Education: Bachelor’s degree, business, Siena Heights University
History: President and CEO of Health Alliance Plan since March 2004. She began her career at HAP in 1978 as one of the company’s 14 original employees.
What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?
One of best business lessons I learned was because early on in my career, I gained a reputation as someone who was able to go in and clean up a situation that was beyond repair. I had a nickname almost like I was the designated hitter able to come off the bench and clean up the bases.
What I’d do if a department was failing is I would go in and figure out what is going on and clean up the department. Then what would happen, after I cleaned up the department, they would usually give it back to the person who had caused it to become dysfunctional in the first place. So one day, I had an ‘a-ha’ moment. I figured, ‘If I’m cleaning up these departments, why don’t I just keep them? If I’m good enough to clean them up and make them efficient, shouldn’t I be good enough to run them?’ When I was asked to clean up another area in disarray, I said that ‘I don’t mind going in, but I want to be able to keep the department.’ It was so interesting because someone just said, ‘Oh, OK.’
So I think one of the best lessons I learned was not to be afraid to ask for something. When the time is right, you’ll know it. I think at the time I came up through management, and as a woman, I wouldn’t have thought to ask. But as time went on, I began to think, ‘This isn’t right. They mess it up, I fix it, they keep it, what’s wrong with this?’ It was just my first ‘a-ha’ moment.
What traits or skills are essential for a business leader?
You need to be approachable, analytical and you have to have a passion for what you do, and in today’s business world, you need to be fearless. You also need to have integrity and ethics.
What are some universal truths you’ve learned about business leadership?
Universally, no two leaders are alike. Leadership involves constant change and growth. Unfortunately, you don’t get do-overs, but you can learn from your mistakes. I’ve learned that a good leader can’t be afraid to take on challenges or push limits. Without that, an organization won’t grow.
What is your definition of success?
Success means being able to do the work I enjoy and being able to make a difference in the lives around me, family, friends and community. It has nothing to do with material things. Really, it just means to do what I like to do and to make a difference in the lives of the people I care about.