Interviewed by Alexis D’Amato – Intern
Crissy Carlisle was appointed Chief Investor Relations Officer of Encompass Health in September 2015. She joined Encompass Health in February 2005 as the Director of SEC Reporting and was quickly promoted to Vice President of Financial Reporting in August 2005. Crissy completed the Momentum executive leadership program in 2015. Her full bio follows this interview.
What did you gain from your Momentum experience?
I learned I’m not alone. Professional women can often feel very isolated whether we want to admit it or not. It is hard to wear the hat of mother, wife and executive all in a day. It is reassuring and helpful to be taught, in Momentum’s words, to stop and breathe, and to remember that we don’t have to be a superhero.
What is one piece of leadership advice you have been given that has helped you in your career?
To learn to give up trying to control everything. This isn’t something you can be taught, but this skill can define the type of leader you are. It can also drive you crazy. But we must be mindful to control what we can and accept what we cannot control.
If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell your 18 year old self?
“I would tell myself to relax and be patient,” Crissy laughed. Maya Angelo said, “All great achievements require time.” I see a lot of up-and-coming women who want to do everything fast. They expect for their careers to move quickly and to receive promotions after just one year. Relaxing and cultivating patience are the key to ensuring longevity in your career.
What challenges do you think the next generation of women leaders face?
The challenge to keep the momentum going for women who are moving forward in these leadership roles. My career has been with two main organizations. One of which held women as a priority. However, the women who were executives didn’t have children, and when asked how they got to their position, they admitted to acting like a man and talking like a man. Women want to be executives but also want to be mothers and wives as well. The organization adapted its program to help women wear multiple hats and to allow women who were also mothers and wives to reach their goal of serving in an executive role within the company. Encompass Health really values diversity and trying to create that. I can’t think of a time where being a woman held me back, it actually helped me. It is not that way for all sectors, but if you are in a company which really values diversity and elevating women, you can take that to your advantage.
What do you think organizations need to do differently for more women to rise into executive roles?
It (the issue) gets back to the differences between men and women. Their leadership characteristics are actually different. The male leadership characteristic norms have become accepted as what executives should be: aggressive, bold, and forceful. These male dominated characteristics are not words used to describe a woman. There needs to be a dualistic view which encompasses all leadership characteristics. Boards and employers need to look for people who are cooperative and collaborative overall and to learn the difference in male versus female leadership styles. In other words, companies must not only choose to fill upper-level leadership roles with people who only embody the archetype of what a male executive should be like.
What three words do you think should characterize every leader?
Integrity, focus, and respect. Crissy chose these characteristics because they are not gender specific. Integrity is the foundation for any leader; there are tough times where your personal values will be challenged. If you don’t have that integrity you risk going down a path that is not ideal. You need to focus and prioritize things. I choose my priorities each morning, every day. I choose to do these things that require focus and priority. Respect is an important characteristic of any leader because you have to respect yourself and others. You may not get along with everybody, but you need to respect everyone’s views, talents, and why they were put into the position in your company and organization.
How do you manage your career, home, and community life?
Prioritize – I had a friend who was a leadership professor at the University of Nebraska who is a sorority sister. She said to me, “Take out the phrase ‘I don’t have time for that,’ everyone has 24 hours in a day, it’s how you choose to spend them that matters.” When you change your mindset, you find yourself doing more in a day than you ever could imagine. Say “what’s more important” in your day. When Crissy comes home and sees household duties that need to be done, she evaluates her priorities and asks herself “what is more important? The stack of dirty dishes in the sink, or the opportunity to sit down and talk to my son about his day?” If Crissy can just stop and take a breath while she reevaluates her priorities, it brings things back into perspective.
What advice do you have for aspiring leaders?
This really brings us back to managing a career, a home, and community life. You have to get comfortable saying no. You have to figure out what your priorities are. Devote yourself to something you feel good about instead of trying to do everything all at once. Everyone wants you to do something. You will have to make some tough decisions. Even with deadlines and things at work; it is better to tell someone that you cannot make a deadline and propose a new deadline than to completely miss the deadline and come up empty-handed. Scheduling yourself properly and prioritizing allows you to be knowledgeable of your own capabilities.
Build a network. Building a network can be draining, awkward, and tiring. If someone is hosting a cocktail reception after work and you would rather go home and sit down or go to the gym, you have the option to not go network. But building your network is so important. Networks help you gain clarity with job aspirations, and career building, but the facet of networking that often gets ignored is how that network can help you. Had I not had a strong professional network, I don’t know that I would’ve gotten through personal struggles in my life. It was the network I built that allowed my husband and me to get help for our adopted son from Columbia who needed medical attention. You need to think of how networking benefits your personal development and your professional development.
Carlisle received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Alabama and her master’s in business administration from Duke University. Prior to joining Encompass Health, Carlisle served as a director within the corporate recovery division of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and additionally as a manager within their audit practice.
Carlisle has been recognized as the Best Investor Relations Professional in MidCap Healthcare Facilities and Managed Care by Institutional Investors for the past two years. She serves on the Board of Managers for the Facilities Management Company of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority and is on the Accounting Advisory Boards of Samford University and UAB. Carlisle serves on the Momentum Board of Directors, and is an active volunteer for United Way of Central Alabama and a mentor for female business students at the University of Alabama and UAB. She’s also actively involved with the athletic boosters programs at Spain Park High School and serves as a faith trainer for the children’s program at The Church at Brook Hills.