024: Nature, The New Leadership Model – Kris McCrea

Service Leadership and Emotional Intelligence are quickly becoming the foundations of success in business.  Kris McCrea helps companies transform by aligning leadership models with nature.

Are your employees counting the minutes each day? There is a better way; leading with vision and purpose, allowing people to grow to their full potential

Who better to develop your customers and care for your patients than people who feel alive and vibrant.

Kris McCrea, President of McCrea Coaching, is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation, a Master Practitioner in Energy Leadership, a Microsystems Coach through The Dartmouth Institute. She is also is an active member of the Forbes Coaches Council, so be on the lookout for her articles and comments on Forbes.com.  Learn more at https://www.mccreacoaching.com 

Edited Transcript:

ERH: Let’s start with how you began this work. How did you envision leadership models turned upside down?

Kris McCrea: That’s an interesting question. For me, it goes back to growing up on a farm. From an early age being on the farm allowed me the capacity, to see people be able to do their role with purpose; everyone had a role. It meant that they were able to show up and do what they did and have pride in it.

Later as I went through school and college and moved into the workforce I quickly noticed and recognized that people weren’t always honored for the gifts that they brought to the table. I began thinking about how to get back to that place. A place where people feel a sense of pride and purpose in what they do each and every day, as opposed to just going in, hopping on the maze and looking at your watch, counting down the minutes until the workday is over.

ERH: I love that you noticed those details. Can you create a visual, so that people can understand how you would align an organization with nature?

Kris McCrea: Let’s imagine a beautiful deciduous tree with leaves and a beautiful canopy, one with a variety of shades of green in the spring and summer and if you’re in the New England area the beautiful crisp colors of fall. What if you think about the leaves as the frontline staff? Whether the frontline team is working with customers, patients, or whoever they’re interacting with, we think about the leaves as that group.

And then we flip the traditional leadership upside down. Instead of having them at the top, we bring them down to be the soil. They’re the foundation, the heart of the earth and the values and mission. The mission and values are infused into the earth and it brings the fuel up through the middle leaders. We leave the old style of managing out. We want to shift from managing tasks to leading people. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who likes to be micro managed.

ERH:  Nope, probably not a soul.

Kris McCrea: And so how do you start leading people with a vision and purpose; allowing them to grow and develop and lead within themselves to better the organization, rather than managing the task list?

ERH: Right. Let them bring their expertise. We don’t have to care about howthey do something? As long as it’s not a medical procedure, right, that has a method. It’s about helping them understand the goal and then stepping away. I learned in my own career as a young manager that I was a little bit nervous that someone might do the work better than I would have done and I expected them to do it the way I instructed. And then I realized, oh my gosh, isn’t that the best-case scenario, if they do it better than I would have done?

Kris McCrea: Yes. It’s really about being able to foster that learning culture and develop the middle leaders to be able to help develop and grow that frontline team. If we think about that analogy of the tree, visualizing the roots going into the ground as the vision, mission, and leaders, and the strength from the earth and the nutrients coming up through the mid-level leaders developing that beautiful canopy of leaves, which is your frontline team. Who better to serve your clients or customers or patients than people who feel alive and vibrant?

ERH: Yes, exactly. Can you share any examples about a team or client you’ve worked with moving from one place to the next?

Kris McCrea:  When I go into a business or an organization, generally they are struggling with communication and process. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have a process and that we just have chaos, that isn’t what this about. One place we begin is to teach them tools to communicate differently in meetings. Which means that meetings are no longer the manager talking at them with 45 minutes of updates, right? We’ve all sat through those meetings.

ERH: Oh my God, right? Not the way I want to spend an hour of my time.

Kris McCrea: It’s moving to a model of having the people in the room owntheir meeting. They begin to set the agenda and use skills that encourage people’s voices to be heard. Recently I worked with a group of highly skilled professionals, I started by observing their meetings and after two meetings I said, I’m not really sure what’s happening here; I haven’t heard anyone make a decision or create an action item. And what we’re going to talk about the next time is exactly the same thing we’ve talked about these last two meetings. Have you thought about what it’s costing you to sit around this table and rehash things?

Well, there was silence in the room. That is when we started using the tools and skills, and I spent time coaching them on how to do that because it was very foreign for them.

ERH: Yes. If we haven’t learned it, we don’t know.

Kris McCrea: I also realized that there were people on the team who never said a word, they were silent. And there were other members of the team who in some respects exhibited almost bully behavior where they were very domineering and dominated the conversation. And so again, the coaching and the skills, how to start to shift that so that everyone’s voice started to be heard. The people who had been silent, were feeling more empowered. They would be invited to share their thoughts and things started to happen. They started to be able to make decisions using consensus. I really encourage people if at all possible, to move away from voting because voting creates winners and losers, and nobody wants to be the loser when they walk out of the room.

ERH: Great point. This might be a perfect way for those listening to take action. What one thing can someone do today to change a meeting they are part of?

Kris McCrea: I guess the first step in being able to shift any of this is to become aware.

ERH: Yes, always a great starting point.

Kris McCrea: Really take pause when you’re in your meeting and become aware of what’s happening. Notice if you have people in the room who aren’t saying anything. Notice if you have the same two or three people that are kind of running the show. If you’re the manager notice the words that you’re using when you’re talking with people. Are you inspiring them and leading or are you managing them? Are you telling in the meeting, spewing out all this information, or are you inviting conversation?

ERH: I love how you said that. Are you telling or inviting other opinions? That’s a great start.

Kris McCrea: Yes. The first step is absolutely to become aware of your own self. What are you doing? Who are you being in the room? There’s a cartoon that I use sometimes in my presentations and it happens to be a gentleman at the head of the table and he says to the people sitting around, “My last comment might have led you to think that I wanted your input, but I was kidding.”

ERH:  Funny. Meetings are a great place for people to try something new. Okay, let’s turn to pausing, because you know that I am all about finding space to be present in your day. Before we close out, I want to know what your favorite methods are of taking pause for you and refueling. What is the art in your break, my friend?

Kris McCrea: Well… probably to no surprise it’s being in nature. In the mornings from the very earliest of spring that I can possibly be outside, and I mean at 5:00 to 5:30 a.m., I go outside and really welcome the day with the music of birds or a run where I can start to see the world come alive. That’s really key for me. And when I am in a place where I need some refueling, it’s always in nature, whether it’s a walk, a run with our dog, or a kayak. I like something where I can connect and observe and pay attention to how things function and operate in these incredibly complex, magnificent ways. And how could we bring some of that into the workplace more? If we really look at all of that is out there in the magnificence, how does it all work? You know there’s nobody micromanaging it.

ERH: Beautifully observed. Nature is my place too.

Kris McCrea: Even if you are not near the woods, just go outside of the building and walk.  Go five minutes in any direction just to observe.

ERH: That’s a great idea.

Kris McCrea: Just be in your surroundings. And become really present with the now. So not worrying about the meeting that’s coming up, or the meeting that happened, wishing you had this or said that. Become present by seeing and experiencing where you are in your shoes walking down the sidewalk.

ERH: Perfect.  It’s short and truly effective.   Thank you very much for being part of this conversation and leading change, Kris!

To learn more:  www.McCreaCoaching.com