With Martin G. Moore

Episode #254

What the Best Leaders Do Differently: An Interview with Scott J Miller

We’re approached all the time to interview other thought leaders on this podcast. However, since No Bullsh!t Leadership is predominantly a solo cast, we reluctantly decline 99% of these requests.

But one email popped into our Inbox a few months ago, and we couldn’t resist it: Scott Jeffrey Miller is a speaker, author, and podcaster (sounds familiar, I know!)

What’s different about Scott is that he’s worked for over 25 years with FranklinCovey, the legendary company started by Stephen Covey, which has not one, but three seminal works to draw upon:

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

  2. The Speed of Trust, and

  3. The 4 Disciplines of Execution (one of my favorites).

Scott has worked with these original thought leaders for decades, and as host of FranklinCovey’s On Leadership podcast, he’s had access to some of the best-known and highest-profile leaders on the planet.

In today’s interview, I drill into Scott’s deep learning, asking him what it’s like to interview the biggest names in business; his experience of writing best-selling books; and what’s in store for the future of leadership.

Check out Scott’s new book here!

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Episode #254 What the Best Leaders Do Differently: An Interview with Scott J Miller


Martin G. Moore (Marty):

In the introduction, I spoke about your On Leadership podcast, and when I was researching it, I was surprised to see how similar our two podcasts actually are (although yours is predominantly an interview podcast).

We both started around the same time, in 2018. We’ve released an almost identical number of episodes. And when I look at the stats on Listen Notes, we have an identical listen notes score, both in the top 0.5% of all global podcasts.

The difference with yours is that you’ve interviewed some really impressive guests and without name dropping on your behalf, I think it’s important for context to share some of the people who’ve helped to shape your views in the last five years or so.

So, you’ve interviewed household names like Deepak Chopra and Arianna Huffington, Matthew McConaughey, and John Maxwell, one of my very early leadership influences.

But you’ve also been able to interview original thought leaders like Daniel Goleman, who obviously brought emotional intelligence into the mainstream. And, James Clear, who’s book, Atomic Habits, has been number one on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list for a hundred years. Dan Pink, Kim Scott of Radical Candor fame, and my favorite, Mark Manson, the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F#%*.

So, with all these luminaries that you’ve had on the podcast, is there a common theme or thread that you see coming through consistently from these people that you’re interviewing?

Scott J. Miller (Scott):

Oh, I love this question. I do have several observations.

And sometimes I’ve mentioned this, and the podcast host hasn’t been happy with my answer, so I’ll get ready to fight you on it. A couple of things:

1. An indefatigable work ethic. You look at people like John Maxwell, Rachel Hollis, and Jack Canfield. I mean, these people work insanely hard. It doesn’t mean they’re workaholics. It means that their avocation and their vocation are similar. They live balanced lives, I believe, but they just have a level of responsibility they feel to invest, and to teach, and to listen, and to keep going.

So, I don’t know that they’re that much smarter than you and me, maybe not. But I do think they outwork most people. So I think, yeah, there’s some insight to be shared that hard work is still a competitive advantage.

2. They have an abundance mentality. There’s not a scarce bone in their body. They usually feel compelled to share, and to pollinate ideas, and make connections. So that’s a second commonality, is they have an abundance mentality versus a scarcity mentality.

3. I think generally they have this beautiful balance of courage and vulnerability, both of which are leadership competencies. They’re very comfortable sharing that a book flopped, or a course didn’t work, or a keynote imploded. They’re confident enough to share with you what went wrong as well as what went right. And that probably culminates in the fourth similarity:

4. There’s no such thing as overnight success. Every one of these people had years of writing books, and their sixth book took off, right? Or they toiled in the leadership space for a decade before they really got traction. No such thing as overnight success. And, when there is, it’s usually ill-gotten or fleeting. But what almost all of them have in common is, you’d be shocked to see how long they worked before they became an overnight success.



Amongst all of those thought leaders, which was the most daunting interview that you ever had to prepare for, and why?


Well, I don’t know that there was a daunting one. I’ve spent my entire career with Stephen Covey and at the FranklinCovey company. So, I’ve been around thought leaders and influencers and celebrities. I’m a talent agent. What my business is, I’m actually a literary speaking and talent agent here in the US.

So, I think Doris Kearns Goodwin was kind of daunting. You know, she’s this Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential scholar. It was more of an honor to be in her presence than perhaps it was daunting. I’ve interviewed some people that I’ve had some major tragedies in life. You know, Elizabeth Smart, the kidnapping victim, and now the victims’ rights advocate. I interviewed a gentleman from Pakistan who survived a commercial airline crash. Oh, wow. 98 people died and two survived, and he was one of them.

