Priya Kamani Shares Leadership Strategies To Improve Your Company’s Culture
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Priya Kamani from LivingMatrix for the ongoing series: CEOs Share Leadership Strategies To Improve Your Company’s Culture.
I am Dr. Priya Kamani, M.D., founder and CEO of LivingMatrix. I was recently nominated for the Expert Advisory Panel for the Institute for Functional Medicine. In addition, I spearheaded the formation of the LivingMatrix Practitioner Research Network, which plays an integral role in catalyzing research on chronic conditions by bringing together functional medicine innovators and thought leaders to collaboratively shape healthcare around the world.
Krish Chopra: What are the 3 most important values that your company’s culture is based on?
Priya Kamani: We are a health tech company, so our mission and values are aligned with patients and practitioners:
· Create positive health outcomes
· Activate engagement and trust between practitioner and patient
· Advance the evidence base for functional medicine
Krish: Managing millennials can often be a polarizing topic. Can you elaborate on your advice for managing the “millennial mindset?”
Priya: I get along very well with millennial and don’t have a problem relating to them. They grew up in a different world and a different place than the rest of us, so they relate differently. To me, successfully managing the “millennial mindset” — however one may define that — is about connecting with the person. The most successful companies and leaders understand that trust, relationships and people are the keys to success. I am lucky in that one of my top strengths is being a Relator, which means I enjoy long-term relationships with others and find deep satisfaction working with people to achieve success. As long as you’re creating a team that has complementary skills that mesh, rather than clash, you are on the right track.
Krish: What are your “5 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Culture” and why.
· Create a culture of innovation above all else. When you’re forging a new path you have to be willing to fail, try new things and be open to new ideas from all sources, especially from team members who are in the trenches and have a pulse on the customer. You never know where the next brilliant idea will come from, and if you’re not actively soliciting ideas from all levels and listening you’ll miss the gems.
· Encourage strategic thinking at all levels of the company. Forming innovation groups or “tiger teams” composed of people across the organization, in an environment where everyone feels comfortable, can be effective for bringing out this way of thinking. Some of the best ideas come from the trenches, but the culture to cross-pollinate them needs to be there.
· Celebrate all achievements — professional and personal. This reminds everybody that we have lives outside of work, and helps us find that delicate work/life balance that is crucial to health, happiness and vitality.
· Use measurable outcomes. At work you have a combination of thinkers and doers. Though movement is important, I like to avoid activity for the sake of activity. So we only engage in activities that have specific, measurable outcomes.
· Speak plainly and directly, even about sensitive subjects. It’s uncomfortable to keep things bottled up, and encouraging everybody to share their perspectives and opinions emphasizes the fact that you value your employees as people.
Krish: Strong company culture is something that everyone likes to think they have but very few have it. Why do so many organizations struggle with creating strong, healthy work environments?
Priya: There can be heavily competing agendas within an organization. This is one of the reasons we focus on health outcomes, practitioner/patient trust and advancing the functional medicine evidence base. We have a lot of positivity and hope in our work as we transform people’s lives for the better, make them healthy and help them stay healthy. Hope and positivity permeate our company culture.
Krish: What is one mistake you see a young start-up founders make in their culture or leadership practices?
Priya: You can’t always be right. When you’re faced with a situation where there is imperfect information, instead of spending all your time trying to get the perfect information, make a move and learn from it. You can always adapt. So much time is spent on researching and validating. In the majority of cases, the right answer and the “big idea” will morph significantly as you progress.
Krish: To add to the previous question, young CEOs often have a lot of pressure to perform and often wear many hats. What’s a simple time efficient strategy they can start doing today to improve their company’s culture?
Priya: Give up some of the hats. If you’re young and inexperienced, you may believe nobody will ever do as good of a job as you. That may be true, but you need to begin to hand things off and be okay with occasionally intervening. Unless you give up some hats, you will never take them off and you will be overwhelmed. By taking off some hats, you also gain speed.
Krish: Success leaves clues. What has been your biggest influence in your leadership strategy and company culture?
Priya: My dad used to tell me, “Spend as much time listening as working,” and it has heavily influenced my approach to leadership and culture. My father experienced both big failure and big success in business, and I grew up on his stories of overcoming the odds. He interacted with people at all levels. He was not necessarily the smartest person, but he treated employees, engineers and workers with respect. He shared his vision throughout the ranks and listened to feedback and input before making decisions. Seeing their contributions linked to the business strategy gave employees a sense of ownership, and innovation often came from the trenches. He was a pioneer of sorts back in India, and his thoughts and approach stayed with me.
Krish: What advice do you have for employees that have bad bosses? How can they take control and improve a bad situation?
Priya: If you are in a situation and feel you can’t escape or change it, you can follow a few rules of thumb:
· Give them the benefit of the doubt. Bad bosses are people, too, and they might be going through a hard time. Offer empathy and help first.
· Manage upward by being proactive. Don’t wait for the hammer to drop; instead, overcommunicate and share your accomplishments.
· Ask for — and solicit — feedback. Don’t expect the boss to adapt. Ask what you can do to improve the situation in an ego-free way.
· Seek a mentor in the company who is not your boss.
· If somebody is a really, really, really bad boss, they will probably self-destruct. Stay out of their way and wait it out, then you may soon get a new boss whom you like.
· When all else fails, find a new boss — at the same company or at a different company.
Krish: Okay, we made it! Last question — what’s one unique hack you or your company does that has enhanced your work culture?
Priya: We have a team across the country, so industry conferences throughout the year are the perfect time to come together. We do group farm-to-table dinners to catch up, strengthen bonds and, in general, hoot, holler and have fun. We are all there, demo-ing and pitching ten hours a day for two or three days straight, so when we get together for the large team dinner we get really excited about what’s working, what customers are saying and what opportunities are ahead.
A note to the readers: Improving company culture happens at any level in an organization. If you learned one thing in this interview, please share this with someone close to you.
A special thanks to Priya Kamani again!
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