top of page

128. Empowering Women Leaders to Thrive with Jane Miller

"When you make work better for women, you make things better for everyone -- men, children, your company, our economy and the world." -Jane Miller I'm thrilled to share this conversation that I had with Jane Miller, retired President and Chief Operating Officer of Gallup. Our conversation is rich with insights to support you in helping women leaders thrive, whether you are a woman in the early phases of your leadership journey, or a business leader trying to figure out the best ways to repair the broken leadership pipeline.

In this conversation, we talk about:

  • Jane's leadership journey to become the COO and President of Gallup

  • The importance of activated values in the workplace

  • The underlying importance of workplace adaptability for improving women's professional lives

  • How to create an organizational culture drenched in empathy and compassion, enhancing productivity and client satisfaction.


About Jane:

Jane Miller headshot
Jane Miller

Jane Miller is the retired president and chief operating officer of Gallup. In her role, she oversaw worldwide operations, ensuring all systems, resources and – most importantly – people were in place and aligned to achieve the goals of the organization across all client servicing and market direct functions.

Jane is committed to creating strong communities that begin with strong businesses and workplaces. Her community leadership includes the following director and trustee roles: the Peter Kiewit Foundation, the TeamMates Mentoring board of directors, the Kiewit Luminarium board of directors, the Omaha Zoological Society, the Board of Directors Nebraska Medicine and the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Jane is the recipient of the Omaha Chamber of Commerce Women in Leadership Award and has been inducted into the Omaha Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame and the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame.

Past community leadership positions have included the following roles: Commercial Federal Bank board of directors and compensation chair, Creighton University board of directors, Children’s Hospital board of directors and board vice-chair, Business Ethics Alliance board of directors and board chair, and the Knights of Aksarben board of directors and board chair.


While it's not perfect, we offer this transcription by Capsho for those who prefer to read or who are hearing impaired.

Teri Schmidt [00:00:00]:

"When you make work better for women, you make things better for everyone men, children, your company, our economy, and the world."

This quote from a 2021 Gallup article co-authored by our guest Jane Miller, inspired me to reach out to her.

But it wasn't just that I've been inspired by Jane's research, work, and leadership as the now retired President and COO of Gallup.

You probably know that I frequently use the CliftonStrengths assessment created by her father, Don Clifton, in my coaching and team building. And I knew that she would have some valuable insights from three different perspectives as a former executive at a large client serving organization, as someone passionate about advocating for women in the workplace with stellar research to back up her conclusions, and as a woman leader herself.

In case this is your first time meeting her, a little bit more about Jane: As I mentioned, she is the retired president and chief operating officer of Gallup. In her role, she oversaw worldwide operations, ensuring all systems, resources, and most importantly, people were in place and aligned to achieve the goals of the organization across all client servicing and market direct functions. Jane is committed to creating strong communities that begin with strong businesses and workplaces and is involved in the boards of several community organizations. Jane's also the recipient of the Omaha Chamber of Commerce Women in Leadership Award and has been inducted into the Omaha Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame and the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame.

Our conversation is rich with insights to support you in helping women leaders thrive, whether you are a woman in the early phases of your leadership journey or a business leader trying to figure out the best way to repair the broken leadership pipeline. So let's get into it. I'm Teri Schmidt, founder and CEO of Stronger to Serve Coaching and Team Building, where we believe that leadership means to courageously use your talents to make a way for others to courageously use theirs and this is the Strong Leaders Serve podcast.

Teri Schmidt [00:02:36]:

Welcome, Jane to the Strong Leaders Serve Podcast. I'm really excited to have you here, thankful for your time and just looking forward to our conversation today.

Jane Miller [00:02:47]:

Thank you, Teri. I am too.

Teri Schmidt [00:02:49]:

And many people will recognize your name and know who you are and where you've been, but for those who don't, I would love to hear it from your perspective a little bit about your journey to where you are today, the different leadership roles that you've held. As we love to bring on women who are passionate about making the workplace more compassionate and just, and who know what it's like to go through the different levels of leadership, it really started.

