Balancing human touch in a digital era - Scott Monty [Interview]

Anushka
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Balancing human touch in a digital era - Scott Monty [Interview]

About Scott Monty

Scott Monty is an executive coach and advisor who helps the C-suite embrace virtuous leadership and better communication with timeless strategies. He was ranked by The Economist as #1 atop the list of 25 Social Business Leaders. His clients include Walmart, IBM, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, and Google. We are extremely happy and honored to have someone of his stature on our interview series today.

Strategies for Leadership Improvement - Scott Monty [Interview]

Sumitha Mariyam

We have the pleasure of welcoming Scott Monty today to our interview series. I am Sumitha Mariyam from the peopleHum team. Before we begin just a quick introduction of peopleHum. peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.

Sumitha 

Welcome, Scott. We’re thrilled to have you.

Scott

Thank you so much. I really appreciate being here. 

Sumitha 

It's absolutely our pleasure. So the first question I have for you Scott,

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey? What brought you to Scott Monty Strategies? 

Scott

Well, it's been a long journey, and it's been anything but a straight line. I think, with any career, you inform yourself about as much as you can. You consume information, you learn about your industry. You learn about the practice of the business that you're in and that prepares you for what changes may happen around you. And I actually started out wanting to be a doctor and went to the first year of medical school but decided it just wasn't for me, the whole science thing, it didn't match my preferences.

And as a result, I decided to rather go into business. There was a program where I could do an MBA with a concentration in healthcare administration, and that allowed me to couple it with a Masters in medical science. So I had a little bit of business knowledge, a little bit of science knowledge. Long story short, that eventually led me into biotech and pharmaceutical consulting. 

That in turn led me to an advertising agency that specialized in health care and high tech. With the high tech, I began to notice what was going on digitally and with social media and I ended up doing a little consulting there with big brands for a while and Ford Motor Company heard about me and hired me about, 12 years ago to become the first executive in charge of digital communications and social media. And I did that for about six years while the global financial and automotive meltdown was happening. So because it was in crisis mode, I was actually able to learn probably about two decades worth of business while being at Ford.

And then about six years ago, I left to go on my own, and since then I've been working with companies to help them avoid the shiny object syndrome and to understand fundamentally what moves human beings, and we are remarkably the same all over the world for the last few thousands of years. Humans just don't change. We have the same driving force and driving nature, and if you can understand that and in turn, make that part of what you do every day, then it doesn't matter whatever platform is up next, you'll be prepared for it. And that's what I'm focused on now.

Sumitha

That's wonderful. That's an amazing journey you’ve had, one door opening to another and coming to a whole different level. So that's amazing. 

And so, Scott, as you were talking a lot about people, so we have a lot of disengaged employees in organizations now. So what according to you, are the changes that need to be made in the current employee experience programs so that we can improve the experience and increase the engagement of our employees?

Scott

Yeah, I think a lot of what I've seen from employee engagement programs have typically been top-down. Somebody at the upper echelon in the company creates a program and then pushes it out to everyone and expects them to get on board with it and to be as excited as they are about it, and it doesn't always work that way. Employees have lots of challenges or their day to day goals that they're trying to achieve.

With the change in the business environment now and lots of people working from home, there's a change in environment. People may be stressed, they may be taking care of elderly parents, they may be taking care of young children, they don't have the same degree of separation from home that they did before. So there's a lot of considerations that need to take place.

And because of that, I think executives need to do a lot of listening and listening can come in a variety of ways. It can be on a Zoom call, simply by observing what's going on around the environment that your employees are in, being able to be attentive to what's going on there, to be able to discern when they're stressed out or when they're happy about something and giving them the freedom to do what they need to do.

So I think it's less about a one-size-fits-all approach and more of tailoring your program, tailoring your message based on listening to and talking with, individually, a lot of your employees to get a census of where their heads are.

“It's less about a one-size-fits-all approach and more of tailoring your program, tailoring your message based on listening to and talking with, individually, a lot of your employees to get a census of where their heads are.”

And by doing so, if you actually engage them, if you bring them into the process and help them feel like they're creating something like they're contributing to the end result of the program, then they're going to be more invested in its success and therefore more likely to participate.

