Welcome to Daring To, a podcast that finds out how CEOs and entrepreneurs navigate today’s business world – the conventions they’re breaking, the challenges they’ve faced and the decisions that they’ve made, and lastly, just what makes them different.
In 2006, Beth Armknecht Miller founded Executive Velocity as an outlet for her trademark enthusiasm and energy for assisting clients with their most valuable asset – their people. Through her proven approaches, she provides expert advice on leadership capabilities and builds succession plans for organizational continuity.
Beth served as a Chair with Vistage, the most prestigious CEO and business owner peer advisory organization in the world for 13 years. As a Vistage Chair, Beth facilitated peer advisor meetings and coached business owners and executives to grow and develop in their roles and careers.
Rita Trehan: [00:00:02] Welcome to Dairy To, a podcast that finds out how CEOs and entrepreneurs navigate today’s business world, the conventions they’re breaking, the challenges they faced, and the decisions that they’ve made, and lastly, just what makes them different? Well, joining me today, what can I say, this is like, you know, being with my soulmate, right? Because we are both passionate about something that’s really important, which is leadership. So, I’m joined today by Beth Armknecht Miller, who is the CEO of the, Executive Velocity. I love the name, by the way, Executive Velocity. It almost says it all, really, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:00:42] Well, it does, yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:00:43] Yeah. But, you know, you have had an interesting career. So, here you are, sort of in this sort of leadership consulting, making companies better, but that’s not how you started your career. And I started my career in HR. And your career started in the profession, there’s often like jokes that go on about like HR and the profession that you started in.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:01:03] Finance.
Rita Trehan: [00:01:04] Yeah. So, tell me a little bit about that. So, how did you make that transition? Not many people made from finance to sort of leadership.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:01:11] Yeah. There were a number of steps. And at the time, when I was working in finance, I was working for DEC, which with Digital Equipment Corporation, lot of people listening probably never heard of it before, but the remains of it is Hewlett Packard. And I was in finance for seven years. About three years into it, I was like, you know, I’m good at this, but I’m not passionate about it. This is not where I should be. So, I was very fortunate. They were hiring people internally to develop them into salespeople. And the deal was, we’ll train you, Beth, but you have to move. We’re not going keep you up in New England. I was like, that’s fine, I’m done with winners. So, that’s how I got to Atlanta.
Rita Trehan: [00:02:06] Okay.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:02:06] And it was a great experience, great training. And when I got down here, one of the lessons I learned was that you leave managers, not companies, and I had just the worst manager down here.
Rita Trehan: [00:02:28] If he’s listening, he better takes some advice. That’s one way of saying.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:02:30] I have no idea where he is.
Rita Trehan: [00:02:33] We won’t mention his name, but we hope he’s listening because he might listen. Words of wisdom.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:02:39] Yeah. So, I made a decision to leave. Digital had been wonderful to me, but I made the decision to leave. And when I left, I met my husband. He had started an accounting temporary services firm. And so, I had left and went to Coopers & Lybrand. Again, another company that doesn’t exist anymore.
Rita Trehan: [00:03:02] I remember, though. Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:03:04] Now, PricewaterhouseCoopers. I was in sales in their technology practice and I was there for several years. But my husband convinced me to move, leave, and become an entrepreneur, which, that’s really not my comfort zone. He is much more of an entrepreneur than me.
Rita Trehan: [00:03:23] I think you’re being far too modest because the company grew to be one of like, you know, the fastest growing companies.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:03:29] Yes. Another thing that I learned about leadership doing that was my husband had certain skill sets and I had certain skill sets. They didn’t align. They were compatible. And he was able to fill certain things that I didn’t have and vice versa. So, it really made a great partnership. Believe me, there were times like it was really difficult.
Rita Trehan: [00:04:00] I was going to say, it’s like a marriage made in heaven, right? But like, you know-.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:04:04] There were times. Believe me, there were times. We always try to make sure that if we were disagreeing, it was over dinner and not in the workplace. And fast forward, we made Inc. 500, lot of fast-growing local awards as well. And then, we sold back in 2002. It was not the best time to sell, but it was the right time. My dad passed away. I was spending time going back and forth to help my mother up in the northeast. And so, I just didn’t have the energy. So, we took some time off. I was in my 40s at the time and I got bored really quickly. There was only so much volunteer work I could do.
Rita Trehan: [00:04:53] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:04:54] And so, I had gone through Leadership Atlanta, had met a lot of wonderful people there. And one of them was Dave Peterson, who had started North Highland Consulting here. A wonderful guy. And he he was the one that led me to Vistage. He had been a member for many years. And he basically said, “Beth, my Vistage group helped me through a lot of difficult times. And I got to the point where I could step away, and, you know, be on the board.” And he said, “I think you’d make a great Vistage chair.” So, that was back in ’05.
