Croft Edwards is a Master Certified Coach, President of CROFT + Company, and the genesis behind LeadershipFlow, the study of how to help individuals and organizations be at their best.
He has been helping leaders and their teams find their Flow since 2001 in a variety of fields: mining, refining, government agencies, manufacturing, small businesses, and healthcare.
Two miles down in a mine or up on the 8th floor, Croft coaches wherever there are leaders who desire a different result.
Connect with Croft on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- About LeadershipFlow
- LeadershipFlow in individuals and organizations
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:02] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Coach the Coach radio brought to you by the Business RadioX Ambassador Program, the no cost business development strategy for coaches who want to spend more time serving local business clients and less time selling them. Go to brxambassador.com To learn more. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:33] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Coach the Coach Radio, and this is going to be a good one. You better get your pencil and paper out because you’re going to be taking a lot of notes. You’re going to learn some really good stuff from our guest today. Croft Edwards with CROFT and Company. Welcome.
Croft Edwards: [00:00:49] Hey, Lee, great to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:50] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us about Crofton Company.
Croft Edwards: [00:00:54] So we are a leadership development firm, which we help organizations create high performing leaders and do do that mainly through a lot of coaching, both one on one and a lot specifically on the embodiment of coaching and what it means to be a leader.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:10] So what’s your backstory? How did you get involved in coaching?
Croft Edwards: [00:01:14] A long story, but I can tell it short, when I was eight years old, I read Omar Bradley, the World War Two generals autobiography, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but it just peaked in me. A fundamental question I’ve been exploring ever since, which is why was he or any leader, for that matter, successful? So what does it mean to be a leader and then how do you do that? And then that led me through a career both in the Active and Reserve Army and then for the last 20 plus years, coaching leaders in organizations.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:48] So now when you were in the military, how did you kind of assess the leadership that you were able to kind of experience?
Croft Edwards: [00:01:58] Well, I’d like to think that I I was a great leader, but I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t. And so what I what I learned was leaders all kind of face the same challenge, which is we’re human beings. And leadership is an art. My assessment is really is it’s not something that just happens. Yeah, there are some people that maybe are better at it, but it’s it’s how do I how do I ultimately create a situation where other people are inspired and motivated to take actions that align with what we’re trying to do as an organization?
Lee Kantor: [00:02:33] Well, that brings up an interesting point. Like at the end of the day, what is a measure of successful leadership in your mind?
Croft Edwards: [00:02:43] Oh, wow, that’s a great question. I mean, ultimately, I think at the end of it, the results are there, but it’s results which take care of what individuals and the organization and the leader care about. So I would make the assessment a distinction we’re using. Leadership is. Management is the authority granted to the individual by the organization? Leadership is the authority granted to an individual by their followers. So if we’re going to have success ie the follower have to get my needs taken care of. The organization needs their needs taken care of and as does the leader, so we can get results. But if it’s at some cost, then it’s not likely going to be effective leadership.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:29] And how have you seen it evolve? Because back in the day, you know, it was just get the job done, make it happen and don’t make any excuses kind of world. And in today’s world, that seems a little more gray than that. Everybody’s individual needs and cares are now kind of in play, whereas maybe a while ago that wasn’t as important to leadership. How have you seen that transition occurring? And and I’m sure you believe there’s room for improvement.
Croft Edwards: [00:04:03] Well, I think one of the things I’ve and I actually I have an issue kind of with what’s what’s going on right now is there’s kind of a mindset that, oh, we have to the employee has to come first and the individual has to come first. And don’t get me wrong. Those needs are important, but those needs can’t circumvent or be more powerful than the needs of the organization. Because ultimately, organizations exist to fulfill a promise that individuals can’t do by themselves. So whether we’re an airline or the military or a family, the organizational need. The reason there’s an organization is because there is something bigger that individuals can’t do themselves. So individual needs are important, but they can’t be more important than the outcome for the organization.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:58] Well, the individual needs might be important for that individual, but they just might not be the right fit for the organization. Yes.
