Have you ever felt like work was taking over your life, leaving you with little time for personal pursuits? Dr. Baktari knows the feeling, and he’s here to guide us through the strategies he’s learned in his journey. In this episode, we have Dr. Jonathan Baktari, the CEO of eNational Testing, e7 Health, and US Drug Test Centers, who shares his wisdom on achieving a harmonious balance between career and personal well-being. Dr. Baktari discusses the evolving nature of the workforce, emphasizing how each generation brings unique challenges and opportunities. From the industrial era to the digital age, one thing remains constant – change. Are you ready to adapt? Dr. Baktari also expounds on the role of a CEO, believing that it’s not just about profits but improving the lives of everyone in the organization. Find out how Dr. Baktari maintains balance in his life, from regular workouts to family time, hobbies, and a commitment to mindfulness. Tune in now!
- 00:30 – Embracing Workforce Evolution
- 18:12 – A CEO’s True Role
- 27:44 – The Danger of Burnout
- 53:25 – Dr. Baktari’s Personal Balance
How do we leverage continuous uncertainty to thrive in this unprecedented new world?
The answer is to build the resilience we need to power us through the challenges we face so that we become “Change Proof.” Prepare to tackle the future with confidence by reading Adam’s latest book Change Proof: Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience.
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From Burnout To Brilliance: The CEO’s Crucial Role In Workplace Evolution With Dr. Jonathan Baktari
In this episode, we have Dr. Jonathan Baktari. He is a CEO, a vaccine expert, and a physician with specialties in internal, pulmonary, and critical care medicine. With that background, Dr. Baktari has launched multiple innovative startups that leverage technology that expands and disrupts traditional markets. He’s also focusing on growing a corporate culture that empowers leadership and staff to innovate. I know you’re going to love this conversation with Dr. Baktari. He’s a special guy who’s got very interesting insights on so many things. Sit back and enjoy this conversation I have with Dr. Jonathan Baktari.
Jonathan, to say that you have an impressive CV or bio is putting it mildly. You’re a very accomplished person professionally and personally. What I’m going to ask you relates to that bio but also is different. What is one thing that is not part of your standard introduction, your bio, that you would love for our audience to know about you? One thing that’s not written in that bio you would love for people to know about you.
In terms of profession, over the years, I’ve become a mentor to so many people and been lucky enough to get involved and change people’s lives professionally, especially to make them grow and become leaders. That slips through the crack of this professional mentor or people I’ve been mentoring for decades. That’s an important thing for any organization and it’s something I’m very proud of.
It’s amazing to see some of the people that I’ve had a chance to work with blossom into these amazing professionals. They started their career not knowing. I was giving them direction and skills through the mentoring process by having deep long conversations about big eye view and top view of things that they need to understand. That’s been a joy. That doesn’t fall into the bio anywhere but it’s been a tremendous amount of fun.
Immediately what’s coming up for me is in the environment of work, we have a lot of new relationships to the way in which we work. Before the pandemic, everybody was in the office. It was very rare in a traditional setting for people to work other than here and there a little bit outside of the office. We’re primarily there. Now, we’re primarily not there, at least at the moment. It’s hybrid and fully remote. Very few organizations have gotten everybody back in the office to where they were before the pandemic. My question to you has to do with mentorship at the outset.
Do you see anything that is either anecdotal evidence of it or something more scientific? What are your thoughts on where will mentorship be as a result of this new situation? Even the newest of our employees that are coming into the workforce, the youngest of those folks, perhaps coming out of college, grad school, or something like that, or wherever are not spending time in a physical office with a senior-level leader that might become their mentor. What’s going to happen to mentorship do you think?
I have a contrarian view on this whole work-from-home thing. Even during the pandemic, on my podcast when everybody was at home, they get interviewed and they’re like, “Is this the wave of the future? Are office buildings going away?” I said, “First of all, 60% to 70% of people can’t work from home anyway. When you look at the whole workforce, if you’re a waitress or doing construction, you can’t work from home.”
Practically speaking, the whole concept is slightly overblown because some people like myself maybe in industries could work but in the vast majority of industries, it doesn’t work. If you are in construction, the service industry, or at the ballpark, you’re not going to work from home. That’s number one. If you take 60% to 70% of the workforce out of it, we’re talking about a smaller group.
Within that group, the trend has been to bring them back. In my personal feeling, will there be 5% to 10% of the workforce that has moved to home? Yes, but in terms of looking at the workforce, I see it slowly creeping back. You see Twitter making an announcement. Will it be tough to claw all of them back? Yes, but the way I view it is it’s coming back.
At the end of the day, the creativity, the culture of the things we’re about to talk about, and the mentorship, you can’t just throw that out the window. To some level, it is. The last thing is that most senior-level people understand people who work remotely but there is a good 5%, 10%, to 15% that are kicking butt at home. Let’s be honest. There’s another 80% that are walking the dog, getting a second job, or whatever it is. I don’t have this romantic vision of working at home.
