My ALLi author guest this episode is Monique Dawkins, a career and life coach whose book is the culmination of years of experience as a leader. Monique rose through the ranks as a leader in the health-care field, but her advice can be applied to any line of work. And, in the aftermath of COVID, Monique says leadership has undergone a fundamental change.
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Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Monique DawkinsOn the Inspirational Indie Authors podcast, @howard_lovy features @Betterequipped, a career coach who has tracked changes in leadership since COVID. Click To Tweet
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Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Monique Dawkins. About the Author
Dr. Monique Dawkins is the founder of Better Equipped Solutions, a leadership, executive coaching, and consulting firm. She is a learning and organizational development leader with twenty years of healthcare experience; majority of which has been spent leading diverse teams. She has always been passionate about helping people learn to get unstuck and to become better equipped to respond to everyday challenges in an authentic way. She strives to empower individuals in a supportive environment and has helped many people accomplish their short- and long-term goals. She particularly enjoys helping clients develop personalized solutions to effectively juggle profession, family and passion while putting themselves first. She has earned a Doctorate in Adult Learning and Organizational Leadership from Columbia University, a Master’s degree from Pace and a Bachelor degree from Howard University. You can find her on her website and LinkedIn.
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Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn and Twitter.
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Read the Transcripts — Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Monique Dawkins
Howard Lovy: My guest this episode is Monique Dawkins, a career and life coach, whose book is the culmination of years of experience as a leader.
Monique rose through the ranks as a leader in the healthcare field, but her advice can be applied to any line of work, and in the aftermath of Covid, Monique says leadership has undergone a fundamental change. I'll let Monique Dawkins tell her story.
Monique Dawkins: Well, my name is Monique Dawkins, and I am an author.
Most recently, I am an executive coach, an ICF certified coach. I am a workplace learning consultant and leader, as I am the director of learning and organizational development for a health system, and I am excited to be talking to you today about my latest book and some of my work that I've done.
So, I am originally from New York City. I'm from the Bronx. As a child, I've always loved to write and to read, always been excited about reading all types of work, both fictions, a little bit of non-fiction. I always gravitated more towards like memoirs or those types of non-fiction books. In adulthood, I've enjoyed reading self-help or more of a leadership generated type of books.
But yeah, always had a passion for that.
Howard Lovy: Monique also had a passion to be a manager. So, that was her goal in her academic and work life.
Monique Dawkins: I left New York City, came to Washington, DC and I went to Howard University for undergraduate school, and then after that I went back home to New York and started my professional working career there.
So, I got a job working in a laboratory. That was the job that was offered to me, my degree was in health management, so it was hard to jump into management without the experience. So, I worked there for a little bit and then realized I needed to get a master's degree to really further my interest, which was to be a manager or to work in administration.
So, I worked full-time and got my graduate degree from Pace University in New York, and then my career took off from there. Then as soon as I got my master's degree, I became a manager in a cancer center in New York City.
Howard Lovy: It took a little trial and error for Monique to realize that she wanted to be in a position where she could make a real difference.
Monique Dawkins: My mom was a nurse and my dad worked as a state worker, more in social security, but I always knew that I wanted to work in healthcare and originally, I thought I wanted to be a clinician. So, when I first went into school at Howard, I thought I wanted to be a physician assistant. So, I spent a lot of time taking a lot of science classes that did not really serve me, and then had the epiphany through failure that when I got to the point of trying to apply to get into the actual clinical program, I wasn't accepted. So, I was forced to make this decision of, okay, well is this really what I want, because if it is, then I need to home in and, try again if you will, but if it's not what is really best for me, then I should make that call at that time.
So, that's when I realized that my love was really to be a clinician, a PA in particular because I heard you could own your own business, and you could be your own, like you could be the boss, basically.
And it dawned on me that, well, you could just work in management in a hospital and be the boss if you'd like, and so that's where I shifted into more of the healthcare administration side. But yeah, I always had this love of wanting to really work with others and not to be the boss from the perspective of telling people what to do, but I just felt like I wanted to be the supporter, and the person that worked with people and moved the needle to get things done. So yeah, I guess I always wanted to do it, but was a little confused in the beginning, but then got clarity.
Howard Lovy: Monique enjoyed being in a healthcare environment where her decisions could help real people.
Monique Dawkins: Yeah, so after I got my master's degree, I started my leadership career. So, I pretty much, for about a decade, worked in a lot of different hospitals in New York City in various roles, worked my way up, supervisor, manager, administrator, director, and really thrived and enjoyed just the excitement of starting up hospital departments, onboarding new employees, figuring out new specialties, figuring out how to really help patients get the best care that they needed.