Rita Trehan: [00:05:43] And if people don’t know about Vistage, it’s actually a renowned sort of global group that offers like a huge amount of value to businesses of like small to medium sizes that people can be part of. And obviously, you know, we’re all involved in it and have been involved in it. And tell us a little bit about that, because often, like we don’t think we—you know, we focus a lot on leadership and like what corporate companies need, but actually, as a small- to medium-sized business, it’s so critical, isn’t it?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:06:11] Yes. And because I had been a business owner, I knew what I had kind of missed, and that was somebody from the outside or people from the outside that could advise you in a safe environment. And that’s what Vistage does. It brings business owners, presidents together on a monthly basis. It’s like an advisory board or a brain trust. And it allows you, in a safe place, to bring really significant issues and get advice from your peers. So, there’s no competitors. There was education involved as well. There were a lot of speakers that would come in and speak on various topics that were critical to small- to mid-sized companies. And then, there was coaching. So, each month, I would meet individually with one of the business owners in the group and coach both on leadership and business.
Rita Trehan: [00:07:16] Now, look, you strike me as somebody that’s quite humble, right? So, our listeners don’t know like you are not only an acclaimed author of a book called Talent Obsessed, you have been named a diva. I love that. I just like want to be. Like a diva in a good way, guys.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:07:28] I forgot about that.
Rita Trehan: [00:07:30] A diva in a good way. Sort of like, you know, 40 under 40 in Atlanta.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:07:34] Oh, you’ve done your research.
Rita Trehan: [00:07:36] Oh, yeah. So, I’m sort of like in awe because, you know, you come across and clearly, you are sort of a humble leader in terms of like what you have achieved over the years. But also, I’m sure that must give you so much credibility with the leadership that you go in and work with. And today, like, you know, we are both passionate about a topic that is close to our hearts, right? Which is the next generation of leaders. Every leader, you know, legacy maybe, we would like to believe that it’s developing great leadership talent.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:08:08] Exactly.
Rita Trehan: [00:08:08] The reality is we both know that, you know, sadly, that’s not always the case.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:08:13] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:08:14] It’s still the case that we can pick up a consulting report, a global report, and say like, what is it that keeps CEOs up at night, whether they’re like corporate companies or small companies? And they will say, oh, let me guess, I think like, you know—or probably, I would say the last at least 20 years that I can think of, maybe longer than that, but one of their top three issues is they’re concerned about talent.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:08:35] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:08:35] And about leadership talent. So, you know, I turn my hair out. That’s why it goes gray a lot. And I have conversations around that as sort of a strategic advisory capacity.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:08:46] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:08:46] But you’re going in and talking about that a lot. How do you get them to understand the importance of succession?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:08:53] Yeah. Oftentimes, they’ve lost somebody key. There’s pain involved. And so, that’s generally when they’re interested in succession planning. It’s not when things are going well, unfortunately. There is a company that I worked with years ago who the CEO had gotten some bad health, he had a heart problem, and he realized, you know, he was not going to live another 10 years. So, he was somebody who was proactive in succession planning.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:09:38] So, you know, he called me in to actually consult and coach his high potentials, one of them specifically who we identified as a potential president to take over. And during the three years that I was working with them, the CEO went from, you know, 80 hours a week of work down to eight hours. And he basically got the company to a point where he didn’t have to be there. And consequently, he was able to sell that company to ADP for cash. Cash. There was no earn out, which is phenomenal.
Rita Trehan: [00:10:27] It’s unusual, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:10:27] Yeah. And, you know, his key employees did very well in the sale as well.
Rita Trehan: [00:10:35] So, it is about like really developing that capability because it’s the people that have the value, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:10:40] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:10:40] What creates the value of a corporation. And I think like it seems like they almost missed out. You know, I’ve read some of your stuff where you go like, leaders that focus on sort of like the numbers kind of stuff, and that’s great, but actually, that’s not what makes the business go around.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:10:57] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:10:58] So, how have you helped them? And you’ve talked about it like you got this guy interested in succession, right? I often go in inside, like tear up the succession plan because, you know what’s going to happen. You’re going to look at it and like, you know, you’re going to put all these names to it, and then you’re going to have a problem, and you can go outside and recruit. So, what was the point in spending all that time doing it? So, how do you help guide them through a process that they—because there must be a process that you use to help them do that, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:11:19] Well, initially, I’ll go in and we’ll assess their readiness for a succession plan.
Rita Trehan: [00:11:26] Interesting. Talk about that a little bit.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:11:27] Yeah. So, you know, there are there are some key components to a succession plan that a lot of small to mid-sized companies don’t have. A lot of large companies do. But it’s things like understanding your core competencies, understanding leadership competencies. And so, that might be an entire project right there because they don’t have those. And that can also help for hiring purposes, not just for succession planning, hiring and performance. They might not have identified key positions for today and key positions that they need in three years. And when they do that exercise, they’ll often find out that there are positions that they need that they aren’t on the org chart right now.
Rita Trehan: [00:12:18] Right.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:12:18] Right. And then it’s, okay, we’ve identified the key positions, and sometimes, they’re not at the C-suite. They’re somewhere down farther. There might be some subject matter expert that holds the keys to the castle. And they have nobody that’s prepared to take that position. And there’s a risk. I often talk about succession planning being risk management.
Rita Trehan: [00:12:48] That’s a great way to describe it, yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:12:50] You know, you are creating a plan for success in the future and you never know when there might be somebody that, God forbid, dies, gets disabled, decides to go to a competitor, and you’ve got to have that that plan in place and have those people that you’ve identified that could potentially move into the position ready. And so then, there’s all about development and training.
