Counseling for Mental Health

#26 You will never regret being kind – Leslie Chong , CEO, Imugene (s02ep02)

Feb 18, 2022

Leslie Chong is the MD & CEO of Imugene, an ASX listed immune-oncology company. Since she joined the company in 2015 its valuation has increased from $12 million to $1.8 billion. This is quite an achievement for a company that has less than 10 full time employees. Starting as a museum curator, Leslie’s career path is not what you might expect from the CEO of a bio-tech company. It is her passion and dedication to the work that she does, that has placed her where she is now.
"I love it when my team's together, and we're just laughing about the mistakes that we made, just laughing. And we're laughing because that mistake wasn't catastrophic. And so, we're comfortable enough laughing about it so that we can improve. So, I love that genuine laughter over a mistake that someone's made. Because it's null and void now, and you could literally just let it go, let go of it. "
- Leslie Chong


  • Leading a lean team
  • Developing relationships with consultants
  • Pschyological safety in teams


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Transcript from the interview

 The following transcript was generated using a specific tool. It serves as a convenient method for converting our podcasts into text and allows for easy text searches. However, we kindly ask for your understanding if any typos have inadvertently occurred as a result of the tool’s usage.


Graeme Cowan, Leslie Chong

Graeme Cowan 0:02 

Hi everyone, this is Graeme Cowan, and welcome to the Caring CEO podcast. We create this podcast because we believe that every leader’s number one priority is to build a more caring and resilient team who enjoys growing together. It is my job to interview CEOs and other senior leaders who value building both a culture of care and a culture of high performance. I’m very keen to understand how they do this, and I’m sure they’ll be lots of insights and tips for anyone who wants to build a high performing team. Leslie Chong is the CEO of the biopharmaceutical company Imugene, which is developing cancer treatment medication. The company is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, and remarkably, their share price has risen from $1 to $5 in the last year, and it’s valued at over $3 billion. They’re developing a range of products which seek to activate the human immune system to treat or eradicate cancer tumors. This is US citizen, and previously was a senior clinical program leader at Genentech, a large San Francisco based biotech company, which also has a strong oncology range. Leslie shares an interview that losing her father to stomach cancer was a huge motivator for her in the work she does. She’s a very people-based leader, and has a small but highly productive team. They magnify their impact by working with partners and consultants all over the world. It is hard to believe that with less than 10 full time employees, the company has a market capitalization at $3 billion. Obviously, the market believes they have some very promising products in development. Leslie believes also in the importance of kindness in work and life, and has a strong group of friends in Australia, and even dating back to her time at the University of North Carolina. She tries to catch up with all these people as regularly as possible. She strives the quality of grace of persistence, and believe she can never have too much of these. There is a lot to learn from Leslie, and Joy. It’s a real delight today to welcome Leslie Chong, CEO of Imugene. Welcome, Leslie.


Leslie Chong 2:22 

Hi there!

Graeme Cowan 2:24 

Leslie, what does care in the workplace mean for you?

Leslie Chong 2:29 

Oh, to me, that’s a pretty simple question, being in cancer care. That’s the utmost importance to myself and my team. We talk about what care means to patients; we want to provide medicine that’s just not prolong in their life. And we don’t want them to be weathering and paying while they’re living. We want to provide a quality of life. So, care to me is really being careful about our selection of our technologies and products, as well as development, we really watch out for their safety or toxic, you know, toxic issues or anything like that. But it goes beyond that care is having sort of that one team thought. Our motto is ‘Following the Science’, but really, it’s really about providing good technologies and products to patients in need.

Graeme Cowan 3:27 

Within your team, how do you champion care for your team and how you work with your partners.

Leslie Chong 3:34 

So, we work very closely together. I think we really want to know each other better; we get along extremely well. But care is you know, during the time of COVID, we checked on each other, we asked, how are you doing? Are you feeling, okay? What is okay for you? Yeah, we were friends, you know, inside and outside of work. And the mental care was the utmost importance during COVID care, wasn’t it? And I, we sort of champion that for each other as well, because we’re in a stressful environment. So, we want to ensure that the added-on stress of COVID didn’t impair their mental capacity and their mental health.

