The Legal Department

Leadership, Team Building, And Career Pivots In The Legal Department: Scott Becker Becker’s Healthcare

The Legal Department | Scott-Becker | Becker's Healthcare

 

Scott Becker created a massive media company while working as a lawyer. Over several decades, he and his CEO, Jessica Cole, built Becker’s Healthcare, the largest media company focused solely on the healthcare industry. Today, with several daily newsletters, podcasts, conferences, and other events, Scott and Jessica develop an essential community for all healthcare business leaders. In this episode, hear how Scott built Becker’s by doubling down on his passion and motivation for team building and developing people. He shares why having incredible people skills and being a warm and nice person is essential for all leaders. He talks about moving away from the “traditional” law firm partner approach towards a place of generosity, sharing opportunities with his team, and giving credit to those who do the work. You won’t want to miss this engaging conversation.

Listen to the podcast here

 

Leadership, Team Building, And Career Pivots In The Legal Department: Scott Becker Becker’s Healthcare

Scott Becker, Publisher, Founder of Becker’s Healthcare, also Partner, former Chair of the Healthcare Department and Board Member McGuireWoods. Wonderful double career, but great fun. If I have a fun fact, I have so many of them, I’ll go with one of them is that my first car was a ‘73 Monte Carlo, which is a white car that was the most beaten-up car you could ever see in the history of the world. It was great fun. I love that car. I wish I still had that car. It was the best thing ever.

I am beyond thrilled to be welcoming Scott Becker, Founder of Becker’s Healthcare and Partner at McGuireWoods to the show. I have followed Scott throughout my career in healthcare, and he is a true force, a convener, and a lawyer. I think the confluence of media and legal is a great conversation for us to have. Scott, how are you?

Great, Stacy. Thank you so much for having me. What a pleasure to get to visit with you. Last time I got to visit with you, I got to interview you. It’s much more fun to get a chance to be interviewed by you. Thank you for having me.

I don’t want to necessarily go into the full origin story of Becker’s Healthcare, but I do think it’d be good to give the audience a sense of what it is because my audience is a mix of healthcare and non-healthcare people. I know it is a must-have for my morning coffee, and I’m looking at my email about what’s going on in healthcare. Can you tell everyone what Becker’s Healthcare is?

Becker’s Healthcare

Becker’s Healthcare is a healthcare media company. What I mean by that is when we first got started in a serious way, it was 30 years ago or so, but then it accelerated 20 years ago. The idea was to be the Wall Street Journal of Healthcare for hospitals and health systems, the core business news that people need to know who is in the healthcare system business, hospitals and health systems, surgery centers, orthopedic and spine practices, now health IT and digital health and some other areas.

The idea is we have the idea that businesses, newsletters, almost all electronics nowadays, websites, conferences where we’ve had people speak like Hillary Clinton, Nikki Haley, President Bush, President Clinton, a whole host of different types of leaders and celebrities and of course, great leaders in health systems. It’s conferences, digital events.

The idea is to be the core news that people running health systems have to keep up to date on to know what trends they’re watching. This is, of course, like all years, a fasting year in healthcare and watching closely. The idea is to give leaders like yourself a sense of, “I see this at our own system, but what are other people seeing and does it resonate with what we’re seeing or is it different? That’s what Becker’s Healthcare is. We’ve got a 30-person editorial journalism team. We also have podcasts, websites and conferences. For me, it’s been a great fun, passion, and business and a chance to work with many interesting people.

I’m not trying to pander to you or anything, but I almost can’t imagine working in healthcare without having Becker’s Healthcare. Without having that daily dose of a market scan. I think you could grab both the personal or what I call the US Weekly stories in healthcare, but also what’s going on in business with the regulators. A little bit of litigation. It’s a broad but targeted publication, so I love it.

Thank you. That’s the highest compliment that people say, “We couldn’t work without it,” which is so nice. We moved a long time ago to what now became everybody does, but it was short-form journalism before short journalism was a thing. Most of the stories are several paragraphs. They’re not twenty paragraphs.

It’s perfect. No one has time exactly to dig into it. Don’t be offended. I call it snackable, like I can crunch on it a little bit. You started it because you were a lawyer and the show is targeted to lawyers. You are a lawyer, and you have worked in a law firm most of your career as well. You started this as an email newsletter for client development. Did you have an intention that it was going to become a big media juggernaut in healthcare?

