Welcome to Powerful Leaders, No Apologies.
Beth and Debbie sit down with Bree McCrory, CMO at Big Hand, to explore her remarkable leadership journey. From navigating challenges in a rapidly growing team to leveraging Disc assessments for enhanced communication, Bree shares valuable insights on embracing diversity, leading with authenticity, and the power of staying true to one’s values in the dynamic world of legal tech.
Links from the episode:
[3:53] Leaning into the skills you bring
[9:07] Having a growth mindset
[24:30] Staying true to values
Debbie Foster (00:03):
Welcome to the Powerful Leaders, No apologies podcast, a show about women who are ready to own their power and change the world. My name is Debbie Foster.
Beth Thompson (00:12):
And I’m Beth Thompson. Our guests are fierce and fabulous women who are making a difference in their personal and professional communities. Are you ready to be inspired? If so, stay tuned and also check out our website at affinityconsulting.com slash powerful leaders. Here’s the show.
Debbie Foster (00:34):
Hi Beth. I’m super excited to be here today recording an episode of our what has become just like a game changer podcast. I know at least for both of us and for lots of our guests and our listeners too, but for both of us for sure.
Beth Thompson (00:50):
Absolutely. And no, we’re not on video today, but I just have to give a shout out that I’m wearing our podcast hoodie today. Dang. It’s nice and warm. It’s a little cool here, so I’m super happy to have it.
Debbie Foster (01:01):
I love that swag store link in the show notes for sure. If you’re looking for a hat or a water bottle or a jacket, we have them for you.
Beth Thompson (01:09):
Yes, I’m excited. We’re actually going to head across the pond today.
Debbie Foster (01:13):
Oh, we are with our guest.
Beth Thompson (01:15):
So looking forward to this.
Debbie Foster (01:16):
Yeah, and so Beth, a long time ago you worked at Big Hand and we have a special guest on our show today from Big Hand and there’s a lot of just amazing people at Big Hand, amazing products, great technology. Eric Wangler is a great friend of ours and has been for many years and we are super excited to have Briana McCrory on our show today. Briana is the CMO at Big Hand and she has got quite the story to share. So Bri, welcome to the show.
Briana McCrory (01:53):
Thank you, Debbie. I think that’s quite a big up already. I hope I live up to it. I’m very honored to have been asked to be a guest on the show. I’ve heard many of the previous speakers and they’ve been phenomenal and shared so much expertise and insights, so it’s a great honor to be here. Thank you.
Debbie Foster (02:10):
Awesome. Well, we ask our guests every time to just lead off with tell us your story before we hit the record button. You were telling us a little bit about being on the board at Big Hand, and I’d love to hear kind of how you got started in this industry, what brought you to Big Hand and kind of your journey since you’ve been there.
Briana McCrory (02:29):
Yeah, I think like many of your previous guests, I fell into the industry, but I guess my background is I’m Irish. Hopefully people will recognize the Irish accent. And after finishing college or university, I moved across from Ireland to the UK and I spent four years working in Oxford in various marketing roles and then decided to move to London for a year before what was meant to be moving back home, settling down. And I just wanted a fun year and living the big city of London, that’s when I joined Big Hand. That was 10 years ago, so that year went on a lot longer and still going. And London’s definitely become a second home to me now. When I joined Big Hand, I joined at a time where we were a single product company. I was the marketing manager for our UK market and we had about, I think I’m about employee number 90 something. We’re now multi-product. We have over 400 employees and I have taken on the role of CMO, so I’m responsible for running our marketing function and I sit on our board and work with the other board members on the wider Big Hand strategy and how we’re going to achieve that.
Beth Thompson (03:48):
Debbie Foster (03:49):
Tell me a little bit about what sitting on the board means.
