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Are You Talent Obsessed?

Are you Talent Obsessed? with Beth Miller

Are You Talent Obsessed?

Is your expert the best leader? How do you pick the best people? Executive Velocity CEO Beth Miller and Karla explain how and why to be Talent Obsessed.

Beth Armknecht Miller is CEO of Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. Beth is a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair Emeritus, and committed volunteer. She is certified in Myers Briggs, Hogan, and Business DNA. And, she is a Certified Managerial Coach by Kennesaw University. Beth’s insight and expertise have made her a sought-after speaker on hiring, leadership development, and succession planning. She is a frequent contributor to Entrepreneur Online, About.com, and TalentCulture to name a few. She is a graduate of Babson College and Harvard Business School’s OPM program.

Web Home: www.executive-velocity.com

Twitter: @srexecadvisor

LinkedIn: Beth Miller

Amazon: “Are You Talent Obsessd?”

Listen to the podcast here:

Read Along as Karla and Beth discuss the need to be Talent Obsessed

Karla Nelson: And welcome to the people. Catalyst podcast, Beth Miller.

Beth Miller: Hey, Karla, how are you?

Karla Nelson: Well, hello. All the way from Atlanta, Georgia.

Beth Miller: Yes, indeed. And we’re having some beautiful weather down here.

Karla Nelson: Oh, that’s nice. Everybody’s having different weather. I heard there up in Maine. They’re kind of like, it’s like Iceland about there right now. I was chatting with somebody that was in Texas yesterday and they were having, you know, 75-degree weather in the same conversation. So, I guess it depends on where you’re at here this time of the year.

Beth Miller: Yeah, it does. I actually, I’m originally from new England, so I remember that kind of cold weather.

Karla Nelson: That’s beautiful. I know I lived in Michigan for a little bit and I realized that just wasn’t for me, I’ve told my family that’s there. If I ever say I’m going to go back, just tell me because I will move. I won’t even last one winter there.

Beth Miller: Well, we’re in agreement there.

Karla Nelson: Yeah, no kidding. We’re so excited to have you on the show here today, Beth. So, you know, you just some really interesting work and we’ll give it to the talent management cycle and you have an interesting background in regards to not only your education, but then you used to be a Vistage chair. And now you run your own firm. Can you share with us a little bit about that entrepreneurial journey?

Beth Miller: Well it’s, it had a lot of curves to it. I actually,

Karla Nelson: Doesn’t it always?

Beth Miller: Yeah. I actually started in big corporate America working for DEC Digital Equipment Corporation, which is no longer. I’m dating myself there. And I realized I didn’t really like working for large companies. And so, I went and worked for a much smaller company and got married. Actually. I met my husband through that company, and he started a temporary services company. So, I have to say I wasn’t the original entrepreneur in our family. My husband, my husband has much more of an entrepreneurial spirit than I do.

Karla Nelson: Well, it’s always, always nice to have an entrepreneur in the family to encourage other ones too.

Beth Miller: Yes, yes, indeed. He’s my biggest supporter.

Karla Nelson: That’s awesome.

Beth Miller: So, we, we actually I was working at Coopers and Lybrand at the time and he convinced me to leave and start a consulting practice, a technology consulting practice. And we ended up continuing down two paths of an accounting services firm and a technology firm. And we sold the accounting one and then continued growing the technology one until 2002, when we sold it. I got very bored very quickly.

Karla Nelson: Yeah. We tend to do that.

Beth Miller: I thought it was going to be so cool to retire, but no.

Karla Nelson: Yeah, that lasts a couple of weeks.

Beth Miller: Yeah, exactly. And volunteering was just not working. I mean, there was, there was only so much volunteering I could do. So, I went through leadership, Atlanta back and 2006 and met a gentlemen who had been a member of Vistage for many years. And he, he was the one that encouraged me to look at becoming a chair. So back in 2006, I became a chair and immediately found my home. It was, I wish I had found it earlier. Karla. It was all the light bulb started going on.

Karla Nelson: Yeah. That’s a great organization.