Croft Edwards: [00:05:06] Right. Yeah. And so I see this a lot in organizations where it’s the the old adage that the inmates are running the asylum. And real leadership says, no, no, we have a we have a bigger care and we’re going to we’re going to all work together to get everybody’s care taken care of, but they’re going to be times when your care can’t be the primary care. Because for the organization to exist, right, there are times when we’re going to have to work late. But where it becomes an issue is if we have to work late every night of the week, then the organization’s care is outweighing the individual care, right? So if the individual care isn’t, is it becomes the issue that it doesn’t take care of organizational care.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:51] Right. You can’t kind of twist yourself in a pretzel to accommodate a handful of people. They might have to kind of leave the organization and kind of go their own way in order for the organization to kind of make it.
Croft Edwards: [00:06:06] Yeah. And then what ends up happening? My assessment is when we get high performing organization, there’s there’s and I don’t like the word balance because it implies that both sides are equal. There’s a place where there’s harmony to where. All of the needs, the three cares, the organization, the leader and the individuals cares are being taken care of to an extent which will sustain and allow the organization, the individual and the leader to thrive.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:34] It’s an interesting concept that you bring up, is this something that you’ve kind of come upon yourself or is this influenced by? It’s obviously influenced by other kind of education and learning or maybe mentors that you’ve had in the past, but is this kind of the methodology of the craft and company organization?
Croft Edwards: [00:06:52] Well, I am very proud to say I’m part of a historical discourse and my background in training is in three domains, which are all kind of one, which is the ontological, an ontology study being here. And so ontological coaching, generative coaching, which is fundamentally ontological coaching in the context of organizations. And then I do a lot of semantic work. So I am I am part of a lineage and a discourse around how do we that we fundamentally look at the phenomenon of what it means to be a human being? And then how do we max? Surmise the human performance
Lee Kantor: [00:07:30] And then is that is you call it leadership flow. Is that kind of at the heart of this?
Croft Edwards: [00:07:36] So my methodology of leadership flow is the idea that that flow is the state of ultimate performance. So you see flow in places like elite athletes or. And everybody knows flow. It’s that moment in our lives where time stands, still stands. Still, we’re so in the moment that we become the task. This is the research by a man named me sent me, I and who. And actually just passed away last week, so a shout out to Chuck sent me high because he really was the godfather of this, but it looked at the idea of flow is how do we get ultimate performance? And then my realization was ultimately the role of a leader is to tap flow. Because if I can tap flow, if I can bring out the greatness in each individual on my team and the greatness of my team, a lot of the stuff will fall by the wayside because we’ll actually create what we want to create.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:32] Now, is it possible to kind of create flow on demand or is this something that is just all the stars have to align in order for flow to occur?
Croft Edwards: [00:08:42] Great question. Yes, and no kind of thing. So there is what’s called the flow cycle. And so for if you think about this pick something you love, there is a place where there is a challenge that is above where we’re at. So. So an example when a kid, for instance, is learning how to ride a bike, there’s a point where the writing of the bike is too big of a challenge. But at some point, the challenge gets within reach. So we have this challenge or struggle. And then there’s a place where we release and we just kind of let go and we get into the moment we have flow. And then flow is not a continuous state, it’s not something we’re always in, because in that moment, our body is functioning in its ultimate performance. All the chemicals in our body are lining up, et cetera. But at some point that’s we have to stop. And so there’s the relaxation and then recovery phase of flow that we have to go through. So we can’t just create flow and anybody that’s a if you’ve done anything, if you’ve done writing, writers will tell you they get a writer’s block, right? They just can’t find it. And then something happens and then they release and oh, the sentence just came along or songwriters or elite athletes. So it’s not something we can just create. But if we are willing to get into the act, it’s a lot of times it’s just being a practice that will create the flow.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:09] So now how do you kind of teach this in your in your training and your coaching, like, is this something that can be taught that it’s OK, you do these 14 things and then you can be in flow? Is it is it a checklist type thing or is it a mindset thing?
