Driving Disruption: Casie Hall Of Three Oaks Behavioral Health & Wellness On The Innovative Approaches They Are Taking To Disrupt Their Industries

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Strategic Irreverence: We are willing to question ourselves, our leaders, and the systems at large (inside and outside our organization). Ways that are generally and widely accepted but do not align with core values or our mission are challenged. We believe in thoroughly evaluating something before we give it our respect.

In an age where industries evolve at lightning speed, there exists a special breed of C-suite executives who are not just navigating the changes, but driving them. These are the pioneers who think outside the box, championing novel strategies that shatter the status quo and set new industry standards. Their approach fosters innovation, spurs growth, and leads to disruptive change that redefines their sectors. In this interview series, we are talking to disruptive C-suite executives to share their experiences, insights, and the secrets behind the innovative approaches they are taking to disrupt their industries. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Casie Hall.

Casie Hall (she/her) is the Owner, Founder, and Chief Visionary Officer (CVO) of Three Oaks Behavioral Health & Wellness. Casie earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of California at Davis and her Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling & Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and a Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist. Casie is intensively trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and EMDR.

As CVO, her work focuses on building and maintaining an operating system within Three Oaks that upholds the practice’s mission and core values. This effort is centered around ensuring that clinicians are supported, valued, and cared for.

Casie works closely with the operations, leadership, and supervision teams to ensure the organization’s Core Values are at the forefront of all daily interactions. By rooting decision-making and clinical practice in core values, team members at Three Oaks experience health, wellness, nourishment, and support in the workplace. This leads to truly extraordinary client care.

Leadership through stewardship is a central theme at Three Oaks.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about disruption, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I have known from a very young age that I wanted to be a “helper.” I come from a long line of “helpers”: teachers, doctors, nurses, military service men and women, and community leaders. As a military brat, I had the extraordinary opportunity to meet and live around people from all walks of life. These experiences taught me that people are people; we are unique, complicated, and generally good. We struggle, need help, make questionable choices, and typically want better for ourselves and our families. Universal themes and needs exist. Using what we have to help others just makes sense to me.

Right out of undergrad, I joined Teach For America and had the pleasure of teaching 8th-grade English in Warren County, North Carolina. There, I realized my natural passion is supporting the WHOLE person. I saw the needs my students had beyond the classroom, and this inspired me to return to graduate school and pursue my licensure as a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist.

After completing my master’s, I worked at a community-based outpatient mental health clinic. There, I was affirmed in my love and passion for this work. At the same time, I watched myself and my colleagues burn out. We were overworked, undervalued, and under resourced — things familiar to any public school teacher or community-based clinician. I watched people who were brilliant clinicians leave the field because they couldn’t sustain their passion and themselves because of the structures and systems in place at the organizational level. I wanted things to be different and figured I would give it a shot. I opened Three Oaks Behavioral Health & Wellness as a private practice in 2017. I started welcoming clinicians to the practice in early 2018 with the mission of providing a workplace that allows clinicians to practice their calling while being supported and nourished by their workplace. We grew quickly, and within a couple of years, my role shifted to a full-time focus on the team and the organization. We are now a thriving team of 146 clinicians!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our team truly is our center in actions and words.

We are boldly committed to doing the right thing and allowing each micro core value decision to build the organization into what it is and will become.

We are overt in our mission of preserving clinicians and giving them a safe workplace to grow, learn, and explore. This is evidenced by our operating systems and how we design and adopt workflows/processes/procedures. We are a bit more covert in how we support individual team members…. A way of living I learned young is to volunteer the time, donate the money, help the person pick up their books, support the neighbor, and let that be it. No need to call attention, post a picture, or exploit the “good deed” for a marketing campaign. From my vantage point, when I look at a cross-section of our team, I know how our organization has listened to and met the unique needs of our many team members. This is something I am tremendously proud of and what I believe sets our organization apart.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I smile thinking of all my early elementary school report cards, dating back to Pre-K, where teachers would write that I was a “natural born leader” quickly followed by some version of “talks too much.” I suppose both of those things may still be true. 😉

Confident Humility: It is critical to be confident in your ability to contribute something to the people and spaces around you while remaining vividly aware of your limitations and gaps in knowledge. We stand to learn something from everyone around us if we approach each interaction with openness and curiosity. The gas needed to drive meaningful disruption is others’ lived experiences combined with our own. Actual change and disruption happen when people decenter themselves to center a collaborative instead.

Candidness: Being truthful, straightforward, honest, and sincere allows meaningful safety to be cultivated. When someone feels safe, they become curious, ask the hard questions, challenge former ways of thinking, and take risks! Leaders on our team don’t hide thoughts, feelings, or intentions. They lead openly and model down-to-earth and relatable confidence. We are human, journeying through life together, and life is HARD! So, say the thing, cut through the crap. Be honest. So much time and energy is saved by connecting authentically with the people around you, creating incredible synergy within an organization.