Beth Miller: Yeah. Yeah. I was, I was there for 13 years. During those 13 years I was also had my, my executive coaching practice executive velocity. So, I started getting a lot busier and decided back in actually it was just a little over a year ago to step down from, from Vistage. And fortunately, the great story is that I had a succession plan in place.

Karla Nelson: There you go. We’ll talk about that a little bit.

Beth Miller: I one of my members had had sold his company and he ended up taking over the group.

Karla Nelson: Nice.

Beth Miller: Yeah. So, there was a real smooth transition and the group is, is very, very dynamic and, and growing, even in these challenging times of virtual meetings.

Karla Nelson: Yeah. Isn’t that interesting. I’ve been doing virtual meetings a long time, but I’ll tell you I’m a little virtual meeting’d out. These days sometimes, and it’s becoming the norm. And I know a lot of millennials actually prefer it because they’d rather not get in their car and drive somewhere. But I definitely liked the face to face. Remember when we used to have to go someplace to meet people.

Beth Miller: Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s funny. I, I miss some of that, but I don’t miss all of it.

Karla Nelson: I agree with you. I don’t miss all of it either. And I really like being able to meet really unique individuals all over the world. And that’s really, really fun because there’s talent and all over the place and unique individuals and things that you’d never heard of. And you’re just like, wow, it’s just, especially when you open up all of the borders full state and around the globe. It’s really interesting. So, share with us a little bit about, you know, some of the pieces of your, what you call Talent Management Cycle. I know there was like three different areas here and we are going to focus in on the succession planning, but can you go through each of those three areas and share with us a little bit about how they’re connected? Because I think these get fragmented a lot of times in business.

Beth Miller: Yeah. So, but hiring great people obviously is, is the start of the process. But if you look at my website, I don’t really talk about particularly the organizational planning aspect of it, which some of that comes in through the succession planning, but hiring great people is from my perspective, teaching managers how to hire great people. It’s not the recruiting aspect, it’s the aspect around the interviewing, getting the right fit.

Karla Nelson: I love that we teach that all the right time. And so, you know, don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole because roundness training doesn’t work so well.

Beth Miller: Yeah. And yeah, right, exactly. You know I heard somebody years ago talk about how, you know, you can teach skills, but you can’t teach attitude.

Karla Nelson: Oh, yep.

Beth Miller: And and that’s really what a manager needs to figure out during those, those interviews is, “is this person going to be somebody I want to see every day and interface with who’s going to fit well with my team?”

Karla Nelson: Yes. Very critical. Very, yeah.

Beth Miller: I will tell you that the majority of the managers that I work with, they’ve never been trained on how to interview

Karla Nelson: Or they interview and hire people that are just like them when Saab is not gonna, you know, until the same skills potentially, maybe it does, but really uniquely having some system that is not dependent on just their feeling for the person or, Oh, we got along, Oh, you, you know, you were a winner at your last position and not thinking about the new position. I do see that a lot, especially with the hiring somebody that’s like you.

Beth Miller: Yeah. And I, and that’s why it’s important also to, to have assessments as part of the process to take out some of that bias in the interviewing process. There was one group that I was working with and they, they chose to assess all of their employees before starting to do the hiring, as I’m using the assessment for hiring, what we found was just, as you said, Karla, so many of the people had similar profiles and, and it was causing problems. And one of, one of the things that we found was there was a lot of spontaneity within the organization. There wasn’t anybody that was super planned.

Karla Nelson: Oh, well you had a whole bunch of early adopters on the team. That’s what our assessment identifies law of diffusion of innovations, 110 years of marketing, rich research about how people adopt new ideas. And a lot of times we find that so frequently either it’s a whole bunch of earlier adopters that are, you know, agreeing in understanding and light, cool new things and shiny objects. And then you’ve got the later adopters who like all the details and you might not have enough of them or not be spending the right work because they need something different. You know, that’s the other piece is you have a great, great diversity within the team. And now you still have to have a plan by which you adopt new ideas and figure out what to do and then implement them. Right. So definitely a good point. We see that so frequently. Okay. What’s the next piece here in your talent management cycle?