Croft Edwards: [00:10:28] It’s it’s it’s not so much mindset. It’s it’s embodied practice. So think about anything you’re good at, and if you’re good at it, you embody it. Well, leadership is an embodied practice, so a lot of what we do and we actually go to organizations. We have what we call leadership flow dojos and traditional going in organization, and I’m going to stand at the front of the room for eight hours and I’m going to lecture to you and we’re going to do some exercises. What we actually do is we start having conversations and as we do that, we start to introduce new distinctions and we practice literally. How are you standing when you’re having a conversation or how do you experience a mood of openness, a body of openness? And the only way you can get good at something like that is you have you have to practice. So we actually when we go into an organization, a lot of what we do is we just practice having the new conversations. And then my role or one of my team members role is to facilitate and train and teach people how to actually have those conversations.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:32] And so this is not just an intellectual pursuit, this is not something you read and then get. This is also there’s a physicality to this the way you’re standing, breathing, feeling, you know your hand.
Croft Edwards: [00:11:46] Yeah, so let’s say I’ll give you a quick example, let’s see you and I needed to get good at having really open and honest conversations. Well, the only way we would actually do that is to actually have really good and open, honest conversation, so the way we might practice that is if you and I were standing in a room is we might stand literally stand face to face and we would be about less than an arm’s length away. And as we’re standing there, and if you can imagine this is you and I standing there, our bodies make it very uncomfortable. Right, because you and I are standing there looking each other in the eye, face to face, which for many people, it’s like, whoa, that’s way too intimate. Yeah. And if I don’t practice that, how can I have a conversation with another human being in that? So we literally have to get into our bodies and practice the conversations because I make the declaration that the body is the holy grail of leadership because if I can be in my body, be comfortable in my body, say having that difficult conversation now, I can have that conversation. But I can’t go to a class and just have somebody say, have that conversation and then not practice it because think of anything you’re good at. And if you’re really good at it, you’ve the one thing I can guarantee you’ve done is you’ve practiced.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:07] Now in sports, people can practice on their own like somebody. Steph Curry could practice shooting the ball by himself. Is there an exercise that I can do to get into this flow state by myself, or does it always require others because I’m always leading others? But I guess I have to lead myself at some point as well?
Croft Edwards: [00:13:27] Yeah, I make the assessment. The most difficult person you ever have to lead is yourself. So, yeah, there’s many practices and we call them things like centering meditation, yoga, martial arts. If you take, for instance, a martial art, the fundamental practice in martial art is we learn to master our body by mastering our mind, and we learn to master our mind by mastering our body. So for instance, if if you’ve ever met somebody that is very high level in their learning and practice with martial arts, they are also probably very likely very calm. Very centered. Because as they practice, they’ve learned to show up. And be in a place where they’re open to many different conversations. So, yeah, you can practice this. Sometimes I’ll coach people that, for instance, their practice that we they sometimes come up with maybe something like improv comedy. Because improv comedy is about getting together with a group of people being in a sense by yourself and being connected with other human beings. And lots of different practices.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:39] So like, if you were to implement something like that, that’s something that it kind of stretches the business person because that’s typically outside their scope of what they do on a regular basis. But it’s teaching kind of the same skills of active listening, you know, giving the floor to the other people and holding other people up rather than just, you know, shining it on yourself.
Croft Edwards: [00:15:03] Yeah. Improv comedy is great. One of the fundamental distinctions, if not the fundamental distinction in improv comedy, is the concept of yes. And so whatever you say, I say yes to and I add to it. So now we’re much more collaborative than I want to go off this direction and just be about me. No, I have to work with you and meet you where you want right?
Lee Kantor: [00:15:27] And I have to listen to you because I can’t just force fit my next thought into the conversation because I have to build on yours. So my whatever’s going on in my mind is secondary to whatever you’re saying.
