Aetna President Karen Lynch runs 95 percent of the company’s core businesses. Since her firm’s novel move, productivity is up 15 percent. Next up? An industry shifting merger with CVS.
Given NewCo Shift Forum’s theme of “Business Must Lead,” it was a pleasure to welcome Karen Lynch, President of healthcare industry leader Aetna to the Forum stage earlier this year. Lynch discusses her company’s decision to raise minimum wages for thousands of its employees, an “ecosystem” approach to the healthcare business, and the role companies must now play in social issues beyond their core stakeholders. Read the full transcript below, or watch the interview, conducted by Makers and Takers author Rana Foroohar.
John Battelle: Please join me in welcoming my friend, Rana Foroohar, who has written extraordinary book about the financialization of the economy in conversation with the president of Aetna, Karen Lynch. Welcome to “Shift Forum.”
Loneliness is a powerful shadow that clouds our judgment.
By John O’Sullivan and Michael VanBruaene
It’s common for managers and leaders to feel alone. When we make decisions, particularly those for which there is no easy answer and the outcome is uncertain, we gather information, discuss the issue with colleagues and weigh alternatives. And depending on the nature of the decision we may have to be alone with our thoughts to make the decision. However, feeling lonely is different than being alone. When we experience loneliness there can be harmful repercussions to our organizations. Loneliness is a signal that it’s time for introspection.
Credibility is a key factor in your success as a manager and leader. If you’re not credible, you won’t be respected, making it impossible to achieve your potential as an effective manager, and leader. Be aware — daily — of how your behavior affects your co-workers and others who are relevant to your work. Be deliberate and strategic in choosing your behavior.
This article is devoted to four essential management and leadership behaviors. You should consciously engage in these behaviors every day to build and sustain your credibility. They are:
Sukhinder Singh Cassidy argues that boards are utterly broken. Fixing them isn’t as hard as it might seem. And it’s urgently needed.
Sukhinder Singh Cassidy has nearly two decades of executive leadership experience at consumer and internet companies, including Google, Amazon, Yodlee, Polyvore and Joyus. She’s also an accomplished board member — serving on both public and private boards in a range of industries. In the past two years, Cassidy has focused her energy on theBoardlist, a platform that connects accomplished women to board opportunities. But Cassidy didn’t focus her time at Shift Forum on the issue of diversity in boards. Instead, she exhorted the audience to think about the power and the responsibility of boards, and the role a truly high functioning board can have in changing the culture of business. Below is an edited transcript and the video of Cassidy’s inspiring talk.
A number of consequential business stories broke over the past few days, but it was hard to hear it over the braying contest between our president and his detractors (or the second and third day analysis pieces on Facebook’s journey to DC). So for your Monday morning, a review of the stories we’ve been reading since late last week. No Trump, no Comey, and very little Zuckerberg.
No one seems to know exactly why Sorrell stepped down, save “personal misconduct.” If this is how advertising agencies handle things, they deserve to be put out of their misery entirely. No transparency, no public accounting, and therefore no institutional learning and transformation. Utterly unsurprising, unfortunately.
Why the most senior woman at American Express decided to leave, and what her decision can teach us all
Until very recently, Susan Sobbott was the President of Global Commercial Payments at American Express, a storied company that has gone through significant transitions over past 100 or so years, and certainly in the last five. She spent 27 years there, and had a remarkable career as a senior executive spanning multiple divisions of the financial giant.
I first worked with Sobbott when I ran a company called Federated Media, and she ran part of American Express which included OPEN, Amex’s small business brand. Sobbott, a director of many commercial and nonprofit boards, was recently named one of the 150 women who shaped the world. But perhaps the most interesting thing about her is her recent choice to leave American Express after being passed up for the role of CEO. Most executives go silently into the night after this kind of news. But not Sobbott, who pointedly explained her reasons for leaving: There was only one job she wanted at the company, and the company didn’t give it to her. Below is the full transcript and video of our conversation at the Shift Forum last month. (While all conversations at Shift Forum are held under Chatham House Rule, Sobbott preferred her remarks be on the record. We’re thankful she did!).
Ancient societies took it for granted that skills would be handed down from generation to generation. Developing one’s talent as an artist or a craftsman depended on understanding and following the principles of earlier masters. Art and craftsmanship may suggest a way of life that waned with the birth of industrial society, but this is misleading. The future of work may resemble the history of work, and this is because of our newest, most advanced technologies.
The corporate system is transforming into a maze of fragmented tasks and short-term gigs. Although the modern era is often described as a skills economy, most companies have a short-term focus, which means for a worker that when her experience accumulates, it often loses institutional value.
Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This is often interpreted as culture being more important than strategy. These might not even be his words, which makes it hard to know his thoughts, but having built a company to almost 500 people, it’s obvious to me that culture isn’t more important than strategy, it is strategy.
I am confident he knew this. He worked with the Japanese manufacturing companies in developing their culture of kaizen, which helped them to dominate the automobile manufacturing world, and their practices have gone on to fundamentally change manufacturing as an industry.
When Bill Gates says you’re tempting fate, best to listen
Bill Gates was the Mark Zuckerberg of the 1980s and 90s. Microsoft in the late 1990s owned the tech world. It was an unmitigated monopoly in computer operating systems, poised to do the same in the Internet and web browsing markets. But then it tangled with the US government. A bruising legal battle with the Dept. of Justice culminated in a humbling settlement in 2002. As it licked its wounds and considered how to operate in a post-settlement world, Microsoft missed the search revolution, ceding it to Google, missed the mobile revolution, ceding it to Apple, and missed the social revolution as well. Given all those misses, it’s that much more remarkable how healthy Microsoft’s business is today — it remains a major force in tech, particularly in enterprise, an area where its FANG rivals have mostly whiffed.
So when Gates uses his most potent current platform — the release of his annual Gates Foundation letter — as an opportunity to warn his industry of its blinkered arrogance, well, the man knows of what he speaks. He’s lived through through the government ringer, he’s been the blinkered tech icon who thought he was smarter than the rest of the room, and he’s lived long enough to realize the error of his ways. Given the moment in which our industry finds itself, Gates’ admonition is both poignant and timely.