Lisa Guertin, 2020 Outstanding Woman in Business
President, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in NH, based in Manchester
Lisa Guertin has been at the center of healthcare in New Hampshire for over a decade. With more than 30 years of experience in the field, she has become a trusted resource, appointed by multiple governors and lawmakers to serve on state advisory boards, helping to tackle the initial roll out of the health insurance exchange and Medicaid expansion, to name two.
Facing increased competition and radical transformation under the Affordable Care Act, Guertin’s deep understanding of health insurance combined with her strategic vision have long helped Anthem maintain its market leadership position.
Q. What is a challenge you’ve faced and overcome?
A. My greatest challenge — and accomplishment — was taking over as president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in New Hampshire while I was a full-time student in an executive MBA program at Boston University and caring for two small children and an aging mother. Those were hectic and overwhelming times, but my family and I got through them.
Q. What is your leadership style?
A. The first rule of leadership is that you have to be authentic. If you spend all of your time trying to “be” a certain way, you won’t have any energy left to “do” anything. My second rule is to surround myself with the best and brightest people who help me think outside of the box. Finally, I believe a leader’s job is to help people feel connected — to our customers, to our culture, to our company and to each other. I try to help connect the dots so everyone on the team knows we are part of something that matters.
Q. Have you had a mentor?
A. Although I have had the benefit of many different development programs over the years, a formal “mentor” relationship was not one of them. I have, however, had incredible female role models I’ve worked for who definitely shaped my views about leadership and life and who remain among my best friends today. The most important things they taught me are that it is possible (if not always easy) to balance family life and a demanding career, and also that you can take your job very seriously without taking yourself too seriously!
Q. Have you experienced discrimination because of your gender?
A. No, and as I reflect on my experience, I realize how fortunate I’ve been to live out my career with an employer where equality is a given. Anthem ranks No. 35 in Forbes’ list of America’s Best Employers for Women, and we were also just named to Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index.
I was extremely proud, but not surprised, when last year we were among only 7% of American public companies to publish a gender pay analysis and demonstrate that at Anthem, women are paid $1 for each $1 their male counterparts in the same occupation earn. So while I have faced many challenges, I’m very grateful that a glass ceiling or gender discrimination are NOT among them!
Q. What advice do you have for young women just starting their careers?
A. I encourage up-and-coming leaders to say “yes.” When I started, I had no designs on leading our New Hampshire business. I consider my career path a direct result of saying “yes” when the company presented me with opportunities and challenges, even when I didn’t recognize that I was ready for them. If you build your brand as a problem-solver, you will be given bigger problems to solve.
Q. How do you balance your personal and professional lives?
A. I am a big believer in the concept of “Be Here Now,” so I try to stay focused on work when I am at work and on home when I am home. I also believe you have to stay adaptable — there is an expression that says “Man plans and God laughs.”
I was in a development class many years ago where they had us write our own eulogy. That sounds a bit creepy, but the point was to identify what we want people to be able to say about us when it is all said and done, and it has really reminded me to establish and protect my priorities.