So it’s those people that, to use your term, are the most daunting. It’s usually not the celebrities or the business titans or bestselling authors. It’s usually the people that have done something remarkable, usually having survived a tragedy or trauma, and have summoned the courage to talk about it and teach through it. That’s the ones that I think I find the most daunting.


That’s so interesting, Scott. If there’s one person that you’d love to interview, but you haven’t yet had the opportunity, who would that be, and why?


There’s a Hollywood producer named Brian Grazer. He’s part of Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment. I’m not a big movie watcher. I’ve probably watched eight movies in my entire life. I’ve probably read 4,000 books. I’m a reader, not a watcher.

And I’m not sure I’ve watched any of his movies, but he wrote a book called A Curious Mind. He wrote a book about curiosity, and I’m sort-of obsessed with the relevance between curiosity and professional growth and maturity, and insatiable learning and leadership.

And so I’ve been chasing Brian Grazer for like, three years. And I’ll message him personally. He’s like, “yeah, yeah, I’ll come on”, and then his agent will shut it down. I’ll message him again like a year later. “I’m happy to come on”, and then his assistant will shut it down.

So, I’m telling you, Brian, I’m coming for you, brother. If Matthew McConaughey and Deepak Chopra and Brené Brown and Tony Robbins, if they’ll come on, and Jay Shetty and everybody else, you’re coming on my program, bro.



Given that today is the release of your new book, The Ultimate Guide to Great Mentorship, which we’re going to get to a little bit later, I just want to drill a little bit into the writing process. You’ve published a number of books. Writing books is difficult and time consuming, and the outcomes can be incredibly unpredictable.

According to Bookscan, which is probably the most reliable source of publishing information, only 5% of traditionally published books sell more than 5,000 copies. And if you expand that to include self-published works as well, you’re probably looking at less than 1% of all books published sell 5,000. And they say the average book sells about 200 copies. So it’s a lot of work for not a lot of movement.

Now that you’ve written several bestselling books and, of course, publishing your latest work today, what attracts you to writing and why do you keep coming back for more?


Well, when you pose it that way, I don’t know, I’m now second guessing it all. <laugh>. I know your stats are right and they’re horrifying when I hear it.

I’m a literary agent. I didn’t set out to be a writer. I spent 25 years in the FranklinCovey company as the Chief Marketing Officer, as the Executive Vice President of Thought Leadership. My job was to make other people rich and famous through authorship. So I was the equivalent of being the producer and director, not the star, right? Not the actor.

But, almost four years ago this week, I wrote my first book, and it was called Management Mess to Leadership Success. It did quite well. It sold about 100,000 copies between all different retailers and wholesalers and things like that. It’s done quite well. And the reason I wrote it was because I wanted to write a really raw leadership book.

There’s so many leadership books that glorify leadership about how easy it is, and lovely. And it’s so noble. And leadership is tough. It is hard to do. It’s unrelenting, it’s unrewarding. And I’m like, no, not everyone should be a leader. Stop saying that, people!

Not everyone should be an anesthesiologist. Not everyone should be a commercial airline pilot. And not everyone should be a leader, right? I mean, look at this masterpiece, right? <holds up a copy of No Bullsh!t Leadership> I mean, it’s phenomenal. No Bullsh!t Leadership. It’s tough. So I wanted to tell my story. Not all leaders look the same. They don’t have button down ties and they don’t say the right things all the time. And it’s tough. It’s tough.

Yeah. So I got my role. I kind of found my voice. Some publishers believed in me. People started booking podcasts. And my second book became a Wall Street Journal bestseller. But my third book, the one in green behind me, Marketing Mess to Brand Success? Let me confess to you, this was like my biggest book. I was the Chief Marketing Officer of a global leadership company. This book is going to be phenomenal. I spent $45,000 launching this book. I had Facebook launch groups. I had a book tour. I came home the first week after the book launches… the book sold 67 copies.




I spent $40,000 selling a book. I mean, I could have bought 6,000 copies for $45,000 and just pretended they’d sold. The book sold 67 copies, and I posted it on Facebook.

My boys and I unveiled the data from, at the time, NPD. But I talked about it, because some books flourish and some books flop. And you’ve just got to keep going and keep going and find your niche.

And I think my best book is the current one out today, The Ultimate Guide to Great Mentorship. I tend to write really practical books. As you know, most publishers will tell you the authors should write for the reader. I don’t do that. I write for myself. I write books that I think I would find helpful and interesting. And I just try to attract people that find my voice credible. Sometimes they hit, sometimes they miss.



