Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the podcast for purpose-driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership, and love.
I am Naji, your host for this podcast joined today by Dave Noesges a retired pharmaceutical executive with Eli Lilly, where he spent 31 years in sales, marketing and general management roles in the US and abroad. He spent much of his career leading sales organizations in both the Neuroscience and Diabetes therapeutic areas. His last role was to lead the Lilly Diabetes sales teams of nearly 2,000 people as Lilly reestablished market leadership in diabetes over a 10- year period, and launched several best in class medicines. Dave is a 1984 graduate of the United States Military Academy and served 5 years as a combat engineer in the US Army, most of that time in West Germany. After the Army, he attended the Wharton School of Business where he graduated in 1991, joining Lilly immediately thereafter. Dave has been married for 35 years and has two grown children. He devotes his time now to caring for his 90 year-old father, spending as much time as possible with his wife and daughters and engages in many charitable endeavors through his church. He and his wife also travel extensively working on a long bucket list of international destinations.
Dave – it is such a pleasure to have you with me today.
Dave Noesges: Thank you, Naji. It’s great to be here with you and kind of get reacquainted, uh, from our lily time together. .
Naji Gehchan: Yeah. I I wanted to start, uh, first by this, I’m biased here in this discussion as I had the privilege to be in your team, Dave, uh, in the US and really see the incredible impacts you have as a leader and the culture you’ve built.
Uh, so before going there and how you’ve, you’ve done, you’ve done the sculpture. Uh, I would really love to hear more about your personal story from serving in the US Army to business school and then pharma. Uh, what can you tell us a little bit more about this inspiring journey and how you ended up leading large teams in the pharma organization?
Dave Noesges: Sure. You know, it’s, um, probably like many of us, um, um, so much of who I am as a result of, uh, my family upbringing and my background. And I, I think it’s, um, um, both the, the, the strengths and the development area is probably a result of that. But I, I grew up really in, in a. Family of fairly humble means. My dad was, uh, the first in, um, and only person in his generation to be a college graduate.
And so it was a very blue collar environment. Almost everybody I knew was, um, in the family and friends and kind of the, my parents’ social circle were, um, um, steelworkers and working and working class people. And uh, um, and, uh, you know, my dad was a bit of an outlier. Every, everybody else, the college graduates I knew were all teachers as my dad was.
And so that was kind of, The environment I grew up in, and it was, um, uh, a very family oriented environment. It was kind of small town America in a, in a steel town in northwest Indiana. And, um, um, you know, people looked out for one another. It was a very strong community. Um, um, it was a very Christian-based community, and certainly that’s a big part of, um, uh, of what motivates me and guides me.
My faith is very important to me. It was to my parents. Um, but I, I, I think it. My parents taught me more than perhaps any other attribute, the importance of humility. And, uh, and, you know, we can talk some more about that as to how I, it’s influenced me and how I think about leadership. But, um, you know, I like to say, especially my mom was always proud of me, but never impressed because the only things that ever impressed my parents were if I was a good father and a good husband, and, uh, uh, and taking care of the things that were really important.
They were intrigued by, uh, My ambition and, uh, my, um, um, competitiveness from my career standpoint, but it wasn’t, uh, uh, wasn’t who they are and what was most important. Uh, and then, then I think, um, so that’s the background. So you said that doesn’t sound like somebody who’s, uh, with that background that’s gonna be ambitious and wanna grow and take on leadership roles.
That’s where I think West Point really began to, to shape me. And, um, um, I, you know, I saw. A big world out there with lots of opportunity and so much that I could do, and to be able to live overseas and to be on the east coast in college and to be probably the first person in my high school to have gone to West Point.
And so all, all of that kind of opened my eyes to all this opportunity that I wanted to be a part of. It just was exciting to me. And, uh, um, but I, west Point also was foundational to me in terms of, um, my leadership journey and, uh, I think that, You know, there’s probably a lot of baggage, especially in the business world about what comes with military leadership.
It’s seen as very, um, uh, very structured and top down and, uh, and there’s some truth to that. And then, you know, this, it goes back, um, almost 40 years when I went to West Point. So it was a, you know, it was a different generation and, uh, there was kind of a, a bit of chauvinistic kind of approach to leadership.
