Advice From The CEO


The best advice I’ve ever received is from Bob Whitman, FranklinCovey’s Chairman, and CEO.

I’ve reported to Bob for nearly ten years (I deserve one of those Edible Arrangements, that’s a long time to report to any CEO).

Anyway, Bob’s not a micromanager who provides constant feedback. Rather, his style is to hire competent people and model in his own behavior, what he’d like to see in theirs. Sometimes you need to tune up your telepathy to know exactly what he wants, but I’ve learned that skill well over the years. We have an exceptional professional and personal relationship. That doesn’t mean we see everything eye to eye – we don’t, but we understand and respect each other’s communication styles.

The best advice he ever gave to me was without ambiguity. One day, several years ago, he looked at me during a meeting and said respectfully, “Scott, you make too many declarative statements.” That was it – nothing else, no additional context needed. The meeting eventually ended, and life proceeded as usual for everyone.

But it didn’t for me.

I thought about it intensely in the ensuing days. And unlike most feedback I get, I didn’t dispute, deny, or deflect it. Bob was dead-on. I did, in fact, make too many declarative statements. If you’ve met me, you know I have no shortage of self-confidence, you may even say that I have an over-abundance of confidence. It’s worked well for me over the decades (mostly). But apparently, not always with Bob (and maybe others too, but that’s a different blog post).

I thought carefully about Bob’s short, but piercing insight and literally changed my behavior overnight (on this one particular topic mind you).

I started framing my statements more frequently in the form of questions.

Instead of saying, “We must solve this issue in the next hour, or our reputation will be damaged irreparably!” I would say, “Should we be concerned that any further delay in our debate might harm our brand?”

I was saying the same thing – but quite differently.

Instead of saying, “We must deploy this new solution digitally, or we will be the laughing stock of the industry.” I would say, “What if we considered launching the product via webcast as opposed to live-events to be more relevant?”

This subtle change in my communication style led to a profound difference in my reputation and credibility on the organization's executive team. I also deliberately began to speak less. I by no means shut down (this is biologically impossible for me) but I did self-monitor more. As a result, my insights and opinions carried more weight and were not as easily dismissed.

From chatterbox-know-it-all, to not exactly E.F. Hutton, but I was moving in the right direction.

Perhaps be more mindful of how much you speak in meetings. Are you always the first to weigh in? Do you stay on topic? Do you rush to a tactical solution before understanding the entire strategy? Are you agile enough to hold your vote or opinion until after listening to others? Can you change your mind? Can you defer to others and withhold any opinion at all?

Speak less. Listen more. And while you’re at it – make fewer declarative statements.


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About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott J. Miller is Executive Vice President of Business Development and Chief Marketing Officer for FranklinCovey. Scott has been with the company for 20 years, and previously served as Vice President of Business Development and Marketing. His role as EVP and Chief Marketing Officer caps 12 years on the front line, working with thousands of client facilitators across many markets and countries.

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