Memphis Business Group on Health Profile: Ask Me Anything with Cristie Upshaw Travis

Cristie Upshaw Travis is the CEO of the Memphis Business Group on Health. The Memphis Business Group on Health is a not-for-profit coalition that brings employers together to share solutions and they provide tools and resources to manage both the cost and quality of their health benefits in ever changing times. Their members provide health benefits for over 350,000 in Memphis and Tennessee. We collaborate with other organizations to increase the spread and effectiveness of our work.

Q. What is the biggest challenge when collaborating across sectors?

A. I have a steep learning curve to understand the aims, strategies, interventions, and culture in other sectors. Even the language can be foreign as all sectors tend to speak in acronyms! It is important to me to be sure that I acknowledge and respect the work of these other sectors and don’t, unintentionally, try to make it all about my “health” agenda.

Q. Is there a lesson you’ve learned, or practice you’ve adopted that think others should know about?

A. I am learning to listen and learn before jumping in with suggestions from my perspective or experience. In sales, this is called “discovery” and is an important step to help frame my input in a way that will meet the needs of the other sectors. At the same time, it is important to get to the point of sharing input because the value of cross-sector collaboration is to create solutions that include the wisdom, expertise, and experience from those outside the traditional approach. Because there are so many social-determinants of health, the work of these other sectors contributes to health improvement even if they are not aware that it does! I keep that in mind to be sure I don’t divert the discussion to “my sector is more important than your sector” as that would get us nowhere fast.

Q. What is something you would like to learn more about if you had the time?

A. Best practices in developing relationships across sectors. In Memphis it all comes down to trusted relationships. Frameworks, methods, resources will only work if we have built a trusting, respectful, productive platform on which to build the work. The quality of the relationships will be the ultimate piece that impacts the effectiveness of our work.