But, um, but when you. When you really, uh, immerse yourself in leadership as, and West Point was trying to transition at that time and what they were teaching, the, probably the fundamental, uh, principle that I took away was, uh, one of leading by example. Um, the best military leaders in spite of the command and control mindset in that, um, put their soldiers first.
Um, You know, it was kind of, um, drilled into us from our early days that the leaders eat last. And if you’re in the field or you’re in the most difficult circumstances, you feed everyone. You take care of everyone before you take care of yourself, which is probably not what people think of the military.
But, um, you know, when you’re preparing people to, to lead folks in combat, which I never had the. Fortunately, never had to do. It’s, uh, um, you know, the command and control starts to, you want the discipline, but people aren’t gonna follow a leader into dangerous space unless they really trust them. They think that you have their best interest at heart.
And so those were the most important things that I took away, um, from, uh, my experience, uh, at West Point. And I, I think over time, Came to learn some of the blind spots that military leaders had. We, um, um, it could be very structured. We kind of looked for a leadership model that looked like ourselves. And, you know, I, I think my time in business school started to open my eyes to, um, uh, to very different constructs of leadership that, uh, made me kind of rethink as there, you know, what probably was a kinda single-minded approach to leadership in the military that I needed to open my mind to, and that began to help me evolve.
But, um, uh, maybe one of the most important parts of my leadership journey though, was to meet my, uh, my, uh, now wife of, uh, of 35 years. We met in West Germany. She was a, an American expat working in the airline industry for twa. And then, and, uh, Just a completely different perspective on, uh, on, uh, she, she was my mentor in the business world.
She’s the one that suggested business goal to me. She was the one that helped me to figure out how to, how to adapt my military leadership in a business environment and to probably soften the rough edges a little bit. And that was a really important part too. But I, I think those are the, probably some of the milestones before I got to Lilly that really shaped who I am and how I think about leadership.
Naji Gehchan: thank you so much Dave for sharing this and it’s, um, it’s already profound things that you shared that we will dig a little bit more into, uh, as we discussed. Uh, I would love to know why pharma. and how you started and you ended up staying for, for all your career in the
Dave Noesges: pharma world. Yeah, it’s a really, everybody asked me that Cause it’s not logical at, at, uh, first glance.
I mean, I was an engineer by training and a combat engineer. I was a civil engineer and you know, it, it. Um, um, and a lot of the career advisors when I was getting out of the military were suggesting that sales is, and marketing was not the right space for you to do something in operations. And, you know, that’s what a lot of my peers and colleagues did.
But, um, I, um, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew that I wanted to, um, uh, you know, I had learned in my time in the military. I, I, I really, um, um, Leadership opportunities and having a team, uh, was really important to, to, um, to, uh, what motivated me and inspired me. But, uh, you know, how I was gonna accomplish that, uh, outside of the military, I mean, I knew nothing about the civilian world.
I, I didn’t, uh, understand how businesses worked. I hadn’t had a single business course at West Point. I had lots of other yeah, courses, but, uh, uh, you know, I didn’t understand the profit motive. I just didn’t know what the opportunities were. And that’s where Mimi, my wife, really guided me. Business school is a good place to ex where you could explore that, where you could figure out what you wanted to do.
And as I got to business school and started to see the opportunities, um, you know, I, being at Wharton, which is a finance institution and a lot of ties to Wall Street there, um, uh, there and, and Wall Street has, has. Had a strong pull for mil former military talent. I think they got part of it because it can make you cannon fodder.
You can, these are people that are used to uh, uh, sacrifice and hard work and long hours and doing whatever you’re told. Wall Street culture and uh, and I was intrigued by. Wall Street opportunities. But, um, I realized though, as I was exploring those opportunities that I just couldn’t get excited about.
And as important as Wall Street is, and I, I’m a capitalist, but I just couldn’t get excited about what, to me seemed, at its essence is buying and selling money. It just wasn’t, uh, the purpose I wanted. And I realized that what I was going to miss from my time in the military, uh, , uh, was the purpose driven culture.
