Straight Talk Radio

Eight Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make – Tom Davidson

By March 18, 2015 No Comments
Tom Davidson

Tom Davidson CSP

Less than a year ago my son was promoted to corporate headquarters as a new manager over a national sales team.  He asked me, “Dad, what should I read to prepare me for this new role?”  My answer: Tom Davidson’s book – The Eight Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make.  As Tom says, “Great Managers don’t grow on trees!”  Tom Davidson, CSP, is a forester and leadership expert who has coached hundreds of new managers, emerging leaders, and senior executives in the private and public sector and I am honored to have him as my guest today on STRAIGHT TALK RADIO.

You can hear Tom’s interview here:  Tom Davidson on STRAIGHT TALK RADIO.

Tired of traditional talk? People pontificating about this or that? The left or the right? Sometimes the truth is just off lost in the noise. Having learned life lessons the hard way, Chuck Gallagher, international speaker and author, cuts through the noise to share truth through transparency!

Nationally-known guests talk about what’s important to you – your life, your concerns and your success. So tune in, turn on to Straight Talk with Chuck Gallagher.

Now, here’s your host, Chuck Gallagher.

CHUCK: Well, this is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio and this is the Transformation Talk Radio Network. One of the things that I love about doing this show is the fact that we do get an opportunity to talk with people about how their lives transform. And today’s show, it’s going to be a great show, but I want to start off by saying I’m real proud of my two sons, but my oldest son– It’s kind of been an interesting process watching him grow from teenager into an almost thirty-year old.

When he was a teenager he’d be playing golf a lot. Now, people ask me, “Did he get that from you?” Let me share with you, no! I suck at golf. But he had a natural skill, he went to the college on a golf scholarship, which I was thrilled about as you can imagine, but he’d always said, “Dad, I want to work for a golf company.” He said, you know, “I want to be like a club rep. I want to be out, I want to be amongst golfers,” and so forth, and I thought to myself, “Well, that’s wonderful to aspire to. I don’t know how it’s going to work, but let’s just see.”

So he goes to school, gets his golf scholarship, graduates in 2009, you know, the height of the recession, and immediately gets a job for a top 25 custom club fitter, learning the fine art of literally creating golf clubs, high-end golf clubs, and I was like, “Wow! Dude! I’m impressed, you know, you straight out of school move right into kind of your passion.”

Well, as you can imagine for any of us in our careers you learn the skill of what it is that you do, so he learned that skill well and one of the companies that he had previously sold and manufactured clubs for called him and said, “Hey, could you be our sales rep?” Next thing you know he’s back in the Carolinas, responsible for selling for this company in two different states. Full-commission job and I’m like, wow, I don’t know many twenty-year olds that are willing to step out and say, “I’ll earn my way on commission,” but he turned out to be their top-selling sales rep.

Eighteen months later they tap him on the shoulder and they say, “Can you come to our corporate headquarters in Texas and be our national sales rep? Can you manage the other people?” and it was at that point that it was interesting the conversations we started to have because he was like, “Dad, I know how to sell it, but what do I need to know?” I gave him a book that I had for years called Thirteen Fatal Errors That Managers Make and it was an interesting experience talking with him about what happens when you become a new manager, what are the things that take place and, you know, I began to think about that and of course, being a member of the National Speakers Association, it kind of hit me that there is a guy who is the guru on leadership 8 Greatest Mistakesdevelopment and management. He wrote a book called The Eight Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make. His name is Tom Davidson and Tom is my guest today. Tom, I am thrilled to have you on Straight Talk Radio.

TOM: Honored to be here Chuck. Lot of fun. Great topic. I appreciate it, man.

CHUCK: Now, let’s go backwards a little bit. Before we start talking about your book and The Eight Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make and what people might need to take from that, tell us how did you get from where you were to where you are?

TOM: Like your son, a lot of us don’t start out in business being in a leadership position. We start out in some kind of expertise. Mine happened to be in the outdoors. I worked outdoors. I grew up outside and I wanted to work outside. I learned all the skills it took to be a forester.

CHUCK: Cool!

TOM: So, I became a good forester I’d like to think. But, like most of us, we weren’t a technical skill. We get good at that and get promoted because we’re good at our technical job, and because I was pretty good at that, I got promoted. Within just a couple of years, suddenly I’m doing a whole new job. I’m managing people, I’m helping teems develop, I’m solving people problems. It’s not what they taught us in school. In fact, it’s not the reason most people go to any kind of a technical background school to work with people, is it?

CHUCK: No, not at all. Not at all.

TOM: But we ended up because no matter what we’re doing as technical job, we’re still in the people business.

CHUCK: Yeah.

TOM: My plan was to go into people business after entering your technical job and I had a lot of compassion for people like your son and many others.

