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Women in Leadership

Learn how Stacey takes a unique approach to her work and how she strives to keep a good work/life balance.

Meet Stacey

To what do you attribute your success as a leader for Optum Workers’ Comp and Auto No-fault?

I attribute my success as a leader for Optum to being fortunate to have strong leaders and mentors throughout my career. If you don't have a mentor, I highly recommend you find one... immediately.  Many of my mentors and leaders have been women which I feel is a bit unique to what other women have experienced in their careers. I have also worked hard to build relationships with peers and the teams I lead by being accountable and having a willingness to champion change for the betterment of the organization. I started out at an entry-level on the sales/account management team at Optum 19 years ago and I am proud that I was able to work my way through the ranks. Strong leaders & mentors helped me tremendously on my journey.

How do you balance work and life responsibilities?

Anyone who knows the secret to this one, please share! At times I admittedly, fall short in this category. I have a "to-do" list for my "to-do" list and there never seems to be enough hours in the day to complete everything I desire. Things I have adopted over the years to help manage my work are to "Eat the Frog First" and build my daily to-do list around this concept. What this means is that if I had to eat a frog for the day, it is better to do it first, get it out of the way and then focus on everything else. My best days are the ones where I eat that frog. When I feel that I have accomplished a big task or met deadlines then it is easier to walk downstairs from my office at night, cook for my family, take the dog for a walk and find time to unwind. I also believe fully in taking vacations and completely unplugging from day-to-day life responsibilities. Yoga helps too!

What has been the most significant barrier in your career?

I feel very fortunate to not have had significant barriers like other women have faced. I do feel a lot of that is based on the fact that our industry has women in leadership roles who help others succeed. I would have to say my barriers have been my own not a barrier someone has put in front of me. By nature, I am an introvert. I enjoy having time to myself to think, reflect and recharge.  Being in front of people and having to be on point for extended amounts of time is really exhausting for me and I have to find ways to overcome my desire to crawl into my turtle shell. I believe this has put me at a disadvantage in having a strong industry presence and is a goal that I am working towards. Not an easy goal to overcome during a global pandemic but at least I have had a lot of time to give myself a pep talk!

What is your “Why?”

I really love leading a team and finding ways to make a difference. I find it fascinating to uncover a problem then work to solve it. My education and training were in nursing so there is something in my core that has a strong empathy for people and a need to help them. Transitioning early in my career to a business role was a huge leap for me but has been the most rewarding decision I made.  I did not plan this path but I am thankful for where I am in my career. I am so appreciative of those who encouraged me at each turn and who truly helped in my success. I want to be that same inspiration to others and maybe even be the person to give someone a nudge when they doubt themselves because I see the greatness within them even when they don't.

What is your “Secret Sauce” i.e what are the 3 – 5 principles that you have discovered and executed that have contributed to your success?

My core values are accountability, positivity, dedication, preparation and "Happy People Make Good Shoes". I believe only one of these really needs explaining. Some of these values are the same as my grandfather's when he ran shoe factories back in the 1980s-1990s. My grandfather loved the work that he did, he loved solving problems and he still tells work stories today at the age of 90. What he knew was that if his employees were happy, they would perform at high levels and exceed his core standards. He worked closely with his employees and understood their challenges so he could work to improve their experience which automatically made their work product greater. I have to say as a little kid hearing your grandpa talk about work was quite boring. However, I am so grateful that he has shared his stories over the years and that I can now apply his values to my leadership. One of the most valuable tools that UHG has given leaders is the employee survey and the guidance to hold conversations with your employees to create an action plan. It is eye-opening to see what challenges the team is facing and rewarding to find ways to improve their experience at Optum. This year I also kicked off a "Coffee Break with Stacey" call series where I set up a 30-minute casual chat with each member of my team. The feedback has been tremendous and spending time to get to know each member of my team has been incredibly rewarding. These are some of the things that I do and that I think are my "secret sauce" for meeting the value of "Happy People Make Good Shoes". And in case you are wondering, I don't plan on changing the makes for a better story this way.

What are your favorite questions to ask those you lead?

My favorite question is, "What can I do to help support you?" I think my team is getting used to me asking this question and to be honest it took me a little while to make it a habit. However, asking that question has been fun to see people's reactions. At first, folks don't really know what to say and they were taken off guard that I would ask it.  After a few times though, I think people have their list ready for me now and can't wait until I ask them. My role is to support those I lead in delighting our customers so anything I can do to help in their success helps the success of our entire organization.

What advice would you give other women interested in advancing to a leadership position?

I would advise women leaders to know their strengths. Play to your strengths but also understand your weaknesses. Continuously find ways to improve and grow. Force yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible. And most importantly, build a strong network and find a mentor. Go for it, what you don't know you can learn!

Stacey McKee 

Senior Vice President
Account Management