5 Questions with Drew McCartney

“5 Questions With ______” is an interview series from executive search firm Amrop Rosin. These are quick-hitter interview discussions between Amrop Rosin’s Partners and North American executives on the topic of Purposeful Leadership -  a strategic framework used at Amrop to identify, assess, and position leaders in roles where they can drive impact for business, society and the planet.

In this edition of 5 “Questions With______”, Andrew Walkes, Partner at Amrop Rosin, speaks to Drew McCartney, CEO of Florida-based Praesum Healthcare, on the importance of Purposeful Leadership in the Behavioural Healthcare industry.

Drewmccartney Headshot

Andrew Walkes: When we think about a Purposeful Leader - one who drives impact for people, the planet and profits, what would you say are the most important characteristics to have?

Drew McCartney: I think it is critical to be generous and intentional with your time. It’s important for leaders to get to know people on an individual level; that can mean spending time with every hire. It may be 5 minutes – but I think that time is important to reinforce the company's mission and purpose. When I personally do this, I also invite the individual to interview me on my own personal purpose and connection to the work. At Praesum, we're a behavioral health business. We're dealing with folks who are in the grips of addiction or mental health challenges. So, it is not that difficult to get our employees mobilized around Purposeful Leadership because the folks that we interact with every day require us to lead with our values, and treat them with respect and dignity. We're a unique business. For example,  when the COVID crisis hit, we were designated critical access health service providers. So our employees in the clinics, that’s 80% of our workforce, they didn't have the option to go work from home. But we polled our employees at our headquarters and said, you are fully empowered to work remotely, but we're going to maintain a headquarters operation and you're welcome to continue to work here. We had over 80% of our employees based in our headquarters continue to come to the office every day because that's how important they see the work that we do, and we all wanted to make sure that we had the backs of our clinicians in the field. 

AW: Thank you for sharing that, Drew. Moving now to the concept of the purpose gap where there’s so much data on the benefits of businesses embracing purpose and their social responsibility. When they do this, they outperform their competitive peers, attract and retain the best talent, grow faster, and have higher market share, and higher brand opinion scores. But there's this gap where many organizations actually don’t walk the talk when it comes to purpose. How do you try to manage your follow-through and going from philosophy to action in Praesum?

DM: We do a lot of both behavioral and evaluative training for interviewing. Interviewing at Praesum is a privilege and individuals need to qualify for interviewer roles by going through training. This is the bedrock of our purposeful management philosophy, and it perpetuates the view that we're going to continue to identify people who come into the organization consistent with our mission and purpose. The other aspect that I think has been valuable for us is we rotate our leadership team across 33 facilities between Florida and Massachusetts. Our team, once a quarter, must spend 3 to 5 days in one of our facilities. Doing so reinforces the view that there is an individual out there we are responsible for, and that their families, insurers, and society entrust them to us at their most vulnerable times. I assembled probably 60% of the leadership team here and I'm fortunate that I have some very tenured individuals who do walk the talk. We ensure that we are bringing forth a specific set of values and principles as to how we go about our work. Our management objectives for our team include values and mission-based objectives opposed to just financial ones. And what we found is that when we focus on our values, we actually end up hitting financial objectives because our business does better when we take a long-term mindset to how we provide holistic care for our patients.

AW: Sounds like there's a ton of intention that goes into from how you train and onboard to how you reinforce the mission. Let’s talk about how there's more and more on the plate of the modern leader than before. For you, and what you've seen, is there a specific societal issue that you think the modern executive needs to be ready for that they didn't need to be five years ago? This could be specific to the health services space or just more broadly in any corporate executive role.

DM: In terms of the healthcare industry, this is constantly evolving - especially in the US. So I read a lot and try to understand the intersections of healthcare and legislation. Recently, I’ve been reading on the Mental Health Parity Act. Simply put, the Mental Health Parity Act requires equal coverage for mental health and medical benefits – and that’s extremely important. Society in many respects, and sadly even some doctors, will look at an individual with behavioral challenges and think it was a moral failing on the part of this individual. They don’t always quite understand that addiction is a disease and that someone doesn't choose to have mental health issues. That perception of mental health is slowly changing - but still, for executives in the healthcare industry, understanding how this perception relates back to legislation is crucial because it empowers US healthcare providers to give the best possible care to the patients that we serve.

AW: To ask you another question specific to the healthcare space. In treating addiction and mental health, there's a lot of sensitivity in that industry. What are some of the obstacles or pain points that you're looking to address for patients that maybe some of the other players in your industry are overlooking? And then because of that, what is required from you and your team from a leadership perspective?

DM: That's a great question and it's playing right into my wheelhouse. When you're in the mental health services business, you're often playing defense. So, Praesum has a call centre where we're fielding 17,000 calls a month, and we’re seeing 1400 individuals in our clinics across the system every month who come mostly via the referrals our call centre team has done. The first thing we do at the call centres is we triage patients and from then we go out and engage them to get them the appropriate level of care as opposed to waiting for, you know, a train wreck to occur. It’s in many respects, the preventive way that health care should operate. To add to that, our call centre is so used to dealing with incoming calls and much less outgoing calls that we created a second call centre that's outbound and we train those individuals a bit differently. It’s obligated us to amplify our community relations with partners so that we can get people the appropriate level of care quickly. When someone reaches out to us with an addiction challenge, we try to collect them in an hour. And I've done it personally. I've gotten in my car, and I've driven somewhere because there wasn't someone else to do it, to pick someone up and get them to a detox or residential center. That’s a little bit of what I think the future of healthcare involves. We need leaders who are proactive, patient-centered and deep responsibility for those we are providing care for.

AW: What do you do outside of work to make you the best version of yourself as a leader? Because I know you work long hours and it's important and daunting work. What do you do for yourself so that you can show up and help serve your team to the best of your abilities?

DM: Well, I went to the Giants-Dolphins game with my boys this weekend. One's in college, and one's out of college - that was a lot of fun. I do some volunteer work too and fortunately, my wife and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of getting our kids in the same orientation. So oftentimes when I ask my kids what are you doing this weekend? They're doing something as part of a school group or part of a team, or they're going out to do volunteer service that their respective schools have organized. We're really proud of that. I am sure when I was that age and at the University of Virginia, I might have been a little more footloose than some of the kids today. But I think it's fantastic that social responsibility is much more acute today than it was perhaps a generation ago. I think that’s pretty neat.