CHUCK: Now, I guess your initial degree was NC State right?

TOM: That’s right, NC State. Forestry and Economics. That’s right. Not much room for people skills development there.

CHUCK: [laughs] Well, maybe not, but I got to ask the question, okay? So you where at NC State when Valvano was there.

TOM: You know what? I was just there before Valvano. I was there with Norman Sloan.

CHUCK: Okay.

TOM: So I was back a little farther, but I got to enjoy the Valvano years from not too far away. Yeah, good times.

CHUCK: Yeah, that was awesome. You know, it’s interesting to me because when you look at people’s careers and the career path that they take, you know, yours might have been economics and forestry because you wanted to be outside, but fundamentally most people who are real successful also master the skill of people. I think that that’s one of the things, not that this is a show about Jim Valvano, but that’s one of the things that made him great is he was such a people person. He could take the technical skills of how to transform a person and make them a great basketball player into capturing a nation’s attention.

TOM: Absolutely. It’s inspiring. leadership, team development, he cared about his people. All the basic fundamentals that a good leader needs to be. And it doesn’t mean just because a person goes to technical school, no matter what it might be, engineering, medical, math, it doesn’t matter. If you still have the fundamentals there, you can develop those skills and that’s what I’m passionate about, helping people bring forward those natural gifts. They might not have otherwise discovered before or polished.

CHUCK: Now, in the process of going from forester to a VP of human relations, tell me a little bit about—So, I have to put it in my terms, which probably aren’t by the way right, Tom, but you know, here I am and I’m good outside and I understand flora and fauna and all of the things, by the way, that I love. I’ve often said if I had a chance, I’d own a nursery because there’s just something about being around growth and seeing that develop. It’s kind of like the ground is a palette and the plants that you plant make it just gorgeous. But, how did you get from there to human resources? Was it hard going out of the field inside, so to speak?

TOM: Yeah, I definitely had to go back and get a what I call “a new body of knowledge”. I’ve done that a couple of times in my career, but I worked for a great organization. May everyone have great bosses and work for a great organization that sees some innate talent in you. I was a little bit different from the usual forester and economist in that I like talking to people, which is a good thing being in the National Speakers Association, right, Chuck?

CHUCK: Absolutely.

TOM: [chuckles] So, I like talking to people so I would get the assignments that nobody else wanted in the forestry profession in my little world. They’d send me to schools, they’d send me to public hearings, they’d send me to solve problems with individuals. So that kind of gravitated my career towards public affairs, public relations, that kind of thing. I just became really interested in the human side of the business. I volunteered to be a training coordinator at one point. The organization was doing some culture change that interested me. The organization was seeing people who were doing that kind of role as a development for the future so I just kept gravitating and kind of falling forward and accidentally into jobs that interested me.

As a result of that I got early practice in public speaking, early practice in dealing with the media, early practice in dealing with people skills and growing what I hoped was a little bit of an innate talent. But definitely went back to school a couple of times, one for NBA, one for organization development, as I discovered more and more about what I was passionate about and that led to different promotions and movements and so forth, until vice president of Human Resources, thank you. And as they say, the rest is history. I had a private practice fifteen years ago and picked what I was really passionate about.

CHUCK: Now, Tom, one of the things that I kept hearing you say, and you’ve alluded to this, obviously both of us have a career today in speaking, as professional speakers, but before you get to there, one of the things that you kept saying was you got a lot of practice, and that practice involved putting yourself out and being able to communicate. I guess I need to ask, and I think I know the answer, but one thing that makes sense to me is people who are successful managers also somehow master, whether it’s through formal education or training or through just pure plain practice in being shoved into it, the ability to communicate and the ability to speak. Would you agree with that?

TOM: Absolutely. I’ll tell you one of the best job assignments. This was back in the day, Chuck, when organizations kind of threw people into positions without really preparing them. Today we hopefully groom people. We get them ready to like I say “hit the ground running” rather than just hit the ground.

CHUCK: Right.

TOM: But, we both have a little gray on top so back in the day we were thrown into positions to learn the hard way. Fortunately, I had been very active in scouting and through scouting I became an eagle scout and I had leadership positions, but I’m a very much introvert. I’m a very much maximum introvert so it didn’t come naturally, but I started to get early practice as a scout, leading different associations, speaking in front of large groups, that kind of thing. I wasn’t aware how important this would be to my career development, and then I was going to tell you about throwing people in the deep end. My public affairs job was some of the best training for being a spokesperson on the planet. I got to meet difficult people, I got to be asked difficult questions by the media and you had to learn to think on your feet, be concise and make your point.

