Jan 09, 2019

An Interview With Lindsey Gregerson

By: Polly Yakovich

Marketing Management

Lindsey Gregerson is the Director of Customer Success at Vera Whole Health. In working with Lindsey for the past few years, she has impressed me with her leadership, her ability to stay calm under pressure, and the grace with which she navigates difficult situations.

I sat down to talk with Lindsey about some of these superpowers. This is our conversation.


How do you describe your role and what your team is responsible for?


At Vera, I'm the Director of Customer Success and manage a team of seven. Our function within Vera is to ensure that our clients are thrilled with the service that they're receiving, and product they purchased, so that they are loyal to Vera for many years.

We also manage our Whole Health Councils, which are a great component of the Vera model to drive culture change within our client partner organizations as well as ensure that the clinics that we operate are successful through a reciprocal feedback loop.

The third bucket of work that our team helps manage is driving engagement to the clinics. Working with our clinic managers and lead providers to ensure that we have a solid strategy of promoting and acquiring new patients at the clinics.


What do you like most about your job?


The people and the mission. The team that we have is incredible. I feel like this is probably the best team that I've ever worked with in terms of  trust and coming to work and looking forward to seeing people. Even outside my team, the people that Vera attracts are very passionate people who are comfortable with trying something new and being part of something that's going to hopefully have a big impact on a problem that's really significant for our country.

It's really important to me to have a job where I feel like I can make a difference and that I don't do things half throttle. I'm generally a very intense, full throttle person, and so I think knowing that what I'm doing every day is aligned with the difference that I want to make in the world is pretty cool.


That is cool. What difference do you want to make in the world?


There's probably a million different ways that one could improve the healthcare system. Right now I'm focused on something that's one way to try and create a better healthcare experience for patients and a better solution for employers. Transforming our healthcare system is probably what I'll dedicate the rest of my career to, and doing that in a relationship-centered way is really a good match for my skill set.


What drives your desire to fix the healthcare system and help provide better care for people?


Probably inequity. There are countless stories we all have heard at different times about how in different countries people spend much less money than we do in America and have much better health outcomes. And the fact that still so many people don't have access to the quality care they need. Healthcare to me seems like such a basic human right. I guess I would say what's really personal about that for me is that I have been health-focused my entire life and really value the privilege of being healthy.


What professional accomplishment would you say you're most proud of?


Hands down, I would say being a part of building a clinic for the company that I worked for before - Trident Seafoods. And I would say being the person at Trident that had the vision to do that, and then tried to make it happen. It was also then what led me to the job and career that I have now at Vera.


The other thing I'm curious about is you talk about what you like the most about your job is your team, which you spoke about with no ownership whatsoever, but that's a team you built completely. Tell me more about how you built it and how you foster a team culture.


I don't take full credit for 100% of the people we hired. Which is so much of what creates a great team, because you have to hire the right people.

I would say that there are certain values and traits that are important to me personally that help cultivate or foster a culture with my team.

One is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Another way of saying that would be being humble, owning what you don't know or the mistakes you make. The flip side of that is that being able to highlight and recognize the strengths of people on your team and really appreciate the diversity of people's strengths. We have a team with a pretty varied background, so that's really easy to do because we have people who are our team experts in marketing, or population health, or different things that are very specific to their background.

It’s important to have the freedom to be playful and know that there's a time and a place to be focused and productive, and that productivity often comes from knowing when to take breaks and laugh. They're not mutually exclusive.

It’s also important to genuinely care about people. Everyone has their own professional boundaries of how personal they want to be with the people that they work with, or that report to them, or they report to. I probably err on the side of feeling comfortable being very closely connected to the people I work with and feeling like I want to know how they're doing and what's going on in their personal life. Because you can't really separate what's happening personally and professionally. And so, to take care of my teammates well, I want to know them.


One of the things that I've long admired that you are able to trust that people will do what they'll say without micromanaging. Now, it doesn't mean that you don't ever have to check up on people. But in my experience, people live in two camps. They either watch eagle-eyed and micro manage their agency or their internal people. Or they say, "I hired my agency and my people to do what they said they can do, and I'm going to give the the freedom to do that.”

How have you come to give people the space and responsibility to do what they're supposed to do without treating them like you're checking in on them all the time? Is that something that you think consciously about?


It's kind of ironic, because I'm going through a leadership training called Pathwise where you learn about your pathology, if you will. And I am what they classify as an obsessive-compulsive.

My facilitator was like, "No you're not." And I was like, "Yes, I am." And they're like, "No, I know an obsessive-compulsive.”

I  do want to have my hands in everything. I'm aware of that. I almost pendulum swing in the opposite direction intentionally. Because I don't like being micromanaged. I thrive with autonomy. That gives me and the people that work for me more of a sense of ownership so they can directly see the impact  they're having. If they can produce something totally on their own, it's going to help them feel confident and help them see their contribution.

