159: Leaders with Heart Put Their Hearts into Their Work and Find Joy

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In this episode, Heather interviews Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, The Customer Success Company. Nick shares about his values and the values of his company. Values such as putting people first, beginner’s mind, childlike joy, and more. These qualities shine in Nick’s character throughout the episode, as his passion for leadership and doing good becomes more and more apparent. 

Key Takeaways:

  • No matter what stage of life you are in, you are always a beginner. 
  • First rule of business is putting humans first. 
  • Bring the kid in you to work each day. 
  • If you have values, then you will have times you didn’t live up to them. 
  • A leader’s emotions are amplified, we must be self-aware.
  • In your corner of the world, think “I can be pretty good”
  • Get to know yourself (coaching, therapy, personality tests, peer groups, etc.).
  • Find joy in the work and in yourself, other things will come and go you have to love yourself and what you do. 
  • A great way to expand influence is by volunteering to help people, help as many people as you can.

Nick Mehta is the CEO of Gainsight, The Customer Success Company—a five time Forbes Cloud 100 recipient. He works with a team of nearly 700 people who together have created the customer success category that’s currently taking over the SaaS business model worldwide. 

Nick has been named one of the Top SaaS CEOs by the Software Report three years in a row, one of the Top CEOs of 2018 by Comparably, and was named an Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020 Northern California Award winner. On top of all that, he was recently rated the #1 CEO in the world (the award committee was just his mom, but the details are irrelevant). 

He is a member of the Board of Directors at F5 and has also co-authored two books on the customer success field, Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue, and The Customer Success Economy: Why Every Aspect of Your Business Model Needs A Paradigm Shift. 

He is passionate about family, football, philosophy, physics, fashion, feminism, and SaaS customer success. People told him it’s impossible to combine all of those interests, but Nick has made it his life’s mission to try.

Always a Beginner

One of our values at Gainsight is “soshin,” which means beginner’s mind. I would say I’m a beginner and will always be a beginner. But I’ve learned more about myself over time. I feel like I can always learn more on how to be a better leader from other people. But also, over 43 years, I’ve got to know myself a little better, which helps. I’m no different than everyone else we all have a very short amount of time on this earth. I’m just more privileged than most people but have the similar aspirations and desires.

You can win in business while being human first. – @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Passion and Achievement

There are three different levels of where my personal passion comes from. One of them is that I love what I do—literally the day-to-day. Two is I am like a lot of people. I admit that I am obsessed with trying to be successful and to achieve. A lot of that goes back to my parents and my childhood and upbringing. Three, you define yourself based on your achievement. It’s just overwhelming how much stuff is thrown at you in the universe about how much you’re not achieving no matter what you’ve achieved. But eventually you know yourself and you can laugh at yourself a little bit in a loving way. I accepted that we’re never going to be the biggest company in the world, but we can be somewhat successful. What we can do is to actually like the way we run our company, carrying a lot about our values and our people and trying to be our authentic selves. We defined our purpose statement, our company, and we want to be the living proof that you can win in business while being human first. There’s always somebody better no matter who you are. But we’re hoping to be a small example where maybe it can work.

When you're a leader, whatever you feel like amplified on everyone else. – @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

You can want to be somebody else but you are who you are, so you can't be somebody else. – @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Values, Emotions, and Empathy

If you have values, you have got to have times when you didn’t live up to them. There’s a lot of situations where I feel I could have done better. When you’re a leader, whatever you feel like amplified on everyone else. Some people intentionally might be upset at the team because they want them to feel it. How important my emotions are, how they make people feel, and being empathetic was one big learning I’ve really tried to practice over time.

If you don't love yourself in this process, then I don't think it's going to work long term. You're on your own journey. – @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Help people anytime you can. – @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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Tailoring Our Voices to Our New Normal

A couple of months ago, I hosted my first hybrid keynote event since the COVID-19 pandemic began. A portion of the audience was in the conference hall with me, wearing masks and strictly adhering to social distancing guidelines. The rest of the audience attended virtually, watching and participating via teleconference technology.

In all honesty, it was absolutely delightful to hold a hybrid event. It felt so natural to return to the stage and be in community with an audience. After so many months in quarantine, it felt healing. I enjoyed being in proximity with other like-minded people, and seeing their eyes light up above their masks.