Jane Miller [00:03:20]:

Somewhere in the vicinity, maybe 50 years ago, I guess formerly 40 years ago. And so the world has changed in so many ways since literally the late 1970s, early 1980s, and yet in other ways, especially as it relates to women, it hasn't changed that much. But I think with any leadership journey, you're kind of on two different paths. People always ask the question, are you born or are you made? And I really think it is both because I think some of us are called to it and pulled to it in different ways. And then how you begin to develop those competencies and skills in addition to what your natural strengths are and what you bring to the table, really are how you emerge and evolve as a leader. So I would say that as far back as I can remember, and I mean, like grade school, middle school, high school, I was raising my hand or naturally bringing groups of people together on an ongoing basis or being elected to different positions. So there were lots of different experiences along the way. That felt very natural to me as I went through it. And then I began my career formally in 1984 in a small, privately held, employee owned organization called Selection Research Incorporated in Lincoln, Nebraska, which was a selection company. And in the early 80s, there were very few of those. And today there are several. And of course, assessments are such a critical part of organizations. And that little company went on to buy the Gallup organization. So really a significant portion of my life was taking a very small company with some tremendous partners and teamwork in my family most importantly, and then really figuring out how to morph and evolve and grow that organization over the next 40 years. So my jury is probably very different in its part entrepreneur in terms of that it's part employee. As a young woman growing up, I was living and breathing as an individual achiever and as a manager long before I was ever a leader. But I've had quite a unique journey in that way.

Teri Schmidt [00:05:18]:

What was that transition like for you? You just mentioned you were living and breathing as an individual achiever before leadership. Think back to that first time that you were put in a leadership role. What was that transition like for you?

Jane Miller [00:05:35]:

Well, again, it felt pretty natural. It was one of those where I knew I wanted to do that and I knew I had followers. You're not a leader unless you have followers, right? Because you're helping them do their jobs better. You're helping them have success and then accumulatively. You're helping the team have success. And I think it begins to happen or you're beginning to form some level of process, system, standards and structure. When you first start small companies, they're rather chaotic, and that's a hallmark of small startups. And yet somewhere you've got to take that chaotic piece as a leader and really begin to put some parameters, framework, discipline and process to it. And so that's really what I spent a lot of my career doing, was as the company continued to grow, figuring out what the right level of process and systems and structure was relative to what our philosophies were. So I always talk about the best companies have values, philosophies, beliefs, mission, purpose as the base, right? But that's only strong and only works if you can live those actions every day through your behaviors. And so many companies miss the mark. They might have great statements, but they don't know how to operationalize or activate. And so that was really what I spent the majority of my time doing, with the intent and goal that it makes it better for individuals. And then how do you make individuals are receiving that message? And is it resonating with them in terms of what those value statements are and how they do their work, how they get their work done, but most importantly, how they get done? As Peter Drucker would have said, as a human, it's "getting people done through work."

Teri Schmidt [00:07:13]:

I love that, people done through work. And you at Gallup had a little bit of an advantage with the assessment that's very well known that your dad created with CliftonStrengths. How did that help as you were trying to make sure that those values, those visions, became reality through action?

Jane Miller [00:07:33]:

It's been immense. And again, it's one of those where it's literally in your DNA. So when you grow up with it, you look at it from a very different perspective. But let's go back in time a little bit. He died in 2003, but developed the instrument in about 98 or 99. And yet he'd been working on selection type assessments very different from strengths since the 1950s or 1960s at the University of Nebraska. So really, once he developed it in the late ninety s, it was just beginning to form in popularity. And unfortunately, there was less than a million when he died, I think. And he had big dreams of what if 15 million, what if 100 million. And it's made a significant difference to me personally, but more importantly, to literally over 30 million people around the world because it helps them understand what is right and good about them instead of what's wrong. And unfortunately, I think in society, too much, whether we're talking about coaches and athletics or whether we're talking about teachers, is about what's wrong with people, let alone parents. And strengths really brings a whole different mindset for people to think about, but what's right? And I think it makes huge difference in teams. And when leaders are thinking about how to bring teams together, and when somebody comes to you and goes, but this person's doing this and this and this wrong, and you stop them and you say, but what do they do right? What are their strengths? And all of a sudden it kind of changes the conversation significantly, definitely.

Teri Schmidt [00:08:58]:

And just using that as a way to understand diversity of thought, diversity of talent, how we approach different challenges in different ways, and how we need that, I think, has been so valuable, at least in my work, and I can imagine it was very valuable to your point.

