ia l ELLP r e p O INT r i n
Volume 12, Number 4 JULY / AUGUST 2010
A conversation with
Serving approximately 34 million Americans in its affiliated health plans, WellPoint is the nation’s largest health benefits company by membership. COMPANY Name: WellPoint, Inc. Headquarters: Indianapolis, Indiana Web site: www.WellPoint.com Primary Business or Industry: Health Benefits 2009 RevenueS: $60.8 billion
Its mission is to improve the lives of the people it serves and the health of its communities. Every associate helps achieve that mission by meeting the needs of the company’s diverse stakeholders – employers, members, physicians, shareholders and the multicultural markets in which the company does business. Leading that charge is Chair, President and CEO, Angela Braly, who has built a diverse workforce that reflects the varied communities WellPoint serves. PDJ sat down with Braly to find out why diversity and inclusion isn’t just a strategy, but a fundamental way of doing business at WellPoint.
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WellPoint Chair, President, and CEO Angela Braly helped plant a community garden at a Boys and Girls Club facility in Indianapolis during WellPoint’s annual Community Service Day.
Questions and Answers
What D&I innovations has WellPoint, Inc. planned for 2010? WellPoint recognizes that innovative solutions to today’s health care challenges are driven by the needs of a diverse marketplace with multicultural and multi-generational customers. At WellPoint, our mission is to improve the lives of the people we serve and the health of our communities. We see our role as simplifying the connection between health, care, and value for our customers. In health care, how people understand these connections – and how their communities manage these connections – are very different across racial, cultural, gender, and economic lines. Addressing health care disparities is one of the ways WellPoint is committed to improving the health of our communities. For example, WellPoint has conducted extensive research among its African-American and Hispanic members, with the ultimate goal of enhancing its diabetes management programs by making them more culturally relevant. We are working on creating culturally relevant communications in easy-to-understand language to more effectively engage multicultural populations, offer education and support, and empower them to adopt healthier lifestyles and take charge of their health. Most company leaders say diversity drives business results. What part did diversity and inclusion play in your company’s 2009 growth/earnings? I think that for business people, remembering that diversity produces positive business results is critical. WellPoint recognizes that by continuing to incorporate diversity into the company’s culture, we are better positioned to deliver innovative solutions to our customers. My team and I have a steadfast commitment to fostering a diverse work environment in which 2
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racial and ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities, and LGBT individuals enjoy an atmosphere of inclusion and respect. WellPoint’s Strategic Diversity Model is based around three areas of focus – our workforce, our workplace, and our marketplace – because it is a fundamental part of how we do business. One diversity initiative we launched in 2009 that will help us drive growth is our Life division’s national gold-level sponsorship of The Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project. The project provides year-round sports programs for severely wounded service men and women, including ski and water sports events. This is one example of how our company fulfills our mission to improve the lives of the people we serve and the health of our communities, while increasing our market visibility to help us continue to grow.
GLOBAL / MARKET ISSUES Please describe WellPoint’s global presence: WellPoint is the largest health benefits company, by membership, in the U.S., with approximately 34 million medical members. One in nine Americans receives coverage for their medical care through WellPoint’s affiliated health plans. WellPoint is a Blue Cross or Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee in 14 states, and we offer a broad range of medical and specialty products. WellPoint’s dental subsidiary, DeCare Dental, is the first American company to offer dental benefits in Europe, and it also manages the DeCare Dental International Emergency Dental Program, which is available to clients throughout Europe, Africa, South America and Asia. In early 2008, WellPoint formed a partnership with other health plans and entered the
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market in China to begin providing third-party administrative and other consultative services to insurance companies operating in China. In today’s marketplace, are there any particular challenges selling or producing your products? Rising health care costs put a burden on hardworking individuals and families, and now, more than ever, our customers are looking to us to create more value for their health care benefits. Also, health care reform has created questions for our members about how it will impact them. And with all of these issues, the rapidly changing demographics of the markets we serve demand that we have a workforce that reflects these markets. Our diverse workforce optimizes our ability to deliver on our mission, as associates from different backgrounds, with different life experiences can offer fresh perspectives on emerging health care challenges and opportunities. We ask ourselves each day what we can do to improve health, improve care, and improve value for our diverse customer base, which includes employers, individuals, and seniors, as well as educational and public entities, labor groups, federal employee health and benefit programs, national employers, and state-run programs servicing low-income, highrisk and under-served markets. How does a company in an industry as fastchanging as yours keep up with diversity development throughout the organization? In a large, established organization like WellPoint, one key challenge for leaders is to design the organization as a system that can grow successfully, keeping in mind the ever-changing dynamics of diversity within the workforce, the workplace, and the marketplace. Minorities, women, and immigrants currently
I am so proud of our focus on diversity—from the grassroots efforts of our Associate Resource Group and Ambassador programs to the
commitment at the highest levels of our company.
