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087: Roy Atkinson: Despite the fact that I grew up privileged

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Roy Atkinson Show Notes

Roy Atkinson grew up as a privileged kid. Then Roy found himself needing to work his way through high school and college while his mother tended to her ailing mother and Roy’s father. Roy had to get over several humps to move onward and upward. But one of Roy’s most valuable lessons came later.

Roy was cited as the model for the “Digital Renaissance Man” by Charles Araujo, writing for CIO Insight. His varied background shows why.

Roy is a lover of language. He studied Spanish for three years and French for four before graduating grammar school. He returned to Spanish for three years in high school and two more in college, by which time he was the only non-native speaker in the class. He started reading Italian as well, and learned to speak it with friends and neighbors in New Jersey.

Along the way, he studied six years of Latin, two years of Greek, and two years of German in formal classes, adding some conversational Serbian through a friend. He is currently about six months into learning Swedish using Duolingo software.

Roy was also an honors student in English literature and philosophy at Iona College and at the State University of New York, at both the Purchase and Albany campuses.

This all ties back to his love of communication in all forms, and his desire to understand and be understood.

Roy learned customer service from the ground up, delivering newspapers, mowing lawns, walking dogs, stocking shelves and ringing up customers in a supermarket.

He paid for college expenses by pumping gas and playing music. After academia, Roy launched a musical career—he had been playing guitar, piano and percussion since childhood—and was able to work as a full-time musician and producer for over twenty years. He was voted “Best Solo Artist” six consecutive times by the readers of the New York regional publication Musicmachine Magazine and was inducted into the Musicmachine Hall of Fame in 1989.

In 1995, Roy changed careers and obtained a job running information technology for an international nonprofit think tank based in Camden, Maine. He was later hired by The Jackson Laboratory where his manager suggested he attend an HDI meeting, and Roy became a member and later a founding officer for the Northern New England local chapter.

When HDI, the professional association and certification body for technical support, needed someone with technical understanding, deep IT support experience, and excellent writing skills, Roy applied for and got the job. He has been with HDI since 2010 as their senior writer/analyst.

Roy currently lives near Bar Harbor, Maine.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @royatkinson and get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet

“Speak the language of the business that the business understands.” -Roy Atkinson Click to Tweet

“Understand what success is to your business.” -Roy Atkinson Click to Tweet 

“Understand how to help customers be successful in your business.” -Roy Atkinson Click to Tweet 

“Express things in the terms that business units can understand.” -Roy Atkinson Click to Tweet 

“Be mindful, pick up on details for people.” -Roy Atkinson Click to Tweet 

“Earning your way in and getting familiar with people is really important.” -Roy Atkinson Click to Tweet 

“You can get disconnected with people if you push it to hard too fast.” -Roy Atkinson Click to Tweet 

“Understanding the other person is paramount in any relationship.” -Roy Atkinson Click to Tweet 

“Listen to what people have to say and how they say it.” -Roy Atkinson Click to Tweet 

“Being a good leader is to understand when you need to go in and when you shouldn’t.” -Roy Atkinson Click to Tweet 

“Try to help other people get over difficulties they are facing.” -Roy Atkinson Click to Tweet 

Hump to Get Over

Roy Atkinson grew up as a privileged kid. Then Roy found himself needing to work his way through high school and college while his mother tended to her ailing mother and Roy’s father. Roy had to get over several humps to move onward and upward. But one of Roy’s most valuable lessons came later.

Advice for others

Eliminate obstacles from your people’s path.

Holding him back from being an even better leader

Focusing too much on what other people think.

Best Leadership Advice Received

Leaders are people who make other leaders.

Secret to Success

Seek to understand and then be understood.

Best tools that helps in business or Life

My technology that helps me to connect with others.

Recommended Reading

Peter Drucker: Management Rev Ed

Contacting Roy

email: roy.atkinson [at] ubm.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/royatkinson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/royatkinson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hdi_analyst

Resources

54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.


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Click to access edited transcript
087: Roy Atkinson: Despite the fact that I grew up privileged

Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we uncover the leadership like hat that help you to experience, break out performance faster and rocket to success. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.

