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CEO Forum Interview With Scott Miller

Scott Miller| CEO – G100 Network

Succeeding at Succession

Scott Miller currently serves as CEO of G100 Network, a network of private learning communities for current and rising CEOs and the senior executives who work with them. The cornerstone of G100Network is G100, a private group of chief executives of the world’s largest and most significant companies. G100 Network is privately held.

Previously, Mr. Miller served as the President of the Hyatt Hotels and Resorts Corporation, and prior to that as CEO of United Infrastructure Company, a company owned by Peter Kiewit and Sons, and Bechtel Enterprises, dedicated to infrastructure acquisition, development, and operation.

His early career was as a founding partner of The John Buck Company, a Chicago based real estate brokerage, management, and development company. Mr. Miller serves on the boards of various privately held companies. Additionally, Mr. Miller serves as a Special Advisor to General Atlantic. He is also a member of the boards of the Aspen Community Foundation and The Kravis Leadership Institute.

Mr. Miller is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of Chicago Business School.


Robert Reiss: What really is G100?

Scott Miller: G100 is a membership organization made up of about a 110 or so public company CEOs, plus the heads of the five largest private equity firms, as well as the heads of EY, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Lazard, Accenture, and McKinsey. We bring members together twice a year to have candid, off-the-record conversations, CEO-to-CEO, about issues of business execution.


What are the issues you talk about?
We really try to get all of the issues that are confronting the CEO agenda today. We talk about organic growth, innovation, and healthcare reform. We also talk about global talent, increasing costs, productivity, and all of the things that are or ought to be on the mind of the CEO.


Let’s talk structure. Getting CEOs together isn’t easy. It’s a little like herding cats.


How long are they together and what is the type of agenda?
We see ourselves, frankly, as competing for the CEOs’ time. As a consequence, we want to maximize the use of their time. A typical G100 meeting will convene at 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon. We’ll have one 90 minute discussion on a topic. We’ll break for a cocktail session and then a dinner with a guest speaker. We will then reconvene on a Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. for an informal breakfast. The meeting starts promptly at 8:00 and between 8:00 a.m. and noon, we will host three additional topics somewhere between an hour and 90 minutes in length with a coffee break in between.

We offer an informal lunch. Some people take advantage of it. Others take advantage that they are in New York and run to meet customers, suppliers, friends, and other business contacts.


With this exclusive group of the top CEOs, who do you get as the faculty at your meetings?
We are always looking for experts on a particular topic. Most often, they are sitting CEOs, sometimes they’re actually our members, and other times they are recently retired CEOs. On occasion we bring people in from academia. We bring in government officials occasionally. We find them across the globe, and they are really the best we can find to give a brief introduction and help set the tone of the conversation from the dais. Then we allow our members to really ask questions, offer comments and lead the session in a direction that’s most productive for them.


Are you allowed to share who some of the faculty members are?
Oh, absolutely. For years, in the beginning, we actually had Jack Welch work with us as the moderator. Over time, Jack has continued to be an advisor to us. We’ve heard from A.G. Lafley of Proctor & Gamble, Jim Kilts of Gillette, and Anne Mulcahy of Xerox, among others. We have hosted a dinner with the Prime Minister of Singapore, for instance, with 65 CEOs. We are doing a variety of things to bring CEOs together with knowledge experts on issues that are pertinent to the CEO agenda.


How do you determine what is pertinent to the CEO agenda?
The simple answer is that we are always asking CEOs and their advisors what they should be thinking about on a real-time basis, and what may be around the corner for them.

We do that very deliberately by hosting advisor dinners around the country. We also do this on a couple of occasions outside of the country. We will get somebody like Dominic Barton, who’s the managing partner of McKinsey, to host a dinner for us in London. We invited about 65 people to that dinner. We had a conversation about what should be on the mind of the CEO.

And from that we solicit all kinds of ideasabout what people are thinking as sitting CEOs, recently retired CEOs, aspirational CEOs, and as advisors to CEOs – what should be on their minds? What should be on their agenda? Through that, we boil it down to a key number of topics on a per meeting basis and then look to match those topics with the best experts on the subject that we can find.


CEOs learn most from other industries and other CEOs, so I assume that the learning is both from the faculty, but also from the power of the networking.
Absolutely! I think of it as being akin to everyone’s university or college experience. You, of course, gain part of your education in the classroom; there’s no doubt about it. But many will argue that you gain as much, if not more, in the dormitory. That is also the way with our G100 meetings. We host these plenary sessions. They’re rich with content and they often times create new interesting debates around a particular topic. At the same time, during the breaks, our members have an opportunity to get together and talk to one another. I would say that in as many instances as somebody learned something in a plenary session, they also learned something during the break, as well.

Over time we’ve been refining this meeting with the objective of maximizing the CEO’s time. Our simple objective for the meeting is to have each and every CEO leave the meeting with three to five actionable ideas for the following Monday, that they’ll do differently than they did the proceeding Monday. They’re going to cause, in the best of circumstances, their companies to perform better over time.


A quick question about your past. You were president of Hyatt Corporation?