Not at all. I started it literally in my late twenties, and I won’t tell you how old I was, but it was a long time ago. I started in my late twenties, and the idea was that the first firm I was at was a great firm, but it was a brutal firm if you weren’t what’s called a rainmaker. When I got serious about my legal career was after the first firm. The one thing I knew, I didn’t know what I wanted to be an expert in. I knew I wanted to be an expert at something, but I knew I wanted to be someone who had control of their life. My first firm, it could be Friday afternoon, and I get a plane to go to the other side of the country and say, “I had a weekend plan,” or I’d be a 50-year-old or my age person.

Back in the day, if you didn’t have your own practice, you have some independence, and this was a long time ago, but you were treated so poorly. You’re like a cog in the wheel. I never wanted to treat anybody like that, but I wanted to have my own independence. I was very intent on building a practice. My second firm that I joined was a firm called Ross and Hardies that then merged into McGuireWoods. People say they’re retired lawyer, they’re a recovered lawyer. I’ve never been able to quite recover from it. I enjoy my colleagues tremendously. I’m still very close with some of our court clients and I love it. When I started at my second firm, which was Ross and Hardie’s, which merged into McGuireWoods, I was very intentional about building a practice.

I started what now would be called a thought leadership effort, which is a small newsletter, a small conference. This literally goes back 30-plus years ago and it was nothing for a long time. It was relatively small and at some point, it kept on picking up momentum. It was very interesting to me. It was like, as a lawyer, as a doctor, as most professionals, if you do that for 30, 40 years, it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to be burnt out.

For me, doing law and doing marketing or starting to seed this and build this business became interesting and they complimented each other very well and I’ve never been able to give up either, quite frankly. I’ve tried at different times, but I’ve never been able to give up. I’ve enjoyed both a lot. It grew into a serious healthcare media company and it’s given me a chance to visit with wonderful people. It’s been literally fantastic.

I got to say, so on that, because there’s a lot I want to pull on there, but one of the things I notice about you and hear people that know you as well is that you can tell that you’re somebody who enjoys connecting with people. I think that comes through when you’re interviewing people. It comes through in your conferences. It comes through on your podcast. I think when we talked before, you said, “It’s important to be both competent and nice.” I think those things are not necessarily correlated with lawyers or legal training. Was that something you developed or is that who you are?

I think it’s always a mix of things. We have so many different theories. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong. One of the things I get a chance to, I’ve been at my media company for 30 years. I no longer run the media company. One of my partners, Jessica Cole, who’s the CEO, runs it and has run it for a long time now. It was the most magnificent hire I probably ever made in my career. Similarly in the law firm, I’ve been in the law firm for 30 years. Once in a while, I get to interview somebody in my podcast that’s been in one place for 20, 30, 40 years. I find it to be an interesting question and set of issues because what you find is in the current world, very few people do that.

It’s a little bit generational, but certainly, it happens in the younger generation in their 20s and 30s. Nobody expects to stay at the same place for 30-plus years. I think as I interview people and talk to people about this question, it’s of course of interest to me because I’ve done it. How did you get up at the same place for 30 years? The things I come up with is you got to be pretty good at what you do. You don’t have to be fantastic. You got to be pretty good at what you do. You can’t be a bad person.

You better be brilliant. If you’re a jerk, you better be pretty fricking brilliant.

If you're you, better be brilliant. If you're a jerk, you better be pretty. Click To Tweet

Even if you’re brilliant, you can only get away with that so much because there’s always somebody who wants to shoot you if you’re a bad person and become the job. It’s like I came up in interviewing much people in this concept that you have to be competent and likable. You don’t have to be like Mr. Rah-Rah or the most outgoing woman or man, but you have to be likable. You probably have to be good at what you do.

It doesn’t mean that you’re the best. Nobody’s looking to be the target. You’ve got to be constantly, in some ways, trying to improve and thrive and get better. No question. I do think competent and likable are a big part of anybody staying any place for a long period of time. It could be 10 years, doesn’t have be 20 years, but it’s like you have to do a little bit of both because sooner or later somebody’s going to shoot you if you’re a jerk. Similarly, if you’re incompetent, you get cut sooner as well.

