The Practical Success

Nguyen Thi Bich Hang on making wise trade-offs
Wonder Women Ep 3

Over one million clients contributing to the prevention of 463,000 unsafe abortion, 860,000 unintended pregnancies, and 365,000 maternal deaths. A total income of USD 10 million during the pandemic year of 2020, 30% of which came from donors, and the rest raised from social enterprise.

Hang Nguyen, Country Director of Marie Stopes Vietnam (MSI), in the third episode of Wonder Women on 13 May 2021, recited all these figures from her head, a testament to her business acumen where numbers are important indicators of success. Mrs. Hang has been the head of MSI for 18 years, applying her expertise in business and social development, and commercial negotiation to advance reproductive choices through MSI Vietnam. Under her leadership, MSI has been awarded the most innovative and sustainable foreign NGO in the country.

Humble success

Despite her credentials and the recognition, Mrs. Hang is an unassuming lady who finds joy not in holding trophies, but in grasping the hands of women whom she encounters at MSI.  Growing up during the American War, Mrs. Hang shared that she adored her mother who worked hard to send her to the best schools. She went on to finish two bachelor degrees – in Language and Law, and earned a masters from the University in Hawaii.

Mrs. Hang shared a different kind of addiction: early morning trips to rural areas to supply medical commodities. She sits by women who had to go through reproductive health procedures. “We sing away the pain of being on the operating table. I love seeing the light in the eyes of husbands and wives who are finally able to avail of family planning services,” narrated Mrs. Hang, her own eyes also lighting up.

When asked if women have an edge in terms of soft skills, Mrs. Hang responded that she would rather not compare men and women’s attributes. But perhaps without realizing it, Mrs. Hang’s soft meditative aura, the empathy that she exuded when she talked about holding hands, was already the answer.

Wonder Women Ep 3

Strategy is key

On the topic of corporate social responsibility, Mrs. Hang talked about how MSI is able to get buy-in from companies to support family planning programs. Again, she gave figures. “A one-day strike could cost USD 2 million,” she declared. Similarly, unwanted pregnancy in the factory industry would result in huge loss in productivity. “Businesses would do a good job if they take the interest of society into consideration. Improving health would also empower workers to make better economic decisions for their families,” she counselled.

In times of crisis like the pandemic, Mrs. Hang recommended three things: 1) quick scanning of the external and internal environment; 2) building and rolling out a rapid response plan and close monitoring of results; and 3) applying an alignment model that ensures that priorities are linked to maximize resources and realize goals.

Mrs. Hang exemplified humility when she acknowledged Dr. Ronald Cruickshank, a strategy coach, and Dr. Andreas Stoffers, Head of FNF Vietnam, who were in the audience as the real experts. “One of the finest exemplars that took this idea of alignment, and is doing it properly in her organization is Madam Hang. We should talk to the real expert,” Dr. Cruickshank replied. “I learned all of this on the job. And what is important is that we maintain our values,” stressed Mrs. Hang.

The practical learner that she is, Mrs. Hang also shared that she gets inspiration from books like The Power of Your Subconscious Mind. Being pragmatic, she opined that achieving “a balanced life is much easier said that done.” “We have to accept the consequences of our actions because there will always be trade-offs. It’s a matter of making wise choices on whether the trade-offs are worth it,” she stated.

The message was clear: owning up responsibilities translates to success. 

Watch the full interview here

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Wonder Women is an online conversation series about success, wellness, and personal freedom. It runs every Thursday at 3pm GMT+7. Sign up here – bit.ly/WonderWomenSeries