— Linda Jimenez, Chief Diversity Officer and Staff Vice President—Diversity & Inclusion
make up more than 50% of the U.S. workforce, and these groups are projected to make up approximately 85% within the next ten years. Moreover, the workplace is becoming ever more global. The opportunity for WellPoint associates to share unique experiences and perspectives offers WellPoint the promise of innovation and growth. WellPoint’s diversity strategy seeks to address three primary questions: 1. How do we ensure that we are attracting and retaining top talent that is representative of our diverse markets? 2. What obstacles exist that may prevent people from participating fully, working effectively, and developing relationships and alliances in the context of diversity? 3. How can we create conditions that enable differences to be used as a resource for learning within groups and across business units? Are there unique opportunities for you in implementing diversity programs? Absolutely. Diversity management is a fundamental part of how we do business at WellPoint. Approximately one-in-three residents of the U.S. self-identify as African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific American, or Latino. The communities we serve are experiencing demographic changes and economic challenges that necessitate having a workforce that reflects and understands our customers’ needs. We know from the Institute of Medicine that racial and ethnic minorities receive lower-quality health care. As a result, we are creating outreach programs that help WellPoint to identify, analyze, and reduce these health inequalities. In particular, we have partnered with physicians to increase their awareness of health disparities, and to provide resources to help guide better, more culturally competent care. Diverse perspectives, experiences, and ideas allow us to deliver innovative products and services. One case in point is our telemedicine
programs in Georgia, Virginia, and California, which increase access to specialty health care and improve the timeliness of diagnosis and treatment for traditionally underserved rural patients. These are just a few examples of how our diversity enables us to simplify the connection between health, care and value for our customers.
LEADERSHIP What resources are allocated on diversity? We have a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion Team, managed by WellPoint’s Chief Diversity Officer, Linda Jimenez. The team includes a diversity program manager, an EEO compliance consultant, and an affirmative action plan consultant. We also recognize that diversity is a “shared responsibility” among all associates in the organization. We have more than 200 Diversity and Inclusion Ambassadors, deployed enterprise-wide, who volunteer to infuse the corporate diversity strategy in their unique work locations. We also have seven associate resource groups (ARGs) that support, not only personal and professional development for their members, but also the company’s overall business strategies. We utilize a Customer InSights Team to develop links with our multicultural customers, and we have a team dedicated to understanding and addressing health care disparities/health care equities from a multicultural and multigenerational perspective. How do you believe D&I impacts your company’s bottom line? We recognize that diversity is not just a “nice thing” to do or a stilted response to compliance demands, but that diversity makes good business sense and is good for the bottom line. Diversity influences every aspect of our business – from member care and service, to new business development and supplier relationships, to recruitment and career advancement – and ultimately helps WellPoint keep a competitive advantage. More importantly, superior
performance begins with superior talent. Thinking differently and appreciating diverse thinking in others is a strategic cornerstone for leveraging top-notch talent. Being inclusive and responding to the perspectives of a broad range of people when solving today’s competitive business challenges is a survival skill, not a luxury. What qualities do you look for when hiring management? How do you measure attitudes? When evaluating managerial talent, WellPoint assesses the skill sets the individual can bring to our organization, the diversity of thought and experiences they will share with our team, and the leadership shadow they will cast upon those around them. There are many dimensions to strong leadership, and at WellPoint, living our core values demonstrates the key qualities that make a manager successful in our organization. By consistently living our core values of Customer First; Integrity; Personal Accountability for Excellence; One Company, One Team; and Continuous Improvement, our managers are able to get results by knowing what really matters. In order to be effective, we know it means that the managers we hire need to have a strong awareness – of themselves and of those around them. Leaders must recognize that diversity has an impact on organizational performance, and by leveraging diversity of thought and culture, their teams will continue to enjoy great success together. WellPoint measures the attitudes of our associates and managers annually in the context of our Associate Engagement Survey. In 2009, results from our survey showed a 77% Manager Effectiveness score, which demonstrates that our managers are exhibiting the right behaviors and showing up in the right way for our associates. Who chairs your company’s diversity council? Does your lead diversity officer report to you directly? Members of the Executive Leadership Team
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WellPoint attends or sponsors multiple diversity career fairs each year, such as the annual Military & Disabled Veterans EmployAbility career fair at Wright State University.