CHUCK: Well, one of the things that I think as we go through this process today in this interview, you know, we’re sitting here, it’s Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. One of the things, Tom, that you’re really pointing out is the importance of communication. Tom has written a great book called The EightestThe Eight Greatest, [chuckles] I can’t talk today. You know, you’d think I’m supposed to be able to speak and that’s not happening so well–

[Tom laughs]

CHUCK: But The Eight Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make: Surviving the Transition to a Leadership Position and, boy, does that hit home when it comes to my son. So we’re going to go for a quick break, Tom, and when we come back, we’re going to talk about your book and we’re going to talk about some of the things that that book will help people in general understand how to navigate the field of becoming a new manager or improving your current role as a manager. This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. Stick with us, we’ll be back in just a minute.

[Commercial break]

CHUCK: This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. My guest today is Tom Davidson. He is a certified speaking professional. He is a forester, and by the way I just love nature, and a leadership expert. He’s coached hundreds of new managers, emerging leaders, senior executives in the private and public sector. We’re talking today about this whole concept of, you know, how do we morph from who we are, especially if we’re starting a new career regardless of age, you know, how do we go from being—Tom, I’m going to put it this way, how do we go from being the great sales guy to the great sales manager? And you have written an outstanding book. The book is The Eight Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make and I know I’m going to buy one for my son because I think he needs to be able to read that. He has gone from being the great sales guy now to managing a team. When you go from peer to boss, it’s an unusual and sometimes challenging transition. Would you agree?

TOM: Yeah. Even shocking to the individual who goes through it [chuckles], because they see their bosses, they see their managers, it doesn’t look like a very hard job. It looks a little bit like it’s special. They get some perks, you know, a bigger salary. It’s just very attractive to people and that’s the way you move up the corporate ladder, so to speak. That’s what people think, but they really don’t know. In fact, that’s the first mistake in the book. You underestimate the change. I call it “rocking with the wrong role” You don’t have the right mindset about the job.

[Chuck chuckles]

TOM: That’s basically, in terms of transition, Chuck, you have two things you need. One is the right mindset and you need to have the right skill sets.

CHUCK: So let’s talk about both of those, okay? Let’s talk about the mindset side of it. So here I am, I’m the great sales guy, I’ve been the top performer, I’m all jazzed about that and then I get the tap on the shoulder and they say, “We need you to move into a management role.” What changes in that mindset to make that potentially successful?

TOM: You bet, you bet. Well, it used to be all about you, as an individual performer, getting your goals. You know, I heard one person described the difference between management and leadership as the difference between hunting and farming.


TOM: So as an individual contributor, you’re kind of a hunter. You get the goals, you individually bring home the bacon, whatever the expression might be, but as a leader you’re much more cultivating things over the longer term. You’re not taking credit for the goals. You’re helping other people achieve. That’s part of the mindset shift in my view Chuck.

CHUCK: You know it’s interesting. My son and I got to talking. He’s had his new role for six months-ish or so, and [chuckles] we won’t go into the details because, you know, it’s a radio show–

[Tom chuckles]

CHUCK: But he was complaining about one of the guys who from my perspective might feel a little challenged. You know, “I’m the manager at the location, I’ve been there a long time. I have time seniority,” and then they bring this new guy in, with this new role and there’s some conflict associated with that. I do think the hunter/farmer kind of thing is a really great, great analogy, because you know it’s not about the ego and it’s not about what you do, it’s about what the organization does and that causes a mindset change.

TOM: No, exactly right. You’re running into people with the kind of a mindset like that, you might be running into. Everybody needs to have the right mindset about moving the person into a management position as well, not just their supervisor but their peers, and part of the challenge is that people moving into that kind of role are going to make mistakes. That’s a kind of a theme in my book, too, is mistakes are great. I’ve been asked, “Why did you name the book The Greatest Mistakes, Tom? Mistakes aren’t good,” and I said, “Mistakes are absolutely good. They’re great! Especially if you learn from them.” Now what’s not good and what definitely bridges over to your expertise, what’s not good are misdeeds.

CHUCK: Right.

TOM: And as I say in the introduction of my book, if you get your mindset straight around the difference between mistakes and misdeeds, you’ll be a better leader yourself and you’ll have other people be better leaders, because if we punish mistakes, we squash creativity, we stop people from learning, we stop people from trying. But yet if we let misdeeds go without consequences, we have a whole another set of problems. So your mindset, the new manager’s mindset needs to understand the difference between the two, not only for themselves, but to be a good leader of others.

CHUCK: Now, if you’re the person that’s moving into this new management role, okay? And so now I’m not the hunter, now I am becoming the farmer. What advice, Tom, would you make to the manager of the new manager? What does that person need to do to help make this new manager successful or as successful as possible as they can be in this role?

