Episode 150 – Management Mess to Leadership Success with Scott J Miller

Episode #150
Original Air Date: 04.04.2022

45 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Scott J. Miller

How can you become a leader that people want to follow?
In our commemorative 150th podcast episode, Author Scott J. Miller has a spirited conversation with us about how to change the way you manage yourself, lead others, and achieve a high level of engagement with your project team. A Senior Advisor with FranklinCovey, Scott is not afraid to share his relatable leadership messes. Listen in as we examine a few of the leadership challenges Scott offers in his book: Management Mess to Leadership Success.

Our first leadership challenge is Demonstrate Humility, and Scott explains how humility is born out of confidence. Another challenge we explore is Listen First. Too often, we listen with the intent to respond, not with the intent to understand. Conflict on projects is often a result of unfulfilled expectations. Scott shares the leadership challenge: Declare Your Intent, as a strategy to set a foundation of understanding and clarity of expectations. Other helpful challenges we delve into are Carry Your Own Weather, Make Time for Relationships, and Allow Others to Be Smart. Scott stresses the importance of self-reflection and urges that it’s never too late to fix our mess and develop our own leadership success.

Capping a 25-year career where he served as a chief marketing officer and executive vice president of business development, Scott Jeffrey Miller currently serves as FranklinCovey’s senior advisor on thought leadership, leading the strategy and development of the firm’s speaker’s bureau, as well as the publication of podcasts, webcasts, and bestselling books. Scott also hosts On Leadership with Scott Miller, the world’s largest and fastest-growing leadership podcast, reaching more than six million people weekly. In addition, Scott authors a leadership column for Inc.com and is the bestselling author of the Mess to Success series.

Learn More About Our Course by Jennifer Kahnweiler: QUIET INFLUENCE: THE NEW WAVE OF LEADERSHIP

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"People are not an organization’s most valuable asset.  People are not a project’s most valuable asset.  Not true.  It’s total bunk.  People are not a company or division’s or platform’s or a project’s most valuable asset.  It’s the relationships between those people.  That is every project, every organization’s most valuable asset." 

- Scott J Miller

"My challenge, like perhaps some of your listeners, is when I move that efficiency paradigm into my relationships with others. Because you cannot be efficient with people. You can only be effective."

- Scott J Miller

Share With Others

The podcast by project manager for project managers. How can you become a leader that people want to follow? Author Scott J. Miller, author of Management Mess to Leadership Success, has a spirited conversation with us about how to change the way you manage yourself, lead others, and achieve a high level of engagement with your project team. It’s never too late to fix our mess and develop leadership success.

Table of Contents

00:45 … 150th Episode Velociteach Discount Offer
03:33 … Background to the Book
06:23 … Demonstrate Humility
11:10 … Listen First
18:14 … When Listening Sucks
21:25 … Declare Your Intent
25:20 … Carry Your Own Weather
29:49 … Making Time for Relationships
37:11 … Allow Others to be Smart
40:55 … Self-Assessing
42:51 … Contact Scott
44:15 … Closing

SCOTT MILLER:  People are not an organization’s most valuable asset.  People are not a project’s most valuable asset.  Not true.  It’s total bunk.  People are not a company or division’s or platform’s or a project’s most valuable asset.  It’s the relationships between those people.  That is every project, every organization’s most valuable asset. 

WENDY GROUNDS:  You’re listening to Manage This.  My name is Wendy Grounds, and with me in the studio is Bill Yates.  This podcast is about project management.  We call it the podcast by project managers for project managers.

BILL YATES: Wendy, this episode of Manage This marks our 150th episode! Isn’t that amazing!

WENDY GROUNDS: Yes! I’m so excited. We’ve just celebrated our sixth birthday.

150th Episode Velociteach Discount Offer

BILL YATES: Yeah, and now 150 episodes, for Manage This. In honor of this milestone event, Velociteach is offering our podcast listeners an exclusive discount of 20% off. That applies to our live, instructor-led PMP and PMI-ACP exam prep boot camps as well as our self-paced eLearning courses on InSite. This offer will run all week to give our listeners the opportunity to take advantage of this deal.

WENDY GROUNDS: Use the promo code POD150 before midnight EST on Sunday, April 10th to receive this special discount. This offer is only valid on new purchases, public enrollment classes, and individual courses or bundles on InSite. It’s not valid on private group classes or the PDU Passport, our all-access pass to every PDU course online. We hope you’ll take advantage of this offer and celebrate with us, our 150th episode.

BILL YATES:  Absolutely.  We have a platform called InSite that offers mobile learning options, and we partnered with a number of industry experts to create these courses.  And we’ve got the three areas of the talent triangle covered from PMI’s perspective.  So you can just take a look at the different offerings that we have and pick up extra tips and learn how to be a better project manager through that.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Another way to be a better project manager is listening to Scott Miller.  He’s our guest today.  Scott serves as FranklinCovey’s senior advisor on thought leadership, leading the strategy and development of the firm’s speakers bureau, as well as the publication of podcasts, webcasts, and best-selling books.  We’re so excited to talk to Scott.  He actually also has his own podcast called “On Leadership with Scott Miller.”  And he authors a leadership column for Inc.com.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, Scott is going to be a tremendous guest.  We’ve spoken with Kory Kogon before from FranklinCovey, and Kory helped us connect with Scott.  Scott wrote a book called “Management Mess to Leadership Success.”  I mean, how fun is that going to be? 