Of course I’ve felt at home speaking on stage for years, and over the past few months I’ve gotten used to speaking only to a camera or computer. But I’ve never had to bring those two formats into the same space and balance them simultaneously. In my keynotes, I lead with a very interactive and engaging speaking style. At times I ask the audience to answer questions, raise a hand, or stand in response to a prompt. In the wake of recent events, I’ve had to adapt my style to the digital realm, and find new ways of maintaining audience engagement. My first hybrid event was the ultimate test to see if I could synthesize my past experiences, and tailor my voice to a changing way of work, while staying true to my approach.

Though bouncing between the in-person and virtual audience was a challenge at first, I had to be comfortable rolling with whatever punches life threw at me. Caring leaders must do this too, by modifying their leadership approach to best fit whichever circumstances they find themselves in. 

My goal as a speaker is always to engage audiences and make them feel included, and this hybrid event was no different. Even from behind a mask, I still maintained eye contact and showed signs of active listening. I also had a colleague keeping tabs on the online chat, so she could give me real-time feedback and questions as they came in. I integrated all this information into my presentation right then and there, and let it guide my approach. In this sense, I symbolically brought my digital audience into the room, and made them feel part of the larger group. From the rave reviews in the chat, I could tell this gesture meant a lot to those who weren’t able to attend in person.

I talk a big game about engagement and inclusion, but I back it up by aligning my voice with those values in every aspect of my life. The same approach I use to make others feel welcome in my presence is the same strategy I use as a speaker, manager, friend, and even as a mother. By asking questions, allowing participation, and making my presentations accessible for all individuals, I’m always seeking innovative ways to host a space for others and show them that their voice is as important as mine. 

Caring leaders should open a dialogue that allows everyone to operate within a space that welcomes both their strengths and weaknesses. As we navigate this new normal, we must customize our methods to meet our people where they are—whether that’s behind a mask or behind a screen.

Giving & Receiving Grace in Response to Workplace Harm

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a virtual diversity, equity, and inclusion course. It was fantastic to be in community with other thought leaders and colleagues within the DEI space, and take our collective learning to the next level. Even as someone with years of experience in the field, I can always stand to learn something new from others, and I cherish that process.

On the first day we got to know each other and began to better understand our backgrounds. This early stage of relationship building can be awkward—and the awkwardness is exacerbated by the distance technology creates—but we were lucky enough to progress past this phase quickly. Our informal conversations allowed us to quickly understand where our hearts are, how our histories led us to this point, and what our hopes for the course were.

But as with any new group of peers, it wasn’t entirely smooth sailing. At one point, a Lebanese American woman, who presents more as white, was sharing a story. All of a sudden, she used the term “colored person” in passing, but it definitely struck a chord with those of us who caught it. Another participant, an African American woman from the South, rewound the conversation to correct her. She explained that “colored person” is an outdated and offensive term, and that she felt hurt by its use. The woman who said it was taken aback, as she hadn’t even realized what she said. She of course apologized, and we moved on.

The next day, we learned that the Lebanese American woman texted the African American woman in private afterwards, explaining that her intent was never to offend anyone, but that she takes full responsibility for the mistake. Whereas most people would try to brush off such a blunder or deflect accountability for it, this woman was vulnerable in admitting the harm she caused and listening to how her words affected those around her. The two of them brought this exchange to the larger group, and I was heartened by the display of camaraderie between all of us. We explained how we knew her intentions were positive, so we all felt safe in extending grace to her for an honest mistake.

These two women are perfect case studies for different yet equally powerful kinds of caring leadership. The person who made the hurtful comment demonstrated authentic self-leadership in how she expressed remorse, compassion, and vulnerability. Instead of getting defensive or angry, she listened to her peers and made a small commitment to not only repair the harm she caused on an individual level, but to better herself moving forward as well. On the flip side, the woman who called her into a learning moment exemplified the power of holding others accountable, and genuine forgiveness. She was mature and well-spoken in how she articulated the harm she experienced, and accepting and collaborative in how she opened up a dialogue with the person who offended her. Together, these two individuals used their relationship to teach the rest of us about all of these emotional tools, and how caring leaders can utilize all of them to give and receive grace when a mistake is inevitably committed in the workplace.

Of course, there will be some instances of offense that may feel too drastic to overlook or move past, and those moments will require a distinct set of strategies. But when you feel slighted by a comment made under someone’s breath or hurt by an offhand statement, I urge you to embody the characteristics these two women did. If you’re upset by something, give yourself the time to stop the operation and tend to that wound. If you cause distress by something you did, listen to why your actions caused harm, work with the other person to find a mutually agreeable solution, and internalize the lessons learned. At the end of the day, mistakes are inevitable, but failing to learn from them isn’t. We only evolve when we open ourselves up to the mere possibility of growth.