Advocacy: Using what you have to help others is central to an altruistic human existence and a core value that informs how I live my life and lead my organization. Advocacy is about adding to voices doing good, meaningful work to make life better for something or someone else. Advocacy is about taking steps to make a difference, to disrupt. To stand for something. To say the hard thing and be willing to shoulder whatever comes next.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

Decisions are always challenging because we pressure ourselves to find and make the “right” one.

The very concept of making the “right” decision is a bit of a farce.

We never really know how something will turn out until we try it, after all.

Decisions in leadership are about looking at, feeling, noticing, and observing ALL the puzzle pieces to make the “most helpful strategic choice.”

Decisions are also about radical acceptance. Good leaders are willing to observe and accept what is in front of them and make do with that specific combination of considerations. This can be very challenging, especially when certain realities can feel limiting and, sometimes, in direct opposition to a company’s mission.

For us, making decisions felt much more complicated before we had explicit, written core values. There was always a general moral compass guiding our work. However, before formally adopting our company’s core values, each decision felt very individual and separate from others. This was disjointed and unorganized. Now, core values anchor our choices and allow multiple people to be “decision makers” and do so with incredible consistency by being aligned with the same mission. This evolution has allowed our organization to grow exponentially and well.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. In the context of a business, what exactly is “Disruption”?

Disruption is how we grow, change, and evolve and requires engaging and embracing change.

It means openly and honestly observing how things are, deciding they need to be better, and being willing to wonder how they could be.

Disruption is being inspired by the space between “are” and “could be” and seeing nothing but potential.

It is about acknowledging what has come before us, preserving what speaks to current needs and core values, and then thanking and moving on from the rest.

How do you perceive the role of ‘disruption’ within your industry, and how have you personally embraced it? Is it a necessity, a strategy, or something else entirely in your view?

Since the beginning of time, humans have sought continuous improvement. We are innately designed to pursue progress and change. Our brains are primed to notice and use new information to inform future decisions. All that to say, if we are being HUMAN, we are EVOLVING. With any amount of evolution, there will be disruption of current systems and ways of doing and being.

It has long been known that human service industries such as mental health, social work, healthcare, and teaching shoulder incredibly high levels of burnout for those professionals. The current system of recruiting and employing a person who is deeply passionate about their work, bringing them into systems that leverage that passion and set people up to blow past any semblance of personal boundaries for the sake of being a “good [insert job title here]” is a horrifying misuse of employer and industry power.

In short, disruption in all human service industries is a necessity and a moral obligation.

What lessons have you learned from challenging conventional wisdom, and how have those lessons shaped your leadership style?

Challenging conventional wisdom is hard and active work!

It’s a bit like going on a hike with a group of people and being the only one to question the manicured path.

“Why is this the path?” “What’s over there?” “I wonder what is that way?” “We need something different, new, better, more well-suited for this group.”

After a while of wondering and observing, you say, “Hey, team, let’s go this way. Let’s look for and build something better.”

Not everyone in the group will see you as the visionary disruptor you are. Some may just see you as downright annoying and naive. “Who is this bozo looking for a new path?!”

Cheers, it’s us! The founders and disruptors. We are a refined and acquired taste.

If you’re a people pleaser and find yourself challenging conventional wisdom, get ready for the ride of your life! You’re about to grow and evolve in some magnificent ways!

Something to remember about hiking and trails (and just about everything else) — the more you walk a path, the more established and accessible it becomes… for everyone!

Every path there is, once was nothing but dense forest, until someone started carving a way through.

Disruptive ideas often meet resistance. Could you describe a time when you faced significant pushback for a disruptive idea? How did you navigate the opposition, and what advice would you give to others in a similar situation?

If your goal is to be disruptive, resistance is simply a sign that YOU’RE DOING IT! Keep. Going.

We need skeptics, people who challenge us and who push back on our ideas.

The concept of anti-fragility is compelling here. If a tree sprouts and grows but never experiences wind, when it reaches a certain height, no matter how magnificent it seems, it will simply tip over and won’t be able to manage its weight with even the slightest breeze.

To grow strong, a tree needs consistent and variable wind to offer opportunities to develop strong roots. Those roots will hold steady and continue to deepen as the tree grows and grows and grows. Thanks to the wind and resistance, it won’t topple over because it will have built a root system as strong as it needs.

Pushback is wind. Resistance is wind. Skepticism is wind.

Welcome it and thank it for growing your roots strong!

What are your “Five Innovative Approaches We Are Using To Disrupt Our Industry”?

