turned an idea into a reality in two weeks, we start selling thousands of these masks in two weeks and, that was because of the help of all the whole class of the executive MBA at MIT.

Naji: Very nice. Ahmed, moving forward with you know, from the 16 year, and even you said 10 years old to, healthcare being a physician working in care and then leading now the organization and different companies how, like, how would you continue, you know, spreading love in organizations, as you said, this is the key point of a human being, right? How looking forward, what would you take from all your learning and now that you that you’re here and you wanna keep on growing, I’m sure, the different businesses that you have.

Ahmed Mady: Sure. Outside, by continually learning, you know, from your colleagues and from employees and clients in any organization, and to learn, you need to listen.

You really need to have active listening, not just listen and learn about what makes people happy in an organization. What makes them love this organization? How can you increase you know, spreading this love and most importantly, just showing empathy being good human being always, always care for the people and people will care for you.

Naji: You know, you talked about a lot about leadership, about the impact of your father, who told you very early on, any leader, you know, in around you that inspires you and that you look up to and help during this leadership journey that you’re on.

Ahmed Mady: Many leaders. The first one I would say my father, is my role model.

There are lots of leaders that he actually takes. So every leader has actually a great strength in one point. And I love reading about all entrepreneurs, you know, from the famous entrepreneurs who are currently among us, in basis, Elon Musk and all those people, they’re great and specific things, you know, where they made their organization tremendously successful.

And there are other leaders like you know, Tony Shay, of Zappos, you know, who created a great culture and Bill Gates, you know, and all these great names. So it’s a learning experience and they continue to learn every day from all of them.

Naji: The patchwork of different strength that you have, right. You talked about reading, any type of mind book you have for our audience to read these days.

Ahmed Mady: I really like, I would say how to make habits, the power of habits. And when you really try to understand the social normal and and the market norm, there is a great book called predictably irrational. It’s it’s a great one about understanding how people think and how people can help each other. Ut’s it’s a great one.

Naji: Great. Any final word of wisdom that you have for the students you know around you, or the entrepreneur in healthcare, specifically, any final word from you?

Ahmed Mady: Well, I continue to learn from all our colleagues and from you, Naji, and from all amazing colleagues. And, I consider myself a student, you know, of life, continue to learn every day. The only thing I can share, you know, here is final words just being a good human, you know, is a shortcut to great leader. That’s one thing. The second, I would say that when you work with people and and you talk to them, people will always remember how you make them feel, not what you tell them. So be mindful of your words and how people can, you know, how people feel after you talk to them and there is a lot of humbling lessons that I learned during this, you know Fire crisis, and I continue to learn from every day from our employees and from everybody around around me.

Naji: Be a good human is a shortcut to be a great leader, it’s so powerful.

I wanna end with this sentence and thank you so much again, Ahmed for being with me today and for this genuine discussion, You shared such inspiring stories for us all to continue leading with genuine care and love for a better healthcare around the word.

Thank you all for tuning in today. Follow our podcasts for more inspiring stories from global leaders in healthcare. New episodes are released every other week, beyond the lookout and stay connected. Follow subscribe, leave a review on apple, Google, or Spotify.

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 SpreadLove in Organizations, a podcast for purpose-driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world, by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership, and love. I’m Naji, your host for this exciting episode from our new series focused on us, as leaders.

I still can’t believe with who I’ll be chatting today and not sure if I even need to introduce my guest, Amy Edmondson. Amy is the Novartis Professor of leadership and management at the Harvard business school. She teaches rights and “ruminates”, as she says, on organizational learnings, psychological safety, leadership, and teaming.

Amy is one of the most renowned thought leaders who won multiple awards and published the best books I’ve read. Her most recent book, The Fearless Organization, creating psychological safety in the workplace for learning innovation and growth is a must not only read, but a must learn and do in our organizations.

I can spend hours sharing my admiration for Amy and praising her impact on many of us leaders, trying to make the world we all inhabit a better place, but I’ll stop here. 

Amy, I am beyond thrilled having you with me on this podcast. 

Amy Edmondson: Well, you’re very kind, I’m very happy to be here. 

Naji: Amy, before diving in your incredible word of leadership, I’m eager to hear more about your personal journey from engineering to organizational behavior, and now being professor at Harvard and an influential self leader.

Can we hear more about your personal story? 

