On Saturday, May 11, Development Dimensions International (DDI) President Bob Rogers was the keynote speaker at Robert Morris University’s 88th undergraduate commencement ceremony.
Rogers, an emeritus member of the RMU Board of Trustees, has overseen the day-to-day operations of Development Dimensions International, a global talent management company, since 1990. During that time the Bridgeville-based company has grown from a $40 million U.S. company to a $150 million organization that operates in 26 countries with 1,200 employees. He is the lead author of Organizational Change That Works: How to Merge Culture and Business Strategies for Maximum Results and has written numerous articles, book chapters, and monographs.
The following is the video and transcript of his commencement speech: “Success and Happiness: How Do You Get Both?”
Let me start by saying what a true honor and privilege it is for me to talk with you today. Having been on the Board of Trustees for twelve years, I have seen RMU go from a college to a thriving university and with each day I become more impressed, and fall more in love with RMU.
Today I want to talk about two things: Success and happiness – yours; not mine. Today isn’t about me or my success, so if you wanted to hear about why I am special, you will not. I am very lucky to have married the most wonderful, giving woman in the world. (Started going steady at 13!) I went to work for a fellow named Bill Byham, who had this little company in Pittsburgh and he took a liking to me. He coached, developed, and mentored me for the last 36 years. I was very lucky; so that’s it about me. Let’s talk about you and what I have learned that may assist in your journey. So today I will share with you five things I have learned that I hope you will follow. I believe they will help you achieve both success and happiness since I have seen those who have been very successful and are very unhappy, it is important that we look for both!
First, let me define success. I used to believe this – “The kid with the most toys at the end wins. So here is how I want to define success today. The person that impacts the most lives for the good wins – that can be in: business, non-profits, public government, family, volunteer work, or numerous other ways.
There are five epiphanies I want to share with you in hopes that you will take these to heart, as you enter the next step in your life after college. They are based on experience in my career and the extensive research our company, DDI, has done on people over our 43 years of our history. We study people through diagnosis/assessment and development of skills.
1. Follow Your Passion.
You may think, well that is what I majored in at RMU. But I just read where 50 percent of college graduates today will take jobs that have nothing to do with their major. So, do you really know your true passion? I discovered mine at 32 when I became trained in the diagnosis techniques at DDI. First, to discover your passion, let me ask you, what really interests you? What do you read when you have a choice? What do you research on line? What really catches your interest and gets the passion flowing? You will be far more successful and happy.
I read a lot and recently read some of Daniel Pinks work where in one book he talks about two physicists that work in a university research lab in Manchester, England. They found a common interest in another area of physics that didn’t have anything to do with what they did Monday-Friday. Years before they decided to get together on Friday nights for two hours to work on their common area of interest. Last year they won the Nobel Prize for Physics for what they accomplished on Friday night! It would be far better if what you are excited about is part of your occupation. The best examples I can give you are in this room – your professors. I was on the committee to help select university professors here at RMU for eight years and I saw dedicated, passionate professors who loved what they did. Life is too short and we spend too many hours at work to be stuck in a job for the wrong reasons. So while you are young, follow your passion.
2. Be Inquisitive. (There are two parts to this one.)
First, whatever organization you join, be inquisitive about how your company adds value, how it makes money, or impacts lives for the good. Learn how your role contributes to those things. Discover the ways you can contribute more, be positive, and all the good things your company contributes. Become an articulate advocate for your organization regardless of your position.
I made the mistake many years ago at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta asking a couple of their employees how they could be passionate about making sugar water that ruins kid’s teeth. I got a lecture on how Coke brings happiness to millions of people all over the world! By being inquisitive about your organization, you will be more passionate about your work and be happier.
Second, be inquisitive about yourself! By that I mean learn about your strengths, what you really do well. Learn about where you need to be better. Be receptive to feedback, in fact; solicit feedback on what you can do better. Be humble in understanding that at DDI we have assessed over 10 million professionals – not one was perfect on all the competencies/skills we assessed. The most effective professionals we have seen are always developing themselves, trying to be better. The least effective have too much arrogance and too big of an ego even though they may have some strong skills in some areas.
