Be vulnerable and have humility with your team. Our teams want to know us as human beings and have personal connections. Sharing information about our personal and professional challenges allows them to feel safe to do the same. I have found that this creates a trusting culture in which we all know that we are working towards the same goal.
As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Lanning.
Angela Lanning is the ITS Chief Operating Officer, specializing in clinical and financial comparative data for the healthcare informatics unit for Premier Inc., a healthcare improvement company based in Charlotte, NC. She is responsible for the product strategy, development and implementation, customer support, training and data management for Premier’s quality and population health solutions.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Believe it or not, I started working for Premier when I graduated from college in 1993. I started with the predecessor company called Sun Health, which merged with Premier in 1996. I was an Industrial Engineering major and most of my opportunities were in manufacturing, so the opportunity to work in healthcare and technology was exciting to me. When I started at Premier, there were only about 10 people in the technology group, so I had the chance to work in an entrepreneurial environment which provided great opportunities to learn and grow. Throughout my career, I have been lucky enough to work in multiple roles from project management and customer support to product engineering. This flexibility has allowed me to learn and strengthen bolster my career while staying with a company whose mission to improve the health of communities resonates strongly with me.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Diversity and inclusion in leadership are extremely important to driving the success of a company. Having a diverse and inclusive culture offers us opportunities to see things from different perspectives, creating a culture that is open-minded and all-encompassing. Different perspectives enable us to listen to and draw from a wider range of experiences, which ultimately helps companies make more sound decisions.
Further, it improves employee engagement, and with that comes the ability to attract and retain top talent — which , which then creates a better culture as well as a good reputation for the company. I truly believe that diversity fosters innovation because it allows companies to create products and services that have input from different perspectives, which ultimately helps them appeal to a wider customer base and better serve the end user.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
As you stated above, we are facing a self-reckoning. From my perspective, below are steps we need to take. As we have been facing this more directly, I’ve personally found that calling and listening directly to my Black colleagues has helped me grow the most.
- Ensure that compensation is equitable and consistent based on roles
- Create leadership role(s) that specialize in diversity and inclusion
- Be authentic — show that you value diversity by taking the time to listen to all your colleagues
- Ensure that growth opportunities are shared consistently across all qualified colleagues
- Train hiring managers to avoid bias during the recruiting process and post positions on job boards and universities that specialize in diversity
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
The biggest myth to me is that leaders have all the answers. It is not a weakness to acknowledge that you do not know something.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
The biggest challenges I believe woman face are:
- Not being offered the same opportunities as their male counterparts
- Being treated equal — there is still a pay gap for the same roles
- Fighting gender stereotypes
- Taking risks — women are less likely to take risk
- Confidence — throughout my career I have seen men exude a lot more confidence in their roles and abilities than myself and my female colleagues. We must trust our voices.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I have learned that a strong work ethic and the ability to work with others can carry you further in your career than having the best technical skills.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
- Share a vision for the future that inspires — I believe people want a “why,” and being able to provide that gets the team moving in the same direction
- Create a culture that allows for open communication
- Hold yourself and your team members accountable
- Be vulnerable and have humility with your team. Our teams want to know us as human beings and have personal connections. Sharing information about our personal and professional challenges allows them to feel safe to do the same. I have found that this creates a trusting culture in which we all know that we are working towards the same goal.
- Be willing to surround yourself with team members who push you and their colleagues to be better. It takes a diverse group of people with different strengths to create a strong team. It can be uncomfortable, but working with folks who can stretch your thinking will help the entire team grow.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
At a time when things have been very uncertain for many people, my success has allowed me to be able to donate financially to local restaurants and food pantries.
We are also in very divisive times and I work hard to ensure I treat people with kindness and respect. We all come from different experiences and I believe having grace with people is one way to make the world a better place.
I also support doingdo my part to protect the environment by recycling, using sustainable goods, and conserving water.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would inspire everyone to get out and vote in all elections (local and national). We are so fortunate to live in a democracy where our vote counts and we should not take it for granted. Our vote allows us to influence the leaders in our communities and in the nation.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Things do happen for a reason; they happen to teach you something” — About seven years ago I got a new boss and the reorganization felt like a demotion. I did not know my new boss and was uncertain and stressed about the new organization structure. In the end, the new boss turned out to be a great mentor and advocate. It taught me to be more open minded to change, and that sometimes what seems unfavorable turns out to be great.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.