We had a clear mission. It was important. We believed in it, we could all rally behind it, and I needed to to find that. And it was, um, probably, certainly somewhat cer serendipity that I found in the pharmaceutical industry. But I started to explore that because I thought that’s something I could get excited about.
Um, Breakthroughs that are gonna save lives and change lives. And, um, the serendipity was just that I happened, there happened to be a recruiter, uh, coming on campus for the summer internships at Lilly, who’s, uh, I learned later her dad was a retired, uh, colonel in the Army. And so my, uh, resume caught her attention in a way that it probably wouldn’t have most others.
And, uh, she encouraged me to think about Lily. I didn’t, you know, even though I’d grown up in northwest Indiana, I didn’t know much about Lily. And so I. Planning to come back home. My wife’s from Philadelphia. We figured our life would be on the East Coast. And, uh, but I came for a summer internship and I, I, it, uh, I knew this was, Lilly was where I wanted to be because I, I felt like every person I met believed in the mission.
They believed in what we were doing at Lilly. Uh, they were good people trying to make a difference in people’s lives. And that was really important to me. If I was gonna, um, you know, hopefully someday be a leader, was to have a mission that I could really get behind and. , and this is,
Naji Gehchan: uh, this is exactly what we do right?
In the healthcare and biopharma industry. Yes. And why I wake up every morning and you’ve touched so many lives by, by doing what you do with your teams. Uh, Dave, uh, so, and you have led team in different geographies, large organizations. Uh, as I shared la the latest team was more than 2000 people across the us.
Uh, what, what has been your recipe? for leading successfully, and I should say consistently high performing teams.
Dave Noesges: Well, I, you know, I, I, um, have reflected a lot on my leadership principles and what I think is really important, and I, I think that. I mentioned this from my West Point background. I think what is foundational to being able to be a successful leader is to have a, um, a, a belief in, but also to walk the talk around leading by example.
I, I think that, um, we spend way too much time as leaders talk, talking about what needs to happen and what our communication’s gonna be and, and not enough time about, um, How are we gonna lead from the front? How are we gonna show people, how are we gonna teach? How are we gonna, um, live the, um, um, the standards that we were ex expressing people to have?
So I, I think it’s really important to have a, a clear vision, uh, clear direction. I, I believe in, um, clear standards and accountability. But, um, um, but most important in that is that, um, the people who. who, who hopefully are gonna trust your leadership, know that, um, you’re not gonna ask them to do anything that you don’t do first, and you don’t step up from the front.
And it’s, you know, it’s probably cliche, but I, I really believe that, um, um, you know, leaders need to, to internalize and take the blame, but give the credit, uh, externally and to mean that when you do it. And, and that’s probably foundational. Uh, um, I also am not, I think that, um, one of my early. Earliest in lingering leadership learnings was, um, um, That I needed to be more humble and, uh, I think I’m generally a humble person, but the leadership construct, especially 20 or 25 years ago in the business world, was very much, um, confident leaders, strong.
That was the military ethos. And the, uh, extreme of that though is that you believe you have to have all the answers and you need to project that. And, um, you know, I found over time, and it sounds silly when in h. But, um, if I thought I had all the answers, I was the only person in the room that I thought I had all the answers, and I can stifle others kind of coming forward and stepping forward.
You have to admit ex mistakes. You have to be willing to, um, to admit to the people working for you that I don’t have the answer. And, and sometimes to say that I, I, I tru I believe you have the have, are more likely to have the answer, to have the innovation than I am because I know you and I know what you bring out and to pull that outta people.
But, um, you have to be humble to do. Uh, and, uh, exude that humility, I think. And, um, if you do, I people will rally behind you. Uh, uh, and I think that what many of us as leaders are afraid of is if we show humility and we kind of show our weakness and, and what we’re not good at, that people won’t trust us as leaders.
I don’t think that’s the case at all. Not have that has to be coupled, but confidence. But I, I think that’s the. Recipe for success, uh, for a leader is humility and confidence. Uh, I think more often than not run together. You show me a, a, um, an arrogant leader, and I’ll show you somebody who, um, uh, if you really get to know them, they have some deep-seated insecurities and the, the arrogance is trying to compensate for that.
