Take Charge of Your Career

By Joe Tillman | 07/13/2015 | 7:17 AM

Crosshairs - success_Flazingo PhotosBy measuring success...

But how do you define success? Is it earning more money than you’ll ever need, the recognition of important people in your life, or by being a supply chain innovator?

What is it that you want to achieve? At the end of your life, what do you want said?

In the accumulation of all the activities you’ve done, what should it all add up to?

Something more meaningful than money – I hope – or the next promotion. Something better, like creating betterness.

And yes, maybe it’s that simple. Define what it is you want most – your overall goal in life – the one thing that will tell you “I’m successful.” Only then will you take charge of your career.

For me, it’s a tattoo at 95. It’s special, specific, and singular. What’s yours?


Image credit: Crosshairs - success by Flazingo Photos via Flickr CC

The Courage to Read

By Joe Tillman | 01/24/2014 | 6:32 AM

Courage_Network GeekFor the past two years, I’ve started the New Year with a review of my Balance Scorecard for Life: the goals I met for the year, and the ones I missed, and how to I close the gap on those goals I missed during the year.

One goal I had for 2013 was to read 20 business-related books. I’ve got quite a list of books I want on the list, which is currently more than 65 books. In 2013, I read 16 out of the 20 or performed at 80 percent. I’m happy with that, but would have loved to hit 100 percent.

For 2013, three books really stood out for me. I believe every young professional should take the time to read these three books. Of course, I will be rereading two of them.

First, Maverick by Ricardo Semler. The best way to drive performance is not through fancy incentive systems that really need a rocket scientist to figure out. Interestingly enough, employees who are on pay for performance incentive programs have them figured out. Which means they have an enormous amount of brain power – yet we continue to look for brawn. Maverick, in many ways, challenges the current paradigm of organizational alignment from top down to bottom up. For instance not only using employees for their brawn, but to involve them in driving improvements, making decisions on company direction, rating their leaders on performance (including how much they should be paid), etc.

Second, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. (Free eBook version) This book moves you to think less about “what if” or “if only” and provides a guide to help you find a route to what you want most in life. It challenges your current mindset (or attitude) and provides a how-to that will change your current thinking patterns to move you from, “I can’t do this” to  “I think I can.” This is one book I will read again this year.

Third, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  As many of you know I’ve been working on developing courage. By far this book moved me closer to embracing my vulnerabilities and living more courageously. It helped me implement a decision that I wish I had made a couple of years ago. If you want to better understand how to have courage, this is a must-read book. I will be reading this book again this year as there will be something new to learn that was missed the first time through.

So, courage—and New Year’s resolutions—where am I? An update is long overdue…


Image: Courage by Network Geek via Flickr CC

The "War" for Talent

By Joe Tillman | 12/26/2013 | 1:47 PM

TalentThere are many views that center on the best strategy to win the so-called “war” for talent. A more succinct outlook comes from Seth Godin’s recent blog entitled “The truth on the war for talent,”: It’s about attitude.

"An organization filled with honest, motivated, connected, eager, learning, experimenting, ethical and driven people will always defeat the one that merely has talent. Every time.

The best news is that attitude is a choice, and it's available to all. You can probably win the war for attitude with the people you've already got [emphasis mine]. And if you're looking for a gig, you'll discover that honing and sharing your attitude goes a lot farther than practicing the violin all day.”

- Seth Godin "The truth on the war for talent"

I believe the war for talent is misguided and lures organizations into an ailment I call the "grass is greener on the other side" syndrome. Essentially organizations do not try to understand WHY other organizations are successful, they focus more on WHAT was generated, especially from the talent they seek. Their focus is on short-term financial results, which—in economic parlance—are lagging indicators of performance. 

As our economy transitions from a service economy to a knowledge economy, more pressure will be applied to organizations to find brain power, rather than brawn, to solve problems. Having kicked boxes and licked labels, driven trains, passenger buses, and tractor trailers, I can attest that the brain power already exists in every organization. It needs to be cultivated, not sought after elsewhere.

I believe one way forward for organizations is to create a What's In It For We (WIIFWe) mindset, essential in showing how working together will create more value. Then share that value. This is the attitude that our supply chains need, especially as relationships become more important in how we do business successfully for the long term.

