No leader is self-made. Every leader has a mentor and this is what Scott Jeffrey Miller talks about in his book Master Mentor. In this book, Scott passes the spotlight to 30 of the greatest minds and mentors out there. They share insights and experiences so that you can become a better leader. Join Patrick Veroneau as he talks to Scott Jeffrey Miller about why everyone needs a master mentor in their lives. Learn more about Scott’s book series Master Mentor and some of the key people he talked to. Discover how you can be a leader that everybody can trust.
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Why Everyone Can Benefit From A Master Mentor With Scott Jeffrey Miller
Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights from Our Greatest Minds, I had the opportunity to read this book. We talked about a number of different themes in it from how to listen to how to build better self-awareness, and how to deal with anxiety. Before we get into that, here is a little background in terms of who Scott Jeffrey Miller is. He serves as Franklin Covey’s Senior Advisor on Thought Leadership as well as leading the strategy and development of the firm’s speaker bureau.
On top of that, he hosts On Leadership, which is a podcast. It’s the world’s largest and fastest-growing leadership podcast. It reaches more than 6 million people weekly. On top of that, he also authors a leadership column for Inc.com. He’s a best-selling author himself of the series, Mess to Success. This was one of my favorite interviews, so let’s get into it.
Scott, thanks so much for being on the show. I appreciate this. You run a wildly successful podcast on leadership, but you also have a series of books that have been extremely successful. For this, I wanted to talk about Master Mentors Volume 2. I wanted to start this off with an observation that I had as I was reading it. To me, it helps eliminate the term self-made from what I would call the personal success vocabulary.
Thank you for the platform and the spotlight. When you say the term self-made, that doesn’t even compute in my formula of success. I’ve heard of the term. I know people probably think that to be true, but I could name for you extemporaneously, with no preparation, the 15 to 20 people that were the key contributors to my success, starting with Jane, Deborah, Larry, and then moving on to Charles. There’s also Don, Chuck, Charles again, Colleen, Todd, David, and Stefan.
I can name the names of the people that were instrumental and transformative in my life. They’re people that live next door to me and gave me their farmer’s market stand to run while they went off to college. That may also be early bosses, or Frank, one of my PR professors at Rollins College that launched my career. It doesn’t even compute to me this concept of self-made.
I’m the same way. We do such a disservice when we title people as self-made. I look at it and say, “Unless you have birthed yourself, made your own clothes, built your own house, and everything, you need other people.” That’s what I loved about this book. It’s on two fronts. One, you talk about your own story and The Bruce Williams Show. I’d love to talk about that because to me, that’s part of your narrative of going against not being self-made. He was a mentor for you. The title of the book itself, Master Mentors, also is suggestive of we don’t do this alone. We need other people around us. We can’t be self-made, but we’re self-motivated to be successful.
That is beautifully said. The book is Master Mentors. There are 10 books in this 10-year volume series. There is one per year every year where I, like you, have the privilege of interviewing people of accomplishment on the podcast that I host, which is On Leadership with Scott Miller. Every year, I write a book about it. It’s like Chicken Soup for the Soul. It’s not Jim Collins or Adam Grant kind of stuff. They’re light, easy-breezy books where I highlight 30 people. In many ways, I’m redefining, along with other people’s support like yours, what we think of as a mentor.
A lot of us think a mentor is someone we’re matched with within our organization. They’re on the 7th floor and we’re on the 1st floor, or whatever it is. We meet with them for one hour every month for six months and it’s over. That works and that is valuable. Take advantage of that in your organization if they have a mentoring program, but like you, most of the biggest mentors in my life, I never met. They don’t even know I exist, whether they’re books that I read, conferences that I go to, or podcasts that I listen to. This man named Bruce Williams was a radio host in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He hosted an evening radio talk show back when there wasn’t talk radio. His program was called Talknet and it turned into The Bruce Williams Show.Most of your biggest mentors are people you've never met in your life. Click To Tweet
He was a small-town Bayer, entrepreneur, and businessman. He made lots of mistakes in life. He held a three-hour open line program where you could call in and talk about, “I inherited some money. What do I do? I want to buy a house. Do I need an attorney? What is life insurance term versus whole life?” It was cantankerous and a little bit of a curmudgeon, but genius. For a decade, when most of the cool kids were listening to XS and U2, I was listening to Bruce Williams. It had a massive transformation on my business acumen, my literacy, and my desire to learn more. He was the biggest mentor of my life. Bruce Williams died never knowing I even existed.
