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Stay Curious and Never Stop Learning: Blue Shield’s New Senior Vice President Believes Everyone Can Always Improve

Tim Lieb, Blue Shield of California’s new senior vice president of Commercial Markets, believes that everyone can continue to learn and improve by observing others and being open to their own strengths and weaknesses. In doing so, Tim adds, authenticity, curiosity, and empathy are key characteristics to focus on both personally and professionally.

Tim Lieb_portrait_square
Tim Lieb

“Be the authentic you," Tim says. "Early in our careers, we often look at someone who is successful, and we think, ‘I need to be like them.’ But it’s not that you need to be like them. You can still be you, but can learn from them. You can look at the characteristics or behaviors that you admire in someone else and apply them to your own life and career to identify ways you can keep improving.” 

In his new role at Blue Shield of California, Tim will lead strategy for all commercial lines of business. With more than 30 years of experience in health care, he understands that commercial group customers are increasingly concerned with their ability to provide a quality health plan as part of a benefits package that can attract and retain a talented workforce, while also managing costs. At Blue Shield, Tim will lean on his track record of developing high-performing teams and championing technology to drive innovative solutions that create value for the customer with transparency into the cost drivers within a complex healthcare ecosystem. 

We sat down with Tim to dive into his personal and professional philosophy on continuous improvement and why he’s excited to bring that to Blue Shield of California.

What are you most excited about as you start your new role at Blue Shield of California?
It’s two things and they are intertwined: the mission and the culture. Fundamentally, I believe those of us in the healthcare system have a responsibility to help fix health care. We must increase access, and make sure it is equitable and affordable. Blue Shield’s mission really emphasizes that, and more importantly, the company is dedicated to making health care better, more affordable, and more sustainable. The leadership is laser-focused on how we can continuously improve and create a healthcare system that is worthy of our family and friends that’s sustainably affordable, and that is exactly the kind of culture I want to be a part of.

Where do you see the healthcare industry heading in the next five years?
One thing the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted is the fact that our entire healthcare model isn’t really “health” care, it’s “sick” care. That’s something that needs to change. We are going to see a lot of movement toward engaging with people on wellness—both physical and mental—particularly by better utilizing primary care to meet overall health needs. In doing so, leaders in health care are looking at how we can meet people where they are and connect with them in ways that make sense in their day-to-day lives. Telemedicine is a great example of this. 

In terms of mental health, we are seeing stress and anxiety impacting people and our society. Our healthcare system is working to adapt to this, and that means we’re going to see models evolve that improve advocacy and support for mental health care. There is some great work in all of these areas happening in California, and especially at Blue Shield, and I am excited to jump in.

A lot has changed in the last two years. What have been your biggest learnings, both personally and professionally?
Professionally, I have learned a lot about how we interact. As a leader not in the same physical space as my team, I’ve learned new ways to connect and provide critical compassion and empathy. For me, it means asking more detailed questions. When you are only seeing people on video for meetings, it can be hard to know if someone might be struggling—so asking questions and really leaning in to listen has helped me better connect with people.

On the personal side, working from home created an opportunity for me to engage with my community and my family in a different way than before the pandemic. Being present has allowed me to see the ways people in my community are impacted by different things, and where people need support. For example, I have seen people of all ages and demographics in my community impacted by the stress of the pandemic, and I can see that they need support that goes beyond their physical well-being. As I think about how we can make our healthcare system better, these insights have been incredibly valuable. 

Working and living in the same space has also pushed me to be intentional in how I separate work from my home life and spend time with my family away from work. 

Who inspires you?
There are so many people who inspire me that it’s hard to name just one. So often, what really captures our hearts and inspires us can be one specific characteristic someone exhibits. One example is from earlier days of the pandemic, when we saw local restaurant owners roll with the punches and change their entire business models to take-out only. I was inspired by those who kept their energy and attitude and didn’t lose hope; they faced adversity and turned it into something positive. There are countless examples just like this, including of course our inspiring healthcare workers who have worked tirelessly through the pandemic and continue to do so today. 

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Tim with his pal, Toby

What do you like to do in your free time? 
I can’t resist a good adrenaline rush, so I love mountain biking. Hiking, reading and spending time with my friends, family, and our dog are all very important to me. To keep myself humble and able to deal with adversity, I like to golf. I am excited to get back to California and explore it with my family!
What are you most looking forward to about living and working in California?
My family and I are very excited to return to California where we lived many years ago. California has pushed the envelope in improving our healthcare system. I believe Blue Shield of California is working to drive the system forward for the state, as well as at a national level. As I said earlier, I believe it is critical for those of us in the industry to push for solutions that impact the entire healthcare system.

I love the California mindset in terms of how people think about health and wellness. It is a lot different than other places in the country. Another thing that is important to me personally is diversity, equity, and inclusion. This is a cornerstone at Blue Shield, and it is a part of the culture in California in general. I am really excited about that. I would not have relocated to a company or community where this isn’t a pillar. And of course, the weather doesn’t hurt!

Read more about Tim Lieb in his biography