Podcast

Episode 137 – Megan Hyatt Miller, What Did We Learn From COVID?

As we enter the new, new-normal, are you finding yourself trying to make-up for over a year of lost time? Are you pushing so hard that you kinda feel bad about hoping things would slow down again? You’re not alone. As we transition to a post-pandemic world, we’re all having to decide what we’re happy to be done with, and what the year of Covid has taught us about priorities. To lend expertise to this conversation is Megan Hyatt Miller. Megan is the President and Chief Executive Officer at Michael Hyatt & Company. In addition, she is the co-host of the popular business podcast, Lead to Win as well as the co-author of Win at Work and Succeed at Life. Megan is committed to helping her team win at work and succeed at life, while also delivering phenomenal results to their customers – and she’s about to share her secrets to success with Jessica, and you!

TRANSCRIPT

Jessica: Hey, everyone! Welcome back to the Going Scared podcast. This is your host Jessica Honegger, founder of the social impact fashion brand Noonday Collection. Join me here every week for conversations on living lives of purpose by leaving comfort and going scared.

Alright, today’s guest, Megan Hyatt Miller  — I don’t know where she’s been my whole life. She’s an adoptive mom, she’s the CEO of a really successful company. We have so much in common, and today’s conversation is a lot about how constraints can actually breed creativity and how she moved her entire company’s work day to a six-hour work day, which really ended up bringing a lot of the company’s priorities into focus.

Megan is the president and CEO at Michael Hyatt & Co., and she’s the co-host of the popular business podcast, Lead to Win. You’re going to see just from her introduction, Megan lives in the mantra that we are camping out in right now: Decide, Don’t Slide.

So, get out your notebook because this episode is packed with energy and gold nuggets just for you.

Megan Hyatt Miller: What Did We Learn From COVID? 

Jessica: Okay, so Megan is the CEO at Michael Hyatt & Co. And listen, Megan, when I read about this, I just… I am so happy that you guys were named as one of Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces for 2020.

Megan: Yeah. Thank you. We were very honored by that.

Jessica: That is a big deal.

Megan: Yeah. It is a big deal. It’s especially neat because it’s all about your employee engagement. You know, there’s nothing we can do about it when it happens. The way that that whole process works, it has to do with what our employees have to say. And so, it’s especially meaningful because of that.

Jessica: Oh, it is. So meaningful. We finally… and the Direct Sales Association does its own, you know, separate…

Megan: Yeah.

Jessica: We got named one of the best places to work just last year. And we have been trying for years.

Megan: That’s awesome. Yeah, yeah.

Jessica: You know, but like you said, I mean, you get a couple of people that are unhappy, and you’re not going to…

Megan: Right. That’s all it takes. That’s right. Yes.

Jessica: The scores are not going to get you on the list.

Megan: So true.

Jessica: So interesting. What do you think it was about 2020 that really brought your team together?

Megan: Well, you know, I think that we… one of our values is prioritizing people, one of our core values. And I think that in 2020, like every entrepreneur and business owner and leader, we kind of had a choice to make about how we were going to go through this crisis, a crisis that of course, we didn’t know the full scope of for many, many months. But we really chose to lean into how do we care for the whole person.

“In 2020, like every entrepreneur and business owner and leader, we kind of had a choice to make about how we were going to go through this crisis. We really chose to lean into how do we care for the whole person.” Megan Hyatt Miller 

You know, I think probably a lot of people had this experience. It was quickly apparent that the lines between work and personal were going to be blurred very quickly. And that as we had toddlers crawling all over us, and kids trying to do remote school, and it was hard to get your groceries, and we couldn’t find toilet paper anywhere, you know, life got really hard there. And we made a kind of a major adjustment. I don’t think this is the primary thing probably that enabled us to win that award.

But I think it was significant to our employees. We heard from people, "Gosh, working an 8-hour a day right now feels like working a 16-hour day. It’s like we’re moving through mud." You know, the anxiety, the emotional strain, all of that. And so, we actually, as an experiment, chose to shorten our workday to a six-hour work day from nine to three so that people would have time to be with their families after work, or to just care for their personal health and well-being.

And what was amazing about that was that first of all, we didn’t cut anybody’s pay, we didn’t have to lay anybody off. But we certainly cut our work time by 25%. But our financial results were actually 50% better on the bottom line than what we had projected for the year, which started pretty aggressive.

So, I think that why that matters, is because I think we were proving to ourselves and also to our clients and others, "Hey, it’s possible to take care of people to care for the whole person, and have great business results. It’s really not something that you have to choose between." And I think that means a lot to our team.

Jessica: So how were you able to drive… do you think people just got better at prioritizing? Like…

Megan: Yeah.

Jessica: Yeah, what happened there?