Jane Miller [00:09:16]:

It's really, in my opinion, the root of diversity. And that can be very controversial for some. When I say it, I'll get haters over that comment. But it really is if you truly understand strengths, you're thinking about the individual and all that goes with that individual, their history, their background, if it means that it's about their own genealogy is too strong. But it really gets to the point of who are they as an individual? How do they want to be treated? What do they see as their dreams? What do they want from a work situation? That is what diversity is. Because diversity of thought in every form, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or any kind of demographic, definitely agree.

Teri Schmidt [00:09:58]:

Well, coming to the end of your professional journey, at least with Gallup, I know you're retired now, you were in that President and COO role. How did that role differ from the other leadership roles that you had in the organization?

Jane Miller [00:10:13]:

Well, again, when you're growing, really, what is your own family and employee owned business? You're kind of morphing with different job titles and responsibilities throughout that time. So right or wrong, it didn't feel that much different. But from individual fever to manager to being one of three or five that were running the company, it really just means you keep taking on more responsibility to make things better. And one of the things you mentioned and talk about with your podcast is the compassion piece. And one of the things that I hope I was known for was the compassion within our culture. So whether we were talking about everything COVID, whether we were talking about something that would be tragic, whether we were talking about the economy, there was always a piece in the communication to make sure that people knew it was because we cared. And if anything, I was intrusively caring. And I think that that's something that as a leader, the more you're thinking about the masses and the group and how this sounds strange, but you scale individuality so that you're thinking about how do I get the most individuals to have the most success? So the organization had success. They feel that care, I hope. I think they feel to care that way.

Teri Schmidt [00:11:25]:

Yeah. I haven't heard it put that way, but I love that the scaling individuality. I'm going to be thinking about that for a little bit. That's a great way to look at that. Throughout your journey, I'm sure you had some favorite experiences. Could you tell me a story about one or two of your favorite leadership experiences?

Jane Miller [00:11:43]:

That's hard because there were many. I think one of the things I feel best about in retrospect is really I remember being in my late twenty s and going to a leadership workshop seminar and they asked what our dreams were and to visualize and write down what our vision and dreams were. And I wrote down that I wanted to develop more managers in order to make a stronger organization. And if you look at all galp research today, everything is really about how do you create the strong managers. Because it doesn't matter what leaders are doing or individuals are doing. Managers are the conduit. So way back in my twenty s, I just kept thinking how do I make it scalable to have great managers? Because I think one of the things that happens in so many organizations is they may have the intent to have great managers, but they aren't able to scale it. So that when you think about culture, it's how work gets done. And it means that every manager has to really be reading the tea leaves as it relates to the philosophies values missions and then activating in as a consistent manner as possible. We're coming to go at each individual thing. So anyway, back at this workshop, we had to draw that up. And I remember drawing up what could be in 20 or 30 years. And so many of those great managers at the time that I had continued to just morph into these tremendous leadership roles. And then we still, even as I was leaving six months or a year ago, so many of them were still there and just doing tremendous jobs and really stepping up and leading different large areas. I think that's always anytime you can I'm a teacher by education and I think anytime you can teach people to fish the old saying and not feed them, but teach them how, it really empowers frees them, gives them the independence to know and the self confidence. One of my top five is self assurance. And so I always say to people, borrow my self assurance. And I think that helped them borrow self assurance so they had the confidence to lead.

Teri Schmidt [00:13:46]:

And you mentioned that a lot of people have trouble scaling that development of their managers. What was your secret? So when you drew up that plan and you mentioned how several of those managers are still there and thriving in higher roles, what was the secret?

Jane Miller [00:14:06]:

I think it's just because I chose to make it such a significant portion of my job so that with my direct reports, I had expectations on them in terms of how they raised, developed, delegated their direct reports and so on. So we were a pretty flat organization. It was maybe only three or four levels deep. But I think the secret is making sure that there's just like a great coach on a football team or basketball or baseball. There's just a lot of what I call blocking and tackling, checking in every day as it related to the quality aspects of how are the managers playing this out? Or to customer service, how are they playing this out? Or to retention of employees. Retention of customers. It's just a constant, constant conversation in a way that is I hope, I mean, I think energizing inspirational in terms of, again, the mission and the purpose and why we're here and what we're doing every day through helping them each then grow and develop and then multiply that through other people. So the expectation was for them to multiply and was to find people that are as good or better than you as a manager. And so I was very open that there were other people who were definitely better than me as a manager and we wanted to make sure that they were frontline or managing other managers so that they could multiply that effect of compassion. But we also had very high performance. So we said we were high caring and high performing which a lot of companies are one or the other. Some are now dissing performance, some are now dissing compassion. It's like you have to have both. You can't have one without the other and have a tremendous culture.

