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7 Questions with Nick Kagal
7 Questions with Nick Kagal
Name: Nick Kagal
Current title: Vice President of Marketing & Business Development
Current organisation: SpinSci Technologies
Nick Kagal is the Vice President of Marketing & Business Development for SpinSci Technologies LLC, a healthcare technology solutions provider focused on driving patient engagement. Nick previously led Customer Success for the Western United States for Premier Inc.’s Performance Services division supporting informatics solutions and services focused on cost, quality and safety. He has over 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry and has held leadershi roles with several Dallas/Fort Worth health systems including Parkland Health & Hospital System, HCA and HealthSouth.
Nick received his BA in Biology & Psychology from Austin College and an MBA from Texas A&M University. He is a Fellow in both the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) and the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and is a board member of DFW HIMSS. Nick lives in Plano, Texas with his wife and two children. He is an avid sports fan, a weekend warrior athlete, a long distance cyclist and plays guitar & bass in the local cover band Sonic Dissonance.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
When you're working for a small enterprise organization there are some amazing advantages- primarily you can be nimble and pivot quickly to meet and even anticipate your stakeholders' needs. The most common challenge though is often resources. As a smaller outfit we're limited by the amount of human capital we can engage for projects and development and so we have to be creative. New advents in the way we work have helped to support this with the new paradigm of a virtual workforce enabling us to engage highly skilled resources at a lower price point. We’ve also leveraged platforms such as UpWork to allow us to source amazing talent for limited project based engagements for everything from marketing collateral development to coding to voice talent for video productions. Finally, it goes without saying that working with a smaller enterprise certainly requires leaders to wear multiple hats and to roll up their sleeves and engage at a grassroots level. While this puts on a lot on your plate, it certainly opens up opportunities from a professional perspective and provides a deeper understanding of the dynamics of the organization.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I My story began as a journey to practice as a physician- but somewhere in college I realized that it wasn’t my true calling. Having been accepted to medical school already I enrolled and then left after a semester to approach healthcare from a different perspective- one of leadership and management. My career actually began on the provider side in administrative roles leading post-acute care at large health systems in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex.
Having always had a strong interest in technology, I began to recognize an obvious problem with the healthcare industry. Clinicians spent year training for one purpose- to lay hands on their patients and drive the healing process. However, the clinicians I led were being pulled away from clinical care by mundane yet necessary tasks such as documentation due to regulatory requirements. My first thought was how can I leverage technology to help lift the administrative burden off of my staff and allow them to spend more time with their patients.
Transferring to the technology side of the industry, I spent time at a few organizations including a couple of start-up types where I experienced the highs and the lows- even going through a bankruptcy process. After a decade leading the Customer Success division for the Western US for a large national performance improvement organization, I serendipitously found my current role through a network contact who I had reached out to in order to potentially engage as a customer. Instead, my potential customer sold me on his vision for the organization and the opportunity to have an impact on that vision- a vision that aligns very closely with my personal mission to improve the health and well-being of our community in general
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
It’s quite simple- as soon as I wake up I've got to get my workout in so I'm energized for the day- so a weight training strength program followed by a ride on my NordicTrack S22i bike allows me to wake up and be active, alert and ready to take on the day.
I’m also very calendar driven. At the beginning of each week, I’ll review my calendar events for the week along with my team and peers- as a small organization it’s understood that our calendars are open and that for the most part, we’re welcome to insert ourselves into relevant meetings and engagements. Each day’s calendar is set, and I map it against my goals for the week and the tasks I’ve set. I make it a point to schedule working time on my calendar for those task-based activities that I have to complete. This is all driven from an annual calendar I’ve set that’s tied to my budget and Objectives & Key Results (OKRs).
Finally with a smaller international organization there is the possibility that I might have later work meetings throughout the week. Work-Family balance is a key factor in the corporate culture I seek, and I'm fortunate to have it in my role. Though we do work late at times, we also have the flexibility to take the time we need to spend with our families. As a father who's soon to be an empty-nester, I've cherished the flexibility of my roles that has allowed me to not miss amazing milestones in my children's lives.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I want to start with the first lesson I learned. Michael Korpiel, one of my first mentors at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, stressed to me the value of attention to detail- and it's served me well. Other key lessons I've learned are the need to listen- sometimes that uncomfortable silence can open up unique ideas, thoughts and perspectives. But the most recent leadership lesson I've learned? It's not necessarily a new lesson for me- but entering a newer role I think it's critical that we recognize that we need to always be open to learning and to pushing our boundaries.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
One of the best leadership books I've read is the best seller Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. Sinek's focuses on what I believe is the greatest tenet of leadership- building trust. As Sinek says, great leaders sacrifice their self-interests for the good of those for who they are responsible. In our current world, where we're challenged to drive employee engagement and loyalty, it's trust that plays the greatest role.
The book has helped me understand the need to be a more empathetic leader and I've tried to engage other tools and resources to help support this in my career. I've tried to bring an understanding of Emotional Intelligence to my teams so we better understand each other and ultimately our customers, clients and patients.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
Developing leadership in an SME is critical to long term success of the organization. A previously mentioned challenge is that we are typically resource strained and wear multiple hats which at times makes it more challenging for us to invest time in mentoring our talent. We have to make active decisions to be able to provide career ladders and growth opportunities for our team members- and we need to understand what's important to them. We can't always assume that a team member's growth is strictly a vertical promotion with line management responsibilities- some individuals don't want that. Instead we have to look at leadership from both a line and staff perspective and develop roles that allow for professional growth but also take into account the needs and skill sets of our team. We have to nurture talent and mentor it successfully to drive engagement, retention and organizational success.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
I'm proudest of seeing my team members get recognized for their accomplishments. One of my previous employees had the skill set to drive client relationships at an executive level, yet he at times felt out of place and concerned that he wasn't seasoned enough to be respected in that environment. I encouraged him to take ownership of his client relationships which involved stepping back and critically yet constructively reviewing his progress. It's tough at times to stay silent when you see your staff experience those "open moments of silence" in an executive client meeting, however this is the perfect time to sit back and give them a nod and let them know- "you've got this". I'm proud that this person has been recognized as a "Rock Star" in the organization and I'm hopeful he exceeds anything that I accomplished within that organization.