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Episode 64
Minter Dial Interview. Storytelling & Serendipity

In this episode, Samuel Monnie and Chris Lawson are joined by Minter Dial Keynote speaker, emcee, author, podcaster and elevator. Minter reveals key themes from his book: You Lead - How Being Yourself Makes You a Better Leader. We discuss storytelling, Minter’s claim that “Leadership sucks - 70% of employees are unengaged”, his take on the biggest changes in marketing transformation over the past decade, the need for more human marketing and we reveal his biggest marketing regret!

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  • 11 Years of Podcasting and the sensorial power of audio

  • Minter’s book: You Lead - How Being Yourself Makes You a Better Leader

  • Storytelling - how well it resonates with people internally and externally 

  • Doing work that matters beyond “profits in the back pocket”

  • Human Marketing means more empathy

Transcript:

SAM:

Welcome to Across the Pond - Marketing Transformed. Our guest today is  Minter (Dial)., he's a professional speaker, storyteller, consultant and a veteran executive with a 16 year high profile career at L'Oreal. He's an MC, an author, podcaster and elevator. Welcome, Minter. 

 

MINTER:

Hey Samuel (Monnie) and Chris (Laswon). Thanks for having me on the show. 

 

10 Years of Podcasting

CHRIS:

So Minter, we wanted to get you on the series. You've been a sort of trailblazer in this area long before Sam and I decided to start podcasting. How long have you been podcasting for now? 

 

MINTER:

Oh, I've just finished my 10th birthday. 

 

SAM:

Well, happy birthday. 

 

MINTER:

Thank you. 10 years, 400, episodes.

 

CHRIS:

That is pretty staggering. I think one of the things that we both had admired throughout the time that we have come across you,  is that ability to anticipate trends. At the heart of what you do is great storytelling. So we're looking forward to some good stories today. 

 

MINTER:

I'll bring them out for you... chapter one. 

 

SAM:

Well, actually, before we get into that, you mentioned this your 10th anniversary. Happy birthday and then a round of applause. There's a virtual cake on it's way. So clearly you were passionate about it. What brought you into it and what keeps you in your 10th, coming on 11th year? 

 

MINTER:

Yeah. So a lot of what I do is experimental.  Especially when I cotton on to "ah something's happening, what's that?" And I sort of fuss and fight, try to figure it out. I don't  have an assistant where I can say, "Hey, listen, what is all this about?" I actually have to go do it myself. Just like when I started blogging in 2006, I was the senior executive at L'Oreal's on the executive committee. And I started blogging, I said "Hey, that's cool. I can do some of that and, oh, you're not allowed to do that. Oh, no. Yes I am." So I  wanted to try new things that maybe I shouldn't be, couldn't be. I got into podcasting and what I found out was, well, first of all, I enjoyed the idea of being in audio. 

The second was that I just love the discovery of people. When you have a microphone in their face, somehow it just, it opens us up and you're allowed to discuss things in a deeper way because the record button is on and there's a little bit of a, almost a dicey-ness to it. I love that tension and the opportunity to meet people in that space. 

 

SAM:

Yeah, I love that fact. You said there's a dicey-ness when the record button goes on, does that change people? 

 

MINTER:

Well, I think it does. I mean, of course, where we'd be doing a video that even changes how you look, but the fact that you know that what you're saying is being recorded for posterity, or at least in your mind, it makes you feel like you better show up.

 

CHRIS:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, we'll talk a bit more about showing up later. What's the biggest thing that you've learned from it?

 

MINTER:

Maybe it's more of a reinforcement, but, 

 

“being digital means doing digital.”

 

So much of this stuff, you can read about it, but until you do it, you don't really get it. The power of that record button, the opportunity and what you get by listening to somebody deeply only in audio as we are doing right now. It's a phenomenal part of our senses that we don't seem to be exploring. 