Megan: Well, here’s the kind of big idea is that this is something that my dad and I talked about in our new book called “Win at Work and Succeed at Life.”  We talked about this idea that constraints drive, innovation, and productivity, and freedom. And I think that that’s true at a personal level, I think that’s true at an organizational level. And this is actually something that I’ve been doing for a long time, this kind of six-hour work day. And that’s not essential to having balance in your life by any means.

But for me, it was driven by the fact that I had children with special needs. I have five kids, three of whom were adopted, and two of them have some special needs. And, you know, I really knew, in order for them to heal, for them to really get to a place of thriving that they needed my attention, like it was kind of like "Mom…" you know, it couldn’t be delegated.

So, you know what happened for me, when I made a decision to shorten my workday, put those constraints in place, is I started making way better decisions about what I invested my time in, you know. That there was no time to waste on things that weren’t delivering a significant result or weren’t high leverage as we often talk about.

“When I made a decision to shorten my workday, put those constraints in place, I started making way better decisions about what I invested my time in.” Megan Hyatt Miller  

You know, I really had to be focused on the non-negotiables, the things that were driving results in our business. And for me, the constraints actually brought a lot of clarity and even simplicity to the process of decision making because there wasn’t enough time to do it all. I could only do the things that were the most important. And I think that’s been true also for our team as we’ve gone through this experiment.

 

Constraints Breed Creativity 

Jessica: How has your… well, there’s so many questions I want to ask you. I don’t know why we’ve not become best friends because I didn’t know you were an adoptive mom.

Megan: I know. Yeah.

Jessica: That’s so cool. Okay.

Megan: We’re actually…we’re going to Uganda — our middle child is from Uganda.

Jessica: Are you serious?

Megan: They’re from Uganda. Yeah. We’re going in just a few weeks. We got our travel vaccines this morning. I have sore arms to prove it.

Jessica: Oh, that’s amazing.

Megan: To go see the birth families. Yes.

Jessica: How old is your Ugandan daughter?

Megan: Boys actually.

Jessica: Boys.

Megan: So yeah. They’re 12 and 10. And then we adopted a baby from Florida two years ago. So, we have… and my 2 older children, so 20 to 2. It’s just like every stage we’ve got represented all at the same time.

Jessica: Wow. Have you guys kept up going to Uganda or is this kind of their first time back?

Megan: No. This is the first time we’ve had contact with the birth families, recently, in the last about six months. And there’s many of them, and so this is a big trip. I mean, it’s like equal parts anxiety, and excitement, and anticipation. So, it’s going to be a big one.

Jessica: Wow. That is amazing.

Megan: Yeah.

Jessica: We took Jack — I have a son from Rwanda — and we took him 2 years ago for his 10th birthday. And it was awesome. And…

Megan: Wow. Okay. I need tips from you.

Jessica: Oh, gosh, gosh. It was so good, so good. Okay. So, your book, “Win at Work and Succeed at Life,”  I am curious, what is your professional journey? Because your dad… you are now running your dad’s company. M y kids are always asking me like, "Am I going to take over Noonday someday?" I’m like, "I don’t know." So, tell us how that came to be. I’m super curious about that.

Megan: Yeah. Well, it really actually kind of ties into my adoption story. So, we adopted our boys in 2011. I got married in 2009, instantly became bonus mom to my husband’s 2 kids. And then about a year and a half later, we adopted our boys from Uganda. And I thought I was going to be a stay-at-home mom. I took about nine months off, and, frankly, I was kind of overwhelmed by the reality of all the needs of kids who, you know, come from hard places. And so, I thought that was going to happen and you know, that I’d be a stay- at- home mom. And meanwhile, my dad had left his role as the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, which is now HarperCollins Christian Publishing, and started a business. And he just said, "Hey, why don’t you come work for me, you know, part time?" You know, he was starting some new things. And so, I said, "Okay. You know, I’d really like to see adults again." I really feel like that’d be a nice break from all the craziness of the kids.

Well, that just mushroomed. And quickly, I took on more and more responsibility. Before very long, I was working full time. And there was kind of this moment within about two or three years of the beginning of that, where business was taking off, and he came to me and he said, "Megan, I really feel like what the business needs is for me to be freed up to do some more kind of futuristic thinking, for you to become the chief operating officer. And I think that’s really going to kind of set us up to go into the future, and take advantage of a bunch of opportunities that are coming our way."

And when he said that to me, my heart just kind of sank because on the one hand, of course, I’m like, "This is the opportunity of a lifetime." You know, I love building new things. I’m all about new, you know, this is like, so exciting. And on the other hand, I’m looking at my kids, and I’m like, "There is no plan B." Like, these kids need a mom. They need their parent’s full attention after school, like, I can’t delegate that to anybody. I can’t afford to ignore that and compromise their healing. And they were in a really critical part of their story. And so, I felt like I was faced with this impossible choice where no matter what I chose, there was going to be a loss.

