#80: A conversation with an atypical CEO, ER doctor, firefighter and family man Ryan Noach

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A CEO, a doctor, a firefighter and a family man?

Ryan Noach started out as a doctor in the emergency room. He’s always measured his value to society by the impact he’s had on other people’s lives, that’s how Ryan decided to become a doctor. And that’s how he eventually ended up at DiscoveryHealth in South Africa as well. But besides these amazing achievements, he has also been a firefighter and… a father and husband to great kids and a smart and beautiful wife. But like everyone else in this world, he faces challenges as well! What are these challenges?

Facing challenges on three different levels

Being busy all the time, isn’t easy. And Ryan faces a lot of difficult challenges all the time. He classifies them in three different scales.

1-     Changing the behaviour of 100 million people

Yeah… 100million people is a lot. As a doctor, one of the hardest things to do, is to make your patients change habits and that is exactly what Discovery Health wants to do. They want 100 million people throughout the world to be more physically active by 2025. He believes that through using positive incentives and behavioural economics, they can get 100 million people to live a longer and more healthy life.

2-     Inspiring a team

Inspiring a team to run a difficult business is hard. It’s become even more challenging through COVID. Working out how to collaborate remotely or hybrid is tough, as everyone has different needs. It’s hard to install a company culture when you don’t have as many spontaneous encounters anymore due to the online meetings.Making good decisions also has become a difficult part of business, becauseCOVID has brought a lot of uncertainty.

3-     Micro challenges

These are rather obvious; they are your day to day challenges that everyone has. Dealing with regulatory issues, competitive challenges, and smaller challenges.

Dealing with uncertainty in COVID times

Dealing with uncertainty in these times is inevitable. Instead of waiting until we get all the information, we must get used to making decisions when we don’t. So how does Ryan do that? Experimentation is one of his core principles. Everyone should get the space and safety to be curious and try new things. That leads to the most creativity and innovation in the end. You need to be brave to make this decision, because in a well-oiled machine, unleashing a new degree of uncertainty can make you lose control. But getting comfortable with that sense is what differentiates agile companies from others.

Authenticity, self-analysis and energy management

Ryan sometimes describes himself as being too authentic. That’s because most of the time, he speaks his mind without filter. He does the same unto others as he would like done to himself. Sometimes he thinks he could be a bit more nuanced to adapt to the audience. That’s a quality that can be appreciated in general, but it could sometimes make him come over as angry. But through self-analysis, he has learned to control his reactions before they surfaced. For Ryan, he feels a knot behind his belly button or a feeling of being outside of his body.He has learned to trust that feeling and can use it to his own advantage. What do you feel in your body when you feel stressed? If you can recognize that feeling, you can take control over your reactions and respond in a better way.

You’ve heard this before without a doubt: preventing is better than treating. In order to prevent these difficult emotions, you should always manage your energy and do something every day that gives you energy. For Ryan, that’s exercising at least 45 minutes every day and having dinner with his family every day. For you that might be something different but try to find out what that is!

I hope you got inspired by Ryan’s way of working and living and that you learned something from this episode. I will see you in the next one!

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