Teri Schmidt [00:15:34]:

Yeah, I love that. And what you're saying speaks to our definition at stronger serve of leadership and I'm not necessarily talking positional leadership, but we say that leadership is courageously using your talents to make a way for others to courageously use theirs. So that goes right with what excellent. Well, one of the reasons that I reached out to you is because I read an article in which you wrote when you make work better for women, you make things better for everyone men, children, your company, our economy and the world. So I'd love for you to tell us a little bit more about why you believe that.

Jane Miller [00:16:17]:

Well, there's two things. Belief is also in my top five. So I've always believed that for literally 40 or 50 years and it was interesting because as we did more and more research and this is like circa 2014 to 2017, we began to see that and hang with me a minute because of course the pandemic changed everything. But for years, rhetorically, way back in the early 2000s, we knew the flexibility was the right thing to do. And yet so many companies didn't really understand it or they talked like they had it. But again, it didn't really execute fast forward. And as more and more women are getting into the workforce, flexibility became kind of a table stakes and at the same time, a game changer. And we began to see that a lot of women want and need to work some more so want and some more so need. But there is and this is very controversial and this data is over five years old now. There is still a large portion majority actually of women who if they could and of course that's relative would choose to stay home with their kids. So in this case we're talking working moms right here, not just women. And so we have to know that for employers and organizations hang with me the greatest competition is children and we mean that in the best compassionate way. In other words, how do we make work so attractive? Especially now? Because we need women more than ever, just in sheer numbers so that they can work, so that they can have a family, so that they can have well being. Because women are very, very hard workers and they will do a lot in a very short period of time, whether it's multitasking, whether it's strengths and talent, whether it's their condensed time management that they have, they can do a lot. But give them the freedom, give them the independence to choose how and when they do it while keeping the customer and the business top of mind. So we're not giving in on the business objectives. You still have to keep that front and center but you can make both work. And it's difficult, but it's by no means impossible. And so many companies don't figure out that you have to have both or how to do that and it really becomes a scheduling and resourcing, not just challenge, but opportunity more importantly to give women that. So, okay, let me focus, I had to get into the details of that. But once we do that for women, we get and keep more women in the workforce, which is good for the economy. But once we do that, we also help men have better jobs because men get the flexibility. We also help spouses and partners have more flexibility in terms of how they work their work day. So it really is better for kids because mom's happier, dad's happier. It begins to create a whole different level of what can be done at the office and at home and for each of the individuals in that. So we're trying to put the emphasis on it because a lot of, let's just say leaders within large organizations weren't really understanding why flexibility had to be activated and systematized. And so it was really a goal to say look, this isn't just about women, this is how you make it better for everyone. And that tied the course into remote and hybrid and everything that changed in 2020.

Teri Schmidt [00:19:30]:

Yeah, and it's interesting what we've gone through over the past three, four years. And as you think about during the pandemic and the great resignation, the data is showing how many women left the workforce because there was so much put on them. And a lot of people are saying that because of that, the leadership pipeline for women is broken. And I've talked to people, read from people, looked at research about different solutions and a lot of times people will say well, people are throwing out women's leadership programs to help women on an individual level so that we do not have a broken leadership pipeline. And others are saying well, that's not the way to do it. We need systemic changes, we need organizational changes at Stronger to serve. We believe it's a combination of both. So I'd love to get your perspective on that, both working within your organization. But then you've also had the opportunity to work with so many other organizations and see success cases of this. So if we start at the individual level from either your personal experience or your experience developing other women leaders, what skills and mindsets do you think are most important for new women leaders to develop so that they can thrive in the workplace of today as it is, but also help change the workplace for tomorrow?