Yeah, absolutely. And your Management Mess book? Saying it’s sold 100,000 copies, so it was “reasonably successful”? That is stellar!

Not quite as stellar, though, as the linchpin of the FranklinCovey organization: the original Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It was first published in 1989, and it’s sold, what, 60 million copies?

Unbelievable, right!? But 15 years after that was released, Covey released a much lesser known book called The Eighth Habit. And habit #8 is Find Your Voice and Inspire Others to Find Theirs.

I find this curious. Do you ever look back on your books after they’ve been written and published and think, “I wish I’d included that concept”? That you didn’t express it the right way, or you evolved later and thought, “Actually I haven’t explained that well”, or, “I wish I’d said that differently”, or, “I wish I’d emphasized this point as opposed to that point”?


Marty, here’s what I will say. I’m a unique cat. I don’t have regret. I don’t experience the emotion of regret. I don’t experience the emotion of embarrassment. Maybe I’m a narcissist. I don’t hope so.

But I once interviewed a famous neuroscientist on the podcast, Dr. Daniel Aman. I’ve actually been on four times and he said something profound. He’s a world renowned neuroscientist, board certified psychiatrist, and brain imaging expert. And he said something profound. He said, “Everybody’s out for themselves. Some of us are just better at disguising it than others.”

I think it’s a great point to your question. I don’t look back at a book and say, “I wish I’d included this.” But I did recently read a book I wrote two years ago and I thought, oh my gosh, that book would’ve been so much better had I written it now versus two years ago.

Because as you know, it takes about a year to write a book, sometimes more, sometimes less… sometimes 10 years. And it takes about a year and a half to copy edit, and source, and publish a book. So I do look back and think, “Oh, that was bad”, or “Oh my gosh, I didn’t tell that story right”. But I don’t have any regret, because it was my maturity at the time. It was my insight at the time. Yeah, sure.

These are awesome questions from an author. I love this conversation.


<laugh>. Well, you know, I’m fascinated by the writing process. I’ve got a grand total of one book in the market.




And when the scars heal, I’ll get to number two.



Just talking about your own brand, personally, it’s absolutely rooted in authenticity and pragmatism. So, do you have a view on the direction that the leadership discourse seems to have taken in the recent years?

You mentioned in the introduction the aversion you have to the concept that everyone should be a leader and it’s easy and we’re all going to be noble and have all these virtues.

But this almost exclusive focus on desirable leadership attributes rather than the sound leadership principles that FranklinCovey espouses and of course seem to be very deeply personal to you.

Do you have a view on that?


Well, here’s how I’d answer that. I think leadership has changed fundamentally, post-pandemic. What hasn’t changed, right!? Maybe that’s a cliche, but I do believe a million people in America died during the pandemic and, you know, a multiple of that massively around the world. It was a lifetime sweeping change for everyone in their values.

I don’t know anyone that’s not different post-pandemic in terms of how they manage their time, how they value their family, how they tolerate a jerk boss, how they up-and-quit because they can’t stand one more day.

You ask them, “Where are you going?” They say, “I don’t know.” You’re like, “No, really? Where are you going?” And they say, “No, I don’t know. I might open an Etsy store. I might, you know, tape something for Udemy. I don’t know. But I don’t want to work here anymore because my life is too short and too precious.”

So, on the heels of that, which is not an epiphany, I think people have spent more time identifying their values and connecting to them and realizing that they don’t want their life to be work. That’s an Americanism, right? I mean, I’m headed to Saint-Tropez on Monday for vacation. Europeans kind of have it. They don’t live to work. They work to live. And I think I’m a capitalist, through and through. But as I’ve come out of the pandemic, I’ve realized this is my one precious life and I don’t want to waste it.

Here’s how I’m connecting it to leadership. I think that leadership is exponentially harder post-pandemic. Not because of the hybrid scenario, but yes, because of that. Not because of the war on talent, but yes, also because of that. Because people need individualized leadership.

Now, Marty (you and I are about the same age, I’m going to guess) it used to be back in the ’80s and ’90s, even 2000s, we had a default leadership style. And most of our team members had to adapt to that. We had positional power, we had utility power, we had coercive power, and hopefully we had some principle-centered power.

But it used to be that, if you were a strong charismatic leader, everybody kind of had to cleave to your style. Hopefully it was an ethical style. But that’s changed. Now, I’ve got to make sure that, as a leader, I have a multitude of styles: that I communicate to Marty how he needs to be communicated to… with frequency… with checking in versus checking on… with the kind of reinforcing or redirecting feedback that works for Marty.

