Ep. 12: The Difference Between Work and Fulfillment w/Vishal Bhalla

by | Feb 24, 2021 | Podcasts, The Virtuous Heros | 0 comments

Podcast episode

About our Guest

Vishal Bhalla is the VP and Chief Experience Officer at Parkland Hospital. He is a sought-after thought leader for his unique approach to patient, physician and team member experience, and an HR professional with a solid operations background.

Vishal and Chris get deep by sharing past life experiences that led them to question and identify their life purpose, recognizing the difference between work and fulfillment, and understanding the value of compassion for oneself and others to be a virtuous leader. Vishal is also a member of Press Ganey’s Patient Experience Regulatory Advisory Council, on the Advisory Board of HR Exchange Network and Editorial board of Beryl Institute’s “Patient Experience Journal,” and serves on the Dallas Fort Worth Hospital Council and the Patient Experience Board of The Beryl Institute.



Hannah: Thanks for watching our podcast here at Spirit Consulting, our services include business strategy and human resources consulting. In HR, We offer executive search executive coaching and work psychology consulting. Please visit [email protected], where we fulfill our client’s dreams. Virtuously. Enjoy the show.

Chris: Vishal, thank you so much for being on the leading virtuous lead podcast. So excited to be able to hobnob on some thought leadership with you. 

Vishal: Thanks, Chris honored to be here. 

Chris: Great. As my first question is always who are you? 

Vishal: Chris, I’m a human being who was,

We all have our lives. We get a career. We have family, I have an awesome family. Loving, two awesome kids. Lived all over the world. Four continents start off in hospitality. Start off as a chef, in fact dishwasher first. And then I cook then chef, anyways, I’m a person.

If you were to ask me how I would define myself. It was put through a crucible event in our family where my, my, my dad was in hospital for the last few years of the life that really moved me to careers to serve in healthcare. So that’s my focus, right? My purpose found my purpose in terms of who am I’m someone who wants to help make a difference in people when they’re most vulnerable in their life in terms of healthcare emotions, right?

The degree means life and loss means the opposite, or even more painful sometimes. And to help not. And then I realized that also it’s not just the patient and the family members, the people who are providing here are hurting too. And so that’s the purpose. And I have an awesome family that supports me and loves me through that helps me.

Chris: So thank you for sharing. Follow up questions on that. When was your dad in the hospital and if you pull through?

Vishal: He did not. We were in the Caribbean actually. I was working for an organization there. And my mom called me one day saying, dad’s in hospital and they’ve told me he’s not coming home.

So overnight we move back to Canada. We were very lucky that he was well taken care of. But he was there for about two years. And I was lucky to get a job fortunately, to get a job where I worked 20 days on and 10 off. And I spent those 10 days primarily in the hospital with him.

And there were some unintended consequences of his care and and I gently but firmly pushed all the way. In terms of finding out why, how those things happen and their response was, not enough resources and this is from the CEO of the organization. And my feedback was, respectfully, I see water going down the drain on this side.

So to speak, and people like thirsty here. After he passed on my best friend who’s my wife saw that I was pretty, off kilter. I was off center and said, either zip it or do something about it. And I was also fortunate to have a lot of friends. I was doing my MBA at the time at MIT, and I had some friends who supported me in that career transition.

So I was able to do to get educated in healthcare and healthcare innovation. And and working on transition to healthcare to be able to serve them.

Chris: Vishal when what year was that? 

Vishal: That was in 2015. 2016? Yeah. Not so long ago. 

Chris: Yes. Yes. Thank you for thank you for sharing that story. It is. And sorry, also about the loss of your father. I haven’t in my own life, both of my parents are still alive, but I’ve had all of my grandparents pass. Definitely understand what it’s like to go through those those times of losing people and how, as you mentioned that it really opens your eyes to.

I think it just shows us the truth of reality is that, there’s only one thing guaranteed in life is that we’re going to pass. 

Vishal: That’s so true.

Chris: It opens our eyes to the fact that, okay if my time is limited then how am I going to be spending that time? And it seems like you’d have that revelation to do the commercials.

