…recognize all types of progress. Leaders need to practice positive leadership each day. Even if it means setting a calendar reminder to acknowledge or praise your team, you will become more relatable and successful in the workplace if you continually recognize employees for their progress and dedication. That’s vital to building a thriving culture.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Latimer. As chief executive officer of StayWell, Nicole Latimer embodies the company’s mission to be the premier provider of lifestyle risk management programs for the entire healthcare ecosystem, leveraging the science of behavior change as the foundation for improving health outcomes. She has extensive experience in population health management, health system growth strategies, patient and employee education, and SaaS development and delivery — managing workflow and analytics applications designed for patients, analysts, clinicians and executives. Prior to StayWell, she served in a number of executive leadership roles with the Advisory Board Company’s Crimson Clinical Advantage division and specialized in healthcare operations and turnarounds at Deloitte Consulting. Nicole holds master’s degrees in business administration and management, and health care management and policy from the University of Michigan, and a bachelor’s degree in English from Dartmouth College.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve been in the healthcare industry for more than 25 years and have heavily focused on health systems and the operations/strategy arenas to improve the overall quality of care. In watching the transition of the industry over the last several years, I realized that I wanted to have a greater, more hands-on impact. So, I joined StayWell in 2016 to make a difference. I liked that I had greater access to the patient side of the business, which enabled me to focus on individual accountability for health. I found that just as physicians are struggling to help patients take accountability for their health behaviors, patients are also struggling from a knowledge and motivation standpoint regarding how they can improve their own health. At StayWell, we’re aiming to fix these problems on both fronts.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I have many, but perhaps a top memory is StayWell’s acquisition of Provata Health, a digital health company that delivers population health programs to employers, health plans and hospital systems. We announced this acquisition in February of last year and it has been widely successfully. In fact, since then we’ve doubled the number of clients using the solution.
We were interested in Provata for several reasons, but most important, the company was well-received by the marketplace and also offered a native mobile platform, which is exactly what we needed. A unique factor of this acquisition was that it happened quickly in order to meet our sales cycle. From start to finish, the entire process took only 41 days — and happened over the holidays! While the entire process was rapid and intense, it was well worth it because we’ve added an amazing portfolio of products to our company. With this addition, we’ve received tremendous feedback and interest from the marketplace in our mobile platform. This activity was not only fun to work on, but also allowed us to think differently about how we want to interact with our customers — employers, health plans and health systems — to implement our lifestyle risk management programs in ways that work most efficiently for them. The addition of Provata Health is one way we have worked toward accomplishing this approach.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
While trivial, I think a funny memory would be not making the transition to “camera culture” sooner. At StayWell, 64 percent of our workforce is remote. A major challenge with this setup for any company is that you may not have the ability to interact in person during typical work hours, so video conferencing is crucial. When I first came to StayWell and joined meetings, I was one of the only ones taking advantage of the video aspect. I learned that many members of the team were not yet utilizing video when working from home because they were not professionally dressed or had make up on that day. However, our whole goal and mission at StayWell is to empower people to take active roles in their own health and help them have a more balanced and rewarding life at home. So, we taught the team that it wasn’t what you looked like that mattered — it was how engaged and communicative you were being. By using video conferencing vs. the telephone for meetings, our teams can interact and communicate with each other more effectively.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
StayWell is unique for one main reason. We are taking on some of the toughest personal challenges people face, such as stress, weight management, and lack of sleep. These issues — termed lifestyle risks — drive about a third of all healthcare costs and are what the majority of people search on the internet: tips on how to improve these risks. We are all looking for ways to be happier and healthier, and that’s where StayWell comes in to support. Unlike anything or anyone else out there, we work every day to better understand how ready a person is to change their behaviors, and then we work to provide them with a program that’s personalized and based specifically off their readiness to make a change.
An example of this is our Million Steps Challenge. We help companies build programs that encourage employees to stay engaged and active by making health and fitness more fun. The Million Steps Challenge is a year-round program that combines tracking, social and interactive components to engage a wide range of participants to take one million steps over the course of a year. We’ve implemented this program with several large companies, and the results are phenomenal. We’ve seen people who used to take under 3,000 steps a day increase this nearly 100 percent. It’s exciting to see that not only is this program scalable, but that individuals can reasonably achieve these goals and ultimately reduce their health risk by becoming more physically active.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
The most exciting thing we are working on right now is our new digital health programs, which will be available to physicians to help them prescribe health programs through the EHR, similar to the way they currently prescribe medications. Many Americans have been to the doctor’s office for a check-up only to hear the physician say, “you need to lose some weight.” The issue is, however, all the doctor says next is to diet and exercise. There are no significant guidelines on how to get started. With our digital health programs, physicians can ‘prescribe’ a digital health app for the patient to download. This will then guide them through daily exercises and provide them with healthy recipes and a coach to work with throughout their journey. The data from this app will then be written back into the EHR so that both the physician and patient have a record to review, in which both parties can monitor progress or adjust the care plan if needed. These programs will be essential moving forward as individuals continue to seek new ways to improve their lifestyle risks and positively impact their mental health.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive? What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
First and foremost, I would tell female leaders to just be you. Be your true, authentic self each and every day. Women in the workforce are constantly bombarded with advice about what to do and what not to do. My advice is to just be comfortable being who you are. In return you’ll feel more confident, which is one of the top assets of leading teams more successfully.
The second would be to recognize all types of progress. Leaders need to practice positive leadership each day. Even if it means setting a calendar reminder to acknowledge or praise your team, you will become more relatable and successful in the workplace if you continually recognize employees for their progress and dedication. That’s vital to building a thriving culture.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Ironically, I would say it’s a former manager of mine whom I didn’t particularly get along with. He always provided me with tough feedback and criticism, probably more than anyone ever had throughout my life. Back then I would often brush it off and felt that he just didn’t recognize or see my potential. Today, I realize how much of a role he played in shaping my career because through that tough love, I was also able to learn.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Pick your team well — While it’s important for your employees to share your same values, it’s also important to have different working styles. Embrace diversity and enjoy learning from one another.
2. Communicate constantly — There is no such thing as too much communication. Talk to your teams daily and find out what they are working on, what challenges they may be facing, and how you can help them overcome them.
3. Act fast — In business as in life, it’s important to act fast and keep the ball rolling. I have learned several lessons in the past from not acting faster on certain initiatives, and that could have had negative outcomes.
4. Always recognize progress — No matter how big or small, recognize and acknowledge progress. Thank the people that are pushing forward and working hard for the company and team. Even when it may seem like small progress, the payoff can be huge over time.
5. Make time for yourself — Self-care is critical. When you are at your happiest, healthiest self, you are able to perform better at work and help bring out the best in others.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
This question is really special to me because I truly feel everything we do at StayWell is designed to bring goodness to the world. When we talk about who StayWell is and why we do what we do, I like to share experiences — stories of people being frustrated, confused or let down during their healthcare journey. For example, often times patients are given advice or subjected to treatment they didn’t necessarily need because the correct clinical guidelines were not offered or followed. We often hear people saying that had they truly been told all of their options for care, they would have chosen an entirely different path. That’s heartbreaking. Our goal is to stop these stories. To restore the power of appropriate decision-making to the person actually receiving care and to provide all physicians with the information and resources they need to properly guide their patients. We want individuals to be advocates of their own health journey and to understand their options and healthcare paths.