The Medical Alley Podcast, presented by MentorMate

Why Leaders Need Coaches with Sal Mondelli and Anja White, The Bailey Group

April 01, 2024 Medical Alley
Why Leaders Need Coaches with Sal Mondelli and Anja White, The Bailey Group
The Medical Alley Podcast, presented by MentorMate
More Info
The Medical Alley Podcast, presented by MentorMate
Why Leaders Need Coaches with Sal Mondelli and Anja White, The Bailey Group
Apr 01, 2024
Medical Alley

Leadership can be hard, especially in healthcare. Those tasked with leading companies or managing teams working on potentially live-saving technology or services can face plenty of stress and uncertainty, especially with the changes in the work environment post-pandemic. Sometimes those leaders need executive coaches, which is where groups like The Bailey Group come in.

On this week's episode of the Medical Alley Podcast, we're joined by Sal Mondelli and Anja White, who are both executive coaches and consultants at The Bailey Group. They address the question: who might be a good fit for executive coaching? Sal and Anja also chat with our Ben Wagner about how leaders play a big role in workforce retention, the differences in leaders of a startup versus a larger corporation, and the importance of leaders being lifelong learners.

Learn more about The Bailey Group at

Send us a message!

Follow Medical Alley on social media on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Show Notes Transcript

Leadership can be hard, especially in healthcare. Those tasked with leading companies or managing teams working on potentially live-saving technology or services can face plenty of stress and uncertainty, especially with the changes in the work environment post-pandemic. Sometimes those leaders need executive coaches, which is where groups like The Bailey Group come in.

On this week's episode of the Medical Alley Podcast, we're joined by Sal Mondelli and Anja White, who are both executive coaches and consultants at The Bailey Group. They address the question: who might be a good fit for executive coaching? Sal and Anja also chat with our Ben Wagner about how leaders play a big role in workforce retention, the differences in leaders of a startup versus a larger corporation, and the importance of leaders being lifelong learners.

Learn more about The Bailey Group at

Send us a message!

Follow Medical Alley on social media on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Ben Wagner  01:18

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Medical Alley Podcast. My name is Ben Wagner, I'm your host today. And we have a great conversation coming up for you on leadership and healthcare from two distinguished experts. Questions are: what makes a great leader? How do you take that next step in your career? And how may things like AI or the Great Resignation impact companies day to day? To answer those questions and more, we're joined by two executive coaches and consultants with The Bailey Group, Sal Mondelli and Anja White. Sal, Anja, welcome.

Sal Mondelli  01:50

Thank you, Ben. 

 Anja White  01:51

Thank you.

 Ben Wagner  01:52

Great to have you both here. Why don't we jump right into a bit about each of you. Sal, let's start with you. Just tell us a little bit about what you do.

 Sal Mondelli  01:58

Sure. Thanks for having us here today, Ben. So I'm a former CEO of multiple tech companies, and also in not for profits. So I've been with The Bailey Group for seven and a half years, and I work with boards of directors and CEOs and executive team members and try to help them achieve their full potential. 

 Ben Wagner  02:17

Excellent. Anja, how about we turn it over to you next?

 Anja White  02:20

Thank you for inviting us. I like being asked these questions. I'm very passionate about leadership. My most recent role was Chief Human Resources Officer at Cretex Companies here in the Twin Cities. I have been a certified leadership coach for 12 years or so, and have been very passionate about developing top talent in an organization for a very long time.

 Ben Wagner  02:45

I think we've got — I'm really excited to really dig into this conversation with the both of you. But let's start here with some of the basics. You know, what is The Bailey Group? And so what sort of services do you offer?

 Sal Mondelli  02:58

The Bailey Group at its core is a leadership development organization. So we work with boards and CEOs, leadership team members, and people below the leadership team who aspire to higher levels of responsibility in any organization. We've been around, just celebrated our 35th anniversary last month. Founded by Lee Bailey, who came out of the banking industry and he was in organizational development and wanted to get into a place where he could affect people's management style, things more longer term than just go into a one day or one week, one week seminar. So we do a coaching team development. We do succession planning, and we also do pre hire assessments for people. So we have the psychological part of it, as well as the business side. We think that's a unique value proposition to bring to it. What are you feeling inside? What are your behaviors? Where are your stumbling blocks? And then how do you view your role in a new position as a differentiating from what got you promoted? When you get to the new levels, it's all different.

