It all started with a ropes course. Scott began his career in the Marines. Afterwards, a fateful stint as a ropes course instructor in North Carolina’s Central Prison grew into an impressive career as a training expert for the North Carolina Department of Justice. He has now taken his expertise into the private sector. Scott shares his insights on finding his place, working relentlessly and being better tomorrow than you are today.
Talentedly: You first became involved in training as Correction Lieutenant for the North Carolina Department of Correction. Was there a specific “a-ha” moment when you said that moving forward you want to be a trainer?
Scott Brown: Not a specific moment – more of a slow awakening. My first experience as a trainer was on a high-ropes confidence course. They were looking for someone who had a big voice and no fear of heights – there were lots of us who were loud, but I was one of just a few who weren’t smart enough to be afraid of working on a rope strung between two tall North Carolina pines.
Training was a secondary function with the DOC. My primary function was working in the prison with the inmates. This was a maximum security prison with death row, a hospital and a mental health ward – not exactly a place filled with hope and change. I fell in love with training because, unlike my day-to-day work in the prison, it gave me an opportunity to see people being the best version of themselves as they tried to master a skill.
TLY: How were you able to operate in the DOC environment?
SB: Look, I’ve got to be clear here – working in Central Prison was honorable work and I’ve got some friends who are still working there quite happily. It’s just that for me it was bad fit, but I was in my 20s with no education and a young family to take care of. So, for a while, I did what millions of people do everyday – I went to work, I did my best, and tried to find joy in other things. Then I decided that I had to find a way out, so I went back to school, I took on some extra responsibilities at work, and so on. Three degrees and several years later, I was recruited to the Department of Justice as a training analyst and everything in my life shifted rather dramatically – I found my place.
I talk about that experience all the time now with people that I coach. There’s really no reason to accept a situation as hopeless. It’s really as simple as setting your goal and then being relentless at working toward that goal every single day.
TLY: It’s not unheard of that corporations have the severe hierarchical structures that mimic the mentality found in prisons. Thoughts?
SB: I usually get in trouble when I compare my client organizations to prisons, so I’ll steer clear of that here! What I will say is that, regardless of where they work, in order to be happy and successful, people need to feel deeply connected to at least one of three things: the people, the mission or the organization itself. If a leader can build connections to all three of these things, the potential to accomplish great things is limitless.
For extreme examples, I’d point you toward people like Medal of Honor Recipient Dakota Meyer or Mother Teresa. But there are examples all around us. Just this week, I met a woman in the paint department at the DIY store who took great pride in telling me everything she knew about which paint and rollers I needed for the project I had. That, at a minimum, is dedication to her mission and to the people she serves. Compare that to the guy in the grocery store today who didn’t know where the charcoal was – and didn’t even offer to find out – how much does that job mean to him?
TLY: People seeing your background in the Marines and Central Prison might assume that your management style is pretty hard-core. True or false?
SB: I’m no drill instructor. I offer candor and honesty and steadiness through the coaching and development experience, and my work is full of humor and support too. I believe all those things can co-exist and help a client flourish.
TLY: Has what you enjoy about training people changed as you transitioned from NC Department of Justice to corporate America at LTI and now Stone House Management Consulting?
SB: Not really. When I did my first work in the private sector, it was an eye-opener for me. By then, my training focus had shifted to more human-behavior topics. I was surprised to find that people are people, no matter what they do for a living. I enjoy working with anyone who has a serious commitment to being better tomorrow than they are today.
TLY: What was the hardest part of starting you own business and what was the one thing you had to keep in mind during the process to keep you going?
SB: The hardest part was preparing for the financial risk. I was leaving a solid company with no prospects for where my first clients would come from. I wanted to make sure that my wife and kids didn’t go without while I followed my dream.
The thing that kept me moving forward was my reason for starting Stone House: to have more control over the kind of work that I do and the kind of clients I work with.
TLY: Quote or mantra to live by?
SB: From Eleanor Roosevelt: “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
Lydia Loizides is serial entrepreneur, technology provocateur and relentless challenger of the status quo. She spends her days as Founder & CEO of Talentedly, a technology company on a mission to help people grow from good to great at work (technology + people = amazing results). The rest of her waking moments are spent running, reading, learning, and trying to prove that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42. You can follow Lydia @lydiaNYC @GetTalentedly, on LinkedIn and the Huffington Post.