serve as executive sponsors of our various Associate Resource Groups (ARGs) or as members of the executive steering team for review and approval of business plans for prospective ARGs. WellPoint’s Diversity team reports to the CEO through the Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. What accountability do you employ to meet diversity objectives? How is this linked with compensation? We link manager compensation to diversity and inclusion by cascading goals to increase minority representation in leadership, from the CEO down to my direct reports and their leadership teams’ performance plans. There is also a goal to increase supplier diversity partners in the performance plans of the CEO, CFO, and CDO. In addition, our health services director and CDO have a shared goal to increase cultural competency across our workforce and to reduce ethnic health disparities. We work very hard to ensure that we don’t set arbitrary diversity goals across the company; instead we seek to ensure that the right goals are integrated into respective business units so that it becomes a natural way for us to conduct business. Do you create and maintain management continuity rosters for promotable individuals? How do you ensure diversity candidates are included? Our enterprise-wide succession planning process for our top 2,200 associates provides robust resume and assessment information that helps us identify and support our most talented leaders. High potential talent and their career paths are discussed at least annually in team talent 4
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review sessions held in all parts of our business. Our succession planning and Diversity and Inclusion teams work closely to track and report (including reporting to our Board) our progress on identifying, developing, promoting, and retaining diverse leaders. Our executive development program also includes long-term development planning, coaching, and mentoring – and we consistently select a highly diverse group for inclusion in that program. We also strive to present a gender- and racially diverse candidate slate for open leadership positions at all levels – using a variety of internal tools to identify possible candidates, and a variety of external agencies to help us source diverse external talent. What factors make you confident that you and your team have developed momentum for the organization in the right direction? What is the vision for the company? At WellPoint, we are proud of, and encouraged by, the many recognitions we have received for our efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. We think our success is due to the fact that we see diversity management as more than just a strategy – it’s a fundamental part of how we do business. Focusing on diversity helps us to better understand and meet the health care needs of the unique communities we serve – while actually becoming part of their cultural fabric. I am so encouraged that a commitment to diversity is shared by my leadership team. In the January/February 2010 issue of this Journal, a member of our legal team shared that our General Counsel, John Cannon, approached him shortly after joining our company and asked him to help establish a diversity team within our Legal department. That is the sort of individual initiative and commitment that makes diversity a reality in a company and not just an aspiration. Our vision for the future is to ensure that managing diversity is seen as a strategic business
practice, not just a set of projects or initiatives. For example, understanding what impact the lack of cultural competence or health disparities has on the quality, access, and cost of care for an increasingly diverse customer base – that’s at the core of our business. We take diversity very seriously, and that’s why we will continue to work hard every day – through diversity – to improve the lives of the people we serve and the health of our communities.
EMPLOYEE INCLUSIVENESS How are employees more involved in the company than they were two years ago? How do the human stories circulate in-house / celebrate success? Associate Resource Groups (ARGs) play a key role in building a culture of inclusion and in surfacing personal stories and successes of our associates. In the last couple of years, seven ARGs have formed at WellPoint: • ABLE (Abilities Beyond Limited Expectations); • ANGLE (Associate Network for Gay and Lesbian Equality); • PRIDE (African American ARG); • SOMOS (Hispanic/Latino ARG); • VOW (Veterans Organization of WellPoint);
WellPoint’s “Challenge Coins” are distributed to WellPoint associates in the armed services or to associates with family members in the armed services.
