Floyd W. Green III, Corporate Vice President and Head of Community Relations and Urban Marketing at Aetna, reflects on the ways in which his theater background has informed his approach as a corporate executive and leader
“Places, everyone! Cue lights. Curtains up!” Imagine using these theater-opening words to start a corporate meeting. Uttering these terms might raise eyebrows, but beyond the theater vocabulary, managing a show bears many similarities to managing in a corporate environment. Floyd W. Green III, Corporate Vice President and Head of Community Relations and Urban Marketing at Aetna, recognizes the parallels between the two worlds.
From Theater to Corporate Stage
He has worked with French mimes and Japanese sculptors; performed in German cabarets and Atlantic City nightclubs; opened for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes; and was the first American to play 23 characters in the South African apartheid-themed play “Woza Albert.” Green has experienced many facets of theater and dance.
And it was his theater background that helped him transition to a career in sales and marketing, when he saw how similar the process of putting on a show and bringing a product to market could be. Both a Broadway musical and a new product start with a concept. The concept gets developed into its full form, and people are assembled to turn it into a final product that will appeal to audiences.
Green also believes that theater and corporate settings share basic management principles. For example, one of the roles of a leader is to help a team be present in the moment and aware of what is happening around them. This principle is especially important in sales and marketing, where a person must be ready to respond based on the reaction they are getting from clients and customers.
“It’s like a ‘Night at the Improv,’” Green said. “You’re in the moment when you’re in a sales call or meeting. It’s all in real time, and it’s just like doing improvisation. If you’re not present in the moment, you will not be genuine or authentic.”
Managing an Ensemble
Green manages his team similarly to how a director would manage a cast. In an ensemble, every role is important and people are treated as equal parts of the group; people work with one another, not for one another. Everyone is respected for their opinion, not for their job title. In fact, job titles, according to Green, can get in the way. Creative processes should be led by the group versus the person with the highest title.
“It’s the ensemble collective energy that drives the thinking and creates the success for the team,” Green said.
In an ensemble, Green perceives his leadership role as one of servitude. “When you’re involved with the team and not just giving orders, people see who you really are. They see how you respond to real-life situations, and they see you make mistakes just like they make mistakes,” Green said. “There is strength in vulnerability.” Vulnerability, he added, garners respect and allows people to rally together to create something great.
Finding the right people for the ensemble is fundamental to a group’s success. People must have the “right soul” for the job, Green said. In interviews, he does not ask about degrees or work accomplishments because he can see those things on the resume. What he is looking for is a “strategic fit—that added ingredient that’s going to enhance the sauce.”
Green wants people who demonstrate that the job is not about them, but about the mission. He looks for those who embrace a team mentality, those who can step up to lead but who also can follow. A team comprised of these types of people, he noted, creates a point of differentiation in the marketplace.
Another area in which Aetna separates itself is its grassroots marketing, which Green helped to conceptualize and execute. When Green worked at other health care organizations, such as Kaiser Permanente, PacifiCare and Horizon, he was exposed to a variety of markets. He learned about the specific needs of different populations, including Korean-Americans in Los Angeles, Chinese-Americans in San Francisco, African-Americans in Oakland, and Hispanic-Americans in Arizona.
When he joined Aetna, Green’s goal was to ensure that underserved populations were served. He uses a “marketing-for-all-people” approach in which health care products and services are offered that are “relevant to all people, no matter who they are, what language they speak, where they come from, or what socioeconomic situation they are in.”
The way to understand the needs of specific communities, he said, is through localization. Aetna employees have volunteered more than 3.4 million hours of their time since 2003 in neighborhoods across the country, reaching people who need heath care. The employees are out in the communities learning who people are, finding out what is important to them and connecting with them on their own terms. As a result, millions of potential new members have been reached and significant new revenue has been generated.
In an “Aetna Voices of Health” campaign, employees voluntarily mobilized to identify agencies that embody Martin Luther King’s dream of closing the inequity gap in health care access. The agencies are honored and receive prize money. Additionally, Aetna was recognized by Bloomberg as one of the top “Civic 50” companies for its civic-minded culture.
Arts & Transformation
Green personally participates in many civic activities, such as serving on the Capital Region Development Authority in Hartford; Xavier University’s Corporate Advisory Board; the Uptown Professional Board of Advisors; and Howard University’s School of Communications Board of Visitors. Previously he served on the award-winning boards of Hartford Stage and the Connecticut Forum, and in 2013 he was appointed to the Board of the Americans for the Arts. In this organization, the equity card-carrying actor has been able to marry his love of the arts with his corporate leadership role.
Green stresses that the arts play a pivotal role in improving people’s health by offering ways for them to express their emotions. In addition, when the arts are brought to schools and other settings, they can serve as a gateway for talking about health and wellness initiatives.
Green’s commitment to the arts carries into his work at Aetna. The company was named by Americans for the Arts as one of the top corporations for its support of the arts and art education. The arts are a way to reach and understand communities, Green concluded. Through them, lives can be wholly transformed and “the impossible can become possible.”♦
Bringing a Broadway play or new gizmo to market? The way is the same.
An idea is born for a Broadway play or for a new product.
Does the idea have legs? Write a script or a product proposal for vetting.
Who will lead the endeavor? Hire a hotshot Director or Product Manager.
Bring the gang together. Assemble casting, lighting, sound and set crews; hire staff to handle product research and development, marketing, sales and finance.
Practice, practice, practice. Rehearse the play for untold hours; design, test and redesign the product.
Plaster the newspapers and kiosks with Broadway bills, and sell tickets to the show; announce the new product, and sell it in the market.
It’s finally opening night, or it’s the product release date.
Anxiously wait for the reviews to come in.
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