 

Life before L’Oreal

CHRIS:

So, thinking about your career, I mean, you've had senior level marketing roles in many industries and 16 years, as Sam said, with L'Oreal. So what inspired you to branch out on your own? 

 

MINTER:

So you mentioned the 16 years at L'Oreal and I had this wacky wickedly weird set of activities I did before L'Oreal. And so for me, my post L'Oreal life is more a continuation of my pre L'Oreal life. Where to begin with, for example, I started a leather goods company with bags that were $5,000 back in the 1980s and higher. I was a tennis coach. I worked in a zoo and an aquarium. I worked in a travel agency for musicians and entertainers- we had Sting and Madonna and Hunter S Thompson as customers. What was I doing? Doing all this stuff? What was the link between all that? And then all of a sudden, I had this hiatus where I did 16 years in one company for God's sakes. 

After I left L'Oreal,  I just wanted to continue to explore the world, my mind, people, different industries, different things and hopefully contribute to the world in a broader fashion.



 

Another book on leadership? Yawn.

 

SAM:

I'm a proud owner of one of your books called 'Heartificial Empathy'. Just to state out loud here, I actually purchased this,  this is a paid for copy of a book that I'm recommending and you've been quite prolific in the writing space.  Your latest is called 'You Lead - How being yourself makes you a better leader'. I'd love to hear more about that, and what's the core idea behind your, your latest book?

 

MINTER:

Some people might just say, "oh my God, another book on leadership - yawn". First of all, there's been lots of books and lots of great thoughts and stuff on leadership, yet 

 

“leadership sucks. We have 70% of employees start stating that they feel unengaged at work. We have companies consistently have it where people are burning out and there's a problem of turnover, there's even a problem of just keeping people in companies these days. So what's wrong. Well, I feel that the issue is that we are so forced to put on a persona, wear a tie and be somebody else.” 

 

That gap between the persona, the image we're projecting and who we really are, is entirely entropic- dangerous to our health and bad for business.  My book is in a sense, is a permission to be, at the very least, more you when you lead.  The challenge of course and the nuances, is not about being the gung, buckling, naked you, it's a version of you that is much closer to the personal you. Obviously keeping the private part out, the intimate concept's in the secret garden, but allows for more of your personality, more of your juices to flow into the business and therefore not have to put on this tie.

 

CHRIS:

Are we getting better at telling stories? What do you think? 

 

MINTER:

I mean, the bottom line is storytelling has now become almost a trendy topic. The narrative, figuring out the different media, the impact and how interesting your story is.  The storytelling that I think is still very muted is the internal story - where the leader of the company tells the story of the founding of the company as if it was his or her own.  The issue with this sort of type of storytelling, which as individuals we all ought to be doing within our company, so it's not just the boss, is how does it relate to you? 

 

And where bosses fall down is that they think it is just an intellectual exercise - "oh, let me tell you, let me tell you a quick story. Back in the days there was this founder and..." and you spill out the story and all the details are there; it's facts and figures. But there's no real relationship to your gut. Aside from the fact that you're going to bore yourself silly by cognitively getting it all right. You're not gonna feel it, the passion is not there.  As day follows night, repeating the same old story that doesn't relate to you, it gets very tiring.

 

CHRIS:

You talk in the book about that wake up moment after nine 11 and yourself being in New York at that time. It's very dramatic and tragic obviously, but in the end compelling. You mention the fact that it made you reevaluate where you were and what you wanted to do. Do you think the pandemic will have a similar impact? 

 

MINTER:

Great question, Chris. So I think that big moments have a tendency to overturn stones. So, yes, I think this pandemic is having a very broad, maybe not so deep yet, but very broad reviewing of what's important for people. Because that's ultimately what those events do, they are revealing or making you think about what's most important - selling another widget or doing shit that counts.

