About MaryAnn Miller
MaryAnn Miller is an accomplished c-suite leader with an impressive track record in diverse industries and geographies. She offers deep expertise in business transformation, human resources, and operations. MaryAnn is currently Chief Administrative Officer with Avnet, Inc. (AVT) NASDAQ, a Fortune 168 global company with $17.6B in revenue, where she serves as a senior advisor.
For more than 10 years as a corporate officer, MaryAnn played a key role with Avnet’s Board of Directors on matters of CEO succession, Board succession, compensation, and governance. In her most recent leadership role at Avnet, she oversaw a global team of 3,900+ employees on three continents responsible for digital, information technology, logistics, programming, marketing, and program management. MaryAnn ran Avnet digital sales which contributed $48M annually to the core business and oversaw projects generating $245M in company-wide operating expense reductions over three years.
From 2009-2019, MaryAnn was Avnet’s Chief Human Resources Officer. She is credited with developing a strong talent bench, promoting diversity, championing business transformation, and establishing HR as a strategic business partner. MaryAnn was also responsible for the company’s ESG initiatives and founded the Avnet Innovation Lab at Arizona State University, providing funding to entrepreneurs and students while generating over $4M in company revenue.
MaryAnn’s career includes executive leadership positions at Goodrich Corporation, a $6.4 billion global supplier of systems and services to aircraft and engine manufacturers and OrthoLogic, a publicly traded biotechnology company. She started her career with Allstate Insurance Company.
MaryAnn has a passion for learning, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and MBA degree from Arizona State University. She later completed the Executive Scholars program at Kellogg School of Management and has a coaching certification from the Hudson School of Coaching.
Over the course of her career, MaryAnn has been recognized with numerous awards for her contributions to business results, community engagement and diversity. MaryAnn is a native of Chicago and lives in Phoenix with her husband. She has three grown daughters.
Lesson 1. Integrity. (Period) 07:46
Lesson 2. Say Yes To New Opportunities / Open 13:54
Lesson 3. Your Reality Can Be Your Dream 17:24
Lesson 4. Have A System / Your Own System Whatever System 19:39
Lesson 5. Use A Panoramic Lens / Seeing The Big Picture 22:59
Lesson 6. Embrace Learning 26:40
Lesson 7. Your Toughest Competition Is You 30:08
Lesson 8. Lead From Your Centre / Balance Composure 32:55
Lesson 9. Show Them Who You Really Are 35:50
Lesson 10. Stop To Take A Breath / Gives You A Little Extra 39:39
MaryAnn Miller- Your Toughest Competition Is You
[00:00:06] Siebe Van Der Zee: Hello, and welcome to our podcast. 10 lessons. It took me 50 years to learn where we talked to businesspeople, journalists, ambassadors, artists, sports heroes, leaders, and luminaries from all over the world. In other words, we’ll be talking to interesting people about their interesting experiences. My name is Siebe Van Der Zee and I’m your host. I’m originally from the Netherlands happily residing in the beautiful grand canyon state of Arizona in the United States. Also known as the Dutchman into desert. I hope you will enjoy this program.
This podcast is sponsored by PDF the professional development forum you can find and learn more about PDF at professionaldevelopmentforum.org.
Our guest today is MaryAnn Miller. MaryAnn serves as the chief administrative officer at Phoenix based Avnet corporation. Avnet is a global electronic components distributor, and it is the largest company in the state of Arizona with more than 15,000 employees working on three continents and with close to $20 billion in revenues.
The company has been in existence for 100 years. It was founded in 1921. MaryAnn offers deep expertise in business transformation, human resources, and operations. For more than 10 years as a corporate officer, she has been playing a key role with Avnet’s board of directors on matters of CEO succession, board succession and governance. MaryAnn’s earlier career includes executive leadership positions at Goodrich corporation, OrthoLogic and Allstate insurance, you can find her detailed bio on our website, 10 lessons learned.com. Welcome MaryAnn. Thank you for joining us.
[00:01:55] MaryAnn Miller: Thank you very much for having me.
[00:01:57] Siebe Van Der Zee: It’s great that you are part of this podcast and we’re going to listen to your 10 lessons looking forward to that. also, we have known each other for quite some time, and I must say I’m very impressed. Uh, how you have advanced in your career over the years, dealing with senior level issues in the companies that you’ve worked for quite a career.
And with that, I’m curious, I think I know what I’m curious. Uh, are we now at a stage where it is common and generally accepted that women have unlimited access to senior level positions in major companies, including at the board level? Or do you still see challenges?
[00:02:37] MaryAnn Miller: Well, I think the key word in what you said is unlimited and, no, it’s not, it’s not unlimited.