Jane Miller [00:21:00]:

Well, that's a lot. There's a lot there. I think that and I've said this to many of them, choose your manager in your organization based on the leadership. So I had a dad ask me, he had some 25 year old daughters and I said the most important thing she can do is she has choice right now because people do have choice in their jobs, right, in terms of the supply and demand in the economy right now. And you really want to make sure and ask some hard questions of who your manager is and what is allowed, what is encouraged, and what are the behaviors or traits within an organization that allow you that flexibility, that allow you to think about what it's like when you're in your having kids and being able to run them to the doctor when they're sick and all those kinds of things. So get to the specifics of it. But then I think maybe the second piece of it and again, this is a lot so we can come back and kind of clarify some of it is as they're going through that trajectory, especially 30 to 40 ish or 35 to 45, how are they supporting the other women around them. So that means somebody's got to run a kid to a doctor, a child to a doctor and they can say, I can pick up your work for you. Don't worry, I'll get you on this. I think it's teaching and assuring and creating an environment that's very supportive to help people know that at some point you're going to need somebody to do that for you as well. But it's how cultures truly as leaders talk about those types of things and then assure that those behaviors are happening and rewarded at the management level so that managers are okay when those kinds of things happen and let the person know they're okay when those things happen. So I also heard another piece to your question and I think one of the things that is happening right now is free enterprise and competition I think will win out. So the best companies that do this very well will have the word of mouth where more people are on a waitlist, knocking down the door to get in and other walking away from organizations who don't. And a lot of it does tie in. There's no doubt that the companies that create the flexibility on remote and hybrid and the expectations of what that individual needs are in conjunction with their business needs because again, it has to be both and those are the ones that will have more success. So companies need to know that it really is a competitive environment more than ever and if they don't, the world's going to pass them by. I think that's one thing as it relates to government and politics, I'm not as up to speed on some of those things systemically. I'm sure there are things that could be better as it relates to what we do or don't do with maternity and paternity. But again, I'm a huge free enterprise person and I think that competitively. We've got to let nature take its course and let the best continue to emerge based on what they can afford and what their culture is and figure out how all that comes together. I think child care centers on site are the most important thing but a lot of companies don't want to take that risk. So then they really need to figure out a way that they can subsidize because childcare has never been a hotter topic than it is right now nationally and on the state by state level. As to why women were falling out of the workforce in the last three years. I did see a statistic last week and can't remember who it was from and I kind of let it go because sometimes these pop in and out and they aren't yet on a trend or sustainable. But it was showing that there are more women back in the workforce for the first time since 18 or 19. So they are coming back in and they are getting things figured out. But the only way we'll hold them is if companies are beginning to create the types of not just policies but cultures of care and environments that encourage them to do it all, to do to have kids and to be able to have fulfilling careers.

Teri Schmidt [00:24:48]:

Right? And I know you talk about how that is a positive for women's well being as well. In many cases that you talk about the need or the want to work. Even for those who maybe don't financially need to work, the positive impact on their well being for many women is enough to make them want to work 100%.

Jane Miller [00:25:14]:

And so many still don't really understand that. And there is a polar society, I think, demographically in certain regions and certain socioeconomic backgrounds, where it's still for some I'm just saying it's kind of cool for them to stay home, or they get the peer pressure to stay home from parents or in laws or spouses, and really, their heart's saying, but I need to be in the workforce. So there's still that tug and there are external factors outside of businesses that will sometimes pull women out of the workforce temporarily, of course, the on and off track is the biggest between 30 and 45. So women will fall off and sometimes they come back, sometimes they don't come back. But again, companies will make a huge difference in how that works.

Teri Schmidt [00:25:58]:

So for those organizations who are doing this well, who are creating policies and environments that help women to stay in their workforce, what are they doing that others are not?

Jane Miller [00:26:14]:

I think it starts with again, and I know this is an overused word, but it truly means flexibility. And I'll tell you how it activates. So one of the things we had found, and this was a qualitative study, not quantitative, but when we would ask HR directors if they think that they have a flexible environment, let's just say they would give it this is kind of anecdotal to a nine out of a ten. You'd ask the employees if your environment is flexible and they'd give it a three or four out of ten. So there's still a huge mismatch in many organizations. So I don't know empirically, organization by organization, but the more you can get the employees from an engagement standpoint a to be engaged because it says things are working, and B at that next level to say, I have the flexibility I need to create well being or I have the flexibility in order to take care of my family and get my work done. Some of those types of questions are when we begin to know that an organization is truly reaching men and women in order to have that success, that there's a level of where people are engaged to the point that they want to continue to do their absolute best work. And a lot of it. And we're quietly quitting because they're frustrated with the organization. So I think the answer would be it's truly measured through engagement and turnover. I mean, those are the two simplest measures, I think, to tell when an organization is working well.

Teri Schmidt [00:27:38]:

And if you think of an organization that you've been exposed to that did do it well, that kept their workers engaged and had that match on flexibility, as opposed to the mismatch you were just talking about, I'd love to hear a story about an organization like that.

