162: Scuba Tanks and Fierce Conversations – Featured Interview with guest expert Susan Scott

Founder of Fierce, Inc., Author of Fierce Conversations and Fierce Leadership

Susan Scott talks to Bill Ringle on My Quest for the Best about fierce leadership and the benefits of learning how to have truly meaningful conversations.

>>>Visit MyQuestforTheBest.com for complete show notes and more expert advice and inspiring stories to propel your small business growth. My Quest for the Best is a top-rated small business podcast with over 300 episodes of thought-provoking and insightful interviews with today’s top thought leaders and business experts. Host Bill Ringle’s mission with this show is to provide the strategies, insights, and resources that will unlock the growth potential of your business through these powerful conversations.

Interview Insights

Key points that you’ll learn from this interview:

  • What is the real role of managers
  • Why leaders should offer their employees to challenge the way they’re thinking.
  • How meaningful conversation occurs in a culture where candor is valued.
  • How “putting on a scuba tank” can keep your meetings from being a waste of time.
  • Why practice can make you a better communicator

Read the Show Notes from this Episode

  • 1:39 Scott talks about an early role model – her grandmother – the first to start the Tuxedo rental business.
  • 2:07 [On starting Fierce] – “I had been running groups of CEOs here in Seattle…and I would meet with each of them once a month for about 2 hours.”
  • 2:45 [Inspired by Hemingway] “I had an epiphany that our companies and our careers and our relationships and our lives can succeed or fail, gradually then suddenly, one conversation at a time.” 
  • 3:08 “What gets talked about within a company, how it gets talked about, and who is invited to the conversation, determines what’s going to happen.”
  • 4:22 [Paraphrasing Annie Dillard] – “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”
  • 4:29 “Most leaders are spending their days in meeting after meeting after meeting, conversation after conversation after conversation.”
  • 5:23 The importance of straight talk and straight listening.
  • 5:38 “People are understandably frightened to disclose what they’re really thinking and feeling, and they don’t necessarily want to go for the biggest and baddest and toughest and most complicated issues.”
  • 5:59 “People end up waterskiing through their conversations rather than putting on a scuba tank and going deeper.”
  • 7:14 “Fierce Leadership is the book that if somebody’s going to read one book, they should read that one.”
  • 7:57 [On making the conversation real] – “You have to decide whether or not you really care about the issues on the table. If you don’t care, then you’re not necessarily going to come out from behind yourself and be real.”
  • 8:22 “I would hope that you are in a culture where candid candor is valued.”
  • 8:31 “No plan will survive its collision with reality.”
  • 9:31 “The person who’s holding the meeting fills that form before everyone comes together for the meeting.”
  • 10:21 “A leader’s job is not to be right, a leader’s job is to get it right for the company.”
  • 10:38 “If I’m the leader, I want to start by changing the way I’m holding my meetings.”
  • 11:31 “There’s an easy and graceful way to put your perspective on the table even if it contradicts the leaders of the organization.”
  • 12:14 “Most people aren’t even aware that they’re shutting people down.”
  • 13:05 “In our training, nobody does any role play, nobody pretends to be someone other than who they are.”
  • 14:29 How the practice can make you a better communicator.
  • 14:51 “We teach people what accountability really is and how to raise the bar c on accountability.”
  • 16:05 How a meeting facilitator can help keep a meeting from derailing.
  • 16:31 “We want the client to have gotten tremendous benefit from the training and actually make progress on an issue that is of great importance to them.”
  • 17:12 People always amaze me at how brave, courageous, and skillful they can be very quickly, given the right tools and understanding of what’s at stake.”
  • 17:59 “What is your role as a manager? It is not to have all of the answers, it is not to create the plan all by yourself.”
  • 18:42 “If I as a manager am always just dictating to them what they should do, and sharing the brilliance of my own thinking with them, there’s not much room for them to shine. Plus, I am not always going to get it right.”
  • 20:13 [On Managers changing mindset] – “Why would I want to go back to that lonely role of coming up with all of these ideas myself, when I’ve got some amazing people who came up with ideas in a short amount of time?”
  • 22:05 “When everybody knows, and you tell them at the beginning ‘Before we conclude I’m going to ask every one of you to give me your best advice,’ when you do that, no one is going to be checking out.”
  • 23:08 “If you haven’t heard from somebody in the meeting you call on them.”
  • 23:38 “You teach people how to behave in these meetings and no one gets to hide out and shrink their subatomic particles and vanish off the radar screen. They’re invited to the meeting because their perspective is important.”
  • 25:24 [Paraphrasing Will Rogers] – “Politicians are good at saying absolutely nothing and saying it all the time. Nobody’s listening and then everybody disagrees,”
  • 26:43 Ask more questions, respond with fewer ‘Yes, but’s,” especially in regards to political discussions.
  • 29:44 “Labelling people or groups of people is so counterproductive.”
  • 30:30 “People are tired of having these 360 anonymous inputs…people want to have conversations.”
  • 30:53 “Companies are shifting their performance management to be this ongoing conversation.”
  • 31:00 The two major updates to Fierce Conversations
  • 33:04 [On feedback] – “The time has come, we all know that we need it.”
  • 33:36 “Let’s get away from the practice of holding people accountable and holding people able and modeling accountability.”
  • 34:09 “Be very clear with people on what are their deliverables.”
  • 34:44 “There’s no way I can hold you to a standard that is higher than the one I’m exhibiting myself.”
  • 34:54 “Accountability is an attitude.”
  • 35:03 “You have to create an environment in which people choose accountability.”
  • 36:08 Feedback Scott has received from readers.
  • 37:23 “You weren’t people to come up with their own insights.”
  • 38:59 [On fierce conversations] – “It’s one where we lean in, we really listen to one another, we totally disclose what we’re thinking, we share the goal of getting it right.
  • 39:17 Five questions with Susan Scott

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Expert Bio

Susan Scott is a best-selling author and leadership development architect who has enabled top executives worldwide to engage in vibrant dialogue with one another, with their employees, and with their customers for more than two decades. As CEO of Fierce Conversation, a company she founded in 2001, Susan sets the company’s strategic vision and creates the culture through her ongoing commitment to ensure employees are engaged, communication is candid, and learning is continuous.

Prior to starting Fierce, Susan spent 12 years running think tanks for CEOs designing and delivering training to peers working with CEOs across the globe. In 2002, ‘Fierce Conversations -Achieving Success at Work and in Life, One Conversation at a Time,’ was published in 4 countries. It was included on The Wall Street Journal and UPI bestseller lists and was one of USA TODAY’S top 40 business books of 2002. Her much anticipated second book – ‘Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the Worst ‘Best’ Practices of Business Today was published in 2009, and was also listed on The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times bestseller lists. In May 2017 Susan re-released “Fierce Conversations” with 40% updated content, incorporating more data and technology that was developed through her experience in the industry over the last 15 years.

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