Lessons Learned Over the Past Year: Leading in Challenging Times

By Gina Davis posted 06-16-2021 05:40 PM


Hello, I am Gina Davis, the manager for the Provider Account Team in the Central Region with a dotted line to the Advocate Team, our Inside Account Management team. Prior to becoming a manager, I was an Account Manager for 10 years.

The Provider Account Team is responsible for our top customers, fostering customer relationships, and growing product revenue. Our focus over the past two years is building strong partnerships and relationships with our customers. With the challenges of the last year, we had to get creative in how we’ve done that. Without travel, we’re still engaging with the right people, to better support the decision makers and influences within those organizations. We’ve found the cheerleaders of our products and services in those business and we leverage the relationship to grow their business by better using Change Healthcare products.

I took on this new team last year. Prior to this role, my job was very process focused as opposed to relationship building. In the last year, I’ve learned three lessons that I want to share.

The Difference Between a Boss and a Leader

In my past roles, I was more of a boss. That operations role was very process focused to make sure all the work was completed and done according to the process. An important part of the role was serving customers by meeting our Service Level Agreements (SLA).

Since I’ve moved into Outside Account Management, what I’ve learned is that my focus needs to be on my team. As a leader, my work is to grow those individuals so that they become more proficient and comfortable when engaging clients and building those customer relationships.

In that, I don’t focus on process as much as I focus on developing my team. Process is important, it’s gives the team a structure, and the processes are documented with job aids to help.

With COVID-19 forcing everything to virtual, I’m helping them learn how to get to client, engage with them, and continue the conversation. I’m working to help them adapt and lead by example. When I model engagement and relationship development to then, they gain the skills to further build our customer relationships. That is more challenging now because many of these customers I’ve not met since I’ve been in the role, and now the team and I must continue building the relationships. People and organizations are going through a lot of big changes. But it comes down to the fact that we’re all individuals with our own backgrounds, learning style, and communication preferences. I work with my team to understand what the niche is for each person and then develop each to better perform. Any boss can give directives, a leader walks along side, helps others to learn new things, stand with their team and has their back. Development and supporting the team is an important part of being a leader, and that leads to the next two things I’ve learned in the last year: coaching and clearing obstacles.


Leading is Coaching and Development

Observation, coaching, and mentoring are important when team members take on new roles and responsibilities. I’ve learned from coaching my team that we all need to develop new skills as the focus of our work changes when we take on new responsibilities. Some people are very process driven, and some are better at interpersonal tasks. Sometimes, it’s good to focus on “checking the box” to get things done. But other situations require different techniques to work with a team of people to accomplish a common goal.

Supervising a team in achieving goals takes more than just process, it takes empathy, understanding of your team members, a shared purpose, and a clear goal to work towards. And in the day-to-day work, some team members will take a checklist and run with the process, but other want more direction, motivation, and moral support. Pep talks are part of the job. This is especially true for the new members on the team that are new in their roles, they needed guidance to be successful. I’ve learned to get to know and value each team member and I teach that to those that report to me. You must manage your people versus managing your process. Get to know them, understand what they need and how they need it, and then you’ll get more value from their work. The entire team are partners who are in this for a common goal. If the team develops their client relationships better based on the development in that role, then it is a win-win for everyone involved.


Building Partnerships to Clear Obstacles

The challenging thing about obstacles is that sometime each one needs to be handled differently. My responsibility is to remove barriers. I meet with my team members one-on-one biweekly and we discuss a variety of topics, removing impediments is an important one. First, I ask what challenges you are facing, to help me understand the situation. Then I ask where I can help to help find a solution. Many times, it’s connecting the correct people, teams, or resources to address to issue. And on an ongoing basis, I want to find resolutions so that we don’t continue to run into the same roadblock.

To do that, you must build partnerships within and outside of your team. We look at what we can do together to find solutions that will be easier for everyone involved. We should never go into a meeting saying, “you need to fix this.” I’m asking how I can help, what changes we need to make, and what would be smoother for everyone. The willingness to have the conversation is the start of the partnership. It doesn’t always end up where we want it do, sometimes the process can’t be changed, but the partnerships you develop cross-departmentally are strengthened by the collaboration. As teams work together, solutions that are beneficial to all teams can improve everyone’s performance.


Putting it All Together

In conclusion, as you work through the challenges of any work, look for areas where your team needs leadership, lean in with your team to find coaching opportunities, and foster those partnerships that make obstacle removal easier. You can comment on this blog, please let us know what you’ve learned that makes you a better leader or team member.