There are barriers that still exist. However, I do think companies have a sincere desire to advance women and it’s proven by the women that have achieved high level positions and that, the progress that’s been made in getting women on boards today. But there are just still some inherent barriers that we need to work on. So, you know, for example, I think it’s really two things that limit, particularly at the board level, from women getting ahead, the first being that the criteria for board roles are such that there are very few women in that pool that possess those criteria. And so, a lot of times in the board, the board succession process boards are looking for CEOs, CFOs and people with P and L experience.
And you’re going to get a more limited pool looking at those roles. So, I think the answer on that particular thing is to just be more open-minded about what other backgrounds bring to the board, and that would allow more women in allow more women to have ready access. Now, the other thing is, people are more comfortable with their kind, you know, if you, um, have ever looked into the topic of unconscious bias, people are just more comfortable interacting with people of the same type and the same kind.
And this is another thing that limits the opportunities for women in the workplace. But, overall, Siebe I think that companies are dedicated to making changes here, and I think we’re going to see a lot faster movement in the future.
[00:04:20] Siebe Van Der Zee: There’s a lot in what you’re saying there, and we see in a few states in the United States that by law, it is required to have a woman serve on the board for example, it doesn’t really impress at the same time. It’s better than. It doesn’t have to be that way. The other point that I think you made that I think is so important is the awareness of understanding that there are differences between men and women, right? And it is something that companies have to understand and be aware of to allow quote, unquote women, to do their thing without expecting things to be the same or similar to the way men would do things. It’s okay to allow that. But yes, it goes with a lot of awareness and, and right.
[00:05:11] MaryAnn Miller: And I think, you know, from a C-suite level, there’s more transparency around the positions and the skills required. So, you will get the call from the headhunter and have a chance to apply for jobs.
Or you will know about roles more easily, but from a board perspective, those positions are not posted anywhere. And so, it would be difficult for you to apply for a position and share your skills with a governance committee without having a recruiter or without having a board member sponsor you for that type of thing.
So, I think we need to create more transparency around the board roles as well.
[00:05:48] Siebe Van Der Zee: And I think also, can I say more women like yourself who have been successful and have gone to the obstacles and I have learned those lessons. So, I think that’s very valuable. I’m curious, also MaryAnn, before we get into your 10 lessons, is there a lesson that you have learned in life or in business, in your career, that you would like to teach yourself?
If you would be 30 years old today?
[00:06:14] MaryAnn Miller: Uh, oh, absolute there’s many lessons, but I think, the first one would be to respond versus react. So, my 30-year-old self, I was very, uh, very ambitious, very dedicated, hardworking perfectionist. And I took my work very seriously. And so, it was very hard for me to take criticism, at that point in time, not to take things personally and even, you know, I go back and think of me at 44 years old and my, uh, MBA program.
And I remember getting into a debate with my teacher because he said that my. my paper that I wrote sounded textbook ish, and I just couldn’t believe that he would call my work Text bookish so, um, You know, upon reflecting, I do realize that there was good feedback given to me along the way, and that I wish I would have known and listened to that sooner and also behaved in a more professional manner when I received the feedback, been more thankful and more open.
and, uh, today I will say when I do receive feedback, I take it to heart.
[00:07:20] Siebe Van Der Zee: Well lessons learned. Uh, I appreciate that. and obviously it’s a bit of a tough question say, Hey, what have you learned and would teach yourself when you’re 30 years old, but you’re, you’re very gracious with that.
[00:07:31] MaryAnn Miller: Sure.
I look back sometimes, and I go, Ooh, Why, did I do that? You know? And it was all again, good intentions, but you just don’t know. You don’t realize you don’t see yourself sometimes
[00:07:42] Siebe Van Der Zee: I know, and I’m, I’m in it myself. I agree. I.
[00:07:46] Lesson 1: Integrity. (Period)
[00:07:46] Siebe Van Der Zee: Well, let’s take a look at the 10 lessons. the first one, I like it a lot.
Integrity period. what do you mean with that?
[00:07:55] MaryAnn Miller: What I mean is there is nothing else. That’s the end. You have to have integrity. It’s something that can’t ever be compromised because being true to your word is what builds trust. And trust enables you to move forward as a person, as a leader, you simply cannot be effective if you’re not trusted.
And this is something that I learned from an early age. I had very strong family influences. I grew up. And Italian family. My father was an immigrant. we were very close. We worked very hard and had a high sense of ethics. And I remember a couple of my first lessons around integrity. Well, one was, um, I forged a note from my parents to get out of going to recess because I prefer to stay in during recess time and read.
So, um, I thought it would be a good idea to write a note to my teachers. to say that, you know, on behalf of my parents, well, did I get in big trouble for that one? And that was, you know, at six years old. So, I learned that lesson very early. I think, um, the other lesson was watching my father because he, he grew up.
an Italian immigrant. He came to the country when he was 17 years old. and at that time, you know, America was the land of freedom and the land of opportunity. And there were people in his cohort that took advantage of the system at that point in time. And I’ll remember he was, um, my dad was a brick layer.