So thank you for being vulnerable and sharing that story as well. 

Vishal: And, and it helps. Decide the values. And I think that’s something that COVID has done for us. Is a lot of us have questioned. What’s really important in my life. And what did the grand arc what are you calling by?

Whatever it would be, or he, or she intends for me, what is my purpose? And I was lucky to have found that a little while ago. 

Chris: Yeah so I usually ask the second question of like, how did you get into the leadership position that you’re in today, but you definitely answered that, but I think so.

So I had Seb, who referred you to the show? And he also went through this midlife crisis to, to shift in, but I guess what I would love to hear you answer. Now that you’ve actually gone through that shift. What is it like doing the work that you do comparative to the work that you were doing previously?

What are those, how does it feel? And thus, maybe there’s people that either have never gone through one of those, or they’re in the middle of one of those, or maybe they’re on the opposite end of that, that might relate to like your feelings and emotions through both of your working experiences.

Vishal: Yes. Very deep question. And so I think I feel that I had a successful career in hospitality. But I feel that everything that I have, all the skills that I have. Working with diverse people and actually living in different countries and working with people from different cultures across the world to learn six Sigma certification and actual running those projects.

And reducing costs, so to speak, which you see how all that concentrates into healthcare and customer service like caring for people end of the day. It’s internal and external so that’s how it translates into into healthcare for me in my current role is to take care of the employee experience and the physicians and of course the patient and carriers. So that’s the role and leveraging data and technology in scaling that up and helping reduce costs. How does it differ from my previous roles is, I did have a lot of fun working healthcare and hospitality, working in St. Lucia or working in Egypt in the UK. What’s different is the fulfillment at the end of the. And so here we have 

Parkland, we, we take care of a wide range of patients who need care. And we have a pharmacy where people are waiting a business office if they can’t afford the medication, they, they’re waiting in line and they, their number gets called up and they’re assessed, and then we provide medication.

And so sometimes when I’m having a rough day. We all have those days. I go in and I sit there for 10 minutes and in greet, connect me right back to my purpose and then suddenly problems that seemed huge are not that big anymore. And that it puts things in perspective. And I think that is the difference.

That is a big difference between when I was working for work. Because something one does and what I’m working or something that is. That’s the big D mark, you crossed that threshold and then things are, things make much more sense in a different way.

Chris: Thank you for sharing that, my own experience with that has been, I being an executive search and a management consultant, I’ve got to interview people all day for all sorts of different positions. And, but yet, no matter, usually it’s only that, the 10% of the people that I actually interview actually get hired.

So there’s a lot of these people that you don’t. And sometimes, there, there are people that you, unfortunately don’t always have the best interviews with. And for me, having gone through massive amounts of suffering in my own life you learn through the suffering, your emotional EQ goes up significantly when you go through that and you process it heal through that.

So I love to go deep with people. So I’m loving this interview by the way, Vishal. But I found that like in my own life, that in essence when it’s so surface level and a lot of the conversations like I’m just not checked in. And so this has actually been really like the leading virtuously podcast.

Yes. I want to inspire the business community to lead more virtuously, but it also was an answer in a way of having a more fulfilling time in the work that I was doing by being able to connect deeply with other leaders and share our. Our pathways and to inspire others to do the same. So yeah, that really resonates with me.

And what you’re saying of going back to connect with your, why, what really fires you up and empowers you. So thank you. 

Vishal: Yeah. Yeah. That’s the, why is the key, right? When you know your why, and you’re clear with it and drives you. 

Chris: Yeah. The the power question is always where does virtue and business intersect for you Vishal?

Vishal: Yeah, I would like to think about first, what does virtue mean for me? What is virtue and so it’s everything from, you start off with empathy, understanding the other person’s perspective to compassion that is basically doing something. In a benevolent manner, which is, I would say, not expecting a return necessarily from that individual.