And so I think humility. And then the last thing that. I think it’s really important if you’re gonna rally people behind you as you, you have to know them and you have to be able to help tie, um, their motivations and their beliefs to the broader organizational purpose. And that means you’ve gotta get really close to people.
You’ve gotta disclose to them, you’ve gotta open it up by. You know, back again to my early years of leadership, I got a, the worst advice I got from a lot of leaders in that generation where you can’t get too close to your people. You need to be able to hold ’em accountable and fire, and fire. And, um, and it created a leadership construct of distance between leader and people.
And, uh, I think that’s just exactly wrong. I, I do, there’s. You’re too close to your people. If you can’t make a tough decision and make a tough business decision, you can’t, um, um, that can include downsizing and, and hiring and firing and making those decisions, but, uh, as long as you, um, Can make the tough calls on behalf of the business.
I don’t think you can ever be, uh, um, I don’t think you can ever be, uh, too, too close, uh, to, uh, to your people and, uh, um, and, uh, um, you know, they’ll draw the line. There’s a place where everybody has, wants to be private and don’t want you involved, and I think you have to stop as a leader there and accept that.
And, uh, but up to that point, uh, we, uh, um, and we’re getting better in the business world and we’re comfortable with that. Uh, and I, I think it’s just so important. You, you
Naji Gehchan: really gave three key recipes, uh, living the standards that transfer people to have humility and confidence and get close to your people.
And as you were sharing, I’m, I’m intrigued to get more into how did this, how did you transform as a leader towards this? Because as you said, Military leadership potentially is different. Also, leading was kind of command and control top down, right? Like, it was not this type of organization we talk about today, like more, uh, you know, more inclusive, more degraded.
Mm-hmm. . So I, I’m intrigued as you grew, because there is some leaders still leading in command and control. They believe this, they believe leadership by fear. and you potentially came from this and totally transformed into servant leadership and leading with care and with love for people to deliver on the purpose.
So I’m, I’m really intrigued. Like, is there a story or an experience behind why you changed? How, how did, how did this happen? Yeah. It’s,
Dave Noesges: um, I’ve reflected a lot on this and I, I think there were three events that. That, and I won’t go into too much detail, but, uh, I’ll briefly describe that we’re really foundational and really kind of, um, caused me to, um, reflect more and to think more and to be open to growth in this area.
Um, and then a lot of it’s just incremental after that it’s experience. But the first one was, um, my first, um, Leadership role. I was a first line supervisor with 12 salespeople and an oncology Yep. District manager position. And I was going through that annual review process and um, I had a young woman who was about as different from me as, uh, somebody could possibly be who was on my team, but she was very confident.
She was, um, she’s what people would’ve described as a punk rocker in terms of her look. And she liked that kind of, From that time, and that was something that I could not relate to at all. But she was a great salesperson. Better than I could ever hope to be, I think. But we, I’d finished her performance review and she was really a good performer.
And at the end of that, I kinda asked what used to be the throwaway question, do you have any feedback for me? And especially in those days at Lilly, people tended to say, oh, I’m so lucky, so lucky to have you as a coach and , and it was kinda a formality and, and she said to me, there is one thing that I wanted to share with you.
And she said, I don’t, I know this isn’t your intent, but you are more comfortable with the men on the team than the women on the team. And it makes us feel excluded. And, um, and it’s mostly in a social setting. At dinner, you’re comfortable talking to the guys and that’s who, where your background is and, and, uh, um, I was devastated by the feedback, um, because it’s not who I wanted to be and half of my team were women.
And, uh, um, I went home and told my wife I got the feedback and she kinda laughed and said, well, yeah, no kidding. Duh, you up in the military yet. I mean, in the military it was a combat unit. At that time there were no women, so I had never led women, I hadn’t interacted with a lot of women in my professional life, and I had a huge blind spot.
Had she not shared with me, I never, I, you know, I, I look back on that sometimes and say, what, where would I be now? And I not gotten that feedback. I think that’s the single most important feedback anyone has ever given me, uh, in my professional life. And it, it, um, It’s not who I wanted to be, and it, it just opened my eyes to a blind spot.
And, and then I started to explore what, what my i, my other blind spots be and, um, and how can I grow from there? That was the first thing. The second thing was, it was the early days of Lilly trying to, uh, um, to be serious about diversity and inclusion, and we had started an African American foreign forum for our African American employees, and I, I was.