He’s still alive today and doing great. And, he had friends that would go out on disability. And collect disability and they would, while they were collecting disability, go do side jobs and collect money in cash because they thought, you know, this is America, that’s the land of opportunity. And my father always knew this was wrong.
And, you know, he would never consider doing such a thing. So, watching him, knowing how the system worked and knowing what the right thing to do was, was a very big influence for me as I was growing. I think many things are black and white, so it’s easy to make the right decision, but there’s also a lot of grey and that’s where you have to weigh competing interests.
And I remember, in my MBA program at ASU, one of the classes I took around, uh, ethics and morality is that every time you look at a situation, you should look at it from. A legal standpoint, a managerial standpoint, and then also what’s the right thing to do. And if you evaluate things based on those three lenses, you come up with a pretty good answer.
[00:10:33] Siebe Van Der Zee: There’s a lot to it, in what you’re saying? I, I do like the lesson integrity period. There is no way about it. It is integrity or it’s not integrity.
[00:10:44] MaryAnn Miller: Exactly. And you’re going to run into it at different points. Like I think back one of the career moments that struck me was I was working for, a gentleman that hired me back into the workforce after I had been out on maternity leave.
Great guy. Um, and I heard from the corporate office that they were going to be terminating his employment. And I needed to be involved in the whole termination process and it was very carefully staged. and the day before this was all due to happen, the individual came into my office and said, he’d been getting a bad feeling.
He’d been talking with some people at corporate they’re sort of, um, avoiding him. And he point blank asked me if he was going to be fired. And so, in that instant, I had to make a decision whether I was going to be truthful with him. Because I had known him and the guy’s looking me in the eye and I, and I cannot tell a lie or whether I was going to take a corporate position and follow through with the plan that had already been in motion.
And it was just quick because that’s how you have to ask some time. And I just said to him yes. I told him, yes. I told him that was not the intention for us to have him learn about it in this way. And, um, he was very grateful, and I was a little worried because I thought, wow, it was corporate going to have an issue with this now because I’ve usurped the plan.
I took a risk at the time and, um, They were fine with it. They were fine. Uh, we just readjusted the plan. He was grateful that I was honest with him. I felt better about myself, even though it was a terrible circumstance and something you never liked to be involved in, but having an HR career, I was involved in a lot, but that really stuck with me and I, and I committed from that point on that I would always just be truthful.
[00:12:38] Siebe Van Der Zee: Well, let me ask, let me ask you a question because. What if your company would have faulted you for disclosing that information?
[00:12:48] MaryAnn Miller: I’d have to live with the consequences and feel like, okay, well, I did what I thought was the right thing.
And they disagreed. Yeah. I paid the price. Many times, that does happen when you think about, you know, take it even up a notch that was, uh, you know, a mid-career story. Now, you know, in the past few years I’d been dealing at the board level and the stakes are much higher or, you know, you’re involved in things like, uh, CEO performance evaluation, where you have to give feedback on your boss.
Um, and you have to write a fine line between. Serving the board of directors and the shareholders of the company, as well as serving the management team. So, it’s a very fine line. And important thing is to just state your truth. I’ve always told my husband; I can get fired at any minute. So just know this and, um, you know, fortunately by the time you reached that level, you need to have the confidence to be able to speak your truth.
Um, regardless of whether there are consequence.
[00:13:49] Siebe Van Der Zee: That’s why I like integrity, period. That’s the lesson.
[00:13:54] Lesson 2: Say Yes To New Opportunities
[00:13:54] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number two. Say yes to new opportunities. I’m curious about that one, but please go ahead.
[00:14:01] MaryAnn Miller: So, I think. Many of us are fearful sometimes of things, the unknown things that weren’t part of our plan.
Uh, we might be uneasy. We might be too busy to take on something and we might want to say no. I have to admit that I initially wanted to say no to this podcast, because simply for some of those reasons too busy. Oh, I don’t know if my stories are going to be interesting enough for everybody out there.
Um, but you know, following my own advice, I said, yes. you never know where an opportunity might lead and I’ve experienced this many times during my career, the earliest being, I was my husband and I worked for the same company. We had a policy that I couldn’t be in HR and have a relative in the company.
So, one of us had to move somewhere else and they offered me a job in the department that I thought was the worst department in the entire company, because I had been their HR rep and they had all sorts of problems. And when they asked me, where did I want to go? I said anywhere, but that, and of course they put me there instead.
So, it was such a learning experience for me. I, you know, I went in, I with wide eyes, I learned because I didn’t know anything about the function. I didn’t know the people, but I got in there. I dug in and it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life, because I didn’t know. I could be more open to the ideas of the people in the department.
And I stimulated really a group to be very motivated to achieve their productivity numbers. After we had just implemented a new claim paying system. So, it was. Just a phenomenal experience. And the manager that I worked for wrote me a letter at the time after I left and said that he’d never seen anything like it, but somebody not knowing the area at all, not having subject matter expertise can come in, learn and, have a positive impact that way.