Graeme Cowan 4:27 

And I’ve also heard you talk about kindness and having, you know, random acts of kindness. How do you incorporate that into your life?

Leslie Chong 4:35 

Well, random acts of kindness is, it’s very easy in our company. We, sometimes I’ll just, I’ll get questions from a shareholder and it’s usually about patients and I’ll just call them off guard by calling them up. I’ve had a few times when people say, oh my gosh, I’ve never heard from any CEOs in person. For the questions that I’ve just put out in this black hole of a computer to the websites and such. And so, I like doing that on occasion. I also like to send gifts to my team as sometimes, you know, even to the shareholders with Imugene products or if I noticed that my team is really stressing about something and have been working really hard and they have accomplishment. I’m a huge believer in the power of just surprise gifts. And so, I do that quite often.

 Graeme Cowan 5:33 

For those that aren’t aware of Imugene, could you just give a little bit of background about the work you do, and I guess, your contribution to that organization.

Leslie Chong 5:45 

So Imugene is a biotech company here in Australia. We have international studies, clinical trials everywhere, however, we are listed on the ASX, the Australian Stock Exchange. And we are primarily working on what’s called an Immuno-Oncology, we like to turn your immune system on to combat your own cancer, we believe that targeted biologically and cellular you know cellularly applied immune system going after your own particular type is a safer and maybe even more efficacious way to go. And we all already have clinical trials, that is amassing that data for us. And we’ve, we’ve announced and we know, we’ve spoken with several different big biotech partners in this fight against cancer. And so, Imugene is all about trying to provide better and safer care products to our cancer patients.

Graeme Cowan 6:57 

And obviously, a lot of people feel you’re on the right track, because your share price has gone crazy in the last year. And I understand that for your market cap is about $3 billion or so more that facility. Why has it grown so quickly?

Leslie Chong 7:13 

We have amassed a product that’s all about modulating your immune system. So, you know, initially when I joined roughly about six years ago, we had one product going into the clinic and working towards getting that into the clinic in stomach cancer. And then as we moved across, we just found more technology that actually fit into our whole paradigm of enlisting your immune system. And so, as we move across and acquire better and more technical, technical technologies, I think our share price reflected that.

Graeme Cowan 7:56 

Must be very rewarding to you to see that level of confidence rise in the investment community.

Leslie Chong 8:03 

It’s great. I’ve always said though, I come from a clinical development background. And so, investment background wasn’t something that I was ever introduced to nor did I have to get very good at. Obviously, as I’ve been with Imugene for the last six years, I’ve gotten you know a bit better and better understanding and experience with investment market. However, my primary focus has always been developing a unique innovative product for a cancer patient. And I truly believe if you follow the science, the value will come. If I put my agenda, you know, towards developing a better drug at the end of the day. Everyone benefits, be it our shareholders, and especially our patients are my team, external to the team the world. So, for me, focusing on what I do best, which is clinical development, has reaped a lot of, you know, benefits that had been beyond my dreams. But it doesn’t change what I do on a day-to-day basis, be it, I’m still the same person that I was when the market cap was 12 million to 3 billion. Because my lifestyle and the way I approach work has not changed at all.

Graeme Cowan 9:30 

How do you live or plan your day and week, Leslie?

Leslie Chong 9:35 

I live and breathe Imugene to be honest. I think about what’s the next move strategically, fundamentally, technically, how to execute across all our programs. I literally just, I’m eager all the time and I’m anxious about the various different things that our company so again, this is the same as I was six years ago, I get up every morning thinking we have a startup company, we need to deliver on that day, I want to go to sleep that day thinking that I’ve accomplished something. And that is to get patients’ better therapy. They live longer, and then we live better, hopefully through our drug. And so that’s my goal every day.

Graeme Cowan 10:24 

You started off graduating at North Carolina University.

