You can’t do it all alone:’ Capital BlueCross’ Ann Corley Baum on how to be an effective leader

“Be open to people who want to meet with you,” Capital BlueCross’ Baum says, “but block space in your calendar for strategy and thinking. That planning time is really important.” PHOTO/PROVIDED

It doesn’t matter if you’re a corporate officer or an entrepreneur with a small start-up, it always helps to hone your leadership skills.

So to help give our readers an edge, Central Penn Business Journal talked to Anne Corley Baum, president at the Allentown-based Capital BlueCross health insurance company, and author of the “Small Mistakes, Big Consequences” series of executive coaching books.

Baum shared the rules she lives by to maximize her productivity and effectiveness as a leader. Here’s some of what she told us.

Remember that you hired smart people and trust them to get the job done. 

When it comes to effective management, it’s important to give your team a mission and then set them free.

“You can’t do it alone,” she said. “Your company will achieve more with an empowered team. …And people like it better too. If employees don’t feel respected and empowered, if they feel like you see them as dumb…if they are micromanaged…they will leave.”

It’s easy to forget that micromanaging your team creates a tone of mistrust, denting morale and limiting the team’s capacity to grow. Too much oversight also takes away from the bigger picture, which are the company’s larger goals. While it may be challenging to step back and let those below you take the reins, the payoff in the end is worth it. You’ll have a team that learns to step up and be capable. And they will do it with less interference.

Don’t let your calendar control your life, control your calendar.

It’s crucial to achieve a balance between protecting your calendar and being available, Baum says.

“Be open to people who want to meet with you,” she says, “but block space in your calendar for strategy and thinking. That planning time is really important.”

When you are in charge, Baum asserts, your job is to lead, to control the vision. So if you don’t take time to strategize, she says, six months from now you’ll be asking yourself, “How did I get here?”

At the same time, when it comes to building your career, it’s important to always take the meetings offered to you, Baum advises. “You never know what will come out of that meeting in your calendar,” she says.  “It could be your next product idea, next great employee, your next great coach or mentor.”

Making time for those meetings allows you to build your network. And every good business person knows that a lot comes down to who you know, she said. So, take a hard look at your calendar. Take a breath. Go over your day, your week, your month. Look for ways to balance meetings with planning time. Think of your calendar as an effective way to make a plan, set a goal and pursue it.

“Now you’re running it, instead of it running you,” Baum says.


Capital BlueCross plans health and wellness center in downtown Allentown

An artist’s rendering of the renovated offices. SUBMITTED


Capital BlueCross plans to open a health and wellness center at its offices in downtown Allentown as part of a renovation and expansion project.

The Harrisburg-based health insurer said work has begun on its Lehigh Valley offices at 1221 Hamilton St. and plans to have the project done by February. The expansion effort on the three-story building will include a new façade and a full interior remodeling in addition to the new health and wellness center.

Ann Baum, market president Capital BlueCross said the renovations will make the building fit into the redevelopment efforts going on in the downtown area.

“This is part of a renaissance in downtown Allentown,” Baum said. “We wanted to lend our hand to the redevelopment of the largest city in the Lehigh Valley. We’re committed to the health and well-being of the people and communities here, so this makeover is not just to provide a great space for our employees – it’s to provide a great space for the people of Allentown.”

Once the new health and wellness center is complete members and the public can visit for one-on-one consultations related to health plans or Medicare options.

The can also meet with a health coach, get biometric screenings and attend health care-related seminars.

This will be the health insurer’s second health and wellness center in the Lehigh Valley. It has a similar center in the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley.

It also has health and wellness centers in Cumberland and Franklin counties.

Capital BlueCross executive Anne Baum’s book helps professionals be on their best behavior

We’ve all had that overly-ambitious co-worker who drives us crazy with their behavior.  And of course, you likely know a colleague who forces meetings to start late while everyone awaits their arrival.  Heck, at times, we have probably even been one of “those” coworkers.

In Anne Corley Baum’s book series, Small Mistakes, Big Consequences, the Lehigh Valley-based health insurance industry executive shows us how to manage problem behaviors like this at work. 