Beth Miller: So, developing leaders. And when I talk about developing leaders, it’s not just existing leaders, but understanding how to identify high potentials because potentials or I should say performance does not equal potential.

Karla Nelson: That is very true.

Beth Miller: I saw a statistic like upwards of 80 plus percent of performers, high performers, are not high potentials. Or like they’re not showing the behaviors that would lead you to believe that they are high potential.

Karla Nelson: Hmm. That’s interesting. Well, and that also goes back to what we’re talking about. The law of diffusion of innovations, of adopting a new idea. Everybody adopts a new idea differently and you need, it’s interesting because what I see a lot of times, Beth, is we, I think that the leaders should look like something and it’s like, well, everybody’s going to lead in a different way at a different time, but you also have to hand them the Baton to be able to then show and give them a process by which they lead because certain individuals lead better by real set, kind of not just instructions because you have to have EQ and those other things too, right. Everybody leads in a different way. And I think there’s a lot of bias around what that should look like. I mean, you can be a great leader and be a complete introvert. But yet you don’t give them the opportunity, hand them the baton and they might be what we call on our skill Provers, somebody that likes to tell you all the things that are going to go wrong. Well, if they understand about that, about them and their team, now they can get the baton handed to him because they have the information and the data and the process to be then, and be trained as a good leader. I think so many times, Beth, we just check everybody in a room and then we go, Oh, you’re the leader. And then we wash our hands and say, “good luck.” Let’s see how that let’s see all that meeting turns out.

Beth Miller: Nine times out of 10. That’s why I’m called in to do coaching work. It’s because somebody, a subject matter expert of some sort, whether it be a technologist or a salesperson has, has performed so well. And now they’ve been given this opportunity to lead a group, but they have none of the skills. Some of them are ill-suited. For being a leader.

Karla Nelson: Yeah. Well, I think it’s interesting. I always love the one where the top performing salesperson gets made the sales manager.

Beth Miller: I know. What are people thinking,

Karla Nelson: How to work with the leader or whoever’s managing the team, right? They’ll have a ton of great points, a total way of putting the training together. But it’s typically a very different type of a person,

Beth Miller: Right.

Karla Nelson: That is going to be in sales, than a person that’s going to manage and lead a sales team. I mean, I’ve almost never seen that workout.

Beth Miller: Same here.

Karla Nelson: So, I love that and develop those leaders and have a plan for talent development. And this is no longer an option. I think, Beth, because millennials are demanding it.

Beth Miller: They are. Oh my gosh, they certainly are Karla. That, that is, I hear that more times than not, when I’m talking with business owners is, you know, these, these millennials, they, they want and demand training.

Karla Nelson: Yeah. They want a path to see growth, especially the ones that are high achievers. And if they don’t see that path and they’re just so much more likely, and that comes out of a, you know, Shrum just did a steady 78% of the reasons why people leave jobs are preventable. And the largest group of those individuals are millennials. They come around for two months, they’re asked to do things that aren’t really exciting. They’re not really given a path so that they can see the future and then spend the next 15 months looking for another job.

Beth Miller: And that’s why succession planning so important.

Karla Nelson: There we go. So, let’s move on to our third little pillar here in the Thailand talent management cycle.

Beth Miller: Yeah. So, the succession planning, when, when people hear succession planning, they often think of the CEO, business owner. Yeah. Okay. That individual needs to have a succession plan for him or herself. That’s not what succession planning is. Succession planning is organizational-wide. And it’s, it’s about making sure that you’ve got the right people in the right seats at the right time.

Karla Nelson: Oh my gosh. I say that probably 10 times a day. I think we were separated at birth here on this topic because yeah, that is exactly true.

Beth Miller: Yeah. And it, and it gets back to understanding the key positions in our organization positions, not people. And, and then with those, once you understand the key positions, then you start measuring who’s in those positions right now. And what kind of development do they need to fill any kind of gaps. And, and then also determine do they have potential to get to that next level? Which also means more development of some sort. And then, then it’s a matter of conversations with high potentials. And these, these are the, these are those millennials that you’ve got to lay out the path for them and get them to understand that if they want more responsibility, then there are certain things they need to do, whether it be development or taking on a new project. It’s gonna be really clear.

