As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite” , we had the pleasure of interviewing Misty Frost.
Misty Frost serves as the CEO of Carrus, an organization dedicated to building learning experiences that allow individuals to enter and then grow their careers in healthcare. Misty has extensive global experience as a senior executive. Over her 25-year career, she has served in senior leadership roles at innovative companies and has worked in a variety of client advocacy roles for global brands including Intel, Nortel Networks, Hyatt Hotels, and Disney.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work for companies that connect people to opportunities. Some of my most significant professional accomplishments are tied to growing educational technology offerings to broaden the scope and reach of education to communities that have been traditionally underserved. I find this part of my career both professionally and personally fulfilling.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I joined the company as CEO in 2018 and quickly saw that one of the challenges of leading an established organization is that there is an existing culture with its quirks and challenges. What I saw when I joined the company was that its values weren’t aligned with growth. We spent a few years making steady, incremental progress. However, COVID forced us to make rapid adoptions. The way everyone worked had to change overnight. From a culture perspective, it was possibly the best thing that had ever happened, helping us become more modern, tech-centered, and more nimble than we had been before.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first became an executive, I worked for a company where there was not a lot of transparent or open communication and having just made the transition into exec life, it occurred to me that this could be the problem I solve.
I set up meetings in my organization where people could ask me anything (long before AMA was a thing). While it was a good idea, what actually happened at the time was that all the employees started bringing me their personal problems and treating my meetings like they were some sort of advice column.
After getting HR involved and learning some important lessons about setting agendas and controlling meetings, I realized that making oneself available constantly was certainly not an effective use of anybody’s time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The person who inspired me the most would be a former CEO I reported to. My first executive role was very structured and matrixed. Under this new leader, I was shown you could be yourself and be successful. There was nothing about this leader that was overly formal or political, yet the company had runaway success. To this day, I focus on making decisions for the business that are in the best interest of the business, with ego and politics out of the equation.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I try not to approach things as particularly high stakes. Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that most things that stress people out are moments in time that we are going to get through. When something is stressful, I take a moment to center, breathe, and be present. The best way to face challenges is to be present and calmly make decisions.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
On a broad level, there is so much data that proves the value of diversity. On a personal level, having often been the only diverse leader in the room, I know firsthand that we clearly need more diversity to bring more ways to approach problems. Diversity is a reflection of our world, so executives should create programs and policies to support diversity in order to access how different people think and feel. This is important, especially since we serve a diverse population.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
In the last few years, we’ve made a conscious effort to improve our diversity and inclusion efforts through training, diverse hiring policies, and community engagement — and we are proud to once again partner with the Utah Black Chamber of Commerce to offer our second annual BIPOC healthcare training scholarship this fall.
But we recognize there is so much more to do. That’s why we will continue to listen, engage, and take action to build diversity in our workforce and develop a culture of inclusion at work and in our communities. We will follow through on our commitments and find additional ways to create pathways to more equitable healthcare environments.
It won’t happen overnight, but we’re ready to put in the work. And we’re proud to do our part in driving positive change.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
When it comes to being a CEO, the aspect that is ultimately the most differentiating is the strategy and direction of the company is solely yours. Other executives own their spaces, but you own the entire vision of where the company will go and how you will create an environment to make that vision happen.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
One prevalent myth and a reality for some leaders is that CEOs are somehow married to their business. Realistically, there are some leaders out there who live for their company.
However, if you want to give the best of yourself to your job you have to have more of yourself to give. To be a good leader, people have to understand market dynamics and their organizational dynamics. The best leaders get out and get into their spaces to have a firsthand understanding of these dynamics. Additionally, they are willing to be wrong because they listen to other people’s ideas and can make changes when it makes sense.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
The challenges many women leaders face is that we are trying to create balance across our entire life for ourselves and, in many cases, our families. For example, as a single parent, if I don’t come home and make dinner, no one is eating. This will change as my children grow, and family dynamics differ, but study after study show that women bear the brunt of planning for their households as well as their careers.
