Dr. Havidich on the Life & Practice of Successful Medicine

Introducing Dr. Havidich

Jeana, as she likes to be called, is one of the most well-rounded professionals one will ever meet. She’s a brilliant,  20-year practicing anesthesiologist and researcher. An outstanding chef and world traveler. She’s a community servant. A history buff who explores archeological sites. Secretly, she dances waltzes to big band music. She lives her life to be remembered as one who positively impacted others. She has. She continues to. Here’s how.

Principled Life

Jeana values friendship and time with those she cares about most. She gets boundless joy spending time with family and friends, particularly when they’re having a great dinner filled with laughter and cheer.
She understands her many achievements came with the help of her husband of twenty years, Dr. Mark Herrin, and her family and friends. “Although my life has been a fantastic journey, it’s been challenging at times.” Their love and support have kept Jeana grounded during the most difficult times. So have the principles guiding her life.

Honesty and Integrity: These are the traits she values the most. No matter what mistakes one makes in life, individuals who strive to incorporate honesty and integrity are respected by members of their community. Always trying to do the ‘right thing’ by others allows one to sleep soundly at night.

Service to Others: This has provided Jeana the greatest sense of satisfaction. Being able to help children and adults during a very difficult and stressful time in their lives is very challenging, but extremely rewarding.

Personal & Professional Growth: Growth is the key to happiness. Jeana continuously strives to improve herself to help others. She believes complacency is detrimental, on every level.

Choosing Medicine

Jeana feels fortunate to have found a profession that aligns with her values-something she considers key to a successful and fulfilling life. Medicine allows her to incorporate her principles of service, independence, and continuous professional and personal growth into her daily life.

“My choice to become an anesthesiologist was based on my desire to provide life-saving care to patients in critical situations. I thought I’d pursue a career as a Critical Care specialist in Anesthesia but soon realized my passion was providing perioperative care for children. I have not regretted my choice.

After 20 years of practice, “I still enjoy coming to work and providing this care.” She enjoys the daily interaction and learning from her patients, colleagues and students.

In fact, her most memorable moments as an anesthesiologist come from being outsmarted by children. For example, the six-year-old who locked himself into a bathroom so he didn’t have to have surgery. Or, the three-year-old who showed up for surgery and promptly went behind the nurses’ station and ate a nurse’s lunch, prompting an immediate cancellation of his procedure.

She’s humbled by the many patients who’ve survived against all odds-patients with tremendous resilience.

Dr. Havidich at Dartmouth

Jeana is a board certified Pediatric Anesthesiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire. She was awarded a scholarship from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice (TDI). She spends 75% of her time as a clinician, 20% researching and 5% lecturing/teaching.

Her current research focuses include health services research, quality and safety initiatives and the science of health care delivery.

Her latest research publication illustrated that patients born prematurely have a higher incidence of perioperative complications that last until adulthood. This research will enable anesthesiologists to prepare for the possibility of perioperative complications. “By understanding when and why complications occur, anesthesiologists can develop plans to minimize risk to patients.”

Jeana’s excited about an upcoming research project that looks at cancer development in patients exposed to opioids. Currently she is seeking government funding for this research.

Since the first rule of medicine is DO NO HARM, she is continually identifying those areas and processes to improve anesthesiology practices. “There is nothing more devastating than to watch a patient suffer or have an adverse event.” Her goal is to prevent that from ever happening.

7 Tips for Successful Career in Medicine

Educating and guiding young women into medicine is a passion for Jeana. While not claiming “to have all the answers,” she hopes younger professional women can learn from her experiences.

She believes the most important character traits leading to professional success are strong leadership and communication. “Fortunately, life-threatening situations are rare. However, those who handle these situations well by remaining calm and focused are most respected.

Persistence is also key to success. “As one moves up the ladder, competition is tougher. It’s not going to be easy. There are failures and disappointments along the way. Persistence pays off.”

Other tips for a successful career in medicine include:

1. Excel as a Clinician. Physicians respect other physicians who are hard-working, knowledgeable and provide high quality, safe, and compassionate medical care to their patients. This is medicine’s primary mission – “and you must do it to the best of your abilities. If you are not perceived as a dedicated, successful clinician, you will not have respect from others.”

2. Pursue Your Passion. Engage in the area in medicine that energizes you. Your specialty will find you–not the other way around. The amount of time and energy required to be successful in this field outweighs any financial gain. Circumstances change–and so do lifestyles and financial compensation. Be dedicated and passionate about your work.