Rita Trehan: [00:13:24] Yeah. And how hard is that, though, for a leader of a small to mid-sized company to go like, you know what, I’m going to like develop these people, and they’re actually going to be ready, I like didn’t do my job, well, I don’t know that I’m ready for that? How do you get them comfortable with that?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:13:41] Well then, that’s a discussion with the CEO about, okay, where is your identity? Is your identity in the organization? What are the things you are involved with? For instance, this gentleman who had a heart problem. Now, I don’t run into that situation a lot, fortunately. But in his situation, his identity for years had been that company. Well, what was he ignoring? It was his family, right? So, he started shifting. He started more travel with his wife, more family get-togethers. So, he shifted his identity. Too often, nine times out of ten, that’s the discussion that the business owner is fearful because the company has his or her identity.
Rita Trehan: [00:14:38] Yeah, that’s a really interesting point. And, you know, we’ve been through several weeks, you know, couple of months now of sort of lockdown. And that has had a massive effect, by form, like large companies, but even more so on those small and medium-sized companies.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:14:53] Yes.
Rita Trehan: [00:14:53] And, you know, I can’t help feeling that there’s going to have to be—and, you know, you read about it all the time that we’re seeing shift in what’s important from leaders today and what they need to be focusing on, which is, yes, get your business up and running, but, you know, you just talked about somebody that spent more time with family while some people are realizing that they’ve been missing out just by being at home.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:15:16] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:15:17] There’s leaders right now that are trying to think about how do I, you know, restart, new normal, whatever. Like what do you think their focus should be as leaders in trying to restart or reconnect their businesses?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:15:32] Yeah. Well, I think through this this challenging time, I’ve noticed that leaders, good leaders are really focused on employee well-being. And that’s not to say, they’re not focused on results, but pre-COVID, they were focused on results first, and then relationships. And I think that’s flipped. Now, as we move into that recovery phase and companies are already starting to go back to work and in a phased approach, client I was just talking to in Florida yesterday was talking about this, and you got to make sure that people feel safe.
Rita Trehan: [00:16:18] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:16:18] Right. If they don’t feel safe and they’re anxious, they’re not going to perform. So, why even ask them to come back if they feel that way? I was just writing a blog the other day about the fact that today is even more important for leaders to use their emotional intelligence and to really understand what individuals are going through, and then be really clear of, here are our plans, here are our backup plans if something should happen, right? This company in Florida happens to be in a county that they’ve just peaked.
Rita Trehan: [00:17:04] Right.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:17:05] Right. And they’ve got a lot of individuals who are stay-at-home moms, people that are taking care of the elderly. So, they’ve phased it where, okay, if you don’t have any kids, you know, you’re single, young, well, you’re the first phase that we’d like to come, but that’s not to say that that’s a blanket, right? Okay. Be aware when you’re having conversation, and of course, it’s going to be video. It’s going to be good old Zoom. Everybody is tired of hearing Zoom. But anyways, be really conscious of the tone of their voice, body language, and their-
Rita Trehan: [00:18:00] At least connecting to them, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:18:00] Right. Exactly.
Rita Trehan: [00:18:00] Like making that connection is quite hard virtually in some ways, right? It’s like we’ve kind of done it in the past a bit, but like not with a real focus on, actually, this is our only way, of communicating.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:18:13] Exactly.
Rita Trehan: [00:18:14] Normally, it’s been, well, I’m going to have this virtual teleconference, but I know I’m going to see this person in two days, so I can follow up with them in person. That’s a whole capability set that maybe leaders haven’t really honed.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:18:27] Right. Exactly.
Rita Trehan: [00:18:28] So, what kind of advice or tips do you have for them to kind of hone that capability?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:18:33] Yeah. I think there’s, first of all, get real with your self-awareness.
Rita Trehan: [00:18:43] I love that. Get real with your—I love that, yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:18:45] Yeah. And, you know, how are you showing up to the people that you’re leading? And, you know, if you’re fearful, they’re going to know that, right? So, you’re to have that courage to be out in front of it. And then, you know, there are people around you that you trust and respect, ask for their feedback. What can I be doing differently? And make sure that when you ask and you listen to their feedback that you do something with it.
Rita Trehan: [00:19:17] Yeah. That’s really great advice, I think, because it’s very actionable for leaders to be able to put in practice. And often, I think there is going to be like some massive thing that it’s like, my God, how am I going to be able to like do that? That’s like so out of my comfort zone. But actually, what you’re saying is like just be in touch with yourself in some ways.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:19:37] Exactly. Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:19:39] So, how do you help companies also, you know, you’ve talked about it, some people are going to be nervous, some people are going to be like, you know what, I’m ready to go back. That’s all good. It’s almost like we’re going to have this melting pot, I feel, of all these different like feelings and emotions.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:19:53] That’s right.
Rita Trehan: [00:19:54] And so, this whole thing about like diversity, for me, takes on a completely different meaning, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:20:01] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:20:01] What do you think about that? Like how can companies sort of address that in the longer term? Because I think it’s bringing to the full, in a good way maybe, how to think about diversity and strengths of that.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:20:14] Yeah. You know, I’m hopeful that, you know, we come out of this as leaders focused on a different set of priorities. You know, there’s been a lot of talk over the last 10, 15 years about culture, and values, and purpose, and I think that-
Rita Trehan: [00:20:37] A lot of talk, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:20:38] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:20:38] You and I both know there’s a lot of talk, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:20:40] Exactly.