3. Be Interested, Not Interesting.
This may be the most important interpersonal skill you ever develop. Particularly today when more communication is not in person. RMU does a great job in communication with the required courses you have taken – part of the reason RMU has such a high placement rate after graduation. A research study I read years ago on professionals found most were 65 percent tellers and 35 percent seekers. And yet when they looked at effectiveness in five different interpersonal situations, in each one, the most effective professionals were 65 seekers and 35 percent tellers.
We, at DDI, reached the same conclusion as we started to do our research in interpersonal effectiveness and leadership. So seek, ask questions, learn what make others tick, and find out their passions. Learn about them. The benefits are enormous. You will make more friends, find more people with common interests, be recognized as a team player, and learn more.
We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. You can’t learn when you are talking. But here is the greatest benefit: you will get more first dates! And even better, you’ll get more second dates and you’ll even probably make a better choice for your life partner! You will also be a better leader when that day comes. Be interested, not interesting!
4. Learn Your Coping Mechanism.
If we follow our passion, be inquisitive about our organization and ourselves, if we get our seek-tell ratio at the right level by being interested, not interesting, we will be more successful and I believe far happier. But there are always potholes on our journey of life and how we deal with those potholes will go a long way in determining how successful and happy we will be. A few years ago, one of our industrial psychologists in the London office needed a topic for her masters’ dissertation. She called and asked what I thought of her trying to determine why some people who worked very hard were unhappy and other hard workers were happy. She researched and determined those people who had high primacy of work and were categorized as not very happy either didn’t know what their coping mechanism to stress was or they knew, but didn’t make it a high priority on their schedule. Those who were classified as happy, did!
So what is your coping mechanism for stress; do you know? It can vary by person. For me, its aerobic exercise where I exert considerable energy. It clears my mind, pumps oxygen to the brain, and makes me calmer and more effective. It may be the same for you or it could be down time with a good book, or taking some rest on the beach, or sharing a quiet dinner with your special person, or performing volunteer work, or completing what’s on your engagement transcript. But you need to know what it is and get it on your schedule on a regular basis. I believe it will make all the difference in the world to you.
5. Better to Give Than Take.
Remember at the beginning I said the person who touches the most lives wins. So you touch the most lives by giving of your time, resources, talents to good causes, or groups that help those in need. For example RMU changes lives and in a few hours you will be RMU alumni and you could give back to your university.
That reminds me of a study in one of David Pink’s books that involved recent college graduates who worked in a call center to raise funds from alumni of a major university. The study divided the callers into three groups:
The group that was told they would be helping students to be able to go to college raised twice as much as the other groups and twice as much as they had the two weeks before. There is something about helping others that inspires us and makes us feel good that we have helped someone less fortunate.
Now my boss taught me a long time ago to always end a speech with a call to action. So I have one more task for you to do today to make this fifth point. Today may be the proudest day of your life. It may be eclipsed by the day you get married, or the day your children are born, but for most of you, this is the day so far that may be your proudest moment. So you will get a lot of recognition and well-done’s from your family members and guests today, and you have every right to accept them.
But I want you to do some giving as well. So please think of that person or persons here today who inspired you the most to get through these past years at RMU. It could be your Mom or Dad that worked extra jobs to help with the costs, or provided the encouragement to get through some rough spots, or a roommate that assisted with a difficult course or difficult time, or a professor that really motivated you, or brother or sister that had been there before and guided you. Whomever you identify, I want you to go to them once you see them after graduation. I want you to tell them exactly and specifically how they helped you and what it meant to you.
Now if you want, you can pick two, but at least choose one person and here is what will happen. First, you will feel really, really good and you will verify my point #5. Secondly, someone else will feel great and never forget this day just as you won’t. Can you do that for yourself? By enhancing someone else’s esteem on your day will be a tremendous gesture to someone that loves and cares about you. They will be thrilled. In fact, enhancing someone’s esteem is such a powerful behavior you should use it every day and see the benefits over time. Try it!
So those are my five tips for combining success with happiness:
1. Follow your passion.
2. Be inquisitive.
3. Be interested; not interesting.
4. Identify your coping mechanism on your schedule.
5. Give of yourself.
I truly believe if you can do these five things, you will have a better career and quality of life. That is what I hope for each and every one of you!
Again, it’s been an honor to talk to you. I wish you all the very best life can bring.