I’m sorry to be laughing. To me, the idea is hysterical. Maybe somebody is reading this and going, “Is that what’s going on? The people that I’m paying money to are walking the dog and getting a second job.
That’s the thing. They’ll take the 1 or 2 outliers that are killing it at home because their freedom and productivity have gone through the roof but then everyone wants to point out the outliers. You and I have had lunch with people who are working from home and they tell us, “It’s been great spending more time with this. I picked up this hobby and I’m doing this. I’m doing some consulting work on the side.” I’ve had those lunches. Those are anecdotes.
My anecdotes are supported by the leadership in a lot of these organizations coming to that realization. Even if the productivity is the same, you still use the old conversations at the water cooler metaphorically. “How are we going to deal with this client?” “I’ve dealt with them before. This is the way you should approach them.”
I’m such a contrarian but how is that a win missing out on those conversations? It can’t be. It’s just by definition. We’re wrapped up in the romance of this new age. Why didn’t we think of this earlier thing? Probably a decade from now, it’ll be a remnant of COVID. Yes, there will be a handful of people but it will slowly fade away.
We’re going to have to get back together in a decade because I find where my instincts have me leaning, it’s neither going to be before COVID the way it is. It’ll be some blend of the two. Not either/or but both, let’s say. For sure, the jury is still out on productivity. I haven’t seen anything definitive either way, frankly, about the productivity piece. We’ll see. There are people who take advantage.
Any excuse to procrastinate or be lazy on somebody else’s dime, there will always be that small percentage of folks but a lot of people are figuring out how they work well, which happens to be the name of our company. The other aspect is you spoke to that water cooler conversation on how we handle this client situation. I remember getting into my work early on. It was an apprenticeship but in the legal world or the law, it wasn’t that. You were an intern.
One particular attorney took me under his wing and I learned so much by being in proximity to him. I remember he would pop into my little office, stick his head in the door at about 4:00 in the afternoon, and ask me a snide but funny question about what I was so busy doing. I hadn’t come out of my little hovel all day long and he wanted to know why I was so busy. What was so important that I was buried in there? The mentorship piece, I can’t imagine that the mentorship component is any easier when you are not in proximity physically.
You’re arguing my case because if we put the productivity thing on the side, I’m going to disagree with you. The data isn’t. The problem is we all make decisions based on our anecdote but globally speaking, productivity is a big issue. Secondly, this mentorship, whether you want to call it mentorship. I always used to say that even the idle chatter of your mentors is worth hearing. How do they deal with an annoying situation or a surprise that shows up?
I’m sure in the younger stages of our career, something would come out of the blue and we think it was a catastrophe. Our mentor would say, “Don’t sweat this one.” We’ve had those conversations. I’m such a contrarian on this issue. When you put it all together, I’m not sure the jury is out. If you talk to high-level HR people, especially the bigger companies, they have the data because they can measure productivity. There’s a massive impact on productivity. You and I hang out with the outliers who are killing it at home but the outliers don’t make the data. That’s the overall perspective.
We’ll be able to do a part two on this one but I love that comment or quote right there. I’m going to repeat it for our audience and I want to remember it too. “The idle chatter of mentors is worth hearing.” There was a study in the ’70s that was called Weak Ties. It was the weak tie connection. It was a way in which they were measuring, not productivity but innovation.
In the early ’70s, they were using maybe 3M and some other companies that were pretty innovative at that point in time. They said that often, some of the greatest innovations occurred when these random collisions of people occurred at the water cooler in the break room. When somebody from accounting ran it to somebody from marketing, these folks were not in each other’s silos and weren’t routinely conversing about things. They had that idle chatter or that conversation randomly. All of a sudden, a light bulb goes off.
Adam, you’re arguing my point. I’m going to give you a little grief on this.
We’re on the same side of things. I want to use it for a different purpose. You and I both work in the sense of how to create greater organizational overall health. You might not use that term even though you are a physician. That was your area of expertise and you pivoted. I want to get to that story of your personal pivot. I pivoted out of the law. I worked in that arena for eighteen years and I was not happy a lot of that time. I was burned out.
When I made the decision, it didn’t even seem like I had a choice in it. When I left the practice of law, I was on a collision course with the “classic midlife crisis,” instead I had a bit of a midlife calling and reinvention. You and I very much share this in common. At the time that occurred, the reason why it was dire and I didn’t feel like I even had a choice, honestly, was because I was burnt out. The level of burnout in the corporate space has only risen exponentially over the last few years. We’re seeing it in a lot of different ways.
When I’m asking you about how people work well, whether it’s going to be in the office, some other remote, or hybrid capacity, I’m thinking in terms of sustainability and longevity. Lawyers ask me this all the time. If I knew then what I know now about how to take care of myself and create greater resiliency using certain rituals, I could have stayed in the law without having to make that pivot. I’m glad I didn’t but I could have.