Jane Miller [00:27:58]:

Well, I think I can talk most specifically to what Gallup was doing. I mean, there were some clients beginning to attempt it, but this thing takes a really long time. I mean, that's one of the reasons why I think it's hard for companies to get the kind of traction they need. Because if you don't have constant, consistent leaders who start it and grow it literally for decades, it's hard to keep the traction, because next thing you know, you've got a leadership team, and all of a sudden it's not a priority for them. So it literally gets to be a priority for an organization to be able to put all the different aspects into place. So Gallup was very good at it. If I have. To say so myself. Gallup was very good at it and I think they still are, from what I can tell. But it just means that you are living your values and actions every single day. And the organization would agree that you're living those values. That when somebody needs time off because someone is sick in their family, you say, I will cover the work, and you go do that and you figure it out. Whether it's PTO that you have to figure out, whether it's getting a backup on the work that you figured out. But it's really at the tactical level, that it's not just stating it in the vision and the values and the mission, but it's truly making sure that it's happening and that you've got your staffing right, that you have the ability to not overload somebody else. I think that's a big way. And that's why for a lot of people to grasp it and do it becomes pretty darn difficult because you've got to have the consistency in the leadership, you've got to keep stating the vision and then you've got to make sure that it's playing out at the individual level.

Teri Schmidt [00:29:34]:

Yeah. So it sounds like it comes back again to the values in action.

Jane Miller [00:29:39]:

It all circles to that activated values. Yes.

Teri Schmidt [00:29:43]:

So would you say that for organizations who are having a tough time making some of these changes, that that is where they should start?

Jane Miller [00:29:52]:

I think so. I think that it starts with really drawing up again a vision for what you value as it relates to your employee base. Why do you want to keep your employee base? What is it that you want to do in terms of their individual growth, their team growth and the organizational growth? And then how do you back into it, the tactics, the steps, the objectives that begin to demonstrate that those things are playing out accurately? I used to always say with my teams, it's like a hierarchy. What are your philosophies, values and vision? And then what structure, strategies, standards or systems are you going to put into place to support that? And then demonstrate for me if and when you have to individualize or break a rule so that you can show the why behind it. And I used to always say to them, if an attorney came in and said, why did you break that rule? Could you justify through the systems and strategies how you did it? But I think when it comes to the performance, the compassion, and how you create the environments that are family friendly, you have to really show those systems and structures and strategies. Because if you just jump from the philosophy and let everybody do their own thing, it's all willy nilly and chaotic again. And you don't have a predictable environment and followers want a predictable, stable environment. And so much of that comes from how you write things down, how you state it, and then how you live it out every day with each person.

Teri Schmidt [00:31:21]:

Yeah, I was just going to mention that one of the needs of followers being stability and how having those systems and processes laid out even to the point and I love your question that you could defend it in a sense if lawyers were to come in literally. Yeah, that's really important to think about in a great way to make sure it sticks.

Jane Miller [00:31:43]:

I think another thing is I was obsessive with communication. I probably drove people nuts because I was so obsessive with it. And I think that something happens in organizations where sometimes that goes awry and there isn't enough communication in terms of again, whether it's the reminder every day of values, whether it's sending quotes out, whether it's asking a fair question about hey, did this happen? I heard that there was a death in the family and yet they were back at work two days later. Is everything okay? Or did they choose that? But to literally again be intrusively caring and to over communicate so that it's sincerely, naturally showing the care and the compassion for the employee as it relates to how we get the work done and how the culture plays out.

Teri Schmidt [00:32:28]:

So what would you say then if a new leader was coming into the workforce or into a new role and she has choice about what company she picks. But let's say she's already in an organization where maybe this isn't happening, where she doesn't necessarily feel that her opinion is valued or her voice is heard. What would be your advice then?

Jane Miller [00:32:56]:

Well, two things. Let me start with the macro and what we found is that for years on Gallup's Engagement survey that women don't feel like their opinions count. So we rank women rank higher than men on every question but my opinions count. So there really is something in society and in the workplace and we don't know what that is or why, but women don't feel as hurt as they could. And one of the things I've noticed, just a side jump on that I work with the CEO of a Fortune 100 and he's absolutely tremendous and I think he's both natural out of a bin scold in it where he will say he'll go around the room and he'll make sure the women have spoken. If they have it on their own, he'll say Carmen, what do you think? Jane, what do you think? And so I think that the more we teach others to make sure that people's opinions really are counting, that's important and that you're in an environment like that. So that's kind of the macro. But I think you have to keep trying to find ways to make your opinion count and know that they may be heard more than you think they're heard, if that makes sense.