So one thing I want to point out about the book, it’s one piece that I found really interesting and user friendly was he breaks it into – calls it 30 days, but they’re really 30 mini-chapters.  And we just picked a few of those, and we’re going to go through those with Scott.  In some cases we’ve just got to get him to explain what he means because he’s got some pretty outrageous things that he shares in his book.  So I’ll look forward to digging into that.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yes, what I like is that he writes from personal experience.


WENDY GROUNDS:  He’s quite willing to share where he went wrong.

BILL YATES:  He’s very vulnerable.  I like it.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Hi, Scott.  Welcome to Manage This, and thank you for joining us.

SCOTT MILLER:  Wendy, Bill, thank you for the platform and the spotlight.  Looking forward to today’s conversation.

Background to the Book

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah.  So Bill and I have enjoyed your book, “Management Mess to Leadership Success.”  I think we both got a lot of helpful advice from it.  And we’d like to bring some of that to our audience.  Can you give us a little bit of the why behind why you wrote the book?

SCOTT MILLER:  Well, so I’ve been privileged to have spent my 30-year career in the leadership development industry, working for FranklinCovey, of course founded by the seminal author of the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”  And after thousands of leadership implementations and my own self being a leader of people, I looked around and noticed there weren’t many leadership books that told the truth about what leadership is really like.  A lot of them were very aspirational.  And although I was in the C-suite, they were always sort of the positive side of leadership.

And I actually found leadership really challenging.  I don’t think that everyone should be a leader of people, contrary to a lot of what the leadership industry teaches.  Not everybody should be a commercial airline pilot, not everyone should be an anesthesiologist, not everyone should be a leader of people.  It’s often unrelenting and unrewarding in the short-term.  And I think in many cases organizations promote individual contributors to become leaders of people, and rarely do those competencies correlate.  Often they actually are inversely correlated.

So I wanted to talk truthfully around how hard leadership is and how rewarding it can be.  And so I wrote this book, “Management Mess to Leadership Success” because fundamentally all of us have a mess going on; right?  We’ve all got messes in our lives.  People know what they are.  They’re talking about them.  So as a leader, why not just own your mess?  Because when you own your  mess, you make it safe for others to own their messes.  And then now you’ve got a culture where we’re all vulnerable.  We’re talking about our areas of growth, we’re not licensing bad behavior.  We’re just as leaders teaching through the mistakes we’ve made in the hopes that other people can avoid those metaphorical or in some cases literal pitfalls. 

And that’s why I wrote the book.  Kind of horrifying in certain areas.  I share a lot of my own challenges, and nothing illegal or unethical, sometimes close, but not crossing the line.  But it’s done very well, and I’m delighted to talk about it today with you.

BILL YATES:  I just am laughing thinking about the conversations that you probably had with your editors.  They were like, “Dude, you can’t say that.”  But I’ve got to tell this story.  “Okay, we’ve got to figure out a different way to tell it.”

SCOTT MILLER:  Now, I think – I’ve written many books, and many  more to come.  And I think editors now know, let Scott be Scott, because a certain reader is going to gravitate towards him, and I repel others.  Not everybody is everybody’s, you know, author or reader.  But they did very little editing.  Very little, actually.

BILL YATES:  Wow, that’s impressive.

SCOTT MILLER:  There was a part of the book where I talked genuinely about my message in the hope that others can learn from them.

Demonstrate Humility

BILL YATES:  Exactly.  That’s it.  Yeah.  You definitely own your mess, and you challenge those who read it to own their mess.  Wendy and I both love the approach that you take with Day 1 through Day 30, the 30 different mini topics that you dig into, and how it’s easy to jump from one to the other to look and see what resonates the most with me where I’m at right now, with the challenge that I’m having, trying to be a leader.

And one of the first ones, I mean, right off the bat you hit the word “humility.”  Demonstrate Humility is the first one that we wanted to talk about with you.  You say as leaders we should check our ego and demonstrate humility.  And one thing you said is “I’ve come to learn that humility is born out of confidence.”  So can you explain what you mean by that statement?

SCOTT MILLER:  Sure, Bill.  I like that you are enjoying the structure.  The book is fairly episodic.  I wrote it so that you could follow them in 30 days; but you can skip around, and that’s how I like to read books.  The book is based on 30 challenges to become the leader you would follow.  So after 30 years I looked around through literally millions of 360-degree leadership profiles and so many implementations that I pulled together what I thought were the 30 challenges that most leaders face in their career, formal leaders or informal.  In many ways this book can be a parenting book and a relationship book.

Challenge 1 is Demonstrate Humility.  In case you can’t tell, I’m not a naturally humble person.  This is not my natural go-to strength.  I’ve got other ones, and I run with those, but I’m not a naturally humble person, probably because I probably didn’t define it properly.  I’m a raging extrovert.  I am a loud person.  I like attention.  And I like to win.  Some have called me “ferocious,” hopefully in a good way.  I used to wrongly think that humility was shyness, quiet, weak, timid, retiring.  I ate those people for lunch, metaphorically.  And then I realized, well, I’m a jerk, and that’s not true, that there’s a lot of introverts and shy people that quite frankly could run circles around me with competence and with their intellect.