Sumitha 

Yeah, That's a wonderful answer. And I think with the current situation and every single employee working from home, the managers, the leaders are aware of what is the situation around these employees. Do they have kids? Do they live in a small house where they don't have anything? Stuff like that. So, yeah, I think communication and collaboration is needed a lot.

So, in this situation, we need a lot of technology, right? So what do you think is the role of technology in addition to the human touch, of course, in breaking down all these barriers and creating a collaborative work culture? 

Scott

Well, I mean, technology is remarkable, and what it's allowed us to do, but at the same time, technology isn't always the answer, right? I mean, we were able to stay in touch now more than ever. But at the same time, I'm seeing instances of executives being concerned about employee burnout like they're too connected now because you can reach anyone with a Slack message or an e-mail or a Zoom call, or whatever technology you're using.

And so we tend to become fixated or perhaps over-dependent on the technology instead of thinking from here (points to brain) and thinking from here (points to heart), right? Thinking from the heart with more empathy. When I talk about creating virtuous leaders, what I mean by that is, thinking about the elements of humanity that make us better people and anybody can come up with a tool and force it on people to use.

But I think it's how you use the tool. It’s the observations that you make, like I was talking about before, or the empathy that you show, or the concern that you show with your fellow employees.

So, I think taking the technology and using it in ways to connect people, whether it's one to one, voice to voice, one to few, it's about letting that human touch come through, even though we're separated by a screen. So I think the more we can focus on the process and the people in addition to the technology, the more that humanity will come through.

“The more we can focus on the process and the people in addition to the technology, the more that humanity will come through.”

Sumitha 

Yeah. That's a great answer. I think as much as we're addicted to technology, we have to follow our hearts and be empathetic about a lot of things because everything involves people. I mean, you name it, employees, leaders, customers. It's just people. So, yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

So, let's shift the focus to customers for a while and also startup leaders. So, before all this crisis started, we had a lot of aspiring leaders start up new businesses and not just this scenario, in any scenario, how would you advise the new-age leaders who have, who are entrepreneurs of small-time startups to build a solid customer base?

Scott

All right, well, I think and we've seen this with some of the most remarkable leaders in the business. Take Steve jobs, for example. He didn't focus on the needs that customers were expressing. He intuited what needs there were, and he almost created, but he did create a new category for people. I didn't know that I needed to carry around 1000 songs in my pocket, but he invented the iPod. I was happy with my Walkman where I'm going way back now where I could carry a CD or cassette around and be satisfied with that. 

And here he understood the very human need to connect in music, okay? That transcends technology, that transcends the industry. He understood the emotional appeal to music and what that has done to people over the ages and simply by taking his know-how, he created a customer desire now where it's translated into phones rather than just MP3 players. But he created that desire for customers to come along on that journey with him. 

And I think we need more leaders who think like that. We see it now with Jeff Bezos. He's created the juggernaut that is Amazon over the last 25 years and now, in his latest announcement, he wants to basically be the supply chain for COVID testing, right? And to create an end to end testing and distribution channel that solves a health care problem, well, we didn't know we needed that even three months ago, right? We know we need it now and he's answering that without us necessarily asking Amazon for it. Those are the leaders we need and startups that actually answer these thorny issues that we don't yet know our problems.

Sumitha

That's an amazing perspective. 

So, speaking about leaders and we have this crisis right now. So do you think the leadership of the future is going to evolve a lot? Because right now, we express our thoughts as the future is right now and we have leaders who are confused.

We have leaders who are holding up really well and managers managing a remote team and all of that. So how do you think the leadership is going to evolve once we come out of this crisis? 

Scott

I think we need to understand that this is like nothing we've ever dealt with before. 

We need to lean on the experts, whether it's within our government agencies, whether it's within our companies and get out of their way and let the experts do what they do and provide them the resources they need to be successful.

Ultimately, that's a manager's job. A manager doesn't really do any kind of front line work. They manage people. And just like we've been talking about throughout the interview, the important part is recognizing what people need and good managers get out of the way.

They give their people the freedom to do what they need to do. They give them guidance along the way and make sure that they’re maybe informed about things that they might not otherwise see because somebody who's just running and doing something, their head down and they're looking straight ahead when there may be things that come in from the side that they need to know about.