But the talent already exists… instill the right attitudes that come from trust and WIIFWe, and use them!


Image: talent by wwwmarcello23 via Flickr CC

New Year

By Joe Tillman | 01/07/2013 | 4:47 AM

New Years SunriseDon’t you love New Year’s Resolutions? For years I couldn’t help but make at least two or three.

Lose 20 lbs. 

Quit smoking.


Eat healthier.

Make all A’s for spring semester.

Naturally, I broke every single one of them, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

Eventually, I quit making any New Year’s Resolution. To some extent it was an attempt to quit dreaming about a desirable future self. Why dream when you aren’t sure where you’re going?

After looking back at the start of 2012, I noticed an interesting pattern to my resolutions. They all focused on something outward, such as my appearance. Rarely did I think about or consider my attitude as the source of the problem.  Last year I made my first New Year’s Resolution in several years – Don’t Wait.

The goal was to change how I thought. Instead of waiting for something to happen, I would take action. To ask a question, if I didn’t understand the point being made, I would ask for clarification. I did something instead of waiting for the perfect moment, the perfect situation, or the perfect time.

My New Year’s Resolution for 2013 – I will have courage.

Image: New Years Sunrise by The Waterboy via Flickr CC

More than Meets the Eye

By Joe Tillman | 12/26/2012 | 7:01 AM

Lights Camera ActionEvery once in awhile, I read an article that seems incomplete, such as this article on 5 Leadership Fads to Ignore, by Steve Toback. Overall, I can wholeheartedly agree with many of the author’s observations. However, Toback missed a critical teaching moment IMHO. 

The problem I see with the “leadership fads” named in the piece is the focus on the results. Toback says you cannot just copy and paste Steve Jobs’ management/leadership style; emotional intelligence is hard to measure objectively.

To me, everything the author outlined as wrong with the fads are the results of those fads. He hints to having to understand the practices that generated the results, but gave few, if any, practices gleamed from those results. His answer is “Be yourself. Create your own culture. Lead.” Then again, it’s not easy distilling the processes needed to be successful into a nice short concise phrase – like Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.

Trying to understand the conditions, elements, underlying practices that generate specific results and improved performance is benchmarking. It’s knowing the current state and having a plan to move to the desired state.  

To improve our performance, focus on those practices we’ve identified that helped others to do what we would like to accomplish. What were the conditions surrounding their success? Can we replicate those conditions if they’re missing?

Steve Jobs was an amazing communicator. While we will never be like or anything close to Steve Jobs, we can work to improve our communication skills.

Soft skills, rather than emotional intelligence, can be measured. Companies are already working to do just that in their performance reviews. You can measure leadership, communication, courage, trust, teamwork, relationship creation, etc. and each forms part of emotional intelligence.

He’s right about employee engagement. Here’s a five-step process to use.

Find your vision and understand who you are. Understand your strengths and your weaknesses. It’s about finding yourself, so you can be yourself!

And folks, what has worked in the past still works today. Napoleon Hill “Think and Grow Rich” and Thomas Troward’s “The Creative Process in the Individual” are writings that still have applicability in today’s world.

As the New Year approaches, start thinking about you plan for next year. For example, are you ready to benchmark? What are your New Year’s Resolutions on leadership and beyond fads?


Image: Quiet on the set! by Theiggsta via Flickr CC

Soft Skills and the 3 Cs

By Joe Tillman | 12/21/2012 | 9:48 AM

CommunicationsAs more companies understand the impact “soft skills” have on their relationships with customers, suppliers and employees, many young professionals are graded on how they perform on these soft skills.

By soft skills, I mean the ability to write, verbalize, and inspire. Some employers already look at soft skills during the hiring process. David Williams, CEO of Fishbowl Inventory, Inc., has an interesting approach based on the company’s 7 Non-Negotiables (7 NNs).

Similarly, as young professionals prepare to become leaders, many find they may have the technical know-how, but lack the soft skills necessary to succeed. Adrian Gonzalez said it best in a November 9th, 2011 post. He says,

Simply put, a young professional with a lot of supply chain knowledge and experience, but with mediocre written and verbal communication skills to motivate, persuade, and get buy-in from others, will probably never reach the upper rungs of the leadership ladder.”

Communication, courage, and creativity are the most important soft skills each young professional should develop and/or improve.