Briana McCrory (03:53):
Oh, good question. So I joined the board in my late twenties. So quite quickly after I joined Big Hand, I was fortunate enough to have people who believed in me and probably recognized my capability sooner than I did. I was always a hard worker, but to be given the opportunity to join the board at such an early stage in my career was a huge opportunity. I joined a very male board who were very supportive, but I probably didn’t recognize the skills that I brought to the table and instead tried to fit in, which wasn’t the right thing. And it took me a while to figure that out. I probably was a bit of a bulldozer trying to find my place and instead of leaning into the skills that I brought, I tried to learn the skills that my fellow board members had. And while I’m still learning those and still getting so much value from that, I think over the last number of years I’ve been able to recognize that the value I bring as a female, as a millennial opens up our board discussions in a different way and I add value in a different way.
And I’ve been able to lean into that in a very positive way for us as an operation board.
Beth Thompson (05:09):
I think this is fascinating. Was there any particular event or conversation that you had that you had this aha moment, the light bulb went off that no, I bring a lot to the table, I’m going to be me and I’m going to use my voice. Was there a particular incident?
Briana McCrory (05:25):
Yeah, I think I had been feeling for a while, not the best version of myself and struggling to recognize where I could add value or be part of the discussions in a way that was going to benefit everybody and that I was internalizing that a lot. And then I had a moment where I was asked to give a presentation and it was in a board strategy week and I was given a list of topics I could choose and one of them was on a growth mindset and I’m a big champion of having a growth mindset, but I decided to lean into being vulnerable and saying, actually, here’s all the stuff I don’t know that you do know. You are very experienced, you’ve been around in the industry a lot more time, you’ve a lot more business experience. I don’t have all of this. This is the first time I’ve been on a board.
This is the first time I’ve been a leader in the business. And actually sharing with my colleagues that insight of I don’t know it all and I would really appreciate it rather than trying to pretend I did was a aha moment. And I think that just broke down so much more barriers and allowed me to be the best version of myself and I’m a very inquisitive person, but it allowed me to change the questions rather than just asking questions for the sake of them. I was asking them for learning and I was asking them to build my knowledge and people were more forthcoming with Intel because they were now aware as to why I was asking the question versus just asking for the sake of asking.
Debbie Foster (06:56):
That is so powerful. And we just came off of a company retreat where the topic of diversity, inclusion, belonging, equity came up and I was having a sidebar conversation with someone about the difference between diversity and inclusion and it’s still surprising to me. I mean it can be a confusing topic when you’re talking about all of those things, but listening to you talk about the moment where you went from someone who was different on the board and trying to fit in to someone who showed up and said, the value of my diverse thinking, my diverse, the diverse way that I solve problems, the way that I show up to do things. And then having that group of people embrace that is really such a great picture of what every law firm and company and legal tech should be trying to figure out how to leverage on their teams is not just how do we find more people who say what we say, but how do we find people who aren’t saying what we say and how do we really stop and listen to them? I love that.
Briana McCrory (08:05):
And I think I’m very fortunate that I work with people who were so supportive and have been so supportive of my career throughout and when I was being that bulldozer, they didn’t kick me out. They went, okay, let’s stay trying because they believed in my ability. And I think that’s a way I think as females, if we can lean into our diverse elements more and embrace them and own them and share that we’re owning them. So I’m one of our strengths as females is our emotional intelligence. So I call that out all the time. I said I’m bringing the emotional side and actually that sometimes means tears, but more often than not it means it’s other great stuff. And I think if you lean in and you celebrate that more and it’s recognized more, that will be the game changer of enabling more diversity in management and leadership.
Debbie Foster (08:56):
For sure. So Bree, tell us what inspires you? What are you reading? What are you listening to? What are you watching? How do you fill your cup up?
Briana McCrory (09:07):
I was thinking about this question before and I think at various stages different things have had an impact on me. And as I said, I have a growth mindset, so I’m always learning. And I think with everything you read or hear or engage in, if you get one thing that’s a real positive, and I was thinking one of the big things that I’ve taken and I think across different elements. So from a leadership point of view, one of the things that stuck out was the Netflix No Rules Rules book. And we’re not Netflix a big hand, we’re never going to be Netflix a big hand. But the thing that I took out from that, from a leadership was having that open dialogue with your team around would I fight for you? And that’s the Netflix mantra of Would I Fight for You? And having that discussion and saying, actually, if I wouldn’t given your team an opportunity to become the person you fight for so that you’re always focusing on their growth and their development and having that open constant conversation versus waiting for a performance review or for things to go bad.