And so I realized that, as Dr. Covey, our co-founder of FranklinCovey said, humble leaders are more concerned with what is right than being right.  And that was a watershed moment for me, Bill, because I entered most conversations very clear that not only was I right, but that I needed to be right on everything.  It was part of being a really immature leader in my 20s and 30s and, quite frankly, in my 40s.  And so I think humility does flow out of confidence.  Confident leaders don’t have to be the smartest person in the room.  They don’t always have to be the right.

To quote Liz Wiseman, who I think wrote one of the best leadership books of our generation, “Multipliers,” she says that great leaders aren’t the genius in the room, rather they’re the genius-maker of others.  They know what their contribution is.  They’re very comfortable recruiting and retaining people who are smarter and more talented than they are, that they’re the talent magnet.  So I have tried to be more confident because the more confident I am, the more secure I am in what I know and what I don’t know. 

But I’m comfortable saying, “I don’t know what that means.  Teach me about that.  I don’t understand that concept.  Can you rewind and give me four or five sentences on that?”  And that’s helped, I think, my knowledge and my humility.  But perhaps most of all, Bill, I do now try to enter nearly every meeting asking myself, am I more concerned with what is right with a client, the company, the culture, the outcome, versus being right.  And naturally that results in me being a better listener.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, that’s a powerful transition.  Any time I think about this word “humility” in the context of leadership, I think about Jim Collins and his books have had a big impact on me.  His description of Level 5 leaders as they looked at how do people work their way up through these different skill levels as leaders.  And he describes a Level 5 leader as “a powerful mixture of personal humility and indomitable will.”  So it’s somebody who has this force behind them of I know what’s right, I can envision the future, but I’ve got personal humility so I’m able to be quiet in the room.  I’m able to let those who are the experts in the room speak up.  I don’t have to take all the praise.  I want to share it. 

SCOTT MILLER:  Jim is a friend of mine from my years at FranklinCovey.  And I am humiliated every time I read that book and am reminded about his point of a Level 5 leader and humility.  He really helped to debunk my wrong understanding about the role charisma does or doesn’t play in a great leader.  You can still be a charismatic leader and be a great leader.  And you can equally be not a charismatic person with a more tempered personality and be a great leader.  Jim has definitely sophisticated my maturity around leadership.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, so very true.

Listen First

WENDY GROUNDS:  Another chapter that jumped out at us was Chapter 3, Listen First.  So here you ask the question, when was the last time you listened to understand rather than to reply?  And that jumped out at me because most of the time I’m trying think of what am I going to say next, and I’m really not listening to what the person is saying.  So can you tell us a bit more about that?

SCOTT MILLER:  Well, I would love just to listen to you with your South African accent.  It’s the best accent.  As I’d rank like accents in the world, oh, South African’s one.  Like Australia, New Zealand, way down the list.  So you’ve got the best.  But you’re easy to listen to.  But this is another tough one for me.  Some of these challenges actually I’m quite adept at.  But these two, humility and listening, are probably my biggest areas of growth.

I am not a naturally good listener.  I’m a salesperson; right?  I’ve been in sales my entire life.  I am always in influence, persuasion, selling mode.  If you think about it, all of us are.  Some of us just tend to own it more than others.  But like many leaders I spent most of my career, Wendy, being trained to be a competent communicator, whether it be from the stage or on podcasts or radio programs or other things that I do.  I have a sufficient vocabulary, and I’ve been trained with many speech therapists and speech pathologists.

I’m actually a stutterer.  I have a very pronounced stutter that I’ve actually worked on for decades, braces three times, Invisalign, headgear, retainer, and multiple speech coaches.  So I’ve learned to become a better listener because the more I’m listening, the less I’m stuttering.  Different podcast, different conversation.  But for this one it’s tough for me because like most leaders I am a great communicator verbally.  And I like to solve problems.  I like to get to the root cause, peel the onion, solve it.

Of course my job, wrongly I thought in most cases, was just to rush in and save the day.  Different podcast, different topic.  But I have learned, like you said, from Dr. Covey again, the author of “The 7 Habits” book that most of us listen with the intent to respond, not with the intent to understand.  And I don’t think that’s an accusation.  I think it’s a good assessment because I think it also comes from a good place.  We want to help other people.  We want to validate them.  And we want to ask questions and get context.

The challenge is when we’re doing that, we’re operating from our own paradigm, our own field of experience, our own relevance, versus checking all those lenses through which we’re quote “listening” to someone and genuinely stepping into their world.  I’ll tell you, I think speaking is quite selfish.  It serves a purpose, obviously.  No one follows political candidates that are great listeners; right?  You are motivating someone. 

So there’s a balance between obviously listening and speaking.  But I’ll tell you I think it’s a leadership competency.  Just like I think vulnerability is a leadership competency, like reading a P&L.  Especially now when the Great Resignation that I heard renamed yesterday by Ariana Huffington the Great Reevaluation.  I think it’s a great name for it.  Everybody’s reevaluating what they want to do with their life and if they’re willing to work for a jerk boss or not, with a boss who’s the genius in the room.

And so if you want to listen with the intent to understand, you do several things.  You really check how many questions you ask because lots of times the questions you’re asking someone else are about your need to create context.  The fact of the matter is, Wendy, most people will tell you what they need for you to know.  And if they haven’t, you ask yourself, do I need to know that?