 Ben Wagner  04:07

Well, first off, congratulations on 35 years. That's an impressive feat for any company. 

 Sal Mondelli  04:11

It really is. 

 Ben Wagner  04:12

Yeah, Medical Alley is celebrating 40 years this year as well. And I'm sure over the course of that time, the way that you develop leaders has changed and the lessons you've learned really has changed as well. So let's start, you know, we talk a lot about leadership here within Medical Alley, and we work with leaders across all sectors of health care from health technology, providers, payers and the like across the entire ecosystem. So Sal, from your experience, you know, what really makes a strong leader within this kind of broad healthcare space? 

 Sal Mondelli  04:46

Well, we do the same way we work with healthcare providers, med tech, biotech, insurance companies and etc. And what we've found is that like doctors, medical professionals are like accountants and engineers and lawyers. They've all been brought up to have all the answers all the time. And as you move into leadership position, it's not about having the answers. It's all about knowing the right questions to ask. So in many ways, you need to retool your brain. And that's what we help as consultants, to get into a different space, to go get more uncomfortable as you move up. And I always use the Tiger Woods example. At the height of his success, Tiger Woods changed his swing. Now who does that? Right? Somebody who wants to get a little bit better, because they're motivated themselves, or they're looking at the competitors coming up their tailpipe, and they want to get better. So that's really what — and work with soft skills that people might not have, and how to delegate and trust others, because that's not traits that a doctor would have, or an accountant or a lawyer etc. So I think that's the main thing. In biotech, it's you've got a PhD person who again, is, a lot of these people are used to six digits to the right of the decimal point, and leadership and management, it might be zero to the right of the decimal point. You gotta get comfortable that 

 Ben Wagner  06:10

comfortable with uncomfortability.

 Sal Mondelli  06:12


 Ben Wagner  06:13

That's a good motto to have. Sal, I'm curious, too, ae there challenges within the healthcare space that make the path to leadership more challenging, or uniquely challenging in a way that it isn't in banking or tech or whatever?

 Sal Mondelli  06:30

I think there's a couple, Ben. I think the main thing is we're dealing with life and death situations, whether you're a doctor or you're a med tech firm, and you're developing something that goes into a person's body. So that's a big deal. And improving lives is a motivator that a banker, any other organization, it's more like a not for profit, where it's trying to not only do no harm, but improve things. I think that's the big motivator that I've seen with the people I've worked with. They're very passionate about doing it and the quality, they understand needs to be their, or there are dire consequences.

 Ben Wagner  06:34

That really is a unique trait that I've noticed too, in my time with Medical Alley and meeting leaders here is there's a lot of really service mission oriented people that really believe that their device or their service or what have you could really affect change worldwide. 

 Sal Mondelli  07:30

And you have to believe that every day, even if you're having problems. You have to figure out how to deal with them. I remember when I was in the Navy, my boss, who was a fighter pilot once one day said, the worst fighter pilot in the world wakes up every day believing he's the best fighter pilot. And that's what you need to do in this kind of situation.

 Ben Wagner  07:47

Yeah, no kidding. Well, Anja, you know, in this era where we're seeing a lot more job hopping, a lot more open to work banners on LinkedIn, a lot more of especially I would say within sort of younger professionals, job hopping has become a bit more common. You know, what strategies do you recommend for organizations who are trying to hold on to that top talent so they don't see them leave, you know, a year, 18 months out from their start date?

 Anja White  08:19

So I would really recommend organizations don't look at a retention strategy as an event, as an initiative, as something we do when it becomes urgent or important as the workforce market changes all the time. I believe organizations who are very intentional about their culture and their values and look at the entire employment cycle think about retaining their top talent every day. It's just part of the DNA. It's not an HR thing. It's something that the leaders at all levels of the organization believe is fundamentally critical for their success. So the idea that the market is going to change quickly doesn't frighten the organization, because they know they have a strong culture, they have purpose, they have values. Everyone in the organization knows they belong. And then it is not so scary when all of a sudden the recruiter calls because the employee feels like no, this is the place I want to be. 

 Ben Wagner  09:28

That message there I think resonates is engagement. Employee engagement is not an event. It is a continued piece of your overall business strategy. That really stuck out to me, Anja. I'm curious too. You know, we're talking a lot, we've talked a lot and we've seen a lot of content and ideas and around how AI could be a real disruptor within the workforce, not just in in healthcare but kind of across the board. How do you see AI impacting workforce strategies, whether that's recruitment or retention? And how can organizations sort of begin to wrap their hands around this huge kind of complicated idea of artificial intelligence and machine learning within their workforce? 

