x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Tearing down walls leads to better communication

The Life: Rajesh Nagjee began his career running a hospital until he discovered a talent for mentoring as a result of tragedy.

Rajesh Nagjee, the founder and owner of Chrysalis, a consultancy that helps CEOs to achieve their goals and grow their business. Sarah Dea / The National
Rajesh Nagjee, the founder and owner of Chrysalis, a consultancy that helps CEOs to achieve their goals and grow their business. Sarah Dea / The National

Having grown up in a family that had manufactured umbrellas since the late 1800s, Rajesh Nagjeehad long viewed protection as his life's purpose.

That led him to build Nagjee Memorial Hospital in 1985 in his home town of Nasik, about 200km from Mumbai.

During the first year, patients were processed on arrival, an administrative task that was designed to protect the hospital from legal complications - but that could take 20 minutes.

"We couldn't touch the patient" until the paperwork was processed, says Mr Nagjee, who is the founder and chief executive at Chrysalis Management Consultancy, based in Dubai.

But in the hospital's second year a patient died before the paperwork had been completed, nine minutes after his arrival.

"One of my doctors came in and said 'Don't worry, this patient's death will not be recorded on our mortality records because we will declare him dead on arrival'," recalls Mr Nagjee.

"I couldn't sleep for three nights."

After mulling it over, he told his medical staff that they must start efforts to resuscitate patients within a minute of arrival.

"I said I don't care about the forms. I am ready to face all legal complications. Even if it means I get to run the hospital for one week and they shut me down," he says.

His staff - and there were many of them at 366 employees and 24 full-time doctors - were not as eager as he was.

"All hell broke loose. My doctors, my matron and my nurses said, 'Sir, you can't do that. There will be so many problems'," he says.

Mr Nagjee's staff appealed for time to practise. They said that once they had become used to the new targets, they could announce the guarantee to the public. In return he provided them with training and gave them all the support he could muster.

"To cut a long story short, nothing worked. They were not able to get aligned to this vision. Everybody was carrying on doing the job that they were doing. It was like, 'Why should I run when I can walk?', stuff like that," he says.

Mr Nagjee's secretary then suggested that he try talking to his staff. He took her advice and began tearing down walls in the basement to create a classroom.

"I started talking to my people. That's when the whole culture shifted," he says.

"The result I created in the hospital astounded me."

The hospital was now able to achieve an average emergency response time of three minutes, which was better than even the World Health Organisation target of five.

"I sold [the hospital in 1996] because I realised that the mission of my life had been refined to saving life to getting people in touch with their inner magnificence," he adds.

The next year, after word had spread of what Mr Nagjee had achieved, he was asked to move to Dubai and help staff at 3i Infotech, which had been bought out, to achieve targets that had been set for a contractual three-year lock-in.

"[To make a] long story short, we made that all happen," he says.

Mr Nagjee has since set up Chrysalis, which helps chief executives of small and medium-sized companies to succeed.

"There are five zones that we work with: one is mindset, strategy, execution, people and profits," he says.

When entrepreneurs start a company they make two decisions, he says: first to fill a gap in a market, and second to become a chief executive, although they often lacked the experience and skills to run a company.

"My job is to make their second decision as good as their first one."