I love that story in the book. I said before we started that I was listening to ACDC at that point. I was not watching or listening to The Bruce Williams Show, which I probably wish I should have been, but I wasn’t. It is such a great story and lead-in to what this book is about. I don’t know if you’re familiar with works by Napoleon Hill. Do you remember Napoleon Hill talking about his trusted circle and that we’re all imaginary people? It would be Abraham Lincoln or somebody else. It’s very much the same thing with these books. It provides an opportunity to think, “What were they doing? How would they approach this?” It’s that same approach.
To your point, I don’t know about your entire career journey, but mine has been very blessed. I’ve worked super hard and earned a lot of my success through the guidance and coaching of other people. In the first half of my career, I intentionally had the spotlight focused on me. I turned the spotlight onto me. As I mature, I’m trying to discover my strengths. I’m an aggregator and a pollinator. I’m not sure I’ve ever had an original idea in my entire life. Most of us haven’t.
The contribution I’m making through this book series and a show like yours is allowing people access. They’re like, “I didn’t know about this person or that person. What is this book you referenced?” I’m trying to not write a book that is a compendium of other books. I’m trying to write a book that is a spotlight on other people’s content so that you learn about people perhaps you didn’t know about. You go buy their book and make them part of your circle or board of directors, so to speak. That’s the purpose of the Master Mentor series.
With not having an original thought, very few of us do. I would argue probably none of us. Napoleon Hill, when he wrote The Law of Success, he says that right at the beginning of the book, “In terms of what you are going to read here, there’s nothing novel in terms of what I’ve come up with. What I have done is combined different messages in a different form that hopefully resonates with you as a reader.”
You have 30 in here. We’re not going to get to all of them. As I was reading this, and especially in the environment, there were a couple of themes that I picked out that I’d love to throw around. One was around listening. In the environment we’re in, our inability to listen to understand has been detrimental to a lot of relationships. One of the individuals was Julian Treasure in here. What was that conversation like?
Julian Treasure, like you, is a fairly famous TED speaker. His TED Talk has hundreds of millions of views. He’s a British listening communication expert. He wrote a book called How to Be Heard. The insight that Julian Treasure brings is recognizing that everyone listens differently. We spend a lot of time in our careers understanding our leadership style and our personality style, but I don’t think many of us really assess what our communication style is. We have one. I have one and you have one.
As we look post-pandemic to a world where people have choices and don’t want to work for bad cultures or bad bosses anymore, they’re willing to quit and go open up an NFT, Etsy store, or trade crypto. They’re not like your and my generation where they own three cars. They don’t even own a car. Most of them don’t have a license anymore because they’re of different values than we do. Good on them.
We’ve got to make sure that we have an individualized style of leadership. Not everyone should be an anesthesiologist, a commercial airline pilot, or a leader of people so be thoughtful about how you might be lured into leadership. If you are going to be a leader of people formally, then you need to be thoughtful about how those people want to be led. They all want to be led differently. They want to be listened to, treated, validated and praised differently. They also have different listening styles.Everyone leads differently. So if you want to be a leader of people, you have to be very thoughtful about how people want to be led. Click To Tweet
Jillian Treasure’s insight is a little bit of an awkward term. He calls it Listen to the Listening. That means you’ve got to be nimble, agile, and mature enough to change your communication style to the way different people listen differently. I have one style. It’s loud, fast, charismatic, and dominating. I’m a very loud, passionate person. Sometimes, that works for me. Oftentimes, it works against me. The big idea here is to understand if you want to be an influential leader, you’ve got to be self-aware of what your default communication style is and how you can modify and moderate it to the way other people listen. It means you have to get to know them and understand what are their fears, passions, joys, and what types of leadership work well for them.
Leadership is more difficult than even pre-pandemic because, in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s, you had a style. Everybody cleaved to that. They had to align themselves with your style. It doesn’t work that way anymore. You’ve got to make sure that you are listening to the way each and every person in your life needs to be communicated to, including your spouse, your kids, your neighbors, your committee members, and all that.
That is without question. You mentioned in that chapter that you talk about your own learning lesson there. This was the old Scott where you were told by your boss, “You make too many declarative statements.”
That was a lovely day. I was the CMO, the Chief Marketing Officer, of the Franklin Covey Company for a decade. It is a well-respected global leadership firm. The CEO was a lovely man. We were very different in personality and competence, but I love him and he loves me, which is why I stayed for 25 years. It was because my boss loved me.
