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Leadership Spotlight: Building Team Trust

We’re excited to announce that after appearing on Episode #34 of the Elevate Business Podcast, Todd has been selected for the Intuity Performance Leadership Spotlight series.


Todd Usen is a digital surgery pioneer, envisioning the future of surgical intelligence. Working within the medical industry for the past two decades, Todd has led teams as President of the Orthopaedic Organizations and Olympus Corporation. Now serving as CEO at Active Surgical he is empowering his team to develop surgical intelligence to help see what humans cannot.


Here are the top 3 insights he shared with the community.


1. What has fueled you throughout this journey? We want to hear more about what plants your feet on the floor every single morning as a CEO.


It's interesting when I was young and I competed in sports through college I was really honoured and blessed.It forced a great time management system to play a sport where you're on planes all week with tutors travelling with you and attending big conferences and then having to maintain your grades. You really learn some time management, but also the competitive nature that you have.


I got into the medical field years ago because of personal reasons. My mother had multiple sclerosis and I was somewhat inquisitive and never understood how someone that could have such healthy kids and a healthy family could have a disease like that, so I was just intrigued by being in the medical world and working towards making sure that would make a difference for patients. And the reason I say that is because every day when I wake up it’s those two things.


To the business world, I've always been grounded because I love taking a coach-approach. I'm not a big title person. I like being part of a team. I love making sure that I empower and develop people so that they can go do great things and even tell me what to do.


But I also keep my feet on the ground because I realize that it's all about the patient, not trying to make robotics better. I'm not trying to make surgeons better. I'm not trying to bring a technology that is going to make me millions of dollars. It's never really my thought process. It's that we have something that's going to make patients better, reduce complications, help overall health care. I know it sounds like, well, there's no way that's true, but it really is. It's always been my mission, it's always been going in there and talking realistically, it's not selling, it's not doing anything. It's, hey, I have something that is going to make a difference for you and those patients who are on the operating room table every single day. It's not only them that I think about. I think of their families that are in the waiting room freaking out because they have someone on the operating room table, and I want to make sure that I'm grounded because we're bringing technology that will make a difference.


So I hope that makes sense. But it's no more or less than that. It's that I love coaching, I love team development, I love watching, I love when people shine, and I want to make sure that we're delivering something that helps patient outcomes.



2. Can you tell us more about your vision for your team at Activ Surgical?


Well again it's still about the ultimate vision, it's still about patients and you want to make sure that you're doing the best that you can to reduce complications for patients. But when you look at the company, we say that from a technical standpoint, we are the computer vision engine of the operating room. So we envision a future of true collaborative or autonomous surgery where surgical intelligence, things that are way above me, can empower folks and robots too.


We're seeing things that humans can't see. So we want to make sure that we're bringing that to the operating room. Our founder, Dr. Peter Kim is brilliant, but Dr. Kim cannot be in every surgery around the world at the same time. Dr. Kim's information and insights can be, so anytime a doctor is in a surgical procedure, Dr. Kim's data, as well as a bunch of Dr. Kim's colleagues and people from all across the industry, crowdsourced data can identify key land mines and landmarks, key areas to cut and if it's surgery in key areas to avoid, if it's vessels or something, you can damage. That information needs to be in the hands of doctors because, again, the people part is that every patient in the world should have the confidence that their doctor, whether their surgeon has done one surgery of a specific specialty or five thousand surgeries of that same specialty, every patient should have the trust and confidence that their doctor has the same information available to him or her to make that surgery a success.


You can think about it like driving cars now, and when I think about when I got my license, when I was 16 or 17 year old, if I wanted to back up, I mean, I turned around. If I wanted to look at my side view mirror, I did. But then there was a blind spot, so I’d peek over my shoulder - now a 16 year old can get their driver's license and they still have to do all of those things, but when they're in reverse and they're about to crash into a cone that they can't see, the car might beep really loud or it may stop some cars, or there might be a big flashing orange light on your side view mirror to tell you that, hey, there's someone in your blind spot, so that 16 year old is a much better driver today than they were when I first learned. I am still relying on intuition now and experience, but we say the same things in surgery.


So a new surgeon should have the same information available, should have the rearview camera, should have the side view mirror, should have a beeping sound, all these things that can help him or her perform better surgery and that the Peter Kym's of the world, can be providing them with his or her data. So it's a broad vision. But at the end of the day, if someone asked me my vision, I wouldn't normally explain it that long. It's pretty much a couple of sentences. But for this discussion, I wanted to make sure that I explained it and it's still all about the patient.


3. I think what I'm really hearing is that you're making decisions not for yourself, but rather on behalf of the company, and it's taken on the mindset that, OK, if I'm going to make this decision or spend this money, is it in the best interest of Activ Surgical and what impact will it have on us, the team and the growth of the company itself. Does that resonate with you?


It resonates a lot because you know what? I absolutely believe in rewarding success and celebrating successes and having little milestones, because you can't just go on and expect the things, you have to call things out. But in your example, Scott. Yeah. So I have one hundred dollars in my budget. OK, actually nobody has anything in their budget. So is there a downside if you didn't need to spend something that you just saved? Now you're going to need that one hundred dollars a month and a half from now and you're going to realize, wow, I'm glad I have this because I was smart in the way I spent my money, and now there's a huge opportunity, a huge project that I can do. So I think when people realize that you get hired, even first line sellers are called territory managers. You're managing the territory, you're representing the company.


Every single day that you walk outside, you represent the company. That question that you asked earlier of being grounded and what makes you grounded every day. But the same thing that ties right back to this, Scott, is that the representation of a company is a big deal, and I also realized this a long time ago, and I always share this in developing any first line regional sales manager or head of marketing or our R&D manager or operations manager for the first time is after your family and close friends, who the single most important person in someone's life? Whether they think it is or not, is probably their boss because of what that boss potentially can control.


Who controls your livelihood? It controls your job. It controls your raises. It controls whether you're hired or fired, potentially if you work. So I say that in two ways. Anyone that is a boss of someone, remember when I said you have to earn their respect, get off to earn yours. You want people to run? They're willing to run through a wall for you because they know that you have their back and it's a really important position and something that you shouldn't take lightly when you're someone's boss.


I mean, it's a really big responsibility to be someone's boss. I've always taken it seriously in a good way and I hope people around me have done it as well. I try to remind people of the role that they're in. They're not in the boss's role so they can boss people around or so that they can show off their business card, you know, because I've been promoted by the best bosses.


People really want to work for them and like I said, they'll run through a wall for them. That's the way I try to think every day about the roles we play and the way that we hire, and in the way that we develop, and the way you should be thinking about business.


If you're interested in learning more from our other Spotlight Leaders, check out Moncef Lakouas's take on Leadership is Learning.