Preparing for our conversation, I listened to another show that you were on and you talked about an interaction at your law firm early in your career with a junior attorney who took you aside and said basically that you’re not going to get very far if you’re not a nice guy. Can you talk about that?

Thank you for reminding me. I forgot to bring that up. There was a young lawyer, Marcello Corpus, smart young person. I’m not proud of this. It goes back to the ‘90s when people wanted to accelerate projects and get things done. There would be a level of fortitude, yelling, aggressiveness that you don’t see in current work culture. It’s not an excuse, but it was common. It’s a big law firm.

It’s how you’re trained. I’m sure someone did that to you when you were an associate.

In the old days, doctors would yell at nurses and it’s all bad behavior, but I had the good luck. I had the good luck of having two conversations early in my career. Two very different people. One was this Marcelo. He saw me yell at a junior associate who may or might not have done something wrong. It doesn’t matter. His point was that when you do that, you may be right, but you so screw up our culture that no one wants to work with you. No one wants to build a team with you and no one to do anything because it’s like you pleased the client that day by turning it around and getting it done, but you screwed up our culture.

One of the things we talk about regularly is if you’re going to build a business, you better build teams better, something that customers want and you better be passionate and motivates to do it. Marcelo was crazy helpful to me. He was junior to me at the time and ended up having a brilliant career. It took a lot of wherewithal for him to pull me aside. He was so polite about it. He didn’t even do it in front of everybody.

He pulled me aside and tried to explain to me, and the only thing I’ll take for it is, I was able to change the way I dealt with people overnight. I got it. It was like an a-ha moment for me. It was periodic course my career. He’s worked with me for 30 years. He’s not always perfect. That’s for sure true. I certainly improved dramatically from that moment on. I give a lot of credit to him.

The other person I give a lot of credit to, we always talk about in business, if you’re going to build a business, you better have passion and motivation. You better build teams and you better have something that the customers want. Another person I talked to early in my career was a lawyer at Latham, another large firm that had a brilliant healthcare practice. This guy Jerry Peters. Jerry sat down with me one day and said his trick to building a great practice, which is the same as any business, was building great teams.

These things seem so clear in hindsight, but when you’re a young person building a business or a practice or building a team, whatever you’re doing, to me it was so instrumental. You can’t get from here to there. You can’t be marketing and growing the business if you also have to do every single thing yourself. If you want to do big things, you have to build serious teams and cultivate the next generation of leaders.

If you also have to do every single thing yourself and do big things, you have to build serious teams. Click To Tweet

Can you talk about how you do that and how you build teams? I was talking with Scott Westfall, who’s the director of executive education at Harvard Law School and the executive programs focus on helping lawyers develop team-building skills. He noted, and this was my experience, that at the legal training, both in law school and in the firm, rewards individual contribution. It is not set up to train you to think about a team mentality, how to align people, how to motivate people. It sounds like these conversations woke you up, but tactically, can you advise the audience on how to do that?

Sure. I think there’s a perspective, which is thrive and thrive. I’ll give you the simple thought in this, that there’s some Venn diagram of you are thriving as an individual, the firm is thriving, and the person that you’re working with in your team is both overlapping with that they’re thriving with you and the firm, but they’re also thriving themselves.

We used to joke. We had a boss at one time, and this sounds so catty at this point, but the concept was that $0.01 for him would be more important than $100 for me. I say that jokingly, but you talk about the individual credit system in law firms and so forth. One of the early people I worked for, I think we all very much felt that if he could get one more penny, it was more important than us getting one more dollar.

Many things in life you learn is a reaction to something you saw. For me, this was also a light bulb thing of like, if I want to develop other leaders, it can’t be me and everybody else. It’s got to be me and them thriving side by side with me, growing, and so forth. One contribution I’m particularly proud of in the law firm is that the people who grew up under my leadership became the leaders of the firm and the department and so forth.

I was the chair of our healthcare department for fourteen years. The person who followed me and worked with me on client development and clients and so forth is now on the firm’s executive committee and helps to lead the firm. Another person who worked with me now leads to the national healthcare practice. Another person who worked closely with me leads the private equity practice. They’ve all become more established larger practices than I had. They’ve done a tremendous job but you have to be willing to have your ego pieces planted a little bit.

