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Will Aetna Walk Its Talk?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Aetna-health-insurance

No matter your age healthcare is/should be a serious concern.

If not for yourself then for your parents and others you care about.

And not just a new app that delivers services a different way, no matter how good.

What needs to change is the culture of not only insurance companies, but medical service providers (doctors, labs, testing, hospitals, etc.), other various and sundry vendors within the ecosystem, not to mention the government in the form of Medicare and Medicaid.

When you look at the deeply entrenched interests on that list the possibility of anything actually happening in the near-term seems remote, if at all.

Not even the proverbial 500 pound gorilla, think Google or Facebook, has the clout to even dent that crowd.

But what about Aetna Insurance under CEO Mark Bertolini, a 1000 pound gorilla and long-time global player in healthcare that has the clout, since it insures two thirds of the Fortune 100 and a great number of the 500?

…Bertolini called the sector “too bloated and accountable to no one.” The system — which will cost US$4.6 trillion, or 20 percent of U.S. GDP, by 2020 “charges patients and rewards care providers on services delivered, not patient outcomes,”…

Aetna is taking a three prong approach that includes, paying for positive outcomes, as opposed to fees for services; changing corporate health offerings in order to tap into positive consumer behavior and eating its own dog food — as every good startup does.

The big question is whether Aetna will walk its talk.

Based on the comments it’s questionable.

Flickr image credit: Aetna

Entrepreneurs: The Value of Gratitude

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/wagner-machado-carlos-lemes/2987599021/

The only people who aren’t aware of the importance of culture in today’s working world must have been living off planet for the last few decades.

“…a toxic culture can trigger actions that ultimately lead to business failure. When money is viewed as the singular motivator, leaders will not be able to engage the hearts and minds and to get the best out of their people.”

Further, they are aware of what research shows people feel is most important.

For most people what really counts (apart from fair compensation) is respect, recognition, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of belonging, and a feeling of purpose.

Manfred Kets De Vries, the Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development & Organizational Change at INSEAD has an simple, one-word solution.

Gratitude.

The first and most basic thing is to respect people who work in the organisation. As gratitude evokes cooperative responses, so too it creates mutually supportive relationships, helps neutralise conflict, generates positive energy and fosters a collective “we’re in this together” mentality. It gives people due recognition, fair treatment, a sense of belonging, and a voice.

If gratitude, as displayed in authentic thanks from bosses at whatever levels works, why are there still so many toxic cultures around?

The answer to that is also found in one simple word.

Ego.

Your take-away is also simple.

If you have trouble walking gratitude, as opposed to just talking it, the it’s time to have a real heart-to-heart with the person in your mirror.

Flickr image credit: Wagner Machado Carlos Lemes

Ducks in a Row: the True Source of Happiness

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tico24/50459406/in/photolist-5sBPL-bkrFTn-5fN9HR-cqv8F-5wzJ1f-5wvpDz-7akhzi-5wzJ9s-8bUK32-6B39pQ-bPCwjF-knctJn-4FMm9r-FJK7i-oPVLSb-9EADLW-8P2Cay-edzmtp-7vFaT7-c7KcF1-edF2Ty-edF2Zq-4aT4WK-65WvUX-7kNcQE-exwVN-8RrQYH-7roNWJ-2L3da-pZpoJ8-4UAHBd-5KRj4X-edF3Fh-dpbyL5-bXbL51-65WvX8-7atcFQ-rmeqo-ehm9UX-e2Yvkc-f6DVD-rykAwn-5ZWobq-8dJ4o8-fbkejU-2vhvHS-9BsWWz-b5eaHM-6eqP4V-5MQKUq

It’s been proven that the happier the workers the higher the productivity and creativeness.

So what really makes people happy?

Lawyers provide a good example, in spite of all the jokes.

Researchers who surveyed 6,200 lawyers about their jobs and health found that the factors most frequently associated with success in the legal field, such as high income or a partner-track job at a prestigious firm, had almost zero correlation with happiness and well-being. However, lawyers in public-service jobs who made the least money, like public defenders or Legal Aid attorneys, were most likely to report being happy.

I wrote What People Want one week short of nine years ago and after rereading it see no reason to update it.

As research continually proves, the basic human operating system doesn’t really change.

Flickr image credit: tico_24

Ducks in a Row: Which Culture?

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomastern/11128219076/

Last Thursday we looked at the importance of using your culture as a screening tool to be sure the people hired are, at the least, synergistic with it.