How Outside Opinions Help Us Gain Clear & Conscious Leadership Vision

I’ve worn glasses since I was eleven years old. I attribute my nearsightedness to watching way too much television when I was younger, and my vision has only gotten worse as the years have passed.

A while ago, I was having difficulty seeing clearly out of my glasses, which was beginning to impair my productivity and ability to lead others. So I scheduled a check up with the optometrist to see what was going on and get some medical advice. For some reason, I didn’t end up taking their suggestions; perhaps it was a timing conflict or an effort to save money, but the point is that I shrugged off their counsel without a second thought.

As you might guess, my vision continued to worsen, until I had no choice but to do what the doctors said. Of course, when I took their advice and updated my prescription, it was like magic. Suddenly I could see everything in incredible detail, and it felt like a huge weight was lifted off me.

This moment reminded me of how leaders often get jaded with time, or their judgment becomes clouded under the fog of endless responsibilities and lengthy to-do lists. When we feel overwhelmed, we fail to see people as they are, which can cause problems. I myself have gotten bogged down in my own issues, buckled under the pressure, and suffered from tunnel vision that prevents me from openly receiving outside opinions.

When we get caught up in our own filters, lenses, past experiences, and blindspots, we tend to believe that we are the only ones capable of solving our problems. But just as I was incapable of (literally) seeing the solution to my vision problem, caring leaders should recognize that the input of others is an effective way to consider new ideas and solutions. We all need external support to see clearly and innovate our way through challenges. Taking advantage of this kind of help isn’t a sign of weakness; in fact, the opposite is true. Accepting assistance is a sign of humility and self-awareness, and an astute use of the network you’ve built for yourself.

Ask yourself, who in your circles do you turn to when you’re having trouble seeing clearly? These champions could be a professional coach, a close friend, peers or coworkers, a trusted confidant, therapists, or even a family member. Bringing in outside perspectives can also include reading literature and consuming content you wouldn’t typically expose yourself to. They say what we read today walks and talks tomorrow, so now is the perfect time to start developing that foundation of fresh ideas for future obstacles. The more help we accept in developing our leadership vision, the more support we benefit from, and the more we can pay it forward to others.

What Inclusion Means to Me

As a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant, my clients often ask me, “what does inclusion mean?” But the more apt question would be, “what does inclusion mean to you?” We each carry within ourselves entirely unique backgrounds and identities, and those subjective experiences invariably determine what we consider truly inclusive environments. As a result, inclusion will look, sound, and feel completely different to different people.

So what does inclusion mean to me, Heather Younger? 

Let’s start with the basics.

To me, inclusion does not mean the exclusion of others. It means embracing every member of your team with open arms despite whatever differences distinguish them. But it also means not quite erasing those differences for the sake of superficial unity. In honoring those distinctions, we transform would-be outsiders into welcomed insiders.

To me, inclusion means full and unconditional acceptance. I often say that acceptance sets us all free, and I believe this is so because acceptance is the primal core of our needs. When we’re born into our parents’ arms, we want them to accept us—flaws and all. We have a deep-set desire to be seen and loved for who we are, and one way to do this at work is to accept our people however they come to us, including their past baggage. Inclusion is the comfort in meeting others in their fullness, and accepting whatever messiness or complexity that entails.

To me, inclusion means empowering those we lead, not belittling them by way of passing judgment, micromanaging, or banishing all talk of personal matters from the office. It means you work with them to collaboratively push through tough projects, you demonstrate trust by intentionally delegating big projects, and you respectfully ask about their personal life to signal you care about their entire experience as a human. When employees notice this level of compassion, they feel they can show up for their workday as their authentic selves.

To me, inclusion means having tough conversations. This includes welcoming dissenting or controversial opinions to the discussion, because everyone should feel safe enough to voice their perspective in an inclusive environment, even if it goes against the grain. It’s really easy for us to invite those we like, those who look like or act like us, or those we agree with to the table. Nonetheless, our invitations, whether implicit or explicit, must advance and include the whole of our team, especially those from minority viewpoints or identities. In this sense, inclusion is an acknowledgement that every team member is a human being worthy of respect, dignity, and the benefit of the doubt. It is both the invitation to speak and the validation that you heard them that makes all the difference in helping everyone feel supported.