I’m lucky I’m getting paid for what I, ties in. And all of this has to be done in, in, in a manner which we’re equity is. We treat everybody the same and it has to be tempered on as a temper oneself which was a big challenge for me in the past. I’ll come to that. And then I think that is where, and in business how it’s even more important now, right? Compassion for oneself. I think COVID has heightened the peaks and deepened the valleys. And so the difference is so much more vivid to oneself. What was simple before it’s not so simple anymore. And all of us are, I wouldn’t say, I would say even tough on ourselves.

I left the door open and I, and we went out for a walk with the dog and I left the door open. I’m like, idiot, why did he do that? To myself. And then. I’m not sure where I read this. But being compassionate to yourself is when you hear yourself talk in that tone to yourself, realize that the decisions are so much more complex now.

So let’s say you had a child who had a cough in the past you have just instead of sending the kid to school, you would leave him with your parents. And when you do that today, it’s not that simple anymore. And we, decisions are a lot more complex and so we make some mistakes and it’s important to be compassionate with yourself and realize that everybody else is going through the same thing.

And that’s what we need to be compassionate to others. If you don’t understand what you’re going through and be compassionate about it. Recognize. And accepted and give each other a little more space for that. And I think that is so important in business because that builds trust, knowing that you’re not alone and telling a patient, I realized that.

You may have because of the threshold they have to overcome to come and get care is also higher, right? The decisions they have to make are more difficult. And so something that was simple before may not be as simple and acknowledging that with the other person helps build that trust. Having that discussion in a group setting with each other even one-on-one is so important that people understand that you understand them.

Also in a holistic manner as a full person this work-life balance. Isn’t, it does not work is a person’s life anymore. It’s integrated a lot more. And we’re now hopefully as businesses and as leaders, seeing individuals as whole people, rather than just, the title of that person. And so that empathy the compassion.

Coming together and treating each other with respect, starting with yourself is key. And in today’s day and age, there’s a lot going on in terms of virtue, right? Like how would you treat someone else? How would you be treated? How would you want to be treated the golden rule?

It’s it’s it’s got so much more focused on it. With what we’re seeing in , whether there’s racial inequalities coming up to light, whether it’s the covid and healthcare disparities, social determinants of health and so many other facets of our life. So I think businesses, where there is an empathy for the community and what’s around the business Where there’s compassion between individuals, will build trust.

And that is a foundation for sustainability and growth. It could be between two individuals. It could be between a leader and a subordinate. It could be between colleagues. It could be within the community and the interaction, as those groups, as you scale up, within the business and everyone in the business interaction.

Chris: One of the leaders that I follow Chris Valton out of Redding, California. He makes the analogy that it’s 2020 is like being in an NFL training camp weight room. And in essence, like you’re presently under insane amounts of pressure. 

And, and are you, as you’re saying this awareness of what’s going on around us and having more compassion for people, I really feel that it’s crazy how all of this stuff came to a head all in one year, because to your point, following 2020.

And we’re, we’re in the, we’re in the brink of 2021 that, and when this episode goes live, it’ll be 2021. And in essence as we scale back from COVID I would imagine that it’s going to just change things rather significantly. And to your point, a large part of that is that, that reckoning, the fact that there are like, basically like just the heightened sense of compassion and empathy for each other and businesses that do that well are going to survive.

And as we’ve been seeing the businesses that have not been doing that are struggling significantly. 

So I love that. Thank you for sharing that. And one of the things that we talked about offline was that, a virtue, the opposite of virtue is vice and that it’s easy to sit here.

Now, having gone through the. Going through the gauntlet of leading, not the way that we are today. So just curious, Vishal, if you could maybe share some a little bit about your journey as a leader, maybe where you weren’t necessarily the most virtuous previously in your career and how that kind of shaped you into the person that you are today.

Vishal: Yes. Thank you for that. It’s almost a therapy session. I grew up in my career, starting washing dishes and garden in the kitchen and then grew up in the kitchen. And so it was not unheard of, and I don’t mean to generalize in any way, shape or form, but for me it was not unheard of for my leader to stop by and tapping into the back of the head or use some foul language or.

Not demonstrate temperance, shall we say? And I grew up in that and that’s what I learned. And that’s how I was. That’s who I was. I was I was in charge of a kitchen at a young age and one day I realized what had happened to meet as a leader. I wouldn’t say I was a leader, I was more a manager.