3. Cultivate Strong Communication Skills. When the American Board of Anesthesiology first published core competencies that focused on communication and professionalism, Jeana was somewhat perplexed. After thoughtful consideration, she realized that mastering these skills ensures success for both the physician and the profession. Doctors work in a highly complex, fragmented medical system and effective communication with patients and colleagues is necessary to provide high quality, safe medical care.

4. Become Resilient. Doctors also work in a high risk, high stakes profession. They work long hours in a stressful environment. Patient lives are on the line and unfortunately things don’t always work out. How one addresses adversity in their personal and professional lives impacts their ability to care for themselves and others. Flexibility and adaptability are essential components as well. She recommends developing and cultivating these skills early in one’s career.

5. Get a Sense of Humor. It will be needed. Although practicing medicine is one of the greatest professions in the world, it is also fraught with frustrations. Therefore, one must develop a strong sense of humor in order to go about their day. The great thing about working with kids is that they provide a unique perspective that enables laughter. Try to take it in stride. Remember what’s really important.

6. Embrace Failure. Learn from it and move on. One of the most difficult lessons Jeana has learned over the years is how to deal with failure. “We are not perfect, and we will make career mistakes along the way.” While dedication and persistence are important characteristics to achieve success, it is also important to recognize when they are detrimental to one’s career. The important thing is to learn from failure and move on. The past cannot be changed. One can only learn from it. “In many respects, my biggest failures have led to my greatest successes. Correcting real or perceived deficiencies through determination and persistence have enabled me to achieve my goals. I’d tell my younger self not to fear failure but instead learn from it and move on. Take chances.”

7. Appreciate Life. It’s Too Short of an Adventure. Medicine constantly reminds Jeana that life is both extremely fragile and resilient at the same time. She watches patients endure unspeakable hardships and yet emerge with new-found hope and strength. “This always amazes me.” It’s also reminds her that it’s important to cherish every minute and to strive to reach one’s full potential. “Life is a gift, but often it seems too short.”

Work/Life Balance

Jeana reports that recently there has been a lot of attention given to physician burnout. “Medical professionals simply cannot provide care for others if they are not well themselves.” Maintaining a work/life balance can be a struggle. But, it is necessary to achieve personal and professional goals.

Work/life balance ratio will change over time. Career opportunities, family obligations, economic circumstances and practice changes impact the right balance. “It’s important to recognize signs of burnout early and make changes before serious issues in relationships or one’s career occur.”

Separate but Together

Drs. Jeana and Mark have lived in different states for a number of years due to professional opportunities. To some, this distance can be distressing. To them, it’s strengthened their relationship. “We designate protected time each day and throughout the year for each other.” They focus on their relationship when together and on their work and outside interests when apart. They understand the temporary nature of this status and have consciously decided to “make it work” with the support of colleagues, family and friends.

Having the right perspective matters. They understand other couples are less fortunate than they are, particularly those military families with overseas deployments.

Giving Back

Jeana subscribes to the belief that community service and engagement are key factors for resiliency and achieving happiness. Therefore, one of Jeana’s greatest personal satisfactions comes from “giving back” to both her profession and her community.

To Her Profession
She is grateful for the physician scientists and educators that have moved her profession forward. Advances in patient safety, technology, and education have decreased perioperative mortality over the past several decades. In return, Jeana has volunteered time at the local, state, and national levels with the hope of contributing back to her profession. Participating in national organizations such as the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF), serving on State Appointed Task Forces, and lecturing at local schools and community centers have enriched her professional life.

To Her Community
The hard-working, blue-collar Croatian-American community in Jeana’s Pennsylvania hometown raised money for children of Croatian heritage to further their education. These scholarship funds greatly benefited Jeana in achieving her career goals. In return, she has been working with the Association of Croatian American Professionals to develop a birthright “Domovina” scholarship program and a national Medical Tourism program in Croatia. “I hope to repay the Croatian American community by contributing to the development of these programs.”

Tips from Dr. Jeana for Patients

Surgical Patients Should Ask Anesthesiologists These:

Anesthesiologists have developed protocols and screening tools to identify medically complex patients who may be at risk for perioperative complications. If identified as such a patient, Jeana advises you to ask your anesthesiologist:

1. Based on my surgical procedure and medical history, what are my major risk factors for perioperative complications and what we can we do to decrease that risk?

2. What resources are available should an unexpected emergency occur? For instance, is there a blood bank readily available in the event I would need blood? Are there appropriate emergency equipment and personnel able to provide care in the event of an emergency?