Need a powerful and entertaining way to ignite your next conference, retreat or team-building session? My keynotes don’t include magic but they do have the power to help your attendees take a leap forward by putting emotional intelligence into their employee- engagement, customer-engagement and customer-centric leadership practices. So bring the infotainment creativity the Fast Leader show to your next event and I’ll help your attendees get over the hump now. Go to beyondmorale.com/speaking to learn more.
Jim Rembach: Okay Fast Leader Legion it’s said that our experiences that makes us wiser. Well, then our guest today is one of the wisest because he’s had tons of experiences. Roy Atkinson was cited as the model for the Digital Renaissance man by Charles Araujo writing for the CIO Insight. Roy is a lover of language. He studied Spanish for three years and French for four before graduating grammar school. He returned to Spanish for three years in high school and two more in college by which time he was the only non-native speaker in the class. He started reading Italian as well and learn to speak it with friends and neighbors in New Jersey. Along the way he studied six years of Latin, two years of Greek, two years of German in formal classes, adding some conversational Serbian through a friend he’s also currently about six months into learning Swedish. Roy was also an honor student in English literature and philosophy at Iona College and at the State University of New York at both the Purchase and Albany campuses. This all ties back to his love of communication in all forms and his desire to understand and be understood.
Roy learn customer service from the ground up delivering newspapers, mowing lawns, walking dogs, stocking shelves and ringing up customers in the supermarket. He paid for college expenses by pumping gas and playing music. After academia, Roy launch a musical career. He’d been playing guitar, piano, percussions since childhood he was able to work as a full-time musician and produce for over 20 years. He was voted best solo artist six consecutive times by the readers of New York regional publication, Music Machine magazine and was inducted into the Music Machine Hall of Fame in 1989.
In 1995 Roy change careers and obtained a job running information-technology for an international nonprofit think tank based in Camden, Maine. He was later hired by the Jackson Laboratory where his manager suggested he attend an HDI meeting and Roy became a member and later a founding officer for the Northern New England local chapter. When HDI, the Professional Association and Certification body for technical support needed someone with technical understanding, deep IT support experience, and excellent writing skills, Roy applied for the job and got it. He has been with HDI since 2010 as their senior writer. And Roy currently lives near Bar Harbor, Maine. Roy Atkinson are you ready to help us get over the hump?
Roy Atkinson: I’m ready to get over the hump and help everybody else do it too Jim.
Jim Rembach: Sounds good. Now I’ve given our listeners a little bit about you but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get you even better?
Roy Atkinson: My current passion is making sure that people get great service whether it’s IT support or customer service and making sure that the folks who are practitioners in those areas have good information to go on, that’s really my focus and my passion.
Jim Rembach: That particular focus and passion, I have that too Roy. So, when you start thinking about you and what you bring to it, needless to say your experiences are ton, but what do you like bringing to it that you think is kind of like your niche and your special song?
Roy Atkinson: I think that in many senses I’m a translator and it not only goes for languages had someone tell back in the days when I was working in a supermarket one of the Cuban folks that work there told me that I should work at the UN as a translator and that translation skill not only works for languages but it also works for technology. I was just writing something yesterday about being technology translators on how to support people, can help people understand and better utilize the technologies that they have if they can explain them in terms of people to understand. And in order to do that you have to have a deep understanding of the technology and be able to explain it in everyday terms, analogies, stories so that people get a hold of it and corrupt their brains around it.
Jim Rembach: Thanks for sharing that and the translation piece, I think the experiences that you’ve had bring so much to the ability to do that translation. But you and I had the opportunity to have a brief conversation after a recent call center conference in Long Beach the with the ICI contact center expo. It was after a keynote where they were talking about executive buy-in and they were talking about an executive at Delta dental of Michigan, Loobag Battagliari (?) was talking about his exposure and introduction to the contact center and held the director that was there, really helped indoctrinate him and helped communicate the contact center. And he talked about several things that I think probably both of us have written about. But that translation to the executive level is something that so many people struggle with at the frontline and even middle managers. With the experiences that you had, if you were to say that there’s one or two things that the folks can do in order to kind of breakthrough that barrier what would it be?
Roy Atkinson: I think one of the most important thing, and this has been a big topic and information technology over the past few years, is learning to speak the language of the business, there it is again learning that language and delivering information in the language that the business understands. The business may not care about how many times you pick up the phone last month those and those metrics that are so important to contact center and support center managers so they can determine staffing and things like, if I go to the sea level and I say “Hey we enter 10,000 calls last month” they’re going say, “Okay, so what? It’s not important to me what’s important to me is how quickly did you get people back to work after something broke. Why did something break? That’s a big question. So understand what success is to your business and understand how to help the customers be successful in the business and then be able to express things in the terms that the business units can understand.
