As a corporate leader, Norine Yukon, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas and Texas Conference for Women board member, draws on her experience in prior positions to help guide her day-to-day decisions. Scroll down to listen to the brief interview in its entirety.
Q: How did your career began, and how did your first job prepare you for where you are today?
A: I think every job you have prepares you for the next many jobs that you have. I think that you can get something out of every experience depending your desire to learn from everyday life.
I started my nursing career at a hospital in Austin, Texas, and I worked there for about nine years. During that time, I made a lot of observations about the healthcare system, and I realized that we were going to be in trouble some day in this country because expenses were going up and access to care was going down. And so I decided I wanted to be someplace where healthcare policy was discussed and plans for a new way of delivering healthcare were being designed and delivered.
Q: Is there a leader for whom you have great respect, and why?
A: I’ve been lucky enough to be exposed to many great leaders over the years, so when I hear a question like that, I think about some of the attributes that have inspired me to be a leader. I think about people who are honest, clear and direct, fair and objective. I think about people who listen to all sides and actually solicit opinions from everyone. I think of leaders being visionary and able to communicate the vision. The greatest leaders I’ve worked with have been very balanced; they’ve not only understood the technical aspects of their job or industry or company, but they had great people skills and knew how to get along with others.
Q: As a leader in your company, what’s the best piece of advice you would offer to a new employee to help them succeed?
A: Wherever you go, whatever group you join, it’s very important to understand the mission and the culture, and to make sure that you agree with it and you can support it professionally and personally. Once you understand the mission and the culture, then I think it’s very important to identify all the stakeholders involved, internally and externally, and understand their perspective. Finally, I think understanding the particular role that you play in the big picture and understanding your leaders’ expectations of you kind of helps you prioritize your day and think about how you’re actually spending your time at work. In other words, it’s good to ask yourself every day, ‘am I working to meet the mission of the company? Am I working to meet my leaders’ and my stakeholders’ expectations?’ And then finally, finally, finally after that’s all figured out, I think the big question is ‘am I happy? Is this something that I wake up every day excited about?’ If your answer to that is ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’, I think that gives you more reason to think about things and make sure that you’re in the right place.
Q: What is one thing that you make time for in your daily life that helps keep you refreshed and positive?
A: Taking a deep breath. And realizing that the world is so much bigger than I am and reconciling my insignificance in the universe on a daily basis. Understanding what I can personally do to make a positive difference in the world—in the world of my family, the world of my work, the world of my community and the greater world around me.
Interview by Karen Breslau