Hidden cowardice is lurking in most people; and that, clearly, can make leading high-courage conversations a huge challenge. But there are techniques to discussing “the undiscussables,” as Scott Jeffrey Miller, executive vice president of thought leadership at FranklinCovey, reveals in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
With the consulting firm for 23 years, Miller worked closely with Dr. Stephen Covey for 15 of them. Covey, who died in 2012, wrote “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” a bestseller of more than 25 million copies.
In the interview, Miller presents his own seven principles — or habits — that financial advisors, and others, would be wise to adopt to be more effective on a people-level and to build deeper client relationships.
With Walt Disney’s real estate development division at the start of his career, Miller, 50, is one of an emerging generation of new business leadership advisors and coaches.
The frequent speaker is author of a new book, “Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow” (Mango-June 18, 2019).
Such challenges include inspiring trust, talking straight, managing emotions and aligning actions with WIGs (Wildly Important Goals).
FranklinCovey, based in Salt Lake City, specializes in performance-improvement solutions for organizations. Its clients have included 90% of the Fortune 100.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Miller, on the phone from San Francisco, a stop on his nationwide book tour. In “Management Mess,” he shares some of his own successes as well as some of what he calls his “messy management mistakes.” In the interview, he explores how excellent leadership skills can help promote trusted client relationships. For example, in conversation, be a good listener by refraining from interrupting the client’s flow: He or she may reveal some close-held, advisor-useful information.
Here are highlights of our interview:
THINKADVISOR: Please discuss some of your principles to help financial advisors avoid making messes out of client relationships. First: “Talking straight.”
SCOTT JEFFREY MILLER: Having courageous conversations upfront is enormously important. Talking straight in leading difficult conversations is really tough for a lot of people. Most people are sort of cowardly. But with practice, we become a little more courageous.
What goes into talking straight with a client?
It’s incumbent on every advisor, coach, mentor and salesperson to make sure they’re upfront in clarifying: What are your objectives — and let’s discuss all the paths to get there. What’s your tolerance? What are your pain points? Take time to listen and talk through expectations of what you can and can’t do. You want to be uber-clear that you’ll be thoughtful enough to discuss the undiscussables at any point in the relationship. That creates transparency and high trust.
Another of your principles is: “Listen first.”
Most leaders, salespeople, advisors of any kind are trained to always be in convincing mode, encouraging other people to listen to their expertise. But if you really want to be a trusted advisor, move out of persuasion mode and into empathic listening mode.
What do you advise specifically?
The best way to understand the other person’s objective and help them achieve their goals is not to probe. It’s not to advise. It’s not to evaluate or interpret. It’s just to be empathic. Move off your own agenda and understand the other person’s goals, dreams, passion and pain.