Jim Rembach: When you started talking I started thinking about my own experiences being in contact center operations and some of the struggles that I had as a youth in my tenure in contact centers, and part of it was just what you’re talking about. And I think for me as the course of my career is gone and I’ve had the opportunity to sit on some boards for nonprofit organizations for-profit organizations and had those strategic conversations. When I was in operations if someone wants to say to me, you need to talk to your language for me it’s like, what is it? I’ve never exposed to it? Where do I go get it? How do I actually get past that hump of “I’m in the innocent unknowing bucket”? I’m clueless, what do I do?
Roy Atkinson: So, one of the things that you can do is get yourself educated, okay, that’s one thing. And one of the best way to do that is start reading. Read business publications, read Harvard Business Review, read Bloomberg. Get to look at the terminology, understand what they’re talking about. In my case, I decided back in 2010 that I really needed to have a more formal structure to that and so I started taking classes at Tulane University Freeman School of Business and pick up a master certification and advanced management strategy on 2011. So, I had that formal business background that would enable me to be more familiar with the terminology and understand what they were looking for and what the terminology meant to them and that’s super important.
Jim Rembach: There’s one other aspect that for me I’ve also found is that, you find uniquely different folks within different segments or areas of an organization when you start talking about personalities of course but the way that they actually connect with the business and the customer, and heck even themselves for that matter, is that you kind of have to start with that general framework but then you have to look at the individual and I even recommend to folks building a dossier on the folks that are decision makers within the organization. Like this person for example, loves coffee, I had the opportunity go to a workshop on the science of persuasion and this one guide during the break was talking about how he wasn’t able to connect with the person who he reported to directly and I ask him, “When you walk into his office, what do you see?” He goes, “Coffee” it was all over the place. This guy is a coffee aficionado. He buys coffee from all over the world.” And I said, “What about you?” He goes, “I hate coffee.” I said, “That’s your first problem.”
Roy Atkinson: Exactly. I’ve got a friend named Robbly Jess, who works for a company called Rack Space they’re famous for fanatical support and Robs thing he just love video calls with customers from Rack Space he’s in the support world, and he looks at the background when he’s on the video call he looks at the background maybe he sees a picture of a dog he understands that that person has a dog is a dog lover and so he’s able to send a bunch of dog bones to that person before the next time they talk, things like that are really important picking up on details for people, super important. And I think that—and I know personally I’m always a little bit jittery when people start asking for personal details because I want to feel comfortable with them but at the same time if somebody is mindful enough to pick up on something like that for me it makes a world of difference. I know that you love chocolate and so you send me chocolates, great, that’s a great way to make a friend and introduce yourself to further your relationship. Chris Brogan way back quite a few years ago, wrote a great blog which I refer people to still and it’s called, Earning Your Way In, and he talked about—maybe I met on Twitter and I re-tweeted one of your tweets or I liked one for you tweets and maybe next time I have a Twitter conversation with you and maybe you send me a direct message with your e-mail address saying I’d love to talk to you about this so I responded e-mail so now we’re connected on Twitter and e-mail next thing I connect with you on LinkedIn I get to look at your profile, I get to know more details about you, where you work and what you’ve done and what you do now. And then maybe we have a phone conversation and the next thing you know we’re having coffee together because I came to your city and that type of earning your way in and getting familiar with people is really important than I think. You can get disconnected so this is a delicate area because you can disconnect with people if you push it too hard too fast and understanding the other person of course is paramount in any relationship. So, listen to what they have to say, listen to how they say it.
Jim Rembach: I think those are all great pieces of advice. And for us when we start talking about how do we make sure there were on the right direction, right course, and those reminders a lot of times we lean to leadership quotes. Is there a quote or two that stands out for you that you can share?
Roy Atkinson: Today I was thinking about a quote from Peter Drucker and I’ll paraphrase it because I don’t remember it exactly but it has something to do with manager’s being people who get in the way of people getting work done. And that can certainly happen at so many different levels it’s so easy for managers to insert themselves into places that are just creating stumbling blocks for people to get things done. So being a good manager and a good leader is to understand when you need to go in and when you shouldn’t, that’s a really important thing. I love Drucker, I love Jim Marrone. Jim Marrone has so many different quotes, I can’t even think how many. I use to have a randomizer on my e-mail signature years ago that I think I had 30 Jim Marrone quotes and I would just insert one in my e-mail signature every time an e-mail out, it was great, I loved it.