People don’t quit leaders who loved them. People don’t go across the street for a 1% more commission, $2 more an hour, or $10,000 more a year if they believe their leader loves them. You stay. People don’t quit leaders who love them. This particular leader, we have very different personalities. He has what I call a telepathic leadership style. He does not like confrontation. Do not back him into a corner because you will lose. Do not underestimate his fierce tenacity to win. He is a gracious person and he likes harmony.
One day, in the C-Suite, after a long executive team meeting where I had spouted off way too many of my opinions, as the meeting came to a close, he walked past me and looked me in the eye. He said to me, “You make too many declarative statements,” and went to the restroom. This is the CEO of a global public company. He is wearing a suit and tie. He is your iconic public CEO of impeccable character. Talk about an ego anima. He was right. What I did was I started forming my statements into the sound of questions. I would say, “Are we concerned about the fact that this and this is happening?” I’m not sure I learned a whole lot on that other than how to frame declarative statements into interrogative statements.
Do they call that passive-aggressive at all?
Him or me?
Yes, but I’m not passive-aggressive. I’m flat-out aggressive. I love that man. It was a very insightful comment to me. Since he was such an EF Hutton type, I knew exactly what he meant. I didn’t need to go through the pain of having him describe it to me. I did some self-exploration on talking less, being the less genius in the room, and doing a better job of listening. In some cases, when I chemically could not keep my mouth shut, I form my statement in the phrase of a question so I sounded less arrogant.
I thought you were going to say you left the room.
That would’ve been a more mature version of Scott Miller.
To dovetail off of that, another theme there is self-awareness. The two go together. You talk about Tasha Eurich. I loved the definition that she used. She said, “The will is having the will in the skill to see yourself clearly.” That’s so important when it talks about the will. People have to want to do this first to be in awareness, and also then, how do you develop the skill to know yourself more clearly?
This is a phenomenal mentor, Tasha Eurich. She’s an organizational psychologist out of Denver. She wrote a very famous book called Insight. She looks at self-awareness from how we see ourselves and also how others see us internally and externally. I highly recommend the book Insight. I don’t know about you, but I spent my career of nearly 30 years in formal leadership positions at the Walt Disney Company and the Franklin Covey company. I had the honor of interviewing thousands of people over the course of my career and hiring hundreds and terminating dozens of them.
I can tell you that in 28 years, or more than that, I never once had to fire someone because they lacked the technical skills to do the job they were hired for. They always had technical skills. Every single termination that I was responsible for executing on, every one of them was because the person had no idea what it was like to work with them.
They had no idea what it was like to lead them, be led by them, stand in a trade show booth for three days with them, be in a Zoom call, or launch a product with them. They had no idea. Oftentimes, it was because I don’t think they ever had a leader who loved them enough to risk not being liked at the moment to tell them the truth or give them feedback on their blind spots.
I’m on a little bit of a tangent here, but with 30 years in the leadership business, I do not believe that a leader’s number one job is the mission, vision, and values or system, structures, and strategies. You’ve got to do those things. I believe a leader’s number one job is to recruit and retain talent. That is the talent that is noticeably and palpably more talented than you are.A leader's number one just is not mission, vision, and values. It's recruiting and retaining talent. Click To Tweet
The second most important role of a leader is to give people feedback on their blind spots, which requires them to move outside their comfort zone and discuss the undiscussable. Sit someone down and declare your intent, like, “My intent is not to minimize you or embarrass you. My intent is to help you build a more expansive brand here. I want to give you some feedback on some things I see you doing that are limiting your reputation here.” This is a leader who loves her people.
People aren’t naturally self-aware. I wasn’t naturally aware that my voice is always at this level until my wife says to me, “You are a jackass. Why are you talking so loud? I don’t like you. Stop screaming in my ear.” My sense is it probably comes from my feeling of a need to have power over people. The louder I speak and the more firm I am, the more they’ll do what I want. That’s a diminishing thing. I don’t know how people see me. I’m trying to learn that so I can have better friendships and a stronger marriage. This is a chapter I’m especially passionate about.
If you think about it like a Venn diagram, the best teams do three things. One is they support each other. We have each other’s backs. That comes in the form of listening and appreciation or empathy for those around us. The next is they celebrate each other. That’s about recognizing people for who they are and what they do. Those two things are important. I don’t think we do enough of the celebration part within organizations that we recognize people. It’s this old mentality that you and I probably grew up with in terms of work was, “Why are we going to recognize somebody for what we pay them to do? That’s what they get a salary for.”
