I recently sat down with Rick Miller, a Fortune 50 turnaround specialist and sought-after speaker, to talk about his new book, Be Chief: It’s A Choice, Not A Title. We spoke at length about why conventional wisdom about “Chiefs” is all wrong, why leaders should open up about their personal lives, and how to tap into the power of your organization’s introverts, or, as Miller likes to put it, the “Quiet Chiefs.” Here is some of our conversation:
Conventional wisdom has long defined “Chiefs” as rulers of people—those at the top who hold the most power. But you say conventional wisdom is wrong. How so?
We’ve always viewed Chiefs as “special” and selectively chosen to lead others. The perception in business and society is that only those at the top have the power to be Chief. But in most cases, this imbalance of power suffocates the potential within an organization. It causes employees to disengage—at least seven out of every ten workers aren’t giving 100 percent on the job because of it.
No wonder companies aren’t performing as well as they should. The problem isn’t with financial capital. It’s with human capital. To truly tap into an organization’s potential, we need empowered leaders at every level. A title should never determine if someone is a Chief; everyone is capable of powerful leadership.
In the book, you offer a new definition of power. How do you define it? And how can we measure power within ourselves?
I believe that real power comes from the inside out. It’s comprised of five elements that can be found in each of us:
· Clarity — the quality of being certain of a process or course of action.
· Influence — the capacity to affect the development or behavior of someone or something.
· Energy — the drive and vitality to live and engage fully.
· Confidence — the feeling of self-assurance that comes from understanding one’s own priorities, abilities, and qualities.
· Impact – the strong and/or immediate sway on someone or something.
There are five key enablers that can increase your power, even when only small shifts are made:
· Discipline is an orderly pattern of behavior that increases clarity and the likelihood of a desired outcome.
· Support is the act or process of promoting the interests or causes of another that increases influence.
· Insight is the power or act of seeing intuitively that comes with self-understanding.
· Values are the foundation of relationships and confidence.
· Creativity is the ability to bring ideas into existence. Alignment of creative choices amplifies power and increases impact.
I created my Power Compass Survey to gauge how powerful you are. Try it out; it only takes five minutes.
How does “being Chief” go viral in a company or organization?
You can create a company full of Chiefs by utilizing viral engagement. Up to $500 billion in U.S. profits are lost annually due to employees essentially checking out. But a little-understood lateral approach can deliver huge returns.
It starts with recognizing that any employee can impact the engagement of every employee in a group. That’s been the missing link in the workforce—the understanding of the power that coworkers have on each other. It’s a research-supported approach I walk readers through in Be Chief.
You suggest that leaders should bring more of their personal lives into professional settings. Why is this important?
When I took on the role of Global Services President at AT&T, one of my early challenges was finding a way to connect with employees who viewed AT&T corporate officers as part of the problem, if not the problem. To alleviate these anxieties, AT&T scheduled a number of town hall meetings as forums for frank and open discussion. Not surprisingly, these conversations often became heated.
Things got a bit tense in one town hall Q&A session when an employee asked if I truly understood the impact of losing healthcare benefits while a family member was battling cancer. From this question, I realized that most of the people in the audience assumed officers—like me—were somehow insulated from AT&T’s recent layoffs and benefit cutbacks. But this question provided an opportunity to show that all AT&T employees—including leaders like me—shared the same concerns and anxieties.
I had never publicly shared that I was a cancer survivor until this fateful AT&T town hall meeting. After I addressed the specific question (transition healthcare insurance would continue to cover his family), I took a risk. You could have heard a pin drop when I revealed, “I am a cancer survivor and know how important health insurance is.”
I deliberately put myself in a vulnerable position as a way to connect with my team. After my big reveal, more and more employees began to engage with me in conversation. It was clear that the initial animosity I faced as an AT&T officer had subsided. As a result, more of my team members stepped up as leaders as we transformed the organization.
Studies show that up to 50 percent of team members self-identify as introverts, whom you call the “Quiet Chiefs.” How can we better engage with them?
Quiet Chiefs are an essential force within any organization. Here are some of my top takeaways for creating better engagement:
· Lead time creates better quality.
· Small groups can enable more contribution than large groups.
· Written communication allows for thoughtful responses.
· Directed questions clearly identify expectations.
· Team building needs to be structured so it works for everyone.
· Office space can be configured to support creativity.
· Technology improves communication via social media and online chat tools.
· Diversity of approach is important.
· Individual challenges sometimes work best.
· Anonymity can be a good thing.
To learn more about Rick Miller and his new book, Be Chief, visit his website. Or connect with Miller on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram at @BeingChief.