TOM: Hmm, helping them understand their new responsibility; their new responsibility of developing other people, their new responsibility of making other people look good, helping understand what collaboration looks like and rewarding the right kind of behaviors. Sometimes a person moving into a management position is still rewarded for individual accomplishment, so that works at cross purposes. Rewarding the new manager for helping their team grow, helping their team achieve goals and success. That’s what should be rewarded by the manager of the new manager.

CHUCK: Now, Tom, you’ve worked with organizations all across the country, I know that part, but I’m kind of curious. Have you found, I guess, by the size of the business, is it more difficult for this transition in a small business as compared to one that you know, let’s say they do, I don’t know, $50 million a year in business or $100 million and they actually have a little structure? Is there a difference in the size of the organization you move into that helps minimize the mistakes that a new manager might make?

TOM: I don’t think it’s the size, Chuck, but I do think it’s the culture of the organizations. Small organizations can have a certain kind of learning culture. Large organizations can have a learning culture. Large organizations have some advantage in this regard, Chuck, is that they might provide systems to help people become on board, and that they might provide mentors, they might provide coaches. They definitely are more likely to provide training. Small organizations are more likely to throw someone in the deep end and let them sink or swim, but if they have a learning culture, a new manager could be just as successful in a small organization as a large one.

CHUCK: That’s interesting. A learning culture.

TOM: Um-hm.

CHUCK: It’s kind of fascinating because, and I hate to do this because it really sounds like I’m truly pigeonholing an organization, but I’m not sure that I find many small businesses have a learning culture, because it’s almost like people have to fight to get done what needs to be done and they don’t have quite enough resources to put into training. Am I kind of on track or not?

TOM: No, no, small organizations don’t tend to have enough money to put people into training, but training isn’t necessarily where you learn the new skills. In fact, it’s about 70% of what a person learns comes from on-the-job experience.

CHUCK: Okay.

TOM: So that gives all organizations a pretty good leg up. It’s only about 20% of what you need to know that comes from training, although you need to have the body of knowledge, as I referenced in the earlier segment, to be successful. And about 10% of what we need to know comes from other people, mentors like you, so people pick up, or dads like you so that people pick up a lot of learning from their mentors. So it gives us all a good advantage if 70% of what we learn comes from on-the-job experience, which goes back to mindset and the approach that managers take of their new managers. Yeah.

CHUCK: So, if I come in and let’s say that I as the new manager if I have the right mindset, that’s got to move me in the right direction, so to speak, but I also have to have the skill set. So for a person that moves from the performance role into the management role, what do you see as the key skills? And by the way we’re going to be pushing up on a break, so maybe hit me with a couple of skills and then we’ll pick that back up right after the break.

TOM: I’ll give you a key one. This is one I see all the time with new managers. They don’t ask enough questions and they don’t ask powerful questions.

CHUCK: Interesting.

TOM: I’ll give you my powerful question model if you like after the break. The second part of that is of course active listening.

CHUCK: Okay. So, that’s fascinating because I’m not sure that I’ve heard, and I’ve talked to a lot of people on the show, but you don’t find a whole lot of folks that say it’s a function of the questions you ask and asking the right questions. I think both of us would agree that’s a critical key component.

TOM: Yeah. Questions are for a manager like the rudder on a boat. Without it you’re just floundering. And the problem is that new managers think they have to have all the answers, because they were promoted after all. They’ve been there, they’ve done that and when people come to them with problems to solve, they just want to give them the answer, but every situation is different. So a good manager is also a good coach, is also a good mentor and they’re also teaching a person to think problems through and question is, again, the rudder for all that.

CHUCK: So, my guest Tom Davidson, the author of the book The Eight Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make and a book that I am going to buy and send to my son, not that I don’t need to read that myself–

[Tom chuckles]

CHUCK: But, Tom, you said you know, the questions are the rudder on the boat so we’re going to steer this into a quick break. This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. You’ll want to stick with us when Tom Davidson and I talk about the key questions that need to be asked and more about his book The Eight Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make. We’ll be back in just a moment.

[Commercial break]

CHUCK: This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. We are back on the Transformation Talk Radio Network and we’re talking about how to transform oneself from being a great performer into a wonderful and great manager. So here we are, I’ve got to say this, so here we are, we’re on the break, you guys have been listening to a commercial, and we’re carrying on, you know, this back-channel conversation. Tom comes up with this outdoor analogy and it’s funny because he asked the question you know “Have any of you rock climbed?” and Jessica, our producer, says “Well yeah, I do it all the time!” I’m sitting there thinking, “Are you kidding?!” I had the opportunity once to repel and I am so scared of heights that I ended up just going to the bottom and taking pictures of everybody else doing it, because the concept of being strapped to something going down the side of a rock just was petrifying to me. But, Tom, you used a great analogy that makes perfect sense, so you know, since we’re back from the break, let’s go with that for a second.