The Legal Department | Scott-Becker | Becker's Healthcare
Becker’s Healthcare: You have to be willing to have your ego suspended a bit.

 

You have a coaching tree like Andy Reed.

I view it as people say, like, “Were you a great trainer or coach?” I would say no. I think this is a very important point. What happens is if you work with 20 people, what I would view it as, I was a far better. If you were to find the two, scout versus coach versus trainer, I would say I was not a very great trainer. I trained us by example, such as in terms of team building; every week, we held meetings with our core client teams. Every meeting was on core issues in the healthcare media business, we held meetings constantly, constant core huddles around what we’re doing.

When something was important, we did it daily. That might’ve been leading by example, but the real leadership was this person’s hyper talented. I don’t care if they’re 22, I don’t care if they’re a woman, a man, they’re Black, they’re White, they’re Indian, they’re Asian, they’re not, whatever they are, I don’t care.

I don’t care if they’re straight or gay. They are talented. I want them on my team for the long run. I would view it as far more that we’re able to cultivate lots leaders because we’re able to recognize here’s people with uncommon drive, people that want to do well, and people with great personal skills. Early on in my media business, the key to the success of my media business was that we had a customer need and did all those things, but I had a young person working with me out of college, Jessica Cole, now the CEO. This was when I was first building a media company team and had 10 or 15 employees. They were all out of my own pocket. It was an expensive undertaking.

They were all different ages, all different places working largely remotely. This was back in the day when remote work wasn’t a thing. Jessica was a young person who was outperforming everybody, just literally out of college. In the law firm, you work with young, smart people. I was used to this. About 3 or 4 years into this, I put Jessica in charge. I was running a full-time practice. I would say, “Did I coach Jessica well? Did I train Jessica well?” No. I recognized that she was out performing everybody and I wasn’t afraid to double down on that person.

I view it as like, and everybody’s different. There’s a person who works from Amber Walton on the executive committee now. She was a great trainer of people, a great coach of people. She could work with people that were super smart, not super smart, and bring them all up to speed and do great with all of them. It was an amazing trait. Another partner of ours, Jim Riley, was able to do the same thing. Me, I have the patience of a three-year-old. I say that jokingly, but there’s some truth to it. I was able to recognize brilliant people and give them lots of room and invest in them.

I think you’re maybe short selling yourself a little bit because the discipline around putting together those weekly meetings or making those even more focused, in my experience, getting lawyers to sit in meetings if they’re not billing is hard. I think that discipline and modeling are important for us to connect, communicate, and be on the same page. I think that that’s leadership for sure.

We did it constantly. Early on, same thing in short-form journalism. Same thing with this. The meetings didn’t have to be an hour meeting. We had it one point in healthcare. In the healthcare group, we had X number of core clients that 20% of the clients that paid the 80% of the bills. We spent a lot of time, there’d be twenty-minute meetings around, “What’s going on? Give us a report. You lead that client. What’s happening with it? What’s going on? Do you need help? Do you have resources? Do you have what you need? Is the client getting taken care of?”

Developing Leaders

They were very simple. I ran the healthcare department. It was the same agenda every meeting to go through the core things that are going on. There was an efficiency to it that was fantastic. I’m a huge believer people talk about developing leaders, and this is one of the great secrets of business, it was hard in an in-person environment. It’s hard in a remote environment. If anything, in the remote environment, you have to double down on these regular huddles and regular communications. It doesn’t happen as organically, but it’s important to developing leaders.

The Legal Department | Scott-Becker | Becker's Healthcare
Becker’s Healthcare: Developing leaders and this is one of the great secrets of business.

 

I was very good about it. I was very good for a long time about being both a business generator and executing on business where we could do both. At some point, you get to a spot where there’s too much going on. It’s very hard to do both. People don’t do it so much anymore. Up until a few years ago, big clients would say to me, “Can you handle our transaction?” Of course, me handling it directly, it wouldn’t make sense. It’s not that it wouldn’t make sense from a financial standpoint, it would’ve made sense from a quality standpoint.

It’s not your day-to-day.