The last part is critical, though, that the best teams challenge each other, which is what you’re talking about. To challenge somebody in a way that is effective, you have to earn the right to be able to do that so it doesn’t land in the wrong way. The only way you do that is when you demonstrate to somebody, “I have your back. I support you. I celebrate who you are. I recognize you.” When I do those two things, I’ve not only earned your trust, but I have an obligation to challenge you.
That is so well said. One of the mentors from volume one is Stephen M.R. Covey, Dr. Covey’s eldest son. He is a very dear friend of mine. He wrote a book called The Speed of Trust. He is a seminal thought leader in the world on building a high-trust culture. He says something so profound in his speeches. He says, “Raise your hand if you’re trustworthy.” Everyone’s hands go up and he says, “Put them down. Who decides if you’re trustworthy?” Everyone says, “It’s the other person.” The key premise of this is you have to behave yourself to a reputation of being trusted by others.
When someone trusts you based on the fact that you make and keep commitments, you honor confidential information, and you don’t gossip about people, then they’re going to be more open to you giving them feedback on their blind spots because they also know your intent. Sometimes, it requires you to declare your intent.
Use the words, “I’d like to have a bit of a high courage conversation with you. Could I first declare my intent? My intent is not to do anything other than to help you. My intent is not to do this.” People and their reptilian brains calm a little bit. If they trust you based on their experience with you and you have declared your intent, they’re more likely to receive your feedback on their blind spots. As a result, their self-awareness grows.
I had the good fortune of interviewing Stephen on his book.
Am I on the same show as Stephen M.R. Covey?
Yeah. It’s like the Franklin family right here.
There was one thing that stuck out to me. It was around trust in him, too. To gain trust, you have to give trust. You have to say, “I trust that you can handle this. You’re going to do this.” There’s a lot of power to that in terms of when people feel as though you believe in them. You trust that they’re going to be able to pull this off. It’s almost like you don’t want to disappoint them.
It’s an epiphany for a lot of people. We all view ourselves as being trustworthy. You’ve got to behave yourself into being trusted by others. That’s a process. It’s not an event or a mindset. It’s a reputation for making and keeping commitments.
That gets built over time. It’s not instantaneous. The last one I wanted to touch on in this environment is anxiety. You have a great story in there about Chester Elton.
Chester Elton is one of the finest, most abundant people I know. He wrote a series of books. His fame came from writing The Carrot Principle back in his days in O.C. Tanner. He left O.C. Tanner and went on with his writing partner Adrian Gostick to write 4 or 5 best-selling books. He calls himself the Apostle of Appreciation. I’d love to keynote your conference people, but don’t hire me. Hire Chester Elton. He’s better and riotously entertaining.
He wrote a book called Anxiety at Work. It was, in essence, a leader’s guide to understanding the pervasive aspect of anxiety and how it’s not going away. If you remember the chapter in my book, I’m fortunate I don’t suffer, that I’m aware of, from any serious mental illness. I’ve had a very remarkably trauma-free life. I’ve been blessed with great mentors and parents. I made good decisions. I also made some bad decisions along the way, but I’ve had a fairly trauma-free life. I don’t suffer from anxiety. I suffer from lots of other things, but not anxiety.
What I did was I turned the chapter over to a young man who works for me. His name is Drew Young. He is 25 years old and he suffers from crippling anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. They’re things that I can’t even comprehend. I highlight Chester as the mentor on how pervasive anxiety is in the workplace. I turn the chapter over to Drew, and Drew writes a very vulnerable first piece about two people suffering from anxiety at work. He follows it up and writes a chapter on their leaders, the Scott Millers of the world, and how to lead them better.
It wasn’t a risk because I trusted Drew a lot, but I wanted it to be a validation to leaders like me that can’t understand and get frustrated perhaps with people that have pressing emotional issues and how to value them, make them feel seen and heard, and give them some space. It is also for people that are suffering from anxiety that Drew speaks to them to say, “It is okay. Take it one day at a time. It will get better. Reach out for help. Talk to your leader. Tell them what you’re going through.” I hope that chapter is well-received.If you are suffering from anxiety, take it one day at a time. Talk to your leader and reach out for help. Click To Tweet
It was powerful, the way it was written. It was talking about it from the perspective of the person that’s going through it, but also as a leader, saying, “Here’s what you need to know about this.” To take a step back there, in regard to leadership, you talked about all these things that are important. In the programs that I went through and the experience that I had, we spent too much time as leaders talking about leading as opposed to focusing on followers. Without followers, we’re not leading anybody.