And about that time, I went to a conference, and I heard a woman speak, who was a woman CEO, probably the only woman CEO I had ever heard speak or had any contact with. She’s about 10 years older than I am. And she said that after a period of having been really out of balance, she kind of reevaluated things. And she decided that there were no professional opportunities that came her way after 3:30 p.m. that were worth the trade-off of neglecting, you know, her kids and their kind of emotional needs.

So, she was basically choosing to prioritize her kids from 3:30 on in the afternoon. They were like school age, you know, at this point. And I just sat there in the audience, mostly an audience full of men. And like, my head exploded. I just thought, like, "Wait, this is a thing. Like women are owning that they want to, one, build these successful careers, but that they’re also going to prioritize their families, and they’re going to talk about it on stage, instead of like, trying to kind of act like that’s not really a thing." You know, like, it just opened up a third option for me that I hadn’t really considered.

And so, a couple of weeks later, I went back to my dad, and I said, "Dad, I think I want to say yes to this. And I think I can absolutely do this job." Of course, I’m like, kind of faking it because really, I’m a little bit insecure in that moment. But I’m like, "Yeah, I can totally do this." But I said, "I have to be done every day in time to pick my kids up from school, and I can’t be gone a lot on the… you know, for business meetings with clients or traveling. Like, I pretty much have to constrain my work day, so that I can be on with my family after work." And he said, "Well, if you think you can produce the operating results, I’m good to give it a try ." And we did it and that was a lot of years ago, and I’ve been doing it ever since. And now we’ve got our team doing it. And, you know, just to be clear, the premise of the book is not that you should work six hours, but just the idea that you can put constraints on your work day and actually have better business results and better personal results.

“The premise of the book is not that you should work six hours, but just the idea that you can put constraints on your work day and actually have better business results and better personal results.” Megan Hyatt Miller 

Jessica: We have two women on our executive team. One is a single mom. And they have…this has definitely been one of their constraints. And they’re definitely the most productive people I’ve ever met in my life.

Megan: Yeah. Yeah.

 

Let’s Talk About Work-Life Balance

Jessica: So yeah, it is interesting. I do think there is something about motherhood that just automatically defines a lot of your priorities. Tell me a little bit more about Michael Hyatt and Co. What do you guys do?

Megan: So, we are a performance coaching company. And we basically help leaders and their teams. We say, get the vision, alignment, and execution that they need to win at work and succeed at life. So, what we want is for people to learn how to build successful, scaling businesses, but not do it at the expense of their personal lives and, you know, their most important relationships, their health. And I think, you know, what we kind of see in the world is people make one of two choices, they either succeed professionally or they succeed personally. And, you know, through… we kind of do a few things. We have corporate training that we do. We also have one on one and group coaching. And then we have a 90-day planner called the Full Focus Planner . And through all of those things, really what we’re trying to help people do is get that vision alignment, and execution, education that they need, so that they can get that double win, win at work and succeed at life.

Jessica: So, the team that you’re managing is a lot of the coaches and the instructors?

Megan: Yeah. So, we have about 55 full time employees and growing. We’re hiring people every week. We’re hiring about 20 people this year.

Jessica: Oh my gosh.

Megan: And yeah. And then, we have about 15 coaches as a part of our coaching program. We have about 700 coaching clients who are business owners and senior executives. And so yeah, so there… it’s kind of like a whole group now of folks for sure.

Jessica: Okay. You know, we just had, on the podcast, The One Thing . I’m sure you’ve heard of that.

Megan: Yeah. Yes, of course.

Jessica: But The One Thing, Gary Keller, he’s done it in Austin.

Megan: Yes. That’s right.

Jessica: And then he ended up kind of farming out that and it became its own brand. And we interviewed Geoff , the founder of that brand. He now runs The One Thing podcast. And Gary Keller just gave it to him. It was just like, "Here, you take this. That’s not my purpose in life." And so, but he said that his business was crazy this year. And so, what are you hearing? What…what’s the narratives that have been coming through your door, in particular around businesses over the last 15 months?

Megan: Well, a couple of things. I mean, first of all, it was a huge privilege and honor to get to walk with people through really the biggest crisis that most of us have seen in our professional lives. You know, we certainly have some clients who went through the 2008 recession and, you know, so forth and so on, but just to be able to try to get in there and troubleshoot and figure out how do you do cash flow scenario planning so that you kind of really look at where your risks are, and what you can tolerate and all that kind of stuff. So that was pretty amazing. But, you know, I think one of the narratives is just like resilience.