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Jim Bixler (center), WellPoint Vice President and executive sponsor of the Veterans of WellPoint (VOW) Associate Resource Group, presents a check for $100,000 to Larry Muncie, President of the United Service Organization (USO).
• WOW (Women of WellPoint); and • HYPE (Healthcare Young Professional Exchange). It’s great to see the energy and synergies that these groups have generated. In such a large organization, in which many associates work remotely and many are based at different locations than their managers and teams, these groups are truly creating a sense of community. Associates are connecting across the enterprise; they are getting involved in business projects outside of their respective areas; they are learning about the business, and they are having meaningful conversations about mentoring, and about barriers for inclusion and for growth and advancement within the organization. Success stories are being spread through these networks, and associates are finding more opportunities to showcase and develop leadership skills by getting involved in the ARGs. In addition, the success of our Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador Program, which has been in place for a number of years, was recently highlighted through the establishment, in 2009, of the annual Ambassador of the Year and Team of the Year awards. These awards highlight the exceptional local efforts and contributions under our diversity initiative by WellPoint volunteers and diversity champions. Sometimes diversity is referred to as a ‘numbers game’ – how does your company know its culture is not just tied up in numbers? Johnetta Cole, a prominent diversity advocate, is often quoted as saying, “We need to move beyond counting heads to making sure that every head counts,” and she is absolutely right. The point of measuring our progress under workforce demographics as it relates to our organizational culture is in order to drive change. Many mindsets are working within the organization and until you measure them, you don’t know exactly what they are and what
WellPoint Chief Human Resources Officer Randy Brown (pictured front left) meets with the leaders of WellPoint’s Associate Resource Groups (ARG) at the company’s headquarters as part of the ARG Summit.
they influence. We want to know if people perceive our organization as having a glass ceiling, or sticky floors, or compressed walls. In other words, we want to know what are the obstacles to moving upward, forward, and toward more satisfaction in our workplace? Diversity and numbers – it is not about representation but about utilization. Diversity isn’t something to be finished. It’s an ongoing aspect of organizational culture. The real value from diversity is using differences to the company’s advantage. It’s not about having the company look different, but having it work better.
a voice; therefore inclusiveness, rather than exclusiveness, is the hallmark of our diverse workplace environment. Can you describe your method for orienting new hires into your culture, and enriching employees’ awareness or introducing new issues? Our core values of Customer First; Integrity; Personal Accountability for Excellence; One Company, One Team; and Continuous
How do you deal with those who may perceive inclusion programs for underrepresented groups as being exclusionary for others? WellPoint’s definition of diversity is allencompassing and embodies racial and gender diversity, along with age, religion, disability, work/life experiences, military status, etc., just to name a few. In support of this definition, all our Associate Resource Groups are all-inclusive and open to any WellPoint associate. Achieving diversity is not simply a matter of advocating the position of a particular group; it is equally important to engage all associates from Associate Jamison Torok, a founding member of many different WellPoint’s ABLE Associate Resource Group for people backgrounds. It is with disabilities, was named “Employee of the Year” in important for all our 2009 by CAREERS & the disABLED magazine for associates to have his extensive volunteer work. Prof iles in Div er s it y Jou r na l
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WellPoint executive vice presidents Dijuana Lewis and Wayne DeVeydt (front row) at the 2010 Bowling for Scholars fundraiser for the Indiana chapter of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). WellPoint raised more than $47,000 to benefit 60,000 students. (Pictured in the back row from left to right: WellPoint Staff Vice President Beau Garverick, Senior Vice President John Gallina, and Vice President Tracy Nolan.)