What strategies would you have used to avoid the burnout?
This is a part of the conversation I want to have with you. First, let me get your story about your pivot from what was a very prolific medical career to what you’re doing. I’d love to talk about wellness and resiliency in the workplace too.
If I can comment on what you said, people who get burned out professionally I have found fall into two categories. There are certain people who would not get burned out if their job was only 40 hours a week. Doctors and lawyers sometimes work 80 hours a week but the way I used to say it, I don’t think I ever got to the point where I was burned out. I saw it in my colleagues and potentially myself.
What I would say to people is I have the world’s best job the first 40 hours of the week. The second 40 hours is what a lot of people hate. When I see people who are burnt out, the first question is, “If you’re burnt out working 40 hours a week, then you don’t like your profession or something is wrong.” I categorize people who get burnt out into, “Do you love your job the first 40 hours? You’re not burnt out because the occupation is bad. You’re burnt out because you’re doing it wrong.”
That’s a distinction for me because I see a lot of doctors who claim they hate medicine but they only hate it the second 40 hours of the week. The nights, weekends, calls, rounding on patients, and Saturday or Sunday afternoon, that’s what they hate. They confabulated it all to, “I hate my profession.” The second category is that they don’t like what they’re doing, even if it is 40 hours. Whenever someone tells me they’re burnt out, I always say, “Let me ask a question. How many hours are you working?”
There is a certain amount of resentment after 40 hours because it encroaches into family time, kids’ time, your wife, and your spouse. You’re going to the ball game, meeting people at the bar, or your yoga class, whatever it is. Once those things get infringed on, there’s almost a sense of, “You’re taking something away.” How the mind plays tricks with you, you feel like there was something that you had and someone took it away. It’s not, “I never had it.” “I had it but it’s been taken away from me.”
Those people who are working from home feel as though they’ve been given something. It means they were given the opportunity to walk their dog as a way to get out from behind the screen and all that good stuff. An organization says to them they have to come back to the office. Granted, most companies are smart enough to go, “Let’s do this 3 days a week, not 5,” or whatever it might be. At some point, it’s clawing them back. What they’re going to experience is a workforce that resists because you’re taking something.
That’s very tough. You have me there. Even in negotiations. You’re a lawyer. You’ve done deals where you accidentally agreed to something that you realize you can’t agree to. Trying to claw that back, I call it negotiating in bad faith. If you gave me something and you want to take it back, I have a major issue with that but that’s a different psychology. You don’t give that to the new group that you hire.
My point is it’s a huge lift to a clause, even giving a slight benefit. “Vacation’s 4 weeks instead of 3 weeks,” but then you want to claw it back. That’s a separate problem. How do you over time claw back stuff that you’ve given? Yes, it can be a huge problem but that’s an HR issue. The question is on a high level, where’s your organization with people working remotely? How is it impacting culture and productivity? Once you’ve made the decision that’s negatively impacting those two things, then you have to come up with a strategy. You can’t just send out an email and say, “Starting tomorrow, everyone’s working five days a week.”
Some folks tried that. They’re the early ones that ended up dying.
You claw back any benefit like from, “You can eat at your desk,” to, “No, you can’t eat at your desk.” That is going to be huge because you’re taking something back.
I want to get into your story because this will be a place that we can use as a fulcrum, a pivot itself. Here you are. You go to medical school. Did you want to be a doctor when you were a kid?
By the time I was in high school, very much.
I don’t imagine you just decide one day you want to be a doctor.
It’s too much work if you don’t want it for the real reason.
You wanted to be a doctor and then you pursued that. Where did it take you?
I got an undergraduate degree. I was one of these crazy undergraduates. I have two undergraduate degrees in Biology and Psychology. I graduated Phi Beta Kappa magna cum laude. I was studying pretty hard. I got into Ohio State Medical School, which was an amazing adventure. After that, I went to Northwestern University in Chicago for my internship and residency.
Subsequently, I was lucky enough to go to UCLA for my fellowship in pulmonary and critical care. It was some top-notch schools. I was fortunate to have that kind of excellent training. Eventually, I went into the private practice. I joined a private high-powered pulmonary and critical care group. I eventually became a senior partner in that. Also, the clinical faculty of three med schools over my career. I slowly spent about five years transitioning away from that into administrative medicine and then into the private entrepreneurial side of medicine.
Let’s talk about that for a moment. I was on my critical path to where I could see over the edge. Looking back at it, some of it had to do with that delta between 40 hours and 80 or 90 hours. There was an element of when you’re doing a three-hour commute every day, you can hate your job or life. I’m wearing a shirt that says, “I love my life.” I’m in a very different place than I was then. That’s got me thinking a little bit too but what was it like for you? Why are you doing the work you’re doing now versus the work you were doing years ago?