TOM: Well, you bet, Chuck. I do like draw on my outdoor experience. I was a survival instructor. I was a trail guide, an eagle scout, a scout master. I just loved everything about the outdoors, which put me in touch with a lot of sports outdoors.

Rock climbing is a great hobby and it’s a good analogy for learning to be a manager. Basically, the climber in rock climbing is the individual contributor. They’re the one who’s doing their own thing, they’re doing the climbing themselves. You know, one of the first lessons in rock climbing, Chuck, is learning how to fall. I know it sounds funny, but they actually teach you how to fall. I’ll get back to that. Basically you put a harness around you, a belay line, which is a safety line that goes up to a point above the climber. It could be a top belay or it could be a belay that you’re moving as you climb, that’s usually for more advanced climbers. So this line then comes back down to ground to a belayer, a person called a belayer. And they’re actually strapped to something themselves, because if they have to catch you when you fall, they’ll be hurled off the ground themselves, and they have to be tied to what’s called a bombproof anchor, that’s what we call it in rock climbing.

So what happens is there’s an exchange of commands before the rock climber starts climbing. Basically, it’s a question, “On belay?” and that’s a question of the belayer and the belayer says, “Yes, I’m on belay.” And the climber says, “May I climb?” and the belayer says, “Climb.” And then you say, “Climbing.” It’s all very formal sounding, but it’s all safety-oriented.

Anyway, as the climber climbs, they’re going to skin their knuckles, they’re going to scratch their knees, they’re going to make some mistakes, but the belayer always has an eye on where the climber is. The belayer to me is like the manager, a good manager, who has an eye on the climber, the individual contributor learning the new job working with the manager and they’re going to pay out a certain amount of belay line so that the climber, the individual contributor, has room to maneuver. Without much room to maneuver, you might call that micromanaging the climber, so you want to give them enough rope so they can maybe make some mistakes, maybe skin their knuckles and maybe even fall. But the belayer is not going to let out so much line that if you fall as the climber or the individual contributor or the new manager, you’re not going to fall too far before they catch you.

Actually, Chuck, in the learning to rock climb they take you up about twenty feet and they say, “Okay, let’s practice falling,” and what’s funny about that, there’s even commands for that. It goes like this, “May I fall?”

[Chuck laughs]

TOM: And the belayer is supposed to say, “Fall,” and then you’re supposed to say, “Falling.” It actually happens a lot faster than that. It just sounds like a series of screams, but you do have to learn to fall, which is of course analogies to learning how to make mistakes.

CHUCK: You know, I heard that during the break and a better detailed description now on the show and, Tom, the thing that really strikes me, I’ve been in a number of organizations and it’s fascinating. You are right; a good manager is an effective belayer. The problem that I found in many cases is the quote, “Good manager keeps the rope so tight and the accountability,” and the micromanagement, and they spend so much time focusing on trying to account for everything that’s taking place that you have no room to experience the joy of rock climbing and the creation of something that might be really fascinating if you’re allowed just enough rope, not to hang yourself–

[Tom chuckles]

CHUCK: But to create something better.

TOM: Yeah, that’s right. That’s kind of a sweet spot. A lot of the job of being a manager is balance. Being very relationship-oriented, being very task-oriented. For example, giving them too much rope, giving them too little rope, micromanaging, leaving them alone to fend for themselves, finding the right sweet spot, kind of a reference to one of my chapters in my book I call “Popping the Clutch”, which is another way of finding the right balance. Anybody who’s driven a standard transition vehicle knows that you’ve got to let it out gradually depending upon the vehicle, while you engage the accelerator. So it’s a lot about being a new manager is finding the right balance and that’s also true for the belayer. Absolutely.

CHUCK: You know, before we went to the break, one of the things we were talking about, and I don’t want to forget this, was the whole concept of asking the right questions. You made a comment and I’m probably not going to say it right, but there’s like this key question that you really feel a new manager would be empowered to use.

TOM: Mmm, got you. I like to call it, I guess, a question-asking model.

CHUCK: Okay.

TOM: And I think of it this way is we’re promoted because we’re good at something, so we assume that we’re there to bring the solutions to people.

CHUCK: Right.

TOM: When actually, your job is more like instead of having the right answers just to have the right questions. And I call it, basically, the keel on a boat, the rudder on a boat. Without this, you’re basically floundering. So if you learned the skill of asking powerful questions and good questions, you can use this in coaching, you can use this problem solving, you can use in leadership, in getting people involved. Powerful questions are a key tool. And the model goes like this, it’s “SOS”, you know the old code for help?