Note that being culturally synergistic has nothing to do with either age or gender.

Friday warned against confusing perks with culture.

But with culture, what you see may not be what you get.

More important than the company’s overall culture is the culture that develops under any given manager, based on individual MAP, and the individual’s management approach.

To ensure a successful hire the culture and management style described must actually exist as opposed to an idealized or misleading version created for interviews.

Strange as it sounds, managers often describe their style more as it ought to be, i.e., what they think it is or what they think the candidate wants to hear.

Obviously, managers aren’t about to tell candidates that they micromanage or don’t believe in helping their people grow, because they might leave.

But today’s workforce is the savviest in history.

Mix that savvy with the uncontrolled and unfiltered information provided by social media and you have a situation that demands authenticity and honesty.

At the least, it requires sins of omission.

Lies, AKA, sins of commission, such as describing the opposite — a boss who encourages growth, provides complete information, then gets out of the way, etc. — as reality pretty much guarantees a turned-down offer or fast turnover — in other words, an unsuccessful hire.

And in case you’ve forgotten exactly what a successful hire is, it’s hiring the right person into the right position at the right time and for the right reasons.

Flickr image credit: Susanne Nilsson

Ducks in a Row: Attracting Women to STEM? Simple

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kurt-b/4436722759

Considering all the hand-wringing and diverse efforts to attract women to tech, it turns out that it’s relatively simple.

Lina Nilsson is a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and director of innovation at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Berkeley, noticed a quaint factoid.

…if the content of the work itself is made more societally meaningful, women will enroll in droves. That applies not only to computer engineering but also to more traditional, equally male-dominated fields like mechanical and chemical engineering.

This held true at dozens of universities, such as D-Lab at MIT, Arizona State University, University of Minnesota, Pennsylvania State University and Santa Clara University.

And it’s important to recognize that the primary, or even secondary, intent was not to attract women, but to solve problems.

None of the programs, clubs and classes were designed with the main goal of appealing to female engineers, and perhaps this is exactly why they are drawing us in. At the core of each of the programs is a focus on engineering that is cutting edge, with an explicit social context and mission.

The problem, of course, is that most existing companies and current startups are focused on money, while “women seem to be drawn to engineering projects that attempt to achieve societal good.”

Higher purpose vs. greed says it all. 

Image credit: Kurt Bauschardt

Change Who?

Monday, April 27th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/newtown_grafitti/8889686201

Having trouble getting people to do things differently or do something new?

According to Henry Thoreau, “Things don’t change, people do.”

Over the years, I’ve watched managers and companies try to change the outcome without changing the input.

They’ve talked/explained/begged/pleaded/threatened, but nothing changes.

They are suffering from Einstein’s version of insanity.

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

If change is the goal, it’s best to start with yourself.

To change what they do, change how you think.”

You need to change because the way you think, what you think, how you think, and what you believe — in other words your MAP — dictates the authenticity of what you do and the responses you get.

No matter what great ideas you read, hear or talk, no matter what great leader you try and channel, you will always walk your own MAP.

Image credit: Newtown graffiti

Ducks in a Row: Living Your Own Life

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/42244964@N03/6826537248

Do you find today’s world a bit strange?

I do. Not because of the technology or breakthroughs, but because so many people are trying so hard to live someone else’s life or spending incredible amounts of energy trying to force others to live their way.

I’m not saying they shouldn’t; it’s their choice and doesn’t require my approval or opinion — unless they are trying to cram something down my throat that chokes me.

I neither need nor want the safe, curated world described yesterday.

I’ve screwed up many times in the course of my life; three had disastrous, long-range consequences, yet without them I wouldn’t be me — and I like me.

I realize that there are probably many versions of me that I would like; each a result of choosing a different fork in my path.

What I wouldn’t like would be to live with the desire to be someone else.

We look at public personas with no knowledge or understanding of what went into creating each one or even if they are real.

The dichotomy between the inauthenticity of craving or controlling someone else’s life and the talk of living an authentic life is often hard to swallow.

Geno Auriemma, Coach of the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Team summed it up very well in an interview.

“I’ve always been fascinated by people who care so much about what other people are and what they do in their personal lives,” he told a news conference. “Like, how small-minded do you have to be to care that much about what other people are doing? Life is hard enough as it is, trying to live your own life.”

No matter how wealthy there is someone with more money; no matter how beautiful or handsome there is someone who is better looking; no matter how brilliant there is someone who is smarter or just better uses what they have.

