How Taking Risks Reaps Big Rewards with Anne Corley Baum
Tell People What You Want
Anne Corley Baum is the Lehigh Valley Market President for Capital BlueCross, leading the network of over 5500 producers and responsible for the plan’s organized labor customers. In today’s episode, Anne discusses her book series, “Small Mistakes, Big Consequences,” and shares how you can avoid the common behavioral mistakes that can jeopardize your success.
“If you don’t ask, the answer is always no because you didn’t even give the other person a chance.”
—Anne Corley Baum
Capital Blue Cross
Anne Corley Baum is the Lehigh Valley Market President for Capital BlueCross. In this capacity, she is the senior leader in the Capital BlueCross Lehigh Valley office. She also leads the network of over 5500 producers and is responsible for the plan’s organized labor customers.
Since joining the company in January 2010, Ms. Baum has been involved with strategic planning, operations, partnership development, community relations, corporate giving, sales, and account management throughout Capital BlueCross’ eastern service area. She also designed and led leadership development programs through her own company Vision Accomplished, which focuses on leadership development.
Anne is the author of “Small Mistakes, Big Consequences: Develop Your Soft Skills to Help You Succeed,” the first book in the Small Mistakes, Big Consequences series. Her second book, “Small Mistakes, Big Consequences for Interviews” was released September 1, 2020.
“The faster you fail, the more you learn.”
—Anne Corley Baum
Capital Blue Cross
Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and Co-Founder of Branded Group, an award-winning national facility management company that services multi-site commercial properties such as retail, restaurants, healthcare facilities, and educational institutions.
Welcome to the BeBetter podcast! Each week, I interview thought leaders from a variety of industries who will share their stories and the lessons they learned as they strive to be better for their clients, partners, employees, and their community. Are you ready to Be Better?
Michael Kurland (00:03):
Hello, and welcome to another episode of The BeBetter Podcast. I’m your host, Michael Kurland. Joining me today is Anne Corley Baum, Lehigh Valley Market President for Capital Blue Cross and the author of the Small Mistakes, Big Consequences book series. Anne, welcome to the show. Tell the audience a little bit more about who you are and what you do.
Anne Corley Baum (00:30):
Thank you for having me, Michael. I’m really excited to be here. I work for Capital Blue Cross, which is a health insurance company. In my role, I interact with people on a daily basis. I get the opportunity to figure out successful behavioral techniques and, more importantly, disastrous behavioral techniques. I decided to start a book series to help people learn about their skills, and lack thereof, often of things that can get in their way and keep a relationship or a sale or a business idea from progressing. So I wrote the Small Mistakes, Big Consequences book series.
Michael Kurland (01:22):
Anne, welcome to the show. I had the pleasure of reading through your books over the past couple of days. I got to say, I’m really excited to talk about it. When we were talking pre-show, you said these are things that people don’t even know that they’re doing wrong. I have to agree. We’ll talk a little bit more about that a little bit later in the show. I say it all the time. Every time I think I don’t have to write a process for something at Branded Group, I always find that I’m wrong. I actually have to tell people that, “Yes. This is not okay to do.” I think your book kind of hits on all of that. Let’s get into, first, your BeBetter story. You had two. Let’s go into that. Why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about your first story of how you were being better and then we’ll roll into the second one and where the books came from.
Anne Corley Baum 02:22):
Sure. Thank you. This whole concept is a BeBetter story. I really love it because it causes you to look back on things that you did in your career and maybe didn’t necessarily set out to do it as a BeBetter moment, but it turned out to be one. Thank you for the opportunity to think through something like that. The first opportunity, or BeBetter moment that came to my mind was when I was a consultant and I had just returned from maternity leave. The leader of our practice was asking me to go across the country. I lived in Chicago at that time, and he was asking me to go to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which I had never even heard of before and do a consulting job. Prior to having a baby, that would have been a no-brainer. I would have been on a plane. Once I had a child, I thought, “I can’t just leave him here and abandon him” to go for my work.
I said to the leader of our practice, “Sure. I’ll be happy to go, as long as I can bring my son along and we find a suitable place for us to live and daycare services.” I just basically asked for the whole enchilada. In retrospect, I can’t believe I did that! But, I learned that if you don’t ask, the answer is always no because you didn’t even give the other person a chance. If you do ask and it’s a reasonable request, there’s a really high likelihood that people will say yes because you’re doing a good job. You’re valuable to the company, and they know you’re worth investing in. I’m so happy that I did that. I love to tell people that story to say, if you aren’t the best advocate for yourself, nobody else will be. Why not ask? The worst that can happen is they’ll say no and then you got the answer that you thought might happen. If you do ask, you have that opportunity for the yes or even a partial yes. That’s where I say, be brave. Take that risk. Get out there and try. You have nothing to lose. If you don’t take the risks, the opportunity is lost.