Leslie Chong 10:28 

That’s right.

Graeme Cowan 10:29 

Yeah. So, for those that don’t know, could you give a little bit of a background about how you went from there to being in your current role?

Leslie Chong 10:37 

What so, I have actually just a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, I also have a degree in Art, I also have a degree in Design, Museum Science, Anthropology, Physical Anthropology, taught the– Taught the biology labs, and as well as the Physical Anthropology labs. And then I went to Grad School and got a, got a Master’s in Arts, to be honest. And so, I was working as a curator, shortly after graduating, and I moved to a town that did not have any galleries or museums. So, I started at a very low rung of a pharmaceutical product development company. And I was a research assistant. And then I became a site monitor. Site monitors when you go into each individual hospital. And you look at the, look at the patient’s charts versus the Clinical, Clinical Trial charts and compare, and I just loved it. I love being in that environment, talking to the study coordinators, every now and then I would meet patients and then speaking to the doctors, the Oncologist really just was very interesting to me. And then the more I worked, and the more I liked what I was doing, I just kept getting promoted, and promoted. Whether I liked it or not, honestly, I love being in the hospitals and the clinics and the action of it all. And so much so that when they kept promoting me to a Manager, I just, there was a few times where I resisted. I was never that I didn’t think that I was that ambitious, but then I just, the better I got at one thing people notice my talent and kept promoting me as much in the way of Imugene that Paul Hopper, actually, you know, every time I think I’m really happy doing this, he sets the course and then you know, I move on to other things, and I just become better at it and experts at it. And I’ve just been promoted and promoted. And here I am as a CEO of Imugene. So that’s how it sort of came about. But really, I think I cut my teeth as a Clinical Developer at a company called Genentech. In San Francisco, you might have heard of it, they back when I joined them, they had produced 40% of the world’s Oncology medicine, and then they coupled themselves with Roche. And so yeah, and then really, when my career took off, you know, I think it’s pretty similar to how my life has been in that. When my father was diagnosed with Stomach Cancer, it was just, it became real. It was no longer just, I didn’t want to be just good at my job, and I didn’t just enjoy my job, it became a responsibility and a duty to be really good at this so that I could produce medicine for my own father, you know, ultimately, and so that really just kicked me in the butt, that this was, this, I’ve got to get everything together and do the right thing. And yeah, get better medicine medication. And when he passed away it, it felt not enough. I really felt like, you know, we as Clinical Developers are not doing enough to get good medication out there. And he was such a fighter. And he was in a lot of pain. And it really dawned on me that we need to have better medication than chemo, radiation and this medication that just keep you surviving, just you know, to the inch of your life. Nobody wants that for themselves. The family doesn’t want that, your friends don’t want that. So, we really need to concentrate on medication that is equally as efficacious, or even better with lots of safety intact.

Graeme Cowan 14:51 

And then what brought you to Australia?

Leslie Chong 14:55 

So, when Genentech Roche feels like you’re or a future Executive or leader, they want you to experience International Offices or Roche. So, I came to the Australia and I’m not silly, you know, I’m not stupid, Australia was beautiful. And I had never, you know, spent any time in, in Australia. So, I had a secondment here. And I had a good look around at several different biotech companies here. And it seemed to me that there was some great science happening here, but there wasn’t really anyone, you know, as a CEO level or leadership level, that had Clinical Development experience, a lot of them have investment backgrounds and such. And so, this company, in particular, Imugene caught my attention, because all of us in the biotech pharmaceutical world at that point was working on what’s called a T-Cell Modulation. And we’re still very much into the T-Cell. But Imugene was working on a B-Cell Immunotherapy Platform, and I just couldn’t understand why. And again, you know, my curiosity, I’m the most you know, they call me the, the curious Korean. So, I was really curious. And I call the then CEO at the time and asked him some questions, and then my CV landed on the Board, and then they decided to bring me over. That’s how it all happened. Isn’t that crazy?