Invited by, uh, a colleague in Pier who was, uh, who was African American to come in. I was one of the first, uh, I think, and I was in middle management at the time, one of the first kind of white leaders to go to the forum because it started out as kind of a form of African Americans talking about how do we thrive at Lilly And um, It was a very uncomfortable experience because I was immersed for the first time in my life, probably in a culture that was different from mine, and I was the minority, at least in for a snapshot in time.
And, uh, um, I, I, I went, uh, every year after that for probably 25 years at Lilly to the African American Forum and just decided and realized then how much, if you wanna be an inclusive leader, you’ve gotta immerse yourself in. In other people’s world as much as you can to understand them and to be uncomfortable and ask uncomfortable questions that sometime are inadvertently offensive because you’re trying to understand and they will give you a lot of grace.
And it, um, uh, it gave me courage to say, I gotta try this again. And I’ve gotta get more comfortable and, and, uh, and learn and to, and to, to realize how much that must be getting in the way of me being able to connect with people and to be a leader. But, uh, the last thing was, After my first daughter was born, I had, um, Lily was reading this book called The One Minute Manager, which was, uh, the, I don’t know if you’ve ever read it, Naji, but it’s, it was an old throwaway book, but it was a guy who used these simple little anecdotes to talk about what coaching should be and how we’re getting it wrong in corporate America, but.
The one that got my attention because I had a young daughter, was he had this, uh, analogy that he shared about, uh, his, his assertion was that we are all at our very best, generally as coaches, uh, uh, in, in how we, uh, how we raise our children. And the best example of that, he said of what we should do, uh, whether you’re a parent or not, you think you can relate to this, is the experience of a child learning to take their first steps.
And it just had a profound impact on me and, and every instinct. Almost every parent, unless you’re just an awful parent or, uh, a cousin or an aunt or an uncle, or anyone else, when you see a kid, take that first step is to, uh, is to celebrate the victory, to be wildly enthusiastic. Um, and if, if you think about it in the context of, um, coaching in a corporate environment, those first steps are clumsy.
They’re, they usually end up in failure. They fall over and they land on their face and they wanna cry and they look up to see how mom and dad, uh, are reacting and. Almost in every case, a young child like that gets re positive reinforcement that says, oh, you’re the most special person in the world because you’re learning to walk.
And uh, and it has a profoundly positive impact, impact on a child’s, um, uh, confidence, uh, their wellbeing, uh, their self-confidence, and. You know, most kids who don’t have that environment, they’re going to learn to walk anyway because we’re pretty resilient, uh, as human beings. But I, it, it caused me to pause and think about a, a leadership construct that was pretty prevalent at that time and still lingers, I think.
And we spent an awful lot of time as leaders in corporate America. Criticizing people for their mistakes, fixing what’s broken, um, making sure they know that they got this wrong and they need to get better and they need to raise their standards. Um, and, you know, I, it’s, um, um, raising children. I mean, you know this n naji, you’ve got young children as well.
Um, you have very high expectations for your kids, probably higher than you have for just about anyone else because you love them. But it comes. Positive reinforcement and care and compassion and wanting them to do better. And, uh, it, it really caused me to realize how much that wasn’t what I was doing, and I needed to do more of that.
And I, I think I’ve gotten better and better at that, at realizing that this isn’t a Pollyanna, you need to be a cheerleader. You still hold people to a high standard. But, um, the vast majority of people who work with us, Are trying to be successful. They’re trying to deliver on the mission. They care a lot and, uh, uh, it makes no sense at all to spend so much time trying to fix what’s broken in them, but rather to take what they’re doing well and encourage them and, and help them believe that they can do more.
And so I, I think that that, uh, was really an important, uh, insight for me. That’s, uh, that’s guided me for the rest of my, uh, leadership.
Naji Gehchan: Those are incredible stories Dave. Thanks for sharing them. It’s, and it’s powerful and I can atest because I lift this leadership when I was, when I was in your team. And again, I think it shows really those stories shows your humidity, uh, and also your vulnerability.
