Embracing healthy conflict is hard to do. Often attempts at including healthy conflict within your culture fail. My guest today is Magdiel Rodriguez, CEO of Alivi. His company was ranked #300 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. We talk about what is healthy conflict. We look at the power of it. Discover the growth benefits of healthy conflict for your company.
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Magdiel Rodriguez: The Transcript
Target Audience: Magdiel Rodriguez is the Chairman & CEO at Alivi. Alivi provides solutions for health plans to facilitate the delivery of healthcare benefits. These solutions include a non-emergency medical transportation platform, a business process outsourcing service, and specialty provider networks.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Conflict without trust is nothing more than politics. Right? So So we know that in our Congress and in our government, there’s always a lot of conflict. But that’s not the right level of conflict. There’s no trust there. nobody’s really, has one single objective and one rallying cry. The type of conflict that I’m talking about here, and they were we’re instilling in the group is trust and conflict based on trust. And the idea is that everybody is willing to to voice their opinions, call each other out. I mean, to the point that we’re even calling each other out and saying, hey, this and I don’t think that is the most important priority that you’re working on now is aligned with what it is that we want to do from a rallying cry perspective.
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host, my name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett [1:01]
How much conflict do you have in your organization? Do you work as a leader to avoid conflict? Or have you embrace conflict because you know that it’ll increase collaboration and trust? Well, what we’re talking about here is healthy conflict. If you have the right kind of conflict inside your culture, you can have people that are willing to have a dialogue, share their opinions make decisions together without you having to look over their shoulders, and sometimes you may have to step in and coach them through the process. But healthy conflict is not a bad thing. And in fact, I think you should embrace it.
Today, our guest is Magdiel Rodriguez. He is the co-founder of a Alivi. Alivi is one of the fastest-growing companies. They’re a technology company in the healthcare space, working with h HMOs. He’ll tell you a little bit more about that in the interview, but they were number 300 on the list. They grew it almost 1500 percent in three years and really an amazing company. One of the core features behind that is a culture where people have healthy conflict. Today is the episode where we talk about just that topic.
Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to remind you that you can actually get a tool that I’ve been working with clients with for the last couple of years, I’ve refined this tool this gone through several iterations. Now we have it completely automated, you can actually go online and fill out the leadership quiz. To get the leadership quiz. Just go to theleadershipquiz.com. That’s pretty easy, right? The theleadershipquiz.com what you will get when you do that you will answer a few questions. You will see where you rate based on the core principles of fast growth companies. If you’re ready to grow your company or you want to see where you are, then make sure you go to the leadership quiz calm inside it you will get insight to where you are, understand where you want to improve, and you will get them mapped into the 10 areas that are most specific to fast growth companies. Again go to the leadership quiz calm and you can get that right now. Here’s the interview with Magdiel Rodriguez.
Gene Hammett [3:08]
How you doing Magdiel?
Magdiel Rodriguez [3:10]
Doing great, Gene, how are you?
Gene Hammett [3:12]
I’m fantastic. I am excited to have you on growth think tank and talk about you know some culture and leadership that’s driving this. You have worked with and been the co-founder of Alivi one of the fastest-growing companies on the Inc list number #300. Tell us a little bit about what Alivi does.
Magdiel Rodriguez [3:31]
Gene, thank you for for having me on the show and really appreciate, you know, the opportunity to engage in some really good dialogue with you. So Alivi is basically a benefit plan hub management company for for healthcare companies. We really focus in the managed care space Medicare managed care space. And what we do is we help insurance companies HMOs define and design their ancillary benefits. For their beneficiaries or for the members that they represent, one of the things that we do is we manage anything that has to do with ancillary networks, anything that has to do with claims processing, anything that has to do with utilization management, on behalf of the HMO, so we help the HMO provide the best possible quality of care to their members. We develop not only technologies around that we are a tech-centric tech-enabled company. And what that allows us to do is not only utilize technology to make things more effective, more efficient, run things in in a much better faster and quicker way. In the end result of that is really just to provide the best possible quality care for the beneficiaries or the members.
Gene Hammett [4:54]
Well, I know all of our leaders listening in here probably understand the whole complexity of healthcare These days and, and the cost are rising. I appreciate what you’re doing and sharing some of the insights behind building a company that’s grown so fast, you know, almost 1500 percent in three years, how many employees you have?
Magdiel Rodriguez [5:16]
Right now we have 146.
Gene Hammett [5:19]
And you know, culture is important to you. Let me just ask you what, why is culture so important to a fast growth organization.