And that’s going to be different for Elise, and different for Troy. So, I do think leadership is exponentially harder. Now, if you want to be the kind of leader that recruits and retains talent, you need to govern your values by principles. But your technique, your style, your delivery needs to match as many members as there are on your team.



Okay. I find this intensely interesting, Scott, because I think what I’m hearing you say, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m hearing you say that what would’ve in the past represented great leadership? It used to be the exception. Now it has to be the baseline.


Ooh. So well said. So well said. Yeah. I mean, in my premise, I even go a step further. I think it’s fair to say that the majority of leaders in organizations historically were promoted as individual producers, right?

It was the star sales leader or star sales producer: she became the sales leader… the most efficient dental hygienist became the leader of the nine hygienists… the most creative digital designer became the director of the design team. And we know there’s no correlation between your ability to be the top salesperson and your ability to be an effective sales leader. Arguably, they’re inversely correlated.

And what happens historically, you know this Marty, is that you promote the top salesperson to become the sales leader. And they often implode because they don’t understand. It’s not about them. They’re in competition with their team. They’re an independent producer and they want to be the star. And by the way, I think as an organization, you want your salespeople to be fiercely independent and competitive. I want them to be the star. I want them to fight to get the incentive trip to Maui and get the four-foot glass vase. I want 50 of those people!

I don’t want them super collaborative. I don’t want them mentoring everybody. Go out there and hit your nut and deliver it. And we will take you and your partner to Maui every year. I hope you earn more than I do.

The challenge is, we promoted a lot of those people and they implode because they don’t take delight in the success of those around them. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. It means they’re a competitive salesperson and their number one professional value is maximize their income, or achieve fame, or be competitive. That’s fine.

So I think it’s super important that organizations be really judicious about the kinds of people they lure into leadership. It’s not for everybody.



I couldn’t agree more. But the natural path to progression and greater status and more money quite often has to go through that path. So, it’s a very difficult thing to do. But let me just come back to this concept of the need for greater individualization, individual treatment of people.

It occurs to me that there’s a very, very fine line and a very tricky balance between, recognizing the individual differences in people and leading them the way they need to be led, versus pandering to them.

I think a lot of leaders who don’t have the courage and the strength of conviction in leadership, and aren’t willing to stretch their people, could very easily fall into pandering to people individually, as opposed to just leading them the most effective way they can as an individual.


I appreciate what you say. It’s hard for me to relate to, but I think what you say is fundamentally right. I can choose to lower my voice and show a little more patience and still hold you fiercely accountable for your revenue goal this quarter.

I can choose to walk around and pace in my office in a brainstorm, and that might make some people anxious, and others invigorated. But you’re still going to get a high courage conversation from me on your blind spots tomorrow when I discuss the areas of strength and weakness.

So, I don’t personally resonate with what you said, although I know it to be fundamentally true. I think that great leadership is communicating to someone in a way that resonates with them. For some people it might be my loud, charismatic voice that is contagious and exciting and motivating. Sure. And like I said, for others it might be a very different delivery style that resonates with them.

I think one of the best books I ever read was by Julian Treasure, called How To Be Heard. He’s a famous British listening expert. And that’s something that’s been weighing on me is that I can’t have one style for everyone. I’ve got to make sure that I calibrate the way I speak and lead so that it resonates with people of different generations, of different backgrounds, of different technical competencies, of different goals. Sure.

Same principles, right? Listen more than you speak. Speak very clearly. Offer apologies. Hold people accountable. Be a model of the company values.

But you know, you can treat people differently and still treat people equitably. Of course you can treat people differently and still treat people fairly. I guess, in many ways, I’m saying you may have to be a little bit of a chameleon on the surface to resonate with a different group of people while your values and the leadership principles you’re following are universal.


Yeah. And that makes so much sense. That’s my experience too. I think the thing is the ability to wield the leadership tools judiciously, when you talk about adapting to people’s styles and being able to get through to them the way you need to.

But by the same token, not letting go of your need to be courageously direct at certain times. And I think a lot of leaders can fall into the trap of pandering to people because they don’t keep hold of that courageous connection. They need to stretch their people and do the best by them. So I think we’re in violent agreement.


Beautifully said. Yeah, beautifully said. I think it was Brené Brown who said, “Clear is kind”. Absolutely. One of our co-founders at Dr. Covey, Blaine Lee said something that, it’s the wisest thing I’ve ever heard, Marty. He said, “Nearly all, if not all conflict in life comes from mismatched or unfulfilled expectations.”

Yeah. So I’d argue that, you know, one of the most important contributions the leaders make is minimizing confusion, setting clear expectations, holding people uber-accountable, and showing niceties and kindnesses and respect along the way.