[00:16:01] Siebe Van Der Zee: I think it’s a great point for so many people and, you know, we’re dealing with, let’s say the economy upside down, uh, employment situations worldwide are different than what they were a few years ago, to keep an open mind and perhaps at some point to pursue things that were not number one on your list.
And in your case, and that could happen to anyone. It turned out to be a great experience.
[00:16:24] MaryAnn Miller: Right. And it’s happened to me multiple times. Another example again, in the interview process, is that I had someone, offer me a job and it just simply was not. The calibre of a move that I wanted to make.
It was just not in my bailiwick. And initially I wasn’t even going to interview for it, but it was a friend that referred me, and I said, okay, I will go through this process, but you know, this is never going to work. Well, what ended up happening was I declined the job, but the person, the recruiter knew of me liked me and knew of another job that was coming available called me and I got a job out of that opportunity. So, you just never know who you’re going to run into. So, if you say yes, more often, you, there’s more often a time where you might have an unexpected pleasure out of it.
[00:17:14] Siebe Van Der Zee: I like it, and I can relate again. I I’ve lived in four countries on three continents, and I never expected that, but here I am. So, a good lesson.
[00:17:24] Lesson 3: Your Reality Can Be Your Dream
[00:17:24] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson, number three, your reality can be your dream very intriguing because you’re not saying your dream can become your reality. Your reality can be your dream.
[00:17:35] MaryAnn Miller: Right. And you know, most graduates are told, follow your dreams, follow your dreams, but sometimes you don’t have dreams.
I had a dream of being a singer when I was young. I would do all the show tunes at dinner and, um, of course my parents didn’t think that was a wise path to choose it. Wasn’t very steady. And, you know, it, wasn’t very likely that I would be one of the famous ones. So, I pursued a more conservative path, but I think, you know, everyone feels some sort of pressure to.
Have some career goals. And for myself, I had a degree in liberal arts. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. And initially I thought maybe I would go into international law. And then I thought, no, I want to take a break from school and just go right into a business opportunity. And fortunately, I landed a job as a management trainee with Allstate insurance company, and they were terrific, but my point with this lesson is that you can take whatever it is, whatever your current role is and make it into a dream. Like I think back on my career and what I’ve accomplished, never setting out to accomplish those things. But because I delivered on the basics, I always tried to raise the bar and innovate on things that I do.
I established credibility and trust with people because of the actions that I took. That’s why I was rewarded with the roles that I was rewarded with. And it is a dream, you know, I think back, I never imagined that I would have achieved, the type of role that I have today that I would have interacted with the people that I have today.
I know people all over the world, I’ve travelled all over the world and it was never a dream, but you know, it is, it’s a wonderful experience and I feel very, very grateful for that.
[00:19:24] Siebe Van Der Zee: And MaryAnn what a great lesson for our listeners up and coming professionals at any age as we call it, this is the kind of story that I think will inspire people.
[00:19:35] MaryAnn Miller: You have the opportunity to stand out and no matter what it is that you’re doing.
[00:19:39] Lesson 4: Have A System / Your Own System /Whatever System
[00:19:39] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number four, have a system. Your own system or whatever type of system, but have a system. What do you mean? Yeah,
[00:19:48] MaryAnn Miller: so, we all have to juggle many, many things and prioritize, and it’s important that we be reliable.
There are people that count on us, whether we’re, you know, a leader in a work environment or whether we’re a parent or a caregiver of any kind, or even just taking care of ourselves, you have trade-offs and things to manage. So, everyone manages it in a different way. And so, one of the career lessons around this was one of my early bosses.
He used to, every time he handed out an assignment, he would write it on a triplicate form, and he would give you the assignment in writing. And then the day it was due, you would find another copy of it in your inbox, just to make sure you were having a due and If you didn’t get it done, then you got the, you know, the pink slip at the end.
That again said, you know, kind of final warning. This is due right now. So that was a little bit extreme. And it also dates me with the carbon paper story, but, but, um, It was a big lesson because this guy never let anything fall through the cracks. So always I try to pick up tips along the way that would allow me to juggle everything and, you know, being a, a woman with a professional career and a family that that was a big feat to do.
So, there were a few things, there was one technique I learned early on. It was the Swiss cheese technique where you take a big project, and you learn how to break it up into. Little pieces like the holes in the Swiss cheese. So, you can actually get things done that way. The other, um, technique was having a waiting bag with me.
So, I would always carry a bag of reading material or things that I needed to do no matter when I was going to an appointment so that if I had to wait for a half an hour for a doctor to show up or something, I was always keeping busy and never you know, worried about filling the time. I tried the Franklin planner system.