Accepting them, living them, and, and transforming. So, thank you. My, my other questions was on something you really touched heavily on in those examples, which is diversity, equity, inclusion. Mm-hmm. , uh, I know you’re passionate about this. Uh, you’ve done a huge, uh, strives to, to make changes that matter. You know, not only leading by example, you led by example and you made sure.
Each of us is making, uh, you know, those moves for a more equitable, uh, teams internally and externally. Uh, and, and you, you’ve done it obviously across talent management across a very large organization. So I’m interested to know how did you make sure you create this caring culture throughout your leadership team and also across the all organization that I can say at some point became a community.
Really a community where we cared for one another and we had the sense of belonging. How, how did you do this and how did you make sure that it’s lived throughout the years you were there?
Dave Noesges: Yeah, it’s a good question. Naji and I, I think that, um, it’s, um, it starts with, um, real accountability. I think when I, when I, um, um, really got serious about having a more diverse and more equitable and inclusive organization, I, I think that the foundational step is to be very clear that, um, you’re going to build the diverse organization that we’re gonna break down barriers to that, um, If somebody claims they don’t have a blind spot or that, that, that we don’t have an unlevel playing field, that um, you know, I’m gonna show ’em the statistics that suggests otherwise and we’re not gonna accept that.
And it’s just, uh, there was a pretty kind of tough, clear accountability. And, um, when I really started with my team, uh, especially in the diabetes organization on this journey, it started. Um, with data that showed that we were falling short, that showed that, you know, minorities and others were, um, uh, were falling behind and were having the same level of success.
And even going back to, to look at resumes and say they had the same credentials, the same, uh, uh, they should be doing as well. And there’s the, if we’ve gotta look in the mirror and say we’re not doing well enough, but then to establish very. Milestones and accountability and to treat it, um, not like a kind of soft and squishy people issue, which is what we sometimes do in a corporation.
But, um, this is a business accountability and, uh, uh, and so that was the most important first step, I think. Uh, but I, I think you can only get to, uh, An equitable and inclusive organization if you, uh, uh, if you improve your representation, and it gets to the point where it really, where the, the leadership team looks like the, the, the population of people who are, uh, reporting to us and looks like the communities that, uh, in our case, in sales that we’re interacting with.
And so you’ve gotta get the representation right first. Um, but then you have to explicitly hold leaders accountable to, uh, And to measure it. And you know, I think we’ve had some good systems at Lilly that weren’t mine that I applied though that, um, uh, 360 feedback and concepts that are, you know, everybody tries to use, but you have to make it real.
It’s, uh, and you have to avoid, the temptation is very strong to, uh, forgive a leader who’s not very, Who delivers a couple of years of over, over, uh, uh, performance and kinda squeezes the results out of people, you know, they’re not gonna sustain that. But it’s, uh, it’s very easy for a company to reward that.
And then you lose credibility. And so you have to not accept that. And it means that you’re gonna, in some cases, uh, um, Not promote someone who’s got delivered great business results cuz they’re not developing people and they don’t have a, a track record. A track record of talent development. You’ve gotta couple it with that.
And so I, I think it um, um, and one of the things that I think is really important that, um, You know, for you and others who are in senior leadership positions now have to realize though, is that um, you need some longevity in a role to really change a culture. And in our construct, at least at Lilian, I think in many companies is a lot of rotations.
And, and, uh, you know, I spent the last 13 or 14 years and of my career in one role, which really allowed me to kind of shape a culture and build an organization. And I realized the degree to which. You know, for many years as a top talent, uh, by Lil’s standard, I was two or three years in one place, and you go to the next place that can create a temptation to, uh, take shortcuts and to have the overwhelming pressure to deliver a short term result and not be paying attention to the longer term of people development.
I, I think it’s a challenge that, um, um, you know, companies in healthcare and everywhere else have is how do you, how do you find that balance? Because I, I think it, it takes a, a sustained effort if you’re really gonna influence. Build a culture.
Naji Gehchan: Thanks a for that. And I, I love this concept that you brought and like always focusing on it.
Behavior is right, and recognizing behavior is even above results at some point. So if it’s good results, bad behaviors, you’ve always, and, and one of the behaviors and culture is obviously inclusion that you were focused on. I would give you now one word and I would love to get your first reaction to it.