Michael Kurland (04:58):
I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’re saying. I always go back to the Wayne Gretzky line, “You miss every shot you don’t take.”
Anne Corley Baum (05:10):
Michael Kurland (05:11):
You’ve got to be willing to ask because people may not even know that that’s a request. Your boss may not have known that you didn’t want to leave your child back at home or if that was even a possibility. I don’t know. I don’t know what year that was but when we opened Branded Group, similarly, we opened with the mindset of we’re going to have people in the office. It’s always going to be the office and then all of a sudden, we started talking about possibly doing remote workers. We had some. I had come from New York, and I opened my company in California. I had all these connections in New York that wanted to come work for Branded Group and myself, and they weren’t willing to move to California. They asked, “Can I work remotely?” At first, I was a little gun shy because we’d never done it before, but they asked. I said, “Okay. Yeah.” We started carving out this remote role. These people are still with me to this day, and they’re some of the happiest people. They are some of the hardest workers. If they had never asked, maybe this would’ve never happened, and we would still be very tied to our desks with COVID for who knows how long. I just wanted to touch on that because that’s what you sparked in my mind. I’m sure, audience, there’s probably similar things out there that you guys have asked for that if you didn’t ask for, it probably never would have come to fruition. There’s probably some things that you didn’t ask for that you wish you did. Hopefully, that’s what you take out of this.
Anne Corley Baum (06:44):
Just an added dimension to that, so often I think people assume that the leader of a company or their manager or somebody with a title knows everything. They sit there and they wait. They wait for somebody to promote them, and they do a good job. They just know that if they just do a good job, someone will notice them. This idea that CEOs and vice presidents and managers and directors are omnipotent is crazy! If you want something, you need to let them know that that’s the opportunity you’re pursuing or the career development you’d like to have because every once in a while, they might figure it out. Most of the time they won’t know, unless you let them know.
Michael Kurland (07:37):
One hundred percent. We have that every day at the company where we think we know, or we don’t even know because you’re maybe flying under the radar. You’re just doing a really good job, and we say, “Hey, you’re doing a great job. Thanks for doing a great job.” But I don’t know if you want to be a manager. I don’t know. Some people don’t want to be managers. Some people hate the thought of managing people. Some people hate the thought of disciplining people. If you don’t speak up, how is your boss going to know?
I remember my first job at Nine West. I came in; I was 24 years old. I was a facility manager. I was running 300 stores, and I was finishing my work by two in the afternoon. I was sitting there for three hours, and I was doing nothing. I wasn’t doing nothing, but I was not doing work. I went into my boss’ office because I didn’t know what to do. I thought I can either sit here and collect a check and probably piss people off because they’ll think that I’m doing nothing for the last three hours of the day or I can walk into my boss’ office and say, “I’m bored. Give me something to do,” and I did. I walked into my boss’ office. I said, “I’m bored. I really would like to learn more. What else can I be doing?” They just started piling more things on me, and I got those done fast. As that happened, I would go in and I’d say, “I really want to get into real estate management.” What happened after my first year on the job, I was doing a facility manager role, and then they gave me a part-time role as an assistant deal maker. I was running proformas to see if potential sites were going to be profitable. I didn’t get paid an extra dollar to do it. I just did it because that’s where I saw my career path wanting to go. After another year of doing that, I got promoted to full-time junior dealmaker. I was a junior dealmaker. I got to where I wanted to be. Everyone was so jealous because they said, “You’re a guy,” or “You did this,” or “You kiss the boss’ butt.” I said, “I just out-worked all of you, and I told them what I wanted. Don’t be mad at me!” Way down the rabbit hole there. You got a little extra for your money today.
Anne Corley Baum (09:49):
That’s awesome. It was that one decision to go in and say, “I’ve got time on my hands” that translated into a change in your career trajectory. That’s awesome!
Michael Kurland (09:59):
One hundred percent. I would have missed that shot if I just was complacent and wanted to sit there and collect my check. I guess I give ilk to your story.
Anne Corley Baum (10:11):
Michael Kurland (10:11):
I love it. When we talked pre-show, it wasn’t just that you asked to bring your son. They gave you a car. They gave you a townhouse with a crib. They got daycare set up for you. They went all in because they wanted to retain your services, and they really wanted you there.