I transitioned a few years ago to Teleconnect and left clinical medicine years ago. A lot of people think it was an epiphany. You woke up one day and you’re like, “I’m making a change.” It wasn’t like that at all. It was more gradual. I joined a committee and that opened up another door. That door opened up another door. I didn’t know where it was going to leave but there was this sense that once you become a senior partner and you’re sitting there, you’ve been on this road of growth and then the growth is over because there’s nowhere to grow. Where else are you going to go?
I don’t know if it was burnout more than wanting to see there’s got to be more. As I did more, there was this sense of my feeling that being a doctor meant helping patients. You quickly realize that you could help patients in many ways. You could see 10, 15, or 20 patients a day one-on-one and help them. I’m going to be honest. A lot of doctors go into medicine because they feel it’s a calling from God or some version of that.
They feel like they’re in a special group with special opportunities and privileges to help people. However, if you channel that and say, “I can help one person at a time,” then somewhere along the line, the light bulb goes off. I can help a lot of people. I don’t have to be seeing them one-on-one to do that potentially but initially, I said I would do both.
I’ll go halftime or this other halftime, I’ll try to make an impact on healthcare. It was one door opening up another and then the next thing, we were starting our companies because I had this perspective. I had been a clinical doctor. I have worked for insurance companies and medical director for hospitals. I knew what the hospitals and insurance companies thought. I knew the clinical side and the teaching side of it. You’re like, “I have a perspective that I don’t think I would’ve had if I had just done clinical medicine. Is there any way I can channel that into something different?” That’s how it’s evolved over many years.
It’s interesting because so many people think that if they’re unhappy in their work, whether it’s because they hate the period after 40 hours that they’re doing their work or some other thing, it’s not their calling anymore. It might have been earlier. Contrary to what people think, we change. Our interests, love, and desires, these things are fluid.
Regardless of what that looks like, the moment you realize, “This is what I want to be doing twenty years from now,” you have to change something immediately. That wasn’t my path any more than it was yours. Mine wasn’t a jump-ship scenario. It took two and a half years. Yours potentially was a little longer perhaps.
Methodically, I didn’t tear down one bridge before building another one. I didn’t disband my plan A before I wrote my plan B. That’s in the book Pivot that I wrote. It dispels that jump-ship mentality. There’s too much risk in that. I’m a risk-averse person anyway as a lawyer but I also think when there’s that much risk, a lot more fear comes into play.
Can I share an anecdote with you? I remember like during this period when I was thinking about changing. I was having dinner with a good friend. It was the first time that I expressed my desire openly to go in a different direction.
It takes some courage among your colleagues to do that.Expressing your desire openly to go in a different direction takes some courage. Click To Tweet
We get a lot of funny looks. He said to me, “What’s your plan? How are you going to do it?” I said, “I had two ideas. One is I could do something methodical.” I described what you did. I said, “Or I could sell everything I own, take my savings, and be a lifeguard at Club Med in the Caribbean. It’s either plan A or plan B.” The first kind of person you were describing, you were like, “That’s it. I’m done. I’m liquidating everything. I’m going to go.” The reason I picked Club Med is because they give you food and shelter.
You get to live off your means. That’s it.
Those are the two options that you and I chose. I gave my thing a name because it needed a name so I could work on it. I’d come home and they say, “This thing that you’re describing that I’m going to build one bridge, what do you call that?” I gave it a name and I called it my ES. They’re like, “What do you do? “I’m working on my ES.” That was the Exit Strategy.
Once you give it a name, then you can work on it. I’m spending ten hours a week on it. It didn’t exist in the sense of the burnout exit but it’s this idea that there has to be more. If you want to impact people on a broader level, you can’t do it in my case just sitting in an office. How do you make that bigger impact? You have to make an exit at some point. I love your phrase about building one bridge. That was the ES.
What you said is also the most important part of my story. Somebody says, “Would you go back? If you could have continued, would you in hindsight have continued given what you know now,” which we haven’t talked about yet? I go, “No, because even in the work I was doing, which was meaningful, if I’m being perfectly honest, it was mostly meaningful for me and my family. I was getting wealthy doing it and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s great.”
I was helping people but it was a small number compared to what I learned that I could be doing to help a lot more people. I have no complaints about the money on that side either but it’s not the red carpet to wealth that the law provided and that probably the medical profession on some level provides as well, to be honest about it.
Let’s talk about this from the standpoint of where we meet people. Our audience is a combination of people who are working in jobs at various levels, a lot of senior-level leaders, middle managers, and people just getting started, I would assume, as well as some entrepreneurs and folks in that space. More and more, we have to think in terms of the demographic as well, which has gotten on some level a little bit of play because Millennials have gotten a bad rap from older parts of the workforce, whether Gen X-ers or Baby Boomers.
However, it’s the idea that we’re seeing a shift. We saw it during the pandemic. The Great Resignation was what it was called. It’s shifted. They’re talking about things called quietly quitting but my understanding is that about four million people are leaving their jobs on a monthly basis in the US. I am talking about North America. At the height of the pandemic, maybe about 4.5 million, which is an interesting number but we have to compare it to something.