Women tend to make time for themselves and their families in ways that others often don’t. We want different balances in our lives — time for friends, relationships, and family. I find that women want better balance to manage competing priorities and are less willing to give it all to work. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s something we should all learn from.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
In my actual job, I spend a lot more time coaching, developing, and investing in people. The kind of input and coaching required from leaders is at a different level than what you give as an individual contributor. For the people who work for you, their growth is your responsibility.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
It is not for everybody. Of course, people can acquire skills, but certain people’s skills don’t align with executive life. At this level, people have to manage chaos clearly and calmly while working to create predictability and scale. For people who really love knowing what they are going to do every day, executive life would be a misery.
The ability to bring order out of chaos, the ability to see patterns and make predictions, and the ability to play the long game are essential. The notion of losing the battle to win the war is important. You must always think about winning the war. Examine what’s the most important thing 3, 5, and 10 years down the road and continue to work toward that.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Learn to use your voice well. When you talk, make it count. Make sure what you are saying is delivered with confidence and authority. Often, women discount their contribution and their value by letting their questioning of themselves impact their conversations with others.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I try to do that every day. One of your responsibilities when you lead a company is to make sure that company is creating its highest value. If you’re doing it right, that means making the world a better place. We offer training that enables people to enter new careers. Most of the decisions we make about the business is how we enable people to learn with us to achieve their greatest success.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Stay calm — Nothing is as big of a deal as it is in your head. Take a breath and think through it, most of the time things will work out just fine. When I worked in advertising, everything was positioned as if it were a crisis. Everything we worked on felt urgent. What I learned was no matter how much stress we put into everything, its lasting value should be worth the level of stress. I think we would have gotten better results with what we produced if every piece of copy or every ad we worked on was not created as if it were an emergency.
- It’s okay to buy yourself time to think — Too often we are so busy reacting, we don’t bring our best to the table. When we feel pressured, we often say things that we then have to retract when we’ve had a few more minutes to think about it. I was once asked to run a campaign smearing a competitor. There was a lot of emotion tied to how people felt about this competitor. The rest of the exec team felt this was the right thing to do and I didn’t. But, I got caught up in the moment and agreed to do it. After I slept on it, I knew it was absolutely the wrong thing to do. So, I had to go back and tell the team I’d misspoken and we would not be executing the smear campaign. This was embarrassing and impacted my credibility, however, a few weeks later another competitor ran a similar campaign and received tremendous negative press for doing so. In the end, I was proved right, and despite that, I had to do a lot of work to restore my credibility with colleagues.
- Avoid undue influence — Everyone will always tell you what’s important and what decisions you should make. It is so much easier to let other people influence your decision making because there are so many voices, but the reality is that you are in the job because of your decision-making processes. Listen to other’s input, but you are ultimately responsible and accountable for the decisions you make.
- Feelings are not facts — It’s easy to get consumed about people’s feelings and not look at the data. People’s feelings are often not a great reflection of what is actually happening. I once had a sales leader tell me the reason sales were down was that the market couldn’t afford our price point and that every salesperson was sharing the same feedback. When we pulled the data and looked at the reasons why people weren’t buying, price was not the concern. What people were actually worried about was financing or monthly payment options. This helped us solve the problem by providing flexibility in payments, we were able to serve our market better.-If I would have listened to the feelings of an individual and not checked the data, we would have mistakenly changed our price and not helped solve our customers’ true problem.
- Take credit for your work — Too often, we are conditioned to be seen as collaborative rather than driving. However, as a leader it’s your job to make decisions and drive results. If you cannot own both your decisions and the results, whether good or bad, then you won’t be an effective leader.
This is part of my work every single day, when you make a decision or set up a program and you don’t appropriately own it, someone else in the organization will. I once got a colleague of mine promoted because he took credit for my ideas and programs I set up and ran. I realized that I’d never let that happen again, especially when I saw him getting increased compensation for something I did.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The thing I am passionate about is giving people economic alternatives to pave the way for a better future. Society underserves many of our population by not providing visibility or support into pathways where they could help themselves. If I could give every woman in the world the option where they could choose more individual economic viability, I would absolutely do that.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Maya Angelou has given me several life-lesson quotes that all align with the theme of giving back. As we are generous with our time and what we learn, we learn more and enrich the lives of others.
“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”
“If you give, get. If you learn, teach.”