I don’t see managers doing that enough. I don’t see them having those, those career conversations. I talk, well, a lot of, of leaders who are pretty consistent about having one-to-one meetings with, with their direct reports, but too often, those, those meetings are focused on execution and not enough time talking about the future of that individual in the organization.

Karla Nelson: Yes. And I was just going to echo that is, this drives so much of a valuation. It’s crazy too. These are the intangible assets that cut that, you know, those that are acquiring businesses regardless of it’s a private equity firm or whatnot, small business. That directly drives not only to your succession plan, but the valuation that you will have in your negotiate, your business too. I mean, it’s super important to understand the talent that you have developed them and understanding all the positions. You know, you said that I don’t think I’ve ever had somebody say it in that manner of saying, analyze the positions. And then what you understand is that was the, not that you can’t play and fiddle with the type of work that needs to get done, right. Because you can do the Art after the science, but then understanding those positions and then analyzing it from the strengths of your people, which makes absolutely complete sense because, you know, and I liked that you said positions, not job descriptions because job descriptions are almost always absolutely horrible. And they’re created by somebody that doesn’t do or know the job very well. So, we kind of create it, we hire somebody, and then we tell what the job’s about. And then we don’t necessarily have a process that we don’t have bias. And then they ended up doing a job that’s even different from the job description.

Beth Miller: Right. Exactly.

Karla Nelson: And that doesn’t seem to…

Beth Miller: Job descriptions are outdated, the moment that they’re published.

Karla Nelson: Yep. You got it. That’s right, Beth. And so tell us a little bit about…and share with us your position on you’re talking about the intangible that drives that tangible asset, which is the actual ability to sell your company or you know, transfer even a succession planning into the next stage, if you would look at a business from a certain aspect, right?

Beth Miller: Yeah. So oftentimes when somebody is starting to think about selling their company, they, they generally do not look at the people aspect of it. They’re focused on the financials the, the operations, the intellectual property, all of that, but the people aspect they oftentimes ignore, and it does tie into the value of the company and the, the ability for the owner to exit. So a great example was this was several years ago. There were two companies that I was working with both privately held small boutique consulting companies, but in different industries, one of them, the CEO had identified a high potential as his successor. And so, he asked me to come in and start coaching that individual. In fact, that individual ended up joining Vistage as well. And this went on for, Oh gosh, three, three years. And when it, when it was time for him to retire, he had basically already retired, meaning that he was in the office maybe once a week.

Karla Nelson: Yes. The company wasn’t dependent on him being there nor, and he could also prove that it was the team taking care of the customers, not his direct relationship. You see that quite frequently. It’s like, well, you left, and you had a relationship with them for 20 years. Okay. What is that retention going to look like if you don’t have a direct contract, just there’s so many things. When you pull back those layers of, you know, what that leadership makeup looks like and being able to…

Beth Miller: And consequentially and consequently his deal was he got cash, complete cash up front. There was no, no a workout.

Karla Nelson: Wow.

Beth Miller: So, he walked away day one with all his money.

Karla Nelson: You don’t see that very often.

Beth Miller: No.

Karla Nelson: Normally they, what happens is they get a hook. They say, you need to be there to answer it over. And then what happens? They get disenfranchised and the owner, and then it becomes this really fantastic mess that really could have just been worked out ahead of time if all of the right succession planning questions happened, because they’re fine to let the owner go. There’s just fears associated with that. You have to overcome. Right. So that you rarely see all cash. That’s really great. Normally you see at least a percentage, some type of a long-term payout, all sorts of ways. Obviously, you can negotiate a deal. That’s pretty impressive though, to say, “here you go, here’s your cash.”

Beth Miller: Yeah. Yeah. It was very, it was very impressive. But on the flip side, there was another company I was working with that had not planned at all. So much so.