Graeme Cowan 16:22 

Right. Very good. And I know that you have a very small team in terms of direct employees for organization as you know, they up to $3 billion. How is that possible that, you know, such a small team is having such a big impact in terms of people believing that it’s really worth investing in?

Leslie Chong 16:47 

So, we have a mission here at Imugene, it’s beyond just us to think that we’re just doing a day-to-day job. And so, all of us, including myself, we wear several different hats. But I’ve actually had a very good fortune of keeping lots of great industry leader contacts in the field, who gives me great consultants. So, it’s a number, it’s a small number of internal folks. And I think that keeps it very controlled. But we use a large army of consultants that actually get us there, because drugs don’t develop themselves. Drugs are developed by people. And we hire the right people to head it up and become that leader. But we also have mountains of consultants that actually execute on the work.

Graeme Cowan 17:36 

Yeah, and when we’ve talked previously, or mainly talked about, you know, how you approach partnerships is a really key way of how you’ve operated and how you’ve grown. So how do you go into a partnership or, or work with a consultant? What are the steps you take?

Leslie Chong 17:54 

It’s really interesting to me, when we get into an initial introduction, and right away, you can see their goals. And if they’re aligned with ours, there’s so many more people now, especially with small biotech companies that have a vision, like ours, which is science first, value later, we want to develop great medication for cancer patients. So, I like having that Unison idea that we’re developing incredible, you know, incredible medicine for cancer patients. And we approach it in that route, because everything else will work out.

 Graeme Cowan 18:34 


Leslie Chong 18:35 

So that’s been my approach so far. And we’ve, we’ve been pretty beyond lucky. We’ve got several different partnerships with people that feel pretty similar to us.

Graeme Cowan 18:47 

And how those relationships evolve is it, you know, a first off meeting, how does it, how do you build this and build, I guess the synergy that happens when two groups work together really well?

Leslie Chong 19:00 

So, we, again, are lucky because we have such innovative technologies, that we tend to get people that are like minded, they too have innovative technologies and products. And so, it’s been really easy to have this gorgeous technology that attracts other really meaningful technologies. And then we start off that conversation of introduction of what do you want for your products, you know, that’s very similar to our product. What do we, what is the joint benefit but ultimately, what is the joint benefit going to, to reap for our cancer patient because if you can’t really do anything with the patients and, and improve their life, you really don’t have a product? So, for us that first conversation is all about what can our technology, our innovative technology in combination can do, can we benefit patient ultimately? And that’s usually a great marriage in that way.

Graeme Cowan 20:02 

That makes, that makes real sense. I, I used to work for a management consulting firm called Kearney and a global firm. And I caught up with actually quite a few people that I’ve worked with last week. And we were talking about, you know, this world of virtual work. And they said that it would be, had been a challenge when it’s kicking off new assignments or projects that you know, you’re doing it via Zoom and not in person. Have you found that a challenge in the last year where you haven’t been able to meet people overseas in person, but you’ve had to draw by, by remotely?

Leslie Chong 20:40 

You know, the real challenge has been that, that everybody’s overworked because of it, because you’re not traveling to see each other. You’re not setting up a meeting, that’s so much easier to say, hey, do you, do you have an hour now and you just pop on so you know, there’s been extremely I think, you know, more communication by companies. But I do miss that face-to-face interaction, because you get to see the breath of a person by being with them. And their mannerism, and then their small movements. And, you know, you get to see the whites of their eyes, that kind of situation. I do miss that. But, but business wise, that’s been Zoom has been great, because you could a mass, a large number of people that are decision makers at the table in a short amount of time, as opposed to these things that would have happened over months, you know, are now happening within weeks. So, I think for Imugene has been wonderful. But I think we are all overworked.