So I think from a leadership style, that open dialogue, that belief in your team, them knowing where they stand so that they’re constantly growing and learning, that has had a big impact. And I think from a personal point of view, atomic Habits, I’m sure this has been mentioned on your podcast before, that was something, and I go back to that when I feel I’m falling out of track or I’ll go back and remind myself of that. And then I, again, probably not enough and enough talked about, but as a female, there’s two books that actually have really helped me and it’s one is called Period Power and the other is the Female Body Bible. And as women, we have so much going on in our bodies that is out of our control, but knowledge and awareness can actually really empower you. And in a work environment, I read Period Power and I took some of the notes from that and change my work schedule.
And in line with getting more in tune with my body, I was able to change my work schedule and I was able to change meetings I was having where I knew I wasn’t performing, but my mind wasn’t in its best function or I couldn’t get the words out in the right way. I moved it back a week, there was one specific meeting that it was reoccurring. I’d walk away and go, oh, that wasn’t a great meeting and I really needed it to be, and why didn’t I think of saying that in that meeting? But in the moment that just my mind wasn’t there, I moved that meeting out by one week and I haven’t had that feeling since that meeting because I became more aware. And I think we don’t talk about it enough, it isn’t talked about it enough in business and in big hand we have a big hand in women, ERG group, that was the first thing I said was everybody should read this book whether you’re male or female, whether you have kids or not, or kids that are female, et cetera.
Having that awareness, we’re not a big emotional walk in hormones. We just have different things happening in our bodies and that awareness can give you such great powerful insight. And in one of my team I was saying actually they’re responsible for writing. I’m like, you have creative weeks and not creative weeks. Learn which what happens and move it around and plan your diaries better, you’ll get a greater performance. And similarly, the female body Bible, I’m quite into sport and fitness and that gave me way better insight into how I can perform better and how I can be stronger at different times or why it doesn’t work sometimes. And that’s okay too. And I think the final thing to say on where I learn, I think there’s a huge amount of people both within big hand and the wider legal industry that are just so generous with their time and their insights. And for me growing up in legal and this being the first time I was in the legal sector, there were so many fellow marketers from other companies, from competitors that just gave me so much time and guidance and still do. And that’s been hugely powerful too.
Debbie Foster (13:10):
You’re the first person who has talked about not just books like that, but talked about really getting to know when you are at your best and how strong and powerful the female body is, but also all the other things that are going on coming from someone who is in my fifties, I feel like I’ve learned more about how things work. Being in my fifties gets a little warm in here sometimes. That kind of stuff, like we’ve got to be thinking about that and for you to sit back and think, how do I show up as my best self? I mean, what more can you ask for from a leader is really being in touch with what they’re doing, what they’re going through, what you’re thinking to make sure that you’re showing up as your best self. I love that.
Beth Thompson (14:00):
Well, and encouraging others to do the same and that you are giving them the safe space to acknowledge that this isn’t my best week. You’ve allowed them to be able to own that, say that, move things around. I think this is really, really great guidance. What were you saying before we started recording that you didn’t think you had anything to share? This is brilliant.
Debbie Foster (14:24):
I agree. So let’s talk about the challenges. You’ve mentioned a couple of challenges, but I’d love to hear you’re running a team. I don’t know how big your team is, you’re showing up as an inspiring leader. You have a lot on your plate I’m sure. What are the challenges that you’ve gone through and how have you overcome them?
Briana McCrory (14:45):
I think one of the challenges that I face is the dynamic of having a growth mindset and wanting to be the best version of yourself, but still learning and putting into practice and taking everything I want to achieve one step at a time and being able to empower my team to do the same. I have a very skilled, amazing team and I always say, I don’t want a yes team. I want to empower you to be the best version of yourself. And I think as a leader, my role is to have a strategy and to empower the people within my team to deliver that strategy and work with them on their own capabilities and their own growth. A lot of my team is female. So with that comes the everyday challenges that females in business have. And I think the world is now opening our eyes to a lot more of the things that are different for females.