Before the pandemic, on average, over twenty years, there were about 2.5 million people every month who would voluntarily leave a job. It’s a significant change in that. We’re going to tie a few things here together perhaps. Inflation is quite high. We get that there are a lot of reasons for that but in a rising interest rate environment where inflation should be coming down, probably is, and will continue to, the biggest issue is wages and we have full employment.
We have 1.7 jobs for every person looking for a job. With four million people leaving the workforce, what are they doing to pay the bills? Are they all just living in their parents’ basement? Is that what’s happening or is it that demographically speaking, Gen Z and younger Millennials or even older Millennials have figured out that if they are unhappy at work, they don’t grin and bear it the way either our generation or our parent’s generation did because we were thinking about, “I got to be with this company and get my pension 25 or 30 years later? I’ve got to be with this company because I don’t have another option.”
These young people realize that they can side hustle. Out of the gig economy, they can create money. They could start up their venture like they see a lot of people doing. There are different options for them than there were for you and me years ago. I said a few things but I want to get your perspective because you may agree or want to press on some of that. Any thoughts on that?
I agree and disagree. I agree with the part about no generation workforce is going to be like the last one. A few years ago, we’d be working in a factory and making widgets. We were working ten-hour days with no benefits. The whole thing evolved. You were talking about quietly quitting. I saw an article in The Wall Street Journal about quietly firing. This whole thing comes around eventually. You can only quiet quit.
I saw another article about the amount of money influencers are making is going way down and what have you because of budget cuts. I think of the dot-com thing. “It’s going to go on forever.” The cryptos are like, “Bitcoin is going to keep going. We’re going to keep working from home. Everyone’s going to be an influencer and have a YouTube channel.” While you’re in the thick of it, it may appear like that but when the bubble bursts and it’s not like that anymore, it then becomes obvious.
I hear that but I’m starting to see a lot of quietly firing. Instead of letting them quietly quit, we quietly fire them by moving them into a different position so they will leave. There is some good out of that. I just don’t think it is the big train that people think it is. At the end of the day, people do need more flexibility. To be part of the organization, next to God and family, this better be the most important thing in your life because there’s no place to hide. We need someone that’s all-in.
Whenever I hire someone for a position that I want them to be all in, the question I always ask them is, “Let me ask you a question. This position requires you to be all in. It’s not more than 40 hours a week but it’s all-in. This is not the kind of thing where if you’ve got three side hustles, you can work on it simultaneously. Here’s what I want to know from you. Did I catch you at the right time in your life?” There have been times in my life where you asked me to be all-in and I’m like, “No. I’ve got this personal thing going on. I’m running an Amazon business out of my garage.” It’s not the perfect time. Part of it is you have to tell people, “Is this the right time for you to be all-in?”
I want folks to stop and write that question down. For the people in your company who are doing that, this is a good question to ask people. I don’t think people see that coming either. You catch them a little off guard. It’s not a standard question you’re asking.
I have a whole thing on interviewing. One of the things I talk about is interviews. Interviews are the most artificial situation you can imagine. The guy at the company is only going to say great things about his company and the person there is trying to figure out, “What can I say? I only want to say good things but what does he want me to say? I’ll say whatever he wants.”
No information gets transmitted. It’s like being on your first date. You’re not going to tell the person you snore. Why would you? One of the things that we talk about is asking these kinds of questions that put the person on a tilt. I don’t know if you played poker but in poker, when they call someone being on tilt, that is after they lose a bad hand where they had four kings and they thought they were going to win, and the other guy has four aces. You thought you had the thing wrapped up.
That then throws them off and they start betting erratically after that. After you ask someone a question that they weren’t expecting, some of your script falls off. You have a genuine conversation. It’s the whole idea of how to turn an interview into a genuine conversation and not like, “Tell me what I want to hear. I’m going to tell you how great our company is. You’re so lucky to even be at this interview.” That’s not good. Everyone has to be honest about the job and company. How you get there is a whole different show.
Ask them, “Is this the right time for you?” I give them out and say, “There were times in my life when this wouldn’t be right for me and there were times when next to God and family, I was ready to dive right in there.” Those kinds of questions when you’re interviewing help the honesty and transparency of what you’re looking for. They can be honest and say, “This is not the right time in my life when I’m ready to give you that.”
It gave me a great way to dovetail into this last section of the conversation by focusing on the quality of the question here and for the purpose in that context of connection of how we connect at a real level. The way I want to do this is to say that in our work, we work with organizations to create workplaces and work cultures of well-being. One of the ways that we talk about that is through this lens of whether people think and feel that you have their back.
Does somebody who’s working in an organization feel as though that organization and its leadership have their back? Sometimes I wear a shirt that says, “I got your back.” Part of that is about checking in so that you’re not just superficially asking, “How are you doing?” Nobody answers the question, at least, not where I grew up in New York. If you ask, “How are you doing,” somebody says, “How are you doing?”