 Graeme Cowan 21:41 

If you believe like we do that leader number one priority is to build a more caring and resilient team who enjoys growing together, you may be interested in these three free resources were provided at our website, The first one is the We Care Credo poster. And this contains the mindset and values of teams that prize, self-care, crew care, and redzone care. The second resource is a poster called How to Support a Teammate in distress. And this provides easy to follow instructions on how to identify someone who’s struggling, how to have the ‘Are You Okay’ conversation with empathy, and how to guide them to the help that they need. And the third resource is a building a mentally healthy culture checklist. And this provides items to think about before you launch an initiative, how you do a great launch. And then thirdly, how to keep the momentum going following the launch. These three free resources can be found at

You obviously, you know, really driven and love the meaning and the, and the vision of your work. How do you practice self-care? What things are important to you to stay well?

Leslie Chong 23:06 

I really love having friends around, you know, good friends that have been with me for I mean, I still celebrate every new year with 20 best friends that I’ve met in college at our uni. So, we celebrated our 20th anniversary on the beaches of North Carolina every year. It doesn’t matter where you are, we fly in from everywhere to be with each other. So, to me, they’re, they’re sort of we call ourselves a chosen family as it were. I, they really know me and, and we view each other in that way. And they have no idea of how big Imugene is. And they do not care, how you know, of, they’re happy when I’m happy and vice versa. So, things like that. And of course, my family. They’re a great strength for me. So, if they’re okay, I feel okay.

Graeme Cowan 24:09 

And I guess most of your families overseas would that be, would that be true?

 Leslie Chong 24:13 

They are. And I’ve got nieces and nephews all scattered about that I you know, adore and miss so much within those last two years when we couldn’t travel, but I’m looking forward to when we can actually travel and to see the whites of people’s eyes and see, you know, what’s had some meaningful connection in person?

Graeme Cowan 24:33 

Yeah. What about physical health? Do you do anything in the way of exercise or eating well, or, you know, meditation or ways to sort of switch off, do you practice that sort of–?

Leslie Chong 24:45 

Yes. I think it’s one of the things about not traveling because I generally, you know, with pre-COVID I was out of Australia at least six months out of the year. And that’s on the planes and at hotels were working out isn’t always so, it’s not conducive for that. And I found myself obviously drinking a little bit too much on the plane. So, it was kind of that wasn’t great, but what COVID has really propagated and promoted for me has been working out. So, I try to find at least 30 minutes every day to do some physical exercise. And let’s be honest, as you get older, you need that, you need to move your joints as much as possible, because otherwise you just be stagnating. And I’m in, you know, healthcare. So, I need to, I need to practice what I preach. So, I do that.

Graeme Cowan 25:47 

What term when you think about, you know, your career, so far had to be any real tough periods and times when you had a huge setback? Can you think of an example of something like that?

Leslie Chong 26:02 

Of course. So, I think in every career, as, as much as you know, I’d like to say it was fairly smooth sailing, I’ve been an incredibly lucky person. There has been, you know, setbacks, when I thought about moving away from San Francisco to, you know, to Sydney, that was, that nearly broke me, it was scary. You know, Psychologists say one of the three things that really just catapult someone’s mental, you know, stability is moving, right? Relationship breaking up, and a new job. So, I was doing, I was doing two of the three things, right, you know, so. So that, that knew and coming to, I mean, I was at this beautiful company called Genentech, just doing real, you know, really well heading up interesting and important programs. And I just thought, why not? Why not join Imugene in Sydney and do this move? And I was motivated. And, yeah, but the first, I’d say first couple of years was tough, because it was such a huge leadership role. And I had lots of Imposter Syndrome. As you do, the company, you know, starting off, we were just trying to get it up, get our initial product into Clinical Trial. And I was doing everything. And so, it and the investment market were quite scary, because shareholders have a different idea about the company. They’re not Clinical Developers. So, when I was so used to speaking the clinical development talk, I also had to gain a great knowledge of what, what it means to have an Australian listed company. And so, the learning curve was really steep. So yeah, it was quite scary. And I actually felt like the whole first year or two, I felt like I’m falling down, you know, I’m falling down. But one of the things that I think about in cases like that is I think about the word grace. I think that has helped me through many, many tough situations, that word grace, because you’ll never regret being graceful. You’ll never regret. Right? And also, you, I don’t judge people by how they fell. I judge people by how they get up.