Perhaps the crux of my definition of inclusion is an emphasis on family in the broadest sense of the word. As I deliver keynotes on stage on this very topic, my sole purpose is to bring everyone into community with me, and create a safe atmosphere of mutual acceptance. My goal is to create a family, even temporarily. If my audience feels truly accepted, just for a moment, I know I’ve done my job and created a culture of inclusion, and that’s what inclusion means to me.

How Our Authentic Stories Can Bring About Greater Good

After a lifetime of trying to minimize my difference—the difference between me and my white mother, the difference between me and my coworkers, the difference between me and other thought leaders—I am now being pulled out of the shadows and into the spotlight to share my story. These past few years, I’ve felt compelled to share my journey of overcoming adversity, being an outsider in the workplace, and existing as an outcast in a biracial household. My Jewish grandmother was dissatisfied with whom my mother had chosen to start a family with (i.e., someone Black and Christian), which complicated our relationship since I was a symbolic embodiment of that sin, so to speak. As an adult, I now see the professional skills this experience of exclusion instilled in me, and I feel how this story resonates with the audiences I share it with.

It’s a strange and uncomfortable process, simply because I’ve been conditioned to find safety in hiding my story. But when the call to action is so loud and so resolute, it’s important to follow that call for the greater good. As I’ve discovered my leadership style over the course of my career, I’ve learned that a caring leader is someone who is comfortable being vulnerable with those they lead, thus fulfilling a higher—albeit more difficult—purpose. 

About eight years ago, before my current role as an employee advocate, I became good friends with an Orthodox Jewish coworker whom I had hired as a sales representative. He wore a yarmulke, attended an Orthodox synagogue, adhered to kosher eating guidelines—and he did all of this openly and with pride. He knew a little bit about my Jewish background, but not the entire picture. At that point, I was still in the process of becoming comfortable bringing my full self to work, complicated family history and all. However, he was generally aware of my Jewish heritage, and it allowed us to forge a strong connection.

A few years down the road, he invited me to his son’s upcoming bar mitzvah. Now here’s the truth: at that point in my life, I had never attended or even been invited to a bar mitzvah, despite my half-Jewish upbringing. After all, I was never welcome at those kinds of events as the “black sheep” of the family. Admittedly, I was a bit surprised, a bit nervous, and of course very honored by his invitation. He had no idea how special that small gesture was to me, yet his act of grace and courtesy made a big impact on my relationship with my Jewish identity.

I attended the ceremony, perhaps with a little trepidation. In the past, I’ve written about how my Jewish grandmother would keep me hidden from her community because she was ashamed to have a biracial granddaughter, and since then, I’ve been anxious to reenter Jewish spaces. To my suprise, everyone at this Orthodox synagogue was extremely welcoming, accepting, and warm. I felt as if I was in a judgment-free zone, where no one even cared that I looked different than the rest of the crowd. At the end of the day, I finally felt accepted and included in a community I had always been a part of, but in which I had never felt truly welcomed. 

Recently, I shared this particular story with a corporate client who was trying to grasp the meaning of inclusion. The key takeaways helped elucidate what inclusion means to me: don’t lead with fear if someone on your team is different from you. Instead, lead with curiosity and courage, and stand in solidarity with them as you honor (not erase) that very difference. Be proud of your alignment with other communities, and welcome others into that process who you believe might benefit from that proximity to diversity. This is exactly what my Orthodox Jewish friend did for me, and I now pay that grace forward by telling our story.

My life and career is full of these kinds of stories, and I’m now witnessing the power they hold if wielded responsibly. As I become more comfortable opening up as a caring leader, I can attest to the profound potency that vulnerability carries as a teaching tool. I encourage you to take stock of your own stories, and consider what lessons you can pass along if you just take center stage for a moment.

3 Tips for Leading With Empathy & Compassion

The other day, I was picking up an order from a deli for my mother, who had ordered ahead of time. I didn’t realize the order was set for a later pick up time, so I arrived, and it wasn’t ready. When I told them that I had traveled 45 minutes and was wondering if there was any way for them to expedite the order, the cashier shrugged off my request, and told me there was nothing they could do, and that I would just have to wait around. My mother decided to call them over the phone, and to my surprise, they gladly agreed to speed up the order and have it ready in 15 minutes.