What comes to mind. Okay. Okay. So the, the first one is leader.
Dave Noesges: I’d, I’d start with, um, humility. I, you know, I, I think that’s foundational to everything. Um, um, humility allows you to be a coach that people wanna follow. It allows you to make connections so people will trust you. It, it, um, allows you to, um, recognize mistakes so you can change course when you need to.
I, I think humility’s the, the most important, uh, and probably underappreciated attribute of, um, of leadership. , what about success? Success. I, that’s an, that’s an interesting one. It’s, um, you know, in the business world it tends to be, So we tend to bring it down to the essence of, um, of earnings and sales growth and, and quota achievement.
And those things, those are really important. I think you’ve got to have, um, and, um, and care about and have a central focus around, um, uh, around the specific business objective. Uh, I mean that’s, uh, what we’re about. But, um, but, um, if that’s, That’s the only definition. I think you’re gonna fall away short.
Nobody’s gonna wanna be a part of that team cuz you can deliver business results year in and year out and have a group of people who are dissatisfied and, and um, and uh, not rewarded in their careers. And so that, that’s why I think that success successes got to include. Helping people understand what really matters to them and what really motivates them, and being able to tie the business objectives and the success of the organization to what motivates individuals and motivates pe um, uh, teams.
And, um, you know, when I, I learned that about myself, that, um, The most important thing, what energizes me, what gets me up in the morning, what, uh, uh, makes me feel successful is to be a part of a successful team who have a shared purpose, who are attacking that purpose, who are working together, who have each other’s back, and, um, that feeling a team and being a part of that and wanting to accomplish the goals.
Um, that journey was way more important to me than actually the business result. But it was a means to an end and it got to the business result. And when I realized that, I knew that’s what was gonna drive me. And, uh, I think. Um, it’s gonna be a little different for other people, but I think most people wanna be a part.
Um, especially if you’re choosing a business, uh, career. You wanna be a part of a team that’s doing something that matters, uh, to you. And, and, uh, if you can, uh, if you can rally that together and define success that way, I think the business results will come. What about
Naji Gehchan: leaders eat last?
Dave Noesges: Yeah, it’s um, It’s the military’s, uh, way of describing servant leadership.
And, um, it, it, um, um, I, I think it’s so fundamental and so foundational. If, um, uh, if you wanna be a leader who people want to follow, um, you have to eat last. And it comes in every respect. They need to know that, um, you’re willing to make a sacrifice on their behalf, that you’re willing to go to bat for them if, uh, if they feel like they’ve been mistreated, um, that you’re gonna be an advocate for their career.
Delivered, um, that you’re gonna forgive them and help them overcome it if they’ve made a mistake, even if it’s a pretty significant mistake. And, um, that, um, if you’re giving someone really tough feedback. It’s, um, uh, it’s not because you’ve got a big ego and you wanna just be, you know, and prove who’s the boss, but it’s because you just wanna make them better, and they’ve gotta believe that.
So I, I think that, um, yeah, it, it’s, um, servant leadership means everything to people. I mean, I, you know, I’ve often, as I talk to young leaders and at Lilly and. and in other organizations now, um, now I always ask them, um, what do they want in a coach? And what, what may the think about the best coach, the best leader, the best mentor you ever had?
What were the attributes that they brought to, uh, to the table? And, uh, it’s, they may not say that Leader eight lasts, but they’re gonna describe all of those attributes that come from, um, putting others first and, and being a servant leader. And, uh, Uh, and caring about them and making them better. And often it’ll, it’ll include some really tough feedback and real challenge.
And they stretched me and sometimes I couldn’t stand them cause they just kept pushing me. But I always knew, uh, they were doing it because they wanted me to be better, not because they were trying to be better.
Naji Gehchan: The last one is spread love and organizations.
Dave Noesges: Yeah. It’s interesting. I, I, um, it, um, The idea of spreading love in an organization was uncomfortable for me.