Here’s a great example.  I live in Salt Lake City with my wife and three sons.  And there’s a very affluent, prominent woman who lives a block away from us, a big philanthropist in town.  Lovely lady.  Her husband passed away 30 days ago after a long bout with a heart issue.  It wasn’t unexpected, but it was still surprising.  A huge funeral.  Her husband of 30 years passed away.  Two days ago I saw on Facebook her daughter passed away.  30 days.

My next-door neighbor is a state senator.  They’re very good friends.  Last night I said, “Hey, Jim, what happened with your neighbor?”  And he said, “I don’t know.”  And my natural temptation would be to say was it accidental, was it purposeful, was it suicide, was it an illness.  And I thought, no, why does it matter?  Why does it matter to me?  Why do I need to know?  I don’t need to know that.  I don’t need to know all those details.  The old me would have probed and been really inquisitive, found all the details and put together – it doesn’t matter.  If the mom wants me to know that, she’ll tell me the details.  She’ll tell me what I need to know.

So this challenge has really helped me understand what is my motive behind the questions that I ask?  Let people share what they have to share.  And then they’ll invite you typically on how they would like for you to respond or follow up.  This is a difficult challenge for me.  In this time where people are really trying to find their meaning and their purpose of life and what they want to do with their precious years left on this planet, post-pandemic, everybody is in this great reevaluation.

And I do think that, for those of you who are listening that are leaders of people, formally or informally, neighbors, committee members, sons-in-laws, landlords, tenants, whatever your roles are in life, all of us could be better listeners because one of the greatest skills we have is to move off of our agenda, move off our experience and genuinely try to step into the other person’s life, and listen not just with your ears but with your heart and your eyes and kind of whole person.  That sounds like a cliché, but I mean it to be true.  Long answer.

BILL YATES:  That’s so true.  Just thinking of our audience of project managers, and listening is a topic that I feel like we need to readdress, readdress, readdress.  It’s so important as a project manager.  Many times we think, well, the key for me is, in terms of listening, the most important part of the project or the most important phase of the project for me to really be listening is just in the initiating phase.  It’s just when we’re defining the scope of the project that we really need to listen to the customer to make sure I get the scope nailed appropriately. 

And then I’m kind of done listening.  Now I can go do what me and my team are good at.  That is so wrong; right?  We need to continue to get that feedback from the customer and never assume we’ve got everything figured out.  And that’s just talking about the relationship with the customer.  It’s at a whole different level with our team members.

SCOTT MILLER:  Well, you said it beautifully, Bill.  We’re all project managers unofficially.  Some of us are more credentialized and more competent at it than others, clearly.  Which is why it’s your listeners’ expertise.  But you’re exactly right.  You’re listening constantly.  Do they understand?  Do I understand?  And do I have the level of engagement that I think I’ve achieved?  Has the strategy changed at all?  Am I still executing on the strategy we agreed upon four months ago, but all the other things have changed, but no one’s bothered to tell me; right?

So you’re exactly right.  You’d argue that the biggest skill that project managers bring to the table are their relationship skills, the ability to read the room and read the strategy, and are we still going the same direction.  You’re absolutely right.  Listening from the beginning to the end.

When Listening Sucks

BILL YATES:  You know, one of the things that cracked me up, I think Wendy and I talked about it, was you make the comment in the book that listening sucks.  And I get it because it’s painful.  First of all, I have to take myself off the pedestal.  Have to shut up.  Have to stop looking for that opportunity to jump in and show everybody how bright I am; right?  I need to listen to my customer, I need to listen to my team member and understand their perspective, understand what they’re seeing.  But it’s hard.  So what encouragement can you give us to overcome the suck nature of listening?

SCOTT MILLER:  Well, I told you it’s one of my weaknesses; right?  I had forgotten that I’d written that.  I’m glad you brought that back up.  Listening does suck for me.  I’m like you.  I want to talk about what’s going on and what’s next and this and that.  And I like to talk.  But the fact of the matter is you don’t build relationships when you’re talking.  You build them when you’re listening.  When you’re demonstrating empathy, when you’re really caring and kind of wondering, so I wonder why they think that?  What’s going on?  You know, how were they raised differently than me?  What are their motivations?  What are their fears?

Dr. Deborah Tannen is a famous linguistics expert at Georgetown, wrote dozens of books in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s.  And I’ll tell you, here’s a quick tip.  She says that many of us are interrupters.  I don’t know if, Wendy, if you’re an interrupter at all.  But I am an interrupter.  Some of it’s selfish.  Others it’s, again, I like to say, oh, no, I’ve shopped there, here’s how you return that; right?  Or whatever that is.  And it comes from a good place.  So I’m constantly interjecting because I’m quite uncomfortable with silence.  I hate silence.  I hate silence.  And so I like to move things along.  I am a human in motion.  Surprised I don’t sleepwalk.

But Dr. Deborah Tannen taught me that the reason that most of us interrupt others, we all have – this is what I read about in the book – I believe this silent metaphorical alarm clock that goes off in our head when we think the other person should stop talking.  For Wendy it might be 48 seconds.  For Bill it might be 12 seconds.  Someone else it might be three minutes.  But when that alarm clock goes off in our minds, we then interject because we want to move it along.  We want to accelerate it.  We want to end it.  And we want to solve it, whatever.