But you can be clear and still be kind. You can be firm and still be respectful. It’s an art, right? It’s not natural for everyone. It’s not natural for me. I have to think about it and revisit it and offer an apology quite frequently and say, “That’s not what I meant. My intent was this.”

It’s why I open most high courage conversations with, “Hey Marty, I need to have a high courage discussion with you. My intent is not to minimize you or to mollycoddle you or to embarrass you. And I need to have a courageous conversation about your performance in this project, because it’s not acceptable. It needs to change. It can’t continue.”

Those can exist in concert, right? A high level of courage with a high level of diplomacy. I think yes, too often we err on either too courageous or too diplomatic, and neither of those tend to serve leaders well.



Well said, Scott! I think that’s the art and the subtlety of being a great leader is that thing that you just said. So, let’s end the interview there <laughs>. No, I’m only kidding. That was a bit of a mic drop moment.

So let me get back to this work ethic piece, right, because you mentioned that those stellar guests on your On leadership with Scott J. Miller podcast have that in common. That incredible, responsibility-driven work ethic.

You’re a prodigious content producer, and that must absorb a huge amount of your time and focus. But you also have a beautiful wife, and three boys just coming up towards their teen years (good luck with that mate). How do you actually manage to produce so much content and still keep your most important relationships thriving?


Oh, I think your premise may be flawed. <laugh>. You’re assuming I do.

Here’s how I would answer that. I’m a very early riser–by choice, not by desire. I wake up at 4:00am every morning and I write, and I read, and I write a column each week. I post on my social, I get those things done before my boys rise. They usually rise around six o’clock or so. And so I’m a business owner, a writer, a columnist from about 4:00am to 6:15am.

I’m a dad from about 6:15am to about 8:20am when we drop them off at three separate campuses. I’m then a podcast host like you, and an author, and an entrepreneur, and a talent agent, and all that kind of stuff. From about 8:20am to about 3:20pm, hard driving.

I take lunch every day for an hour. It might be a business lunch or it might be just me reading the Wall Street Journal. But I take lunch every day.

I usually schedule a meeting over breakfast because I like to eat <laugh>. I’m kind of a three squares a day guy. We pick up our boys. I’m usually a dad between around 4:30pm and 6:30pm. Again, basketball practice, tennis practice, things like that. Boys do homework, boys go to bed.

I then work for about an hour in the evening and then I’m in bed at 9:30pm. Lights out, 9:30pm, no exceptions, always in bed. Right?

So, I’ve learned what my circadian cycle is. I know what my peak, my trough and my recovery is. And I align my most important tasks around that. My peak is 4:00am to about 9:30am if you want my genius, my creativity. Get all my schedule from 4:00am until 9:30am. I tend to go into a trough around 11:00am to about 2:00pm. I have a bit of a burst again between 2:00pm and 5:00pm.

And then I’m downhill starting around 5:30pm at night. I don’t want conflict. I don’t watch any dramas on television. I don’t watch terrorist attacks or news. I can’t handle it. I’ve been fighting battles all day long, solving problems. My wife knows. I watch cartoons at night because I want no dialogue, no conflict.

I know my limitations and I exploit them insanely well.

I don’t have balance during the day. I tend to have seasons of balance. I mentioned I’m going to Saint-Tropez on Monday for 10 days. I will not be working. Well, I’ll check my email, of course it’s on my phone. I’ve got four emails. Will I be on social media? Yes. Because, you know, I can compartmentalize that. But I’ll be not working intently for 10 days. We’ll be having fun, right?! And then I’ll get back and I have nine keynotes in a row.

So, I treat life balance as seasons. Sometimes you’re out of balance, sometimes you’re in balance. I don’t try to balance my days. I tend to try to balance the seasons of my life. I work super hard and I play hard. Jillian Michaels, the famous author and wellness coach in the US, said, “You can have everything. You just can’t have it at the same time.” And I try to live my life around that as much as possible.

Marty, just to put a fine tune on that, I learned that from Dan Pink. In one of his more recent books, When.


Great book!


I had never heard of this term about your circadian cycle, where have I been? But as I studied my peak, my trough and my recovery, my team is intently putting meetings in the right places. If it has to do with a client pre-consult or a keynote or something intensive, it has to happen before 11:00am.

And the other administrative things that are important, right? Signing books: sign 2,000 books? Oh, that’s happening between 11:30am and 2:30pm where I can just be doing things that don’t require my best from me.

This is probably the best time management technique I’ve learned. It’s really useful to understand your peak, your trough, your recovery and fiercely to the extent you can align your schedule and your brain activity around that.