Frustrated, I wondered why they chose not to show me empathy and understanding when I was standing right in front of them. Why did they not care for me and my needs until a secondary request came into play?

My interaction with the deli staff made me think of all the times employees come to their manager with an issue, and are brushed off without a second thought. In the most dysfunctional organizations, employees don’t consider their manager a caring leader. Rather, they consider them a boss, someone who has the authority to make their professional life a walk in the park or a living hell.

We each have the choice to decide how we show up for others. Do we problem solve with our team members as they stand in front of us, or do we leave them to their own devices? Do we make excuses for why we didn’t treat them better when we’re called out for our behavior? Do we exercise empathy and compassion when we’re called on to lead? Do we leave our employees feeling supported and respected, or unheard and unimportant?

These are the questions I ask my clients all the time. They’re the questions you should be asking yourself on a regular basis to ascertain where you’re failing your employees. So how do we consciously do better as leaders? Below are three tried-and-true tips for leading with empathy:

  • Slow down. We all know how busy managers can be, but when an employee comes to you with a problem and you treat them as another box to check off on your to-do list, it makes them feel like you don’t have time for them. Try to slow down your interactions, and see the person in front of you as a human being worthy of dignity and care, and not just a cog in your machine. A little undivided attention goes a long way.
  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This is what empathy is at its core. It’s about seeing a situation from someone else’s perspective, and connecting to the emotions from their viewpoint. Step out of your shoes and ask questions to get a better sense of their experience. “Why do you feel that way? What do you see that I might not be aware of? In your opinion, how can I best support you?” Questions like these will aid you in creating a solution that works for both of you.
  • Exercise self-awareness. Oftentimes, we offend people when we least intend to, so be conscious of every word you say, the tone with which you say it, and what your body language might be communicating that your words aren’t. When we fall short in caring for our employees, use self-reflection to determine what you did wrong, how you can improve moving forward, and how you can rebuild that bridge.

The relationship between employee and leader should be a mutually beneficial one, where both parties are respected, supported, and inspired by one another. You shouldn’t leave your team members high and dry in moments of frustration, like the deli staff did to me. You should center your leadership approach around empathy and compassion, and prioritize connection-building as the foundation of a healthy team dynamic.

131: Leaders with Heart Know the Power of Appreciation

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Danny Langloss, City Manager at City of Dixon in Illinois about his leadership style, the importance of showing appreciation for those we lead, a time when he was not the best version of himself, and much more.

Key takeaways:

  • There is a delicate balance, for the leader, on being self-aware and managing emotions.
  • There is a big difference between being very aware of who we are and how we are feeling, than how others are feeling or responding to who we are.
  • We should have robust personal and organizational or team mission to hold on to when things get tough. That is our north star
  • The leadership journey is not simple or easy.
  • We’ve got to show the right amount of care first, before we can focus on productivity and timelines.
Prepare your ears for this insightful episode. Listen and learn!

Danny Langloss currently serves as the City Manager at Dixon, Illinois.

Danny is a leadership speaker and coach specializing in leadership mindset, employee engagement, creating high performing teams, cultures of leadership, organizational excellence, change leadership, and crisis leadership. He is driven to inspire, motivate, and help individuals and organizations reach their full potential.

Danny believes the best way to predict the future is to create it. He is a lifelong student of leadership with more than 13 years of executive leadership experience. Danny is fueled by the value of being committed to excellence and is constantly looking for new, progressive strategies that drive employee engagement, ownership, and excellence.

Over the past 5 years, Danny has served as the keynote speaker for national and state conferences on leadership, substance use disorder, brain health, and protecting children from child predators. 

Great Profession

Honestly, it bothers me not to be in law enforcement. There’s so much change that needs to happen in that great profession.

Before becoming the City Manager, I was getting ready to run for the International Chiefs of Police on four premises: first was leadership, developing leaders, and forefronting meaningful, progressive change. Second was to build meaningful strong relationships with communities of color. The third was substance use disorder and addiction. The fourth was mental illness. I wish I could’ve stayed but I love Dixon. We’re doing great things at Dixon.

There's no destination in our leadership journey. – @DannyLangloss #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Great Commitment

We really try to create a culture that is really consistent with the feeling of getting a family where we hold each other accountable. I talk a lot about a relaxed environment, where the expectations are high and we’re going to perform to a certain level. But in a relaxed and caring environment, it’s all about inclusion, empowerment, growth, opportunity, and innovation.