 Anja White  10:22

It is mind numbing how quickly that technology is in organizations in our life already. It's already there. So I think organizations who think, well, we'll start thinking about how to integrate it are probably already too late. Their employees are using it already. And it's a tool that once an employee, even just use ChatGPT, it is used every single day by employees. And if companies believe that they're not doing it because we put rules around us, I think they probably are kidding themselves. My feeling is the quicker the leadership of the organizations understand how to use AI for their own growth and success and strategy, and help their employees use it in their job effectively, to me, that is incredibly exciting. And it doesn't have to be scary. I would say go out there, find the people who understand it, get educated, get trained, and find ways how you can quickly use it for your own success.

 Ben Wagner  11:36

Do you see any, you know, we just talked about retention a bit. Do you see any opportunities to you to utilizing AI to making, to really getting at employee engagement and making sure the companies are retaining their top talent?

 Anja White  11:52

So I'm, you know, by no means an expert in this at all. The little bit I have learned is the data analytics that AI can help us implement and create and be more of a leading indicator so we know what's coming, right? The predictability of the data that would suggest, you know what, this type of employee could potentially leave or might be unhappy about XYZ, I think clearly would be worth exploring.

 Ben Wagner  12:28

I want to get to kind of a core of what Anja, you and Sal do and for our listeners to kind of wrap their head around this idea of executive coaching and utilizing your services and talents to take that next step in their own careers. So for some leaders out there who maybe haven't considered executive coaching, or they don't think that your services really are for them, Anja who would you say makes really a good candidate for these types of services?

 Anja White  13:04

Leaders that are recognizing or whose leaders help them recognize what got me here won't get me there are really good candidates. This is the — or leaders who are starting a new leadership role or a new organization. And coaching can be part of the onboarding strategy, because they're getting this objective listener and objective feedback to really make them step into this learning. 

 Ben Wagner  13:37

Yeah. And Sal, I'm curious too, any, you know, what's your assessment, kind of the right person who should be reaching out to you to ask those questions and to make you sort of a sounding board?

 Sal Mondelli  13:50

Yeah, I agree 100% with what Anja said. I think the most successful ones I've seen, people are lifelong learners and they're inquisitive. They're comfortable, again, with being uncomfortable, getting out of their comfort zone, not being afraid to fail. And expanding their horizons, because they want to move up the ladder. And most people think that what they made them successful in the previous job will make them successful in the next one, and it's just 180 degrees opposite from that. But they need to be committed to the process. Because the ones I've seen that haven't worked are ones that well, I'm doing this because my boss wants me to. And that just, it just doesn't work. 

 Ben Wagner  14:29

What does that process generally look like? 

 Sal Mondelli  14:31

Well, it's a matter of doing an assessment of somebody and getting the behavioral aspects in there, looking for the derailers, and then going with the coachee and their boss and saying, What are you trying to accomplish? One as an individual, two as the leader saying, Here's what I want to see this person achieve. Putting together measurable coaching goals, working on the coach being the accountability partner, and saying, Okay, you said you were going to do this, and this is the third time in a row you haven't. What's the problem? And then meeting with the with the coachee and their boss every couple of months to make sure, Are you seeing the behaviors change? Because coach only sees half of the conversation, right? The boss sees the person every day, we just don't.

 Ben Wagner  15:14

Right. And it's interesting that you get down to that kind of behavioral level, that assessment of how someone reacts in certain situations or what their attitude is like day to day in the office.  I'm curious too, Sal, about sort of the changing dynamic of leaders who are, you know, maybe in the latter part of their career versus sort of emerging leaders. Are you seeing a difference, like a generational difference, and is there a different way you approach these two groups?

 Sal Mondelli  15:43

Well, I'm a boomer. I mean, I grew up in the command and control, spent some time in the Navy. That doesn't work anymore, right. And as you get to the new generations, people have different expectations about how fast they can move, what they need to have as experiences. And what I found is that people can say, Look, if you want to do this, I've got the warts and I got the problems on my back. So I've seen it. I haven't seen them all. But I can help you avoid those landmines. And there's the same landmines today that there were 10 years ago and 15 years ago. So just take them as input and use it. Because coaches have a perspective, based upon where they came from. And that can kind of help you for the future, to avoid pitfalls and say Oh, I got in that situation. And what the coach took me through helped me not say anything, or do something different, or take another path, or realize I need to fire somebody quicker than I thought I did. Does that answer your question?