Graeme Cowan 28:39 

I really like that.

Leslie Chong 28:41 

And I’m inspired by that. Because everyone, you know, no matter who you are, you have a, life– Life can be tough. You have to make a go of it every day. And for someone to go through something tragic or awful, and then they get up. That’s inspiring to me.

Graeme Cowan 29:01 

Grace and persistence. I think those two things will take all of this long way through practice it I really like this combination. It’s fantastic.

Leslie Chong 29:10 

Well, it’s helped me so far. And, and I hope to remind myself, for any time, I’m in the low points to think about those two things.

Graeme Cowan 29:23 

Yeah. Can you think of people, or information, or books that have really influenced your leadership style? Who do you? What’s one of the really significant influences on how you lead?

Leslie Chong 29:36 

I’m influenced by females quite a lot to be honest. And especially, you know, women of color, because I don’t see that in a leadership role very much. And I really believe that a lot of women and then especially women of color, they had to be 10 times, maybe 20 times better than their colleagues in order to get to where they are So I tend to really look to those people as my heroes. I have a best friend who is a Diversity Director at a very large, you know, company. And, you know, I look to her for inspiration. I read, I read lots of books on female leaders, but I think I look to my real leaders at the former companies that I’ve been at, to find inspiration, I seek them out, and I talk to them on a regular basis if I need help, and I, I don’t believe in, you know, this whole thing when people say don’t burn your bridges. And I think, you know, it’s not the bridge that I built is a true friendship. Because I, you know, I love authenticity and people. And I think that’s what it takes to be a true leader to be authentic and true to yourself. And in that authentic, like, not genuine people, you could kind of see that, right through. And so yeah, this is, yeah, I look to that people that I know, in the industry, and as well as some of my friends, but female of women of color are the ones that are hugely influential to me.

Graeme Cowan 31:21 

There’s so much evidence that diverse teams are successful teams, and hopefully, more companies, more leaders embrace that, you know, the, the need to have that, you know, female leaders in technology, one of the big court cases playing out the moment is Elizabeth Holmes in Theranos in the, in the US. What’s your takeaway from that whole situation scenario?

Leslie Chong 31:53 

I think she lacked genuine-ness. I don’t think she was authentic. I don’t think that she was motivated by something, not just providing to patients. So, it’s unfortunate that she was in our field, because she did so well. And I think she put a lot of blinders on some shareholders, but she’s got some really just incredible people that had invested in that company. And to think that you took, I mean, they had a real product, but she was a little bit too arrogant and ambitious, to note that that product could have really helped a lot of patients. Millions of patients could have been helped by instant blood readings. But it’s unfortunate that she let her ego drive the company and not the actual product.

Graeme Cowan 32:48 

Yeah, yeah, that’s a very, very good takeaway from that. What do you think is the key to a high performing team, the essential ingredients of a high performing team?

Leslie Chong 33:01 

Passion. I think real synergy that, I always think that attitude matters more than aptitude. Because you can have a very highly experienced, technically advanced person on your team. But if you can’t get along with them, and you don’t want to approach them, you really don’t have that collaboration, you desperately need a good energy, that certain thing that makes the team tick. And I looked at that, and that’s one of the reasons why I like to keep my team quite lean. We can use consultants to execute on some things because that’s a little bit more technical, challenging, but when we’re thinking about strategy, and development, you need good energy between the team having that one goal and passion to make a meaningful product for patient has really delivered for us and has made my team deliver as well.

Graeme Cowan 34:04 

Can you think of a time in the last year where you’ve had to ask someone, ae you okay?

