CEO Q&A with Limeade CEO Henry Albrecht and Accolade CEO Rajeev Singh
By: Jennie Overton
We sat down with Limeade CEO Henry Albrecht and Accolade CEO Rajeev Singh to talk about well-being, culture and the workplace. We also learned a thing or two about how these leaders start their day, what they do in their free time and lessons they’ve learned.
1. What’s the difference between wellness versus well-being?
Raj: There is a difference between a healthy life and being healthy. You could define wellness with metrics – BMI, blood pressure, etc., but that is too limiting. Well-being is a lifestyle. Employers should encourage employees to have a balanced life – happy relationships, community involvement and healthy habits.
Henry: When we started Limeade 10 years ago, the word “wellness” had phony self-help connotations. It meant everything from herbal cures and wellness centers to quick-fix remedies for health. But we knew we could build a scientific construct around “well-being” — so we did. Well-being is feeling well and living with a sense of purpose. There’s something more positive and personal to it — it’s about reaching your personal and professional potential.
2. What are you working on improving in your free time?
R: I want to be more thoughtful with my voice on things that matter to me outside of work. In the past, I’ve avoided commenting on my views on public policy and social justice, because I feared alienating those on the other side of the issue. But today the issues are too important to be silent. And maybe – just maybe – I can aid in moving our discourse on these important topics to a more civil tone. Maybe we can disagree without insulting each other in this country.
H: Being a great dad, a grateful person and developing self-awareness. I want to maximize the positive impact I make on the world, which requires a lot more humility and listening than I’ve had in the past.
3. What is your weekday morning routine?
R: When I’m home, I make it a priority to spend the morning with my kids. I make breakfast, talk about their day and try hard to connect with them. These are my best mornings – they are teenagers now, so the connections are brief and fleeting. I am an Indian; I get a connection from feeding people and the conversation that happens over a meal. Those 20 to 30 minutes start my day from a very positive and grounded place.
H: I get up at 6:45 a.m. to have some overlap with my kids’ schedules. My favorite thing about mornings is eating breakfast and reading the paper with them. With some good coffee.
4. What’s your favorite productivity tool or process?
R: This will sound weird coming from a huge technology geek. Believe it or not, the best tool for me is a pen and paper. Whenever I’ve got a big project – business plan, product roadmap, speech – nothing helps me more than to write it out, by hand. Every important speech I’ve ever given – from my wedding vows to a keynote to 4,000 people at a customer event – has been written out by hand. For me it is a critical component of the creative process. Everything is clear to me when I write it down on paper.
H: My to-do list. I have a very structured list of priorities that I segment into important business tasks, things to discuss with team members and personal activities. I look at it every morning and try to cross off as much as I can.
5. When and where are you most productive?
R: If I need to create content, I need peace and quiet. But I get a lot of inspiration by being around people, and my job today is more about bringing people together. I love walking the halls and checking in with the people building Accolade.
H: I’m most productive when ideating, strategizing and creating new things. My role is to inspire others to do their best work with a clear vision that makes sense. I often get my best ideas when I’m still in bed looking at the trees outside or on a long walk with my dog in the woods. I rarely have them sitting in front of a computer doing email. I’m a visual thinker, so I love being in front of a whiteboard with colored pens.
6. How do you de-stress?
R: Going for a run – no music, no distractions – is a truly restorative activity. A glass of wine is pretty damn good sometimes. Talking to my wife and kids about my challenges, or theirs. Mix and match any of the above, and you’re onto something.
H: Definitely playing basketball. I’m also starting to do yoga with my wife. At night, I eat well, drink red wine and enjoy “Project Runway” or “Top Chef” with my family — anything with creativity and competition.
7. What do you do while commuting?
R: I’m generally working when in the car, on conference calls. But I’m a huge music fan, so when I’m not on the phone, I’m listening to KEXP or getting the most out of my Spotify account. Lately I’m cranking up some Father John Misty, Jurassic 5 and Kendrick Lamar. Usually a little too loud.
H: I listen to NPR. My commute is relaxed and very short by design. Long commutes are inhumane.