Anne Corley Baum (10:35):
That’s a really great compliment and shows the quality of the company for which I was working at the time, and the quality of the customer. If I also didn’t do a good job- to your point- if I’m off at two and just sit around with my feet up, reading a book, then that wouldn’t have lasted. You also always have to be performing at your highest level. Do the best that you possibly can do to deliver value so that when you come in and ask for something like that, people are open to and willing to accommodate you because they know that it’s a good investment because you’ll deliver on the promises and the requests that they make of you.
Michael Kurland (11:27):
Anne, let me ask you a question. Were you always this person? Were you always the one asking for what they wanted or was there a point in time in your life where an opportunity did pass you by and you learned, “Hey, ‘m not letting that ever happen to me again”?
Anne Corley Baum (11:44):
I was not always that person who would ask and take that risk. I think, over time, I learned that if you don’t do it, if you just wait for somebody to pick you or choose you, the likelihood that that will happen is much lower. I think I started learning it mostly in graduate school, where it’s a much smaller environment. I was pursuing, at that time, healthcare administration. That was something about which I really had a passion, so it was easy to raise my hand and volunteer and step up and take those risks because it was something I really wanted. I wasn’t that way prior to graduate school. I just kind of went along, did what I needed to do. If somebody picked me for something, great, but I wasn’t out there asking for things that I really wanted. I saw in that smaller environment, that when I took the risk, most of the time it panned out.
Now, I would love to say that this was conscious learning at the time, but it’s mostly looking back at it in retrospect to say, “Oh, yeah. That’s when I learned it,” and “I tried this, and I got it.” I started to build that courage and confidence. It’s something you have to do by trying. If it doesn’t work the first time, don’t stop. You have to take a risk. If that doesn’t work, take another risk. If that doesn’t work, take another risk. The only way we learn is by making mistakes and failing. Basically, the faster you fail, the more you learn. I think I started to do that in graduate school. In my career, the more I raised my hand, the more responsibility I was given. The more opportunities were there. I would add, you’ve got to always keep your eyes open for opportunity because it’s there, and it could pass you by if you’re looking the other way. Being willing to say yes when somebody does approach you and learn about opportunities is also something that I’ve really learned has paid off in my career.
Michael Kurland (14:15):
You said a lot of really good things there. Saying yes, for sure. Failure has been my best teacher throughout my life. Mostly because I know I don’t want to do that, or I don’t want to feel like that again. Also, even if you fail, you still have the experience of trying.
Anne Corley Baum (14:38):
Michael Kurland (14:38):
It’s just like practice. With everything, you get a little bit better every time. If you fail five times but you make it on your sixth, you’ve learned so much along the way to get to where you are. I think those are two good lessons for the audience as well.
I want to shift gears a little bit here and talk about your book series. Let’s first talk about why did you decide to write the Small Mistakes, Big Consequences book series? Why did you decide to write these books? What was your inspiration? And then let’s talk about the books.
Anne Corley Baum (15:21):
Great questions. I decided to write the books to share my experience so that others could learn and not make the same mistakes that I had made and progress more quickly. I think you get to a certain point in your career where you’re wise. [Laughs] I felt as if I needed to be giving back to others, whether it’s young professionals or people that are more mature in their career and give them the tools to learn about these things that are getting in their way, but that most people won’t typically tell you about.
Michael Kurland (16:06):
I think that is a great point. We talked about it in the beginning a little bit about things that are getting in the way that people won’t tell you about. I kind of mentioned at Branded Group that we have policies. The one that jumps to my mind, it’s very similar. When COVID started and we started having more of a virtual work world, people were showing up to work like they had just rolled out of bed. They literally did just roll out of bed. They were getting on their Zoom [Laughs] with bedhead or a hat on and a pajama shirt all wrinkled, unshaven, crusty drool still on their face. I said, “I guess I got to tell you guys that you need to show up to your outward client facing meetings like you’re in-person.” We had to write a policy for that. It’s like the small mistakes that could have had big consequences. “I’m here. It’s COVID. Whatever. We’re on a Zoom call.” They would show up, and they wouldn’t turn the camera on. That’s the rudest thing you can do. If you’re in a meeting with a video meeting, and you’re the only one off-camera, what are you doing? I will be honest. I’ve probably been guilty of doing both a few times, not customer facing but internally. But when it comes to outward facing client meetings, I am always on camera and always clean shaven and showered and all that stuff. I really think that was important.