First of all, I think people have a lot more confidence coming out of 2020, knowing that, even if they were hit hard, that they are survivors, that they have more strength than they thought. So, I think that’s one thing. I also think people are really tired, you know. I think that 2020 was an exhausting year for all of us, even if things were okay in your business. And, you know, most of us had some impact to our business that emotionally just… especially if you’re a leader, caring for a team, especially if you’re a parent. I mean, there’s so many reasons for this, but just the… almost like collective trauma that we all experienced, I think there’s a lot.

“I think people have a lot more confidence coming out of 2020, knowing that, even if they were hit hard, that they are survivors, that they have more strength than they thought.” Megan Hyatt Miller 

And so, people were finding or coming to us as new clients, like, I can’t keep doing it like I’m doing it, you know. I’ve got to find a third way because the kind of hustle and, you know, just white knuckling that got me through 2020 is not something I can sustain. And so, I need…I need to learn a better way. I need to learn, you know, something that feels sustainable, where I don’t have to make these compromises, you know. But also, I think one of the other fun things was just a lot of innovation. I mean, people got really creative. I don’t know about you, I’m sure you did. You know, like, it was just so amazing to see what people are capable of and what solutions they came up with, which I think again, contributes to that confidence in the future.

Jessica: Yes, it was very invigorating. If you’re an entrepreneur, it was like, the time of my life. I do feel like we’re emerging with these two different perspectives in a way that a lot of people are saying, you know, "Oh my gosh, I learned boundaries." And especially those of us that traveled for work. I mean, so my schedule, I have found myself going, "Oh, my schedule was cleared in a way…" I mean that’s what Bill and Melinda Gates, I mean, he said the same thing. That’s why they’re going through this divorce because he said, "Oh my gosh. But we were living together for the first time." And so, in some way, some people felt like they quote-unquote… it’s not working less but they did find… maybe discovered new areas of margin in their lives when you remove travel and even the commute from work to office simplified things.

But then there’s this other perspective of like, "No. I’ve worked more than ever," especially I have friends that are consultants that used to just use their plane time to just decompress, you know, even if you think about checking in at the airport and getting that coffee, whereas now it’s back- to- back Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. So, it’s interesting because your book came out at such an interesting time, where it’s like, "Well, are we overworking right now?" Because I think a lot of us have the sentiment of like, "No. Actually, we chilled out this last year, and we found new margin." But I think actually, a lot of people have found that blur between life and home actually created more work. What have you seen? And how does your book kind of speak to that?

Megan: Yeah. Well, I think you know, a couple of things. One, definitely, there’s a sentiment of burnout. You know, that emotionally and physically, a lot of people just sideline self-care because it’s hard to think about that when you’re just kind of in that survival place. And so, a lot of our rituals and things that were kind of the baseline for taking care of ourselves have been really disrupted. I mean, when everything gets disrupted, those foundational things can also be disrupted. So, I think we’re hearing that a lot as well. I think a lot of people are also adjusting to remote work for the first time, or at least totally remote work for the first time. And that the lines can get blurry. And it can be harder to have boundaries where, you know, you wake up and you start working, then you take a shower, or work out, or whatever, and then you go back to work. And then, you know, you just kind of work all day with like little intermissions throughout the day. And that gets really exhausting. You never, never, never, never get a break.

And so, you know, I think what we walk you through in the book is a process for defining, okay, what does it mean for you to win at work and succeed at life? And we talk about this in kind of the frame of non-negotiables. So, let’s not be in a place of idealism about what would you do on the most perfect day when you could do everything, you know, that you would want to do? But really, in terms of non-negotiables, what are your non-negotiables in terms of your self-care, in terms of your relational priorities, and then in terms of your professional results?
And those are really the three areas: self-care, relational priorities, and professional results that we begin to frame up, what does it mean to win at work and succeed at life? And if we don’t know the answer to that, then it’s very hard to hit that, you know. So, it’s kind of a vision component in a way.

And then we talk you through this idea of putting constraints in place around your workday. When are you going to start working and when are you going to stop working? Because if we don’t do that, there’s not going to be enough time for the other parts of your life that really matter. And the funny thing that happens here, when you put constraints in place, is that generally your performance improves and your results improves. So, we’re not advocating for you compromising your results. We’re actually saying, in a way, take a stand for your results, but do it in an unconventional way by putting these constraints in place. And so, from there, we want you to schedule the things that really matter, those non-negotiables. Your calendar is your friend. It’s kind of like… I don’t know if you remember this, Jessica, but that old video from Stephen Covey where he’s putting the rocks in the glass cylinder. Did you ever see that video?