And Dr. Tannen taught me the power of when you get that temptation, which I do, oh, I don’t know, 80 times a day, I just need to gently close my lips, touch them together in a way that no one could notice that I’m closing my lips, and count to 10.  And that kind of linguistically the science shows that it’s in that 10 seconds that if you can resist interrupting someone, they will either finish their point or say something that invites you on what they would like for you to do next – change the topic, thank them for their time, solve their problem, whatever it is.  And it’s a miraculous tip that I should employ more frequently, according to my lovely wife Stephanie.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  This book is truly about all relationships.  It’s so funny at the start that you talked about relationships and parenting specifically.  I’ve got two adult sons.  And my wife and I laugh just about the things that they had to survive  due to our incompetency as parents.  So this is good stuff.

SCOTT MILLER:  Bill, so that’s unique to you.  That’s not a common challenge in America.

BILL YATES:  Thank you.  I’ll own that one. 

Declare Your Intent

WENDY GROUNDS:  It does lead in well to the next one, Declare Your Intent.  A quote:  “The less clear you are, the more you are responsible for their lack of clarity.”  So how do we declare our intent?

SCOTT MILLER:  I love, Wendy, that you pulled that quote out again because that’s true.  I tell leaders all the time, if your team members are lying to you, lying about pipeline, lying about lead conversion, that’s your fault, not theirs.  That’s your fault.  You’re a project manager.  And if people aren’t delivering commitments to you on time, I’m going to argue that in many cases you’ve not made it safe for them to tell you the truth.  Now, don’t take responsibility for somebody else’s poor character; right?  There’s moderation in all things.  But isn’t this true, that “Nearly all, if not all conflict in life comes from mismatched or unfulfilled expectations?”

It’s a quote from Dr. Blaine Lee, one of the founders of our firm.  I’m going to say it again.  “Nearly all, if not all conflict in life comes from mismatched or unfulfilled expectations.”  Think about where anyone has conflict as part of an initiative or a project or an organization or launching a new product, whatever it is, it’s often because you thought they were going to do something, and they didn’t think the same thing, and they thought – you get the point. 

And so Challenge 4 is called Declare Your Intent.  Because we all have intent, some of it pure, some of it nefarious.  Very few people acknowledge this.  The most honest people sometimes have poor intent.  I do, I sometimes do things to manipulate people and to capitalize, to get them to do what I want.  I admit it, I don’t think it’s going to impact my salvation in life; but, you know, I don’t get to determine that.

The quote on the card – this is getting heavy.  The quote on the card says, from Gandhi:  “The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motive, everything she or he does becomes tainted.”  And so all of us have agendas.  All of us have hidden agendas.  If you want to minimize conflict in your life, if you want to clarify expectations, I suggest that you start to build into your natural vocabulary, vernacular, this phrase.  “Allow me to take a moment to declare my intent.”

Can I roleplay with you a second, Bill?  Let’s just assume for a moment you report to me.  Hey, Bill, thanks for coming in the office today.  I need to have a bit of a high-courage conversation with you, and I want you to know my intent in providing you this feedback of what I think might be some blind spots is not to embarrass you at all, or to minimize you.  In fact, it’s definitely not to railroad you out of here.  Bill, I can see a great career here for you long-term.  My intent is to help you understand some of these blind spots so that you can build more influence and have more power here.  You get the point.  I very clearly stated my intent.  My intent is not to embarrass you or to minimize you.

And I think few people do this enough.  Whenever there is a high-courage conversation or a high-stakes moment, that is when for sure you should use the phrase “Allow me first to declare my intent.”  Wendy, my intent is not to hijack your project.  My intent is to help you land it on time, on budget, and that you get amazing credit for your hard work.  And there are three questions I’ve got to get answers to, to impact my team before I can get onboard.  My intent is not to slow you down.  My intent is to make you successful.  I think it’s a powerful concept that’s underutilized.

BILL YATES:  I love that.  It sets a foundation of understanding, of clarity, and of purpose.  That’s a great technique that we should take advantage of.

SCOTT MILLER:  The public relations principle applies here.  Absent facts – people make stuff up, including about your motive.  But it also requires you to understand your motive.


SCOTT MILLER:  Sometimes your motives are self-serving.  Sometimes they are not pure.  I have to ask myself, what is my motive here?  Am I more concerned with what is right or being right?

Carry Your Own Weather

BILL YATES:  There was this other area.  Wendy, you want to talk about the weather?

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah.  You talk about Carry Your Own Weather.  And I love that chapter.  Can you explain a little bit more to our audience what do you mean by “carry your own weather”?

SCOTT MILLER:  Sure.  So Dr. Stephen R. Covey I think coined this phrase in his series of contributions over his 80 years here.  Left us about 10 years ago.  This is a metaphor; right?  This is about what it means to be proactive.  You know, he authored the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”  Habit 1 is called Be Proactive.  And I think a lot of people misinterpret that as saying, well, be proactive means take charge and take initiative.  Well, it does.  That is about being proactive.  But really the essence of proactivity is making sure that you’re not reactive, that you’re not allowing other people or outside circumstances or other people’s moods or feelings or insecurities dictate your mood, your values, your brand, your reputation.