So, whether at work or personally, be proud to be you. No matter who you are or what you do you have a spark that no one else has.

Image credit: Frank Vassen

Ducks in a Row: Retro Culture of Introductions

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/61215754@N05/10606798213

For centuries the most important information upon meeting someone new was where were they from and who was their family.

Once that was known the involved parties would be able to figure out how they were connected; crucial information in order to do business or move forward with any kind of relationship.

Then World War II and the post war automobile culture changed our social structure forever.

Strangers met, formed businesses, fell in love and married — all without the introductions and recommendations of family, friends or other associates.

Fifty-plus years later we have reverted to our previous attitudes regarding introductions — now based on professional/personal networks, social media and the crowd-sourced opinions of strangers.

After attending a fintech conference (see his upcoming post Thursday) Ajo Fod, founder of Alpha Sangha, left a comment on KG Charles-Harris’s post regarding the help that entrepreneurs really need.

The most effective resource at this point in my start-up is introductions to the right people. Meeting them directly doesn’t seem to have the same effect as an introduction.

Entrepreneur of not, what can you do to offset a lack of introductions?

Here is what I told Ajo.

You are right in your analysis that the best connections are the result of introductions and this seems especially true when it comes to investors.

Partly it is a function of trust, i.e., I trust you because I trust the person who introduced us, which is ridiculous as I wrote in Who Do You Trust? in 2008 and KG touched on a couple of years ago in If the Shoe Fits: Facing Reality.

Beyond repeating what you already know, such as working your network, finding connections, etc., I suggest that you put part of your focus on developing your peer-and-below network, not just those who can directly help, by reaching out and helping them. One way to accomplish this is by responding on forums like Quora.

Use your expertise to build your visibility, so that even with no intro you will be a more known quantity when they google you.

Not great, but you have to start somewhere.

Image credit: George Tims

Ducks in a Row: They Are Not You

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hammer51012/3545163854

Most of us crave acknowledgement when we do something well, I know I do.

Decades ago when I worked as a recruiter for MRI in San Francisco my boss, “Ray,” wasn’t big on that.

It’s not that he wouldn’t do it, he just never thought about it.

Acknowledgement wasn’t something Ray needed, so he was blind to its effect on others.

When he did give the kind of heady feedback that makes people hungry for more, you could see that he didn’t understand it.

Worse, more often than not, it came in response to what he was told — you literally had to walk into his office and say you closed the deal or got a new client to have it happen. 

But praise caught by fishing or out-and-out asking is not worth a whole lot when it comes to motivation.

Nor did he understand how to build a strong team; the kind that could put an ‘Office of the Year’ award on the wall.

I still remember his effort to create the same esprit de corps as “Jeff,” another MRI manager and good friend of his enjoyed.

The effort failed, probably because Ray considered Jeff’s approach rah-rah stuff — the kind of stuff he was known to disparage.

Ray’s problem was similar to many managers I’ve worked with over the years, i.e., he assumed others wanted to be managed in the same way he liked to be managed.

When Ray did try doing it differently it felt like a con.

Which it was, because he didn’t really believe in what he was doing.

Image credit: Jim Hammer

If the Shoe Fits: the Duplicitous Founder

Friday, February 20th, 2015

A Friday series exploring startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIf anything has changed in the 21st Century it’s the recognition that culture is everything — the true “make or break” for any company.

Knowing that, founders, of all people, should know better than to do anything that undermines their culture.

And yet they do it all the time.

One of the worst is also one of the commonest — having two teams

  • the one to which they pay lip-service and talk about in public; and
  • the one that has their ear, takes priority and stays front and center in all decisions.

Founders constantly refer to their “team” and it’s taken to mean all the company’s employees.

But, for those the shoe fits, it actually refers to their stars, their pets and all (most?) of their direct reports.

This was a common attitude in larger companies, but at least it was honest; bosses were ‘us’, workers were ‘them’ and everybody knew where they stood.

The changes started when Volvo focused the world on the power of teams, research showed that productivity increased when people were more invested and engaged in their work and terminology was introduced that is inclusive and empowering.

Fast forward to now and that language is in common use, but, as with most things, it can be distorted and perverted.

Founders, like other bosses, fall in two categories.

  • Those who buy it, own it, use it and mean it;
  • and those who use it to keep everyone in line who’s not on the ‘real’ team.

Which are you?

And before you claim the first bullet take a good look at your past actions.

In fact, get some feedback from someone you know will tell you the truth, as opposed to what you already “know” or want to hear.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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