Ben Wagner  16:54

Yeah, no, it does. It does. And I think I've seen the same sort of thing is, you know, the young sort of younger emerging professionals wanting to move up the ladder really fast, and job hopping to do that, or what have you. That kind of timeless piece of advice of listening to people who have been there before you is really valuable. So Anja, too, you know, as we kind of talked about some sort of recent-ish events, although it can feel like a lifetime ago, how did the pandemic and the sort of ensuing the Great Resignation as it has been dubbed, and that may be a title that you're tired of hearing, how did that those two things change the way organizations have had to approach their leadership strategies? Have you seen companies sort of make a greater emphasis on the purpose and the meaning behind what they're doing?

 Anja White  17:40

So part of me wants to answer it by pointing back to what we said earlier around retention. This to me is again about the organizational culture, and the values and being very intentional to ensure people want to be with you, especially during the pandemic. I mean, that was, all of us learned things that we didn't think that we needed to learn, right. So it was a really, really interesting time for companies. And those, I think, who are very intentional about this value proposition they have to offer to people, I don't have the data on this, but I do believe that people tend to think twice before they leave them. Now what the Great Resignation brought was really confusing to us on the other side of the table, because the workforce decided or those that left they decided to leave for reasons that we didn't see coming. So for instance, we had people leave, and they accepted a significantly less material life, if you will, or lifestyle, just because they wanted to have more meaning. And so how do you, how do you respond to that? Yeah, we could increase our pay rates. But if someone wants to leave, to spend more time with the family or become a truck driver and not be a CEO anymore, whatever the case was, the stories you read out there, that was very puzzling to us. And the other thing that is not quite clear to me if this was sort of a transitory event, the Great Resignation, or is this now, you know, is that sort of a thing we came out on the other side and people said, okay, I'm good now, I want to go back to corporate life. I don't have the answer to that. But I believe as I said earlier, culture, values, purpose, meaning is what top talent is looking for in companies.

Ben Wagner  19:47

Have you seen companies sort of make a greater emphasis on the purpose and the meaning behind what they're doing?

Anja White  19:54

What I see is companies being more intentional communicating it over and over and over again. And by pointing out what they are doing, things that are available to employees, especially as you get larger, it is more difficult for employees to know, I wonder if there's a leadership development program? Or is there career pathing? Or what are our salary grades or any of those things need to be throughout your corporate communications team, if you have one, to just really constantly put in front of employees so that they know what they have.

 Ben Wagner  20:32

Sal, you and Anja both work with startups, large organizations, and everybody in between. Do leadership traits differ much between those companies, both big and small? And do you think leaders possess the same traits really, regardless of the organization? Are there kind of sort of these timeless traits?

 Sal Mondelli  20:54

The answer is yes, right? This is a both and. So you need to be an ethical leader, you need to have courageous beliefs. And you got to know when to hold them when to fold them. Everybody thinks an entrepreneur is a bet it all on black or red  at the roulette table. And they're really not. They're taking calculated risks. But you're right, there's a startup then there's a growth phase, and there's maturity phase of a company. And there aren't too many Bill Gates that can take take you through all three. So sometimes there's people that just enjoy each one of those segments, and they're just not comfortable in the other. But in the growth phase, you're fighting for survival. In the medtech, biotech world, you got to get enough capital in to get you through FDA approval before you can get revenue. And everybody does everything, everybody knows everything. And if the founder's still there in the growth phase, he or she has to realize I don't have to know everything anymore. And I need to hire a team and trust them. And that's a different experience. And some people can't get beyond the initial stage of that. And then of course, in the maturity stage, it's all about staying ahead of the competition and those kinds of things. And then the one thing I would say that is probably the hardest for anybody in that growth stages. Sal came with me, he was my second employee, and now Sal can't take me where I need to go, and I need to either find something else for him to do or tell him it's time for you to leave. That's the hardest thing I've found people have to do.

 Ben Wagner  22:26

Yeah. Is that, I guess what would be kind of your biggest piece of advice to a leader who may be thinking, like, am I the the best person for the next stage of this company? 