And we’re all victim to this; right?  Our boss comes in, and she walks past us and doesn’t look up, and slams her door to her office, and we’re convinced we’re getting fired that day, when in fact she and her daughter just had it out in the parking lot about something in school that had nothing to do with you.  Or someone cuts you off in traffic, and now the next half an hour you look like an imbecile because of the gestures you shot out the window.  Easier said than done.  But proactive people carry their own metaphorical weather, Wendy; right?  It’s like do you carry an umbrella around you that prevents you from being reactive to other people’s you know what?  Their urgencies, their crises, their lack of maturity, their inefficiency.

You kinda inoculate yourself against all these outside influences mainly because you’ve determined how you want to show up today.  You’ve determined these are my values in life.  I was married when I was 41.  I was single till I was 41.  And at a conference at FranklinCovey, Dr. Stephen R. Covey got up once and of course talked about the power of mission statements.  It’s the most trafficked portion of the entire FranklinCovey website, building your own personal mission statement.  And he extolled that value of mission statements.  I was like 32 years old.  I’m thinking, my mission?  I have no idea.  Go to Italy twice this year?  Drink more champagne?  Watch more football?  I don’t know what my mission is.  I was single; right?

And then for the next hour our other founder, Hyrum Smith got up.  He invented the Franklin Planner and is kind of the modern-day father of time management.  And he talked about the power of owning your values.  I was captivated.  Tell me about that.  He talked about the power of proactive people define their values and live in accordance with them.  I went back for three days.  This is 18 years ago or something.  I wrote out all my values.  PHILPAL, P-H-I-L-P-A-L.  Positivity, Health, Integrity, Loyalty, Purpose, Abundance, and Learning.  PHILPAL.  And I wrote them out, and from that day forward I have done my best to live my own life and to make my decisions and choose my reactions based on my value.  It saved me a lot of insertions into my human resource file that was already overflowing with issues.  I write about that in the book.

The point is I believe that proactive people, Wendy, who carry their own weather, have to be clear on their values.  Not values like harmony and world peace and equity.  Yeah, great, right?  That’s great for a dinner party.  But no.  Go back and do the hard work.  Write down what your values are, memorize them, and then live and make your choices in accordance with them.  I tend to quite frankly be a very reactive person.  I’m that rare person which if you say something to me that annoys me, I’m that rare person that delivers back to you what most people wish they would have thought of four hours later.  I’m quite “good” at insulting retorts.  I use the word “good” in quotes.

But, you know, after I defined my values, I thought, is this how I want to show up?  Is this how I want to develop relationships?  I’m not going to take the bait every time.  Right?  I’m not going to take the bait because what I’m going to say to you is going to get me in trouble.  And although it feels good in the moment, it doesn’t feel so good when the Chief People Officer texts you and says, “Hey, can we talk for a moment?”  The walk of shame down to the HR department; right?  A long description, but carrying your own weather means you just do not give up your emotional well-being and who you want to be to anyone or anything else.

Making Time for Relationships

WENDY GROUNDS:  So the next one is Making Time for Relationships.  This is an important one.  And you talk about the principle that with people, slow is fast and fast is slow.  Can you explain what you meant by that?

SCOTT MILLER:  I’m going to debunk a common human resource myth.  Not to diss human resources because they have saved me from myself on countless occasions.  People are not an organization’s most valuable asset.  People are not a project’s most valuable asset.  Not true.  It’s total bunk.  People are not a company or division’s or platform’s or a project’s most valuable asset.  It’s the relationships between those people.  That is every project, every organization’s most valuable asset.  You can have the smartest Oxford Rhodes Scholar working with a Black Belt and Six Sigma from MIT.  And if they can’t get along, if they can’t complement each other, if they can’t work well, forgive, pre-forgive each other because they’re going to say things that annoy each other, and we don’t need them.

What we need is people that are competent in their area of expertise, but also understand how to build interpersonal relationships.  Every organization is now a technology company.  And every company is now in the same business.  They’re in the relationship business, whether it be within a project or an initiative or a product launch or with clients or funders or bankers or you name it.  So what Dr. Covey has talked about is this idea of developing effective relationships is also a leadership competency, whether you are a formal or informal leader.  And this is, again, a whole podcast in itself.

But here’s how I would illustrate it.  Dr. Covey wrote the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”  And for a decade I was the company’s Chief Marketing Officer.  And so I would field endless inquiries from the media wanting to interview me on his behalf about his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Efficient People.”  And I would say, “No, no, no, no.  He wrote the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.’  They sound similar, but efficiency and effectiveness are very different.  And one is not better than the other.”

Let’s unwrap that.  I am a very efficient person, you can tell.  I get up at 4:00 o’clock every morning,  I write my article for Inc Magazine,  I write my blog,  I read a book for the podcast I host coming up.  I’m a dad, I’m a husband and I’m an entrepreneur.  I lead a company.  On and on and on.  I wake up every morning at 4:00 o’clock, seven days a week without fail.  And I’m flat on my back by 9:30, asleep.  My efficiency, my productivity in life has been my hallmark.  It’s from where most of my professional success and any financial success I’ve had has come.  I don’t make any apologies for my efficiency.

But to those listeners that can relate to what I might call as my “default efficiency mindset,” right, fast enough is good enough.  I tend to do most things very fast. My challenge, like perhaps some of your listeners, is when I move that efficiency paradigm into my relationships with others.  Because you cannot be efficient with people.  You can only be effective. 