Yeah, totally. That’s great guidance. I love Dan Pink’s book, When. I think it’s a fantastic book. And I’m very similar to you in that regard, in that my content, all of that really deep thinking I do is all morning work. Once I get past lunchtime, that’s it. I can do a bunch of other stuff, but it’s not going to be the deep content work that I need my brain for and I need to be at my creative best.


Just so you know, you said “deep thinking”. I said creativity, because no one’s ever accused me of being, being a deep thinker!


<laugh>. You’re too humble, Mr. Miller.


No, I’m just self-aware, Marty, I’m not humble.



Let me talk about your current book, which is being released today, The Ultimate Guide to Great Mentorship. As I said, it’s a great read. It’s really practical. It exposes the 13 different roles that mentors play and it shows how to incorporate these effectively into a mentor-mentee relationship.

I’ve got a bunch of questions about this, right? And I’m interested to hear your views (and I know leaders in our community are going to be keen to hear this too). For context, why did you write this book and who is it for? I know you said before that you write for yourself, but you obviously are a very smart businessman and you’ve seen a need in the market. So who’s this designed for?


Well, truth be told, it was Harper Collins that approached me and asked me to write the book. It wasn’t like I was sitting at home pondering. So, I mean, maybe that’s the wrong answer, but, you know, I tend to be an authentic guy.

So I had about nine books in my pipeline that I’m still going to write. But Harper Collins, who I’d written two books for before, saw a need in the marketplace. They also saw that I had talked about mentorship quite a bit, and I posted about it and I’d written two books called Master Mentors about guests on my podcast, that really wasn’t directly about mentorship: it was a good title. Indirectly.

They called me and they actually wanted me to write a book for mentors and mentees. And I thought about it, and I thought, you know, I don’t know if I have enough content for a book for mentees, but I’m passionate about mentorship.

And so I said, “I’ll tell you what: I want to write a book that’s super practical.” The competitive landscape had several books about mentorship, but they were fairly aspirational. And I wanted to write a very practical book. And so I told them, “Here’s what I would write about.” And they trusted me. I don’t think that they came around to my idea, but they decided to support me in it. And I think now they see the wisdom.

In my practicality, I tend to write very fast, easy-breezy reads. I’m kind of the chicken soup for the leadership soul guy. I don’t try to write Adam Grant, Jim Collins books. That’s not who I am.

And so this was very practical. I originally had 15 mentorship roles, and when I reviewed them with the reading committee, they passed out. When they came back they said, “Scott, you’re the seven habits guy. What part of not having 15 do you not realize?

So, I compromised greatly and moved it from 15 to 13. True, but I’m kind of kidding. But I really felt like these were the 13 roles that mentors play at some given point. Not every role is imperative. There’s not a golden sequence to them. One is one for a reason and 13 is 13 for a reason. But the middle ones can kind of move around and it’s really a book around the practicality of mentorship. Say this, don’t say that. Consider this, don’t consider that. And so some might find it rudimentary. And to that I say, “You’re welcome!” <laugh>


That’s great. But look, I’ve got to ask, right: FranklinCovey, The Four Disciplines of Execution. I am all about simplicity and focus when it comes to leadership. The simpler you can make something and the more you can help people to focus on the right things, the more value you can create. But you ended up with 13! So, how do you go about that process of deciding? You’ve got to make trade-offs between comprehensiveness and simplicity. How do you decide, what process do you go through for that? How did you end up with 13?


I’m a very visual writer. So, when I write, I write with post-it notes and posters all over my wall and I brainstorm. For several months, before I put pen to paper, I figure out my architecture. This is not a genius way to write. I’m sure many people do this, but I tend to organize thoughts and chapters. I write things up. I have a large peer review committee that I dip into, I go to a lot of mentors. I’m thinking about this, thinking about that. So, I don’t know if I’m humble, I’m just self-aware. I know what I know, and I know what I don’t know. I’m fairly sure I’m consciously incompetent. I know I’m willing to get people’s feedback a lot. So I collapsed a couple of them, but I’m also maybe a little bit insolent.

And I thought, “No, I actually want to write about these 13 roles. These are going to be short chapters. It’s not like it’s, you know, war and peace.” So I tried to keep it very easy and practical and also give permission to the reader, “Hey, you’re not going to agree with all these roles. You’re going to see some similarities. You’re going to see some crossover. You know, get over it, release it, take what’s good, leave what’s not helpful.

And it’s actually getting really good reviews because it’s so practical, you know? I was raised to believe that, to be relevant, you kind of have to be uptight and you can’t have fun and you can’t make jokes. And I just don’t believe that. I think you can be super relevant and be plain spoken. You can be super competent and still have fun and laugh at yourself. And the book kind of follows those premises of my own brand.