3. What should I expect after surgery? Are there other means of controlling pain in addition to narcotics?

3 Skills Every Great Doctor Must Have

“Over time, I have found patients gravitate to physicians based on whether or not they approve of their personality.” Some physicians are scientific and matter of fact. And, some patients prefer this style over what others may refer to as a more compassionate physician. Jeana thinks the important thing is to find the right fit for you as a patient. “Ask for an interview or schedule an appointment to see if the physician is a good fit for you.”
Other things to consider in choosing a physician:

Solid Communication Skills. This is important not only for the patient but also the medical team. In today’s world of advanced technology, doctors are using web-based programs to communicate with patients.

Great Technical Skills in the procedural area. Investigate their outcomes data, although it might be hard to find. “It’s easier to find out more about a car you’re purchasing than who will provide your medical care.” Get a second opinion and ask for patient references and interview them.

Consistent Follow-Up Skills. Find a physician who follows up with their patients both personally (communication skill) and with processes like lab tests, x-rays, etc.

What’s Next for Anesthesiologist Dr. Jeana?

She’d like to continue practicing pediatric anesthesia and pursuing academic interests like:
• Research on health services-analyzing outcomes and quality using large databases.
• Research on the science of health care delivery systems
• Monitoring the growth of the Medical Tourism industry

As a researcher and practitioner, she’d like to see the development of regeneration of tissue, especially neural tissue. For instance, enhancing the growth rate of functional neural cells, one could theoretically make a quadriplegic patient walk again. Regenerating hepatic cells could eliminate the need for liver transplants. Generating neurons that produce hormones could cure diseases like Parkinson’s.

As an academician, she’d like to see expansion of individualized/targeted medical therapies tailored to a patient’s genetic makeup. This allows physicians to find the right drug for each patient, based on their genetic makeup. (This already exists for certain types of cancer and genetic diseases.)

Jeana wants the medical profession to discuss the cost of getting a medical degree and offer solutions. “It’s expensive and not reimbursed.”  She’d like to see the practice of ‘simulation’ to advance patient safety.

On a personal level, she wants to explore more of the world as a traveler with husband, Mark.

Jeana is an endless crusader for her profession and her own personal and professional development. She is a blessing to her family and circle of friends. Knowing her makes each of them better.

Here’s wishing anesthesiologist, Dr. Jeana Havidich,  many more years of practicing medicine, researching and developing and training new practitioners.

Do you have a question you’d like to ask Dr. Jeana or a recommended travel location for her? Share below.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. February 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.

Do You Have the Manners to Soar?

How Up-to-Date Are Your Manners and Understanding of Etiquette?Are you an Etiquette Pro or an Amateur?

Need a refresher?

Seasoned professional or new graduate. It doesn’t matter. If you lack manners and understanding of basic etiquette in the workplace and elsewhere, your career will be stunted. No one wants a slob or buffoon on their payroll or in their presence.

Remember, every time you’re in public, you represent either your workplace or your family.

Having manners means you are a respectful person and considerate of others. Use of etiquette can convey respect of other cultures, traditions, or religions.

Social interactions are important to being successful in life, so teaching youth and refreshing ourselves on etiquette and manners are invaluable. You can’t practice or teach what you don’t know.

These aren’t dated and old-fashioned.

These are timeless rules of etiquette and signs of good manners.

The lists are not meant to be all-encompassing or all-inclusive.

Contact me below for additional questions about etiquette by category.

BASIC MANNERS

  • • Ladies first. Always. Open the door for a woman and allow her to enter before you. Restaurant managers-teach your wait staff to take a woman’s order first.
    • Men-open a woman’s car door. This is not sexist or old-fashioned. It’s respect.
    • Always hold the door open for someone with their hands full, the elderly and the handicapped.
  • Men walk on roadside of sidewalk; women on inside.
    • Offer your seat to an older, pregnant or impaired rider on public transportation, always.
    • Don’t block views of people shorter than you are. If you’re tall, stand back.
    • Avoid interrupting people while speaking.
    • Move your grocery cart to the edge of an aisle, not the center.
    • Park in one space and never in a handicapped spot, unless you are.

DINNER TABLE MANNERS

Napkins: Place the napkin in your lap upon seating. Unfold it on your lap not above or on the table.