CHUCK: Right.

TOM: “SOS”, the Morse code is d, d, d, d, dot, dot, dot, d ,d, d, d… [chuckles] SOS, and the model goes like this, Chuck. The first “S” stands for “short”. Powerful questions are short. Three to five words is very often the most powerful kind of questions.

CHUCK: Interesting.

TOM: But yet, if we want to be helping people, what we’ll do is we’ll ask very long questions, or we will answer it for them, or we’ll give them some choices, or tell them what you would’ve done, but a powerful question, “What have you tried? How does that work? What’s next for you?” Short questions like that can be much more powerful. That’s the first “S”. What do you think of that?

CHUCK: I like that. That’s outstanding. Sure. “What have you tried?” That strikes me as really interesting because it opens the door to knowing there’s enough line, so to speak, to try something without inferring that trying is bad. Because that’s part of the whole genius of Apple computer, whenever it was first starting, you know, “What have you tried?”, “What can take place? What are the possibilities?”

TOM: That’s a powerful question, “What’s worked? What have you learned? What are you proud of?” Those kinds of questions evoke a lot more information, tones more information than the next part of the model, which is “O” for “open-ended”.

CHUCK: Open-ended?

TOM: Open-ended questions are more powerful. Obviously people know the difference between open-ended questions and closed questions. A closed question is basically for a “Yes” or “No” answer, but closed questions can also be useful, but open-ended questions learn much more. Open-ended questions can start with what, how, who, when or where or why. I’d like to focus people on, this is my favorite part of the open-ended question point. If you start the questions with what or how, the word “what” or the word “how”, you’ll have a much more powerful question. For example, if you ask a question, “Why did you do it that way, Chuck?” well that sounds pejorative, doesn’t it? That sounds like that implies that you did something wrong. It’s risky to ask a why question.

CHUCK: Right. It makes you feel defensive.

TOM: Yes. It puts a person on defense, exactly right. Well, you can turn any why question, you can turn any closed-ended question into an open-ended question by just starting with the word “what” or “how”, and I’ll tell my clients, “Just start with the word and then see what comes out of your mouth.” “What – worked that time? How – would you do it differently again?” And you might not even know what’s about to come out of your mouth, but if you start it that way, you’re more likely to ask an open-ended question in the second part of the model.

CHUCK: Okay. So short and open-ended. Now what’s the third part?

TOM: Well, this is a little bit rude. I hope you don’t mind. I know this is a family radio, but I like to put it this way because it’s memorable. The second “S” stands for “Shut up”.

[Chuck and Tom laugh]

CHUCK: Not a problem.

TOM: It’s a problem for us speakers sometimes.

CHUCK: Well, that’s a different issue, but that’s true.

TOM: [laughs] But the funny part is when you shut up and let them answer the question, don’t help them, don’t follow that up with a statement, don’t explain how you would do it. Just stop right there. One time I was doing a demonstration of coaching in front of an audience. I felt very raw about my questions and so I told the audience I didn’t feel very good about my questions, but I did stop when I asked the questions, and the feedback I got was, “No, no, Tom, man, those questions made us think.” We’ve come up with them from a list? I mean it’s like…” No, it was just instinct, short, open-ended and shut up. But, sometimes when you ask a question, it feels like you’d like to say it again, or take it back, or fix it, but very often those questions are the most powerful kind.

CHUCK: My guest is Tom Davidson. He has written the book The Eight Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make and we’ve just been talking about “SOS”. Tom, you were right. As speakers it is hard for us to shut up and yet, I now as a sales guy I was taught once you ask the question, he who speaks first loses.

[Tom chuckles]

CHUCK: So I did develop the fine art of the pregnant pause.

TOM: There you go.

CHUCK: We’re going to be back in just a moment. We’re talking with Tom Davidson. He is a great speaker, a wonderful coach, a person who helps new managers find that leadership role within the organization develop their skill so stick with us. This is Straight Talk Radio.

[Commercial break]

CHUCK: Have you ever been a new manager or just promoted and thought to yourself, “Gosh, I wonder what I’m really supposed to do? And how can I be successful in the new role?”

My guest today on Straight Talk Radio I Tom Davidson. He has written a great book The Eight Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make, but before we go into the book, you now, Tom, I’ve got to tell you this, I was at a NSA Leadership School about a little over a year ago in Phoenix, Arizona, and I will never forget the presentation that you made. I’ve got to plug you. Tom is an outstanding speaker. If your organization is sitting back thinking to themselves, “All right, how do we develop our leadership pool? How do we develop our people?” or, “How do we retain the best talent that we have?” I’ve got to tell you, if you’re listening to the show, you need to consider going to Tom’s website and booking him to speak. His website is And Tom, you did an outstanding presentation, and you were an interesting character in that you, well, let’s put it this way, I don’t know if you do this for anybody else, but you had this certain program where you were removing clothing.