Yeah, for sure. I was interested though, you made the observation yourself, was it roles 10 and 11? You said they could have been collapsed into one.


Marty, you’re selling me out, bro <laughs>.



Let me just move the conversation slightly along because I think that a lot of people in my experience don’t necessarily understand the difference between mentoring and coaching. I don’t think the concepts are generally well understood. So as I was reading your book, I thought, well actually that’s a real coaching capability and competency as well. In your experience, what’s the main difference between the two and where are the overlaps, if any?


Well, again, this is my opinion and it may or may not be popular, but I’m the guest so I’m going to share it. <laugh> There’s a lot of overlap between mentoring and coaching. You know, typically speaking here I think are the differences: Coaching is often a business. Yes, leaders are coaching in business, but the coaches I know have made a business out of this: great for them. They have studied, they are certified, they’re credentialed, they’ve been to probably an academic sponsored program. There’s a pedagogy, an architecture, a philosophy. They take it very seriously. Their guest is paying for their time in most instances.

There’s the role of leader coach and player coach. And that’s a different terminology, I think. A mentor is someone that’s usually volunteered, or voluntold <laugh>. They’ve been asked, “Will you be a mentor in our organization?”

And so it’s usually philanthropic in nature. It’s usually kind of ad hoc. I think the big difference is that coaching tends to be a more rigorous certified process. And mentorship is usually, “Okay, yeah, I’ll be a mentor.” But then they get there, they’re not quite sure how to mentor. So, in some ways this was sort of like my certification process for mentors.

In fact, I have a certification offering on my website. But I also think a mentor should not be misconstrued as being your champion or your ally or your sponsor. Or your supporter. Do not confuse your mentor with those things. They’re not your ally, they’re not your sponsor. They’re not your champion in the beginning.

Now, if you are a great mentee and you show up on time, you ask smart questions, you take notes, you make and keep commitments, you are voraciously grateful for your mentor’s time. Maybe your mentor will agree to become your ally or your sponsor or your champion.

That’s why it’s so important to set boundaries as a mentor. There’s a lot of similarities in coaching. One of the differences is I don’t think that employees should expect their leader to be their mentor. I think that’s putting your leader in an uncomfortable position. Yes, we’ve all had leaders who mentored us, but I believe rarely, if ever, should your leader also be your mentor.


I was just about to ask that question, mate. It’s next on my chalkboard because I was going to ask if it’s even possible for your boss to also be your mentor?


I agree with you. I think it’s possible. I don’t know if it’s ideal. It places your boss in a more difficult situation. Because if they’re not the courageous type to have an intervention with you or talk straight about your areas of growth, now they’re in this sort of nebulous land of, “Well, I’m mentoring them and I’m also leading them.”

And so, of course all of us have, in retrospect, leaders who were our mentors. It kind of happened naturally, unconsciously. It happened in hindsight, we didn’t formalize it. But if Marty’s my boss, I do not think it is responsible most times to say, “Hey Marty, would you mentor me on this?” I think the question is, “Marty, you already are leading me on this.

I argue, don’t place your leader in the uncomfortable situation of asking them to mentor you. I would say maybe use the word coach. Go find someone else in the organization or in your network to mentor you. Don’t put that burden on your boss.



Yeah. Great advice. I just want to ask you a couple of things around your leadership philosophy and ethos. How would you describe the way you view leadership (to the extent you haven’t already been able to work it into this interview?

Because I guess you’ve worked with so many leaders over the years, you’ve seen so much, in so many different types and styles of leaders. And, of course, across the decades, as you’ve said, leadership has changed remarkably in the last several years. So, how would you describe your leadership philosophy and ethos now?


Well, you’re asking for my leadership ethos? I told you I’m not a deep thinker. I told you I’m self-aware, but here you go again <laugh>.

You’d think I would have one, because I’ve spent 30 years in the business. Here are some things that I would say, I’ve already said this before: I do not think everyone should be a leader of people. And that’s probably my leadership ethos.

I think you should be very, very deliberate about, “Are you called to leadership?” I’ll use me as an example. I am a charismatic, strong-willed, execution-oriented leader of people. And because of that I tend to railroad over people. I’m not as thoughtful around people’s feelings. I tend to say things I regret. If you want your career to grow, work for me. If you want to feel good, don’t work for me. And so I’m not sure I should have been a leader of people, but like every top salesperson, I was lured with more pay and more influence and more title and budget so, you know, lead or be led, right?!,

Pick leadership, or be led by someone else. I think that’s a lot of people’s position. Be very thoughtful around the question, is leadership the right track for you? If it’s not, work for a company that provides you advancement without leading people. Most organizations don’t provide advancement without leading people. So you’ve got to have a really intimate talk with yourself.