Jessica: I don’t. That’s not ringing a bell, but…

Megan: Okay. You have to do…

Jessica: I’m a seven on the enneagram, so productivity is not what drives me.

Megan: Yeah, okay. Well, it’s a funny video, because it’s like a really grainy video probably from the late ’80s. But he shows this idea and he’s really talking about priorities, that if you had this big glass cylinder, imagine it’s like 12 inches across, and you want to see what you can put inside of it, if you start with the big rocks first, you can fit some smaller rocks, and then some pebbles, and then some sand, and he kind of has this all measured out. All fits in there. But if you flip it, and you put in the sand first, and then the little pebbles and then the bigger rocks, the big rocks and the big ones, there’s not enough room for the big rocks, you know? And that that’s kind of our life. If we don’t start with the most important things on our schedule, then it gets taken over by the little things or the less important things and there’s no time for the stuff that matters most.

“If we don’t start with the most important things on our schedule, then it gets taken over by the little things or the less important things and there’s no time for the stuff that matters most.” Megan Hyatt Miller 

So, those are some of the things we walk through. We talk a lot about non-achievement and the value of non-achievement for people who consider themselves achievers, as well as rest. And I think those are two things particularly coming out of 2020 that are so relevant because most people have just really ignored both of those areas. And in many ways, for good reasons, but it’s time to kind of put them back on the list.

 

Don’t Go With the Flow. Create Your Own. 

Jessica: Mm-hmm. Tell me, how do you differentiate between overwork and working hard? Because for me… and I’m sure you probably read the Adam Grant article about languishing.

Megan: Yes. Yes, I did.

Jessica: That has been so formative for me in the last few weeks because it just definitely gave me a word for this, what I had been feeling, you know, like I am not depressed. I just don’t have the normal motivation that I had . And I normally bring a lot of energy to my work and I have not been bringing that energy, but I’m working. I have to work. But I’m having to really, you know, kind of do the thing. And then it all comes, you know. Then, you know, it’s good. I mean, part of me is just, we are still all remote, and that is just…

Megan: Hard. It’s hard.

Jessica: Yeah. That’s… I draw energy from people. So, I’m having… you know, I’m finding ways to get my energy back by just requiring meetings in person.

Megan: Yeah. I’m with you on that.

Jessica: But when I read that, I just really identified with it. And I love his answer. One of the antidotes is flow. And I love flow. I love when I just lose myself. And I’m like, "Oh, my gosh, I just worked for 10 hours? I had no idea." So that doesn’t feel like overwork to me, right? Because that’s actually energizing. So, tell me how you differentiate between overwork and working hard.

Megan: Yeah, well, I think probably this is a little bit of a nebulous thing in the sense that everybody has to define this for themselves. That’s why I said, you know, in my case, I work six hours a day, that may not be relevant for you or for somebody else listening, you know that that’s subjective to a certain extent. But I think you know you’re overworking when a couple of things happen.
Number one, when you find that you just… you don’t have anything to bring anymore. Your creativity is really zapped, your ability to innovate, your ability to make connections, particularly if that’s your role. You know, I know that’s your role. That’s my role. Like, if you find yourself in that place, that’s a good indication, if you’re not able to contribute at the level that you’re probably overworking. It’s, you know, it’s like trying to work out too much and overtrain. At certain point, you get diminishing returns, you know. So, I think that’s one thing.

Also, if you find that you’re neglecting the other domains of your life. You know, we talk in the book, “Win at Work and Succeed at Life” about 10 life domains. You know, we have a spiritual domain, an intellectual domain, an emotional, physical, marital or romantic, parental for those that that applies to, social, vocational, avocational, financial. So vocational is one. But it shouldn’t be the only one. It shouldn’t be the primary or singular orientation of our lives. Certainly, it may take up the most time in our day. But there’s a lot of life to be lived outside of that. We talk about this idea of non-achievement in the book. And, you know, if you want to be able to perform at the highest level in your work to really get in that state of flow, you’ve got to be very intentional about your time outside of work. If we look at professional athletes, for example, like Serena Williams, or Tom Brady, you know, how they think about their time outside of work, how they’re nurturing their body, their mind, you know, creatively, all that kind of stuff is so critical to their ability to perform on the field. And so often, we think, you know, more is more, but it’s actually diminishing returns. We’re not getting more out of putting more time and we’re getting less actually.

“If you want to be able to perform at the highest level in your work to really get in that state of flow, you’ve got to be very intentional about your time outside of work.” Megan Hyatt Miller 

Jessica: I love that. I love thinking about my time off work is being just as critical to my time at work.

Megan: Yeah. Yeah.

Jessica: So that I can really bring my best self. Okay, so we’ve talked a little bit about this work-life balance. And first of all, I do want to say, because I just want to say that if you are a woman who is not getting off work at 3:30, your kids are not going to be screwed up for the rest of their lives.