That was a bust for me. but you have to have something. So, my method was list spreadsheets. I had chore lists for the kids. I had grocery lists. I had, uh, you know, project management lists for my work environment. very important that. You’re able to give your stakeholders what they need. and you have to employ whatever style works for you.
[00:22:05] Siebe Van Der Zee: I think that’s the point, right? To have a system that works for you, and there could be multiple systems that are available, but the one that works for you as an individual, I do the same. And I know many people that have a system. I think it’s a very good lesson.
[00:22:22] MaryAnn Miller: I think one final piece to that is in, in a work environment.
Knowing what works for your constituents? Like, as an example, during my time at Avnet, I had four different compensation committee chairs, and they all wanted to manage the compensation committee a little bit different. So, my style adapted to. Type of output they were seeking. Some were very, hands-on wanted to be involved.
Some were, you know, completely hands-off. And so, when you’re operating, particularly at a high level, it’s important to ask your constituents what works for them?
[00:22:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, it makes sense. I like it. I like it.
[00:22:59] Lesson 5: Use A Panoramic Lens. See The Big Picture
[00:22:59] Siebe Van Der Zee: The next lesson, lesson number five. I almost want to say it’s more academic, uh, but perhaps not use a panoramic lens.
You want to see the big picture? How do you do that?
[00:23:12] MaryAnn Miller: So, it’s not always easy because we can get blinded by what’s in front of us. You know, we’re all busy hamsters on a wheel running and we have a stake in certain things. So, we get very attached to what, our way of doing things is. Yeah. But I found it much more effective if you can just kind of step back from all the noise and really look at what’s going on. Who’s saying what? Trying to summarize, all of the points. And I worked for a CEO who was magnificent at this. He could listen to all this noise rise above the chatter, and then he would summarize exactly what happened and what we were going to do.
Like putting a bow on it, you know, easily. So, um, it was something that I worked hard to learn over the years, this stepping back. And one of the opportunities for me to do that was when I was in my master’s class, where they teach the Socratic method and the professor is out there throwing out questions and everyone’s eagerly trying to answer, come up with the answers.
And because I had this sort of methodical way where I would take in all the inputs. I was very successful at that. And one of my partners in the program said, boy, you know, I just watch you and everyone’s out there running around, and you just sit there and then you sink the three-point shot. And I thought that was pretty cool.
Cause I’m not athletic at all. Sink the three-point shot in a, in an academic environment. That was pretty good. I thought it was. So
[00:24:45] Siebe Van Der Zee: I liked that. I liked that a lot. if you, if you think about that at the board level, that’s of course, very significant as well to have that big picture approach how you can help individual organizations.
[00:25:00] MaryAnn Miller: That’s, you’re absolutely right there. And in the boardroom, sometimes what happens is you get a few voices that are louder than the rest, and sometimes you’ll, you know, you’ll, you’ll get a frenzy going in a certain direction and overlook some of the, uh, voices. Very thoughtful input along the way on those same topics.
So, it’s important whether you’re a board chair or chair of any of the committees to be able to take all of those inputs and synthesize them into what makes sense.
[00:25:31] Siebe Van Der Zee: If I think of the, the COVID, uh, issue worldwide. Nothing of that seems to have been anticipated by organizations and yes, it’s hitting harder than anybody expected, but sometimes that’s part of the process to expect things that are unlikely, but what would you do if they happen then?
And companies do that in other areas, but on the human side, the impact on employees and of course, supply chains and everything connected to that. That big picture, I think is extremely important sometimes to anticipate things.
[00:26:04] MaryAnn Miller: Well and that’s an interesting point too, because, um, in the past we prepared for the blue, the bird flu and the swine flu and all of those, but COVID nobody prepared for it just came and companies had to react and I have to say, I think companies have done a marvellous job Avnet, uh, really stepped up, in this situation but as have many companies switching over to remote work, and making sure that customers were taken care of during a time like this.
[00:26:31] Siebe Van Der Zee: we’re talking today with MaryAnn Miller, a successful global human resources, expert, and board advisor, sharing her 10 lessons learned.
[00:26:40] Lesson 6: Embrace Learning
[00:26:40] Siebe Van Der Zee: We’re up to lesson number six Embrace Learning.
Boy, 10 lessons learnt it fits together, embrace learning. Uh, what are your thoughts about that?
[00:26:51] MaryAnn Miller: Well, learning is all around and this one reminds me of, um, a talk that I had given that was called are leaders born or made? Because some people are natural leaders. and I have to admit there was some natural leadership tendencies in me, you know, as a child, I would start neighbourhood clubs and things like that.
Just always sort of had that bent to take
[00:27:12] Siebe Van Der Zee: uptake. And
[00:27:15] MaryAnn Miller: my, uh, my. Made fun of me for it, but they know they, they know that it’s true because they see how I am today. but anyway, there’s opportunities to learn all around us and while people may have some innate leadership abilities. Anyone can learn to be a leader or lead themselves.