Croft Edwards: [00:15:39] Yes, and from a flow perspective, there’s a concept called Group Flow, where where you see this, a jazz band is a great example of group flow or a band. I’m a big Beatles geek, but if you if you listen to a band like The Beatles when they were doing what they do, it’s that whole jamming and riffing and just kind of they’re in sync together. And the only way they do that is they in a sense, surrendered to the collective and just see where it goes.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:10] Now is this type of coaching. Do you work primarily with like kind of creative organizations or does this can this work in manufacturing? Can this work in any type of business? Is it kind of industry agnostic or does it work better in kind of?
Croft Edwards: [00:16:26] Well, when people ask, what is my typical client? I say it’s a human being trying to coordinate action with other human beings in the context of an organization. So it doesn’t matter the organization because we’re all fundamentally doing the same thing. So I have clients in mining refining. I just did a three year gig at a medical school. Right now, I’m coaching very. Senior leaders in the U.S. military is an example. So it doesn’t matter where the actual. The only thing that’s the limit is how open the individual is. Because if I show up as an individual and say, look, I’ve got the answers, I don’t have anything to learn here. I can’t help him as a coach.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:11] Now are you finding coaching becoming just part of the DNA of more and more organizations? And they’re kind of equipping all of the the people on the team with some sort of coaching or because historically it’s been just for a handful of, you know, the higher highest performers or upper echelon.
Croft Edwards: [00:17:31] Yeah, my my assessment is it’s becoming more commonplace. The one downside, though, is it’s also becoming a way so that I, as a leader can sleep at night so I can go, Oh, you know, I’ve got my people, they’ve got coaches. But it’s not a cure all, and if I send coaches in to solve problems that won’t actually solve the problem, it will perpetuate it because really when when I see coaching work, it’s because the senior leader is the most coachable person and they’re willing to say, Look, I’m going to challenge everybody on my team and I’m going to set the example, I’m going to be vulnerable myself. So for instance, when we do leadership flow dojos, if the if the leader isn’t in the room, I kind of have to tell them, I can’t get you the result you’re going to probably want because you have to be the change you want to see.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:26] And it becomes a it has to become kind of part of the company culture for it to be effective.
Croft Edwards: [00:18:33] Yeah, yeah. And you see if you look at high performing organizations, learning and development as part of my background is obviously as army. If you look at it, a typical 20 year lieutenant colonel in the United States Army while enduring those 20 years, probably four years or so of that time has been spent in school learning. Right, so high performing organizations, learning is a part of it. And when you have that learning, you can’t just delegate it to somebody and say, Here you teach my people what it means to be a leader. You have to have the leaders of the organization teaching people. So, you know, when I was a young lieutenant, I was being taught by captains. When I was a captain, I was being taught by majors and lieutenant colonels. Lieutenant colonels are taught by colonels. If I’m a taking battalion command of the United States Army, I get to go to a command course where I get to meet the four star generals in the army, and they’re going to tell me, here’s what I need from you as a leader. So it’s got to be the senior leader of the organization having the conversations right.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:44] You can’t abdicate this. This is something that it has to kind of you have to lean into this in order for it to really be effective. Otherwise you’re just kind of checking a box that you think you’re doing something, but it’s not going to be as effective.
Croft Edwards: [00:19:57] Yeah, if a leader says, fix my people, I know I know where the breakdown is, because what they’re basically saying is I don’t know what to do. And so using my answers I can I can start on that, but I can’t actually do that. You’re the person that needs the coach.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:13] Now, what is the kind of symptoms that an organization is having where they might be kind of a little? Uh, I don’t want to say off kilter, but maybe they’re not maximizing all of their people.
Croft Edwards: [00:20:28] The simple way we look at it is as a leader, are you dissatisfied? And then is your team performing at the level you want to be, and if not, then then you have a leadership issue? But it’s easy to blame, well, you know, we can’t get good people. That’s the leadership issue. Well, you know, times are tough. That’s a leadership issue. So the way to look is as a leader, if you’re not getting the results, then actually I know where the breakdown is, you’re not showing up as a leader that’s creating those results.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:00] So you think that leaders are in control of a lot more than maybe they want to admit?