“For years, I have been writing down ideas in my notebook about ways in which I noticed myself or others could perform better,” said Baum, executive and vice president of distribution channels and labor relations for Capital BlueCross. “I thought, ‘Why don’t I make it easier for people by writing a book? Make it a little fun, a little funny, but helpful.’”

Baum is no stranger to helping others to be the best that they can be in business. She left an executive position at Bethlehem’s St. Luke’s University Health Network in 2003 in order to start her own business, Vision Accomplished, which taught leadership through executive coaching programs and seminars.

The Chicago native was soon recruited by Capital Blue however, and the position was too attractive to pass up. “The job description read like I had written it myself,” Baum said.

While working at Capital Blue, she published her first book, Small Mistakes, Big Consequences, in 2019, and just published her second in the series, Small Mistakes, Big Consequences for Interviews, in late summer of this year. 


In the first book, she created 16 characters, who each had names of a specific workplace bad behavior, like the “overconfident overachiever.”

“People really relate to ‘Oh I hate when someone does that,’” Baum said. “It’s not about labeling, it’s about learning.  We can learn how to correct or manage that problem behavior.”

The “overconfident, overachiever” shows up to the interview full of themselves, talking about everything that they can do for the company, she explained. “The problem is that it is insulting,” she said. “That doesn’t show the person as a team player. Yes, show that you are talented, but show how your skills can help the company achieve their goals. It is important to come to the interview with confidence, but humble confidence. You aren’t going to be able to help the business if you don’t get the job.”

Baum said that every behavior she talks about in the books, she has either seen someone do, or she has done herself. 

With years of experience in the corporate arena, she has learned that integrity and accountability are critical to being a good leader, and highlights that fact in her books.

“If you don’t operate with integrity, your team won’t trust you,” she said. “You have to trust people and you have to let them make mistakes, that’s how people learn.”

Accountability is also important, she said, because if you don’t ever take blame, no one is going to want to work with you. “When you are accountable, people trust you,” she said.

As a female who has risen to the top of her field, Baum is also aware that women sometimes are held back from leadership positions because of their own fears and biases. 

“My biggest advice for women is to take the lead,” she said. “Be involved. Women can be afraid to take over in a meeting for being perceived as angry or bitchy. We need to let go of those fears.”

In fact, Baum believes that women have natural talents for multi-tasking and leadership  that can translate well to the workplace. “Women in general are in charge,” she said. “We innately take on the burden of managing the family.”

The task of managing both a family and work life, however, can leave many people, both women and men alike, feeling stressed and off-balance. For Baum, there is no simple formula to address work/life balance.

“It changes every day, depending on what is going on,” she said. “You have to constantly assess and balance. A sick kid takes precedence over a volunteer board meeting. Lean on your support tribe-your husband, partner, friends and neighbors. They are there to help. And most importantly, if you can, work for a company that understands the importance of work/life balance.”

Conversations like these are crucial to a workplace mentor like Baum.

“I was always interested in best practices in business,” she said.  And though writing a book was never her life’s dream, it has been supremely rewarding for Baum to share her years of knowledge with others, she said. 

“Never would I have imagined that I would combine my love for the health care industry with my interest in best practices in business in this way,” she said. “It’s been wonderful.”

A quick check on bookseller websites like Amazon and Goodreads, shows uniformly positive reviews for Baum’s books. Local Lehigh Valley professionals have embraced the books as well, Baum said.

“It’s been valuable to a broad audience,” she said, “from young people who are just starting college, to older, well-established professionals.”

Baum hopes to expand the Small Mistakes, Big Consequences series with books targeted for Zoom and conference calls, for difficult conversations, and a book aimed specifically at college students.

“I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire,” she said. “The books are resonating with people. It’s exciting.”

Capital BlueCross to issue rebate checks ahead of schedule

Harrisburg-based Capital BlueCross announced it will quicken the pace that it issues Affordable Care Act-mandated rebate checks to help its member’s financial wellness during the pandemic.

The Affordable Care Act requires that health insurers spend at least 80% to 85% of premium dollars on medical care and 20% to 25% on administrative costs. If the company is unable to meet this “medical loss ratio,” they must return a portion of individual coverage premiums back to their members.