Improvement, are integral to how we conduct business and serve our members. It is very important to ensure everyone in our organization shares and understands the rationale behind these values and the behaviors supporting them. Starting before ‘day one,’ we provide our new hires online access to information and resources about the company, our people, and our corporate culture. New hire orientation takes place at the local level on a weekly basis, and we educate our new associates on our mission and the values we believe enable us to deliver against that mission. Over 92% of WellPoint associates have completed a one-day Culture Workshop, focused on defining our business strategy and our core values and linking them to actual behaviors and attitudes in the workplace. After the onboarding period, these messages are reinforced in many different ways so that our associates stay connected and aligned. We have an online associate newsletter published three times a year, and a robust and dynamic internet and intranet site, which is refreshed daily with internal as well as external features which are relevant to our associates, our company, and
our industry. This is particularly important, because WellPoint’s workplace environment is becoming increasingly virtual, with many ‘work at home’ associates, virtual teams, and larger project teams that rely on collaboration of associates enterprise-wide. How are employees’ opinions solicited/ valued? Do you have an employee ‘suggestion box’ or system, and how is it monitored and responded to? We solicit associates’ opinions annually through our associate engagement survey. We also provide several means for associates to provide feedback, suggestions, and ask questions, both through our intranet site and our company ombudsman. From time to time, we receive questions about our diversity and inclusion initiatives and our diversity management practices. Associates either use our Corporate Diversity Shared Mailbox or write directly to our corporate diversity staff. Our intranet Diversity site contains a Diversity Mailbox where we post questions and responses on a regular basis. Several business areas also utilize the White Board technology to spark innovative business approaches and solutions and capture ideas from associates. In late 2008, WellPoint launched the effort “Building A Better WellPoint,” and we asked associates to send us ideas for ways to improve our efficiency and effectiveness across the enterprise. Hundreds responded, and we are already implementing many of those ideas. In addition, the Executive Leadership Team meets regularly with our Associate Resource Groups, and every quarter, I schedule personal meetings with groups of associates.
Can you name specific ways WellPoint supports upward development toward management positions? A robust succession planning process is pivotal to our efforts to diversify and strengthen our talent pipeline. Succession planning includes WellPoint directors and above. Our top 2,200 leaders have a year-round opportunity to share their resume information and to express interest in positions at any level and in any area of the company. The Executive Leadership Team carves out time to engage in robust talent calibration sessions where each of my direct reports solicits feedback on their team members. It’s a forum for us to have rich discussions about our talent and the strengths and opportunities of our pipeline. We definitely look at our diversity representation during these talent calibration discussions. How does WellPoint bring women and minority employees into the fabric of the organization? What programs are in place to advance women and minorities? WellPoint is truly committed to recruiting people of color, women, people with disabilities, veterans, and other diversity dimensions into its workforce. The Executive and Leadership Recruitment Team has a goal of improving racial/gender representation in front-line, mid-level, and staff VP and higher positions. In addition, we have a dedicated diversity and inclusion team who work in collaboration with our Talent Acquisition team to build and execute sourcing strategies in support of EEO/ AAP utilization needs for targeted areas by state and by job function.
WellPoint Vice President Tammy Truxillo Tucker accepts a plaque from LATINA Style magazine’s publisher, Robert E. Bard, in recognition of WellPoint being named to the “LATINA Style 50” 2009, a list of the fifty best companies for Latinas to work for in the United States.
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WellPoint attends more than 50 career events on an annual basis, partnering with numerous professional organizations and career conferences, as well as a wide array of colleges and universities, and also takes full advantage of diverse job boards and social networking sites. Some of WellPoint’s best practices for retention are focused on career development and encouraging all associates to excel in their careers. All participants in WellPoint’s accelerated leadership programs have access to mentors and executive coaching to help them focus on skills, competencies, and behaviors that will help them continue to be successful in their careers.