Megan: Absolutely. Totally. Thank you for saying that. That’s so important because I think this is about defining it for yourself. And like for me that was really relevant because of my unique context with my kids. I know there’s a certain amount of privilege that’s attached to that also, it’s important to say. This is really just about getting clear on what matters most to you. It’s not about it looking like any one thing. And thank you for saying that. That’s really important.

Jessica: Well, I mean, I’ve just been in that when my kids were little, yeah, I did, I worked a ton. I worked actually more than I’m working now because I was in the building the plane as it was flying phase. And I had just a group of nannies that now just loves my kids passionately. And I look and see how formative they were on my kids’ lives. And now I’m in this weird no man’s land where it’s like, I’ve got a sixth, seventh, and ninth grader, they don’t want a nanny. We tried to have…we had a nanny, like when we were doing online school, and I was like, "Oh my gosh." Like…

Megan: Oh, that was the worst.

Jessica: No. And my husband and I…my husband for a while was the full-time home keeper. And then actually at the beginning of COVID, he’s now…owns a business, a welding studio.

Megan: Oh, wow.

Jessica: So, he is now an entrepreneur. I’m an entrepreneur. So that was crazy because it was like, oh my gosh, you know, he’s not as available as he always was. So, we had to hire a nanny and my kids hated it. "No. Get rid of the nanny. We’re too old for this." So now it’s this thing where like, yeah, I mean, we are…my…both my husband and I are picking up the kids at 3:00. I have my calendar block from like 3:15 to 3:45. It’s so odd and everyone kind of just schedules meetings around that time. So, I just want to say yeah, I think a big stumbling block for women is comparison. So please just listen to that.

Megan: So true. Gosh. Yes.

 

How to Achieve a Double Win 

Jessica: I know that you got to define what success looks like for you. But let’s talk about the man. Let’s talk about, you know, I don’t think men often get asked about this work-life balance. So, what have you brought to that conversation?

Megan: So true. Yeah, I…

Jessica: I’m sure you work with a lot of men. I’m assuming.

Megan: I do work with… yeah. I do work with a lot of men. Although our company is over 50% women, which is really fun. We have great men. We have great women and, you know, it’s awesome. But you know, I’ll never forget going to school, this was a season where I wasn’t picking up kids after school, and my son’s teacher said to me, he was in kindergarten, which is like years ago, she said, "Oh, well, it’s good to see you. We were wondering if everything was okay." And I was like, "Oh, what do you mean?" And she said, "Well, you know, we had just seen your husband picking up in the afternoon." And I was like, "Because we’re co-parents and that’s what we were doing." You know, like, but that’s what I’ve kind of like would say now, or what I would have wanted to say, but inside like, I felt terrible. I felt so much shame and guilt. And I was like, "Oh my gosh, I’m completely failing. My kids never see me picking them up at school." I mean, it was just that whole… like, my husband calls it The Doom Loop. I’m an enneagram 4, so the doom loop is never very far away. And so, I just went into that doom loop really fast. And you know, I’ve had plenty of those moments.

But no, I mean, I don’t think anyone’s ever asked my husband, you know, how did he feel like he was managing home and work? I mean, this is a unique problem. I think certainly men care about work-life balance, but I just don’t think there’s the same cultural pressure. And so, I know that my husband and I have really worked hard to figure out what does it look like to be partners, to co-parent our children, to help each other get our needs met outside of work and outside of our family. You know, recently, we had a conversation where we sat down, and we just looked at, here’s all the things that need to be done. You know, here’s doctor’s appointments, and we’re in the stage of applying to middle school with a couple of our kids, you know, thankfully, that’s over now. But that was a whole project for a while and, you know, it’s like…

Jessica: It’s like you need to hire a project manager.

Megan: I mean, literally, that’s what it felt like. And so, what we realized, there were still more things on my column than were on his column. And we just kind of defaulted to that. I was planning all the birthdays. I was getting all the gifts, all that kind of stuff that I just thought, "I’m the mom, I should do that." And he was like, "I can take some of this honey, like, let’s just… let’s divide it up." And it was just a good reminder that — at least for me, I don’t know about you, Jessica. But I can forget to sit down and negotiate, like I can just assume things. And then fortunately, I have a husband who’s willing to jump in and help. But I’ve got to remember sometimes to initiate those conversations and to negotiate and advocate for myself so that it is more equitable, you know?

Jessica: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. My husband and I recently realized that I was holding him accountable for the orthodontist, and he was holding me accountable. "No. You’re the orthodontist parent, honey. Come on."

Megan: Oh, that’s hilarious. Yeah, you do want to be clear on that.