And what you said, Wendy, is so profound from Dr. Covey.  With people, fast is slow, and slow is fast.  You cannot build rapport with people fast.  You cannot build trust that endures with people fast.  I cannot treat my relationships like I rake the yard.  In fact, I don’t even rake the yard.  I charge up three batteries in my snow blower, or my lawn blower.  I blow all the leaves to one area and then rake them up and put them in the garbage can.  That’s good enough; right?  That’s good enough.

And so I think for those of us listening, we just have to know when is effectiveness a skill and when is efficiency a skill?  And it might be in the same five minutes; right?  It might be that I’m going through my Facebook feed, bam bam bam bam, like like like, respond.  The phone rings, and it’s Wendy.  I close my laptop.  I take off my Apple Watch, and we’re on FaceTime, and we’re just focused on each other for the next 14 minutes.  No distraction.  I am all in.

In the era we’re in right now, where people when they quit their jobs, and you ask them where are you going, where are you headed, the most common answer now, “I don’t know.  I’m not sure.  I’ll figure it out.  I might open an eBay store,  I might do a side hustle,  I might work just some odd jobs.  I’m not sure”. Two years ago it was I’m going to Abbott.  I’m going to Google.  I’m going to XYZ.  And so I would argue that project managers, directors, relationship managers, vice presidents, founders, your job is about developing relationships and recognizing people don’t quit leaders who love them.  People don’t quit projects with project managers and leaders that understand they’re crucial to the process.

We may need to slow down.  And we may need to listen more.  We may need to use words that they use versus technical terms that we use.  This is a skill that I have struggled with because I am, I believe I’m a trustworthy person.  Ultimately I don’t get to decide that.  Others get to decide that.  But that trust has to be built over time.  And I have to recognize when to be efficient and when to be effective.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  This really speaks to me as a project manager and others who are in that role because this is where the rubber meets the road.  There are too many times when I have known it, in my head I’ve got the alarms going off.  Slow down.  Go have a longer conversation.  Listen to this team member.  But there’s the other part of my head going, oh, but you’ve got to get that report to the sponsor.  They expect it by 5:00 p.m.  And if you’re going to make that, you have to go now.  You need to keep this clipped and short.  Maybe later you’ll have a time to unpack this conversation with the team member, but it’s not now.

So this is something we face over and over.  But those team members, you know, projects come and go.  The team members are most likely going to stay together and be a part of a cohesive team in several different projects.  So we’ve got to slow down.  We’ve got to invest in those relationships because that’s really – that’s where the magic happens.  I appreciate you speaking to that and backing that up.

SCOTT MILLER:  Yeah, I can’t underestimate the point.  One thing I’ve learned is that kind of a tip is I walk up to somebody and say, “Hey, can I just have a very quick, efficient conversation with you?”  And that kind of gives you permission not for the whole how you doing, how’s the weather, how’s this.  But I make sure I’m not always doing that; right?  I will make sure, and sometimes for me I have to remind myself, I have to remind myself, okay, like I’ve done that with this person the last four times.  I need to sit down with him, genuinely sit down and not make this a two-minute conversation, so that I’m not always using that crutch. 

Because I like people, but I also during my business hours I tend to like to stick to the facts and get things done, and I don’t care how the weather is in Phoenix right now.  I just need to kind of get this answered because my boss is calling me.  I care if it’s like flooding your house.  But if your life’s not in jeopardy, I don’t care how the weather is in Phoenix.

BILL YATES:  Right, right, right.

Allow Others to be Smart

WENDY GROUNDS:  Okay.  So another one is we all like to be the smartest person in the room.  We feel that pressure, especially for leaders, project managers, they feel the pressure that they have to look like the smartest person there.  So you gave advice on allowing others to be smart.  How can a project manager do that?

SCOTT MILLER:  I think it’s a great question for us to keep asking ourselves over and over again is do I generally value the feedback and input of other people on this project?  Do I?  Do I think they’re smart?  Or do I think they have something to add?  Or were they just, you know, token contributors, or they were there for some political reason, or they’ve got the title so they’ve got to be involved.  I think you have to ask yourself, do I generally think they have something to add?

And this one hit me really square in the middle of the head about four years ago.  I read Liz Wiseman’s book, I referenced it a couple of times now, called “Multipliers.”  And Liz wrote this book to say that, you know, in life, in our professional roles, we are both multiplying people’s talent and we are diminishing at the same time.  Accidentally diminishing, unless you’re a sociopath, which according to psychology about 10% of the population is. 

But Liz says that you aren’t either a multiplier or you are a diminisher.  We’re all both.  We’re all multiplying, and we are accidentally diminishing people, oftentimes with our strengths.  She identifies nine accidental diminishing tendencies.  The idea fountain.  The pacesetter.  The perfectionist.  The optimist.  The rescuer.  And a couple more.  And this book had a watershed impact on me because I realized that as the Chief Marketing Officer I kind of needed to be the smartest person in the room.  I felt like I did; right?  There was a joke back in the marketing division:  Best idea wins as long as it’s Scott’s.  And that is not a compliment to me.  It was an assessment of my leadership style.