Let’s talk a little bit about your books. The first one you wrote was for soft skills. Let’s talk about that one first.
Anne Corley Baum (17:55):
If I may, it’s a great story. It’s my second BeBetter story.
Anne Corley Baum (18:11):
It’s perfect timing. I carried around this idea for a book for years, and I wrote it. I’d show it to friendly parties like my mentor or my mom. My aunt. They would say, “That’s good, honey. Good for you.” But I didn’t have the courage, ironically, to step out there and get it published. One day, a friend asked me to speak at an event. She was having a conference, and I had this inspiration. I’m convinced it’s divine intervention or karma or the universe pushing me forward to show her because she had written numerous books. She read it. She loved it. She challenged me to get it published before the conference. All of the sudden, when I put it out there, all of these things, they were there all along. I just wasn’t seeing them. I knew somebody who knew a publisher. The publisher helped me write it. The publisher knew an illustrator. They knew how to distribute it. Then in a really short time, something I carried around for years, turned into a real book. It was so exciting.
I share that one, because I’m excited that it’s out there and it’s a value to people that are reading it, but also because it was a reminder to me to take the risk. Why was I sitting around carrying this? I was not even carrying it around; it was on my computer! Why didn’t I get it out there? Because I was afraid of failure. As soon as I got it out there, not only was it well-received, but then I wrote another one! I’m writing another one right now, so take the risk. I need to take my own advice to take the risk. [Laughs]
Michael Kurland (20:13):
Clearly, you did. Everything happens when it’s supposed to happen.
Anne Corley Baum (20:17):
Michael Kurland (20:17):
You wrote the book Small Mistakes, Big Consequences for Soft Skills. Let’s talk about that one first and foremost. That was your first one. For the audience that may not know- I unfortunately didn’t know when we talked pre-show- what exactly are soft skills?
Anne Corley Baum (20:38):
Soft skills are the behaviors that impact how other people perceive you. Whether it’s body language, the tone of your voice, the way you interact with the others, the way you dress, the way you carry yourself, your table manners. Little behaviors that people perceive and then subconsciously make judgments about you. By the way, perception is reality to the person who’s doing the perceiving. It’s not fair. It’s completely subconscious. It’s uncontrollable. We all make assumptions about people we meet the instant we meet them, whether in person or see them on the screen, which is why it’s great you did that policy. This book is identifying, in a humorous way, various behaviors that can get in your way of success. It helps you as an individual be mindful and aware of your behavior, but also helps you coach your team on behaviors, and also deal with somebody who is exhibiting a particular behavior. Try and hit it on multiple angles. It’s not about labeling. It’s about learning.
Michael Kurland (22:09):
What was the inspiration for that, to really come up with the soft skills? Of the soft skills, what’s your favorite one? Audience, I highly recommend you go pick up this book series. As Anne said, it’s written in a humorous way. I can relate more to the book on interviews, which we’ll touch on in a second. As far as soft skills, there’s a little illustration for every different ‘don’t do this soft skill’ that you may not even know you’re doing. What was the inspiration on that, Anne, and what is your favorite one in the book that resonates with you?
Anne Corley Baum (22:54):
The inspiration was either making the mistakes myself and wanting to share it with others, or my experience dealing with people that were exhibiting these behaviors and how it was either negatively impacting my relationship with them or their relationship with others. Really, the one that’s my favorite is the very first one. It’s where I got started on the concept of creating characters. This one is the transmitter. The transmitter is somebody who’s always on transmit. They are talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. You can’t get in a word in edgewise. The downside of that is they don’t listen. Not only does it put people in an uncomfortable position because they don’t know how to converse with the transmitter, but that transmitter never learns anything. They’re always talking, but never hearing, learning, and receiving. That was the inspiration because we worked with this guy years ago and everybody called him ‘The Transmitter.”
Michael Kurland (24:11):
There’s an actual guy. [Laughs]
Anne Corley Baum (24:11):
Oh, yeah! I thought maybe I can come up with names for all these different annoying behaviors and make it a little bit funny, but also educational. That’s where the idea started.
Michael Kurland (24:31):
It’s so great. I like what you did here. It’s made me chuckle a few times. I think, audience, we all know a transmitter. Hopefully, I’m not a transmitter. [Laughs] We all know a transmitter. It’s like, “I don’t even know why I’m going to respond to what you’re saying because you’re not going to listen to me and you’re probably going to cut me off anyway.”