Jessica: He’s like, "No. You’re the orthodontist parent." "Oh, I don’t want to be the orthodontist parent."

Megan: Right. Right. Can someone else do this? Oh, that’s funny. I love that.

Jessica: Oh, my gosh. Okay. Talk to us about the double win.

Megan: Yeah, well, so the double win is this idea of winning at work and succeeding at life. And there’s kind of two options that were presented in culture, especially like influencer culture, or, you know, I think entrepreneurial culture, like that’s kind of the world that I live in a lot. I know you do too, that there’s this whole like, hashtag hustle, you know, all that kind of stuff. So, the hustle fallacy is one option that we’re given, which basically says, "Hey, this is just going to be temporary. But for just a little while, you know, you’re going to need to double down. You’re going to need to, you know, neglect your relationships, neglect your health because you’re launching this business, or, you know, you’re writing this book, or you’ve got this new thing that’s happening. And it’s okay, like, you know, your family can just kind of like, deal with it for a little while, while you go over here and do this thing, and it’ll be worth it." The problem, I mean, I can speak from experience of this is that the temporary has a way of becoming permanent. And one "season" of this can really become kind of just your MO, you know? And it’s, unfortunately, it’s really rewarded in our culture, you know, where like busyness or exhaustion or burnout are kind of like the bragging rights. And I think we’ve created a really big monster with this hustle fallacy, especially because the long- term consequences to our health and our relationships and our impact to the world are really, really significant. It’s just not sustainable. But then the flip side of that is, well, okay, I don’t want any of that. You know, I’ve done that and I know what it costs. Then I’ll just hit the ambition break.

“We’ve created a really big monster with this hustle fallacy, especially because the long-term consequences to our health and our relationships and our impact to the world are really, really significant. It’s just not sustainable.” Megan Hyatt Miller 

And that’s where we say, you know, "I’m willing to make this trade off with what I know is my professional potential and my impact in the world. I’d rather have less of that so that I can have, you know, a healthier body, a healthier family connection to my kids, my spouse, my friends, whatever, you know. And so, I’m going to just not reach my potential professionally, but I’ll have a good personal life." And what my dad and I really say in the book is, this is a false dichotomy between these two things. It puts them at odds with each other. And there’s actually this third way where work and life are not opposed to one another, where they’re actually complementary, and they’re working in tandem to create what we call this double win. So that’s really the whole premise of the book. And, you know, we help our clients figure this out. As I said, we have like 700 business owner clients, and, you know, they’re all figuring out how to do this in their own businesses, in their own lives and it’s really rewarding, because we know that the trajectory of their life is different as a result, you know.

 

The Double Win: You Can Have It All 

Jessica: What sort of size business is your target client?

Megan: Usually, between $1 million and $5 million, is probably the, in annual revenue, is the majority of our clients, but we definitely have clients in the $10 million to $30 million range as well. You know, that’s kind of a smaller portion of them but yeah.

Jessica: Oh, but that’s great because the help you need at $1 million to $5 million is this idea of… because you’ve got to put… and that’s the point of this podcast, it’s Decide, Don’t Slide, and so if you don’t…

Megan: Yeah, so good.

Jessica: …put this stuff in place and prioritize it, then your company will just run you and you will not run your life at that stage, you know.

Megan: Absolutely. Well, and your success can be not a blessing, you know, because it can actually be almost like this hamster wheel that you feel like you can’t get off of, and it’s self-perpetuating. And it’s sort of like your dream can become a nightmare, you know, and that’s exactly what we don’t want. My dad tells a story in the book of his career, when he first went to Thomas Nelson years and years ago, this is now like 20 something years ago, he took over the worst performing division at Thomas Nelson and totally turned it around. He was so proud of himself, and he like walks into my mom with this big bonus check, bigger than his annual salary, and he thought she was going to be just so proud because he was like, you know, providing for the family or whatever. And she sat him down, and basically just said, "I feel like a single parent. I feel like you’re never around your girls." I’m one of five girls. "You know, your girls are growing up without their dad around. And something has to change, you know, like the money does not make up for your absence." And that was really the catalyst for him of making a choice to figure out how to pursue success in a different way that wasn’t going to leave him with regrets at the end of his life.

Jessica: When he made that switch, how old were you? Like how was it formative?

Megan: I was late in high school. Yeah.

Jessica: Okay. So…

Megan: And I was… it was my whole life that he was really a workaholic. And we’ve always been close. But he… we tell the story very openly in the book. I mean, there were many things he was not there for because… and he, in his mind, he thought he was doing the right thing, right, like providing for his family. And not that that’s not important. Of course, it is important. But it came at such a high cost. The good thing is, is that he had a dramatic turnaround, and that hard story is now really the seed and the foundation of the work that we do for our clients to help them get the opportunity to intervene before it gets to that point, you know?