SUPPLIER / COMMUNITY / CUSTOMERS What is your commitment to minority suppliers? Do you set specific percentage or dollar targets? How do you measure success? Diversity in our supplier base is an important part of WellPoint’s commitment to diversity. A wide range of suppliers is needed to support our business operations. Through our Supplier Diversity Program, we are dedicated to diversifying our supplier base to include minority-, women-, veteran-, service disabled veteran-, and LGBT-owned businesses wherever possible. We actively work to include diverse suppliers in every bidding opportunity. Over the past year, our program has continued to grow and become an integral component in all areas of the enterprise. Supplier diversity continues to be a requirement for all procurement opportunities, including requests for proposals and contracts. We have increased the number of Tier One suppliers reporting Tier Two diverse spend to us by 80% over 2008. We leveraged Supplier Diversity Champions in our business areas. All of the Champions are senior leaders (Vice Presidents and above) in their business areas. Our supplier diversity initiative is one of the building blocks that support WellPoint’s overall success. We look forward to continued growth in our program. How do you educate/promote diversity and inclusion for vendors, customers, or the general public? WellPoint identifies and increases its annual supplier diversity goal each year. The Supplier Diversity Champions have the responsibility
to communicate with their associates on how they can assist WellPoint in meeting these goals and expectations in every sourcing opportunity. In addition, Supplier Diversity created a business case that has been communicated to the Executive Leadership Team and Supplier Diversity Champions. The value of supplier diversity has also been incorporated in the ELT members’ performance goals, as well as the overall performance goals for our business units. WellPoint also supports the training of diverse suppliers financially through our sponsorships and memberships paid to advocacy organizations like the National Minority Supplier Development Council, Womens’ Business Enterprise National Council, National Association of Women Business Owners, and others who host business and development programming for diverse suppliers. WellPoint has provided booth space at opportunity fairs for diverse suppliers and has invited suppliers to join us as guests at tables we sponsor
Service Day to address direct needs in our diverse communities. In 2009, approximately 3,500 associates, to their family and friends volunteered time to more than 180 projects in 107 cities spanning 29 states and the District of Columbia. Volunteer tasks were developed in partnership with the March of Dimes, United Way, and many other nonprofit organizations, including staffing March for BabiesSM walks, supporting efforts to reduce obesity in children with the Boys & Girls Clubs, cleaning up parks, engaging children in health activities, disaster preparedness, and assisting at community health clinics that serve the uninsured. In 2007, WellPoint introduced an enterprise-wide initiative – the Healthy Helpings Food Drive – to support our local and regional foods banks. In 2009, over 22,967 pounds of food was donated by WellPoint associates, which represented a 47% increase in contributions collected in 2008. During the 2009 holiday season, WellPoint made a generous
Diversity and numbers – it is not about representation but about utilization. Diversity isn’t something to be finished.
It’s an ongoing aspect of organizational culture.
— Angela Braly, Chair, President, and CEO
at Supplier Diversity advocacy organization events. In 2009, WellPoint’s commitment to diversity was featured on The Profiles Series, an award-winning television series hosted by Lou Gosset, Jr., airing on public television stations. Are there additional ways you demonstrate your commitment to the communities you serve? Established in 2000, the WellPoint Foundation is a private, nonprofit philanthropic organization, wholly funded by WellPoint, Inc. Every year, WellPoint associates give generously to not-for-profit organizations across the country through our Associate Giving Campaign. The WellPoint Foundation matches 50 percent of those dollars to provide even greater financial support to these organizations. Our associates do more than just open their wallets and get out their checkbooks. We established WellPoint’s annual Community
donation in the name of all WellPoint associates to Feeding America, the leading domestic hunger-relief organization that operates more than 200 regional member food banks nationwide. WellPoint’s donation helped provide more than 2,000,000 meals to those in need in our local communities. Additionally, WellPoint made a donation on behalf of all WellPoint associates to the United Service Organizations (USO) for military personnel being deployed. A portion of the proceeds was used to support the USO’s Care Package Program that provides a box of personal care items to each soldier deployed to a combat zone. The remaining portion of the proceeds supported the USO’s United Through Reading® Military Program, which helps ease the stress of separation for military families by having deployed parents read children’s books aloud via DVD for their child to watch at home. PDJ
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profile angela braly Was there a pivotal experience that helped shape your view of diversity and inclusion?
As a first-year law student at Southern Methodist University, I learned, on the first day of orientation, that my class was 50 percent female. However, I was also told that it would be another 40 years before women would make up half of the legal profession. That prediction made me grateful for having the opportunity for education and career, but also aware that there was still a great need, and potentially long road ahead, to continue to focus on diversity, not just related to gender. Who has influenced you as a business leader?