It’s funny that you get different feedback the farther you move up in an organization. I just had my evaluation a couple weeks ago. I was blown away by a lot of the words and the things that our top team members have said. I would hope that my commitment to doing the things I just talked about would be reflected there.

My team is so amazing. They always rise to the occasion and that has never been more evident than during this whole COVID- 19 situation. When the state of Illinois came out with the downstate small business stabilization grant, the city had to be an applicant and every business had to be a separate application between 80-100 pages.

But our team rose to the occasion and we submitted 54 grants on behalf of our community. That is true dedication, living one’s purpose, and ownership. That is commitment. It was inspiring to be part of that, to see us deliver, and come through for our businesses.

The more you give back, in the end, the more you receive. – @DannyLangloss #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

We're not perfect. When we think we are, we're done. – @DannyLangloss #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Great Passion

I’ve always wanted to be in the position that gives me the ability to make the biggest difference with my current skill set. When I was a police officer, I never said I want to be the police chief. I just always wanted to be in the position that would give me the chance to make the biggest impact. Early on, that was as a patrol officer. Then it was as a detective.

I’m very passionate. One of the things I’m very passionate about is giving a face and a voice to victims of child sexual abuse. I specialized in that for ten years. I worked on these cases, and I was sent to incredible trainings. Also, I helped create our first child advocacy center.

I was very frustrated with the way victims were treated when they came forward. When I became police chief, that wasn’t a destination. That was the beginning. I used my badge as doors to create major community awareness and prevention campaigns, to raise money for our local center, and to help Erin Merryn create Erin’s law, which is the first law in the country that required age appropriate child sexual abuse prevention education in grades Pre-K through 12.

While my passion is one of my greatest strengths, it is also my greatest weakness.  – @DannyLangloss #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Proactive communication is one of the greatest tools of leaders during these times. – @DannyLangloss #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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129: Leaders with Heart Use Employee Feedback to Improve Themselves

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Scott Miller, EVP of Thought Leadership at Franklin Covey about his leadership style, his drive to lead, and his unique view on leadership and self-awareness.

Key takeaways:

  • As leaders, we must be aware of our shortcomings to truly meet our people where they are.
  • Do your people feel safe to tell the truth about you to your face?
  • Great leaders are more concerned with the right thing than being right.
  • Be the leader who is comfortable with your people eclipsing your leadership.
Listen in and take as much wisdom as you can from this leader with heart!

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as the Executive Vice President of Thought Leadership. 

Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Also, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Release, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal best-seller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team

Previously, Scott worked for the Disney Development Company, and grew up in Central Florida. Scott served under the tutelage of Dr. Stephen R. Covey for close to two decades as a sales producer and sales leader.

He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

Cycling Back

I think I am transitioning out of leading people. It’s been a wonderful journey.

[Leadership] can be unrelenting. It can be unrewarding and it’s not for everyone. Not everyone should be a leader and I’m not sure if I should have been a leader early on. I’ve grown and matured a lot. At this stage of my life, I’m very comfortable saying my leadership journey is coming to completion.

I’m going to cycle back into becoming an individual producer. Right now, I’m leading three boys that my wife and I have brought into this world.

Just because you're in the C-suite does not mean you perfected all of the leadership management strategies. – @scottmillerj1 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Blind Spots

Sometimes, I have extreme courage. I’m too courageous when it comes to calling up people’s blind spots. I don’t let issues linger.  Also, I could use some growth on balancing my courage with my diplomacy or consideration.

It’s your job as a leader to constantly become more self-aware, whether it be through seeking feedback and making it safe for others to tell you their truth about you. I say their truth because sometimes it’s about their ex-boss who sounds like you, or their ex-husband who looks like you. You have to make it safe for others.

What I often do in a conversation is I just ask people what’s it like to work for me, to be in a zoom call with me, to work a trade show booth with me, to go to lunch with me, or to work on a product launch with me. I would  make sure they know that I’m not going to refute, deny, or explain it away. I’m just going to listen and write it down.

Then I would take it a step further. I would show extraordinary levels of vulnerability, and ask them what they think is going on with me when I’m showing those. I’ll ask if I seemed jealous, insecure, unprepared, or threatened. I would roll out some adjectives so that they can share with me what they haven’t felt safe saying before. Occasionally, someone will tell how I react and I become more aware of why I act that way in front of a meeting. It’s insightful.