Eating: Never start eating until the host has been seated and starts eating. Always eat with your mouth closed. Avoid chomping and making out loud noises. Don’t talk with food in your mouth.
Wine Glasses: Refrigerated wine (like white wine) and champagne glasses are held by the stem so your hand does not warm the liquid. Red wine glasses may be held by the bowl.
Count Your Drinks: Limit your alcohol intake to 2 or less drinks, especially at business dinners.
Forks: Work from the outside in. The short fork is the salad fork. Start there. With each new course work your way in toward the plate. When you are done, place the utensils side by side at an angle on your plate-fork tines facing up, knife blade facing the center of the plate. This signals the wait staff you are finished. [Technically, the utensils are to be placed at 4:20 on a dinner plate-pretend your dinner plate is a clock.]
Soup: Don’t put crackers in your soup anywhere but at home. If it’s too hot, stir, don’t blow on it. Spoon away from you towards the center of the soup bowl.
Toasts: Do not drink to yourself if you’re the one being toasted. Do not stand, unless you are already standing.
Salt and Pepper: Do not sprinkle seasoning on your food, unless you’ve already tasted it. If someone asks for the salt, pass both the salt and pepper.
Passing: At family style service where bowls are on the table, always pass the service bowls to the RIGHT.
Restaurant Service: Waiters serve food from the left and beverages from the right. If a waiter offers you food from a platter, use the fork from the left (where it is at your place setting) and the spoon from the right.
Cutting Food: Only cut one or two bite-sized pieces at a time, not the whole piece of meat.
Unwanted Food: The method you used to put food in your mouth (fingers or utensil) is what you use to remove the food. A pit or bone is removed with fingers.
Restroom: Don’t just get up and leave the table. Say, “excuse me; I’ll be right back.”
Phones: Never lay your phone on the table. Turn the ringer off. Don’t check scores, Facebook, or anything during dinner. It’s rude.
Hands: Keep them out of your hair. When not using your utensils, keep them in your lap. When holding one utensil, keep the other hand in your lap.
Place of Honor: It’s always to the right of the host.
Leftovers: Never ask to take leftovers home from a formal dinner party or business dinner.
End of Meal: The host will place her napkin to the left of her plate. That is when you do the same. This signals the end of the meal.

BUSINESS/WORK

Introductions: At a business function, introduce yourself with your first and last name. Speak to the person you wish to honor first. Introduce yourself when there is a break in the conversation. In a business setting, always introduce people by saying their title and full name first, and then follow with a brief interesting or relevant piece of information about the people you are introducing. Always say, “Ms.” if you don’t know a woman’s marital status. [See “Introduction Primer” below.]
Attire: Dressing well is a form of good manners. Wear clean, non-wrinkly attire with polished shoes. If you wear nail polish, make sure it’s not chipped. Look put together, at all times.
Face-to-Face: Knock on the door or cubicle and wait until the person turns around before you start speaking. Don’t speak to her back.
Phones & Meetings: Put them away. No texting during meetings. And, please refrain from checking scores, news updates, etc. when you’ve been invited to participate and listen.
Break Room: Respect the shared space. Clean up after yourself. Throw away your food containers. Wipe up spills. If someone else leaves dishes or trash, set a great example and clean it up.
Your Voice: Talk at a moderate volume, especially in work spaces with cubicles.
Phone at Desk: Set it to vibrate or low. Don’t use an offensive ring tone.
Music: Keep the radio low or use headphones.
Smells: Don’t take off your shoes at work. Don’t bathe in perfume and cologne. Avoid eating a smelly lunch at your desk.
Timely: Show respect for your co-workers. Show up on time. Use the restroom and get your coffee before the meeting is to start.

RSVP

RSVP is an acronym of the French phrase, “Respondez s’il vous plait,” or “Respond, if you please.” It is used on invitations because the host needs to know the number of guests to prepare for. How much food and liquor to buy? How many place settings are needed?
Sure, it can be difficult to commit to an event so far in the future but do your host a favor and give them a courteous reply by the date requested on the invitation.
And, if you say you are coming, attend. Hosts pay for your presence. Be there.

THANK YOU NOTES

The thank-you note is essential in both everyday life as well as in business correspondence. Writing and sending one shows not only appreciation but indicates part of your personality to others.
Job Interview: After a job interview, send a hand-written thank you note. Proofread it first.
Post Party: A hand-written thank you note after a party and/or formal dinner is always appreciated.
Newlyweds: Contrary to popular belief, brides and grooms don’t have a year to send out thank-you notes. There is no reason to not get them done within a few months after the wedding. Gift givers have every right to be upset if one is not received in a timely manner or never received.
Gifts: Just as you never attend a party or wedding without a gift, always remember to mail a hand-written thank you note for a gift received.