[Tom laughs]

CHUCK: Now, if you’re listening to this on the radio, let me share it with you, there was no pole involved and he didn’t really get down to the, you know, bare necessities [chuckles], but it was a fascinating transformation to watch and I think that’s the thing that really strikes me about the skill you bring to your audiences when you’re speaking and when you’re coaching, because you’re bringing something that makes it real, that people will remember. And you’ve got to know people remember things like that.

TOM: I’m glad you remembered that [chuckles]. I hope you remember the point of the talk, too. Thank you Chuck, very much.

CHUCK: Well, I did remember the point of the talk.

[Tom laughs]

CHUCK: But the funny part was, is I was mesmerized. I was like, “Dude, where’s this guy going?” And the cool part is, is it connecting those dots? That’s what makes it powerful.

TOM: Well, thank you, Chuck. I think one of the things we have to do as speakers is we have to be willing to go a little extra mile to make our point stick. I like to use props. I like to use analogies, stories, videos to help people see a complex challenge in a different way. By the way, if the audience is interested, the reason I was changing clothes was I started out looking like a veteran generation, and then I looked a little bit like a baby boomer, then I looked a lot like an Xer, and then with the tattoos and ear piercings. Yeah, Jessica, tattoos and ear piercings. I looked a little bit like a millennial. I think what was shocking about it is, here’s a guy with gray hair looking a lot like a millennial, to make my point about the differences between the generations. But, I do like to use props and I think that’s good leadership, too, is to be able to use those kind of tools to make your point stick.

CHUCK: You know, Tom, the thing that struck me, and I think this really does apply to, you know, making new managers great, is, there is a difference in generations. I mean, I said here I was speaking to a university crowd not long ago when I made the comment, I said, “Now let’s rewind the tape”, meaning let’s go back in time, and I got looks like, “What is this guy talking? What tape is he referring to?”

[Tom laughs]

CHUCK: I mean I just, “Why?” You know.

TOM: “Tape? What’s he talking about?”

CHUCK: Exactly.

[Tom and Chuck chuckle]

CHUCK: And you were talking about popping the clutch and, you know, I know my grandchildren’s children won’t know how to drive a car. They’ll just get in it and tell the car where to go and their car will go! So you know, there is a difference in how we as generations see things. And your presentation was so powerfully on point, that it helps us see what are the differences in those generations, because what might make a manager great, who’s a baby boomer, and what we might understand might be totally different for a millennial.

TOM: Exactly right, Chuck. You know, that’s one of the reasons I do that talk, is, so many of my clients were pulling their hair out about the differences in the generations. They didn’t understand how very different millennials and Gen Xers are from, might be their generation boomers. And we all just because the year we’re born doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily have a certain mindset, but it is an indicator.

The reason I do that talk was to help more experienced leaders understand there’s a very different talent pool. Rather than pulling your hair about it and complaining about it, folks, the wind has shifted. You now, if you’re sailing and the wind changes, you just can’t stay on the same tack. You’ve got to better adjust the sail. You’ve got to pick a different point of sail. That’s why that generations talk is relevant to leaders today, to adjust to their needs. One of those needs, Chuck, is that these younger generations, they need to know exactly what’s in it for them. For a good reason, they want to know how is this going to add to my resume? How is this going to add to my skill set? How is this going to be good for me? Not that every other generation doesn’t need to know that, but other generations were more likely to follow orders. If it came from higher up, earlier generations would be more likely to, you know, snap too and follow orders. Not so anymore, and so you need to be a much more deft leader because of changes in the workforce.

CHUCK: Tom, that is so true, and the thing that really strikes me about that is when you look at the differences in generation, my parents, I’m a baby boomer, my parents would follow the rule. If this is what was said, this is what they would follow. My son, I understand this, has a wonderful job and he is developing himself as a manager. Whether he will be there four, five years is a different question and in reality he would not even conceive of being there 25 years.

TOM: No, that’s right.

CHUCK: It’s a resume builder to take the next step to carry me to the place that I want to go, and part of that for them is a journey.

TOM: Yeah, absolutely right. You know, in my talk I use a backpack to emulate Generation X. I say, “What’s in the backpack?” and I throw sponges on to the audience. Well, they’re collecting skills. They’re not planning to stay at all and if you talk to them about being there for 20 or 30 years, you’re just hurting your own credibility.

CHUCK: Right.