I mean, we learned from other people we learned from managers, we’ve worked for good and bad. We learned from experiences we’ve had, and some of the toughest ones produce some of the best results, you know, while you’re going through it, you don’t realize that this is significant to you. You know, afterwards, um, really helpful.
So, one of the things that I think is important is to read, keep yourself informed on what’s going on. And I know there’s news all around us, so it’s kind of hard, again, a lot of noise, but limit yourself at least to some good sources. I read Harvard business review and wall street journal and those types of things, but there’s a magazine called the week.
And what it does is just summarize titbits from everything that happened during the week. And it’s summarizes global issues, pop culture issues, local issues, whatever it may be. And I found that a very helpful way to kind of quiet the other noise and keep focused. You know, just ensure that I always had a high-level view of these things.
And so, um, I think the most important thing is to remain open, to learning. And as I, discovered from many of the experience I had, where I went in and I was not the expert in that area, just even as chief administrative officer, I took on some departments that I had never run before. allow yourself to be open, allow yourself to say you don’t know, rely on the people around you show a bit of vulnerability as a leader because you go into those situations and you bring a lot of experience, but there’s also a lot that you can learn yourself.
So, this is an ongoing thing and, um, you know, big commitment.
[00:29:12] Siebe Van Der Zee: It takes time, right? When you talk about reading, or learning in general. So, Is this something that you weave into your system?
[00:29:22] MaryAnn Miller: Absolutely I do. So, you know, I still carry around that waiting bag. I told him about, so whenever, you know, I’ll bring my week magazine with me when I go to the hair salon or whatever it may be.
So, I can take the time and catch up and do that kind of thing. But it’s really important to weave it in, not always easy to weave in the formal learning, but also, you know, take into account the learning that’s happening all the time.
[00:29:49] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, no, I like it. but it is tough when you have a lot on your plates and then perhaps in some cases it feels like, well reading.
Okay. I can postpone that, which technically you could, but if you don’t read, you don’t learn et cetera, then that will impact you at some point as well. So, I like it.
[00:30:08] Lesson 7: Your Toughest Competition Is You
[00:30:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number seven, your toughest competition is you. Well, I have to say, as you know, I’m into performance coaching, I can relate to that, but what are your thoughts?
[00:30:17] MaryAnn Miller: So why this one stands out for me is that having had a career in HR and coaching people myself, there’s a lot of people that are always looking above the cubicles to see what everybody else is doing and what they’re getting, and are they advanced quicker than I have or whatever, it doesn’t matter.
It really doesn’t matter what matters is. the fact that you continue to improve, and you continue to achieve your personal best. And so, um, I think the one big thing is the learning from mistakes, because, you know, in my early career, I used to beat myself up a lot over mistakes. I still do a little bit, but more light handedly, but, um, I don’t ever make the same mistake twice.
So, You need to start to recognize what are those things, what causes you to make those types of mistakes and learn how to not make them. I had a couple of colleagues that got fired from every job they ever had because they kept making the same mistakes. And one, I took the chance on, I recruited him into our company and said, Hey, don’t do this.
When you come here. I was very blunt about it. There was no, you know, no mincing words. And he’d still did the same thing over again, and he got the same result and got fired. So, you know, the lesson here is continue to improve yourself. You know, there may be skills you’re never going to be great at, but at least minimize your liabilities.
[00:31:48] Siebe Van Der Zee: Is it something that you, see? You know if I think of diversity, uh, is it something you see more. Or less when it comes to women in business or, uh, any other category that you say, you know, some people based on their cultural background, they may be more hesitant, uh, to, to adjust.
[00:32:12] MaryAnn Miller: No. I, I mean, this is one that’s pretty universal.
I’ve seen it in all, all types. It’s by the individual.
[00:32:19] Siebe Van Der Zee: Okay. Now, at a fair point, I was just thinking in terms of, people that are holding back, they may, they may have certain issues, b well, you know, they’re not necessarily ready to make changes and adjustments.
[00:32:31] MaryAnn Miller: One, I don’t know that they buy into the feedback in the first place.
So that might be part of it. And the other is they lack self-awareness and lacking self-awareness is the killer at the executive level. Can’t. You really sit back and kind of look at yourself from an outside perspective. That’s very difficult for you to move forward in an executive role
[00:32:55] Lesson 8: Lead From Your Centre / Balance Composure
[00:32:55] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number eight, lead from the centre balanced composure. boy, it, it really fits the other lessons that you have shared with us.
[00:33:05] MaryAnn Miller: Absolutely. And these are my own that I learned over the years, but also in roles where I observed other people and had the chance to coach other people. And, um, you know, with this, as soon as you take on the role to become a leader, you are now responsible for other people.