Karla Nelson: Which by the way is most because 90% of people sell their business because they’re burnt out. Can you imagine how great their operations look when they’re burnt out?

Beth Miller: Yeah. Yeah. But the sad thing about this was he had a heart attack and died.

Karla Nelson: Oh, Oh no.

Beth Miller: And there was nobody, nobody that could step up.

Karla Nelson: That’s so when fortunate.

Beth Miller: That company basically shut down in 18 months.

Karla Nelson: Well in, and that is such a big piece, Beth, in, in looking at a part of succession planning is your talent, your people. And then having these fail stops that when that happens, that person probably spent the better part of their life building something. It has everybody involved. You know, he probably had time away from his kids and, you know, hard hours behind the computer or the phone or all of those different things. And then all of a sudden kapoof this amazing asset ends up, you know, just closing doors.

Beth Miller: It was tragic.

Karla Nelson: And it just, it rolls downhill fast too, when things go South and you have some project because both again, the tangible, intangible, tangible is okay, we don’t have that person. They have the answers, right. They were the gate keeper. Right. And then the intangible is how does everybody feel at that company? Do they feel secure in their job? Are they going to actually stay after the owner passed? And so there’s so many things that end up hitting you from so many places, if you, haven’t not only planned, but let other people know that you’ve planned and let them be a part of the plan because people support what they build.

Beth Miller: Right.

Karla Nelson: So, it’s not like this thing that happens behind closed doors. I think a lot of times, companies, they don’t bring their team along with them. The owner’s too far out in front. And regardless if it’s on purpose or not, you know, people support what they build. And if you allow them and you give them those career paths and you give them the training and it’s not that hard, you just have to make a space for it.

Beth Miller: Right. Exactly.

Karla Nelson: And I think that’s the biggest thing is it’s not just about head down, move forward. Those intangible things are so critical and will become even more critical with this 40 to 50 trillion in assets, the largest transfer in assets that has ever happened in the history of the world. And so there’s really three different areas that those businesses can look at, either rolling up their doors, like unfortunately happened to that gentleman who passed away, they’re going to fire sale it and get pennies on the dollar for their company because they didn’t do enough work ahead of time or they’re going to do extremely well. Right. And they’re going to have all those…

Beth Miller: I’m already seeing some of that fire sale because people have, as you said, people run out of energy and they’re, they’re just done.

Karla Nelson: And a lot of business owners, I think, stayed in the game from 2008, you know, we had a huge financial crisis and they stayed in the game and now it’s just like, Oh my goodness. You know, you get too tired. And again, that’s a shame that 90% of people sell their company. And that’s why private equity exists really truly what private equity does is they go in and they purchase a company or a group of companies, roll them in together and fix all this stuff. And now what happens is those owners are leaving millions and millions of dollars on the table. When, if they just created the space for it, created that space for hiring great people, created that space for developing their leaders and creating that space for succession planning, They could, you know, have done really well with building those companies. I’ve met. Goodness. If you’re going to give 20 or 30 years of your life doing it, you might want to layer in these pieces. That really, really make a lot of difference. So, okay, Beth, how can our listeners get a hold of you?

Beth Miller: Well they can get a hold of me through my website, which is www.executive-velocity.com.

Karla Nelson: Excellent. And they can check out your book that wasn’t even now, it’s just been in, print and in paperback. Is it on audio? Where can they find that?

Beth Miller: It’s not audio, but it’s an eBook and hard copy available on Amazon. It’s “Are you Talent obsessed?”

Karla Nelson: Which you should be. Everybody should be talent obsessed.

Beth Miller: Yes.

Karla Nelson: Well, you know, the smartest people lead others. You know, you look at that from an investor standpoint, right? One you can be an employee, the other, you can be a business owner and the other, you can lead other people to do those things so that you can go do more of what you do really well. So those individuals understand that you have to be talent obsessed. So well, Beth, it was such a delight having you on the show here today. I can’t believe how many things you say that I say all the time in regard to being, you know as you said, talent obsessed with your people. And I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Beth Miller:  Well, I’ve really enjoyed it Karla. Thank you for inviting me.


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