TOM: You want to keep them for maybe 18 months and get the most out of them. One of my clients in all this, Ritz Carlton Hotels, they took this idea and they take their best talent and they put electronic tethers on them. Now, they know they’re going to lose their best talent at some point, but they want to stay in touch with them so that they can come back around and work for them again someday after gaining even more skills and experiencing other places. But that’s that mindset, getting back to mindset, of how to work with new generations and new managers, is to adapt to what’s in it for them and what their preferences are, yeah.

CHUCK: Now, Tom, we’re going to run out of time here in a little bit, you’ve written a wonderful book. It’s called The Eight Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make. So, in the time we have left, pick two or three of the greatest mistakes and let’s talk about those briefly so that the folks that are listening have an opportunity to think, “Ah! That connects with me and here’s how I might solve that.”

TOM: Okay, okay. Thanks. One of my favorite subjects. [laughs] I think one that probably a lot of people will connect with is called “Caught in the Popularity Paradox”. You know, especially when you’re promoted among your peers. These were your buds, these were your pals, this kind of thing. You want to continue to be their friend, but again, mindsets, the change in the role is that you now it’s not your responsibility to be peoples friends, it’s your responsibility to help them, and to be friendly for sure, but that’s a very different mindset from being their friends. You want to get people to like you, keep people to like you. I’ve got stories about doing that myself and getting in some serious trouble, thinking I was keeping my friends, but I wasn’t doing anybody any good by doing that. So the popularity paradox, does it ring any bell?

CHUCK: Yes, it absolutely does. I’ve had someone say to me, “It’s like being a buddy, not a boss.” You know, we might’ve been buddies before, but if I’m your boss now, there is a difference and those two don’t always work together. But what’s another? We’ve got about a minute or so to go before we have to stop.

TOM: Sure, I call this the “Fool It Yourselfers”. It’s kind of a play on words of “do it yourselfer”.

CHUCK: Right.

TOM: But, we’re fooling ourselves, you know. So at my house, I’ve got a ceiling that needs to be painted, but its two storeys tall. Now, to do that myself, I’m going to have to get in special ladders, special equipment. I’m probably only going to do it once and it’s going to cost me a lot to do it myself. I’d be better off delegating that to someone else. As a manager, if you’re doing too much yourself, you’re actually not doing the job you’re being paid to do. And you’re not doing anybody else any favors either, because of what I said before; 70% of what we learn on the job comes from on-the-job experience. So, delegation is putting the work at the right level, doing the job you’re being paid to do and letting people learn, like we talked before. So, delegation, it’s an easy skill, actually, but it’s a hard mindset.

CHUCK: Interesting. My guest is Tom Davidson. He has written the book The Eight Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make. If you want to find Tom, go to In his book you will discover how to adapt to your new position faster, get off to the best possible start, grow your reputation from the outset, leverage your development time, attract and retain the best talent and stay on the fast track to success.

Tom, it has been great having you on the show. I’ve got to tell you, I’m so jazzed about your book and the fact that you were here. I know Jessica has said, “Wow, this is something that actually works for me,” because of a new role that she’s playing and it works for my son. So, I think this is going to be really a powerful program for the folks that are listening literally across the country or who will pick up on our podcast. Any final words before we close out, Tom?

TOM: Wel,l thanks for asking and thanks for having me on, Chuck. I know you only have a second left. I would say, back to your golf analogy that we opened with. We have natural skills and abilities. I know my only skill I’ve brought to golf was pretty good at backswing. Now what you want to find are those two or three things that you need to develop and work on those really hard. I had to keep my head still, I had to keep my foot down and I had to learn to release my club, and I’ve been working on these three things for two years. So, as a new manager learning any skill, find out what you’re good at, but also work hard on those few things that you need to develop.

CHUCK: This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight talk Radio. Let me strongly advise you, go buy the book The Eight Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make. You can find it on Tom, I assume it’s also on Amazon?

TOM: It is on Amazon. Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK: Yup. And, you know, I always say on the radio show as we close things out, every choice we make has a consequence. So, if you happen to be in the position of moving up that corporate ladder, so to speak, or developing your own team, consider the possibility of learning from your mistakes and finding out what you can do to literally transform your life and find the success that you’re looking for.

Again, my guest has been Tom Davidson. I would strongly encourage you to give Tom a call. He is an outstanding speaker and he will be a memorable speaker for your organization. Once again, this is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio and we will talk to you next week.

You’ve been listening to Straight Talk with Chuck Gallagher. Tune in each week on, each Monday at 2 p.m. Pacific, 5 p.m. Eastern, as Chuck Gallagher, international speaker and author, cuts through the noise to share truth through transparency. Nationally-known guests talk about what’s important to you – your life, your concerns, and your success. Visit for more information and turn on to Straight Talk with Chuck Gallagher.

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