So, it’s not all about you anymore. It’s about a broader team. And so, you need to be the calm in the storm, the steady hand through difficult times. I always think of that Italian cruise ship captain that got himself off the ship and left all the passengers and his crew up there. You know, this is not, this is not the kind of thing you do as a leader.
So, I knew I have examples from throughout my career that helped me form my own. Embodiment of composure is I had a guy earlier on, you know, his hair was always on. Fire would always run around with hair on fire, and you couldn’t trust him. You didn’t know what was going to happen. Does he have your back?
Are things going to go south? and I’ve seen this one actually happened a little more with women and. It’s extra bad for women because we get labelled with the stereotype of being emotional anyway, emotional can’t handle it. And so, this is the last thing we want to do is, you know, walk around being busy, busy, busy, and emotional because there’s too much going on.
It’s very important to have, you know, this more, more of a smooth, and you know, sometimes. Uh, we’re not always so confident about everything. Like I think of times I think of the duck with the feet under water, you know, they look calm on the surface, but they’re paddling and paddling that’s okay. I mean, you might be paddling.
You might be a little nervous underneath, but you’ve got to display that composure. And to me also at a leadership level, composure equals command skills because a leader can’t be commanding. If people view them. You know, kind of flighty, flaky, not reliable.
[00:35:03] Siebe Van Der Zee: I think it’s an issue that’s worldwide is so relevant.
It seems like, well, I’m not just making this up. Of course, the world is so divided and not just in politics, but people have opinions, strong opinions, and you have to find somewhere. you know, it’s sort of a Dutch expression. You have to be able to get through the door together, it’s not just one person and then the other one is stuck.
And, leading from the centre, I think is a, is an interesting concept because it is truly, uh, something that I think we can use all over the world. Let’s come together. Let’s, let’s figure things out together and we don’t all have to agree, but we do have to figure it out together in order to move forward.
[00:35:50] Lesson 9: Show Them Who You Really Are
[00:35:50] Siebe Van Der Zee: All right, let’s move on to lesson number nine, show them who you really are. And I can see that that could be some risks involved. If you really show them who people are.
[00:36:02] MaryAnn Miller: No, and I think you’re right. And I think for the majority of my career, I thought that, but as I got into the executive level, this was one where I learned it late.
I had had a 360 review and the feedback that I got at the peer level to me was disappointing. It wasn’t horrible, but It wasn’t resoundingly favourable, you know? So, I was talking with the coach, and I said, well, you know, I don’t understand. I’ve been working to prove myself and I’ve done this, and I’ve done this.
And they said, he said, you don’t need to prove yourself. They know you can do the job. They’ve seen what you’ve done. You have a very high level of credibility. They don’t know who you are. They don’t know anything about you. They don’t know you as a person. They don’t really engage with you very much. And, you know, I just sort of stunned me because I.
When I’m at work, I’m really at work. So, I’m not one to go around chatting and people’s offices. And that kind of thing, I’ll say good morning, but I don’t usually go, how was your weekend or whatever, you know, one is, I don’t really care on their weekend. I care about them as a person. So, if something was going on in their life, if their daughter graduated or if they’re, you know, they had a baby or something, I care about those things, but I don’t care about their recreational activity on the weekend. So, I really had to stop and go, oh, now I have to make small talk in order to. You know, be more familiar to people and let them know me. So, I was very sceptical about this feedback when I first got it. But, you know, I realized maybe in my mind I was exaggerating it a little bit.
So what, what I did, I didn’t walk around and ask everyone how the weekend was, but when I would go into their office to talk to them about a particular business issue, I would start out with something else or I would ask for their opinion on what the subject matter that I was talking about, and I would ask them questions about family, or make a comment about what was going on in the news or something like that to just be a little bit more familiar.
And it was amazing. This thing that I just thought was not that can’t possibly be relevant. It made such a difference in how effective I was. How much they accepted me and accepted my ideas after I became a little less uptight, about getting the job done and a little more familiar with them.
[00:38:28] Siebe Van Der Zee: I think it’s an interesting point because, it, it kind of relates to.
Empathy, right. Showing an interest, at the same time, MaryAnn in your company with more than 15,000 employees, if you ask everyone how their weekend went, uh.
[00:38:44] MaryAnn Miller: That’s true.
[00:38:45] Siebe Van Der Zee: But I think what I find interesting is the lesson that you learned from that, your experience, your mental experience, a wow. This makes sense.
And Yeah. I mean, not to just compare to what you’re saying, but I have had similar experience that if you. Touch on that human element. the stories that come out sometimes are fascinating. And again, at the same time, you’re obviously a very busy executive. So, it’s not to say I have hours of time to, to talk about these things.
but it does make an impact on you. And of course, on the person that you’re talking to.
[00:39:20] MaryAnn Miller: And if you translate that into today, especially with people working so much remotely. We have to find ways to connect at a different level in order to build trust and in order to have those effective working relationships.
So, it’s even more important now to find a way to do that.