Magdiel Rodriguez [5:29]
Culture is really the the one of the cornerstones of really any growing organization, I think, without the right culture in place, it would be very difficult to grow as fast as we have without the right focus and the right people in place. One of the things that we’ve really tried to do early on, it was a family-centric organization, where we were six of us, basically, and in four of us were related. So So really the company, from a grassroots perspective was really focused around a family-type culture. However, as you start growing, you need to start behaving more as a company, there’s certain decisions that you have to make, that are more focused around running a business. And in our case that, you know, it’s a for-profit business. So as much as we’d like to make decisions, and without really looking at, you know, the cost implications and bottom lines, there’s always a component of understanding why are we making certain decisions and why are we taking on certain risks, which is why, early on, we decided that in order for us to really ensure that we were doing the right things for the company, we had to bring in the right culture, we had to bring in the right people in in for us, that didn’t necessarily mean everybody looked like us. Everybody had to be like us. Everybody had to think like us, everybody had to dress like us. That’s not what culture is about. Right? I mean, in I think one of the beauties of of having a healthy organization is around not only a diverse type of workforce, but more importantly from a cultural perspective is really everyone aligned. Why is everyone pulling in the same direction? And and and I think that is part and center what what would I believe a strong culture-centric organization is all about.
Gene Hammett [7:23]
Let’s talk about alignment for a second. We all know what that means in leading our organizations, but what are you doing to ensure that you have alignment across the top tier of the company and throughout the company?
Magdiel Rodriguez [7:39]
So, alignment for us means basically what one simple concept is we have we have what would we kind of are taking on as a playbook and in this paper book has really a thematic goal. In death dramatic goal is is what is the most important thing for us. Right now right in in, we use that kind of as a rallying cry. So from an alignment perspective, it really stems from the leadership team. And it permeates and it trickles down to everyone in the organization. Everyone really understands what is what is the rallying cry? What is the most important thing right now that we’re all focusing on? And what are the expected results for that rallying cry? That’s what we call alignment within the organization in that alignment. Usually, it is not a three year alignment is not you know, five year strategy. It has nothing to do with strategy. It’s has nothing to do with a three or five year strategy. It’s really what is the most important thing now what is something that we can all do right now, to ensure that we’re able to execute on whatever that rallying cry is, and that could be anything from onboarding a new customer to to implementing a new system to developing new new controls or new systems in place, so rallying cry could really be anything that is important enough for the organization to get behind and to be aligned.
Hold on for a second. This rally cry thing is not a new concept. It’s actually been written about in books before and I did an interview with the CEO and founder of game time. And we talked about the way they use this rally cry across the team to create ownership inside the team toward one goal over a six month period. Now, everyone can have a different interpretation of this, but I really if you want to go deeper into that concept of the rally cry, go find the interview I had with Brad at game time. If you have any questions make sure you reach out to me gene and Gene Hammett. I’m happy to point you in the right direction. Now back to the interview.
Gene Hammett [9:45]
I love that because you know a lot of times there’s too many goals for organizations but you guys you know, you can change it over time is what I’m understanding. But what you ensuring the everyone in the organization 146 people To know what it is, what has that done for your ability to work together?
Magdiel Rodriguez [10:06]
You know, it’s actually it’s been great. And one of the exercises that I was going through when we were developing a kind of work, culture and work environment is what would happen to my team in the organization. If tomorrow I would just simply have to go away for three weeks that would everyone still know what the rallying cry is? Would everyone still know what decisions had to be made without someone in there to be able to tell people what to do? And I think that’s really what to me was the fascinating point about this is that that playbook actually does exactly that. We can remove myself from the equation, yet, no one’s going to skip a beat. Everybody knows exactly what the objective is, what decisions need to be done. And and and I think we given Enough, we have enough trust within the leadership team and within the entire organization that we know that people are going to end up reaching the same decisions and the same conclusions. Just simply because we’re all working from that same playbook. That’s some alignment across the board. So I think to me, that’s actually a pretty cool thing.
Gene Hammett [11:19]
I think that’s why a lot of people are working toward as leaders, they want to make sure their team is empowered to, to go beyond where they are today, even if you weren’t showing up to the meetings and casting vision and, and doing all the things that you’re doing. But while you’re there, you’re just supporting every little step of that every individual person and you’re coaching them when you’re working individually with someone. How are you ensuring that they’re staying aligned with this rally cry?
Magdiel Rodriguez [11:46]
So individually at the individual level, one of the one of the key things that I try to do is just asked them you know, are you happy? based on What decisions that you’re making? Are you comfortable with them? Are you happy?