1 . Continuous Improvement: We focus on the day-to-day micro-interactions, ensuring they are aligned with core values and our mission. If we successfully do that, we will inevitably arrive at whatever destination our organization is meant to reach. Expecting continuous improvement encourages our team to stay in a “growth” mindset, open to giving and receiving regular feedback. It also allows us to stay flexible to new and updated information that may lead to necessary workflow shifts.

2 . Strategic Irreverence: We are willing to question ourselves, our leaders, and the systems at large (inside and outside our organization). Ways that are generally and widely accepted but do not align with core values or our mission are challenged. We believe in thoroughly evaluating something before we give it our respect.

3 . Bottom-up as a rule, not an exception: Our leadership team knows one of their most important and noble responsibilities is representing their teams well and accurately. Our organization makes every major decision by soliciting input from each team member. We strive for a flat hierarchy when it comes to decision-making. Leaders recognize it requires vulnerability and trust for someone to believe they will be represented well, and regard that charge with the utmost respect.

4 . “Whole-Person” Quality Assurance: Our measures of “success,” “performance,” and “fit” are not a single metric or key performance indicator. True quality assurance is measured using a variety of qualitative and quantitative standards that allow our team to be human first and fully considered in the many ways they contribute to their team(s).

5 . Radical Acceptance as a Business Strategy: Discernment is vital. Knowing when to push on something and when to radically accept it as something currently unchangeable allows an organization to move and grow despite barriers that can’t be influenced (yet!). We don’t get bogged down in things we can’t control (I’m looking at YOU, private insurance companies!), and we also don’t stop moving towards change. We find the “bright spot,” what’s working, and we make strategic decisions to recreate and replicate that. As we gain momentum, we gain influence and can press on things previously thought to be unmovable with more compelling force.

Looking back at your career, in what ways has being disruptive defined or redefined your path? What surprises have you encountered along the way?

True disruption comes when you discover and know your why, and what you’re advocating and fighting for (or against!). Over time, you refine the why and become more focused and driven toward decisions that stand to create the most meaningful impact. I loved being a therapist and could see my impact in client work. As time passed and I paid attention non-judgmentally, I could see that a greater, more meaningful impact would be had if I shifted my focus to growing an organization where other people could thrive in their clinical careers. Impact multiplied.

Being disruptive in a new space can be isolating. Building a solid community and surrounding myself with people who have strengths where I have weaknesses, who can be the wind– challenge, push, ask hard questions, poke holes, offer ideas, and contribute to vision is powerful and of great importance.

Beyond professional accomplishments, how has embracing disruption affected you on a personal level?

Embracing disruption has allowed me to live more. As an action. I worry less and am not so attached to outcomes or a certain way of life unfolding. I am bold in my decisions so long as they are aligned with how I want to live. I mess up and apologize. I am raising four fantastic, spunky, creative children and demonstrating to them what a growth mindset looks like in daily living. We have a silly saying we reference whenever we make a mistake — “fumble forward.” This acknowledges the nature of life and living it. Make the mistake, learn from it, and press on with new knowledge and wisdom. Share and use what you have to help others. Be radical.

In your role as a C-suite leader, driving innovation and embracing disruption, what thoughts or concerns keep you awake at night? How do these reflections guide your decisions and leadership?

Growing up, I played soccer. At the perfectly vulnerable age of 12, I had the distinct pleasure of being on a team that did A LOT of losing. Most accurately, we exclusively lost. Never won a game. Ever. I got SO upset and activated at every loss. I was desperate to influence change — to MAKE us win. I would be furious on car rides home. My dad managed to sneak in some wisdom between my bouts of outrage. He helped me recognize that I was playing a team sport. Would I ever expect to win a game of 11 v. 11 soccer by myself? Of course not! Each person on a team has their 100% effort for which they are solely responsible. If I simply stay in charge of my 100% and ensure it makes it to every game, I can release the outcome. It doesn’t matter. We will win together or lose together. Period.

As a C-Suite leader, I have strategically built an organization that is a team. We all know we are a part of something larger than ourselves and rest in our confidence in each other. This allows all of us to sleep at night. And we need to because, without sleep, we most certainly won’t be able to contribute our 100% to the mission. 😉

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

Something that combines the worlds of mental health and teaching… there is some incredible crossover there, and I suspect we haven’t quite figured out how to embrace it. There are more than a handful of former teachers who become therapists, even on our team at Three Oak. There is this similarity in care between teachers and clinicians — often, their work is a calling, a way they define themselves in the world. They care deeply about whole people and believe in the difference that touching one life can make. I would love to figure out how we can combine resources and knowledge to affect greater change while mitigating the burnout associated with trying to make that lift in silos. Stay tuned 😉

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Learn more about Three Oaks and what we do to disrupt our industry at threeoaksbehavioralhealth.com.

We are also on Instagram at @threeoaksbehavioralhealth

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Thanks so much. This was an enjoyable experience. Please reach out if you have any additional questions or needs. I appreciate you.

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.