I was given the responsibility. And that doesn’t necessarily make you the leader, the responsibility. So funny thing is I had been at the brunt end of it. And I left a job because of it. So I, when I went from India to the UK, I worked for a chef who swore at me. And I spoke to him saying, chef.

I will work harder. I’ll do whatever. Please don’t do that to me. And he continued in a joking manner. It was funny for him and the others. And I walked out of that job. And I didn’t have anywhere else to go per se. I was literally out of work and I was a student at the time. However, fast forward three years, I was doing the same thing as a leader, as a person who was given in charge of a different kitchen, I was not demonstrating temperance.

And an incident occurred where I could have hurt someone or myself. And it just made me stop and think and reassess myself. And since. Whenever there is a situation with high emotions enrolled. I just don’t react right away. And I give people more than what I would have hot a fair space in terms of time and benefit of that.

Because one never really understands what’s going on in the other person’s life or what influenced them to be who they are. And that may be appropriate because that’s who I was. It’s having that. I think that has changed me magically to the point where my daughter for last Halloween gave me Yoda.

With the bowl with the two hold candies on my office desk. Baby Yoda wasn’t out then yet, so that’s how she sees me. I’m not one to react negatively quickly instantly do anything. And I am thankful to the individual who brought that up and said, do you know what would have happened or what you did, or, helped me, Start and I’m nowhere there yet in being able to reflect on myself.

It’s so important that we do that. It’s key and it makes a difference in how we interact with everyone around us. And then we project to some extent, a mix of leaders, depending upon how I won’t say vocal, but how expressive. We project our ourselves into our organization’s culture, which reflects into how the organization interacts with society.

Chris: Yeah. The another another guest had said something to quote her Latisha. I loved what she said, but she basically said that when she talked about who she, when I asked her, who are you? Her response was her final line was a work in progress. 

Recognizing the fact that, she’s come a long way, but she’s got a long way to go still on the journey of being, the the leader that she wants to be.

And so yeah so thank you for that story of recognizing that and that’s crazy too, as you mentioned. So help me understand, because maybe I missed it, but in essence, you’re just saying that it was. Like you had gone into this period of time where you started to lead that way. And someone brought it up with was just giving you feedback of do you recognize that this is a way that you’re operating presently and that opened your eyes to being like, whoa, I need to really start reflecting into the way that I’m presently managing and leading people 

Vishal: Then to behaving before you can lead them.

Ask how am I as a person, being a better person. That’s the fundamental being okay with yourself. Are you okay with yourself and how you are first realizing that reflecting on it and then saying, okay, yes, I’m fine with it. Or I could have done that better, without being so negative that you’re not compassionate with yourself

Chris: Thank you for sharing Vishal. How can people get ahold of you and the work that you’re doing? 

Vishal: LinkedIn is the best way to reach me. And so you’re welcome to share that with the listeners. Yeah that’s the best way to reach me. 

Chris: Great. We will we’ll definitely share that as well as. The Parklands URL for the work that you’re doing there too.

But yeah, I really enjoyed connecting with you. I know you said in jest about the therapy session, but I honestly feel like this is one of the best episodes that I’ve shot thus far, just because of your vulnerability and your realness, and really just, I can see the genuine person that you are.

And that, that it, it definitely just inspires me to show because people don’t follow robots and it’s our emotion and our passion that gets people that inspires other people that want to get behind us and start, heading into the direction that we’re charging.

So I can only just imagine the, what it is what it’s like to. Follow you in a business setting. And so this has been great, really enjoy connecting with you. Appreciate your time. And yeah. Thank you for being a part of our journey as well. Vishal.

Vishal: Thank you, Chris. Appreciate it.

Chris: Hey, Chris here. Hope you enjoy the episode where we discussed all things going bald, just joking, the leading virtuously podcast. If you enjoyed the episode and the podcast, will you please subscribe on YouTube or apple podcasts or Spotify, or you can also share it with a friend that would be tubular.

Hope you have an awesome day.

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