Just like every other winter, it's likely that many will suffer from various bugs and ailments. The same might be said about your company. What potential illnesses are floating around your office? Do people get along, or is the culture crumbling before your very eyes? If something is wrong, how do you know? Were there warning signs you missed? How can you tell whether it's a 24-hour bug or a long-term health crisis? The answers in business can be as ambiguous as they are in medical health.
Whatever your ailment, YPO member Elikem Tamaklo can prescribe just the right medicine. Tamaklo is a medical doctor specializing in emergency and tropical medicines, and is the Managing Director of Nyaho Medical Center in Accra, Ghana, a facility founded by his father that pioneered modern medicine in the country. Being a doctor and a business leader are jobs that require radically different skillsets, but Tamaklo found several elements of the disparate experiences that overlapped a surprising amount.
Tamaklo has learned a great deal about business leadership from his training and experience as a doctor. He's become so proficient at both that he was recently named the All Africa Young Business Leader 2018. This award honors African businesspeople for remarkable leadership and commitment to excellence, developing best practices and innovative strategies. Awardees have contributed to and shaped the African economy and are the visionaries behind outstanding businesses.
On an episode of my podcast YPO 10 Minute Tips from the Top, Tamaklo explains why the best medicine for your company may be, well, medicine:
1. Diagnose Continuously
With his expertise in emergency and tropical medicine, Tamaklo knows doctors must be rapid, accurate diagnosticians. "I actually love thrillers and love mystery and love problem solving, and I think that's why I like what I'm doing now...You always have a problem where you're trying to find out what the root cause is and trying to fix it...In terms of my work with an individual person coming into the ER, you're trying to problem solve very quickly to identify risk, and then addressing the risk first," he says. Tamaklo has taken that same diagnostic approach from medicine into his experience in management. "Every time in my mind," he says, "[I'm] looking at how we are organizing ourselves to deal with the next crisis, because there's always a crisis awaiting." If you're not able to quickly assess the situation, you can make critical mistakes early on and doom yourself to failure before you even begin.
2. Recognize the Lives at Stake
Medicine can be emotionally draining, but empathy is key for Tamaklo. This was first instilled in his student days: "I was privileged to train in a very forward-thinking medical school, which brought a lot of empathy into the education. So communication skills, understanding patients, patient centricity in decision-making," he shares. "To be a better doctor requires you to empathize...If you try to detach yourself, that's actually the wrong thing. You have to embrace it, and you have to embrace the humanity of the situation in front of you, because you're dealing with people," he reflects. He goes on, "To be a great doctor means that you have to understand where people are at. The family can become part of the problem. When you're making a decision, you're not making a decision just because that person is in front of you. You're actually thinking a lot about the consequence of the decision." In business, leaders need to recognize the humanity of both their customers and their employees.
3. Get Buy In
Medicine has taught Tamaklo a great deal about influence and persuasion. He explains, "When you are the doctor, you have all the power. You are literally the one making decisions, unless the patient is well. But in an emergency situation, you have to make very quick decisions, so most times everyone follows your lead." While they may fall in line in an emergency, it's not always simple. "You do have to use a lot of influence to get people to understand why you're doing certain things and to make sure they are willing to accept it," he says. The real challenge is getting genuine buy in. "When you are working as a manager, or working in an organization, actually getting people to follow you - not just because you've said it, but because they believe in it - is really interesting and very tricky," he describes. This shared belief is difficult to achieve, but critical for success.
4. Cultivate Teamwork
Traditionally in medicine, doctors were idolized, often going unchallenged. Tamaklo says this is an attitude that still lingered in Ghana when he became managing director of the hospital. He was faced with a dilemma: "How do you change culture, moving away from the demigod, which is what healthcare historically was, to a more team sport?" he asks. He was particularly cognizant of the emotional challenges that came with being in healthcare, explaining, "You can only deal with it once you're working as a team. You can't handle it yourself, otherwise you'll go mad." In keeping with his no-ego approach, Tamaklo also advises, "Surround yourself with experts. I think I was not ever the smartest person, but I was very much a learner, and very much wanting to improve myself...I'm thankful for mentors. I'm thankful for people who have been in the business for a long time, because I had those people in my life," he shares. When the doctors and other medical professionals see their managing director seek outside advice, they may be more likely to do the same, and to lean more on their team.
While Tamaklo knows that doctors need to be quick and decisive in an emergency, he also knows when it's time to pause and think. "You have to always reflect," he emphasizes, explaining, "When you have lots of people's lives at stake - not just your staff's lives, but also the lives of patients - you really second guess yourself a lot." If you've surrounded yourself with mentors, experts, and colleagues that believe in teamwork, the reflection process will be fruitful. Tamaklo enthuses, "I'm excited about this year, because I think this is the year we really start executing." You may find yourself reflecting on a happier future!
Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside YPO, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.