“I believe in 360-degree feedback.” with Carter Barnhart and Fotis Georgiadis

I believe in 360-degree feedback. Ask team members what’s working, what’s not, what processes could be tweaked or adjusted to make things more efficient. You don’t want a team full of people who agree with everything you say; you want to be challenged, to learn, to grow, to shift your understanding when necessary. As a […]

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I believe in 360-degree feedback. Ask team members what’s working, what’s not, what processes could be tweaked or adjusted to make things more efficient. You don’t want a team full of people who agree with everything you say; you want to be challenged, to learn, to grow, to shift your understanding when necessary.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carter Barnhart, Newport Academy’s first-ever Chief Experience Officer (CXO). Her highest priority is optimizing the experience of teens, young adults, and families throughout their time with us. Carter joined the Newport Academy family more than 10 years ago, first as a resident and then as a team member. As a result, she brings her own experience of personal recovery to her work, and is passionate about increasing awareness and reducing stigma around mental health and substance abuse challenges. Carter has served in several different positions at Newport Academy, beginning in the CEO’s office and most recently as the Vice President of Referral Relations. Hence, she has extensive knowledge of every aspect of the treatment experience, including referral relations, service offerings, discharge planning, admissions, and operations. In addition, Carter serves as Chair of the New York Provider Liaison Association and sits on the board of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals. She is also the co-founder of the Inspiration Foundation, and speaks frequently at schools, conferences, and hospitals on issues related to adolescent mental health. A graduate of New York University with a degree in the Psychology of Success, Carter is dedicated to supporting teens and young adults on the path to healing.

Newport Academy is a series of evidence-based healing centers for teens, young adults, and families struggling with mental health issues, eating disorders, and substance abuse. With locations across the United States, Newport Academy offers a family-systems approach, providing gender-specific, individualized, and comprehensive holistic programs that encompass clinical therapy, academic support, and experiential practices. Offerings include residential treatment centers, Partial Hospitalization Programs, Intensive Outpatient Programs, and Therapeutic Day Schools. Newport Academy nurtures the physical, psychological, social, educational, and spiritual needs of adolescents and their families, from a foundation of compassionate care, clinical expertise, and unconditional love. Our primary mission is to empower teens and restore families. Experts include MDs, psychiatrists, therapists, registered dieticians, nurses, licensed social workers, teachers, and more.

Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In my early teens, I was too unsure of myself to find my place, let alone compete academically and socially. I was bullied, which caused tremendous anxiety. Anxiety turned into depression. Depression turned into acting out. My parents became concerned and contacted a therapist, who connected them with Jamison Monroe Jr., founder of Newport Academy. He had just opened the original location in California. My parents enrolled me in the program and after 45 days there, I felt a new sense of confidence. Newport was like a “life academy” for me. I learned how to love myself, be vulnerable, and connect authentically with others. I learned to study and manage my time. After Newport Academy, I returned to high school and was much more engaged. I was a better student, family member, friend, and community member. In college, I experimented with a few internships — a venture fund, retail, etc., but I spent most of my free time outside of the classroom and the office, playing therapist and life coach to my friends. I was the go-to person for advice when anyone was struggling. I began to realize that my true calling was helping people. In 2011, my sophomore year, I reached out to Jamison and asked him if I could come back to Newport Academy, this time as part of the team. And the rest is history!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your leadership position?

Our residential campus in Connecticut is a 65-acre property with a pond. One day, one of our teens was discussing his relationship with his siblings in a group therapy session. It was a challenging topic — he got triggered and impulsively jumped into the pond. I didn’t hesitate. I dove in, fully dressed, and swam across to the other side. The boy was sitting there when I arrived. He was shocked that I had cared enough about what he was going through to do that. It was an important moment in his recovery to recognize how much we truly cared about him. Many years later, my colleagues still reference this moment. It was a true example of hands-on leadership. We do more through our actions than our words, and as a senior executive, demonstrating the willingness to get your hands dirty — or in my case, all my clothes dirty — has tremendous power.

All good leaders make a mistake that they learn from. Can you share a story about a humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

About a year ago, I was speaking to a group of clinical professionals at a luncheon, talking about the trends I was seeing regarding substance abuse among teenagers. I spent 15 minutes talking about Juul, until someone interrupted asking how jewelry can get them high. I realized that while Juul was an everyday word for me, it was unfamiliar territory for others. The lesson there: Know your audience!

What do you think makes Newport Academy stand out? Can you share a story?

Every staff member at Newport Academy has a “why.” They choose to work here because they truly want to help people and change lives. As an organization, we have an unrelenting commitment to personalized care. Every client’s experience is tailored to what they need, and the staff is always willing to go the extra mile to support clients in making shifts happen. One of my favorite stories about how we came together as an organization to support an individual was when we admitted a patient who had a sleep disorder and was nocturnal. When she arrived, she was unable to wake up until 9 pm and couldn’t fall asleep until 9 am. For a residential treatment center that typically delivers services during the daytime, this initially presented some problems. However, our medical and psychiatric team collaborated with the clinical and educational team to develop a customized treatment plan. Her treatment began at 9 pm and throughout the night, different professionals would meet with her. It was amazing to see the willingness of the staff to come in at all hours to administer treatment. Over time, we began to shift her schedule by 30 minutes each day and, after 45 days, we had reversed her schedule and she was able to fall asleep by 10 pm every night. Our staff truly cares, and it makes all the difference.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

The CXO role is brand new to Newport Academy, so there are many exciting projects that I am working on … Choosing just one to talk about is hard! Our patient experience currently is stellar, so our biggest goal is to maintain this standard of excellence as we expand. We are working on creating a standard definition so that, a year or two from now, we can ask any employee, “What does patient experience mean?” and they will have a clear understanding of what that means and how they contribute to it. By creating a shared language, we will be able to track and measure our success, while also seamlessly onboarding new employees.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

If you want certain things from your team — respect, dedication, loyalty — it’s very simple. You have to give those things to your team, and you have to do it first. Then you get mirrored reciprocation. Everyone wants the same things: to be listened to, respected, and loved. You go first, and then your team will follow.