While those refunds are generally given in September, Capital BlueCross said Thursday that it will be sending the refunds weeks ahead of schedule to provide assistance at a time where many of its members can use it.

Nearly 40,000 Capital BlueCross members are expected to receive checks, which will average $800 per member, but range as high as $3,000, depending on a member’s policy, the company announced.

“The pandemic has caused so much uncertainty and economic hardship, we want to get this money in the hands of our members as soon as possible,” said Todd Shamash, president and CEO of Capital BlueCross. “It’s one of many things we’re doing to help our members, our communities, and our doctors and health systems weather this unprecedented health emergency.”

In May, Capital BlueCross revealed its new Advance Payment Program, an effort to help keep independent health care providers in the green by offering advanced payments to providers who saw at least a 40% loss in payments during the pandemic.

Friends, co-workers remember Vera Cornish as mentor and inspiration


News traveled swiftly last week about the unexpected death of Vera Cornish, a midstate icon who left her mark on Harrisburg’s business and nonprofit communities over several decades through her words, deeds and her ability to bring people together.

When Cornish took the stage in front of an audience, her outgoing personality and positive outlook on life was infectious to those who watched and listened.

To get an idea what the professional life coach and publisher of The Urban Connection of the Capital Region magazine in Harrisburg could do to motivate people, watch her keynote speech from August’s convocation at her alma mater, Misericordia University in Dallas, Luzerne County. During the roughly 15-minute speech, Cornish managed to get young and old alike to stand and dance to the Frankie Beverly & Maze funk song “Before I Let Go,” after getting the crowd to ponder what truly exhilarates them and makes them want to jump out of bed.

Cornish, 64, also spoke about her path to higher learning, becoming the first person in her family to graduate from high school and college, and eventually earning a master’s degree in education with a specialization in multicultural curriculum development from Misericordia in 1993.

She didn’t grow up in a family that sat around the dinner table and talked about future opportunities, she said. But what was instilled in her was that education was her “pathway to freedom.”

“The energy you put into something is going to determine the results that you get out of whatever you do,” Cornish said in the speech. “Take action on the things you want to become true in your life.”

Her Life

Originally from Wilkes-Barre, Cornish knew an education was what would allow her to succeed. So, she scrubbed floors for 50 cents an hour and work as a maid for wealthy residents in the Poconos to pay for her schooling at Penn State. She would go on to teach after graduation and eventually pursued an independent study program at Misericordia.

It was when she moved to Central Pennsylvania in 1995 that she began to leave her mark on a wider audience, serving as the first director of institutional diversity at Harrisburg Area Community College.

Dr. John J. Sygielski, president of HACC, said Cornish paved the way for her successors in the role of promoting diversity and inclusion at the college. Cornish always served as a strong advocate for studying at HACC and the benefits of students pursuing a community college education, he said.

Sygielski said Cornish served as a mentor to many of the staff at the school, and he would call on her often for advice. He said in his first week as president in 2011, Cornish personally drove him to State College to introduce him to educators at Penn State she felt would be important for him to know.

Cornish’s impact on Harrisburg itself may have been even greater than just HACC. She created the annual Martin Luther King Breakfast and The Women of Heritage Leadership Breakfast.

Through her company Cornish & Associates, she advised organizations small and large on empowerment strategies and diversity in the workplace since 1999, teaming up with The Hershey Co., The GIANT Co. and Capital BlueCross. One of her most recent works, the book “Dare to Dream,” published last year, is filled with motivational stories from her life.

Connectivity was Cornish’s most important personal trait, brokering to serve as a facilitator for conversations, Sygielski said.

“Her legacy will be bringing people together to enhance the communities that are part of this tapestry of Central Pennsylvania, as a bridge builder, as a connector, as a cheerleader, as a promoter, engager and challenger,” Sygielski said.

Community Tributes

Tributes to Cornish began appearing early on after the news of her passing on Feb. 26.

David Black, president and CEO of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC, said Cornish was serving on the Chamber’s board when he joined the organization in 2001, becoming fast friends. Black pointed to her welcoming and encouraging nature and her belief in the potential of Harrisburg as a community.