Croft Edwards: [00:21:08] Yes, and I wouldn’t I wouldn’t use the word control because it’s to me that’s more of a machine type thing. But if you look at the idea of leadership. It’s the leader that says, wait, wait, here’s a different future. When people say, Oh, I want to be a part of that future, so when we actually when leaders try to control it, it’s more of a management thing. All right. Everybody is going to go to this leadership development class. So we get everybody through and we go, look at that, we got everybody through, but we never say, Well, wait a second, did we actually get any new behaviors? Right, so the leader or the leader determines which conversation, so there’s a law in computer programing called Conway’s Law, which basically says if I put a team together to design computer software and they’re right, real, loose and kind of fired by the seat of their pants, the software they design will be the same way. So I have what I call Croft’s law, which is the same thing if I want to see how an organization performs. All I have to do is go to the senior leadership team. Because the behaviors I see in that room will be the behaviors I see in some form out in the organization.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:19] Now is there any advice you can share right now, something that’s low hanging fruit for a leader to kind of just up their game a little bit today?
Croft Edwards: [00:22:30] Yeah. The most difficult person you ever have to lead yourself. So your fundamental practice as a leader is how do I get me out of the way? And the more I get me out of the way, then I can start having the conversations I need to have with my team, with the individuals, with whomever, but mostly leaders, what happens when the event happens? I get I’m on that leader. I get triggered and now I’m dealing with my emotions and I’m in my moods or my whatever. Instead of going, Oh, the event happened, and here’s how I choose to go around it.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:06] Well, it’s a it’s an amazing story. Crofton, we it’s just fantastic the way that you’re dealing with this and congratulations on all the success to get. Buy in from the, you know, diverse group of people that you’re working with is amazing. And I think that this is something that a lot of folks should be thinking about. And I don’t think a lot of folks are this level of personal accountability and the amount of impact that a person can have if they’re kind of taught some of these type kind of tools and and methodology, I think it could be kind of game changing. Is there a story you can share about maybe a success story that maybe somebody came to you and they had a problem? You don’t have to name the company but just share what was the challenge and how you were able to help them take their organization to a new level.
Croft Edwards: [00:23:59] I could think of hundreds of stories, but I think the one one of my clients, one of my favorite clients, the it was the senior leader who and this sounds a little bit corny, but he led the way on everything. So when he would get the team together, he was the one that was in the conversations and he demanded the conversations from his team, which then that became the practice. And so the organization and that’s where I really learned this idea that it really organizational change is how much is the leader willing to change? And so that’s I saw that time and time again, the more the leader stepped up and became the change, the more the organization changed.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:47] And then that had a big impact on the organization moving forward once that happened.
Croft Edwards: [00:24:53] Very much so, and even well, and I could even make the point that even the leaders, it didn’t change then that influence the future of the organization because the organization kept doing what they were still doing. So it’s always the leader, by definition, I mean, whether you’re not getting into the politics, but the past two presidents we’ve had have had very different ways of being, and they both have created very different futures. Well, if somebody wants to write,
Lee Kantor: [00:25:21] If somebody wants to learn more about your practice and get on your calendar, what is the website?
Croft Edwards: [00:25:30] It’s Croft and Co. The great thing about having a name like Croft is there are not many of us. No other croft Edwards that I know of, except for my great grandfather who’s no longer with us. So if you Google Croft Edwards, you’ll find me Twitter, my LinkedIn or my web page.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:49] And that’s Croft Croft and Co..
Croft Edwards: [00:25:54] Yeah, yep. Three words croft and company.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:58] Well, thank you again for sharing your story. You’re doing important work, and we appreciate you.
Croft Edwards: [00:26:02] Thank you, Lee. Great to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:26:04] All right, this is Lee Kantor, we’ll see you all next time on Coach the Coach radio.