In terms of team dynamics, it’s invaluable to really get to know your staff. Find out their personal and professional goals, their likes and dislikes, what inspires and motivates them. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable: Anyone who tells you that you shouldn’t express emotions or feelings in the workplace is wrong; if anything, expressions of passion and emotion are assets to a team, not things to be hidden away.

Finally, don’t be afraid to step outside what feels comfortable. It’s well known that many female leaders struggle with Imposter Syndrome — the persistent feeling that we’ll be exposed as frauds who don’t deserve what we’ve achieved. We tend to doubt our competence and our abilities. A recent study by Hewlett-Packard highlighted this phenomenon: whereas men often apply for a job when they meet just 60 percent of the qualifications, women typically only apply if they meet 100 percent of them. It’s important to remember that you didn’t get where you are by mistake: You deserve everything you’ve achieved, and you have the ability to go even further if you just trust yourself. Continue learning; continue pushing past any self-imposed restrictions.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

I believe in 360-degree feedback. Ask team members what’s working, what’s not, what processes could be tweaked or adjusted to make things more efficient. You don’t want a team full of people who agree with everything you say; you want to be challenged, to learn, to grow, to shift your understanding when necessary.

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 founder of Newport Academy, Jamison Monroe Jr., has been instrumental in shaping me into the person I am today. He took a risk eight years ago by hiring me and having me work in his office. I was able to learn firsthand what it takes to run a successful treatment center that helps hundreds of people on an annual basis. When we first opened our Connecticut campus, Jamison was involved in every department. We had a new client entering treatment who was incredibly anxious. I watched as Jamison brought him into the kitchen and made him his favorite meal. He was warm, approachable, and never mentioned that he was the CEO. Jamison has role-modeled for me how to lead with humility and love.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am lucky because every day I get to help bring goodness into the world. In my time at Newport Academy, I have touched thousands of lives. Last week, I spoke at a high school and afterwards, a girl from the audience came up to me. She told me that four years ago, she had heard my presentation and as a result had reached out to Newport Academy. She came to us with anxiety, depression, and a history of suicide attempts. When I saw her last week, she was about to graduate from high school with honors and had been accepted into college — and she asked me for a summer internship. It’s so fulfilling to hear stories like hers, and to know that I am paying forward the gifts that I received.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Always be radically candid. Kim Scott talks about this in her book Radical Candor — the importance of ensuring that those on your team know how valuable they are but also how they can improve. Truly caring about your staff and also being comfortable holding them accountable — and having them hold you accountable — is the art of great leadership. I give my team opportunities to be radically candid with me, to share their struggles and tell me how I could better support them.

Servant leadership is so important. Your team needs to know that you’ll do whatever it takes. Prioritizing empathy and pitching in over ego and personal ambition is so important. Our CEO is frequently found taking out the trash! I try to start each day by asking my team and my colleagues what they need from me in order to be successful that day. I’m amazed by the honest responses I receive, and they make me a better member of the team.

Collaboration is key. No one person can know or do it all on their own. The more we can work together as a team, the better service we will be able to provide. This is especially true when working with teenagers, especially resistant ones. Every day, we are reminded of the importance of collaboration.

Find out your team members’ dream jobs. This is an incredibly important conversation to have with your direct reports. Once a year, I ask my team to share their dreams with me. Whatever they tell me, there’s a way to apply that to what they’re doing now. If they say they’d like to own a farm someday, for example, you can easily link the characteristics they’d need to fulfill that dream — financial responsibility, increased work ethic, ability to manage people — to their current job description, including special projects that call on those attributes.

Find out what motivates your team. If you know someone really appreciates positive feedback, give them plenty of it. If you know someone is financially motivated, bonus them better. If you realize that someone really appreciates negative feedback and always wants to be challenged and pushed, provide that for them. I had a candid conversation with one of my direct reports, asking her what motivates her. She explained that she becomes bored very easily, that mundane tasks are difficult for her and she needs to be constantly challenged. I realized that the best thing would be to assign her to special projects, to challenge her and change up her daily routine. All problems have a root cause, and it is crucial when a problem arises to keep asking “why” in order to uncover that underlying issue.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Right now, teenagers and young adults are extremely isolated. The old practice of having a pen pal — making a positive connection with a peer in another place — has devolved into ugly chatrooms and message boards. I’d like to see young people meet online and in real life in safe spaces, where they can connect in a meaningful way. I’d also like to see healthcare and therapy made available to all citizens, which is a real possibility given the advancements in technology that have made telehealth a reality.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The most important skill a skipper can have is the ability to see through the eyes of the crew.” — Michael Abrashoff

I’m an empath. In order to optimize the experience of our patients, our team members, and the behavioral health community, I need to understand their perspectives on every challenge that arises.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to have breakfast or lunch with Dr. Atul Gawande. Dr. Gawande has been selected by Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Jamie Dimon to fundamentally change how healthcare is structured, paid for, and provided. He is disrupting the healthcare industry and, in my opinion, has the most potential to change the future of American healthcare.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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