Amy Edmondson: I don’t think we have enough time to tell my whole story and I’m not sure it would be that interesting either, but I did have the great joy of working as an engineer, right out of college, working for Buckminster fuller, who was a remarkable inventor and designer and educator. And my job, during those three years was to do the hands on engineering drawings and, model building and, the calculations for some of the new geodesic domes. It was a great job. It was a great experience. And it was unique. It certainly helped me understand that I wasn’t going to be an engineer in the sense that I loved what I was doing, but it was very special, very special case.

And it was related more to making the world a better place. That was sort of the mission, the purpose, if you will, of the organization. And so my job then was to figure out where do I go from here? What is it that I’m uniquely able and drawn to do that might make a difference? And, so I wrote a book about Fuller’s mathematical work, that taught me that I enjoyed the process of writing and teaching, but I still didn’t have a field. And so I was fortunate to meet an entrepreneur who had a consulting business in organizational development. And, that was what ultimately opened the door to me, to studying organizations, to studying people at work, working in teams, trying to make their work better, ultimately trying to do the right thing for customers and communities.

And that was a great job,  as well. And it’s the job that led me to realize I needed more school. I didn’t have a business background. I didn’t have a psychology background. And that was the work I was doing. So I applied to a PhD program and I don’t think I fully appreciated that that’s a job that that’s a entry level job in an academic career, rather than a way to get smarter, and, come back out and make things happen in the world. So, I went to do a PhD. It was tough going at first, but I got through it and managed to get a faculty job at Harvard business school where I’ve been ever since for 25 years. 

Naji: Wow, and, this transition, you always mentioned kind of like the same thread of having an impact and making the word better.

 When did you discover the threat, your impact and the purpose that now you are doing every single day? 

Amy Edmondson: Well, I think it was you know, it’s emergent, it’s gradual, there isn’t a single moment of discovery. I. Just kept following my nose, I guess. And in the PhD program, some things didn’t seem like the kind of work I should do, and other things did seem like the kind of work I wanted to do. So as long as I stayed true to the questions that both seem to me to be important and, answerable and, especially answerable with the particular skills and methods I had developed, then I was okay, right? Then, things seemed to go well.

Naji: if we want to jump now in all the work that you have been leading, the research that you’ve been doing on leadership and the experiences that you’ve had, I wanna start with a high level question. If there is one trait for leaders that you believe is the most important one in the 21st century, what would that be?

Amy Edmondson: No question about it. Humility and, I don’t mean false modesty. I mean, the humility to understand you don’t have all the answers to stop and recognize that what lies ahead is complex, uncertain, novel, and it will take a lot of learning and a lot of engagement and help and input from other people to make progress.

So we and leaders have humility, they’re more able and willing to inspire and engage others, right? Because others feel that their input is needed, that they matter. And they do of course,  matter. So it’s the opposite of arrogance, leaders who have arrogance tend to put forward the message that it’s all about them and, I don’t think that’s a terribly effective leadership quality in today’s world. 

Naji: And, this is a great you segue to the fearless organizations, obviously as a leader and how you developed this. So the first question I had, because I’m a big obviously fan of all your work of the Fearless Organizations.

How did Fearless Organizations came to you and how do you define it specifically? 

Amy Edmondson: Well, I use that title for the book, the Fearless Organizations, because I don’t think psychological safety would be a very good title for the book. People would say, well, what is that? and, I’m not interested in that, but fearless organization sounds like something you might wanna learn more about, but what I mean is an organization that is very low in interpersonal fear. Meaning people feel quite able and willing to speak up with their ideas, their questions, their concerns. They get to admit mistakes. They get to experiment to, to learn on the fly. And they’re able to team up with each other because they’re able to be interpersonally fearless.And I don’t mean reckless, but I mean, just it’s not about me. It’s about us and I’ve got to be open. I’ve gotta be candid. I’ve gotta be willing to go for it, to play to win, if you will. 

And I got interested in this, I mean, I discovered the sort of importance of this kind of interpersonal climate by studying healthcare teams, by studying those teams and those clinicians who do such challenging and such high stakes work and where that willingness to speak up, to report a mistake or that willingness to speak up to ask for help when you’re not quite sure what to do is mission critical to the quality of care. And, so it was in studying healthcare organizations that I got interested in this. And then I found that it really was true in all sorts of other kinds of workplaces, too.

