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Posted on Jan 6, 2014

How to Mix Relationships and Business

It’s no secret that the U.S. healthcare system is stressed. Or maybe a more accurate assessment would be to say it’s in a state of chaos.

Costs are rising. Reimbursements are declining. And current government efforts (e.g. healthcare reform) are only making it worse. All this leads to much fear, uncertainty and doubt – for both consumers and businesses involved in healthcare.

So, if you were an executive at one of the largest healthcare providers in the country, where would you focus your company’s efforts? Do you sit back and wait for the dust to settle, or take a more proactive approach and get your hands dirty?

This is the kind of question that executives at UnitedHealth Group face every day. To provide direction on such issues, the company has a clearly defined set of values.

UnitedHealth Group Values

As a $110 billion company with more than 130,000 employees, UnitedHealth Group is #17 on the list of Fortune 500 companies. This is a gigantic company with a simple mission: “to help people live healthier lives and to help make a health system work better for everyone.”

To provide some guidance on this mission, UnitedHealth promotes five values:

  • Integrity
  • Compassion
  • Relationships
  • Innovation
  • Performance

Four of these values – Integrity, Compassion, Innovation, and Performance – are fundamental values.  Most companies, across every industry, share these values.

However, the value of Relationships is different. Not many companies embrace this value.

As a differentiating value, Relationships mean a state of connectedness between people; association; or kinship.

Is it possible to actually link relationships with business?

Relationships at UnitedHealth

UnitedHealth Group defines relationships as: “Build trust through collaboration.” What a succinct way to provide clear direction to company leaders.

But with over 130,000 employees, this could be interpreted in different ways. So they wisely provide even greater clarity and context to this differentiating value:

We believe: 
In order to achieve the full potential of our enterprise in our efforts to help people by Making Health Care Work for Everyone, we understand and believe that we can never achieve that goal alone. We must positively engage the efforts and interests of everyone who is touched by and can contribute to that effort.

We value relationships:
We will build trust through collaboration in order to take action and find solutions. We understand that relationships are critical to help people work together, even when their interests are not fully aligned or fulfilled. We realize relationships bind people and organizations through trust. Trust is earned and preserved through truthfulness, integrity, active engagement and collaboration with our colleagues and clients.

We behave:
We will approach all people with respect, humility, confidence and energy. We will confront issues, not people. When we have differences, we will confront them in a direct way, not passively, to resolve the issues that drive those differences. We will actively engage with people and institutions to share information, ideas and resources in order to help others achieve their goals. We will encourage the variety of thoughts and perspectives that reflect the diversity of our markets, customers and workforce.

Note how the mission statement (in the “We believe” section) is tied in so well. This is clearly not by accident. It shows much effort was put into defining these values.

Now, hopefully UnitedHealth can use the power of relationships to help bring some order to the chaos in the U.S. healthcare system. We know this will only happen if together we build trust through collaboration.


What do you think of UnitedHealth’s definition of relationships?

Do you believe the value of relationships and business are a good mix?


Today’s value was selected from the “Effectiveness-Influence” category, based on the e-book Developing Your Differentiating Values.