They’re doing it every day. That’s what they do. You end up understanding at some point, growing into different roles and those are hard pivots and transitions in one’s career as well. I always split time between the law and the business, and it’s always been a mix of both. The real critical part was first building a practice. The time was spent between taking care of clients and building a practice. Those were essentially two full-time jobs. You’re both building a practice and you’re taking care of clients. Those are two full-time jobs. If I were to put it in a general statement, sometime in my 30s, I built a legal practice, in my 40s, more or less built the media company.

They were overlapping very much. At one point, the time management went from less executing legal transactions and actually doing law to still running teams in the law firm, running teams in the media company, and doing both. At one time in my early legal career, 95% of my energy would go towards getting better as a lawyer. Over time, it became better at managing people and generating business. Over time, it split more towards generating and growing the media company, building teams there, and ensuring we’re connecting right with the audience there. I’d say that’s the evolution of it. Now my partners will tell you this: I don’t bill very many hours, but we try to stay integrally related with the teams, people, and clients and do the same thing with the media company.

I’m sure you’re a huge funnel for the firm. You know everyone in healthcare and you have a lot of trust and confidence from folks in the market.

It’s a constant challenge. For a very long time, I was one of the bigger business generators at the firm, and then some of the very important clients are still clients that originated under myself. This next generation of lawyers grew and took care of those clients. It’s always unclear. What I was good at goes back to thriving. I was good at earlier on than most partners at being excited about transferring business and credits to other lawyers. That was an integral part of building teams, too.

We’re always a believer. If you don’t find leadership opportunities for great people, if you don’t find credit for great people, sooner or later, they either get upset or irritated or they find other opportunities, even if they don’t voice it. We’re always good about finding opportunities and credits for others before it gets to the spot where people want to take all yours.

Find opportunities and credits for others before it gets to the point where they find other opportunities. Click To Tweet

I think you’re short-selling your leadership team development. To be a good leader, I think you have to be generous with your team. You talk about the different decades. You said you need passion and motivation to build a business. When we spoke before, you said double down on what you like. I wonder, does that mantra track how you spent your time in those different decades and you liked things? What do you like now?

I think they’re great questions. We’re always a believer. In business, we would always talk about doubling down on great people, doubling down on great clients. You spend the vast majority of your time and people that want to do great on clients that are very important. You keep on doubling down. I’ve served over the course of my career on different boards of companies, and we’ll start with some people who are new idea people. I’m always a believer that before coming up with new ideas, it’s important to understand your core business. Where do revenues and profits come from? Who are your most important people? Who are your most important customers? You spend 80% of your time there, 10%, 20% on other places.

One of the challenges, of course, is that throughout one’s career, for most of us at least, and this is certainly in my experience, passion and motivation sometimes come very easy and sometimes much harder. Sometimes it’s natural. As I put it, it’s very drawn to put feet in the water in terms of whatever the phrase kills us of building a legal practice. At some point, it became interesting and exciting to me.

I remember my first year trying to build a legal practice, I generated 7,000 in legal business, which anybody who’s in legal business, they know that that’s a nothing sum. The next year was $50,000. I was a young associate, and it was like $200,000, $600,000 that grew into the millions. It was a fascinating thing. I didn’t have to push myself. It got exciting to me. It gave me a challenge. It was like almost like a game. In building a media business, we’ve got 100-plus employees or somewhere around there, and it’s became a waiver of love.

It wasn’t like I didn’t have to search out, but it wasn’t like it became a waiver of love when I started. It took years to messing around with it, figuring it out, until it became a labor of love. It’s such a bad word in this world. When you’re younger, for me, it was the business and the children. I wasn’t golfing, I wasn’t doing all those kinds of things. I wasn’t doing guys’ nights out. It just wasn’t my world. As you get older, you move from a couple passions or pursuits to often more of a portfolio of life. I’m always amazed at these people like Carl Icahn, who are still at 100% at 80 or 90 years old.

Most of us aren’t like that. Most of it becomes more of life as you get older, but it becomes charitable interest, business interest, investment interest, children and family interest, sports interest, and fitness interest. It’s different. It’s not better or worse. In some ways, you’re constantly trying to re-cultivate passions, but most of us don’t have the energy or the focus to handle stress like we might’ve done at one point in that level of stress.

Years ago, one of my partners was having a jokingly tiff about something, and the partner said to me, “Do you want to retake this over?” I’m like, “No, I can’t do that anymore. You’re doing great.” The reality of that is we moved into different spots. I was fortunate I turned over to the department of our healthcare department before anybody was ready for me to, but I’d done it for fourteen years.