Naji: You brought the psychological safety to the business world, right? And we hear it more and more luckily in many different organizations. And it’s crucial, but yet, so many leaders try to do it, try to foster it. And I consistently see how many don’t even realize how fast you can destroy it, in fact, right? One simple meeting, one simple word, and suddenly people can, you know, shut down, stop speaking up. Any advice, for us as leaders on how to not only build, but sustain psychological safety within our teams?

Amy Edmondson: You know, I think we have to not, you know, not emphasize that you can destroy it, right? And then it’s gone, it’s blown up, right? Because I think that’s too strong. It is a more fallible human beings, all of us. And so we will at times do things that don’t work, right? We’ll inadvertently get upset or we’ll use a term or a phrase that is very counterproductive and, has a negative impact on others.

It’s all reparable, right? These are not life and death. They can feel like it. They can feel like life and death interactions, but they’re not, right? So I think the first thing one has to realize is that you can always repair a situation, right? When you make a mistake, interpersonally or otherwise own it, apologize, resolve to do better and, move forward, and that sets a good example, right? That’s modeling the behavior that helps other people, as well as yourself.  Continue to feel safe enough to be candid and that, and that’s what it’s all about. So we’re going to make mistakes. We need to do our best to keep learning and keep improving.

Naji: Yeah, recognizing it, and, as you’re saying apologizing for it, if it happens, but really bouncing back as a team. You know, one of the things I’ve always, we always hear, right? When we are trying to build such a culture and environment for people to feel safe to thrive, is this speed, the base of in a innovation, the base of how the word is going, and sometimes it’s put into contradiction with trying to build this trust, this psychological safe environment.  

So any thought on this, between this fast moving environment? 

Amy Edmondson: Yeah, I mean, I actually think we can get up to speed and to connect with each other and work relationships very quickly, right? And in a productive way. I mean, if, if I don’t know you and yet we have to do something together. I think I need to know three things and I think they can be conveyed in less than three minutes, right? One, I need to know what you are trying to do, right? What’s your goal? Two, I need to know what you bring, what skills, what resources, right? What experience? And three, I need to know what you are up against, right? What constraints are you aware of? You know, maybe your boss needs something from you by tomorrow. Maybe you have, you know, a daycare pickup at six. I mean, I just, so that’s it, right? Your goals, your resources and your constraints.

And then I need to tell you that in return, it’s a kind of strangely intimate thing to know. I mean, I think the first one goal that’s easy, but for me to tell you my skills, that’s a little harder for me to tell you my worries, my constraints, that’s a little harder still, but they’re all relevant, right? These aren’t personal in the sense of personal life. They’re work relevant, right? So, I think we want to not overplay the need for long slow deep explorations to feel comfortable with each other, but just enough, enough knowledge on the task relevant things that we can team up. 

Naji: I love this framework because, you know, one of the things as I was also reading all your research, was this hybrid world I wanted to get your reaction on, but the framework you just gave actually can do even virtually, to be better team player and to build our team.

But have you seen any challenges with the hybrid world and building cultures obviously totally virtually, right? Like there is no more this informal interactions, no small things that really build a culture sometimes, especially when you’re new in a team or as a leader leading a new organization.

Have you seen this in the virtual world? And have you seen some good ways for us?

Amy Edmondson: Yes. I think it’s a great deal more challenging. I think, in fact, we have a growing amount of data to show that this is challenging for us. We’re social creatures. We work virtually well, when we know each other a little bit, we can get to know each other. You and I are doing that right now, in a non face to face environment, but in a mediated communication setting.  But I think there’s no way around the recognition that some of the warmth isn’t there, some of the connection isn’t there, and so we need to find new ways to build that safety and to build that candor, we need to use rituals and tools to kind of make sure that we hear from each other and, share especially the most relevant information that we have.

Naji: And from those learning and you obviously also are an expert in teaming,  with the first research and book that you’ve done, and I remember one of the examples you gave and you gave it today again on healthcare emergency room. You know, it reminded me of some of my past life experiences. With the pandemic, actually, when I think of, it was a great example in some of the sectors of real teaming up, right? And we’ve seen what real teaming can do to humanity. 

Are you hopeful now that leaders have learned this lesson of how we should team up and changed the world? What are your thoughts or reflection about this? 