Um, and, and probably, um, till very late in my career, if you’d said, how do you spread love? I would’ve been like, well, there’s, that’s not what we do here, Naji. This is work. And it’s, you know, it’s supposed to be tough and it’s, um, but you know, it, um, so much of what we’ve been talking about is about. Caring deeply for other people and people who are different from you and trying to help them be better and some self-sacrifice and, um, um, it, it’s, um, I, I think spread love in an organization is not about, uh, intimacy and the, the feelings that you have for a spouse or a family member, but it is about, Deep caring for other people and wanting to see them succeed and rallying behind them when they have, um, a difficult c circumstance, whether it’s in their, uh, in, in their business life or in their personal life, and caring enough about them to be there for them.
And, uh, you know, it, it, um, People will, um, will, will run toward a leader that, um, is there for them, uh, when they need them the most and when they didn’t expect it and run from a leader who’s not there for ’em, uh, under difficult circumstances. The challenge for organizations, uh, uh, and a healthcare company is how do you.
um, how do you as an organization demonstrate to people that, um, that you care for them and you, and you love them in, in that sense? And, uh, um, and, you know, organizations don’t love people, but, uh, I think the recipe there is you’ve gotta hire leaders at every level, and especially at the most senior level, who, um, lead by example in that way and really put their people first and.
um, and, and are willing to exemplify that in the most difficult circumstances. And, uh, um, there’s, uh, probably precious few companies that, that, uh, um, that most of their people feel like that’s what, what their leaders look like and how they operate. Well, thanks
Naji Gehchan: for that, Dave. What, what a great way to sum up and really.
Define what, what, what we mean by love. Also on this podcast, it’s really what, what you’ve shared throughout. So you are definitely spreading love in the organization as you’ve built those teams. Any final word of wisdom for healthcare leaders around the world?
Dave Noesges: You know, I, um, One is, uh, um, you know, as I see the political world now, an increasing challenge and there’s a lot of suspicion of, uh, of healthcare and, um, um, and, uh, y you know, a lot of, uh, I think, uh, public policy challenges that are, um, That have the potential to undermine innovation, it’s gonna take a lot of courage and a lot of, um, um, uh, just stay with it and tenacity to believe in the mission to, uh, to continue to innovate and what may not be the most innovation friendly, uh, environment from a.
Kind of geopolitical standpoint. And that just takes a lot of grit and a lot of tenacity and, and a lot of belief that we’re making a difference. Um, when you may have a lot of people telling you, and a lot of people telling your, your young people who have a, that, you know, this is a greedy or, um, um, Kind of, uh, institution and you can’t be trusted.
But, um, there’s so much good that’s coming outta biotech and healthcare. We’ve gotta believe in what we’re doing. We’ve gotta be humble about how we share that. We’ve gotta challenge ourselves and realize when, um, when our medicines truly are unaffordable and, uh, what we’re gonna do about that. But, um, it, it’s, uh, uh, if we’re gonna continue to have future generations that have longer life expectancies and we have, um, we, we’ve got to live our mission in, in healthcare, um, The other thing on a more personal note that I’ve, as I’m retired now and in a different phase of my life, that I’ve, um, um, wish I had.
Uh, been more thoughtful about when I was, uh, going through my career journey is to enjoy the journey. Um, the journey’s way more rewarding than the destination. I think so much of career steps were, when’s the next promotion, when’s the next success? Are we gonna make plan or not? And, um, I probably didn’t stop along the way and, uh, enjoy the moment enough and, uh, and enjoy that to what I.
Um, uh, was my why, which is with a great group of people pursuing a goal and the pursuit of the goal is much more exciting than achieving the goal and for me at least. And, and then the, the last thing is when you reach that retirement date and you look back on it, at least for me, I realize that, um, people to me, weren’t the most important thing.
They were the only thing that matters. When I look back at my Lilly career, the people that impacted me, the people that mentored me, people who I were, was able to mentor and grow and develop, and who I know appreciated that. Uh, it’s, uh, uh, all of my fond memories of, you know, 31 years at Lilly are about people.
Um, and that not about the business. And I think there’s a probably a lesson in that for all of us.
Naji Gehchan: Wow. Thank you so much again for those precious words of wisdom and, and incredible advice. Uh, again, it was an honor to be in your team and really honor to have you with me today. Thanks for joining me.
Dave Noesges: It’s my pleasure, Naji. Thank you.
Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform
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