Teri Schmidt [00:34:00]:

So that.

Jane Miller [00:34:03]:

If you're working and this sounds worse I mean but everybody has a system. You have to work if you're working the process or the system in terms of is it telling your manager that? Is it telling HR that? But how do you help them see what you need as an individual and how it can help others have a better job by doing that? So it's finding a way to gather those opinions and continuing to say them openly to your manager. In most cases, you would hope. I mean, the best managers want those opinions and the best leaders want those opinions. And so you've got to keep saying that. If they don't, then you're not in the right environment.

Teri Schmidt [00:34:40]:

Would you say that there are skills that women should develop in order to be able to continue to make sure that their voice is heard?

Jane Miller [00:34:50]:

Well, yes, and I think that part of that is the courage. I think part of it is the care. Part of it is being in an environment where you do have the psychological safety and no fear. So I think you just have to have that courage and no fear where especially now with supply and demand, because people could go almost anywhere that they need to be able to say, here are some things we need to make this place better in order for our work to get done faster. I mean, it should always have that end outcome of it's not only better for the employee and the associate, but it's also better for the clients, it's also better for the organization. Kind of a three pronged stool of does it help the employee, does it help the clients and does it help the overall organization? And when you can ask those three things, it makes a significant difference to how decisions are made.

Teri Schmidt [00:35:36]:

Right? Yeah. Because even if hopefully you don't have a manager or a leader that's not caring about the individual, but even if you do, if you can frame it in the terms of this is why it's better for the organization, this is why it's better for our business results, you have more likelihood of success.

Jane Miller [00:35:57]:

Exactly. Those are three of the most important things to always ask and to state when you're making a case for something that needs changed.

Teri Schmidt [00:36:05]:

Yeah, I love that. I've read a lot of research about women often being more likely to speak up if it's about something that benefits someone else as opposed to just benefiting themselves. So I think thinking of those three prongs can be really helpful also in motivating ourselves to speak up about that issue or that challenge that you're experiencing.

Jane Miller [00:36:30]:

Absolutely, yes, definitely.

Teri Schmidt [00:36:32]:

Well, I guess just going back real quickly to the organizational level, and we talked about how complex and how challenging it can be to make some of these changes, to have those activated values, those systems in place. What can organizations do to overcome those challenges? So if they have a workforce that wants flexibility, but they're not providing it right now because they just can't figure out the puzzle of the problem that it is, how can they overcome those challenges?

Jane Miller [00:37:07]:

I think it really means the leadership team's got to get together and have whether it's a retreat, whether it's a three, four hour meeting or a two day meeting, and again, come back to what are the values and what are we trying to solve, what is our opportunity here? How is it going to make it better for employees, which makes it better for clients in the market, and how it makes it better for the organization? So I think they've got to continue to get it to the top so that there is an ear, a champion, and someone who really wants to make it better. Because the choice in this day and age is that otherwise you face turnover. And turnover is just not sustainable for organizations in this day and age when there aren't enough employees. Relative to the skill sets in most organizations, they're doing everything they can to hang on to employees. And so in that regard, they need to have some form of listening so that they can drive that engagement, so they can drive those outcomes. And never has it been more important than the whole remote hybrid conversation. And obviously we've been in that for three years now, but so many kind of kept kicking the can down the road until COVID was over. Now it's over and they're all really up against it. And it appears that some organizations are coming out so strong on everybody back in five days a week. Some are choosing four, some are choosing three. It's just kind of all over the board. Well, it just means that then people have choices. They're going to go where they want to go and some people want to be in person five days a week. So they're going to go to companies that have a mass energy level. Other people still want that work from home because of what it means for their kids and their commute and the time and all that. So the choices are endless. And I think people have to vote with their choices for what they have and really control their own destiny in that regard.

Teri Schmidt [00:38:52]:

Yeah, definitely. Well, speaking of controlling your own destiny, if you were sitting across from a woman who just got into her first role as a people manager, what would be one or two pieces of advice that you would give her given your journey?