Jim Rembach: I know that looking at all the things that you’ve been able to get exposed to and that you really sought out in regards to your own growth and development and very creative as well as technical and structured so you’re working both sides of that brain which is awesome. But to really come into your own, a lot of times, we have to get over some humps in order for us to really find our zone and into really find a groove. Can you think of a time where you’ve had to get over the hump where it sets you in a better direction? Can you share that story?
Roy Atkinson: There are a lot of humps that I’ve had to get over Jim and I guess one was, despite the fact that I grew up, kind of a privilege kid, I went to a small parochial grammar school, I went to a parochial high school, especially during high school and the early bits of college there were some internal things in the family my dad was ill, my mom was trying to take care my dad and her mother was also ill so she had to devote time and effort to taking care of her mom, all of these created some financial stress on the family and so throughout my high school and college years it was up to me to go out and pay my way and so that’s where some of that work experience comes as I was always working, always trying to figure out could I schedule my college classes in the morning and work at night which I did for quite a few years, so all of those things were difficult to overcome but the same time I learned things from every single one of those experiences. I learn some self-sufficiency from being able pay those bills. I learn to be creative in how I scheduled myself and what my tracks were in school and all that kind of things, so all of that played out in later years as I approach difficulty and try to help other people get over difficulties that they were facing.
And they’re one of the most valuable things that I could do for people who work with me or for me, was to eliminate obstacles from their path. I remember one specific instance where one of my team members was rather discouraged on how to take a certification exam and he wasn’t sure he could pass it and didn’t know how he could take it because it was far away. And so I managed to convince the testing company to let him take the test remotely, which was not their policy, but I managed to convince them to do that. He passed the certification test and it kind of turned him around because he felt more self-confident. I think that type of thing is important, get the obstacles out of the way.
Jim Rembach: So, Roy, I know you’ve gone over a lot of obstacles. You’ve also done a lot of things from a creative side, you have a music business, you’ve been a musician, all those languages that you’re learning, the writing that you love to do, but when you start thinking about all of those things what are some of your goals?
Roy Atkinson: I think that one of my primary goals is to help my organization be more successful. And I think one of the ways we can do that is by better communicating with our members in our communities. And so I try to increase the options for people, as a matter fact, today as we’re recording this we’re coming up on the first Twitter chat that HDI is going to do and so that will increase the options that people have to communicate with us not only on the subject that we’re going to talk about today but to feel more free about tweeting us and communicating with us that way, open up the channels make sure that people have as many options as possible to freely communicate that’s really important and that’s a limitation of another obstacle and maybe overcome their fear of getting on Twitter give them some place to start, that’s important too.
Jim Rembach: So, now for the folks that are listeners that are in the support community, what will be the Twitter chat, hash tag that you’re actually using?
Roy Atkinson: It’s hash tag #hdichatat
Jim Rembach: Perfect. So hopefully they’ll come see you.
Roy Atkinson: One P M eastern time every Friday.
Jim Rembach: And the Fast Leader Legion wishes you the very best. Now before we move on, let’s get a quick word from our sponsor.
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Alright Fast Leader listeners it’s time for the Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, Roy, the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So, I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Roy Atkinson, are you ready to hoedown?
Roy Atkinson: I’m ready to hoedown.
Jim Rembach: Alright. What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?
Roy Atkinson: Focusing too much on what other people think.
Jim Rembach: What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?
Roy Atkinson: Leaders are people who make other leaders.
Jim Rembach: What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?
Roy Atkinson: Wow! Seek to understand than to be understood, Stephen Covey.
Jim Rembach: What you feel is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life?
Roy Atkinson: My technology. It allows me to connect with so many people in so many ways.
Jim Rembach: What is one book that you’d recommend to our listeners, they could be from any genre?
Roy Atkinson: I would highly recommend Management by Peter Drucker.
Jim Rembach: Okay Fast Leader listeners you can find links to that and other bonus information from today show by going to fastleader.net/Roy Atkinson. Okay, Roy, this my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and you have been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you but you can’t take everything you can only choose one, so what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?
Roy Atkinson: I would take back a little bit better understanding of how to use a spreadsheet. Because at that point I was doing business it was a full-time job and I would’ve been better at it if I understood the financial side better.
Jim Rembach: Roy it was an honor to spend time with you today, can you please share with the fast leader listeners how they can connect with you?
Roy Atkinson: Sure thing. You can find me on Twitter @RoyAtkinson or @yatkinson, you can also find me at @hdi_analyst, that’s the HDI side of my Twitter life. And you can e-mail me roy .atkinson@ubm.com.
Jim Rembach: Roy Atkinson, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom theFast Leader Legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over for the hump. Woot! Woot!
Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.
END OF AUDIO

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