 Sal Mondelli  22:42

And there's a lot of founders that get tossed out by board of directors or investors because they don't realize that. Sometimes a coach can help be the confidant to tell them things that they don't want to hear. And if they keep, it's like as a kid, I didn't, you didn't listen to your parents. But if your aunt and uncle told you something, or the neighbor down the street told you something, well, that made a difference.

 Ben Wagner  23:05

That's good advice. Anja, do you have anything you would add to that? 

 Anja White  23:08

Oh, I agree. It is a huge difference to be in a startup and even small organization and then later in a large organization. I think there's also as you grow into a large company or work for a large company, the sophistication around the communication style a leader has, the interactions with the different stakeholders, the way you inspire and motivate employees is very different. There's a formality versus informality that is very different and I've experienced that unfortunately, where some couldn't make the transition. They came to a small company from a large organization, and didn't have the resource structure that they were accustomed to. And then we had people that came from small organizations into larger companies and their communication style or their informality or their, you know, just their thinking of well, I can do everything by myself, but now they really need to have their staff doing it was an adjustment that was very challenging for them. So I think it's a fun journey, if you get to do all of that, the three phases in your career, but I do believe they're very different.

 Sal Mondelli  24:22

Anja brings up a great point. The over-under from moving from a large company to a small company is 12 months. And I experienced that. I moved from IBM to a small company, myself and another friend. And we both left within 12 months for lots of different reasons. But it was still a good experience. And it helped us both get to the next level. Again, that's something that most people won't talk about.

 Ben Wagner  24:48

Right. And I guess what was the big takeaway for you from that experience?

 Sal Mondelli  24:54

Well, as Anja said, you got to get used to there's not an executive assistant outside my door and 200 are people ready to do my bidding. It's me and a laptop and a phone, in that particular case,

 Ben Wagner  25:06

Yeah. And there's a lot more sort of accountability and everybody jumping around and helping Yeah, right. Okay. Well, I really appreciated this discussion, Sal and Anja. And I've got one more for the two of you. And it's kind of a really broad, big question. So take it in any, any direction you you feel is appropriate. But what is your, I guess, key piece of advice for professionals who are looking to continuously grow and succeed in their careers, given this kind of ever changing landscape with technology and coming out of the pandemic and the like. What's your biggest piece of advice? And Anja, we'll start with you.

 Anja White  25:52

Well, of course, there's the cliche of, you know, do not stop learning, be a lifelong learner. But that can look differently to different people. And we see that obviously, also with the clients that we work with. So in a very simplistic way, I would encourage people to learn, even just by stepping outside of their comfort zone. You know, go to a restaurant you've never been in with different cultural backgrounds, or speak to people that are, you know, speak to the interns on the floor and learn what it's like to be a college student today. I think there's just a whole great world out there. And learning doesn't have to be academic and only, you know, book and seminar learning. But reach out to the people and get really curious about them I just feel like is what continues to make those leaders become successful, or stay successful, even.

 Ben Wagner  26:49

That learning agility is really, really important. Sal, your biggest piece of advice?

 Sal Mondelli  26:55

I agree with with Anja about that lifelong learner and change. I think, don't be afraid to fail. Because you got to try new things. Some things are going to work, some things are not going to work. People are going to give you advice, and it might have worked for them in a different situation, and it might not work for you. So you've got to be able to pivot pretty quickly on those kinds of things. And know when to ask for help. The common wisdom is asking for help is a weakness. It's really a strength. Because if you admit that you don't know everything and need some assistance, that gives you credibility with people and earns their trust and shows some vulnerability. I think in today's environment, that and accountability probably are the two biggest things that we could work on with a lot of business executives or otherwise. And Anja talked about going to different places. I always talk to people to try to compare what you're doing to retail. Retail is always customer oriented, right? Because they know somebody can walk out the door and never come back. So just think about it from, turn around your issue from a different perspective and ask somebody else's opinion.

 Ben Wagner  28:07

Well, Sal, Anja, thank you so much for your your expertise and your insight here. I think this was a really great discussion. And we probably could go on for a couple more hours, frankly, talking about workforce and how to be a leader and what makes a leader. So I just want to say thank you to both of you for being here. 

 Sal Mondelli  28:27


 Anja White  28:28

Thanks for having us.

 Ben Wagner  28:29

That is Sal Mondelli and Anja White, both executive coaches and consultants with The Bailey Group. And we thank them for being here. We thank you for listening to this episode of the Medical Alley Podcast. You can find this anywhere you get your podcasts, also on Medicalalley Thanks for tuning in to this episode. Have a great day.