SOCIAL MEDIA & TECHNOLOGY

Don’t Post Ugly: Resist publishing a photo of a friend or family member if they aren’t looking their best. Would you want them to post you looking less than great? No.
No Light or Sound: Turn the light and sound off on your phone during a movie, play and/or concert. You don’t want to be the annoying patron.
Restaurants: In a restaurant, phones should be silenced. If you receive an important call, you should excuse yourself and go outside to take the call.
Drunken Posts: Social media and alcohol should be avoided together at all costs.
Dinner. Be present. Keep your phone silenced during dinner, especially with friends and individuals of a certain age/generation. It’s a sign of respect.
Check Out: Never order or pay for something while you are on the phone.
In Line: Don’t chat away while in line for something. No one wants to hear your personal conversations.

Hygiene

The fact that one even needs to mention manners regarding hygiene is a bit disturbing. Parents-teach your children how to present themselves in public. Adults, haven’t you been taught better?

Nails. Clipping your finger or toenails is never appropriate in public. Not on your porch. Not on the bus. Not while in line. Not in the movie theatre. Nowhere but the privacy of your bathroom.
Teeth: Flossing should be done at home, or at least in a bathroom. It is not fun for people around you to watch you get stuff out of your teeth. Brush in private too. If you must use a public bathroom, please clean the sink.
Tweezing: Another private bathroom function. Remove hair in private not while driving or while in lines.
Hair: Avoid brushing or combing your hair in pubic, especially in restaurants where it flies around.

HOUSEGUEST

Someone is nice enough to offer you a place to stay during your get-away. Be someone who gets invited back.
• Arrive with a gift-a bottle of wine, a candle, a book, kitchen tools, something to show your appreciation. Even if the host suggests you don’t need to do this. Do it anyway. It’s the right thing to do.
• Buy or bring some groceries. Your host is not responsible for all of your meals. Never ask to change the menu for a meal the host is preparing. If you have dietary restrictions, let those be known before your arrival. Bring food items that only you would eat.
• Ask permission to use items in the house.
• Prepare a meal or pay for a meal out.

• Keep your space and the bathroom clean. Put the toilet seat down.
• Conserve linens and towels-even if you use a different towel every day at home don’t expect your host to provide one daily. Bring your own if that’s your practice.
• Ask about house rules-use of TV, electronics, dishwasher, smoking, etc.
• Lend a hand-walk the dog, do the dishes, etc.
• Strip the bed and collect linens as you prepare to leave-ask host first.
• Send a thank you note when you arrive home.

THE CHECK WHEN EATING OUT

Nothing causes more heartburn than knowing who is “getting the check” after a dinner out. Clarify it before accepting an invitation. Generally, if you say “let’s go out” that usually means the bill will be split. But, if you invite someone somewhere it means that you’ll be responsible for the bill.
Birthday: If you or a group is going out for someone’s birthday dinner, you all pay for the birthday person. If you can’t afford to chip in, don’t go. The person choosing the restaurant should be mindful of varying income levels of the group and choose a moderately priced restaurant.
Tips: If you put part of your charge on a card and pay cash for the other, you TIP on the total not just the part on your card. Also, carry one-dollar bills to tip the bartender and coat check attendant.

Cost: Never announce the cost of the dinner, if you’re picking up the check.
Split the Check: Only make this suggestion if all parties ordered similar priced meals. It’s unfair otherwise.

Introduction Primer

When performing introductions, here are two steps to proper business introductions:
Step 1: The first person’s name you say is always the most important person.
Step 2: Thereafter, everyone else’s name is introduced to that most important person.
ALWAYS say the most important person’s name first. In business, rank and status are the primary determinants to who takes precedence over whom. A client always outranks the CEO or President. Gender and age are typically not factors.

  • NEVER use the word “meet” when introducing people. Rather, for an informal introduction, use the words “this is” as the bridge between saying the most important person’s name first and then introducing the second person. “Jane Smith this is John Doe, our new staff member. Jane Smith is our CEO.”

Other reminders

  • Keep the forms of the address equal. If you use Ms. Smith, you must use Mr. Doe. You should not say, “Jane Smith this is Mr. Doe..”
  • In regular situations, it is best to use both a person’s first and last name when making introductions. To use only a first name is not introducing the total person.
  • Do say something about the people you are introducing so they will have something to discuss after introductions. Then you may excuse yourself to meet and greet others.
  • When introducing  dignitaries and other notable people, such as elected officials, you may want to use the word “present” instead of the words “this is” or “introduce.”

Help a colleague, friend, new college graduate, young professional and family member out, SHARE this post.