What lessons did you learn as president in being a leader yourself?
The key to any successful leader is two-fold: First, you need to surround yourself with people who are your equals or better. And second, you need to communicate relentlessly. You need to understand where it is you’re trying to take the organization, and then communicate that as often and as frequently as you possibly can.

I’ve heard A.G. Lafley say at a number of meetings, it takes somebody hearing something seven times before they fully understand it, and I actually really believe that. Not that people are incapable of comprehending something. That’s not the issue. The issue is really baking it into their everyday action and making them understand that this is part of the core value, mission, and strategy of the organization.


You have something called the “Next Generation Leadership” program. Talk about that concept.
One observation that we made during G100 meetings and conversations over the past six years is that “succession” as a topic is under served. If you consider that as being one of the principal responsibilities of sitting CEOs and their board, as a topic it is actually under- served. That is akin to the issue of wills in the United States: We all know we need one and we all think that we can defer it until tomorrow. But that actual act of addressing it has to bring in a certain realization of mortality and finality and none of us humans really like to deal with that. So succession is similar and so gets under-served and an issue on CEOs’ agendas.

We, therefore, saw this incredible opportunity to take the knowledge of recently retired CEOs and ask them to come and be the faculty. They use their experiences as the content and teach classes and seminars, in three two–day seminars. The attendees are senior executives — some of whom are CEO succession candidates — and all of whom are some of the most talented leaders in an organization. The participants have been nominated either by their sitting CEO or by their board, or others.

The objective of NGL is to effectuate a transfer of the knowledge of how to lead at the highest levels, including what the role of the CEO is, to these candidates.


When you say these are people who can become a CEO, they cannot just sign up for it. They need approval of their own CEO. And these are usually of larger companies, correct?


What types of titles do you find most frequently?
We’re finding line managers of big divisions.

We also find chief marketing officers. In a couple of occasions, it’s actually the CHRO. We have the CFO in other instances. So it’s very senior people. Occasionally, it’s actually the COO, somebody maybe who has already been designated as the next CEO.


So it’s not always someone designated but someone with the potential?
Correct. And often companies will send more than one person. They’ll look and conclude that they aren’t prepared to select somebody today, but they do want to expand their bench of potential CEO succession candidates and enrich their leadership culture across the company. So they may send multiple candidates.


Out of these, what type of success rates have you had with people becoming CEO after taking NGL?
We have approximately 23 people who are now sitting CEOs who graduated from this program, out of 90 who have taken it.


So about 25% of people who take the NGL program actually end up becoming CEOs?


I don’t think anyone in the world has that track record.
It’s probably true. This is a really unique program. Obviously, we are, in some ways, catering to people who are already on the fast track for that possibility, but we’re certainly not limited to that, and, in the end, it is really a testament to the caliber of the participants.


So let’s talk about that caliber. What’s an example of someone who took the course?
I can give you several examples: Inge Thulin who’s now the sitting CEO of 3M said to me that the great benefit of Next Generation Leadership was that before he attended, he knew only two CEOs prior to coming to the program which were his two predecessors at 3M – Jim McNerney who is now the CEO of Boeing, and George Buckley, who was his immediate predecessor of 3M. In the three, two-day seminars of Next Generation Leadership, Inge told me that he was introduced to 21 different CEOs. And he said interestingly, that in that experience he didn’t see himself individually in any one of the other CEOs, but he did see himself in the amalgamation of a number of those people and from his point of view, it gave him permission to be authentic, true-to-himself, and in his own leadership style. We can all see that the performance of 3M in Inge’s tenure has been spectacular.

Another example would be Martin Craighead who’s now the CEO of Baker Hughes. Martin Craighead had said to me something really fascinating on the day that he took the job; he said, “Scott, I went from being the smartest Number Two guy in the room on Friday to being the dumbest Number One guy on Monday morning as I became the CEO.”


Let’s talk about the actual faculty for this. Is it the same as G100 or is it different?
No, here we really focus on creating the faculty from recently retired CEOs. We have one CEO come and serve as the session chair for the two days. Some examples of people who have served in that role are: Steven Reinemund, formerly of PepsiCo; Anne Mulcahy of Xerox; Ron Sugar at Northrop Grumman; Jim Kilts from Gillette. The next meeting that we’re hosting is with Sam Palmisano from IBM.

So you can see that we have an incredible richness of CEOs who are serving as the session chairs. We then fill that in with other recently retired and sitting CEOs, as well as directors of large public companies. In NGL, as opposed to G100 where the agenda for the meetings are changing pursuant to the challenges facing CEOs in the current marketplace, it is more structured, and we’re focused on issues of the role of the CEO. How do you deal with your board? What are the responsibilities of the CEO? How do you manage your time? How do you deal with human resource issues and human capital issues? How do you use your balance sheet as a strategic asset? How do you establish your strategy, and how do you think about maximizing business execution and performance?


If people want to get in touch with NGL, how would they do that?
The easiest way is to go to and They’re both pretty opaque because we’re really not marketing to the public. But they will give you directions on how to contact us. My direct e-mail is [email protected] and we would welcome all inquiries.


Scott, it has been a pleasure having you on the CEO Show.
Thank you for having me.


The entire interview is available for download here.