I started off working in a really tough field of oncology and then ultimately found my way over to women and children's services. So, doing a lot of OBGYN and women health services, which again, is very dynamic. So, I was really enjoying what I was doing as I was just, again, like I said, growing up the pike, if you will, in terms of administration.
But then I got to a point where I realized that, as I alluded to before, that impact or that reach or moving the needle, wasn't really happening beyond my department or my service line, and I wanted a little more, but I didn't know what that meant. So, I decided to go back to school again.
So, I basically started my doctorate degree with Columbia University, and ultimately completed and got a doctorate of adult learning and education from Columbia University. It was eye-opening for me to really learn about organizational leadership and take a step back and understand how adults learn and how they want to be supported and how they want to be encouraged, and it shifted me away from operations and day-to-day type of learning and more to educational, programmatic, support, coaching, consulting; it really just shifted my focus overall and ultimately landed me in human resources, which is where I work now, and what I'm responsible for now.
Howard Lovy: While Monique was advancing her career and furthering her education, she was also raising a family.
Monique Dawkins: I guess I balance just by pushing forward, to be honest with you. In everything that I've mentioned to you, I didn't mention husband or children, but I do have both. So, life just happens along the way.
So, while I was, getting those degrees I was having children. I have a 10-year-old daughter, I have a seven-year-old son. I have a husband that I've been married to for 17 years, and so, I've had a great support system throughout the time of me studying and learning and working.
So, just putting one foot in front of the other, but I think I'm at a point now in my life, it's actually about 20 years since I've graduated from undergraduate school, but I'm at the point of reflection, I'll say, and I'm looking back and I'm thinking hard and I'm soaking it in and realizing, wow, I've learned so much along the way, and that's really what led to the book that I wrote.
Really just looking back and reflecting and thinking about that journey, and everything that I've faced, and all the opportunities that I've had, but the challenges that I've overcome have been really heart-warming for me to think about now at this pivotal point in my life.
Howard Lovy: And on the side, she began to take on clients as a career and life coach, and launched a business called Better Equipped Solutions, and with COVID and the rise of remote work, things have changed in terms of how to coach managers.
Monique Dawkins: It's made it harder for managers to really retain their workers, I think, and when I say it, I guess I'm talking a little bit about Covid and just the trauma that everybody went through collectively in the world. But I think managers really have to be more crafty about caring about whether their employees are happy or not, and so what that has to do with me is that, as a director of learning and organizational development, it's a good thing for me because it's really job security, right?
My role is to help these managers think about how they can, not only just support, but how they can encourage, inspire, and really keep their employees happy, because people have changed in terms of what they want and really what they're going to tolerate.
I think that people may have had one purpose before Covid, but then after Covid their life's purpose or their tolerance level, I'll say, shifted.
So, things have really changed, and I think it just means that we have to go back to grassroots and really start talking more to employees, and start listening a little more, and valuing what their needs are versus saying, you need me, so just do X, Y, and Z.
So, to answer your question, I do think a lot has changed collectively across the workforce.
Howard Lovy: The idea to write a book came after she helped facilitate a retreat on creativity. That made Monique think that it was time for her to tap into her creative side.
Monique Dawkins: I decided to talk about my career journey, and think about it from the perspective of, what are the rules that exist in the professional workplace for employees, for managers, for people who are independent contributors, no matter what your role is, but what are these rules that exist that nobody tells us about? It's not part of the orientation for any job where you walk in and they say, well, these are the rules of the workplace, you need to read this and know this.
Then more than understanding what the rules are, what are the skills that people need so that they can navigate and be ready and prepared to really conquer, overcome any rule or any challenge that they might face based on that rule.
So, my book stemmed from this place of really wanting to share those rules that came out of my life's lessons.
I realized that I wanted to do it in a unique way, and so I said, I don't feel like this is my memoir just yet, but what I do feel is, I want to share the rules, I want to share stories for people, so why don't I make them stories?
So, I decided to do it in a hybrid fashion in the sense that I created a fictional character named Madison Hopeton, and we follow her journey. So, each chapter has these vignettes that describe this character and her journey to be in leadership, and it shares some of the lessons that she's learned, and it has the real skills that I have learned over the years. So, that's the non-fiction part, is that there are skills that are shared at the end of every chapter.