Have a rule of etiquette you think must be added to the list? Let me know on the form below.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. January 2018. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved

Want to Be Promoted? Get a Pioneering Mindset

Automotive Executive’s Pioneering Mindset

Want to understand automotive executive Ron Meier? Grab a copy of Willa Cather’s My Antonio-a 1918 published novel that’s stuck with him for decades. In the late 1800’s story, Jim and Antonio’s families settle on the Nebraska prairie. Though their lives take very different paths, they remain lifetime platonic friends. Throughout the book, Cather captures the great American spirit, portrays the vast landscape and reveals the mindset, determination and willpower of the pioneering people. “The characters and setting bring North Dakota childhood memories back to me and remind me of the many who’ve come in and out of my life over time,” reflects Ron.

Natural Pioneer

Ron’s attraction to pioneering stories comes naturally. In the fall of 1966, the Meier family of seven relocated from rural south central North Dakota to Ypsilanti, Michigan. Worn out by farming, Mr. Meier boarded a train for Michigan where he secured a Ford Motor Company job. After finding housing, he sent for his family who moved the day after Thanksgiving, pulling a small rental trailer behind their car.

Ron is adaptable to relocations. To date, he has lived in eight places, mostly for work advancements. Today he and Karen, his wife of 35 years, reside in southern California. They are the proud parents of five sons and a daughter. Their lives are blessed with two grandchildren and two more are expected in 2017. Theirs is a full and rich life created by the personality traits Cather used to describe pioneering Midwesterners: hardworking, faithful, persistent and determined.

Rising through the Ranks of the Automotive Industry

Ron worked his way up the automotive industry career ladder using these pioneering traits. In 1978, he started as an hourly employee in the Hydra-matic transmission factory (a division of General Motors). Today he is the Western Executive Regional Director for Chevrolet in Moorpark, California. He’s responsible for sales in 13 western states, including Alaska and Hawaii.

His path was anything but a paved highway. Along the way, he was an apprentice powerplant mechanic and a Journeyman (skilled tradesman) powerplant mechanic at Hydra-matic. He paid his own way through night school, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration (Accounting and Finance) degree in 1984. He then was a salaried cost accountant at Hydra-matic. His MBA in International Business followed in 1990.

General Motors World Headquarters then offered him a staff assistant role in the GM corporate accounting and finance department. In 1995, he became a GM administrator working in numerous staff functions as a people leader. Four years later (1999) he was relocated to the field staff as a financial administrator supporting the GM Sales, Service and Marketing staff.

Ron became a Buick and GMC Zone Manager (OH, MI, PA and KY) in 2007 and was promoted to Senior Zone Manager (IL, IN and WI) in 2013 before promotion to his current role of Western Executive Regional Director.

“I’ve stayed with GM because I’ve developed a passion for what I do. Additionally, I work around some of the best and brightest people in the industry. GM has evolved into a well-run, innovative and dynamic company in a dynamic industry.”

Recession & Celebrity at GMC

Ron’s most memorable career experience is the 2008-9 economic recession. “These were troubled times filled with high anxiety. No one knew how things would turn out. In times like these, it becomes abundantly clear how important faith, hard work, focus and the values instilled in childhood are in overcoming adversity.”

Because of what Ron does professionally, throughout his career, he has had the opportunity to meet many public figures like Peyton Manning, Shaquille O’Neal, Erin Andrews, Fred Couples, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, and more. Meeting these individuals makes him realize that people generally have the same hopes, fears, concerns, etc. no matter how famous they are. “They just perform on a larger stage.”

Leadership

Ron’s first leadership role was drum major for his high school marching band. “Back in those days one was chosen based on musicianship, physical ability and leadership. I realized then that people do not necessarily follow you because of your title, but they will follow you if you lead them.”

Traits of a Good Leader

  1. A good leader sees diversity of his group as a strength and finds ways to extract the best thinking from its members. “Over the years, I’ve found when people understand how what they do fits into the overall success of the organization and they feel they’ve contributed to that success, I’m on my way to developing an engaged, high-performing team.”
  2. People relate to leaders who are comfortable in their own skin and show some humanity.
  3. A good leader is also a good teacher.
  4. A good leader is a powerful and prolific communicator who not only focuses his group on what needs to be done but also the “why” behind the “what.”
  5. A good leader defines what success looks like and effectively conveys how this success benefits the entire group.

Selecting Leaders

Ron looks for several characteristics in leaders. “You don’t need to be a leader of people to possess these characteristics. Each is important in business. You are more likely to succeed if you can build an organizational culture where these are valued.”

  1. Personal Capability
  2. Results Oriented
  3. Acceptance of Responsibility
  4. Accountability for Results
  5. Strong Interpersonal Skills
  6. Being a Change Agent through Innovation
  7. Strong Character and Integrity

Principles & Values

“The dumbest mistake I made in my early life was thinking that reaching out to others for help or guidance was a sign of weakness.” Through conversations with others and a lot of self-reflection, Ron’s realized reaching out to the right people at the right time can be a smart move. “It enables you to get a fresh perspective and resolve a lot of issues, perhaps more quickly.”

