Kaitlin Howard is a researcher and writer producing insightful content across the healthcare revenue cycle. She has written and produced content for Zelis, Waystar, and Recondo Technology, as well as agencies. With a B.A. in English and Writing from University of Denver, Kaitlin stays current on market updates on claims management and healthcare payments, publishing a regular educational blog series on industry trends and Zelis offerings.
On January 4, 2022, Zelis CEO Amanda Eisel sat down with Ben Fanning on his podcast, The CEO Sessions. In this episode, Amanda and Ben talk about one of the most challenging obstacles people in leadership face: work-life balance.
A Bit of Background
In this day and age, leaders are often torn between prioritizing their careers and neglecting family life or going all-in on family and not pursuing their career dream. And while this is applicable for both women and men, it’s particularly poignant for women, as they make up only 8% of Fortune 500 CEOs and are often considered the stereotypical stay-at-home parent and primary homemaker.
This challenge creates a no-win situation for female executives. But is it possible to have the best of both worlds (aka a fulfilling family life and a meaningful career)?
Zelis CEO, Amanda Eisel, thinks so.
In her appearance on Ben’s podcast, she discusses her own tried and true strategies that have helped her to address the problem of work-life balance, giving listeners a bit of inspiration and guidance when it comes time to take their family and career dreams seriously.
Finding work-life balance as a CEO and mother of three.
“Can I do all of this at once?” is a question many have asked themselves over the years when faced with a career change. For Amanda, it was no different.
After working as an Operating Partner at Bain Capital, Amanda was asked to transition to a new role — CEO at Zelis. Although she found herself excited at the prospect of leading a company she’d been deeply involved in building, she also began to wonder if she could actually achieve work-life balance as a mother of three young children and CEO.
Her plan of action? Reaching out to other CEOs, particularly other women in leadership with young children. But this task proved difficult, and Amanda found herself left with just as many questions and doubts as when she started.
Fueled by her desire to fill the void and be a role model for her own children, as well as other mothers and parents, Amanda decided to go for it.
In the podcast, she elaborates on her thought process behind her decision and shares a few tips to help push for work-life balance, especially as a woman in leadership.
Balancing professional and personal calendars.
“I tend to look at a career on this notion of work-life balance and say it’s rough to have both at the same time.”
Going into her new position, one of the things Amanda was most concerned with was her ability to keep her personal and professional lives balanced. As such, she began working with an executive coach to help keep her honest with herself about something they refer to as “mindful mommy-ing”.
The first step? Writing a list of what that phrase meant to Amanda, or more specifically, what she wanted to do every week with her children.
Amanda then uses that list to check in every week. Sometimes things don’t get accomplished that she would like, but rather than using that as a sort of silver bullet, Amanda uses those missed opportunities as fuel for the next week to ensure she prioritizes her family a bit more and career a bit less (aka ensuring that balance we’ve been talking about).
Creating a network.
“One of the things I’ve always been conscious of doing is having my network of women around me.”
In the podcast, Amanda discusses the importance of surrounding yourself with people who you know will “be on speed dial” if you need them. When asked how to find those types of people, Amanda says to be sure not to limit yourself to peers within your company. She says that it’s important to not only seek out a support system but also to seek out mentors and ask for help, especially as a woman.
Sometimes you’re going to be the “only” in the room. That’s just the way it is. But instead of focusing on that, Amanda tries to remind herself that she’s there because the company needs her. No one ever got anywhere by utilizing one single perspective.
Creating a network around her helps Amanda gain the confidence she needs to ensure her voice is heard.
Working at Zelis.
“We have this blend of the entrepreneurs that started the company and newer folks like myself that have a totally different background that have been brought together by this common purpose.”
One common theme with Zelis employees is that each person has had an experience within the healthcare sector that has driven them to want to create a better way.
In the podcast, Amanda details that what excites her most about her position is a personal alignment with Zelis’ goal to utilize technology to harmonize the complete payment process in healthcare and create a more affordable and transparent care environment for us all.
When asked “what’s the one trait you’d like to instill in every employee and why,” Amanda responded, “assume positive intent,” and “ask why”.
But what do those mean?
For Amanda, assuming positive intent means coming into a conversation or interaction and assuming that what the other person is doing and saying is coming from positive places. This, in turn, leads to better collaboration and better partnership.
Serving as a second fold to her first response, asking why can serve to help clarify others’ opinions and intents, leading to more honest and clear conversations. Sometimes things get lost in translation, especially in the world of emails and Zoom. Asking someone to detail their logic helps break down the barriers between ideas and could potentially even change your own opinion or course of action.
1. Take the time to learn.
Through the years, Amanda has experienced firsthand the issues that come with diving into a role too quickly. For her, one of the most important things you can do, especially in a leadership role, is to take the time to slow down and really dissect how the business works, the pains, the challenges, and the struggles.
2. Be curious.
Ask why. When things don’t make sense, dig in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
3. Be reliable and accountable.
Every quarter at Zelis, leaders go through and set priorities for the next quarter before going back to see how they performed on their goals for the quarter prior. Honesty is key. Set your own direction, but then paint an honest picture of how you’re doing.
The Wrap Up
When asked for a final thought, Amanda leaves the audience with this: “Lean in. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to learn along the way.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about Amanda, here is her LinkedIn.
And, once again, if you’re interested in hearing the whole podcast, here’s the link.