And so I wrote this challenge after reading Liz’s book:  Allow others to be smart.  Because I held pretty tight meetings, round robins where I was generally having them all validate my genius ultimately.  And they all kind of got wise to me, realized, hey, Scott, just tell us when you want it to be your idea.  Don’t waste two hours of our time pretending for it to be a democracy.  Hey, you’re the leader.  You do get to decide some things.  But just tell us when you’re faking it.  I said, oh my gosh, that’s true and horrible.  It’s true.  And horrible.  Now, I don’t think it’s unique to me.  Perhaps some of your listeners think I’m a horrible person.  No, I think I’m just a person that’s learning to become a better leader, in fact, and project manager.

And so the question that I asked is ask yourself if you are confident enough and humble enough to surround yourself with other people’s genius.  Because everyone’s got some level of genius.  Maybe not Einstein-level genius, but we all have a contribution.  How can you check your ego to perhaps change your mind about them and to check your paradigm about, you know, how can I see them in a different light?  I love the question I ask in the chapter, which is, “What’s it like being on a project with you?  What’s it like being in a professional relationship with you?  When I leave your meeting, do I feel better about myself?  Do I feel more confident about our relationship, or do I feel diminished and lessened and belittled by you?”

I love that question.  When someone leaves a project planning meeting with me, how do they feel?  Not just how do I feel, but how do they feel from having been in my presence?  When you ask yourself that question, if you’re self-aware at all, you will probably be horrified on occasion.


BILL YATES:  I’m going to give a selfless plug for the book.  I do not have a deal worked out with Scott, I promise.  But on page 162 of the book, there were eight laser-sharp questions to help people like me self-assess in this area of allowing others to be smart. I mean, they were right on the money.  And I felt like it was the kind of thing that would be useful for some people, maybe they need to print it out and put it on their desk somewhere where it’s a little bit in their heads-up display to do a little self-check from time to time because those are deeper questions.  They force you to stop.  You have to pause and be thoughtful and actually read through the question and think about it honestly.  They were right on the money.

SCOTT MILLER:  Well, thank you for that.  I appreciate it.  Honestly, I am an aggregator.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had an original thought in my life.  That’s a horrifying assessment.  But it’s probably true about most humans, actually.  But I am the beneficiary of having been in the presence of some great minds and some great leaders.  Like you, I’m privileged to host a podcast that is now the world’s largest weekly leadership podcast, seven million people each Tuesday.  And I have the chance to interview great minds.

And this book is really a culmination of insights that I’ve gleaned from other people, often a little later than I should have learned it.  But my attempt to be vulnerable, right, to kind of walk my talk and say, hey, you know what, I don’t have your genius, and you don’t have mine.  And I don’t look as handsome as you do, and I don’t have your education or all that, Bill.  But Bill, what I can do is I can learn from your mistakes.  And if I can just be aware of what you’ve learned, or you can be aware of what I have learned, that’s half the battle of project management, of leadership, of team leadership, as well.  So I wrote the book in the hope that people could avoid some of the mistakes that I made.

BILL YATES:  It’s a wonderful book.  I’m so glad we could cover a few, just a few of these areas to give our listeners a taste of it so that they can dig in and benefit from it.  I just appreciate your time, Scott.

Contact Scott

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yes.  How can our listeners get in touch with you or just find out more about what you do, where’s your podcast, stuff like that.

SCOTT MILLER:  Well, my wife says it’s not hard, and that’s not a compliment from her.  She thinks I’m a little bit over-exposed these days.  But you can google Scott Jeffrey Miller, and I’m bound to come up.  My website is in fact ScottJeffreyMiller, and all of my podcast episodes, radio episodes are there, blogs, Inc. columns. 

All the books I’ve authored, published four books with three more coming out this year and three coming out in 2023.  “Marketing Mess to Brand Success,” released this past year.  “Job Mess to Career Success” coming out next, followed by “Communication Mess to Influence Success” and other books in that series.  You can connect to me on every major social media platform.  I’d love to have you connect to me on social media.  And I appreciate again the abundance the two of you showed.  Thanks for reading the book, and thoroughly enjoyed this conversation.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, thank you, Scott.  There were so many points in there where I felt like, okay, I just wish I had his phone number.  I could text him right now and say, “What do you mean by this, man?”  So I really appreciate the chance to go through some of these with you today.  And thank you for your leadership in this, your vulnerability.  It’s clear right from the start of the book, and that is refreshing, and that invites me right in as a reader and a learner to really be challenged.  So thank you for this effort.

SCOTT MILLER:  Thank you, Bill.  Thank you, Wendy.


WENDY GROUNDS:  That’s it for us here on Manage This.  Thanks for joining us today.  You can visit us at Velociteach.com, where you can subscribe to this podcast and see a complete transcript of the show.

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7 responses to “Episode 150 – Management Mess to Leadership Success with Scott J Miller”

  1. Firas says:

    Thank you for this amazing episode.

  2. Anne-Sophie Drouin says:

    This is a fantastic podcast episode! Scott J. Miller has a very high energy level; what a motivator! He is not afraid to share what he learned the hard way and to speak the truth. Thank you for featuring him!

  3. Tammi B says:

    Awesome presentation. Love Scott’s transparency and energy.

  4. Alicia Abbott says:

    Thank you, this was a great episode.

  5. Karen Delaney says:

    One of the best podcasts to date. Scott hit the nail on the head with the statement, the most important thing is not people, it’s the relationship you have with them that will allow you to be a success or failure.

    • Wendy Grounds says:

      Thanks for your comment Karen. We couldn’t agree more with Scott. Every project’s most valuable asset is those relationships between people.

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