Many people have helped shape my thinking as a business leader, but a very impressive woman leader once gave me some very good advice that had a major impact on my career path. I was the CEO of a regional health plan at the time and had just been asked to become the General Counsel for WellPoint. Sounds like an easy choice, but it meant that I would have to leave the profit and loss job that I had – and loved. I went to an event where WellPoint was being honored for being a great place for executive women, and one of the attendees told the story of her career and said, “Whatever you do, don’t give up your P&L.” She pointed out that women often succeed in ‘staff ’ roles in companies, but don’t always have the same opportunities in key operational P&L jobs. So, while I agreed to become General Counsel of the parent company, I asked for, and was shortly thereafter given, in addition to the General Counsel position, the P&L for the federal government business for WellPoint. The woman who gave me that advice was right. Her name is Ellen Kullman, and she recently became CEO of DuPont. What was your career path to your present position?
Getting to this point in my career was not part of some grand master plan. In fact, the truth is that I didn’t even plan on a career in health care. I was a lawyer in a law firm, and that was my plan: to be a partner in a law firm – forever. When I was first invited to join a health plan in Missouri as their General Counsel, I said no. But after agreeing to serve in that role on a temporary interim basis, I fell in love with the people and their compassion, their mission to improve the lives of the people they served; all in the face of the complexity and importance of health care. That set me on the path to where I am today. So, one of the most important lessons I have learned in my professional life is that the only constant is change. The best thing any of us can do for ourselves is to be open to opportunities that can and will present themselves, and to embrace change. I came to work at WellPoint because I worked for a health plan in Missouri that was 8
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acquired. In fact, that plan was acquired twice. Today, I am the CEO of the combined company. I like to say getting bought, even a couple of times, can in fact turn out okay. The world’s economy is dynamic and full of exciting possibilities and opportunities. You must always be focused on what you can do to improve your skill set and add value to the organization you belong to. What has been your proudest moment at WellPoint?
The most rewarding experiences for me are when I meet with our members and customers and hear them talk about how our associates have gone the extra mile for them. Stories like those often get drowned out of the public discussion about health care, but I get to hear them frequently; and it fills me with admiration for all of our dedicated customer service advocates, care managers, nurses, and other associates who help improve the lives of our members every day. Who were/are your mentors?
I attribute much of my success to the individuals with whom I have worked over the years. I have had wonderful and diverse mentors, and each has taught me unique lessons that I apply every day. I often encourage young people to seek out mentors who they admire for both their business acumen and their ability to balance their careers with their home lives. One inspiring mentor gave me the important advice that “all roads cross more than once.” I have found that to be so true. If you are respectful to people in each and every situation, it may benefit you much later in life. If you were in a roomful of colleagues, what might they say about you?
WellPoint, Inc. Title
Chair, President, and CEO Time in current position 3 years Education
J.D., Southern Methodist University School of Law; Undergraduate degree, Finance, Texas Tech University. Philosophy
Do the right thing. Do it for the customer. Do it right the first time. Family
I have a wonderful husband and three beautiful children. Interests
I love spending time with family, and I try to really be with them, whether we’re riding bikes or taking a walk. Favorite Charity
United Way – it matches my personal and professional belief that when we come together, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. Each of us can contribute much to charitable efforts – whether as donors and fundraisers or as volunteers for causes that mean the most to us.
How would you describe your style of leadership?
I hope that they would say I am honest, straightforward, and always seeking opportunities to improve myself and our company. Every day, a leader is faced with important choices, some small and some large, and the best leaders focus on always doing the right thing, staying focused on the customer, and continuously improving. It is also important to learn from these decisions going forward – just because you reach a leadership position doesn’t mean you stop growing professionally.
I follow three principles that have guided me for years: First, do the right thing. For me, this is gravity. It is at the core of everything we do. Second, do it for the customer. In meetings with our associates, I emphasize that our customers are the reason we’re here. We want to provide them with the very best possible health care experience. Third, do it right the first time. I know that’s not always possible, but our customers expect us to and that is our goal. If we don’t do it right the first time, we will improve our processes so that the next time we will.
What business books would you recommend?
What advice do you have for young leaders?
I love quotes, and one of my favorites comes from the book Good to Great, by Jim Collins: “The kind of commitment I find among the best performers across virtually every field is a single-minded passion for what they do, an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think and the way they work.” I think that’s a pretty good definition of success.
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My advice to young leaders is simple: work hard, always be yourself, commit to something you feel passionate about, think about who your customer is and serve them, and always do the right thing. I also encourage young leaders to seek out mentors who can help them learn how to accelerate their leadership growth. PDJ