That’s the way it went and nobody answered. Now, when you ask somebody that, they go, “Fine. Good. Hanging in there.” There’s not a real conversation like what you were saying. What we have to do is ask deeper, more incisive, and curious questions about not just how people are doing but what are they doing. What are you doing?
I want to ask you about that. We know that statistically speaking, we have people leaving their jobs. That’s a fact. We know that burnout, at least, from what we’re reading about it, is on the rise. Depression is at levels we haven’t seen in ever probably. Also, anxiety. There are tremendous mental health issues that people are facing. That’s not BS. That’s the reality of the world we’re living in. It’s not just in North America. It’s global.
We feel like how we meet people where they are being that various points in time has to do with the responsibility of that company. If you want to care for people, you’ve got to care for people. I want to get your perspective on it because I know you work in developing and helping companies create better cultures. I’d love to get your thoughts on how we do that. Is there something you are focused on in your work when you’re advising organizations about how to uplift that culture and make that culture stronger? What are you telling folks?If you want to keep people, you have to really care for them. Click To Tweet
That is an amazing topic. Thank you for bringing it up. It hits a lot of chords with me. That is so important. That goes to mentoring leadership and going to CEOs. I’m about to launch my second season of the podcast. It is called Crash Course for CEOs, which focuses on exactly some of the skills that you’re talking about. One of the things I talk about if you’re going to be the CEO and you’d be leading that culture is what is your real job as a CEO.
A lot of people think my job is to grow the company and improve our profit and loss but that’s not their job. This is what I try to tell CEOs. Your job is to improve the lives of everyone in your organization professionally and personally. If you wake up every morning saying, “That is my job,” the argument is I said, “If the company makes more money and you give everyone raises, everyone has more benefits and less work. If you invest in technology that takes work away from your staff, simultaneously your company makes more money.”
I call it alignment. The CEO and the leadership align with the rest of the organization. If you’re only aligned in the sense that you want to suck as much money out of the universe and put it into your company, that’s not alignment but once everyone feels, “The leadership’s job is trying to improve my life professionally and personally. They’re trying to get me an assistant and a better office. Simultaneously, those things might make more money for the company, which I’ll make the argument, that will improve everyone’s lives financially.
There’s a connection between, “If our company grows, you grow,” which I’m sure there are some companies that are guilty of not doing that. In other words, their company grows and nobody else grows. Everyone gets their 3% raise. One of the things I tell people is if you’re running a company and someone’s been with you for 3, 4, 5, or 10 years, they better say, “I’d have to take a pay cut to go anywhere else.”
If your senior people are not saying that, either your company sucks and you’re not making a lot of money, in which case that’s a whole different conversation, or you are not handling it right. Almost all your senior people better be saying that, not only money, benefits, and what have you. The whole idea of retaining people and keeping them happy is we’re worrying them for what they’ve done for the company. That’s the name of the game. Someone’s single-handedly responsible.
I tell other CEOs to look at someone and say, “If I lose Susie, how many people would I need to hire to replace her?” People in their organization will say this, “If I lose Bill and Susie, we’re done. That whole department will blow up.” You better take care of that person. You can’t say, “I need three people to replace Adam if he left the law firm,” and then not take care of Adam. It’s common sense but this is how you have to take care of people. You wake up in the morning and say, “My job is to improve the lives of everyone in my organization.” You do that and it will synchronize with the other things that CEOs like.
You said the word common sense and we know maybe it was Nietzsche who was supposedly the one who said, “Common sense isn’t common,” but whoever said it, it’s true. My question to you is, “How many CEOs do you find buy into this before you bring the topic up? In many corporate situations, it’s an extraction model and that’s why people are not only hipper to it.
We have four kids. It has nothing to do with anything that my wife and I did. We did a decent job. Whatever your latest iPhone or device is, that’s the most current software. These kids that are in the workforce, coming into the workforce, the ones that will come in the workforce several years from now will have better software than you and I had.
They are hipper to a lot of things that you and I weren’t hip to, including the fact that it’s an extraction model in a lot of organizations. It means, “How can I extract the most from a person for what we invest in them like their benefits, salary, and all of it? We will not get to the next level of productivity, teamwork, or anything.”
I’m going to give you one additional thing. I remember a few years ago, this administrative assistant knocked on my door and said, “Dr. Baktari, can I have a couple of minutes of your time? I hope you don’t mind but I was reviewing our website over the weekend and I came up with 100 grammatical errors and stuff like that.” I’m like, “That’s not even her job. What was she doing on our website?” I’m using that as an analogy. You couldn’t extract that if you want to. How do you extract that level of ownership?
You cannot extract that level of ownership.
The people who are trying to extract the max are not getting it. There’s a level beyond that they’re not addressing.
My question to you is, in your work, how often do you see CEOs that have the “common sense” to understand what we’ve been talking about?