 

So there's two things that have happened here. One is: shit's happened, people have died, it's serious. Two is: we've got more time on our hands. We're not commuting one and a half hours every day. Of course we're doing other stuff like homeschooling or other things that can occupy us, but we have time on our hands to think about what's important. And I think a lot of people will be reassessing whether that widget is really that important.

 

SAM:

I've read an article, I've got to dig it out. It was about the first time in modern history that people are now parents, they are professionals and they are teachers all at the same time. So they're playing all three roles at the same time, which has never happened before. Often, they've had to do two of those, but not all three. That's been very  revealing on the impact on people, on people's mindsets, on people's lives and reflecting on the world of work. And what is important to you? Are you going to go back to the old or are you going to sort of uncover and create something new? I bring that up because that challenge, that disruption, it seems that crises seem to be more frequent and more disruptive. In reflecting on the work you've done in your latest book, how should leaders handle that?

 

MINTER:

So sometimes it's just about getting cash in the door, Sam. So obviously one needs to be pragmatic. However, let's assume that you've got some cash because I mean, otherwise it's just a whatever, it's smoke and mirrors. So what I think is useful is to bare down on what your business is about and lean back into that. You've still got to get the cash in the door, do the business, but take this opportunity to figure out how your business can contribute more to the bigger environment. So what that means concretely is yes, get the shareholder happy, get the profits and do what you have to do, because that's part of the game. But find out how you, your employees, distributors, or partners can all have a feeling of mastering being contributing to something bigger and that they count for, something more than just profits in the back pocket. So saying "we want to solve the world's problems". First of all, it's not realistic. Second of all this doesn't relate back to you and your community, then it's just a bunch of whitewashing. 

 

SAM:

We talk about that actually in episode 52, we talk about modern leadership and step one is to reset and redefine success.  As you're talking there, it seems like that reset and reevaluating, what matters and what  should be valued and measured ongoing is a fundamental initial step. 

 

CHRIS:

The other thing we came to talk about was the importance of showing up. And the fact that you have to take responsibility for your own destiny and everyone needs to take responsibility for being a leader as well. I think that really rings true also.

 

MINTER:

So the old role of leaders was "here's the veteran we're going to  drive this, come on, everybody. I'm going to motivate you, I'm going to pay you and let's do it". So two things that I think need to be addressed: first is that, even leaders might not be feeling well during this period. So if the leader isn't prepared to assess his or her own emotions and mental state, this will inevitably cause problems.  The second thing is that, and this is a bigger trend as well, which is that individuals, employees also need to take self responsibility. This is something I really pushed down on in Futureproof where the, this notion of taking responsibility, not waiting for the state or the learning for development department to give you the training, but actually owning your own learning, owning who you are and taking agency. I'm not saying I'm a victim, I don't always have to do what they tell me. 

 

Find ways for everybody throughout the organization. So as a leader: a) Think about your own energies, be bold enough to admit when you're not feeling so well. It's okay not to be okay. And b) find ways to allow for your team to take agency because in the very process of taking agency, two things happen. One is they have more energy, they're more excited, they own, the projects. And two you're actually going to have better results. 

 

It’s OK not to be OK

SAM:

What's the biggest change you've seen in marketing transformation over the last few years?

 

MINTER:

So the biggest piece, let's say over the last decade is that I feel like encountering automating marketing and doing everything with digital tools. The need is to come back to human marketing - more humanity in the marketing. Yes, we need tools, especially when you're working at a huge scale, but somehow we need to embed humanity into that, which means accommodating mistakes. It means accepting the possibility of failure because you're trying and experimenting new things, like we do in real life and including emotions, even this thing called empathy into the way we're doing our marketing. 

 

The real point there, the reason why this is so relevant is that we have so many more different touch points, meaning that we have so many different departments; people representing your company in specific interactions. These are individuals who are typing on a keyboard. Yes, they're doing digital stuff, but they're individuals who are typing on a keyboard. There's an individual who's at the end of your chat or doing your social media or doing a sales call. All these individuals are representing your brand, and in that presentation, what people are looking for are deeper connections, real connections.  There's nothing worse than "your call is important for us. We'll get back to you very shortly". That feeling of process and protocol  is killing people. 

