women business leaders

How I Became a More Effective Leader

Lisa Olexy, SVP of Health Plan Sales at Versant Health, discusses her career journey, including how she has been able to set herself apart and develop her own leadership style.  Lisa will include some of her defining moments and the role that golf has played in her leadership development, plus offer advice to the next generation of female leaders.

Lisa Olexy is a business growth leader, strategist and productivity expert with 25 years of experience in leading successful national sales, account management and marketing teams. She is the current Senior Vice President of Health Plan Sales at Versant Health, an active member of the Women Business Leaders of the U. S. Healthcare Industry Foundation (WBL) and has served on the Board of the Third-Party Administrators Association of America.

We sat down with Lisa to learn more about her career journey, including how she has been able to set herself apart in a male-dominated field and develop her own leadership style. 

How would you describe your leadership style?

My leadership style would be described as strategic. My ultimate objective is to ensure the success of our organization and our contribution to the industry – a focus on the macro. Simultaneously – at the micro level – I’m invested in the success of my team and each team member. And in today’s world, because most sales activities occur virtually, I am hyper-sensitive to the need to over-communicate and listen carefully.  

What’s a leadership lesson that you’ve learned that’s unique to being a female leader? What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

When starting my career, there were few women filling sales positions in the healthcare industry. I quickly learned that attempting to replicate the behaviors of others, who were not reflective of who I was or my values, would not lead to success. As a result, remaining true to who I am, my values, my purpose, and being authentic has served me well over the years.

As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career? How did you reach your level of success, despite your sector’s gender gap?

I’ve found that we often create our own barriers to success. For example, not knowing when or how to say “no” in our personal and professional lives can serve as a barrier to growth. Saying “no” allows us the opportunity to set priorities without guilt. 

Another key to overcoming significant barriers in your career is to embrace guidance and learn from the actions of others early in life or early in your career. I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by strong, successful women. My mother was president of a small manufacturing company and my aunts were also successful businesswomen and served as my role models. They all shared the inherent trait of being passionate about their roles and purpose. 

In addition to family, while in the healthcare industry, I have also been fortunate enough to have worked with and be mentored by several strong, like-minded women, who are dedicated and passionate about improving the healthcare industry.

What activities do you use to unwind? Have any of these activities impacted your career or leadership style?  

For me, activities to unwind are all outdoors. I thoroughly enjoy outdoor activities like golf, fishing and boating. All of these activities, especially golf, have impacted my leadership style.

Golf provides another competitive outlet for me since my performance is measured over time, and against my teammates. Playing golf requires strategy. The course, the weather, my teammates, and my past performance all contribute to my choice of club, its position in relation to the ball, body position, etc.

I find that the lessons learned during these kinds of activities are similar to your own career – the only way to improve performance is to practice and maintain commitment to your goal – whatever that may be.

How can activities outside of work help the next generation of female leaders achieve their goals?

Activities outside of work, such as golf, are a great outlet for self-discovery because they allow for a break from a singular focus on day-to-day deliverables. I’ve found that being outdoors in a beautiful setting is when those “aha moments”, where you suddenly identify a solution to a business-related obstacle, often occur. 

They are also great at sparking that competitive nature within us, which motivates people to learn new skills that will improve their performance and help them work more effectively as part of a team.

What is an example of a moment in your career that you are proud of?

Throughout my career, there have been a number of occasions and projects that I have been proud of contributing to the effort and successful results. However, I feel the most pride when witnessing the success of other female sales leaders that I have coached and mentored over the years, including my daughters, who have all grown to be successful businesswomen. 

What are some strategies you’ve learned that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

For women who want to achieve a more prominent role in their organizations, they should develop and consistently re-evaluate their goals and tactics at the macro and micro levels. At the macro level, they need to assess their contribution to their industry, organization and team – plus, monitor and adjust their goals and tactics, when necessary and required by shifts in the marketplace that bring opportunity. 

On the micro-level, they should avoid getting caught up in daily challenges – “don’t sweat the small stuff.” If you effectively prioritize, deliver on your commitments and learn when and how to say “no” in your professional and personal life, it becomes much easier to stand out in your organization.

© 2021 Versant Health Holdco.

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