It’s not that often but it’s the ones that I have the opportunity to coach or influence. Usually, they’re younger. It’s awkward for me to be coaching my peers but certainly, I have a lot of people in their 30s and 40s that are starting their gig. They call me. I meet with them and have coffee.
Don’t you love the fact that somebody in their 20s, 30s, or 50s has an open mindset? You could be 80 years old. Martha Stewart is 83. It’s crazy. She’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition magazine. She said, “When you’re through changing, you’re through.” I thought, “That’s at 83.” That’s a person with an open mind. She would love what you’re saying. She would lean into it I believe because that’s a person with an open mind. You’re right. Sometimes you find people who have a fixed mindset.
Maybe you and I learned that when we were pivoting. You may be the smartest bankruptcy attorney in New York but if you’re trying to pivot to become an author, you have to shut up and listen to other people. Probably what I learned and what you learned is you cannot be the smartest guy in the room all the time. Maybe in court or that law firm, yes, because you were the senior guy and you knew the most.You cannot be the smartest guy in the room all the time. Click To Tweet
However, as soon as you move out of that arena, what I learned is as I was transitioning to that kind of stuff is to shut up and listen, not to everybody but if you run into a Michael Jordan or LeBron James of something, I give this example. I’m like, “Let’s say LeBron James comes up to you and says, ‘This is how you shoot a basketball.’ Is there any comeback to that?” Is there like, “That’s all good and fine but have you ever thought about this LeBron?” No. Shut up. You’re talking to LeBron James.
Unless his conversation is with Michael Jordan.
If Michael Jordan said, “This is how you dribble the ball,” there is no comeback.
Unless those two guys are talking to each other.
I’d love to be in that conversation but for you and I, not everyone we meet is going to be Michael Jordan. Understand that there are people who are going to know more than you. Instead of challenging them, which I see a lot with young people like, “I don’t know. That sounds good.” Shut up. You’re talking to someone who’s been living and breathing it for years. I’m not saying listen to everybody but once you identify someone who clearly is a leader or has a lot of insight, you have to be smart about that. You can’t just listen to everybody.
Bob Iger resigned from being the CEO of Disney. I think he stayed on the board. He might even have stayed on the chairmanship but I remember this one aspect. They interviewed him and part of the reason he gave for resigning that position was he said, “I stopped listening to the people around me.” There are a lot of smart people you would imagine around that guy in that organization. He stopped listening. He said, “The moment I could sense that I always thought I knew more than these folks around me, I knew I had to go.” Talk about some great self-awareness.
Maybe that’s one of the intangibles that allow someone to grow. If you always know more than everybody in the room, how do you grow?If you always know more than everybody in the room, how do you grow? Click To Tweet
I want to come back to something that we didn’t fully touch on and I ask you a question about it. I didn’t know enough how to take care of myself when I was a lawyer. I was a workaholic. I was surrounded by a lot of other workaholics. I know a lot of doctors. I lived in a neighborhood with doctors who while committed to other people’s health and wellness were living very unhealthy lives themselves.
There are not only high incidents of substance abuse in that profession, as well as in the legal profession but high incidents of thoughts about suicide attempts. It’s rough stuff that people don’t fully recognize it being a disconnect. It’s like a shoemaker whose kids are walking around with holes in their shoes. What I know is that I could have focused on taking micro-breaks and other breaks throughout the day.
I was creating greater harmony between my work life and non-work life if I wasn’t doing those 90-hour weeks consistently. There were some pretty serious changes that I could have made then that would’ve helped my practice and I would’ve been healthier in the practice of law. I imagine a lot of doctors who also live what might be called unbalanced lives. They’re too heavy. They’re pre-diabetic or worse, and yet they’re dispensing advice for people to be well.
My question to you is this. Is there something that you do on a ritual basis, meaning consistently or habitually, to make sure that you don’t end up on that burnout track? You’re not ending up hating the hours between 40 and some other number. I work more than 40 hours a week, typically. I’m sure you do too but I love what I do. It’s what I do but in part, it’s also that I’ve learned how to take better care of myself in the process of getting things accomplished. What are your thoughts?
I’m pretty much a straight arrow. I do all the things that you would imagine. I have a trainer I go see three times a week to make sure we go through the motions of that. That’s an amazing and a nice outlet for me. I pray every day.
I don’t get to say that in a conversation like this. I thank you for saying that. I do too.
It’s a big part of my family’s life and my life. We take time out and pray every day. I remember being a Psychology major and they were talking about things that put you in an alpha state like meditation but people don’t realize that prayer can do the same thing as yoga and meditation. If you put an EEG on someone while they’re praying, you can achieve a similar status as though you were meditating. There’s value in that.
The last thing is to have a lot of balance. We have some hobbies that I share with my kids and my wife. We travel and try to get away in the summer. Travel is a big part of what we do. We have season tickets for all the sporting events with the kids. It’s not just work. We work long hours but we balance our life whether with season tickets or something that gives you an outlet.