Do you think that would what they’re doing is actually aligned with the playbook and with the rallying cry? And you’d be surprised more often than not, I get a lot of responses. Well, I’m happy but right and there’s always a but I’m happy but I wish we could do this, or I wish we could do something different. And, And that, to me is great, because it, it generates a certain level of dialogue. And then that dialogue turns into some really good conversations and in in, in in some of those conversations end up turning into, you know, very healthy conflict. And I know that’s, that’s one of the things that we wanted to eventually get to, but but I think leading up to that conflict is having that trust to have that type of conversation. And that’s really one of the things that I’d like to do. I’m almost an instigator, right? I’m going around trying to, you know, poke, poke, poke, poke some of these guys and say, Hey, you know, what’s going on? What, what can we do different? And And again, it’s it boils down to how happy are they in the roles that they are in making the right decisions and we have to have enough trust in them that they know what is the level of risk that each one of us can take in without any type of negative backlash associated with it?
Gene Hammett [13:27]
Well, let’s dive into this healthy conflict in your world. What is that? What’s that definition?
Magdiel Rodriguez [13:33]
It’s actually pretty simple. Gene, I mean, in my world, I mean, our definition is a willingness to disagree. have a voice have an opinion, provide feedback without the fear of destructive fighting and interpersonal attacks or unproductive Discord. It’s pretty simple as that right? So would you know one of the things that that, you know, it was reading a book about the Around this in one of the key things around around the book is, you know, conflict, you know, without trust is nothing more than politics. Right?
So we know that in our Congress and in our government, there’s always a lot of conflict. But that’s not the right level of conflict. There’s no trust there, nobody’s really, you know, has one single objective and one rallying cry. The type of conflict that I that I’m talking about here, and then we’re instilling in the group is, is trust and conflict based on trust. And the idea is that everybody is willing to to voice their opinions, you know, call each other out. I mean, to the point that we’re even calling each other out and say, Hey, listen, we I don’t think that that is the most important priority that you’re working on now is aligned with what it is that we want to do from a rallying cry perspective. So I find myself actually interesting that we were talking about this because this just happened to me.
Earlier this week. I was up As I was walking by in in there was two managers kind of having a pretty good good conflict and good conversation and I had to stop them right in the middle of their conversation and ask them, Hey, listen, I want to just acknowledge that you guys are having this level of conflict. And I think this is absolutely the right level of conflict that we want to have. So I was actually encouraged them to continue that level of conflict right in the middle of their conversation. And they both looked at me, and just started with their little smirk, started laughing and then went back at it. But But I think that’s the level of trust that that that I really want the entire organization to feel comfortable with, that we can call each other out on certain issues. But at the end of the day, it’s all based on trust and the reality is, if we’re all trying to pull in the same direction, I think a little bit of conflict is is very healthy.
One moment. Magdiel just talked about conflict. Conflict is really important, but You have to have courage as a leader, to allow people to have that kind of conflict, you have to be able to, to be able to hold space for those moments, you have to encourage them in a special way. And you have to have the confidence to do that. I’m being I’m being specific about this because I really want you to think about your level of courage and confidence when it comes to disagreement. Are you avoiding confrontation, or you avoiding these things? I run into a lot of leaders, even the fast-growth companies that don’t have the courage showing up in those moments when they really need it. I say this specifically to you if you want to continue to evolve as a leader, you have to check in with yourself you have to know where you’re holding yourself back. And this might be one area that you can look at and examine for yourself. And back to the interview.
Gene Hammett [16:49]
I know that it can go too far and you know, we can have we that are negative to the culture and leadership. Do you ever have to step in and these These times when you feel like it’s gone on too long, and we just need to make a decision.
Magdiel Rodriguez [17:05]
Yeah, yeah, there’s there’s always some of that. I think at some point, it all depends on, you know, our personality profiles. Right. So that’s another thing that we did within the organization, we all went back and did the whole personality profile for each one of the leadership team. And, and we began to realize, Oh, wait a second. Now, I know why you question everything, because this is your, you know, a type personality on Oh, and I know why you’re doing some of these things. So that exercise was actually very, very cool. Because you begin to understand why certain people do certain things.
And that’s happened in a couple of occasions where you have two two conflicting personality types, where they’re actually going at it and then in where I have to step in and said, Okay, guys, the reality is we can, you know, we can argue and have this conflict, you know, for the next three hours, and at the end of the day, we’re not going to accomplish what we want. So let’s go back and look at what the problem statement is. Right, so really I try to ground everybody back to exactly what is the problem statement? And what’s the solution that we can control?
Instead of, you know, in certain occasions, you know, we’re trying to look for a problem, you know, we have a solution and we’re just trying to find a problem somewhere. And and we’re trying to do the opposite is now let’s just identify what the problem statement is. And let’s just come up with a solution, whether it’s whether it’s, you know, a process, people process or a tool solution. If we can control it, let’s let’s look at it in that context.
Gene Hammett [18:32]
So when you describe it that way, Magdiel, oh, I really feel like you have a coaching kind of style to you. Is that natural to you? Or is it something that you’ve had to develop as a leader?
