The Non-conventional Approach to Effective Leadership

December 16, 2019
Kristine Meuse joined the OneDigital senior leadership team this past Spring as our newest Regional Managing Principal. Meuse manages regional operations across eight states for the Midwest region—spanning from  Minnesota to Texas. She brings to the table years of experience relative to strategic development, financial and operational oversight and a myriad of valuable leadership skills that allow her to be fresh thinking. Having received national recognition and acclaim as one of Business Insurance's 2015 Women to Watch, Meuse knows first-hand what it takes to be an effective leader in this industry. She is already paving the way as a non-conventional leader who is getting to the heart of what matters most—culture and collaboration. We caught up with Meuse for a Q&A to learn more about her approach to effective leadership. 
How would you describe your leadership style?
There are different leadership pillars that I am committed to when working with teams and I constantly challenge myself to make sure I am adhering to this style: 
  • Create a strongly collaborative and inclusive environment;
  • Embrace accountability in myself and in my team;
  • Set high standards and expect my team to deliver on their commitments;
  • Offer guidance for strategy then allow teams to run their business autonomously, supporting as needed for best results;
  • Care about people being fulfilled in their jobs and provide team members with opportunities to progress in their careers when they are willing to put in the effort needed to develop;
  • Provide open and honest communication and expect the same in return;
  • Compete to win;
  • Strive for continuous growth rather than embracing a steady state.
How do you balance staying in the loop and letting your next chain of command take the reigns?
As I mentioned previously, one of my core leadership pillars is to provide my teams with the autonomy they need to manage their business. This means my leadership style starts with assuming my team will deliver on what is expected of them without the need for significant oversight. I work to balance this approach by providing support where needed and challenging them along the way to ensure we are considering situations from various angles. I learned a long time ago, the more you are able to effectively delegate and trust your team, the more you may personally grow and assume new responsibilities along the way. This, in turn, makes you a more experienced leader.
There is greater confidence in teams when communication is strong and trust has been established. In the Midwest region, we follow a regular communication cadence that balances monthly leadership group discussions with standing monthly calls with individual markets. I am a big fan of deliberately scheduling a time to connect to ensure we have intentional conversations and do not let too much time pass between communication. This allows everyone to remain aligned during the fast pace of the business day.
What sets a good foundation for getting a team of people (who are so far from each other) together or on the same page?
Communication and collaboration! Our team’s dialogue centers around the commonalities of our businesses across the region – similar business challenges and strategies that apply regardless of location. We also regularly share the overall financial goals for our region and indicate the contribution we need from each market in order to reach these goals. By routinely reviewing this information, there is an understanding of how each market is performing and where assistance is needed so we can all work toward that common regional goal.  
Did you have a good idea of what a leader should be through experience or did you have a mentor?
My personal leadership style developed over the course of my career based upon interactions with different leaders, watching both those who inspired and had the respect of their teams and those who led by title only and did not truly add value to the group and worked to incorporate some of the best traits into my style. For example, I challenge myself to run very thoughtful, organized and substantive meetings out of respect for participants’ time. In addition, I learned that holding people accountable is the only way to truly create a winning environment for everyone involved. 
I was very fortunate to have different mentors throughout my career, ranging from formal mentorship programs with C-suite executives at large corporations to informal engagement with team members and peers. I found that you can learn a great deal from anyone if you take the time to observe and connect. 
Ultimately, I have reflected on my various experiences and incorporate the values that resonated with me personally and that seemed to yield the most successful results as to how I strive to present myself as a leader today.
What positive outcomes result from your approach?
The team always knows what is expected of them and trust that I will be open and honest in communicating with them. Holding people accountable yields high-performing teams that deliver strong results. Doing it in a fun and collaborative environment makes the winning even more enjoyable!
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