Rightsized into the right career

Carrie Leslie, owner of Skills Doctors Inc., never dreamed her career with the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. would lead to ownership of a nationally recognized training company.

Leslie’s resume includes implementing training programs for employees of companies such as Microsoft, Honda America, various dot-coms and government agencies.

She began her career with Goodyear as an office worker. When the company began adopting a total quality management program, she led the pilot team. Over the next 10 years, she helped design and implement the total quality management system for Goodyear globally .

The turning point came in the mid-1990s during what she refers to as “Goodyear’s rightsizing.” By 1992, she was a leader in the company’s training division; when the division was eliminated, so was her position.

“Half of America has been in that situation,” Leslie says. “Goodyear gave me my wings. I was emotionally and mentally ready to leave. Goodyear supported my goals and plans I had developed, and the timing was really perfect. I wanted to start my own company.”

She left Goodyear in mid-1996 and started C. Leslie & Associates in early 1997. Soon after, Goodyear contracted with her as a training consultant. Goodyear management also recommended her to an international training company based in Ireland; one of her first big contracts came when Results Group International hired her as its U.S. representative for project management training.

“I knew that other companies could benefit from these training packages and the ones I’d developed,” she says.

Since then, she’s renamed her company Skills Doctors Inc.

“We don’t come in as consultants to your company,” Leslie explains. “We come in as residents to do diagnostic work such as training and analysis and recommend different types of therapy to shore up skill gaps.

“For instance, if a company hires engineers, they have technical expertise in their field, but some of the processes these employees go through go beyond technical knowledge. They may not be as competent in project management, people skills, how to conduct effective meetings, make presentations or manage personal growth.”

She says that most major companies conduct training in technical areas, but sometimes neglect to include interpersonal and nontechnical training. This can be costly.

“People can have grand ideas of how to improve a process and save an organization dollars but they don’t know how to get the ear of the decision-makers,” Leslie says. “Improving the interpersonal skills of associates across the organization creates a fallout. As a result, you have a better organization because you can tap into the experience of everyone that works in the organization. The organization grows and benefits because of the skills of its people.”

Total quality management practices didn’t die with the 1980s, according to Leslie, who emphasizes that any industry, whether it’s manufacturing or a professional service organization, can benefit from total quality management principals.

“For every task in any organization, there is an individual that goes through a series of steps to get the desired result,” she says. “If this individual trained someone else to do that task, they would also teach the unnecessary steps they’d built into the process as a precaution.”

She says that by using a team approach, total quality management helps reduce waste and motivate employees.

“Innovation in an organization happens better when people learn together. Trust-based relationships are essential in complex work and people trust a process and relationships they help define.”

Her motivation comes from her own experience in the corporate trenches.

“I worked for many years in an organization where I could perform my tasks but I couldn’t be heard,” she says. “I saw people across the organization with ideas of how things could be improved but they lacked the interpersonal skills to communicate those ideas effectively. Associates in any organization should learn how to share ideas, not on an emotional basis but on an organizational basis.”

Leslie’s mantra when talking with business owners? Listen to, value and be loyal to employees. Most of all, recognize the value of the knowledge of the people you interface with every day.

People want to be heard. Some of the problems or positions that are valuable to the people in your organization can be clarified,” she says.

“Everyone likes to feel valued, and part of that comes from being part of the decision-making process that can affect them. How to reach: Skills Doctors Inc., (330) 928-3806

D.R. Powers in an Akron-based free-lance writer.