As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Malley, CEO of Dignity Health Global Education (DHGE).
In his role, Andrew is responsible for business operations, developing partnerships with leading academic institutions, and spearheading outreach to current and potential clients.
As a leader in the establishment of DHGE, Andrew firmly believes in providing high-quality and work-based learning to the healthcare workforce. He understands the impact industry and higher education can have when working together in an effective, cohesive, and innovative way.
Andrew is an experienced higher education leader with over 18 years of education globally in both the public and private sectors. Prior to joining DHGE, Andrew worked, lived, and led projects in South Korea, Turkey, Italy, the U.K., India, the U.S., and across Africa as a teacher, manager, and director. Having taught and led in education around the world, he has firsthand knowledge of the positive change and empowerment that education can provide to individuals and communities.
Andrew is a graduate of the University of Liverpool in the U.K. and a qualified teacher in languages.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I am from the U.K., though now spend my time flying between the U.K. and our offices in Canada and the U.S. I grew up in one of the less salubrious parts of London but made it to the University of Liverpool, where I studied Politics. At that time, I would spend my summers working at language camps. I met young teachers who had traveled and lived in Asia and South America. This was in the late ’90s, so whilst we did have a young internet, people just didn’t travel like they do now; it seemed exciting and exotic. After graduation, I found a job teaching in Seoul, South Korea and went for it. During my 20s, I lived in Korea, Italy, and Turkey. Along the way, I studied and moved up the career ladder. Once I came back to the U.K., I moved into the business of education, particularly international education. I have worked in both the not-for-profit public sector and the private for-profit sector. I have always recognized the enormous power of education and the way it can affect change globally. I also believe digital and online education is the great equalizer.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take-aways’ you learned from that?
For many of us, the funniest, or rather lesson-worthy experiences, involve those where cultural cues are missed. Too often, American and British businesses in the international arena transplant their cultural identity and practices into other countries and that’s a huge mistake. In some cultures, nodding your head means ‘no’. In others, think India and Japan, people saying ‘yes’ doesn’t mean someone agrees, it just means he/she understands your point. Even in Britain, Americans will find there are different norms. For example, if I start tapping my nose, it means I’m going to tell you something private. Be it internationally or domestically, you have to get involved in the other culture. That may mean going to sing in karaoke rooms in Korea or meeting in a pub in England. Discussing deals over a pint and singing the night away with a company CEO, all adds to greater understanding, better communication, and being a more well-rounded person.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I don’t have one particular person; there are many. I have traveled, worked, and lived all over the world; rarely did I have a home base. There have always been people who have given me the opportunity I needed. And those opportunities tended to come when it most looked like it wouldn’t happen, or I wasn’t the favorite for it. I worked at the University of Wolverhampton as the Head of International Recruitment and Business Development. To get a relatively senior job at a large public university in my early 30s was, back then, quite unusual. I was often referred to as the ‘new boy.’ However, that job gave me more pedigree and rounded out my experience in the public sector. The Vice Chancellor wanted to hire someone else, but the various boards I interviewed with recommended me, so I owe them my gratitude.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
DHGE is absolutely a purpose-driven business. We focus solely on education and workforce development in the health sector. Our vision and purpose are to create high-quality, accessible digital education for healthcare workers. For so many years, the healthcare workforce mainly had access to substandard education. The space was dominated by for-profit colleges who were only targeting nurses and not looking at the real needs of the entire healthcare industry. Yes, we have great programs for nurses, but we also offer programs for healthcare administrators, analysts, those in marketing, as well as several other clinical and management fields. Healthcare needs workers with a wide range of skills. Our philosophy is to provide today’s healthcare workers with programs developed with industry, for industry, underpinned by academic excellence. I think a great example of that is our Healthcare Mini-MBA co-developed by Eller Executive Education, the leadership development arm of the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. The program launches in early 2021 and will include the core curriculum needed for healthcare business, plus learning modules on diversity, resilience, team-building, and conflict resolution — the areas that we know are also vital to success in healthcare. We will even have world-class athletes providing their input on the importance of resilience and how to build a champion mindset.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