Communication is what delivers your vision to the world. The ability to describe a vision, motivate others to work with you to achieve it, and to persuade some of them to become stakeholders in it is the essence of leadership.

Courage is sharing ideas and thoughts with others. It’s speaking up, even if you are scared of what someone may think. It’s a choice between being judged or being ignored.  It’s asking for help.

Creativity is fitting a puzzle together without a picture. It’s taking two concepts that are unrelated and connecting them into something better. It’s making one plus one equal three. Jonah Lehrer has researched creativity and how to better hone your creativity skills.

Managers simply organize and direct their people in order to reach the company’s vision. Leaders, on the other hand, inspire people to be their best self through communication, courage, and creativity.

I’d love your feedback – and would love your help in sharing questions and comments about being a young professional. If you have a question, comment or feedback, please send me an email to [email protected].  The blog on the last Wednesday of each month will be a question and answer session from those that I receive from you, my audience. If I use your question, I will send you a free copy of a book mentioned in that month’s posts. 

Image: BSA Skill Awards by stevejb68 via Flickr cc

Certifications – Necessary or Not?

By Joe Tillman | 11/30/2012 | 10:49 AM

“The wisest are most annoyed at the loss of time.”

   - Dante Alighieri

Over the past few months, there’s been a lot of talk about certifications, particularly from young supply chain professionals. Recently, Bryant Jackson, Assembly Supervisor at Truxedo, Inc. asked me about the best certifications for young professionals.

The spectrum of possible certifications is virtually endless for supply chain professionals. Supply Chain Management Review had a great article detailing the why’s and why not’s of getting a certification in its July/August 2012 issue.

As I understand it, certifications are targeted for industry professionals who want to demonstrate a particular skill-set, develop a new skill, or to bolster their educational credentials several years after college. Several of the available certifications enable potential candidates to demonstrate their knowledge through experience by developing a project and then implementing it – i.e. Six Sigma Green and Black Belts.

My suggestion for recent graduates and for young professionals is to wait a few years and then determine where to go in the supply chain industry before tackling a certification. If you graduated in the last six months from one of 13 different universities identified by American Society of Transportation and Logistics (AST&L), you may already qualify for Certified in Transportation and Logistics (CTL) certification through their blanket wavier program.

Essentially, there is not a “best” certification for young supply chain professionals. Before investing in a certification, see if your employer will sponsor additional education. If no, and you are still interested, the next step is to evaluate whether the investment in a certification will help achieve your life’s vision or overall goal.

For most young supply chain professionals, a certification is not necessary to achieve their personal and professional goals. While we, as young professionals, are typically impatient, it is best to focus our time on self-development in other areas, such as soft skills.

In case you are wondering, Bryant chose Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink.

I need a plan?

By Joe Tillman | 11/15/2012 | 12:01 PM

Image001Yeah, you do. Really. Businesses have strategic plans for a reason and you need one too! 

Your strategic plan can help you decide important decisions and ensure you are on the right path. It’s a tool to evaluate whether a project or task is the right thing for you.

First, you need a vision – an overall goal. It should be simple, specific, and measurable. Mine is to “Get a Tattoo at 95.”

Second, you need purpose. What moves you to get out of bed each morning? What is it that you enjoy doing? I love helping companies and people find a better order to turn the impossible into the possible.

Third, outline your steps to achieve your vision. These steps are the incremental goals you need to achieve to reach your vision. Establish a balance so you are not focused on one area. I have my incremental goals divided into six life areas – Physical Environment, Career/Business, Live Wealthy, Have Fun, Health and Fitness, Love and Be Loved.

Fourth, measure progress. Pick three to five goals that best signal you are on track to reach your vision.  The first slides I see in my strategic plan are my five KPIs and color-coded performance for each one.

Finally, take action. For me, this was creating a schedule that I follow each day. For example, I think about article ideas every Monday from 7 – 8am.

I review my strategic plan once a month to make sure I’m on track. I update my goals to reflect any changes and remind myself why I do the things that I do.

I’d love your feedback – and would love your help in sharing questions and comments about being a young professional. If you have a question, comment or feedback, please send me an email to [email protected].  The blog on the last Wednesday of each month will be a question and answer session from those that I receive from you, my audience. If I use your question, I will send you a free copy of a book mentioned in a post. 