I use reflective practice throughout the book to have individuals take a moment to think about what's coming up for them as they're reading this fiction story or this vignette, if you will. Then what are the things that they can do that maybe they're not choosing to do at this moment, and how can they design their own roadmap or their own toolkit to make themselves feel like, I can actually do something a little different.
Howard Lovy: I asked Monique to name some of the unwritten rules of the workplace, which she outlines in her book, You Know Best: 10 Rules to Elevate your Leadership Power.
Monique Dawkins: I break down the book into four sections of rules, and so the first are the unspoken rules. So, an example of that could be like mastering the art of reading the room, right?
Nobody really tells you that there's a difference between being curious and being clueless. What does that look like from a leadership perspective? How do you know when you're being one or the other? So, that could be an unspoken rule.
I have a section that's focused on the dirty rules, as I call them, and that could be something as simple as knowing that there's no workplace saviour. So, sometimes when we work in corporate settings, we start to build relationships with people, whether they're our direct bosses or other allies in the workplace, but we just think that nothing can happen to you, right? If I'm doing a good job, if I'm doing the best that I can do, then of course things will work out perfectly, right? Wrong.
So, that's one of the dirty rules, is that there's no such thing as a workplace saviour and you can do your best job and you still might face a hardship, and that's okay. You still have to get up and keep going.
But for some people, again, it might bring like a hard head nod. Yes, you are right girl. There are the dirty rules, but for some people, depending on where you are in your career, it could be like, really, I didn't know, because somebody may not face the dirty rules until 30 years into their career. There's no certain timeframe when you might need to know these rules.
Then I have the rules of thumb. You really should always showcase your talents and abilities. Don't hold back. Sometimes depending on who people are, or power dynamics, or things, people tend to not want to always like showcase their brilliance or their ideas or how smart they are, and it's no, you should do it. You should shine at all times.
And then I end with the ultimate rule, which is really around the fact that you have to exhale more than you inhale. So, work/life balance, and not even work/life balance, we're moving to life balance really as a country, as a nation. It's really just figuring out how your one plate can be arranged to serve you.
So, the 10 rules are scattered in those four different sections, but they really are broken down into those different categories.
Howard Lovy: Monique was pleasantly surprised at the broad readership her book has attracted.
Monique Dawkins: Yeah, you know it's interesting how creative artworks. I think for me, I wrote it thinking of leaders because I've been a lifelong leader, but after I wrote it and folks have started to read it because it's been published about a month now, I love the fact that people who are not in leadership are like, Monique, this book is for me.
I'm not a leader at all, but everything, every skill that you mentioned, I needed to know these things. I had a reader that said, it doesn't matter if I was a cashier right now, this is something that's crucial for me.
So, that actually was, I guess, an unintended, great consequence, I think, of just getting the content out of my head and onto the paper, but I started from a place of really trying to really want to support and just, I guess, curate better leaders. But I do think the ultimate product is available and will resonate with anybody, no matter who they are, whether they are at the start of their career, in the middle of a career, and definitely whether they're in leadership or not.
Howard Lovy: And for Monique going indie most definitely suited her preference to take ownership of her own work.
Monique Dawkins: I think there was something just special about, for me, going through the process and feeling like I was taking ownership of learning something new.
This is my first book, so I had never gone through the process, but I love the fact that there was a sense of wow, I can choose what I write, I can choose how it's published, I can choose where it goes, and so I was just along for the ride, as I often am in learning something new. So, after I wrote this, I really felt comfortable and excited about this independent process of moving forward, learning as I go, knowing that I can rely on this great world that exists on the worldwide web, and get guidance along the way through, professional organizations, such as the Alliance, and just other people who have done it. So yeah, I felt good, and I don't think that I thought about doing it another way.
I thought that was the best way for me.
Howard Lovy: Monique's advice to other potential authors, don't be so hard on yourself. Just start the process of writing, and the rest will follow.
Monique Dawkins: Lean in. I find that when I speak with my colleagues, when I speak with people in general, put them in any bucket, but people really overthink things, I think, and I think we need to get to a place where we're being too hard on ourselves. So, just start the process, just start getting the ball rolling and see what happens. So, I really think it's important for individuals to just realize that we can do magnificent things if we get out of our own way.
So, my advice would be to just do it. Just start whatever project, whatever new hobby, whatever new job, whatever new skill, whatever it is that you really are thinking that you want to do, just try it out. Worst case scenario, you'll tweak it and get back to it. So, yeah, I think we have to, my advice would be, get out of your own way and just try something new.