 

SAM:

We talked a lot about this in episode 31, it was called 'Human first, digital second'.  It was really emphasizing that humanity, that empathy, compassion, things that you've talked about and you've written about previously and how all that comes together. So I love the fact that that humanity piece is kind of the one shining a light on where we're going and how we could be better in the future as an antidote or as a check to this impact, potential overstretch or overreach on everything being digital. We've heard of zoom fatigue and how people dread turning on their camera because it's just back to back electronic connections and overload and being overstressed by it all. 

 

So how do we actually tame it all and just realize, you know, if I start off a meeting with one of my connections or with someone and ask how they are, I've gotta be ready for what they say, it can't be "okay anyway, moving on, slide 33". So if you ask someone how they are, that's a very human moment, vulnerable, opening up.

 

MINTER:

Sorry, I just feel like I need to say one thing, which is, don't just ask people how they feel, tell people how you feel and include the fact that  you feel like shit. That is showing courage, vulnerability and models the behavior that suggests that it's okay, to be not okay. 

 

SAM:

Right. The power of role modeling, which is exactly that. It's actually as a leader, showing up, role modeling vulnerability and making it okay to be not okay. In a lot of cultures, a lot of organizations I know I've worked at in the past has been the absolute antithesis of how people operate. 

 

However, I'm optimistic in 2021 leaders will do more of that. It kind of reminds me of that quote by Jacinda Arden, prime minister of New Zealand. I've said this on just about every episode, but " one of the criticisms that I've faced over the years is that I'm not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I'm empathetic it means I'm weak. I rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong". It just resonates with me as the mantra of how we should be going forward. 


 

CHIRS:

One of the things is that, still the amount of apologies that you're getting on zoom calls when people's personal lives are infringing on what they see work, being disrupted by kids, or having to be a few minutes late or background noise. We need to get past that. We absolutely need to get past that because this is about how it is, you know,  people's lives, aren't compartmentalized. I think that's a theme that probably rings true to all of us really.


 

Quick Fire Round

CHIRS:

What's the single most important quality in leadership?

 

MINTER:

Humility. 

 

SAM:

What's the most powerful media or communications channel in 2021?

 

MINTER:

I want to say audio, but I'm going to have to go with video.

 

CHRIS:

What's your biggest marketing regret? 

 

MINTER:

I didn't go big earlier. I kind of always felt like I had to show the numbers be more conservative in some of the things.  I did one big, big thing when I was in my L'Oreal career. I said to the team, "Hey, listen, let's create a product that is four times more expensive than any other product we've ever sold in this circuit". It turned out to be an absolute winner. It's still being sold 20 years on at that price or, you know, an equivalent. But I didn't, I didn't follow that law or that idea anyway earlier

 

CHRIS:

Final one. So go on then, why should people read your book? 

 

MINTER:

I've tried to present a real story. One that is as close to the authentic me, as one does giving permission to be yourself showing mistakes but not necessarily revealing everything because that's okay. So  I've tried to present enough reasons why you need to be yourself and to give you the permission to lean into that, with exercises that will help you to get to that.  It's tough work but once you do it, oh my God, it's fun. 



 

CHRIS:

Brilliant. Like I say, I've read the first few chapters. It's a really readable experience, which is important. And I think you're, you're on the money again. I think you're ahead of the curve. I'm looking forward to reading and rest. Minter it's been great having you on. Thank you for your time. Sam and I have been following you for a long time, so it's great to actually have you on Across the Pond.

 

MINTER:

It's been my pleasure. Thanks Sam. Thanks Chris. 

 

SAM:

Thanks everybody. It's been  an exciting show to do, I loved being part of it. So have a great week, across the pond.