I look at it as if I was selling a product, we would do market research and say, “This is what the customers want to buy. This is what’s important to them.” If I’m selling that product and I say, “That might be what they want, but I like these things. I’m going to sell a product as this,” it wouldn’t sell. Leadership development oftentimes looks that way. We haven’t looked at the market research that’s been done on the customer who is the follower to say, “Give them what they need and they will buy your leadership.” They will buy it. The data is out there in Gallup studies, Press Ganey, or whatever it is. The data is there to be able to say, “That’s your market research. Follow that and people will follow.”
I have nothing to add to that. That was perfectly stated.
Of all of these in this second volume, is there one that was most important for you?
Thank you for asking. The first chapter is about a man named Zafar Masud who survived a commercial airline crash, but the one I want to talk about is chapter number two, Bobby Herrera. Bobby Herrera is Latino. His family was from Mexico. They met a new Mexican farmer, and the farmer invited them over to work on their farm. They showed up with thirteen children. The farmer had no idea. Bobby was the first in the family to be born in America. He is 1 of 13 kids from a hardworking and fairly resource-rich family. You can imagine a Latino family with thirteen children.
He then went on to become a very famous entrepreneur and author who had a book called The Gift of Struggle. Don’t Buy Master Mentors. Buy The Gift of Struggle. This is a beautiful book. You can read it in an hour. Bobby tells a story that is life-changing. When he was in high school, he and his brother played basketball on a local high school basketball team.
After every game, when the bus would stop at a restaurant, all of the members of the basketball team got off and went in to have dinner, win or lose, except for the Herrera brothers. They stayed on the bus and they ate the brown-bagged dinner their mom had packed for them. How embarrassing and emasculating. Every night, the Herrera brothers stayed on the bus while all their teammates went and had dinner. My sense is it wasn’t Ruth’s Chris. It was more like Sizzler or a burger shop.
It was not until one day, one of the fathers of one of the teammates re-boarded the bus, walked back to their seats, and said in private, “I want you to join the team. Be my guest.” He handed them each $10 and says, “No one needs to know. I want you to join the team. All I ask for in return is to go make something of your lives and do the same for somebody else.” Bobby Herrera said it was the first time in his life he’d ever felt seen by anyone. He couldn’t see tomorrow, next month, or a career. He couldn’t see his way out of this, but A Latino farm family went on to run a $500 million company and write a best-selling book.
The point is every one of us in our lives, someone re-boarded the bus for us. Someone made us feel heard or feel seen. That’s a gift we’re going to give all of your readers. Think about who’s the person that made you feel seen. Who boarded the bus for you? Have you told them? That father, his name was Mr. Teague. When Bobby launched his book 30 years later, he found the man, still alive, and flew him out to his book launch. He told the story and the man wept and said, “I remember that. I had no idea the impact that had on you. You’ve made my life feel as if it had meaning.”
I’m getting emotional telling the story because I was not raised in a family like that. I was raised in a family of more privilege, but I want to make sure that I use my time, wealth, positional power, and influence to make as many people feel seen as possible and to re-board the bus for people because people re-boarded the bus for me. That’s Master Mentor number 32, Bobby Herrera. Go buy the book, The Gift of Struggle.
I have nothing else to say.
Thanks for a great conversation.
This has been phenomenal. Your book has inspired me in so many different ways in terms of the little snippets here and there of reflecting on how I can continue to make a difference, too. I’m like, “What am I giving back?” For that, I thank you. Enjoy.
Thank you for your class act.
Thank you so much for taking the time to tune in to my show. If you found the guests and topics on my show and my perspectives on the show to be valuable to your own personal growth or to the growth of your team, I would love the opportunity to have a discussion with you on how the models, the approaches, and the book that I’ve published, The Leadership Bridge: How to Engage Your Employees and Drive Organizational Excellence, can help you and your organization as well. If you’re interested, you can reach out to me at Patrick@EmeryLeadershipGroup.com. Let’s explore how my unique models and approaches can help you and your team or your organization to rise above your best.
- Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights from Our Greatest Minds
- Scott Jeffrey Miller
- Mess to Success
- On Leadership
- Master Mentors Volume 2
- Chicken Soup for the Soul
- The Law of Success
- How to Be Heard
- Stephen R. Covey – Previous Episode
- The Speed of Trust
- The Carrot Principle
- Anxiety at Work
- The Gift of Struggle
- The Leadership Bridge: How to Engage Your Employees and Drive Organizational Excellence
About Scott Jeffrey Miller
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.
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