The reason I answer it this way is because leadership is a massive responsibility. Because you have to be the model of everything you want to see in your people. If you want your team to be punctual, you’ve got to be on time everywhere. If you want them to stay on topic, you’ve got to stay on topic. If you want them to stop gossiping, you’ve got to stop gossiping. If you want them to hit their numbers, you’ve got to hit your numbers. If you want them to be self-aware, you’ve got to be self-aware. You have to be a model of everything you want to see in your people.

And it’s relentless, and it’s tireless, and you’re going to fall down, and you’re going to make mistakes, and you’re going to have to acknowledge it, and teach through it, and be comfortable saying, “I screwed up! Everyone come around. I was rude to Tom. Tom, I owe you an apology. I feel horrible, I’m embarrassed. This is taking a lot of courage to say this. I was wrong. You were right. Please forgive me. I won’t do it again.”

You have to give feedback and accept feedback. You have to do so many things. So my leadership ethos is buyer beware <laugh>! You know, make sure that you are entering into this role, eyes wide open.

Here’s what I would say. If Marty is my leader and he’s encouraging me to become a leader, or Marty is the Chief Human Resource Officer, and Marty comes to me and says, “Scott, we have a leadership opening. We want you to be the next leader.” Here’s what you should be asking:

I want to know the job intimately. I want to shadow, I want to really understand, is this the right role for me? Tell me which of my current strengths will suit me well in that job, and which of my current strengths will I have to cease doing overnight.

Literally what got me here will not keep me there. So I need you to tell me what things I will need to stop doing that I have learned are my key talents. In addition to that, what exact skills and competencies do I lack that I’m going to have to learn short, mid, and long-term to be successful in this job.

I want to know upfront, brutally honest, what do I have, and what do I not have so I can make a determination if this is the right journey for me? Do I want to put the time and effort into this? Because most people won’t tell you this. So, they need to fill the position. Now they also want you to thrive in it. They want you to last in it. But you’ve got to kind of guard yourself. You’ve got to protect yourself against the appeal of being in charge and being the leader. Because at the end of the day, the leader is in charge.

Now, yes, you have to achieve results within and through other people. That’s what leaders do. Leaders achieve results with and through other people. But to answer your question really precisely, leaders are in the relationship business. That is your core competency. Can you develop mutually trustworthy relationships? Are you easy to approach? Can you accept bad news? Can you mentor, can you coach? Can you provide high courage feedback? Can you have high courage conversations while still leaving people intact? It’s not for everybody.



Once again, you’ve dropped the mic. So I think from here, I just want to thank you so much for being part of No Bullsh!t Leadership. I really appreciate it. Particularly your generosity and openness, which isn’t common. So thank you very much for that. Where can our listeners go to explore more from Scott J. Miller?


Well, to your podcast, because it’s one of the best out there. So continue to listen to Marty’s podcast. And if you haven’t read the book, I mean, can I say this? Of course I can say it. No Bullsh!t Leadership, I mean, read this book. It’s like a manual, right? And if I’m not mistaken, you’re coming onto the On Leadership podcast in the not too distant future. Looking forward to that.

To answer your question, the book has a dedicated website. You can visit my website. My books are sold on all major outlets. You can find me on every social media platform, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook. My wife says, I’m hard not to find. And that wasn’t a compliment from her! <laugh>


Scott, thank you so much mate. What a great conversation. Thank you very much for joining us and I’m looking forward to seeing you on yours.


Thank you so much Marty. Great interview.


  • BOOK: Scott’s book The Ultimate Guide to Great Mentorship is available now – Here

  • BOOK: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Steven R. Covey – Here

  • BOOK: The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything – Steven R. Covey – Here

  • BOOK: The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals – Steven R. CoveyHere

  • BOOK: Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – James Clear – Here

  • BOOK: Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity – Kim Scott – Here

  • BOOK: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life – Mark Manson – Here

  • BOOK: A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life – Brian Gazer – Here

  • BOOK: Management Mess to Leadership Success – Scott Jeffrey Miller – Here

  • BOOK: Marketing Mess to Brand Success – Scott Jeffrey Miller – Here

  • BOOK: How to be Heard: Secrets for Powerful Speaking and Listening – Julian Treasure – Here

  • BOOK: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing – Daniel H. Pink – Here

  • Check out Scott’s website – Here

  • Episode #144: The Skills Shortage – Listen Here

  • Episode #196: Virtue Signals Aren’t Enough – Listen Here

  • Episode #227: Leadership in 2023 – Listen Here


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