No one is as self-aware as they think they are. – @scottmillerj1 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Scott’s best talents are two things: taking nothing and turning it into something, and giving my people feedback on their blind spots. – @scottmillerj1 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Leading People

I don’t believe that everyone should be a leader of people. Sometimes it gets confusing that everyone has leadership skills in them. Of course, you lead yourself, or your legacy, or a project. But I don’t think that everyone should be a leader of people. I think, too often, people are lured into being leaders of people.

A study said that the average age when someone is promoted into their first management role is at age 30. But the average age they receive their first leadership development training is at age 42.

Now there’s a whole lot of people wrecking carnage across cultures and organizations because they were not trained to be great leaders. Either they weren’t vetted properly or they weren’t told that this is what leadership looks like.

If your people know that you're willing to grow and learn, they can share insights about your own blind spots with you. – @scottmillerj1 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Effective leadership is not acquainted with charisma or vocabulary. It's confidence, humility, vulnerability, and listening. – @scottmillerj1 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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13: Leaders with Heart Know Themselves First

One of the things I’ve been finding as I speak to leaders on the show is most of them are really focusing on connecting with their people on a personal level. They recognize the importance of spending 10-30 minutes of their time with their team, not talking about work, but just getting to know and seeking to understand more about them, sharing with them and being more vulnerable with them.

Our guest for today is Trent Selbrede. I’ve been having interactions with him for 2-3 years now on LinkedIn, and every time I would post things related to management, or he would post something, our exchanges are always so rich. I could see that he had a big heart, which is why he’s on the podcast, and that he really led people to a place of empowering them and letting them grow.

Trent Selbrede’s Full BIO

Trent Selbrede became a hotel General Manager at the age of 20 after eight months in the business. He remains a hospitality professional and currently works with a phenomenal team at the Residence Inn by Marriott in San Diego, CA. He is also the Chairperson of the Marriott Champions for Rady Children’s Golf Tournament which raises over $120k per year for the local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.

Trent’s ‘why’ is rooted in his wife, 2 daughters, and 2 adopted black lab mixes. In his spare time, Trent enjoys home improvement projects, mountain biking, and extensive community service.

People call Trent when they are stuck in the mud of best practices, checklists, and broken cultures. He’s not a magician, but he is incredibly resourceful and can make magic happen.

In this episode, Trent talks about his background in the hospitality industry, self-awareness, the importance of investing in yourself to become a better leader and a lot more.

Click the play button below to listen to the episode!

“Hospitality Is in My Blood”

Trent’s motivation to lead comes from his family. They make it easy for him to get up every morning and take care of them, making sure his kids have everything they need.

Many people think that I’m in the hotel business, and that’s easy to see from the outside, but I think it’s an important distinction that I’m in hospitality. I don’t even like to call it a business.

Some people say that’s semantics, but our owners are in the hotel business, they’re in it to make profit. Hospitality is in my blood. I like helping people.

Trent shares that hospitality is a great industry for him. Yes, there are financials and administrative work, but it’s also fun and engaging, and every day is different.

He works with a diverse group of associates and guests from all over the world, and they all have different wants and needs. That’s what drives him, because if he gets bored, he gets in trouble.

Self-Awareness and Leadership

I think my self-awareness now is probably better than it’s ever been. So if I’m going off track, or if I know that there’s an outside influence that’s going to try to derail me, I also tell the people around me,

“Hey, I got a lot going on. If I’m a prick, just yell it.”

And I open that door, because if something’s going off-track for them, I’ll try to ask them about it, or I’ll engage with them and try to see what’s going on.

How do we empower, how do we lead and guide, if we aren’t aware of where we sit in our own space, in our own skin? #selfawareness #leadership Click To Tweet

Start Your Day Right

For me, when I enjoy doing something, it’s easy. @trselbrede #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

One of my favorite activities right now is I come in half an hour before our back of the house team or housekeepers and I come in and I just hang out and drink coffee with them. We talk, and we laugh, and we don’t talk about scores or financials. We talk about kids, what we’re doing that weekend, or biking.

We’re just being people.

They’ve got a long day ahead of them, I’ve got a long day ahead of me, but – I hate to call that a habit because it’s just something I drive on. It sets the tone for my day, and it sets the tone for their day.

Find somebody you trust and that you can follow, and you’ll learn some great things as well. @trselbrede #mentor #mentorship #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

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