“Vera was a force in our region,” Black said. “She was a strong advocate and passionate participant in the advancement of diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our region, particularly our business community.  She was always upbeat, always had a major hug for friends old and new, and she was always working a room, connecting people and causes in her unique powerful, yet gentle and kind style.”

Vera Cornish, left, is joined by Una Martone, president and CEO of Leadership Harrisburg Area, center, and the late Colleen Nophsker, a former Leadership Harrisburg committee member at an event a few years ago. PHOTO/SUBMITTED

Una Martone, president and CEO of Leadership Harrisburg Area, met Cornish in 2007 when she started working for the organization. Even before they met, there was “a huge build-up” of the way people spoke about Cornish and what she had done for the community, she said.

When they finally met, Cornish greeted her with a hug and was quick to give her insights and suggestions to improve Leadership Harrisburg. Cornish also didn’t hesitate to accept Martone’s offer to volunteer with the group, serving for years on the marketing and public relations committee.

“Not only did I get the chance to meet this community icon, but I had the chance to work with her almost right away,” Martone said. “She was full of openness, honesty, candidness and frankness. She did not hold back, and because of that everybody around her learned. We gained new perspectives. She wanted people to learn and gain insights.”

In Cornish’s own words, her own experiences guided her life lessons for others to follow.

“Learn from the past, live in today and cast a vision for your future,” Cornish said at the Misericordia speech in August. “Build relationships with great people. Some will be for a season, and some will be for a lifetime.”

Lancaster lab accepting applications for health care startups

Eight health care startups will show their products to a team of insurance and health care experts at the Smart Health Innovation Lab in Lancaster next year.

The lab’s 12-week program is taking applications from businesses ready to put their health care products on the market.

Participants will test the products in a simulated hospital room, apartment and doctor’s office and work with experts to reach goals like getting a product into hospitals or creating a reimbursement model with an insurer.

“If you have a market-ready product that solves a challenging care delivery problem in health care, we want to hear from you,” the lab wrote on its LinkedIn page last week. “Work with our unique team of experts to build your product’s commercialization plan, and finalize clinical workflows and reimbursement strategies.”

Harrisburg-based Capital BlueCross opened the lab in 2018 through a partnership with Lancaster General Health, Aspire Ventures, a Lancaster-based venture capital firm, and Clio Health, a health care provider looking to build a campus in Lancaster.

The lab was created to help accelerate health care technologies that can have trouble finding a foothold with providers or find coverage by insurances.

An early graduate of the program was Quebec-based Emovi, which joined the program to get help with breaking into the American market with KneeKG, a technology that measures a patient’s knee in 3D while it’s moving.

The lab is located at 100 N. Queen Street and plans to begin work with the eight startups it chooses in 2020.

Capital BlueCross, WellSpan Health to join forces

Capital BlueCross and WellSpan Health are working on a long-term agreement that they say will allow them to lower costs while improving services for WellSpan patients with BlueCross insurance.

The two organizations plan to finalize a strategic partnership in the coming months that would blend data collected by both. York-based WellSpan’s electronic health record system covers 170 patient care facilities in Adams, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties, while Capital BlueCross brings data on thousands of its members.

The companies are looking at offering new insurance products for BlueCross members and analyzing the available data to improve the patient experience in WellSpan facilities.

“This partnership enables us to create even more innovative and affordable solutions for our members and our community,” Gary St. Hilaire, president and CEO of Capital BlueCross said in a press release announcing the partnership. The insurer is based in Susquehanna Township, Dauphin County and offers coverage in 21 counties spanning Central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

WellSpan and Capital BlueCross also expect to introduce new population health management tools that will help them better understand the health care needs in the region as well as navigation tools for consumers to pinpoint the right facilities for their needs.

The WellSpan-Capital BlueCross deal comes more than a year after Highmark Health and Penn State Health became strategic partners, pledging to invest over $1 billion in a shared health network. Capital BlueCross and WellSpan have yet to announce any financial terms associated with their partnership.

“As we look for a multitude of ways to enhance the value of the care we deliver, we see great benefit in working more closely with organizations that provide health care coverage to the patients we serve, especially those that share WellSpan’s commitment to transforming the care experience,” said Roxanna Gapstur, president and CEO of York Township-based WellSpan Health. The system employs over 15,000 people.