Jane Miller [00:39:10]:

I think it's really important she or he takes at least one to 2 hours with each individual person and gets to know who they are, gets to know their strengths, their background, their interests, their goals, their dreams, who they are, what they want, what their favorite type of work is. Is this a temporary job as an organization? Is it a temporary job within the organization? Everything she can possibly find by being transparent and authentic. Also talking a little bit about herself but mostly listening to others and aggregating all that so that she can truly work for them. I mean, as a servant leader, you're there to help other people succeed and I think then to have a group meeting. I always believed in group witness because you can have a lot of one on ones. But if you aren't bringing that group together and having some very open conversations about what they want out of work and what their opinions are collectively, people begin to have a lack of trust. And of course, the very best cultures and the very best engagement starts with trust. Can I trust my manager? Can I trust my coworkers? And can I trust the leaders of the organization? And they really don't see that unless there's what I call Group Witness because they don't know what someone's saying to another person unless they can see you in front of others. And so I think that the more time they're spending one on one, but then simultaneously, whether it's every other week or once a week with the team to create what the goals are for, how they do their client success and their client retention and ultimately the business goals, it's hard for them to really be a great manager. But strengths, their family life, their well being goals, their business goals and career goals are some of the very most important things they can do and basically on an ongoing basis. I mean, it's a pretty, in one sense, easy recipe as long as you have the right people, the right talent and then you've got it matched to the resources needed in order to get the work done.

Teri Schmidt [00:41:06]:

When you bring people together then for that group Witness is that a little bit also of sharing what was gleaned in those individual conversations about strengths and goals?

Jane Miller [00:41:18]:

Absolutely. The more you can get individuals to talk about themselves in a group setting in a comfortable, safe way, the better they feel about the team. Really begin to pretty soon people understand what it is about that person that makes them unique, whether they were instantly a best friend or whether that person was kind of bugging them, all of a sudden they go oh, I appreciate and like that person now and the more time they just spend together. In brief, whether you want to call it a morning huddle every Monday or whether you want to call it a daily huddle, any of those types of things that really bond people towards a common goal while keeping the unique, distinct differences in play is really what it's all about.

Teri Schmidt [00:41:58]:

Definitely. And then lastly looking if you're again speaking to that woman, looking at the future of her career, any advice there in terms of mapping that out, what she should be aiming for, what she might want to try to avoid?

Jane Miller [00:42:16]:

Well, you have to say what is excellence to me and what can I do well? And it's okay to say no. I am going to say that too many women say yes to everything. And it's okay to say no to a few things based on your priorities. If you have priorities, you have values, or if you have value, you have priorities. And one of the other things I think people need to think about is do I want to be an individual achiever? And leaders can be individual achievers, or do I want to be one who's always managing teams, direct report teams, or teams of teams and managers of managers? Because those are two very different career paths as well in terms of what people expect of you, in terms of what people need from you. And I think some of it comes back to the very basics of your strengths. For example, with significance, your significance can play out as I'm in it to win it for myself. And I will do great things for this organization. I will do great things for this world because my ego and significance can make it happen. On the other hand, there's significance that's about other people, that I can do things because I lead for others. I can do things because I'm a servant leader, and I can help other people have tremendous success. And both are good, but they're very, very different. And I think women and men need to continue to ask themselves, am I responsible for only myself and what I do well to make great things happen? Or am I responsible for ten or 10,000 people to do things very, very well?

Teri Schmidt [00:43:42]:

Yeah, that's a great point. And another illustration of why it's so important to know your strengths and really get in to the combination of strengths, how they play out and how they look uniquely for you as well. So thank you for that. Well, Jane, thank you so much for this conversation, for sharing your experiences and your expertise. If people want to stay connected with you or learn more about your career and what you're up to now, where's the best place for them to connect with you?

Jane Miller [00:44:16]:

Probably LinkedIn. I'm on periodically, but I would say Jane Miller on LinkedIn.

Teri Schmidt [00:44:23]:

Okay, excellent. Well, thank you again for this conversation. I really appreciate your time.

Jane Miller [00:44:29]:

Thank you. And I appreciate that you're doing this because it does make organizations better and it provides extreme clarity and focus for women as they think about their future and their careers.

Teri Schmidt [00:44:42]:

I'm inspired. Are you?

Let's continue to work together on this path to workplace transformation. Together, we will reshape the leadership landscape and create a more inclusive future that benefits everyone. And until next time, lead with Jane's quote that we started with in mind:

"When you make work better for women, you make things better for everyone men, children, your company, our economy, and the world."


bottom of page