Jessica: Have you always been close to your dad?

Megan: Yeah, I have. We’re really similar in our personalities, and we just naturally communicate well together. I mean, I think it’s part of what makes us great business partners and leading our business together. So, it’s really fun. You know, people ask me all the time, because I think, unfortunately, a lot of times family businesses are just a disaster behind the scenes and dysfunctional and all that. And I feel really fortunate that that’s not our case, you know, that it’s what it seems like. It’s really fun. It’s really healthy. It’s really productive, all that.

Jessica: Hmm, I love that so much. What do you think that we are going to carry over into this…? Like, what’s going to be our new normal?

Megan: Hmm, gosh. Well, I mean, I think that our personal lives are going to always be a factor in our professional lives. I mean, I think this is something I hear from friends who are also leaders is that the days of going back to kind of being able to ignore people’s… not that we were intentionally doing this, but you know, where it was just sort of the norm that there was this compartmentalization, where you could ignore people’s personal lives and needs, that’s just not reality anymore. You know, I think so many things collided in 2020 at so many different levels, culturally, personally, you know, politically, all the different things, that I think we realized that life and being a human is more complex than we maybe realized initially, and that as employers and leaders, that we have to make room for that in our organizations. We have to really care for people holistically, as whole people . We can’t just think about them as producers, that they’re coming to us with all kinds of experiences and contexts that need to be understood.

“We realized that life and being a human is more complex than we maybe realized initially, and that as employers and leaders, that we have to make room for that in our organizations.” Megan Hyatt Miller 

Jessica: We have a saying at Noonday that we want to care for people’s care.

Megan: Oh, I love that. Wow. That’s beautiful.

Jessica: And I think that is what we did do this last year that made our team vote on us to be one of the best places to work. You know, there’s a sense of just we care for your care, and recognizing the complexity of what it means to be a human. I love that. That’s a great way to say it. And that you don’t check your humanity at the door.

Megan: Right, right.

Jessica: And to recognize that and acknowledge that. I hope that we can continue to keep that and that engagement is so important. Okay. I want to close out and ask you how you are going scared right now

Megan: Okay. Well, this is an easy question to answer because I just had a meeting right before we jumped on. I am leading our company kind of trepidatiously, but leading our company into a diversity initiative, around racial diversity in particular. And we have a goal in our vision, our 3 to 5-year vision to have our team composed of 30% people of color in 3 years and 50% in 5 years. And what’s really important about that is not so much the statistical part of the goal, but it’s the culture that we have to create in order to create, you know, inclusion and belonging, and equity and all the things for the people of color that we bring on our team. We’re about 20% right now. And we’re having a big diversity, equity, and inclusion team training next Friday that I’m preparing for. That’s what I was working on, right before we got on. And, you know, frankly, as a white CEO, but a mom of three black children, this is incredibly important to me. And I also feel incredibly ill prepared.

You know, certainly I’ve done a lot of my own work and have a lot of wise friends and advisers and all the things but I was telling my husband the other night, like, is there someone else that can do this that’s way more qualified? Like could it be not me, you know? I just… I feel like there… it’s so fraught and there’s so many ways I could mess it up or hurt people I care about, which is the exact opposite of what I want to do. And of course, you know, there’s all kinds of minefields in the conversation itself, but it’s so important. And, you know, I’m just at the place of saying, “I’m just going to trust God to lead me. I’m going to lean into something that is scary and complex, and I’m going to do the best I can knowing I’ll make mistakes.” As one of my advisers told me the other day, "You’re going to make mistakes in case anybody hasn’t told you yet." I was like, "I know." But, you know, I feel like these days, I’m scared of something about every other day, at least. And I think that’s not a bad place to be. You know, I think that’s, as a leader especially, that’s probably a pretty healthy place to be.

Jessica: I love how Megan lives in a space of “and.” That you can want, build and have a scaling business, and you can have a fulfilled life with your family and with your kids and all of the other priorities that you are living and leaning into. The double win! It’s the double win.

So, if COVID has taught us anything, it’s that white knuckling through life is not sustainable. And being clear of your non-negotiables and building around those is the foundation for Deciding, Not Sliding.

Ah, I’ve been loving these conversations. I hope you are too! Tell a friend, guys! That’s how our podcast audience grows. It’s such an easy way to just connect somebody: send them a link to the podcast, post it on your Instagram, however you want to share it. It would be an honor. Make sure you tag me @jessicahonegger  — that’s two Gs one N.

Our wonderful music for today’s show is by my good friend Ellie Holcomb. Going Scared is produced by Eddie Kaufholz. And I’m Jessica Honegger. Until next time, let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.