 Leslie Chong 34:09 

Every day, you know, during COVID especially because if I don’t hear from my friends, you know, they live in the States, I’m not seeing them face to face. And during the time of COVID, anything else that had been layered on be it, you getting sick, physically or mentally, or your family or your friends getting ill. Lots of people lost their job during COVID. So yeah, I mean, I think during these last two years, it was all about ‘Are you okay’? I don’t know how many times you know, and you want to hear something beyond fine. I don’t want to hear when I’m asking that question. I’m genuinely asking you that question because I’m beyond and care, your welfare means something to me, and it helps me function as well, so I need to hear, no, I’m not fine. This happened, let’s have a real talk about the situation. And sometimes talking through various different things is helpful. Some people find that much more stressful, that’s okay. But it’s, it’s been a really sad time for people that are not expressive, not to be in front of their loved ones and friends to be able to just sit there and be with that person. So yes, I, I’ve, when you think of, you know, these last two years, really, it’s just been a time of checking in on everyone. Because if they just go quiet on the phone, or text, you just know, there’s something wrong.

Graeme Cowan 35:52 

And when they say fun, but you think they might not be how do you take it deeper? How do you go for–?

Leslie Chong 35:59 

Well, I’m not sure if this is always the helpful case, but I start talking about how I’m not fine. You know, in hopes that they’ll jump in and say, yes, I know what you’re talking about, or I try to, you know, whether they like it or not, I’m trying to elicit. I want to talk about how I’m not fine with people. And I want, I’m trying to draw that out of them. When they’re ready, of course, it’s not always the easiest case, if they’re saying they’re fine, and they’re just not simply ready to talk about it. That’s, again, fine.

Graeme Cowan 36:36 

I’ve had my own mental health struggles at various times, and, and I’ve learned how important my story is. And it’s just as you say, when you share your story, people feel comfortable to share their story. And it really does take the conversation to a different level. But also, you know, think that this year for ‘Are you okay” Day we had our theme, are you really, okay? And that also can lead to get it going to a deeper level. And they say, yeah, I’m fine. Then just to quietly and softly say, are you really, okay? Can you know, take it to new level, but I love the example that you give of, you know, sharing your struggles because it certainly makes it easy for others when, when they’re not feeling great to actually say, well, it’s been a bit tough for me, too.

Leslie Chong 37:27 

I think sharing– Like I said, I want to be this authentic person in the world. And I tend to maybe even overshare at times, but you know, I feel good about, I feel great if I’ve been allowed an opportunity to say something. So yeah, so I hope other people feel the same.

Graeme Cowan 37:50 

When you have someone on your team, either now or previously that isn’t performing or not meeting your expectations. What action do you take in that scenario?

Leslie Chong 38:03 

So, I believe in finding people’s own genius, right? So, with that thought, and I go into situation, thinking, you’re going to be the best at this. And that’s why you’re in the position you are. And so, you’re falling down a bit on this, but how can I support you to get back up? What is the thing that you are lacking? So, I take it more on that what is the company? Or what are we doing? Or have we placed you in a role that you’re not going to perform well in? Can we think of a different position for you? How can we pivot what you’re doing to make sure that you’re not going to do this next time, those kinds of situations? So, I believe in being supportive, I’ve hired these people, because I think they are great at what they do. They just need to, you know, maybe a little tweak, maybe I need to put them in a position where they can succeed. So, I see that as upon myself as a leader to ensure their success, because those benefits everyone.

Graeme Cowan 39:09 

I love that expression to help them find the genius and reminds me a little bit of a previous conversation I had with Pat Ramsay who was formerly the CEO of Ramsey Healthcare, and, you know, helped to grow it spectacularly. But his whole thing was, you know, just dying, that 8% of people are great, don’t focus on the 20% that isn’t great. Because by really leveraging those things, they’re really strong in that makes, it makes it better for everyone as you’ve just identified,

Leslie Chong 39:39 

But sometimes you’re just in a position where you are not performing for various different reason. That doesn’t mean that you’re not going to perform overall. You will have to, you know, put them in a position where they can succeed.

Graeme Cowan 39:56 

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. If you could teach the world something. What would it be?

Leslie Chong 40:04 

You’ll never regret being kind.

Graeme Cowan 40:07 

That’s a great message, it really is.