And I think when I joined the working world, I knew being a female in business was different. I didn’t really understand how different or the obstacles that you would come up against. And I think one of the things that I really try and focus on is, is this scenario because I’m female or is this scenario because it’s just business and really trying to establish, a lot of the time it is just business. A lot of the time it is just run of the mill, but we’re in a world where diverse elements are heightened and therefore our sensitivity to that is heightened. So finding the right things to shout about and to picking the battles and flying the flag in the right way I think has been an ongoing learning process.
Beth Thompson (16:32):
So we don’t often, at least not every episode now, we did in the beginning talked a lot about apologizing and women and the fact that we do tend to apologize more than men. I would love to get your take on it. It’s been a few episodes since we actually dug into this topic, but what are your thoughts on female apologies and the fact that we apologize far too often?
Briana McCrory (16:56):
Yeah, I definitely apologize less now than I used to, but I think there’s also power and apologies. So I think it’s using it for genuine reasons. As females, our natural instinct is to not ruffle feathers too much and to not cause too much uncomfortable situations or we’re more, we’ve heightened awareness that we can push boundaries in the right way but can be received in the wrong way. So it’s finding the balance and I think positioning is key. I think I have moved to a world where I have stopped apologizing for my directness. I’ve stopped apologizing for asking questions, stopped apologizing for trying to bring out the best in everyone. And where I do apologize is if I don’t always do it in the right way. And by the way, I won’t always do it in the right way. We’re not perfect, but I think embracing it and embracing who you are will allow us do it.
But I do think it is a common trait and we often start sentences with, and I find myself doing it, saying, oh, sorry, can I just ask? And we actually had a speaker come into Big Hand as part of our women in big hand group who heightened that we actually tone down our positioning on questioning. And someone messaged me and said, when are you going to turn down your physician questions? And in my head I thought, you know what? I do turn tone down questions, but then this popped up and I was like, maybe I don’t anymore. So again, but I think it’s an awareness that we don’t have to, and it’s an acceptance of that diverse element and then that we do have a seat at the table and we are adding value and our traits are different, but just as valuable. And again, going back into my point earlier about we just got to lean into it and own it and hopefully surround ourselves with people that will be supportive of that.
Debbie Foster (19:00):
Yeah. So this is a good segue, talking about traits being different. A few months ago you commented on a LinkedIn post of mine where we were talking about disc assessments, and I’m a big fan of disc and we are big fans of it here at Affinity, and we’ve used it for, I don’t know, 10, 11, 12 years going. It’s been a long time. And I would love to hear your perspective on how DISC has impacted how you lead and how you communicate, and just anything else that you want to share about how DISC has impacted the way that your team works?
Briana McCrory (19:38):
Sure, yeah, we did. We had an external consultant come in and run a disc assessment across the board and then run a workshop with us on the findings from that. And it won’t be a surprise for anyone who knows me, but I’m a very strong D on that as was a lot of our other board. But I was definitely a very strong D. And in reading the assessment on myself, there wasn’t too many things that were shocking on there or that I disagree. In fact, I agreed with everything. But it’s also really good reminder and insight as to how that could be perceived by others, both who you work directly with, but also in your teams, et cetera. Across the workshop with the board, we all spoke about our own profiles and the things that stood out to us and the things that we were probably surprised by, but I don’t know if there was that many people overly surprised.
And we were able to, as a board, understand each other better and understand actually why there was so many people in the room that thought they had the right answer because we’re all D’s, not all of us, but a lot of us were D’s and why some other people are a little bit more quieter in meetings because they just take it in and process it. But understanding that meant actually now as a board, we’ll pause when we’re having these discussions and we’ll reflect on the people who aren’t these, they weren’t being the loudest in the room and go, actually, what’s your thoughts on this? And giving them a voice. And it’s not that they didn’t have a voice, it’s just they’d wait until everyone else had gotten their say and then they’d come in. So it’s been really, really powerful as a board. And one of the things that we also got at with it was how we can all work individually better.