It was a long time. The firm was like, “You can’t step down.” This goes back a long time ago. Amber took over and did a magnificent job. They’re like, “You were right. We’re better off with her, not you.” I say that jokingly, but the energy she had to put into running a law department is constantly recruiting, retaining, and working with people. We had a 50, 60-person department. It was constant efforts at recruiting great people, cultivating great people, training great people. At some point, it’s like, you realize there’s why they say there’s rules that most ceos have X number of years as a tenure as a CEO because the other secret of it is to do it right takes tremendous energy.

You want to stay fresh and, to your earlier point, giving people who you’re developing those opportunities. We don’t need to be pigs about it. There’s enough fun stuff. I don’t know how you feel, but as I get further along in my career, it’s almost like I get a little bit of ADD because there’s so much I want to do and I’m so interested in things, but it’s hard to figure out where you want to spend your time.

I think that’s exactly right. There are so many different opportunities. There’s people that are ready to step into those roles and they deserve to step into those roles and we’re all better off if they step into those roles. The business, the companies, everything.

There’s abundance. There’s enough for people to do. We talked earlier, I know we’re both healthcare lawyers and I know you had a niche ambulatory surgery center space and we talked before about how you can get pigeonholed or known for being one type of lawyer. You’re more than that. I wondered if you could share how you break out of those boxes. Even as a lawyer, generally, I don’t know if you feel this way when you walk into a room and it’s almost like, the lawyer’s here, it’s a little bit of a downer.

This is complicated for lawyers because lawyers need to specialize to build a practice. They’re very scared to specialize because you’re afraid. If I specialize in the wrong world, it doesn’t work, I’ve cut myself off. When I was first developing a practice, I ended up building a practice originally in the surgery center area when the surgery center area was getting going. People would say to me, “You’re so smart. You hit that exactly right. I would’ve to remind them, “No, not exactly.” What I did was, when I first started, I tried out three different areas. It was back in the day. This goes back to the early ‘90s or so, but it was disease management, cardi and ambulatory surgery centers.

What I did, which I think will be a trend or something I tend to do throughout my career, I tested out all the different areas. We spent a lot of time trying to cultivate business in all three areas and develop leadership in all three areas. This will be a reference that many don’t remember. If you ever go to a sports event, they used to have on the big scoreboard, the M&M race. They’d have three different M&Ms running and one of them would run faster than the others. What happens is, when I started testing these different areas, the surgery center area was the fastest M&M. It was ahead of the others. What I ended up doing was doubling and tripling down on the surgery center area. It wasn’t that I was so smart at all.

I had no idea it would be a great area. It happened to be a great area. I was smart about not being close-minded, and I couldn’t test out a few different areas. When people try and pick a niche, it’s so hard abstractly to pick anything, when I talk to my children about picking a career, I say at the end of the day, for most of us, there’s a lot of trial and error in it. It’s not like you wake up. My daughter ended up going to University of Michigan, but we went to an early registration thing. We went to an early registration thing at Northwestern here in Chicago. There were kids in the 12-person group that must have been 17 or 18 who seemingly knew what they wanted to do for the next 50 years. It was very intimidating to me.

They think they know.

I agree with that. It was intimidating to me. To my daughter, I was like, “How does that person know exactly what they want to do? Are you kidding me?” Most of us don’t. It’s a lot of trial and error. It was the same thing with building a business. To break out of that was a war. I look at most people, and there are two different conflicting thoughts here. People who become an expert in something, in anything, there’s a huge positive to it because they know the effort it took to become an expert in that. When somebody becomes great at anything, I often think, “That person’s a capable person.”

The great divide, though, is that some people become great at something, and now they think their brilliance translates to everything else. They forget that what got them to be great in that area took a ton of discipline, a ton of hard work, a ton of everything to get there. You’ll have people that do great in one business and completely blow money in another business because you think they’re brilliant business people.

They forgot all the steps they took to become great in business number one or area number one. That’s one great divide we see. The second thing is breaking out of that area. When we were competing for legal business against other large firms, McGuire, which is a billion-dollar firm, it’s one of the top 20, 30 firms in the world, people that I was competing with used to say, “Scott’s very bright, but all we know is the surgery centers.”