Rita Trehan: [00:20:40] We want it to be different, but it’s a bit of talk.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:20:42] It is. It is. And I think there are some companies that do that very well, but not a lot. And I think the leaders that have gone through this, they’ve learned a lot. And they’ve learned a lot about their teams. They’ve learned a lot about themselves. And I would be hopeful that on the other side of this that they continue to focus on the people first, and then through that, they’re going to get the results.
Rita Trehan: [00:21:16] And in terms of like developing the next generation of leaders that think like that, right? Because I think, you know, through every crisis or every sort of, I guess, misfortune comes opportunity.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:21:29] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:21:29] And I think actually, COVID-19 is surfacing a massive amount of opportunity for businesses to actually step back, rethink, and reshape in a way that they’ve not been had that kind of burning platform to do. So, that that must help when you think about developing the next generation of leaders.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:21:50] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:21:51] How do you get companies to buy into that, and not get sucked into, we’re a month back in and the numbers are not looking good, and I just need to focus on that because that’s the most important thing.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:22:02] Yeah. Clearly, it’s more difficult with a small- to mid-sized companies because they don’t have the resources that a Coca-Cola has or UPS. So, really, it’s about, okay, what are the demands of those individuals coming back? Because I think that a lot of them are going to be looking at work differently and looking at the company differently. So, I would be working with those C-suite to determine, okay, kind of looking out in the future again, okay, we’ve gone through all of this, what have you really learned? And what are you going to put into practice that makes sense for your organization? And what do you need to stop doing?
Rita Trehan: [00:22:59] Yeah. It’s interesting, right? I wonder how many companies are thinking right now about all the things that they have like constantly done that actually, they haven’t missed, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:23:10] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:23:10] The reports that they had written, all the meetings that they’ve had that actually, we haven’t really missed it that much.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:23:18] Right. Exactly. Even for people going back to work, you know, they were managing it through these eight weeks or whatever, and do you really need to have these people coming back to work? Now, some of them want to go back to work because their kids are still at home, right? But there are others that, you know, have that fear. So, you’ve got to do that delicate balance to make sure that the people that are there at work really need to be there and want to be there.
Rita Trehan: [00:23:56] Yeah. So, I read in the newspaper yesterday coming from the UK that one of the most prestigious universities equivalent to like where you did your leadership, at Harvard, in the UK, that’s kind of Cambridge University, announced that for their next year, they are going to run all their courses virtually.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:24:16] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:24:16] Virtually.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:24:16] And I heard that here in the States, they’re talking about bringing the kids back to university in the fall through Thanksgiving. And then, once Thanksgiving hits, they’re going to go online, which is very interesting.
Rita Trehan: [00:24:35] Right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:24:36] Right. It’s a whole new dynamic.
Rita Trehan: [00:24:37] Yeah. So, like what does it mean for leaders?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:24:39] Right. So, you know, you’ve got to rethink how you operate. Now, there are some professional white-collar companies. This has been a series of changes constantly as you got information. And they’ve been able to run. And now, some of them had to—like health care, for instance, there have been a lot of layoffs there. In retail, can’t do it, right? But as it relates to those kinds of white-collar jobs, there are a lot of ways that you can be operating differently moving forward.
Rita Trehan: [00:25:21] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:25:21] You’ve got technology. It’s not like this happened—can you imagine if this happened 20 years ago?
Rita Trehan: [00:25:27] I cannot imagine like how we would have coped with like lack of information and just sort of, you know, it would have been, obviously, we would’ve found a way to cope, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:25:36] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:25:37] Because like human beings are, you know, like all kind of entrepreneurial, they find ways to cope.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:25:42] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:25:42] Whether we believe it or not, we have, in a sense, like of survival and like ability to deal with an uncertainty in why some people do it better than others, but we have an instinct that will help us get through it. But like you, I cannot imagine without the use of technology. If anything, it has probably sped it up, the use of technology.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:26:02] Right. Yes, I think so.
Rita Trehan: [00:26:04] But I can’t help but imagine that lots of leaders are really scared right now because this is like a new paradigm.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:26:11] Yes.
Rita Trehan: [00:26:11] And it’s almost like turning that page on that new paradigm is you’re not quite sure if you’re going to like what you see.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:26:17] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:26:18] Because you’ve got this comfort zone. So, you must have had to deal with that in the past, you know, in different sort scenarios of getting leaders to get comfortable of like not being in their comfort zone.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:26:29] Yeah. It’s kind of stretching them and being comfortable with failure. You know, failure is actually a friend because you learn from it. I mean, if everything was perfect-
Rita Trehan: [00:26:45] Boring.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:26:45] Boring, very boring. So, one of the things that I’ve been doing personally is, you know, everybody’s making bread.
Rita Trehan: [00:26:55] Oh, God.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:26:56] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:26:57] I have friends that like sending me pictures of them making bread. I’m like, okay, guys, what is this all about?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:27:01] Okay. Well, I was one of them.