Magdiel Rodriguez [18:46]
No, I’ve actually had to develop that, I’ve made a conscious effort over the past really three years or so three, four years, to really start looking at the different leadership styles, right? What’s out there and there’s so many different books and so many different experts out there. And in in the one that I found that that fits my personality is is exactly what you said is more of a coaching style versus, versus Hey, you know, kind of this is the way we’re going to do it. And I think it’s the best way to do it. And let’s just do it this way. I’m very, it’s better for one of the areas I needed to work on, believe it or not, was actually conflict. I did one of these conflict analysis exercises. And I was completely on the opposite side of the conflict spectrum.
I wanted to avoid every possible conflict. So I was I’m actually like the poster child for for conflict, because throughout my entire career, the last thing I wanted to do was confrontation or conflict, I was there to fix a problem. Leave me to it, I’ll take care of it. Don’t talk to me anymore. I don’t even want to argue about it. Let’s just get it done. So when I started looking at And healthy organizations and what do they have in common?
What’s the leadership style at those healthy organizations, they all shared a passionate approach for healthy conflict and dialogue, and in a certain level of, of collaboration, and I actually had to work on that, right to the point where I was almost forcing myself to engage in certain level of conflict without just being very dismissive. Because nobody wants to sit around in a room, you know, you know, people kind of, you know, I wouldn’t say yelling and screaming at each other but you know, tempers to flare up a little bit, and people are passionate, especially when you know what you’re doing and you’re passionate about your work. Or that sometimes the you know, the blood pressure kind of raises a little bit, especially if you’re Latin. And most of my entire leadership team is Latin, so you can just imagine how some of our staff meeting goes, but we’ve had to actually make an effort to have the healthy conflict because it doesn’t come naturally. Nobody wants to get into an argument, you know, over, you know how to implement certain solutions, but we actually have to work on it. And I was the first one that just meant I was tough at first.
Gene Hammett [21:10]
You’re not alone. I talked to a lot of leaders just like you, and they would rather avoid conflict.
Magdiel Rodriguez [21:15]
Oh, boy. Yeah.
Gene Hammett [21:17]
And they’re listening in here, you know, leaning into that, you know, and really understanding where it comes from, and really kind of getting beyond it is what it takes to evolve as a leader. I want to give you one last question, as we wrap this up, what do you think about, you know, the next level of growth for your company, what is it one thing you’re working on as a leader to take the company into that next era?
Magdiel Rodriguez [21:45]
So from a culture perspective, one of the one of the things that that we’re looking at is identifying the right, the right people to you know, as the book says, where you’re going to let in on the bus, right? One of the biggest challenges that I think we are facing as a growing company is, is the rapid onboarding of, of new talent and new staff. We’ve had situations in where we know if someone’s not going to work out within the first couple of weeks. And in one of the, one of the challenges I had with, with with our, with our team here has been, how can we take a, a great individual that that we know is it’s the right culture is the right fit and clone this person, right?
How can we clone this person how can we get you know, 20 more genes to work for us? And that’s a challenge, right? That’s a challenge. Because you really don’t know until they’re in the door. So what we’re trying to do is use your Some tools, use some analytics, use, you know, certain tools that are out there available in the industry to help us identify who the right individual is what the right fit is for our organization number one, and number two, for that position, because just because you’re a great individual and you fit the culture, well, maybe we shouldn’t be putting you in a product development function, maybe you’re a good customer service rep, or, or you may be a good account management, but you’re not a good sales on the sales side.
So one of the things that we are really struggling with, and this is part of what we want to do over the next year or two, and it’s one of our priorities is how do how do we take the right approach from a from an onboarding process from a hiring process? How do we bring in the right people for the right positions in and, and I think that’s one of the areas to be honest with you. That’s really that’s really we’re struggling with?
Gene Hammett [23:58]
Well, again, You’re not alone. A lot of people are trying to hire people that the market drives are opportunities are tight. And talent is scarce.
Magdiel Rodriguez [24:10]
Gene Hammett [24:11]
I appreciate you sharing with us what you have done and focused on as a leader to grow the company. Alivi is doing good stuff in the world. And I really appreciate you being here at Growth Think Tank.
Magdiel Rodriguez [24:23]
Thank you Gene. Glad to be here.
Gene Hammett [24:23]
Wow, what a fantastic interview. I really love his intention for leading his company and creating the space for people to figure out the problems themselves to collaborate to trust each other. And that is really a sign of a fast-growth company because I talked to a lot of companies in leadership that encourages people to collaborate with healthy conflict really does have an advantage over those that avoid it.
If you have any questions about your leadership and how your culture is going to fit in the next era of your company, make sure you reach out to [email protected] Anyone interested in this podcast topic? Make sure you tell them about Growth Think Tank, as always be with courage. We’ll see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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