[00:39:37] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, no, I like it. I like it.
[00:39:39] Lesson 10: Stop To Take A Breath
[00:39:39] Siebe Van Der Zee: We have arrived at lesson number 10. Can you believe stop to take a breath.
[00:39:45] MaryAnn Miller: Yes.
[00:39:45] Siebe Van Der Zee: It gives you a little bit extra and it it’s a great timing for that lesson stopped to take a breath. What are your thoughts?
[00:39:52] MaryAnn Miller: This, this sort of falls in line with that responding versus react so much of the time we’re in a hurry and we’re running on automatic pilot. We have all these things to do. We’re trying to figure out how we can most efficiently get everything done. And we work quickly and sometimes force fit solutions.
you know, it’s sort of like you keep cranking on an igniter on a car that doesn’t want to start. You can be much more productive. At least I can be. if I find time for some reflection, like if I walk away from it, if I’m cranking, cranking, cranking, trying to get something done and I just go, okay, stop.
It’s not coming. The ideas aren’t coming. You need to just take a break. And whether you go for a walk, just sleep on it overnight. The inspiration comes at a different time. So, I think that stopping to take a breath and letting yourself have, you know, your mind just take over and the answer comes because, you know, we all have a wealth of experience.
The answer is there somewhere, but it just needs to, you know, have the time to come out.
[00:41:04] Siebe Van Der Zee: I have sometimes that when I write an email that I write it today, But I won’t send it until tomorrow. And it’s, it’s not so much taking a breath because that that’s more a specific, you know, they could break, but to allow your mind to digest what you wrote before it goes out. And it’s not every email I worked that way, but, but in some cases it really, I find it helpful. And then the following day, I typically make a few adjustments and there it goes.
[00:41:36] MaryAnn Miller: Exactly. It’s it equates to taking that pause and, you know, um, another example of that, I think of.
Early days on the executive team at Avnet. And it was daunting. I was the only female. And, you know, I was bringing always all these ideas and wanting to make a lot of changes in HR, and they weren’t always readily received as I would observe from my standpoint, so I would get I’d come out of a meeting.
I go in with my agenda, I’d have everything prepared idea. I’d be ready to answer any single question. And somehow. The presentation went south. It went in a direction I never anticipated. And again, I was speaking with a coach about this saying, okay, this is somehow I’m not being effective at doing this.
And they said, well, what about reframing? You know, don’t take this feedback. You’re getting as negative. Don’t go in knowing that your presentation is going to get derailed invite people into the conversation. So rather than start with here’s the, you know, the three things I’m going to tell you start with, here’s the three things I’m looking for from you and invite the discussion in.
So, you’re, you’re inviting it in as opposed to being on the defensive when all this barrage of questions came. And so, it was just a way of refraining a situation again, it made huge difference. And that probably would have been one. I wish I would’ve known that in my thirties as well.
[00:43:06] Siebe Van Der Zee: What I like in your 10 lessons is that it’s like a coaching session.
You’re coaching us. It’s sharing your wisdom, but it’s really helping us because these are all very, very good points. And I’m, I’m kind of curious because with all the lessons learned. Is there perhaps a lesson that you have unlearned with your extensive experience?
[00:43:29] MaryAnn Miller: Well, the one that I have unlearned, but it’s still a challenge.
And so still working to unlearn it completely is sort of overdoing things doing too much. So, Whatever it is, whether it’s prepping for the podcast or what, or prepping for a work presentation or prepping dinner for my family, whatever it may be. I always take it to the nth degree. You know, I can have a little bit of those perfectionist tendencies and sometimes I, I catch myself now and go, okay, it’s enough.
You got this. It’s really good. What you’ve got is good. You don’t have to keep doing more and doing more. It’s more about, you know, More about balance, more about ensuring that every aspect of your life, whether it’s from a business standpoint, personal, um, spiritual, whatever, that you’ve got a good balance of everything and you’re not overdoing any particular aspect.
[00:44:26] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Very, very powerful. Uh, good, good to hear. And perhaps again, something to weave into your system, right?
[00:44:34] MaryAnn Miller: Yes, absolutely.
[00:44:36] Siebe Van Der Zee: The system, everybody, you need a system. Well, MaryAnn thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us and with our audience worldwide. Very helpful. Uh, so I want to definitely thank you for that.
And I want to make a few closing remarks. You have been listening to the international podcast, 10 lessons. It took me 50 years to learn sponsored by PDF. The professional development forum PDF provides webinars, social media discussions, podcast, and parties and best of all, it’s all for free. For more information, please visit professionaldevelopmentforum.org.
Our guest today was MaryAnn Miller from Phoenix, Arizona, a global human resources, expert, and board advisor sharing her 10 lessons. It took her 50 years to learn. And to our audience, don’t forget to leave us a review or a comment. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That is podcast at number one zero, one zero lessonslearned.com.
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