Live By

  1. Be Responsible– “Own It”- Doing so helps one acknowledge his mistakes, take corrective action and learn from mistakes rather than pointing fingers at others or circumstances.
  2. Be Self-Motivated-No need to wait for an invitation to do what needs to be done…do it!
  3. Put Others First-Be part of something bigger than yourself. While some self-indulgence can be healthy, the majority of time should be spent in service of others.

UpSide of Downs a 501(c) (3) Non-Profit Organization

Ron and Karen put these principles to use in 1996 shortly after their son Steven was born with Downs Syndrome. They created UpSide of Downs in response to a lack of helpful information for parents and caregivers of these children. “We wanted current and less depressing information.” Initially they assembled materials into a booklet but today have a website that has branched into an informational source for caregivers of special needs children, adults and captives of dementia disease.

Not on the Golf Course

One’s not likely to find Ron on the golf course. “If pressed into service because of work, I’ll go and have a good time. But, the amount of time needed to become decent makes me turn away from the game.” Instead Ron spends as much time as he can with his family, attends church regularly and works on projects around the house, whittling away his “to-do” list.

Ron’s greatest joy comes from the blessings of seeing what wonderful people his children have developed into and the fine people they’ve married. Seeing the legacy being passed on in the parenting of their children is an added bonus.

Happy and Proud Influencers

If asked, Ron’s three cited influencers would likely list the same source of personal joy. Each of them possesses pioneering traits similar to the characters in Cather’s My Antonio. His dad Steve had a strong work ethic, a deep Catholic faith, a sense of humor and was known for how well he treated people. His mom Margaret taught him the skills for living and values that kept him on the straight and narrow. And, his wife Karen, the mother of their six children (two with Down Syndrome), has been a gift to his life. She managed their family life while he completed two degrees, primarily through night school; navigated many corporate relocations and supported him through his own life’s journey.

Share this with others who will learn from Ron’s journey and approach to life, especially those seeking to be leaders with a pioneering mindset.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

© Copyright. April 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

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Midwestern Values Led Tomlinson Straight to the Top

Sales Executive Reflects on 36 Year Career

Mike Tomlinson became a member of Aflac’s prestigious Hall of Fame in December 2015. This honor recognizes individuals who’ve had a significant career impact on Aflac’s 62-year existence. Currently, Mike is the youngest member admitted into this elite group of 17.

How did a Detroit Lakes, Minnesota  native and 28-year resident of Watertown, South Dakota reach this level in a Fortune 500 corporation that regularly lands on the annual 100 Best Companies to Work for list?

It wasn’t luck or connections. It was hard work, dedication and Midwestern values.

Father’s Influence

Mac on violin with Amazing Rhythm Aces in MN in 1920’s.

Mike’s father Mac (Marion) had the biggest impact on his life. “He was my business role model. He instilled a strong work ethic in me and extremely optimistic attitude toward business opportunity in America.” Mac founded two successful businesses and purchased another. His father, who was 72-years-old when Mike was born, retired from the day-to-day management of Tomlinson Lumber in Callaway, MN in his late 70’s. “One of the hallmarks of the lumber company’s success was treating the 50+ employees so well that they stayed long-term and performed very well,” recalled Mike. “Dad also became a Christian later in life and this had a profound impact on the business values he instilled in us.”

In retirement Mac developed a large tract of lake property that he owned in Detroit Lakes MN. Mike and his brothers and sisters worked shoulder-to-shoulder with their dad to improve and sell these lake lots, all the while learning valuable life and business lessons.

Values Guiding His Life

Mike is led by three values that guide his everyday life. They are:

  1. Tell the Truth. As his dad used to say, “Tell the truth and you only have to remember one story.”
  2. Under Promise and Over Deliver. Always meet or exceed expectations. Be careful not to overcommit.
  3. Listen More Than Talk. Ask good questions and really listen. “I was really impacted by Stephen Covey’s advice in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to ‘Seek first to understand and then to be understood’.”

Family + Music Man

Mike’s greatest joy comes from having a great family. He and wife, Michelle, have been married 40 years. They are the proud parents of three sons-Jeremy, Jesse and Jackson-and grandparents of five girls and eight boys. An ideal day for Mike, now retired from his 36 year Aflac career, is spent traveling and experiencing God’s creations and relaxing with his family.