How do you feel about that? It gets under my skin to hear that. It’s like, “Whatever. How do you know?”

It was one of those things. There are two pieces of that as well. On one hand, I was irritated by it. On the other hand, there’s a great phrase in business that you don’t know you’ve made any progress until somebody punches you in the nose. The concept being that people were willing to take shots at me, it was like, “I guess I could live with that.”

Some of our most important clients of the firm over the years have come through originally getting a foot in the door through that expertise and then having the relationship grow tremendously to many other areas. It’s like you take it with a grain of salt, but it’s the same thing. I’d be at parties or social gatherings and somebody who was a condescending person would say, “Are you still billing all those hours? Aren’t you a cute little lawyer, Scott?” Those are the people that bring out the very worst in me. It is what it is, but you get that like, “You’re just a lawyer. You’re just a healthcare lawyer,’ that niche. At some point, it creates motivation and you also have to let it go.

The Legal Department | Scott-Becker | Becker's Healthcare
Becker’s Healthcare: Get a foot in the door through that expertise and grow the relationship tremendously.

 

I can see two sides of that coin. You get known for something, which is how you get in the room, and then you do have to be somebody who thinks a little broader and is able to sell and excel in those other areas and not let it drag you down. Obviously, it didn’t hurt you too bad to get known.

No, but we think that’s right. We see people in business, like some of my best partners, either it’s Holly Buckley, who works with me closely or Amber, Jessica or others in business or law. Holly and Amber in the law firm, their ability to connect dots like, “We do this for them. There’s this company that’s doing that or this partner’s doing that and this partner does that, but that partner is so good for this associate that they could also work on this,” whatever it might be.

Some of their skills are transferable, and some of what we’re doing is transferable, but this ability to connect dots and see like, “I’ve got that client. I don’t have to get business out of it, but I connect that client to that client.” They might get along and it might be very helpful for them, but the ability for people to connect dots and a few of the colleagues I work with are good at it, to be able to put those different dots together.

Thinking broadly is advice for the audience too. I’m interested in your experience and learning from you about your interviews. As you mentioned, you interviewed Hillary Clinton, George Bush, and Shaquille O’Neal, I could go on and on. Martha Stewart, Mark Cuban, all these titans in industry and politics and etc. You have good conversations with them and get the gold from them. I wonder if you have some advice as I am trying to develop myself as an interviewer or moderator how to do that. What are your top tips and tricks for being a good interviewer?

A Good Interviewer

There are two things that I think about constantly. One is that it’s almost like we said about leaders earlier. Most of the people that I interview is very good at talking. They’ve got very good personal skills. They’re good at it. I would start off as a centrist politically. I probably read too much about Hillary before. I’ve met her a few times. You meet Hillary in person and she might be the nicest person you’ll ever meet. Literally like a pleasure. I did not expect that. That might say a little bit too much about my own politics. I didn’t expect it, but one of the most lovely persons in the world and a pleasure. Most of these people have incredible personal skills. They almost all do. Especially the ones who are sports celebrities, business celebrities, or entertainment celebrities.

Some of the people you mentioned, some of my colleagues have interviewed, not me, but many of them I’ve interviewed. Most of them have incredible personal skills. They’re easy to interview. The second thing that I learned, and we try to teach this to all the people that moderated our conferences, and you do a magnificent job of this, you do a great job of this, is that when you’re moderating, there are two core concepts.

First, you have to remember, you, as a moderator, think of yourself as 10% of the talking, 90% talking because it’s not about you. It’s about them. Where I’ve done poorly as a moderator, where I’ve done poorly as an interviewer and I’ve to get better over time is when I’m over-caffeinated and meaning too much, ask too many questions, can’t shut myself up. It’s about President Bush speaking, President Clinton speaking, Arnold Schwarzenegger you’re speaking, or Hillary Clinton or Nikki Haley, whoever it might be. It’s about them, not about me.

As a moderator as an interviewer, the more you’re clear that they’re the subject, not you, the better off you are. The worst times I’ve ever done were when I was a panel and I was supposed to be a moderator and panelist and it’s a horrible way to do it. It’s a horrible combo because you’re it is a mess. It doesn’t work well. That’s one concept.