Rita Trehan: [00:27:03] Okay. I want to know. I’m like curious.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:27:05] And I had heard that yeast, you couldn’t find yeast. So, I thought, well, I’m going to do sour dough, but you have to get a sour-dough starter. So, I went on in Google, found this recipe. And they said, “Five days, you’re going to have a starter.” It didn’t happen in five days. And so, I kept feeding it, and I finally grew impatient. I’m like, I’m just going to make this bread. Well, it turned into a block. It was of course-
Rita Trehan: [00:27:36] You can use it for other things, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:27:38] Yeah, bird food or something. So, I continued to feed it, and three or four days later, I thought, I’m going to try this again. Well, it was a little better, but it was by no means what it looked like in the pictures. So, you know, I realized that I was impatient and I needed to slow down. So, I named my starter, Dudley do right.
Rita Trehan: [00:28:08] Dudley Do Right. I’ll text that to my friends.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:28:09] So, he was Dudley for a long time.
Rita Trehan: [00:28:14] Right.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:28:14] I slowed down and he finally became, Do Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:28:18] Do Right. I love it. I got it.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:28:20] So, just the other day, you have to do this float test to make sure that the starter floats, and that means it’s active and ready to mix, and stuff like that. So, I did the whole process. You have to let it sit overnight. It’s a long process. Well, I opened the oven and I yelled. I was so excited. It really looked like bread and it tasted good. And that was all about failure. Two times, I didn’t give up, and I kept working at it, and I felt so proud.
Rita Trehan: [00:29:03] I can just see it in your face, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:29:04] I know.
Rita Trehan: [00:29:04] It’s like, wow.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:29:05] I was so excited. I was running. I brought it down to my mother, my mother took a picture of it because they had been living through this whole thing, too.
Rita Trehan: [00:29:13] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:29:13] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:29:13] But I mean, that’s a really good way to describe it, you know, that failure is a friend, and it’s about like understanding your own sort of, I guess, your preferences or your limitations in the sense like, look, you went like, I’m really just impatient, like I’m not used to having to like write something and not see it like work.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:29:30] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:29:30] It’s like, come on, I like followed the instructions, like what else is there to do, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:29:33] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:29:33] And so, it is a skill that we struggle with in society, that being able to accept failure as a friend is something that we find hard to do.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:29:48] Yes. Especially leaders, because they’re out in front and their mindset is, they should have all the answers, but they don’t. That’s why they have a team around them, right? One of the things that I work on often with leaders, especially new leaders, is they’re always trying to solve the problem versus coaching somebody through a problem so that, that person is actually solving the problem themselves. So, they’re basically enabling people to keep coming to them for problems. I like it to, you know, teach them to fish, don’t keep throwing them the fish.
Rita Trehan: [00:30:29] Yeah, I know that. I have to practice that so much because like, I want to help that, oh, yeah, I know how to solve that.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:30:34] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:30:34] And it takes a lot of like actually like self-reflection, like step back from it, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:30:40] But you also have to slow down because it’s really easy if you’ve got the solution to throw that fish. You have to slow down and ask the questions, get that person to self-reflect, and come to their own solution because they’ll own that solution.
Rita Trehan: [00:31:00] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:31:01] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:31:01] And so, like new leaders, I think that is such valuable advice because there is sort of like, I’m a new leader, look at me, like, you know, everyone’s eyes are on them, they want to be able to perform. But there’s a lot that’s going on right now, and people are talking about it more and more, which heartens me about leaders being humble, about humility being really, really important, that actually, vulnerability is a strength, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:31:26] Yes.
Rita Trehan: [00:31:27] It’s not what we have been brought up with. Like, you know, I can remember years ago working in a big corporate world where it was, you know, how many times she slapped your hands down on the table and swore was, like, you know, showed like how great a leader you were, you know. And I’m like, I was, you know, a young individual contributor, leader at the time as well, being like, in HR, going like, this is what we’re talking about leaders should look like?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:31:56] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:31:56] That’s not necessarily a great sort of role model. Now, we are hearing much more about the need for leaders to do to show vulnerability.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:32:08] Yeah, especially now, right? Because everybody, leaders and their employees are all dealing with this. And so, you know, nobody has the right solution.
Rita Trehan: [00:32:23] Yeah, that’s true actually. Nobody does, right? So, maybe, that’s what’s helping to encourage that humility that there isn’t like a single silver bullet or a single answer to know where to go forward.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:32:35] Yeah. But I hear a lot from leaders that, you know, we’re trying to be transparent. You know, we’re trying to communicate on a very regular basis. They do, you know, a lot of town halls where the CEO is out front versus having the managers deliver, and that makes employees feel a lot more comfortable and safe, that they’re hearing it directly from the person that either owns the company or is leading that company.