8. Over the next year, what are you most excited about?
R: Professionally, the company is turning some very important corners this year, and I’m looking forward to what will come with those changes. Personally, I’m going on a walking tour of northern Italy with my wife and teenage kids, and I’m excited about having that time with them.
H: I’m excited about seeing more large employers embrace well-being and their role in supporting it. Five or 10 years ago, they would have ignored or maybe even mocked this idea. The best companies in the world are realizing investing in well-being in an authentic way keeps their people energized, connected and ready for peak performance. I’m also a product guy at heart, so I geek out about everything Limeade is doing to help make that authentic investment easy, fun, strategic and profitable.
9. How do you recharge your batteries?
R: I’m 48 now and I have a pretty clear sense of when I need to disconnect. I can run a little too hot sometimes. I listen to my mind and body better today than I did as a younger man. When I need to shut it down, I take a day off or play hooky for a half da. Granted, this is not a luxury everyone has so I take this as one of the great luxuries of my life. Sometimes, one day away from thinking about something is the best possible therapy.
H: Every year I take all my vacation. Vitamin D is so much more important than people know — so traveling to Southern California, Hawaii, Italy or anywhere sunny is my favorite. I love to go on adventures with my family. I also recharge my batteries when I walk into work and see people focused and working as a team.
10. What book recently challenged your perspective?
R: My books are pretty healthcare-focused right now. “Unaccountable” by Dr. Marty Makary opened my eyes to how challenging changing healthcare was going to be. “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande is brilliant and challenges your perceptions of right and wrong.
H: I just read “The Vegetarian” by Han Kang, which changed my perspective about the fine line between perfect sanity and insanity. It’s a really cool book.
11. What piece of advice has had the greatest impact on your success, your style or your perspective?
R: Stay close to the product and stay close to the customer. That was my dad. His exact words were “either you are selling it, building it or you’re overhead.” That stuck with me my whole life. Now to be clear, there are some flaws in that advice, because it implies overhead is bad and there are some incredibly valuable people working in those areas of the business. But to be clear, in terms of its impact on my style, those are still the two areas of business that give me the most joy.
H: In a professional course I take, they ask, “How do other people suffer you?” Thinking about that question is advice in and of itself. I like to juxtapose that with the more positive approach — “What are you great at and how can you follow your heart?” I like the idea that those questions coexist. So, how can you maximize your strengths while learning more and acting better with others? Sometimes they’re in conflict and that’s OK.
12. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
R: Culture and people first. Then strategy. Without the right values and people, your strategy is destined to be flawed. And be transparent. To every constituency: investors, partners, customers, employees (no matter what level). Tell the truth. Sharing your concerns and mistakes with your employee base is one of the most liberating things a CEO can do. It doesn’t lessen the pressure one tiny bit, but it makes a huge difference to people when they know you trust them enough to be vulnerable.
H: Surround yourself with incredibly passionate and hardworking people. Feel good and live with purpose. (That’s actually how we define well-being).
13. Which other CEO do you admire and why?
R: I admire Scott Svenson at MOD Pizza. They are creating a mission-based company, hiring second chance people as leaders and drivers of his company and building an incredibly successful business. They’re completely focused on mission, values and culture. I would work for Scott any day of the week and I don’t know anything about making pizza. But his style inspires me to want to learn.
H: I grew up working for Intuit, so Scott Cook is at the top of my list. I’ve seen firsthand how he built an intentional values-based culture on his own passion, humility and work ethic — that’s something I try to emulate in everything I do. Also, even though they’re not CEOs, I’m a big fan of what Melinda and Bill Gates do for the world. It’s always refreshing when people who don’t have to do anything, do everything.
14. What’s your favorite part about living and working in the Seattle area?
R: Seattle is my favorite city in the world. People have huge dreams and are willing to chase them, and they are humble enough to ask you about your wife and kids before they ask you what you do. I love that. I love the grounded nature of this city. And I love the Seahawks. And the Seattle music scene. And my wife and kids are from Seattle. So pretty much everything good is here. It’s all my favorite part.
H: It’s not about “me” in Seattle. It’s about us. When one of us wins, we all feel like we win. People root for our bands, our sports teams, our business, our artists and our charities. It’s a city that loves to think and read and debate — and that has a lot to improve — but when we need to rally together, we do.
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