FORTUNE 500 LEADER
"Sports teach you the value of hard work"
Gail Boudreaux confesses to Deepti Singh how Sports has taught her the value of hard work, perseverance and the importance of working together to achieve a common goal
Deepti Singh | Issue Date - 01/08/2011
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Q. What does it take to become Gail Boudreaux – the achiever? Could you tell us about the process you went through to achieve the present status of success.
A. Having participated in sports plays a lot into how I have developed professionally. You learn how to work problems out, improve your performance, set goals, deliver on goals, and develop trust. But wherever your passions lie – whether in athletics, theater, environmental or social causes, or countless other pursuits – you can develop and sharpen many valuable skills just by participating in and being passionate about something. And those skills will prove useful and beneficial in many areas of your life as you learn and grow through each new experience and opportunity that life presents to you. I had a very unique experience in my career, particularly in this industry, to work in just about every aspect of it. So, as you look at my resume, I was in a rotational management programme early in my career, and I worked from marketing our dental products to sales. I went through our sales development school. And what was unique, I got to see the business from each of the functional pieces, and then was able to put those parts together in every assignment I had, and all of them were a little bit different. That combination of skills is what’s probably been the most useful to me.
Q. You still hold career scoring and rebounding records for women’s basketball at Dartmouth. How Dartmouth helped you shape your career?
A. I am grateful for the opportunities I had while at Dartmouth. Neither of my parents went to college, and I was among the first female athletes to benefit from the landmark Title Nine, “equal access” legislation in the US, which I think helped create the strong cadre of women now in leadership roles across the country. Title Nine required schools to make equal opportunities for both women and men in sports. I was an All-American at Dartmouth in basketball and track and field in the early 1980s, and am proud to say that I still hold career scoring and rebounding records for women’s basketball. In 2003 I had the great fortune to be inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. In addition to sports, I was very active in Student Government throughout college and was elected to The Green Key Society and Acquinas House. I was also an English tutor which helped me understand the importance of mentoring, and I remain active in alumni leadership roles serving as a Alumni Council member and have been nominated to become a trustee of the college. All of these experiences certainly helped me develop my leadership skills, helping me to understand different perspectives on issues, and challenging me to engage with a broad array of constituencies to work to find solutions to challenging issues. Lastly, during my post graduation, I served as president of the Health Care Association at Columbia Business School, which provided me with a broader perspective on the variety of issues impacting the healthcare industry.
Q. From being captain of the basketball team at Dartmouth to to leading the biggest division of UnitedHealth Group. How has the transition been?
A. Sports teach you the value of hard work, perseverance and the importance of working together to achieve a common goal. They also teach you that you can achieve more than you think is possible when everyone "believes" in themselves and trusts their teammates by working together to achieve the greater team goal even if that means taking on different roles to achieve success. This translates to the workplace very well. I believe it is important for us to have a common mission and set high aspirations for how we perform as a team. Our work is too important to those we serve to expect anything less of ourselves. Coaching enables managers to motivate their team members to higher level of performance. This is turn may lead to greater achievement of organisational goals.