You go to the gym, work out, have a trainer, or run. It’s not complicated for me. I do the ABCs of trying to have a balanced life and little hobbies here and there. I’m a watch enthusiast. I love Seiko watches and anything watches. It’s different things that me and some friends have in common. It’s fun stuff that we do.
It’s alternation. We talk about it in our work as a toggle between the light switch and off. You toggle between your focus energy and recovery energy. There are ways to do that in a very intentional way. We scheduled it. My week is mapped out in a lot of ways and I map out the time to think. I don’t put prayer time on. I have a set time every morning. That’s what I do but I have time when I’ll by design in the ordinary course, I’m going to walk, do my legs up the wall, or drink water.
We become more intentional about how we recover. We elevate our resilience to almost anything, including the normal stress that we have to expect out of business, life, being in a family, and being a member of any society. First of all, Dr. Jonathan Baktari, I want to say thank you for your time. This was a great conversation. I’m sure people would love for you to come back, visit us again, and do a part two. We’ll dive into something else. Thank you so much.
Thanks for having me. It was a lot of fun and a big honor.
Everybody, we thank you so much, as always, for your commitment to the show. We’d love to know if you’ve got a question or a comment for me or Dr. Baktari. You can leave a message for us. Go to AdamMarkel.com/Comment and leave anything there for us to answer. We’d love to do that. If this is an episode that resonated with you and some bells rang, share it with a friend, a colleague, a family member, or somebody else who might benefit from it. That’s helping us in ways that widen our audience but also, with the algorithm to help it to be seen and shared with more people. We thank you for that support. I’ll say be resilient. Thank you so much again.
There is no doubt that the conversation was enjoyable. It certainly was for me. I venture to say that some of the insights that Dr. Baktari is sharing, not just about medicine but about business cover everything. It covers the health industry and many other industries as well. He talks in this episode about mentorship and the value of mentorship. Also, where that sits and fits in this evolving landscape of the flexible workplace. The workplace has changed so much over the last few years.
Also, what the future looks like when that workplace may well be more virtual in many ways. The concept of a flexible hybrid work environment is changing that dynamic greatly. We talk about that. We talk about how we mentor young leaders in that landscape. We also got to talk about burnout. We talked about how it is that each of us in our ways experienced a tremendous change in our careers, where those pivots have occurred, and how we’ve taken care of ourselves.
He and I have very similar but different rituals for self-care and developing greater levels of resilience. We talked about the role of the leader, the role of the highest leadership in an organization, which is that person who makes those day-to-day decisions, whether that’s the president, CEO, Chief Operations Officer, or CHRO. What does that look like? What is the main focus? What is the main job of that person?
I love Dr. Baktari’s take on this. He said that the most important aspect of that role is to take care of your employees, grow everyone, and improve the lives of everyone in the organization. That is the overriding and underpinning responsibility of somebody who is making those important decisions. We talked about how it is that we create greater opportunities for leadership success and better outcomes.
How do we, ourselves, pivot along the way and the path to continue to make better decisions that affect as many people as we’re capable of affecting in a positive way? Our ripple effect is broader and deeper as well. There is so much that is valuable in hearing Jonathan’s insights gained from years in a space of innovation as a founder, a leader, and a doctor as well. I love this conversation. It’s going to be one that will be paying dividends and providing value to people for a very long time.
If you know somebody who would benefit from hearing some of these insights, please feel free to share this episode with a friend, family member, or colleague. If it also meant something to you, meaning that you thought it was valuable and there are takeaways that you’re going to potentially be coming back to or sharing with others, we would appreciate it if you rate the show 5 out of 5 stars on whatever platform you consume it.
That helps the algorithm to put this show and shows like it in front of the people that would most benefit. Algorithm is something I don’t quite fully understand from a technical standpoint but I understand that we have to contribute in some way. You’re helping us to do that when you rate this episode with five or whatever stars you think warrants. We greatly appreciate you taking the moment to do that.
If we can answer a question, feel free to put that question to us, myself, or Dr. Baktari by going to AdamMarkel.com/Podcast and leaving your comment there. As always, if you’ve not already determined how depleted or how in surplus you feel mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually your energy level and you’d like to figure that part out, you can simply go to ResilienceRank.com.
In three minutes or less, you can get the results. It’s a snapshot in time of how resilient you are in those four specific zones of resilience. You can also share that link and even the resources with team members, family, and friends. Thank you so much for being a part of this community and for supporting the show. I can’t wait to connect with you again sometime soon.
- Dr. Jonathan Baktari
- Podcast – Crash CEO School
About Jonathan Baktari
Dr. Jonathan Baktari, is a CEO, a vaccine expert, and a physician with specialties in internal, pulmonary, and critical care medicine. With that background, Dr. Bakari has launched multiple innovative startups that leverage technology that expands and disrupts traditional markets, also focusing on growing a corporate culture that empowers the leadership and staff to innovate.