And that's the manager's job is to take the bigger picture and help inform his or her direct reports as to how to take that information and plug it into what they need to do. At the same time, I think now more than ever we need and I'll come back to this again, empathy from our leadership. We need people that show that they understand that they care about what's happening to their people, whether it's their citizens or their employees.

“Now more than ever we need empathy from our leadership. We need people that show that they understand, that they care about what's happening to their people, whether it's their citizens or their employees.”

And simply moving forward with a position of power or acting like one knows everything, that's not the answer. This is about collaboration. It's about bringing people together. It's about feeling the pain that they feel and helping them succeed with all the tools that we can give them.

Sumitha

Yeah. That's wonderful. I think leaders who can collaborate and trust their team members with the job they are entrusted with and also, think of why I selected them to the team, then I think most of the problem is solved, so that's a wonderful answer.

So, Scott, we also have this work with the gig economy rising now, and right before the world went on lockdown, we had seen an immense rise in this particular category of the workforce.

So how do you think we are going to incorporate this in the current set up that we have right now? And also we have a financial crisis coming up, so do you think the gig economy is here to stay? 

Scott

Well, the gig economy, I think, has been wonderful for a lot of people, just in terms of freedom. It's certainly been wonderful for the investors behind these companies, less so for the workers that are actually providing the services and when you think about it from a purely business standpoint, from a financial standpoint, the reason it's been a success is because the gig economy companies usually don't own any major assets. They have no overhead or very little overhead that they're carrying.

Uber doesn't own any automobiles. Airbnb doesn't own any hotel rooms, right? These are all costs for other people to carry, and they simply coordinate everything and just make it frictionless for people to have these transactions, these services. Well, at the same time, it's done an incredible disservice to the workers, even though they've got the flexibility now of working for any number of companies on their own terms, they're not getting benefits, they're not getting the same level of pay that they might otherwise get.

And I question what this looks like a long term for these workers, now that there are no rooms being rented for Airbnb, all of these people that own these properties have to pay the mortgage, have to pay the rent themselves without the benefit of that additional income, perhaps that they counted on, right? So in some ways, the gig economy, as I said, has been remarkably liberating for some people.

But at the same time, I think it has covered up from the mental weaknesses within our economy. And simply by ripping this bandage off, we have now seen exposed underneath exactly what we're dealing with, and it's very concerning. Because of that, I think the gig economy companies, I don't think they're going away, but they need to figure out exactly how they fit into the new way of doing things. There's no going back to the way it was before. I can't see that happening in the near term. We have to adjust,

“The gig economy companies, I don't think they're going away, but they need to figure out exactly how they fit into the new way of doing things. There's no going back to the way it was before.”

Just like airport security adjusted after September 11th happened, we're going to have to make a fundamental adjustment to our economies moving forward, now that Coronavirus is a reality.

Sumitha

That makes a lot of sense, really. It is such a realization for us right now in this situation, and it's shocking and it's very concerning.

So Scott, just to wrap up the interview, if you have any last sound bites, you would like to leave our audience.

Scott

Well, I think everyone is struggling with something right now. I mean that even in the best of times, we all have our struggles, and I just like to remind people that it's important not to have too much anxiety about it and to turn to the people that matter most to you. Maybe a friend, a family member, a colleague.

You may feel like things are spiraling out of control. The only thing that you can truly control in your life is your reaction to the situation that you're in. The outside forces will always come to bear, but how you actually view what happens to you and how you choose to react is something that only you can control.

“The outside forces will always come to bear, but how you actually view what happens to you and how you choose to react is something that only you can control.”

And if you do that with empathy, with thoughts to others and with leading by example, I think that's good news for everyone. 

Sumitha

Yeah, that's wonderful. Thank you so much for that last message. It was such a pleasure talking to you, Scott. I really appreciate your time and for taking out this time to share your views with us. It has been truly an enriching learning experience for me personally and if I can learn so much, I’m sure our audience is going to gain a lot of knowledge from this particular interview as well.  So let's keep in touch and have a healthy and safe time ahead of you.

Scott

Thank you so much Sumitha. It’s been an honor to be here with you. Appreciate it. 

Sumitha

Thank you so much. Buh-bye.

We hope you got some great insights from this blog. Its now time to apply it. Get started with peopleHum for free today. No credit card needed.

We hope you got some great insights from this blog. Its now time to apply it. Get started with peopleHum for free today. No credit card needed.

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PeopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work.

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