21 Oct Rasheryl McCreary On Leadership As Art
Rasheryl McCreary of TAO Leadership Development, Inc. is the latest contributor in my series of conversations with influential female global executives. Katie Mehnert, Kahina Van Dyke, and Natalia Shuman have all been fascinating to talk to and I know you will not be disappointed by what Rasheryl has to say.
Rasheryl has worked with more than 1,000 leaders at Fortune 500 companies like American Express, Cisco, P&G and PayPal, government agencies like the CIA and The US Department of Homeland Security, and top business schools like Harvard University as a personal branding and leadership presence coach. Prior to founding Tao Leadership Development she worked as a Senior Consultant at a global leadership development firm where she co-designed training programs for high-potential executives, as President of a training firm that delivered customer service training to the Department of Defense, and as Director of Training for a national marketing firm. She is also an award-winning, professional theater actress who knows first-hand how to authentically inspire, motivate, and engage a live audience.
Her business acumen and experience combined with her professional actor training create a truly unique skill-set. Here’s Rasheryl’s unique take on global leadership:
Clare: What are the most common topics you are asked by your global executives to provide training on?
Rasheryl: For me the number one topic I am asked to help with is Personal Branding. People know deep down that credibility attracts the support of stakeholders and inspires the loyalty of teams, colleagues and clients alike. What they want is to project a ‘comfortable-in-your-own skin’ confidence and to be able to leverage it to drive powerful business results.
Closely aligned to this is leadership presence, the ability to consistently and clearly articulate your value proposition while influencing and connecting with others.
And finally, on a very practical level, Communication Skills, that is to say what exactly you need to do to convey information to another, effectively and efficiently.
Clare: So that’s interesting, everything you have mentioned is about the ability to influence and work through others. What top three tips would you give to your peers looking to support their global teams?
Tip #1: I would say before diving straight into action, do a little research and find out what their global teams most need and how they can best support their teams. Go straight to the horse’s mouth and find out what is the best way to support your teams. Assumptions rarely work!
Tip #2: Once you are clear on what the team needs, look for a variety of ways to assist your team using a range of tools e.g. email, audio tools, recording an mp3 to use as a coaching tool, sending a webinar or link. I try to find an assortment of ways to make them feel like they are surrounded in support by me even though we may not meet or talk all the time.
Tip #3: From a mindset point of view, take the time to prepare when communicating with global teams. That means having a communication strategy established and making sure you are organised for meetings well in advance. In this way you can make sure that you are present, grounded, and fully focused before you start your call.
Clare: Clearly you take the business of leadership seriously. It is said that developing game-changing models that make the world a better place can help engage and retain skilled and committed employees. Is there anything you are particularly proud to have been part of?
Rasheryl: I am really proud of my ‘Communicate With Impact’ Program. I don’t know about changing the world, but it certainly gives busy executives the tools they need to drive results in their organization. The framework I use in this program is based on a time-tested model of persuasive communication. It is a model that I developed and used for my coaching clients and then embedded into this group program.
Many participants report that they use the model and see results almost immediately. By that I mean, it helps them persuade their audience to take action, get commitment from senior leaders, and successfully navigate challenging conversations. In one case, there was a participant who used the framework in a critical lunch meeting with a senior leader that he had to influence. The result: the meeting was successful, he got buy-in from the senior executive who actually then remarked “you must be reading my mind.”
I was also very proud to be a part of an employee engagement culture change for a Fortune 100, global financial services firm. At the time I worked for a consulting firm and we were charged with helping our client execute a culture shift from employee satisfaction to employee engagement. We designed and delivered a training/coaching program for the top 400 leaders in the firm, from the CEO down. It was so rewarding to be part of a hands-on team that literally helped leaders understand the in-the-moment leadership skills and communication techniques to successfully increase employee engagement.
Clare: That brings up a different take on game-changing for me. By teaching persuasive communication, you are equipping others to then make a difference in a big way. It’s a bit like passing on a beacon. Turning to global issues, what are the key cultural challenges you face working internationally?
Rasheryl: The key cultural challenges I have dealt with have been in the realm of leadership presence and around the idea of communicating in the ways that engage, inspire, and motivate – which I think is a very “American” notion and style of communicating.
For instance, in European countries, like Germany, France, and the UK to a degree, this idea of leadership presence, of engaging authentically, but enthusiastically, can feel a bit silly to them. This is all very general, obviously. Similarly, in some Asian countries such as China or Japan, this kind of American leadership presence is not a cultural norm, it feels too direct and doesn’t land as well with Asian executives.
That said, with other cultures, where that American enthusiastic energy and directness is not the cultural norm, but where there are leaders of groups with an American audience, they have to learn how to flex more into that “American style” of leadership presence and behavior.
Clare: It sounds like you have observed a whole host of different cultural approaches on your travels. I like that you are keenly aware of the potential impact of an ‘American’ attitude to doing business – not everyone can see themselves as products of their own culture. Coming closer to home, a recent Harvard Business School survey found that prospering in the senior ranks is a matter of ‘carefully combining work and home’. What is your experience?
Rasheryl: That’s a good question. I would say that prospering in the senior ranks absolutely requires mastering some type of work/home balance. It is a little different for me because I am an entrepreneur, but I too have to work on getting it right, or at least close to right!
For my clients, who are typically senior level executives, I find that they are often walking a tightrope to achieve a work-life balance. For them, being promoted could mean having to uproot their families to relocate to different states or countries to gain work experience in different markets. That is certainly a challenge for my clients. Some have opted out and some have opted to leave organizations or careers altogether, particularly women who have had to make big decisions based on their families.
Clare: So what about you, what do you do to relax and keep a balance?
Rasheryl: I like to do calming, contemplative things like, meditation, walking my dogs and Qi Gong. I am fortunate to live on the Pacific Ocean, so just being able to go to the ocean and sit and relax is beneficial to me. I also, enjoy more social activities like cooking for friends, having dinner parties and I LOVE watching films. These are the things that de-stress me.
Clare: Sounds like you have trained yourself to switch off and get perspective, and also that you are pretty visual in your thinking. If you had to pick a metaphor to describe your work as a global influencer, what would that be?
Rasheryl: In my work, I inspire my clients to lead from an authentic place. First, I lead them through a process that encourages them to identify, communicate and leverage their unique combination of strengths, skills, problem-solving abilities, and development areas. Then, I help them move into their unique, authentic way of leading, communicating, inspiring, and motivating others.
Additionally, because my background is so diverse, I have a business background, am a serial entrepreneur, and was a professional actress for many years, I feel like I have an “outsider” perspective when working with my clients. I do have corporate business experience, and experience launching and building a successful business. I understand their experience, AND, I also have a rich cache of artistic experiences that give me multiple perspectives and approaches to problem solving.
The artist in me is my secret weapon; I inspire to try new approaches, to take smart risks, to tap and leverage their authenticity, and provoke them to think and consider things from different vantage points.
I see myself as a sculptor. To paraphrase Michelangelo, I see myself as a sculptor and my clients are this beautiful piece of marble. Their unique presence, or authentic brand, is inside of the stone—I can see it. My job is to help them see it, to help them chip away at the limiting behaviors and false beliefs that hold them back, or to sandblast away old patterns, and to cull out that presence and polish it to a shine.
Thank you Rasheryl for these very inspiring insights. I love the idea of polishing our presence to a shine!
What do you need to do to polish up your shine to its true brilliance?
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