The more you're clear that they're the subject, the better off you are. Click To Tweet

The second thing is you start with a relatively simple list of questions. For all of my podcasts, I do several podcasts a day. They’re short, they’re fifteen minutes. I almost start with a standard list of questions that are broad enough to let the person lean in. What are you most excited about? What are you most focused on? What trends you’re watching? Tell us about you and so forth and so on. The concept is with our interviewers at Becker’s Healthcare, the ones that do great, we’ll start off with a standard list of questions, but understand that the game is not a rote interview with that list of questions. It’s to ask follow-ups with each person.

I’m guilty of this right now. We tell our panelists, “If you talk for more than 30 seconds or 2 minutes at a time, it’s almost inevitable that your audience starts to go to their phone because nobody can listen to anybody from more than 30 to minutes to 30 seconds or 2 minutes at a time. You’re not giving speeches on the podium. You’re talking like a conversation.” We’ve tried a bunch of those things and we’ve gotten better over the years as I’ve recognized that when I’m over caffeinated, I can ask too much and not shut up. It’s about the interviewee, not the interviewer. There are times when we fail.

Those are great points. I’m going to take notes. I want to ask about your incredible personal skills. Is your advice? Maybe you can be a little more specific. What does it mean? What’s so great about Hillary, as an example? What are things we could model from her in terms of her skills?

Warm to people, nice to people, and immediately leans into a discussion. Obviously, politicians can be challenging when they’re working so hard at various times in their career to be so on message. I’ve had a chance to visit with Nikki Haley three different times. One time a long time ago. I loved visiting with her. The second time was a horrendous interview because she worked so hard to be perfectly on the message. The third time was a total pleasure again because I was almost turned off by her. After the second, I was like you can’t get off message that this is so annoying.

The third time I met with her, she was talking like a person again, not like on message. When they’re good at it, they’re both personable, they’re good with people, they’re nice to people, they’re warm. We had a chance to interview Venus Williams, the tennis player. She’s, by nature, a little bit quiet to start with, but when you get to know her, one of the warmest people in the world, as nice as they come and a pleasure and the audience loved her. She was both humble and warm and nice. Some of these people are more naturally gregarious versus others, but most of them are a pleasure.

The Legal Department | Scott-Becker | Becker's Healthcare
Becker’s Healthcare: Some people are more naturally gregarious than others.

 

I appreciate that. I met some famous folks myself. I met Oprah Winfrey. I was bowled over. It’s exactly what you were saying. I have never met a warmer, kinder, more open person. She didn’t have to be there. She didn’t have to spend time with us. I was like, “I want to be you.” I want to be someone so warm that what people want to be around. It was amazing.

That’s a great point, though. For example, most of these people that have been presidents or leaders and stuff like that, they don’t get there by not being nice to people or having good personal skills. It doesn’t mean that they’re all like perfect angels. Everybody has flaws, and some of them are hidden better than others. One of my closest friends is the warmest person ever to be around. You want to be around him because he’s easy to be around. We’re all different. I can’t be as warm as he is. I could be warm, but I can’t be as sweet as he is. He’s the nicest person ever. Some people are more than others.

You got to be who you are. I’m going to ask you a fun question. It’s my last question I ask all guests. Careers are hard, life’s hard, so I’ve used music throughout my career to get pumped up and to lift my spirits. I ask all guests, what is your pump-up song?

I don’t know if I have a truly specific pump-up song, but this ages me. It’s so embarrassing, but there would be things like Lynyrd Skynyrd Free as a Bird. There could be things like the Old Rush, Tom Sawyer, Salesman, and stuff like that. There are a bunch of different things that resonate, but there’s so many of them, it’s so embarrassing that my radio station is still set on like ‘70s on 7, stuff like that. It’s like the classic rock stuff that I grew up with. If I had to have anything, it’s those things.

They’re enduring. I’ll tell you, to make you feel better, my daughter bought an album of Credence Clearwater Revival. The ‘70s are in as far as the Gen Zs are concerned. Scott, thanks so much for being here. I’ve learned so much from you about leadership team building and not being boxed in. I can’t thank you enough for being on the show.

Stacy, what a great pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting me. What a delightful way to spend an hour. Thanks so much.

 

Important Links

Share this blog: