UnitedHealth Group | Leadership and Innovation |
Published in the September/October 2012 issue of print Search & Employ® |
Chuck Officer, vice president of innovation for UnitedHealth Group, served in two branches of the military, achieving the rank of sergeant in the Marine Corps, then becoming a lieutenant commander in the Navy. While in the Marines, he focused on infantry; in the Navy, he concentrated on cryptology.
His adaptability has paid off in the civilian world. “I have been with UnitedHealth Group for eight years, and have had a wide variety of jobs within different UnitedHealth Group companies,” Officer said. “I have led several major technology and analytic projects and programs, and led the planning for the TRICARE South Region contract transition.”
UnitedHealth Group’s family of companies provides healthcare management, consulting, and specialty services. UnitedHealth Group employs roughly 80,000 people, including thousands of nurses, physicians, social workers, and other care providers.
Officer said that the leadership skills and style that he learned in the military have also paid big dividends. “The military taught me how to lead ‘the right way’ and to have the confidence to know that I could accomplish any mission,” he said. “My experiences as both officer and enlisted gave me first-hand knowledge of what it is like to be in many different roles. I learned that the best leaders know they are not better, smarter, or more important; the same private cleaning the head today may be the commandant in the future. I learned my role as a leader is to build and support a team, unleash their talents, become one well-oiled team, and then get the job done. There is simply no other school of leadership that consistently trains ‘real’ leadership as well as the military.”
Officer said it is important to never stop improving – something he did by getting his MBA at night while in the military. “The military culture inspires people to put others’ needs above one’s own, to push yourself and give your best, and to sacrifice for the team and the greater good,” he said. “It is a unique opportunity to truly experience something bigger than one’s self. While I have worked hard to supplement my military skills with business skills and never stop learning, the leadership skills I learned in the military have been more important to my business success than my undergraduate, MBA, PMP [Project Management Professional credential], or the other training I have received since. All are important, and learning can never stop – but the drive for constant self-improvement was first learned in the military.”
Officer advises veteran job seekers to learn to understand their “customers” and become adept at “translating” for them. “We need the best, brightest, and most driven,” he said, “people not afraid of hard work or a challenge, people that are proven leaders, and people that are passionate about helping people live healthier lives. The advice I was given, and I think still applies, is to be confident, acquire the specific business-related skills needed in today’s economy, be humble, and translate the military language to a civilian version or you won’t be understood and appreciated.
“Most Americans are not familiar with the military and have little knowledge of what we do. We have to understand our new customers, translate for them, and prove we can help them accomplish their missions. Always strive to make it easier for your customer and remember your first customer is your new employer.”