Creative Thinking: Terry Hartshorn, former CEO of PacifiCare and Nancy Hoopes, VP of Human Resources of Pharmica

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2—TalentTalk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  TalentTalk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and allow for creative thinking within their company culture.

Today’s guests include Terry Hartshorn, the former CEO and President of PacifiCare Health Systems; and Nancy Hoopes, Vice President of HR and Administration for Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy.  To hear the entire show, please click

Today’s show begins with Hartshorn discussing his leadership experiences in the health-insurance industry, and also his thoughts on communication. Then, Hoopes shares insights on creativity, the importance of mentors and the power of allowing for creative thinking.


Every successful CEO learns important lessons along the way—and Terry Hartshorn is no exception to this rule.  Hartshorn spent his entire career in the healthcare industry, including 18 years as CEO and President of PacifiCare Health Systems.

“I learned how critical it is to effectively communicate with large and small groups,” said Hartshorn. “Good leaders know how to deliver poignant messages and to connect with others, whether you are speaking one-on-one or to a large group.”

Hartshorn identifies “great listening skills” as a strength that many great leaders have.

“Through the years, I’ve learned how to listen to what people are really saying, and I appreciate it when I’m challenged,” he said.  “I’d rather have people questioning my ideas, as opposed to just nodding their heads.”

Hartshorn continued, ”I certainly don’t have all of the answers all of the time—which is why I like to encourage people to work together to find solutions.”  This type of leadership allows for creative thinking among employees, and also can give them ownership.

Formula for Success?

During the past forty years, Hartshorn has observed common patterns in successful people with whom he has worked and coached.

“Successful people have courage,” he said.  “They are not afraid to make risky decisions.  These people know when to say ‘no’, but they’re also very open to saying ‘yes’ a great deal of the time.”

Hartshorn also notes that, “When successful people fail, they are not crushed by those failures. They treat failures as learning experiences and they move on.”

“Having a laser-like focus on your goals is mandatory,” he said. “Being focused is key to staying on-target, avoiding distraction and reaching your full potential.”

Walk, Don’t Run

When asked about role models who impacted his management style, Terry mentions his first boss who would “walk around and talk to everyone in the hospital.”

“He taught me a lot about professionalism and the importance of connecting with hospital staff, patients and others who are affected by your decisions,” said Hartshrorn. 

“That continues to be my style today,” he continued.  “You really get the best solutions to problems by walking around, observing others and talking to them about their world.”

Sparking Creativity

Fostering creativity and inspiring great ideas—are hallmarks of great leaders and great corporations.  This is why Hartshorn recommends cultivating a corporate culture in which brainstorming and creative thinking is encouraged.

“I always proceeded with the notion that ‘no idea is a bad idea,’” he said.  “We would start meetings by allowing everyone to throw out suggestions and solutions.  Your employees must feel that no one is judging them, and that all ideas are worthy of discussion.”

Hartshorn referred to these brainstorming sessions as, “creative thinking with a whiteboard” in which many ideas are written down and vigorously discussed by the group.

What Are You Reading?

“I am currently reading a book by Harvard Business School Press, “Coaching and Mentoring:  How to Develop Top Talent and Achieve Stronger Performance,” said Hartshorn.

“The book highlights the importance of listening to others and observing others, so that you can help people improve on their performance,” he said.



In her current role as Vice President of HR and Administration at Pharmaca, Nancy Hoopes describes herself as a “problem solver” who tackles big challenges and also the small details.

“I arrive at work early in the morning when I can focus on strategy and overall corporate issues,” said Hoopes.  “Then I devote the rest of the day to supporting employees and the Pharmaca stores as well.”

Founded in Boulder, Colorado in 2000, Pharmaca maintains several brick-and-mortar pharmacies that provide homeopathic and natural solution to customers, in addition to prescription medications and wellness and beauty products.  The company also has a burgeoning retail website.

“I am not afraid to jump in and do what needs to be done,” said Hoopes.  “Whether I am negotiating lease agreements for a new Pharmaca store or managing warehouse manufacturing—these experiences have helped me to better understand the company and its HR needs.”

Finding Inspiration

Hoopes said that a former boss introduced her to a goal-driven style of leadership—that helped her maintain discipline early in her career. 

“He met with me weekly and he asked me for written reports that detailed my accomplishments and goals,” she said. 

Now Hoopes keeps her own employees on track with this same approach.

“I talk every week with my employees and I help them to contribute to the company as they identify and reach their own career objectives,” she said.  This enables her employees to utilize their creative thinking skills.

Hoopes says that finding mentors and inspiring leaders is “foundational” to employee success and also company success.  

“I had a mentor who helped me to examine my weaknesses and strengths and to use the information for self-improvement,” said Hoopes. “In the end, that honesty taught me a lot about myself.”

Inspiring Others

Extracting creativity from employees can be challenging and Hoopes believes that she understands the key to employee-driven innovation.

“We maintain a very open culture at Pharmaca,” said Hoopes.  “ We don’t shoot down ideas.  Even if you’re not in marketing or HR, we frame questions and then let our people go with it.”

In addition to creative thinking, Hoopes says that passion for what you do is fundamental to success.

“You have to love what you are doing and really enjoy the work,” she said.  “Otherwise, you are just putting in hours.”

Hoopes said, “Every day at Pharmaca is just as fun as the first day that I was hired—and I feel fortunate to feel that way about my job.”  

She cites this enthusiasm as central to driving her own creative thinking and passion for the company and its goals.

What Are You Reading?

Hoopes just finished reading Walter Isaacson’s biography “Steve Jobs.” 

“This book fascinated me because I learned more about Jobs and how his brain works,” she said.  “Reading Isaacson’s book got me excited about new and creative ways that we might connect with our customers.” 

How Do I Connect?

If you’d like to reach out to Nancy Hoopes please feel free to contact her via

Date: August 27, 2013