Linda Brink, Sr. Director at UnitedHealth Group, began her In HER Element journey searching for something missing. She had built a successful career, but as she found herself in a challenging work situation, she was questioning everything. When offered the chance to join In HER Element, Linda chose to invest her entire self in discovering who she is and what truly motivates her. Why? Because she knew that rediscovering her joy would make her a better leader and give her a fresh chance to lead the life she truly wanted.
We caught up with Linda to learn more about her unique journey.
What did you hope In HER Element could do for you?
My CIO nominated me, and although I accepted, I didn't know much about the program. I wanted to rebuild my confidence – if we're being honest, I had been beaten down by a long-running situation at work and was considering leaving the company. I felt damaged, and my confidence level was lower than ever.
I knew that I had to get back to a healthy work-life balance. I no longer wanted to be tied to working 60 hours a week at my desk for 12 hours a day. I wanted to be able to give myself permission to walk away.
In HER Element is all about professional and personal growth – a “whole-person” approach. Do you feel this made a positive impact on your experience?
I was grateful to focus on both because, for me, they go together. In HER Element has helped me take care of myself and put me first without guilt. The process, the road maps, and the activities helped me realize that. Without self-care, I'm not at my best to take care of anything else.
The lessons have stayed with me - such as slowing down to breathe when I'm frustrated or in a stressful meeting. The program gave me the time to focus on myself – life can get so busy we become robotic.
In your career, what has shaped you into the leader you are today?
I was 18 months short of finishing my degree, and it's something I've always thought about. When I was going to school for accounting, I landed a job making more than people coming out of college. Then, I got married, then pregnant, so I decided not to finish – I wanted to be an at-home mom. As it turned out, my ex-husband could not provide, and I ended up staying in finance.
Over time, I worked for a technology team overseeing the financials and, in that year, saved the company $1.6 million. The CIO believed in me and said, "I want you to manage these engineers." Being born and raised in the military, I'm a no-BS type of person. I was then a single mom with four boys - imagine! I think that's what he saw in me, that "She's tough. She's not going to take crap from these guys." Twenty years ago, people used to say that engineers needed a "mother" to manage them!
That's how I got into IT, and from there, my career just grew. The reality is that my foundation of finance, project management, and being a good person made me a better leader.
What has been your experience – as a woman – working in large, highly matrixed organizations?
It can be tough in large organizations, but In HER Element helped me find my voice. I had a male boss for six years that would not promote me, no matter what, and promoted men all around me. Unfortunately, some leaders look at females as only administrative in their roles.
Also, I have learned to navigate around people who do not collaborate positively – for me; it's all about getting the right thing done for the company. In HER Element helped me identify that I must navigate, and it gave me the confidence to do so instead of shutting down.
At what point during In HER Element did you feel you were building yourself back up?
The light went on during one specific exercise. We each talked about our family, who's influenced us, and afterward, I felt more in touch with myself than I had in a long time. That's when I realized that maybe I'm not as career-focused as I had thought. I wanted to have the joy, confidence, and belief in myself back. I didn't get where I got by not being myself, but somehow, I was out of whack. I'm usually all about my beliefs and faith; even that was damaged.
My leader now tells me: "Linda, you've got this. You know it." I do know it, but I still feel I have to ask for permission at times. That person is still here, and I can slip back into a rut. But now, when I feel myself breaking down, I don't stay down very long. I use my tools and go back to what I'm good at, my personal brand. That's what helps me get out of it a lot quicker than in the past.
How did you feel joining an open-enrollment cohort with women you didn’t know?
At first, when I recognized a couple of names from my company, I thought, "Oh, I need to be reserved, right?" – that wasn't the case. I wanted to get every penny out of it. So, I was transparent, vulnerable, and open because I really wanted this for myself. I wanted the opportunity to spend time getting to know Linda.
I don't think I could have been as free if it was just women from my company. Of course, I didn't mind having a few of them, and I've started relationships that I probably wouldn't have before. But, overall, I was much more comfortable opening up to women from other organizations. I think it's good to get feedback from those that don't know everything about you. There are no preconceived notions or thoughts, and they genuinely give their feedback from the heart.
What does joy look like for you today?
Joy for me today is about being at peace with what is going on in my life — being able to handle it without the whole emotional roller coaster and taking time for myself.
For instance, if I would get a call from one of my grandkids saying, "We got off school. Can we come over?" I would typically say, "Well, I'm not so sure I can
take off." But now, I take off because you know where my joy is? My joy is with
my family – work is going to be there when I come back. I never used to think
Joy to me looks like serving Linda and being comfortable with Linda first. When I'm joyful, I do everything else at 150%, hitting it out of the park. I like that "happy level" of performing.
These five cards represent what Linda holds most important in her life - what brings her joy every day to be her best self. They are a constant reminder of what she has learned from her In HER Element journey.
What would you say if someone asked you about
In HER Element?
I felt very fortunate to participate, take the time away from work, and focus on myself. My teams and colleagues see a completely different leadership from me. They see me being confident, and I feel more balanced in my life – the two things I wanted most from this experience.
If I could do it all over, I would. It's honestly a big part of believing in myself again. So I would encourage anybody who wants to develop, grow, and find peace to take on the program.
About the In HER Element program:
The In HER Element Program is a transformative leadership development cohort program for women that combines mindfulness and neuroscience with one-on-one coaching and community. Our goal for this program is to build upon women’s leadership skills and empower them to be their best self. Click here to learn more.