Image: the plan by the|G|â„¢ via Flickr cc

Know Thyself

By Joe Tillman | 10/17/2012 | 9:10 AM

Strategic PlanFor the past year, I’ve spent some time learning more about myself. The things that drive me, my strengths, the skills I need to improve and the steps I will take to work on them.

During this process, I created a strategic plan for my life. To make it a balanced plan, I focused on my personal and professional lives and aligned them to my overall vision with four key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor my success.

As with a business, we need a strategic plan for our lives. It allows us to evaluate important decisions we need to make.  For example, you’re interested in getting an MBA. How does that move you closer to achieving your overall vision? Are you able to achieve your overall vision without it? Or maybe you should pursue a MS in Logistics? By having a strategic plan in place, you can better determine the right decision for you.

Before creating your strategic plan, I suggest talking with yourself to know yourself better. (But not out loud – that could have a detrimental effect on the planning process.) This requires taking a few assessments and a bit of an investment on your part.   

First, understand your strengths. StrengthsFinder 2.0 is a great tool and book to understand where you should focus your goals.

Second, understand your personality type. Essentially understanding who you are and how to be the best YOU possible. I really like the Enneagram (I’m a Loyalist with a Seven Wing) and the Kolbe Index (I’m a 7634). Myers-Briggs is another option and one of the more frequently used by university career services (I’m an ISTJ).

Finally, identify the skills you need to improve. Communication, relationshipping, leadership, courage, flexibility, creativity, responsiveness, analytics, and collaboration are great skills to develop and improve upon.  

For me, I’ve learned not to read too much into things, not to internalize my thoughts and, most important, to stop waiting for something to happen. Create it!

I’d love your feedback – and would love your help in sharing questions and comments about being a young professional. If you have a question, comment or feedback, please send me an email to [email protected].  The blog on the last Wednesday of each month will be a question and answer session from those that I receive from you, my audience. If I use your question, I will send you a free copy of a book mentioned in that month’s posts. 


Image: strategic business plan –part2 by Business Ideas Alasha Davis via Flickr CC

The Courage To Speak Up

By Joe Tillman | 07/11/2012 | 1:31 PM


Often I find it a challenge to speak up in groups, whether small or large, to provide my thoughts and concerns.

I overanalyze what I want to say.

Waiting for the right moment to say something—only to see it pass me in the distance like a car’s taillights on a dark night.

I’m scared I will say something stupid or somehow show I don’t fully grasp the topic being discussed.

But I do take some comfort that I’m not alone. A recent Wall Street Journal article, “Speaking Up Is Hard to Do” explains why speaking up is so darn difficult.


Last year I had the opportunity to speak up in a team meeting. It was the perfect opportunity to voice my thoughts on the topic. And I was too afraid to do so! Too afraid to be judged. Afraid no one would be interested.

Each one of us owns a portion of the truth. Unless we speak up and freely open ourselves up to share our portion of the truth we will never see the whole picture.

To deal with this a good starting point is Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. She discusses how to improve our conversations one conversation at a time by opening up, with gentle honesty and a willingness to listen. And it has helped give me courage to speak up.

At some point we need to have courage. The alternative is to be ignored.

I’d love your feedback – and would love your help in sharing questions and comments about being a young professional. If you have a question, comment or feedback, please send me an email to [email protected].  The blog on the last Wednesday of each month will be a question and answer session from those that I receive from you, my audience. If I use your question, I will send you a free copy of a book mentioned in that month’s posts. 


Image: Courage by drp via Flickr

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Joe Tillman

Joe Tillman

An enthusiastic and dedicated professional, Joe Tillman offers supply chain education and research through his company TSquared Logistics. Joe has a keen interest in all things supply chain and uses his high-energy approach to life to author articles for industry publications, blog on young professionals for DC Velocity, and speak to supply chain industry groups. He also co-leads the Warehousing Education and Research Council's influential annual benchmarking study, "DC Measures." Prior to founding TSquared Logistics, Joe worked with Supply Chain Visions as a senior researcher and consultant, Wal-Mart Logistics as a distribution professional, and Union Pacific Railroad as a conductor. Joe is certified in transportation and logistics (CTL) by AST&L and SCOR-Professional certified by the Supply Chain Council.


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