In the booming healthcare industry, innovation and cutting-edge skill are in high demand. However, success hinges on one key trait and it’s not something that can be taught in a classroom or learned from a book. According to Dr. Sanjiv Lakhanpal, CEO of Center for Vein Restoration, empathy is the trait he looks for in job applicants and can make or break an interview.

“Subject matter can be taught but qualities like work ethic, the ability to use the changing winds to one’s advantage, team before self and (in our field) most importantly empathy towards a patient is something that must be inherent in anyone we evaluate for a career at CVR.”

The ability to understand people and share their feelings is not only essential for clinicians, but it’s also the trait Dr. Lakhanpal relies on as a leader. It is at the core of why he’s been named one of the 2019 Top CEOs in America. Among chief executives recognized by employees of small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S., Dr. Lakhanpal received an impressive approval rating of 98% based on the 133 anonymous and voluntary reviews CVR employees shared on Glassdoor throughout the past year. Among the approximately 900,000 companies reviewed on Glassdoor, the average CEO approval rating is 69 percent.

Following his win, Glassdoor caught up with Dr. Sanjiv Lakhanpal to dig into his thoughts about empathy, the attributes he looks for during interviews and what motivates him as a leader.

Glassdoor: Congratulations on the Top CEOs SMB win. What does it mean to you to know that your employees have rated you so highly? 
Dr. Sanjiv Lakhanpal: A company is nothing but an expression of the mood, the character and the abilities of its employee partners. It is extremely humbling to know that our employees approve of the direction that CVR is taking and of the way we are utilizing our finite resources. It is only with mutual respect and trust between all stakeholders that we can achieve the best outcomes for our patients.

Glassdoor: One of a CEO’s primary responsibilities is to hire amazing leaders. What attributes do you look for in today’s top talent?
Dr. Sanjiv Lakhanpal: Happy, optimistic people who are willing to work hard with a smile, loyalty to the patient and to the team and folks who can lead us from one tranche to the next while maintaining a blend of an ambitious push of corporate culture and the security that a family like atmosphere brings. The needs of a company change as a company grows so it is critical to hire folks who realize the beauty of what we have been but truly have the vision to help us get to where we want to go.

Glassdoor: When you interview candidates, what do you look for? What questions do you love to ask or what aspects do you like to dig into?
Dr. Sanjiv Lakhanpal: The bottom line here is: Subject matter can be taught but qualities like work ethic, the ability to use the changing winds to one’s advantage, team before self and (in our field) most importantly empathy towards a patient is something that must be inherent in anyone we evaluate for a career at CVR.

To me a very valuable question is: So, tell me about yourself? The format of a freestyle answer here gives me a very good idea about what the person values, their leadership styles, is this person going to be a partner in our growth or is he/she just coming to only take and not give to this relationship, whether the person will complain about the winds or do whatever needs to be done to get the boat going.

Glassdoor: How do you align the company’s recruiting strategy with business needs?
Dr. Sanjiv Lakhanpal: The needs of a company are in constant flux. As we have grown, we realized that it is critical to our success to hire people who really “get” our culture. They understand and embrace our vision for the future and are able and willing to push us ahead, without losing where we started. That is a special ability; it’s one we really look for as we recruit new members of our family.

Glassdoor: When you look back over your past year as CEO, what missteps have you learned the most from?
Dr. Sanjiv Lakhanpal: Oh my God! Life has awarded me the privilege of making a LOT of mistakes and I have a boatload of personal underperformance stories. It is amazing how forgiving your friends and team members can be if they realize that your intentions and motives were/are honest. The one mistake I would like folks leading growing companies to learn from would be the following: As your company moves from one phase to the next we all have a lot of learning to do … that comes easy to most of us; don’t forget that there is also a lot of unlearning that needs to be done at every stage and some of that unlearning will be related to principles you know were critical in getting you to where you are. This unlearning comes a lot harder but is absolutely essential.

Glassdoor: Your employees rave about the career opportunities, travel opportunities and work-life balance at The Center for Vein Restoration. How do you as CEO create a work environment that is both encouraging and productive for employees?
Dr. Sanjiv Lakhanpal: The credit for this really goes to our Directors and Managers. A lot of them are a product of the family like environment that our practice is rooted in. They take pride in how well their staff perform at work, in their personal lives, on the golf course and on the table tennis table. The dictum our executive team follows is that a happy employee is a productive employee, a cohesive team is an invincible team and teams that communicate seamlessly between themselves make a formidable company.

Communications occurring in a more casual and non-threatening environment are a lot more ‘from the heart’ and consequently more productive. The ‘in the weeds’ work has to be done in an office setting but the relationship building is helped by a more relaxed setting.

With respect to encouraging employees, I feel the lessons best learned there are from parenting. Only children who are constantly encouraged for the right behavior grow up to be wholesome functional citizens.

Glassdoor: Now for a fun one: what book are you currently reading that you’d recommend?
Dr. Sanjiv Lakhanpal: ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari and ‘Conquest of Mind’ by Eknath Easwaran. Would highly recommend them both.

Glassdoor: Lastly, what advice would you give job seekers who are applying to your company?
Dr. Sanjiv Lakhanpal: CVR promises great career opportunities to those willing to work hard with a smile. We also realize that smiles are very hard to maintain without the right work life balance. If you maintain your loyalty to your patients – in an environment of mutual respect and trust for your co-workers, you will find CVR a great place to grow both personally and professionally!

Originally Published on Glassdoor.

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