This comes from knowing what makes me satisfied in my job. I don't like when people try and tell me not only what to do but how to do it, without giving me creative freedom, and so it's really important I extend that to others as well.


In a related but different way, something else that is unique about you, is how you respond to  distressing news. You respond in a way that is light, not personal. Almost as if you’re removed from it and just dealing with things at face value rather than having an emotionally negative reaction. Is it a conscious process in which you are able to approach complicated work situations with a good perspective? Is that a skill you've acquired or something that comes naturally to you?


I think there are a couple of variables. Having a healthy ability of letting go of what you can’t control is something I try and practice.

And connected to that is expecting work to be somewhat painful. My former boss and colleague Peter is a really good teacher of this, because I'll say to him things like, "That meeting was so painful." And he asks, "Are you okay with that pain?"

It’s something very unusual to hear. It makes me pause and think about how struggle is the nature of growth. If it was easy, we wouldn't be doing amazing things.

I’ve come to expect that there's going to be conflict. There's going to be stuff that is uncomfortable. And that's okay. Having an acceptance of that discomfort is a part of my internal processing.

I also have safe people I trust to process with. There are days where I want to scream and pull out my hair. And I'll leave the office. I'll go for a walk. I will text a co-worker and say, "Will you come eat lunch with me? I can't be in the office right now." Having those people who I can talk to and help externalize things is a healthy way of reacting.

I also think it’s important not to shy away from direct conversations. That is something I really try and practice. It might be easier just to avoid a conversation that's going to be difficult. But the issue will rear its head again later. Some of that just comes with the nature of the work we do as account client managers. We are practicing difficult conversations on a regular basis, but it’s also important to do that with co-workers as well. I think that one is a learned skill.


How do you prepare yourself outside of work to be mentally and physically able to go about your day?  Do you have any rituals or practices that you do in your own space that help prepare you for approaching work or headspace better?


I think it's a question we should all consider. There are things that I do at work and also things I do outside of work. The at work things would be examples I’ve already given. Knowing when to close your email and not respond, or say, "I'm done for the day." And it might be two o'clock in the afternoon. It’s okay to say, "I've reached my limit, and now I need to not work." And I probably could do better, frankly, at listening to my internal boundaries around that. But when I do, it serves me well.

Outside of work I would say, I focus on doing things that keep us healthy and well. Being conscious of how much I'm sleeping, how much I'm exercising. How I'm practicing self-care, whether it's getting a massage or spending time with people I like. One thing that I do inconsistently, but I notice a difference when I am doing it, is some sort of centering or meditative practice. It's a struggle. But even if it's taking a minute to pause before I get out of the car, or while I'm brushing my teeth, trying to practice mindful breathing. It doesn't have to be ten minutes of silence, although that's great when I can do that. But just trying to pay attention to what helps me feel calm and relaxed.


What have you learned from your team?


I’ve learned lots of little, specific things from people depending on their background and experience.

I’ve mostly learned how to be a leader. How to have confidence in answering their questions and bringing them together and observing their reactions to different things. Feeling the responsibility to advocate for them and be the voice of their frustrations and struggles. They've helped give me a stronger voice as a leader, because I care about them so much.


Who have you learned the most from in your career?


There's a handful of people. My very first boss at the YMCA taught me to be creative. She  encouraged me to take risks, think outside the box, and ask for forgiveness rather than permission. Which is an interesting thing to have a boss teach you.

I would also say Ryan Schmid (Vera CEO) has been a really inspirational leader for me, mostly in the way he's authentic as a leader.It’s encouraged me to be myself, and feel like that's enough. People react well and respect people who are authentic.


Gratuitous plug: What do you like most about working with ABN?


What immediately came to mind was this feeling that I get when we make a request, and the response is generally, "Yes, and."

Even if it's a bad request that you may think, "This is a weird, why would you want us to do this for you?" You do it in a really polite way that acknowledges the intention or the point of what we're trying to solve, and then repackage it in a way that makes it even better.

I think your ability to understand our organization, be willing to get into the weeds in terms of our business and our operations, and then also bring really fresh outside perspective that makes even our original concepts a lot better.


So then what bugs you most about working with us? Ha, that is legitimately my last question. I really should have ended it on the positive!

Lindsey G:     

Is this going in your article?


Yeah, why not? I feel like it's good to be authentic about what you're good at and what you're not good at.


Gosh, what bugs me? This is sort of a cop out answer mostly because it relates to the partnership dynamic. But, I am sometimes frustrated by quick review turnaround times, which actually is a symptom, of a root cause which is us giving you short project timelines that force these 24-hour review periods.

It's the nature of my job specifically that I could be out of pocket for 24 hours and I'm already behind. I specifically told my team, "We got to get better at this." And it starts from us having longer lead times for things. That's the challenge when you have folks that are pulled in a million different directions. You're constantly prioritizing.

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