So we got a report, so I got a report with what my boss’s style was and what our my style was, and we take that out and we talk about it and we understand going into one-on-ones or going into meetings, actually this is why a perfect example is I’m very skeptical. I ask a lot of questions and I’ve got to understand to believe. So that’s why where I am, whereas my boss is so trusting and he thinks he’s got the best people in the room, therefore he doesn’t ask the questions. And I’m sitting there going, why aren’t you asking the questions? He’s like, why are you asking all the questions? We’ve now had that come to line. It’s like that was put back in black and white paper. There’s a difference between you. And we’ve been able to meet in the middle where I’m like, actually, he’s not asking the questions because he just trusts everyone.
And that’s a really powerful awareness and knowledge. And then within my team, I actually took my desk profile and spoke about it with my team and spoke about the things that I was made aware of. Again, I wouldn’t say they were new things, but it’s a good reflection. And one of those is I’ve so focused on a growth mindset that that can sometimes mean you don’t stop and celebrate successes and you don’t recognize what goes well. So we’ve introduced in our team a monthly celebrate success moment where everybody has an opportunity to recognize something they’re proud of themselves for what they did, but also if they want to give a shout out to someone else on the team. So while we’re still focused on lessons learned and we celebrate lessons learned, as much as we celebrate successes, we have dedicated time to pause and reflect and say, actually here’s going well as well as pushing for what’s coming next.
And other things, again, my skeptical side being like actually just pause before you ask every question and go, you asking this for understanding or just do you really need to be asking this question right now? And it’s become a really powerful tool and I get it out at points where I feel I’m going a little bit off track. I get out my report and it sits on my desk and I get it out and I remind myself and before we go into board strategy weeks. So we get together as a board once a quarter, we all take our reports out and read it again and we’re going into it fresh, being reminded of the different skills and talents and areas. And it just makes the meetings so much more productive and so much more open and everyone’s guards down and it’s just a really, really powerful tool.
Debbie Foster (23:35):
I love it. It is a trust building tool, no doubt about it. It’s a trust building tool. It gives you some insight into why people do what they do and why our perception of other people. I love that story. I love how you’re using it. So wrapping things up, last question. Beth, you want to go with the last question?
Beth Thompson (23:56):
Absolutely. So very curious. First of all, before I ask the last question, I always love the little nuggets that we learn about people that we didn’t know about them. And when we see you, we see you every year at conferences and we get to chitchat and this that and the other, but it’s really fun to get the opportunity to learn. I would’ve never known that you’re skeptical, for example. So that was interesting to me. But here we are. Last question. We ask every guest, what is your leadership superpower? Or maybe you have more than one. We would love to hear.
Briana McCrory (24:30):
I don’t know if I have a leadership superpower, but I think what works for me is that I stay true to my values. The people in my life are the most important things. And being able to bring that into my leadership style and getting to know the people you’re working with and getting to understand them, I think has really played into bringing out the best in myself and those I work with. And I think having fun doing it, I think we underestimate, we spend so many hours working and remembering to just enjoy it as well. And then I think the final thing is I’m so inquisitive. It goes back to I ask a lot of questions and I do that with positive intent of learning and being able to understand better. And I think that combined has just meant I’ve been able to be myself throughout my career, but continue to grow and learn, but staying true to what really matters.
Beth Thompson (25:31):
Perfect way to wrap things up. Bri, thank you so much for joining us today and I know it’s evening there for you, so thank you for giving up a little bit of your Friday evening for us. We really appreciate it.
Debbie Foster (25:41):
Yes, for sure. Thank you so much for being here.
Briana McCrory (25:44):
Thank you so much for having me on. As I said at the beginning, I was quite nervous, but you both have made it very relaxed. Thank you.
Beth Thompson (25:54):
And that’s a wrap. Thanks for listening to Powerful Leaders. No apologies. Be sure and subscribe to our show and help us spread the word by sharing our show with your network.
Debbie Foster (26:04):
And check out our show notes at affinityconsulting.com slash powerful leaders for resources and ways to connect with us. See you next time.