Rita Trehan: [00:33:11] Now, you’re a certified coach, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:33:12] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:33:12] So, you’ve spent a lot time sort of coaching leaders and high potentials, as to, you know, helping them sort of grow and develop.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:33:19] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:33:19] Over the years as you’ve coached people, what do you think of like the biggest areas where you see, like these are absolutely core skills that leaders will—you know, that I really focus on coaching leaders? And what are ones that you go like, these are just like you can spot these like capabilities a mile off and say, you know, you’re just not going to make it as a leader because one of the other things, I think, the companies struggles with is making that choice about a leader and whether they should be a leader in the first place or if they are a leader, making that call to say, actually, you know what, maybe there’s a different role somewhere else.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:33:57] Yeah. I actually just had this conversation recently on a podcast. And, you know, oftentimes, companies will have a subject matter expert who’s really great at what they’re doing and they make the decision that we’re going to put them into a leadership position. There is a big difference between performance and potential. Most high performers don’t have the potential to go into a leadership position.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:34:31] One of the things I encourage leaders to do is have a conversation with subject matter experts about what do they believe leadership is. If they hear them talk about management and not leadership, there is a problem. Leaders are really—great leaders develop future leaders. They are there to make their team shine. And it’s not—yeah, it’s about results, but it’s through the individuals.
Rita Trehan: [00:35:16] And have you sort of like—from your own experience, you grew a business, you, you know, grew it to be an amazing business that was then sold in value. I mean, is that something you put—like what are some of your personal sort of memories and stories around that? Because you have such a good grasp of what’s important in leadership, that how much of that has come from your own sort of experiences in growing and going through some of those situations?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:35:42] You know, I have to say that I wish I had a lot of the wisdom that I have today than I did 20 years ago. I made a lot of mistakes, a lot of mistakes. But they’re valuable now, right? I think about some of the leaders that I’ve worked with in the past couple of years, and what brings me joy is to see them grow. One comes to mind. I still work with her. She was two or three levels down in the organization from the CEO and she had kind of hit her peak, and it was because of her emotional intelligence. She had real trouble self-managing her emotions. She could get angry pretty quickly, especially with other departments.
Rita Trehan: [00:36:43] Right.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:36:43] So, their CEO called me, and I did an assessment, and I was pleased to see that she was highly goal-oriented and very competitive. So, I thought, well, you know, she’s got the profile where because she’s so goal-oriented inch and she knew, she was self-aware enough to know that this was holding her back that I agreed to work with her. And it was amazing. She now is two levels above. She reports directly with the CEO and she’s like, of course, my biggest fan, and she’s always calling me to coach other high potentials, but it’s about being self-aware and that whole emotional intelligence that is critical to leadership. That’s one of the things that I find. The other is communication.
Rita Trehan: [00:37:43] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:37:43] And being able to communicate the vision and connecting the employee to that vision. How do they fit? You know, what’s the customer service rep? How do they impact the long-term vision? How important is that?
Rita Trehan: [00:38:02] Yeah. Do you think that that’s become, people have been able to connect more to a company’s vision during this COVID crisis? Because of the focus on communities, and customers, and that, do you think that people are sort of connecting much more to their organizations if they are putting that time and attention into that area?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:38:18] Yes, I believe so. And I was actually on a webinar a couple weeks ago with DDI, and they had been doing some research on employee engagement. And it is actually gone up over this-
Rita Trehan: [00:38:31] Yeah. Someone mentioned that, yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:38:32] And yeah. And initially, it was kind of counter-intuitive. I was like, really? But then, when you started hearing about the time that, you know, CEOs and leaders were putting in to the relationships with their employees, it made sense.
Rita Trehan: [00:38:48] Yeah. Those will be the winning companies that come out of this, you know, small, medium, large are the ones that have actually put that investment in.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:38:55] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:38:55] But let’s talk a bit like you got a great story about like helping a female leader sort of rise up the ranks. Obviously, we are two women who run our own businesses, who offer that. And then, we have other women that do that. But, you know, it’s still a struggle for organizations today to have like sufficient representation of women leaders at various levels. I don’t care of the size of the company. It’s a problem wherever we look at it. And yes, there’s lots of efforts being put into that. How do we solve it?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:39:26] Oh, my gosh. If I knew how to solve it-
Rita Trehan: [00:39:30] Yeah. We’d all be like, yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:39:33] Right. Exactly.
Rita Trehan: [00:39:33] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:39:33] Exactly. Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:39:34] Okay. So, like look-
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:39:35] You know, it’s obviously a gradual thing. I think that, you know, we’ve got a generation coming up who are demanding it more, right? They have a different perspective than our generation. And so, I think we’re getting there. You know, you’ve got a whole baby boomer group that’s about ready to retire, right? So, you’ve got leaders coming in who are X’ers or millennials that will bring that to the table.
Rita Trehan: [00:40:16] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:40:16] So, you know, you can’t force it. You can’t mandate it, unfortunately.
Rita Trehan: [00:40:23] And that wouldn’t work, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:40:24] No.
Rita Trehan: [00:40:25] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:40:26] Exactly. So, I’m hopeful.
Rita Trehan: [00:40:28] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:40:28] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:40:29] And clearly, I guess people like the individuals that you’ve got are sort of spokespeople, and sponsors, and ambassadors for what is actually achievable that we don’t often think. And sometimes, as women in organizations, about our own capabilities and what we actually bring to the table and can deliver.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:40:46] And I think it also depends on, you know, the leaders in the organization today. Like for instance, the gentleman that is the CEO to this woman, he was always trying to promote diversity. It was a cornerstone of his. A big part of it was he had girls, daughters, right?