Of course, the dominant challenge we all face is COVID-19. Like so many, our business was interrupted in terms of client growth and revenues. However, we knew the healthcare sector could bounce back as it adapted to the new norm. Rather than focus on what we could not control, we emphasized streamlining our courses, building our processes, and growing our distribution channels. We even launched a micro-course in resilience to support front-line workers, which was developed in conjunction with the University of Exeter, one of the top sports psychology programs in the world. The program provides tips from world-class athletes on coping with stress, as well as nutrition, sleep, and practical mental health advice. We’re giving it away for free with any of our courses and have added another 1,000 free seats on top for those who need them. We have bounced back quite well, and now we have some amazing new programs and more routes to market. The agile re-evaluation of what we offered to the marketplace was key.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
The project we have undertaken is not complete. We still have more to do to improve the education and learning outcomes of healthcare workers. Knowing what we still need to do is my single biggest motivator. In addition, and more personally, I work best when I can focus my energies on a singular goal. For example, I want to rid the healthcare education sector of predatory, low-quality education institutions. There is no space and frankly, no need for them. That goal helps pull everything else along.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
I have often thought about this and spoken to much smarter people than myself, in this case namely my friend and colleague from the University of Arizona, Dr. Joe Carella. There are lots of things you ‘need’, such as business or financial acumen. But the key is action-focused decision-making and the ability to execute and implement.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate, and engage their team?
I think transparency and honesty are vital. Leadership sometimes tries to shield staff from harsh realities. However, if you are honest and bring people on your journey, warts and all, they will share the lows with you, inspire and lift up each other, and come up with brilliant ideas. What’s more, when times are good, which for us they have generally been, they can better enjoy and celebrate them. They feel a part of the effort and are therefore motivated to do more. In a sense, shared success breeds success.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Again, honesty and transparency. Ultimately, it’s about respect. People may not be happy when they hear bad news, but they will always appreciate being treated with respect and decency.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Keep it simple.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
There isn’t one. There are a few that are key. As mentioned, be honest and transparent with the team and share the journey. Plus, agility and decision-making that is action-focused is vital.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
There are a few I have seen and encountered. Internally, do not create uncertainty within your company. Don’t lie to and mislead your staff. People hate it, feel disrespected, and will not give you their best. In fact, they will enjoy watching your demise if you do lie and mislead. Externally, and thinking of COVID and recent social unrest in the U.S., be mindful of what you say and do publicly. I feel positive actions and exceptionally high-quality services and programs will say and do more for your company’s image than empty public proclamations. People see through insincerity.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
As mentioned, agile re-evaluation and action-focused decision-making are so critical today. As we’ve learned from COVID, leaders need to become more imaginative and develop foresight. Don’t be afraid to ask, “What if this happens?” Because as we know now, anything can happen. Commit to actions that will make you more vigorous the next time around. In our case, one of these areas was the development of more robust distribution and stronger processes around product development.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Honesty and Transparency: Your teams and customers will appreciate it. We give internal quarterly sessions to the company with the idea to create goals and set priorities we can all share and embrace.
- Action-Focused Decision-Making: Talk is cheap. Internal dialogue should be focused on the premise of measurable action.
- Agile Re-Evaluation: Since COVID, it has been critical for our organization to scrutinize all of our programs and determine if they were meeting the real needs of healthcare today. Recognizing that new programs were needed, we added content to existing ones and developed additional courses that provided useful real-world experience and insights.
- Develop Foresight: Who could have imagined the full impact of COVID on the world? COVID won’t be the last crisis the industry faces. Don’t let a lack of imagination hinder your ability to look at what the future may hold. Be prepared and ready to act.
- Finally, I would say be consistent. As a CEO, your people look to you to be their leader, to answer the tough questions and develop the right solutions. Set the tone and keep the company driving toward your goals at all times.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m a sports fan. I love to see the lessons that sports can show the business world, particularly around talent management, focus, and resiliency. With that in mind, I like the Babe Ruth quote, “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” Celebrate the wins, but move on, grow, and adapt. I believe that quote applies more today than ever before.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can follow me on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/andrew-malley. I also encourage you to follow DHGE at https://www.facebook.com/dignityhealthglobaleducation — and on our new website — www.dhge.org — there is great news about what we are doing on those sites.