Leslie Chong 40:09 

You will never, I don’t, I would, I would really challenge anyone to find a time where they have been kind, and they’ve regretted it.

Graeme Cowan 40:24 

Well, I think it was Teddy Roosevelt that said that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. And that’s addressing the kindness thing. It’s such a basic thing. But it’s so critical. And one of the main reasons why we started this Caring CEO podcast actually, because we wanted to show that was, it’s not just theory, to think that caring works and makes a difference. There’s actually been, you know, research from Gallup, in terms of engagement and Discretionary Effort near one statement, my supervisor, or someone at work, cares about me as a person, the more people that strongly agree with that, the higher the profit per activity, longer they stay with the company, better the customer service. And so, yeah, it embracing kindness and care is a really, really wonderful message. So, I love it.

Leslie Chong 41:25 

I think I’ve learned from a few bad apples, you know, that were in a position of power. And I’ve had to sort of work around them. And I really didn’t like that I didn’t enjoy having to work around my bosses that’s not productive. You sort of how fast, you know, do your work. And that’s not the way you want to go about it. We’re doing some important work here. And so, I want people to be comfortable, saying, you know, some maybe critical things, but knowing that they’re going to be supported throughout. If it means betterment for our patient for the business, then I’m happy to hear them out. But I do, you know, I think about those words, ‘Grace’, getting up, and then being kind, because I’m never going to regret any of that.

Graeme Cowan 42:22 

Absolutely. And in the seminars or keynotes, I do often ask people to reflect on a really great team they’ve been part of, and what made it unique from other teams have been involved with and always the top three are, we had each other’s back. It felt safe. So, we could try new things. And we enjoyed ourselves. And I think it’s exactly what you’ve just described, as, you know, having an environment where people can grow together, make stuff, make mistakes, but also learn and move forward.

 Leslie Chong 42:59 

I love it when my team’s together, and we’re just laughing about the mistakes that we made, just laughing. Genuine laughter about just you know, it could be in a venting format, but we’re just sort of laughing about the mistakes that we might have made, and how– And we’re laughing because that mistake didn’t, wasn’t catastrophic. And so, we’re comfortable enough of laughing about it so that we can improve. So, I love that genuine laughter over a mistake that someone’s made. Because it’s null and void now, and you could actually literally just let it go, let go of it.

Graeme Cowan 43:40 

Yeah. Leslie, it’s been absolute pleasure catching up. Today, we’ve covered you know, a really wide range of aspects about you and about how you lead a team and also your business. If you had the opportunity to go back to your 17, 19-year-old self, knowing what you know, now, what advice would you pass to yourself, all those years back?

Leslie Chong 44:07 

Just be easy on yourself. You know, when you’re 17, especially when you’re a teen, you’ve got a lot of hormones and you’ve got a lot of things happening within you. Just, just be easy. Things will have a way of working out if you trust, if you trust that the universe will provide you with the things that you need. And don’t be so hard on yourself because I think teens are quite, their running on a lot of emotions and little things can take them off. You don’t know the other person’s story and they don’t know your story. So, if you had a grip on the idea that those kids that are bullying you, or going through some other BS send there you know, homes or what have you just, just you don’t know their story and they don’t know your story. So just be easy on yourself.

Graeme Cowan 45:12 

Will self-care and self-compassion is a wonderful way to finish today, Leslie. So, thanks for being with us today. And may you catch up with your friends in person in 2022.

Leslie Chong 45:26 

Thank you, Graeme.

Graeme Cowan 45:30 

Thanks for joining us today. I hope you’ve learned something new and heard some practical tips you can try with your team. If you enjoyed this interview today, please rate us on iTunes, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform. When you rate us, it helps other people to find us. We also welcome any comments. If you’re interested in seeing details about our scalable weekly mental health training programs, please visit us at Our goal for these programs is to make them accessible, practical, and ongoing. If you’ve been impressed by a CEO that you would like us to interview, please email details to Thanks for joining us.

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