Mike also enjoys music as a guitar player. He’s been a church worship leader for more than 25 years and played in the successful country rock band, Sagebrush, in the 1970’s. This northwest Minnesota band opened for and toured with national acts such as Black Oak Arkansas, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Jerry Jeff Walker, The Bellamy Brothers, Alabama, and others.

His all-time favorite song to perform is Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream”. Why? Because, of course, “it epitomizes having a positive attitude and pursuing your dreams.”

Cancer Experience Begins Insurance Career

Mike’s mother Ozella passed away from a nine-year battle with cancer just three months prior to his first insurance agent interview. It was the cancer policy that drew him to a long Aflac career. “Even though my parents had excellent health insurance, I could see a clear need for a cancer policy to provide additional cash benefits to cover the multitude of non-medical (travel, lodging, meals, loss of income, etc.) expenses caused by this disease.”

As a 22-year-old, Mike was astute enough to recognize a company with great opportunity for growth and advancement, if he delivered results. And, once aboard, he applauded Aflac’s commitment to fairly and quickly paying claims and thrived in the pay and promote for performance culture. “I never really considered taking on or switching to any other companies or careers.”

Rising Through Aflac Ranks

Mike’s work ethic and business savvy led him to rise quickly in Aflac. He was a District Sales Coordinator (DSC) for five years before becoming a Regional Sales Coordinator (RSC) for three. It was during this time that his favorite Aflac memory happened. His NW Minnesota Regional Team broke the Aflac all-time production record (Wall of Fame) by coordinating a complex take-over of a block of Medicare supplement business in MN. This achievement required extensive collaboration and was one of his most challenging and gratifying leadership efforts in his 36 year career.

For nearly 20 years Mike was the North and South Dakota State Sales Coordinator (SSC) before becoming the Vice-President of the Central Territory (8 states in the upper Midwest)-a position he had for six years.

He then held several senior leadership positions at corporate before his retirement, including Senior Vice President and Director of U.S. Sales. Here he oversaw 70,000 U.S. associates and coordinators (independent contractors) and a team of 225 sales employees while managing a $125 million budget and a $1.5 billion annual sales quota. Predictably, sales positively turned 10.2 percent during his tenure.

During 35 years of leadership and management Mike’s teams achieved quota 27 years, or 77 percent of the time. When he retired, U.S. President, Teresa White said, “Mike has the admiration and respect of all of us. He is an outstanding leader, not only achieving 36 years of record-breaking sales but more importantly serving as a true role model of excellence in ethics, values and performance.” Chairman and CEO Dan Amos added, “Mike is a top performer and I’ve never known a finer person or better role model. His has been an impressive and motivational journey. Along the way, he has had a direct and positive impact on thousands of lives, including mine.”

 8 Life Lessons from Leading & Managing

For nearly four decades Mike had led and managed people and organizations. He shares these observations and lessons learned during this time.

  1. The #1-character trait that leads to professional success is persistence. It trumps talent, education and intelligence, though these are important too.
  2. Most people get sidetracked by working in their business instead of on their business to reach success. It’s good to step back and enlist the perspective and help of others and assess one’s business.
  3. Once an employee has been taught his job, stand back and let him learn from hands-on effort and results. Edge them out of the nest to fly earlier on their own.
  4. Think big. Don’t let your past limit your future. And, don’t sweat the small stuff. Most of it is small stuff.
  5. Invest heavily (time and money) in developing your people. Care enough about them to be honest and candid. Identify simple metrics (skills or activity) for improvement and monitor and discuss regularly. Praise progress as people respond much better to positive feedback than negative.
  6. Count your blessings regularly and work and live your life with passion. If you can’t enjoy the majority of your work, find something else to do.
  7. Integrity is important. If someone cheats on small things like golf or a sales number, they likely will cheat on bigger things. When I find people I can give a blank check to, I will give them the utmost responsibility.
  8. Work/Life balance is important. I suffered a serious heart attack at age 46 and now work hard to balance work with an appropriate amount of exercise, sleep and relaxation. The older I’ve gotten the more important my relationship with Christ has become. It’s easier to see through a mature lens that this is the ultimate “long-term planning.”

The Near Future

Mike considers himself to be exceptionally good at developing and executing strategy and staying calm and rational in tense situations. No one who’s worked with him would argue against that self-assessment.

Now, after almost two years of retirement and travel, he plans to continue to use his years of winning business skills as a consultant in the near future.

And, how he’d like to eventually be remembered, well that’s easy: “Being a loving husband, father and grandfather.”

 

 

Share with others who’ve had the pleasure of working with and learning from Mike.

©Copyright. March 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

What can I write for you? Contact me.