Rita Trehan: [00:41:14] It does make a difference like when you say that to the leaders, doesn’t it? When you say to them like, it’s your daughter, or your granddaughter, or your friend’s daughter, those are the people that are going to be around, what do you want them to-
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:41:28] Yeah. And I look at that. I look back on the leaders that I had, that I admired, and many of them had daughters.
Rita Trehan: [00:41:38] Yeah. Yeah. That’s an interesting insight.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:41:40] Yes.
Rita Trehan: [00:41:41] That makes a difference because they can connect to that.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:41:43] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:41:44] So, tell us what it’s like being—I mean, clearly, it’s passion that’s taking you to set up the organization and to move that forward. As you think about leaders that want to set up their own businesses or to think about, can I actually do this and how do you help, what would you say to them? What’s your advice to them around, here are some of the things to think about whether you’ve got what it takes to be able to do that?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:42:09] Yeah. I mean, there are a lot of skill sets that you need. If you’re going out on your own, you know, what’s your network like? You know, how is your sales skills? What’s your fear level, your anxiety? What’s your risk factor? There are individuals that I’ve met that think about it, but never quite do it. There’s also the personal situation. You’ve got, you know, three kids at home, are you willing to step away and try this on your own when you have mouths to feed, right? We never had kids.
Rita Trehan: [00:42:55] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:42:55] So, it was a much easier decision to go out on our own versus some other situation.
Rita Trehan: [00:43:05] Yeah. So, kind of like make that balance choice and just make sure you do the kind of pros and cons of what you’re doing and make sure you’ve got kind of what you have said that companies need to do today, is make sure you’ve got those backup plans in place that help support you as you go forward.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:43:22] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:43:22] And what’s your hope for the small or medium-sized companies coming out of COVID-19 would you say? And how leaders are—we’ve talked about like what some of the things that we want leaders to be doing in terms of well-being and that, but what’s your hope for things that will be different? What do you want organizations to look like, per se?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:43:38] You know, my hope is that leaders remain open-minded to what has occurred, the changes that have taken place, and self-reflect as to what are those things that we want to keep, what are the things that we stopped and we just need to keep stopped, if that’s a word.
Rita Trehan: [00:44:05] Don’t start them again, yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:44:06] Exactly.
Rita Trehan: [00:44:07] Don’t fall into bad habits, guys.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:44:08] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:44:09] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:44:09] And what do we need to do more of? And I’m hoping that it’s on that talent people side. And that will then drive the results.
Rita Trehan: [00:44:23] Do you have the view on how much time leaders should be spending on talent and people in terms of their—there’s lots of research or statistics that say like, you know, they spend 60% to 70%, and I say, “Really? Come on. Like, you know, you may think you do, but do you really?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:44:39] Yeah, especially small to mid-sized companies.
Rita Trehan: [00:44:43] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:44:43] You know, the smaller you get, the more that, that CEO is wearing a couple of hats, right? They don’t have an assistant. You know, they’re taking care of their calendar and travel arrangements if they travel. And so, it really depends. I would like to say that if you’re in that kind of 50 employees to 500 employees, which is where I generally work, that you’re spending at least 25% of your time.
Rita Trehan: [00:45:19] Yeah. Sounds about good. Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:45:20] Yeah. So, that’s like doing one-to-ones on a consistent basis, mentoring, all those things.
Rita Trehan: [00:45:29] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:45:29] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:45:30] I often have this view, and I’ve written about it a lot, I tend to have a lot of opinions about lots of things, and one of them is about sort of startup organizations and how typically, when a startup starts up, the first hire that they try to do is probably the finance role, and there’s a legal role, and then it’s sales, and yet, they don’t think about hiring like the talent leader that helps assist that CEO, who is spending so much time on it, that actually, what you need them to be doing is focusing on setting the culture, establishing the priorities.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:46:05] Right.
Rita Trehan: [00:46:05] It’s almost like it’s an afterthought.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:46:08] It is.
Rita Trehan: [00:46:08] Why?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:46:11] Well, I think that they’re so focused on generating profits, right? In order to get additional investments, et cetera, they need to see results. But one of the things that I also see when they’re hiring those individuals is oftentimes, they will hire their mirror.
Rita Trehan: [00:46:33] Oh, let’s talk about that. I love talking about that subject because we it a lot, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:46:37] Yeah. Then, you got, you know, three or four people sitting around the table that are just like you.
Rita Trehan: [00:46:44] It’s like that song, isn’t it? I want to walk like you, talk like you.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:46:46] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:46:46] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:46:47] Exactly. And that’s really not what you want because then, you got to group-
[00:46:51] think and it’s not as innovative or collaborative. Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:46:59] How do you help, from a selection standpoint, them to like look at that perspective and making sure, you know, you are not hiring a mirror image of yourself, and really testing the boundaries, it’s a diverse perspective that’s coming in.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:47:14] Right. Well, when we’re talking about small companies, I’ll use an assessment called Business DNA, which actually is a local firm here. The research came out at Georgia Tech. And it helps to identify those natural talents, those things that were formed between zero and three. That doesn’t mean that you show up like that all the time because as you get experience, you realize you need to shift. But what it does do is it shows your go-to talent when you’re under stress. Well, we’ve been under a lot of stress, right?