Let’s talk about the interview one because this is, obviously, I’ve been waiting to talk about this one the whole time that we’ve been going on the podcast here. When I started Branded Group, I wore a lot of hats. I was interviewing. I was hiring. I was basically HR for the first couple of years. Pretty much every single one of these “interviewees” that you put in here, I’ve dealt with. I definitely got a chuckle out of it.
I can remember this one. You’ve got the overconfident overachiever in here. I can remember this one guy we interviewed, probably four or five years ago. We went out and we were blanket hiring a bunch of people. We had interviewed six people that day, and he was the fifth or sixth to come in. The first four we loved, and they were normal, ready to go. This guy came in, and he started using the verbiage like he had already been hired. “When I come work for you guys, I’m going to be able to do this, this, this,” and “When I do this,” and “You guys are going to love me.” I said, “You don’t have the job yet, buddy!” That’s the one that stuck out the most for me. I’m assuming doing what you’ve done, you’ve dealt with probably every single one of these in your interview book as well.
Anne Corley Baum (26:24):
Absolutely. The over competent overachiever. On the other side of it, sometimes it’s just somebody who doesn’t know how to sell themselves well. Just learning those basic skills on how to showcase yourself and your skillset without making the other people uncomfortable because you’re just, like you said, he was talking like he was already employed. Somebody probably gave him that advice, and he thought, “I’ll make them think I’m already in the chair,” and you’re thinking, “No, no. You are not in that chair. Bye!”
Michael Kurland (27:04):
Anne Corley Baum 1 (27:08):
Thinking through the impact is really important.
Michael Kurland (27:08):
Fast forward, we hired five of the six people. He was the only one we didn’t hire. They all kind of knew each other, and he reached out to the people that had gotten hired, maybe a year later, and said, “They made a mistake. Why didn’t they hire me?” He still didn’t get it. Maybe I should send him a copy of this book, but I don’t know how [Laughs] well received that would be.
Anne Corley Baum (27:29):
You could. I’ll sign it!
Michael Kurland (27:34):
[Both Laugh] That would be great.
Anne Corley Baum (27:34):
You could put a little sticky tab in there and mark the page with a smiley face.
Michael Kurland (27:39):
There you go. I wouldn’t even know where to send it at this point though. It probably wouldn’t be taken very well. I’m sure he’s moved on and found better pastures. You’ve mentioned the third book. What are you working on now? Let’s tell the audience a little glimpse into the future.
Anne Corley Baum (27:55):
The next book is Small Mistakes, Big Consequences for Video and Conference Calls.
Michael Kurland (28:03):
Sign me up for the first copy. I need this for all of my employees. [Laughs]
Anne Corley Baum (28:09):
It’s yours. I am so excited. Of course, with COVID, we all were thrown into the world of Zoom and Teams and WebEx. There are so many mistakes [Laughs] that people are making. It’s been really fun, pulling it together. I’m very excited to get it published and ready to go for the market because it’s not different than walking into a room. You’re still making a first impression. As soon as that camera turns on, people are making assumptions about you. Have them be great. Why not? It’s more in your control than any other platform.
Michael Kurland (28:56):
Absolutely. When do we expect this book to be published, and where can the audience pick up copies of any of the three books in the series?
Anne Corley Baum (29:07):
The books are available on anywhere that books are sold- Amazon, Barnes & Noble. You can just search Small Mistakes, Big Consequences, and the series will pop up. My goal is to get that third book in market by the first quarter of next year. Now I put it out there, I’ve got to do it.
Michael Kurland (29:31):
Very exciting stuff. Anne, it has been great having you on the show. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. I have to say, you are probably the nicest person that I’ve ever had on the show. I’ve just enjoyed your personality. You said you were from Chicago. I can feel the Midwestern love from you.
Anne Corley Baum 29:54):
Michael Kurland (29:54):
You’re welcome. If the audience wants to get a hold of you, how can they do so?
Anne Corley Baum (30:01):
They can go to my website, which is https://vision-accomplished.com, and there is a Contact Us button, and they can reach out to me that way.
Michael Kurland (30:15):
Great. Anne, thank you so much for being on the show. Audience, until next time.
Thank you for tuning in! I hope that today’s episode inspired you to become a purpose-driven leader in your career or your community. There is no doubt that when we lead with purpose, we can change lives. If you enjoyed today’s show, I’d be grateful if you would take a moment to rate us on your preferred listening platform.
To learn more Branded Group’s “Be Better” experience and how we provide industry-leading national facility maintenance, construction management, and special project implementation, visit us at www.branded-group.com. Be sure to follow us on social media and you can also reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. Until next time, Be Better.