Amy Edmondson: I’m gonna be cautiously hopeful, because one of the things that was striking, I think for so many people, including me, was how quickly we could change and set up new systems and new ways of working, you know, virtually overnight, and in ways that we would’ve thought weren’t possible, right? But we had to do it. So we did it. And then we got better at it. We got better at not trying to talk when we’re on mute, we got better at sort of setting meetings up and maybe figuring out the right length for meetings and at engaging the students from a distance and, all of the rest.

So yes, it was a giant problem solving teaming opportunity. And I think it continues today. I think we continue to figure out to solve the problem of what works, what works best in this remote context and what doesn’t work well in a remote context. And then how do you solve the, you know, how do you design going forward the right mix, the right hybrid mix.

But I don’t think we know the answer yet. Right? I don’t think that those plans, those blueprints exist, I think we need to do a great deal more experimenting and testing and iterating. 

Naji: That would’ve been my question. Do you have any sense of how the future, you know, of work and building this culture would be, but it seems we need somewhere experimenting.

Amy Edmondson: Yeah, I think we have a lot more learning to do. I think we’re in danger of concluding too much from the last 18 months, but the last 18 months were very special. They were, first of all, it was new. Second of all, we didn’t have any choice. I mean, at least for large portions of that period, we had to be socially distant. We had to stay home and I think we were less sensitive to what we were missing. I think we will be going forward, right? I think again, we are social creatures and I think we need to be together some portion of the time or we lose our relationships. And if, you know, we were able to maintain many of them, maybe a good way to say this is that the Zoom happy hour phenomenon got old quickly, right? It was fun at first, you sort of saw your friends, you know, you had a beer, but after a little while, it was like, no, it’s just not, you really don’t wanna do it. And I think an implication of that was that, we realized this isn’t really socializing, right? This isn’t the same, the same is true for work, right? There’s some aspects of the workplace that really, it’s just really nice to be together. We laugh, we talk about the weekend. We feel a sense of camaraderie and connection. 

Naji: Yeah. We speak one over the other, in real happy hours. Yeah. You know, I thought a lot about it and I’ve been asked the questions with my, you know, childhood and, really, I kind of summed up in human works, right? Something that we really miss and we learned is that we missed this human warmths, right? So as you’re saying, we’re social, you know, very social at the end as a human being, which is good.  

Amy, I would love to get your first reaction on some words I will tell you, if you’re fine with this game. So the first one is leadership.

Amy Edmondson: Purpose. I mean, to leadership is about influencing others, to achieve important aims that one could not do oneself.

So leadership is about purpose.

Naji: What about team? 

Amy Edmondson: More than the sum of the parts, right. The team is about synergy, the team is about bringing different expertise and talent and strengths together to get more done than one could ever do alone

Naji: Innovation.

Amy Edmondson: Potential. It’s what we need. We need innovation to make a better world that works for everyone.

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

Amy Edmondson: Love, Buckminster Fuller said is metaphysical gravity, right? So gravity is a scientific, a physical force that makes two objects of mass attracted to each other. You know, fortunately, I’m very stuck on this earth right now because of gravity. It’s a wonderful thing instead of floating off, here I am. Love is metaphysical gravity, love is that the very real, but often under acknowledged connections that we all have with each other.

Naji: And do you see a place where it is in corporations and organizations? 

Amy Edmondson: Yes. And I see how people could misunderstand that, right? I think we love our, I mean, I think when we are fortunate, we love our work. We love our colleagues. But most importantly, we feel connected to both. We feel connected to the organization, we feel connected to our colleagues. We feel connected to the work. And that’s an invisible force that keeps us going.

Naji: And finally, I would love to have a final word of wisdom to all of us leaders around the world, in healthcare and, in any industry, 

Amy Edmondson: I don’t know if I have a word of wisdom, but I will say when I think about leadership, the most important thing that comes to mind is, remember it’s not about you, right?

I think when one falls into that trap of being self-centered, self-absorbed, self-protective, leadership is less effective, right? And, sort of remind, get it back to front and center of your mind that it’s about out the purpose and about other people being available for present for other people, then things tend to go well.

Naji: Great, that’s an amazing definition for leadership. Purpose, and then being here for others. 

Thank you so much, Amy, for your time, generosity and such an inspiring discussion. Thank you. 

Amy Edmondson: You’re very welcome. It’s great to be with you. 

Naji: Thank you all for listening to SpreadLove in Organizations’ podcast.

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.