Rita Trehan: [00:47:48] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:47:50] I was doing some work with a staffing firm here in town, and we went in and assessed the team. And it was just like we talked about. There was five out of the six, all had a similar profile. And the sixth one, this poor woman, she felt like she was a duck out of water because she was really planned and scheduled, and here with this bunch of spontaneous folks.
Rita Trehan: [00:48:21] Yeah. It would be driving her crazy.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:48:22] Oh, it did. It did. But going through the assessment, it made her feel better, right? That okay, I’m not crazy, right? But what it did do was it then opened up the conversation of, okay, you have some positions you’re going to be hiring for, what do we need to be looking for to make this team more diverse so you don’t have that group-think and you’re not driving this poor woman crazy?
Rita Trehan: [00:48:51] Yeah. That’s a great insight. So, like teams actually reflecting on what capabilities they have today, and then saying, well, how can we like, you know, augment that in a way that makes us more rounded and grounded to be able to grow, right?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:49:04] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:49:04] When you say, great leaders growing great people, there was a quote that actually was in one of your blogs, which obviously came from somewhere, but it sort of, I think, personified for me something that I think would resonate with leaders a lot. I probably won’t get it exactly right, but it was about as open pencils. And we are, you know, like a pencil, we’re guided by the hand, the hand that the pencil holds, the hand that holds the pencil, and that every one of us always needs to sharpen up a pencil, right? So, it’s almost like you’re like sharpening your skills, constantly doing that.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:49:42] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:49:43] That’s hard, isn’t it, like to constantly do that?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:49:46] So, that is one of the things that I encourage leaders to understand about those individuals that they’re hiring. Are they learners? Because in today’s world, if you’re not hiring learners, you’re going to grow past them, and especially in small companies. You’re going to grow past them, and then you’re going to have to make a decision, does this person fit our organization now?
Rita Trehan: [00:50:19] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:50:19] I mean, we had that happen several times with our company in the early days. And it was hard. I mean, because these individuals had joined us early on, but they weren’t learners, they weren’t adjusting to change, and they they no longer fit.
Rita Trehan: [00:50:37] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:50:39] It’s really hard because we’ve felt a sense of loyalty, but we weren’t doing them a favor by having them stay.
Rita Trehan: [00:50:49] And actually, one of my previous guests, the CEO of, you know, tech companies, several tech companies, and, you know, spun them off, said exactly the same thing, which is, you know, from his own experience about how hard it was to transition from both to him, personally, but then also, for the team in terms of like knowing the skills that you need to do one thing may not be the skills you need in a different sort of, you know, time period in an organization. And that’s so hard to get people to think that, but I do think it’s really worth reinforcing. And, you know, again, I encourage listeners to always go back and like listen to a couple of bits of the podcast.
Rita Trehan: [00:51:23] This is one of them. It says, like, you know, go back, and reflect, and really think about the capabilities that your team has. And as you hire, think about what you are doing around that, and do listen to the story about like the bread because failure is your friend, like I mean, just get that first, right? Failure is a friend. I think it would be so important to sort of resonate. I ask everyone that comes on the podcast what their daring to moment is. I mean, I imagine that you must’ve had loads, right? Because like taking to businesses to success, maybe it has to do with being a diva, I don’t know, maybe it’s being 40 under 40, maybe it’s where you are now. What is it?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:51:57] You know, I am one of those people that looks to the future. I’m not looking in the past kind of girl. I’ve got a brother who is, so it’s a real challenge talking to him. But I think it’s today.
Rita Trehan: [00:52:12] Yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:52:12] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:52:13] That’s a great daring to, yeah.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:52:15] Yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:52:16] Fabulous. Beth, if people want to know more about what you do, how can they get in touch with you, the work that you do around leadership development, to selection, and just making companies perform better, what’s the best way for them to contact you?
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:52:29] Well, I think the two ways are LinkedIn, so Beth Armknecht Miller, it’s A-R-M-K-N-E-C-H-T, there’s only one of us, and then my website, executive-velocity.com. I have a lot of free resources out there on hiring leadership and succession planning.
Rita Trehan: [00:52:50] That’s great. And obviously, you’ve got book called Talent Obsessed.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:52:53] I’ve got my book, Are You Talent Obsessed, yeah.
Rita Trehan: [00:52:55] Yeah. I love the title.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:52:56] Which is now in hard copy. For years, I just had it as an e-book, so that’s available on Amazon.
Rita Trehan: [00:53:02] And everybody should be talent-obsessed.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:53:03] Yes.
Rita Trehan: [00:53:03] That’s what I believe. But I hope listeners, if you’ve enjoyed listening to this show, then please leave your review and let us know. It’s been great having you as a guest today. Thank you so much. My kindred spirit has been with me today. So, thank you very much.
Beth Armknecht Miller: [00:53:14] Well, thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
Rita Trehan: [00:53:17] Thanks for listening. Enjoyed the conversation? Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss out on future episodes of Daring To. Also, check out our website, dareworldwide.com for some great resources around business in general, leadership, and how to bring about change. See you next time.