Two years ago I had the pleasure of being featured on the cover of Smart Meetings Magazine. In the interview, I shared several personal experiences of when I’ve had to reinvent myself–whether from a career setback, a relationship breakup, a financial challenge, or a family issue. After hearing the stories and learning how I bounced back after every challenge and how I got ‘better and not bitter’, the writer coined me as a “Master of Reinvention.” I realize that “life is not what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you.” We all face challenges in life, but not everyone can turn their setbacks into a comeback.
Since then, I’ve reflected on my life and realized that my successes today are built on the foundation of my past experiences and the life lessons (aka failures and mistakes) that I gleaned from them. My successes are also built on having courage, taking risks, a spiritual foundation of faith, a willingness to learn, knowing my purpose in life, and a strong network of supportive family and friends. When you have these characteristics, anyone can be a Master of their Reinvention.
So I thought it worthwhile to share this excerpt of the article from Smart Meetings Magazine because it is still relevant today, particularly as many of us reflect on a new year and set new goals for success. It’s a story that I believe will help inspire and encourage many of you.
BY KATHARINE FONG ON JUNE 19, 2014
Shirley Davis has a message for you: You can reinvent yourself. You can increase your level of influence and success, on the job, in your career and in your relationships.
She ought to know—she’s done it, several times. The accomplished executive with a doctorate in business and organization management now speaks to companies and groups worldwide on lofty topics such as global workforce strategies and solutions, talent acquisition and management, and the importance of diversity and inclusion. But over the years, Davis has personally dealt with a bad manager, bad relationships and financial difficulties. She was a single mother of a daughter for 17 years, and a woman of color struggling to move up the corporate ladder. She wrote a book about her journey—Reinvent Yourself: Strategies for Achieving Success in Your Career, Personal Life, Relationships, and Finances—to help others learn what she has lived.
“Early on in my career, I was constantly being told that I was a great worker, yet I was not getting promoted,” says the 47-year-old Davis, CEO of SDS Global Enterprises, a strategic development solutions firm. “I would say to my manager, ‘What else do I need to do? I took the course, I got certification, I did everything you asked.’ I was told I needed a master’s degree, but after I got one, I still didn’t get promoted. I was training less experienced people who became my boss. After I got my Ph.D., I was told I was over-qualified. Every time I ran toward that carrot, it moved.”
Her manager gave her no explanation or coaching, and Davis eventually transferred out of the department and later left the company.
One of Davis’ maxims is “never get bitter, get better,” and she moved on to great success helping companies and individuals navigate the evolving 21st-century workplace, with all its complexity and diversity. She sees the challenges posed by a workforce that is no longer homogeneous; instead, there are multiple generations, different cultures, ethnicities, and countries of origin, growing numbers of women, people with disabilities and disorders, various styles of thinking, and much more.
“My expertise is helping organizational leaders understand how to get the most productive and engaged employees, how to keep great talent, and how to be a great people leader (many of which I didn’t have)” says Davis, known as “The Success Doctor.” “I share tips and strategies that have a major impact on companies’ bottom lines. I talk about leadership in the 21st century and the importance of more flexible workforce strategies to meet their needs.”
Davis is particularly focused on talent management and diversity & inclusion issues, which are directly related to a company’s ability to thrive in a competitive global environment. She tries to be inclusive in her presentations as well. In the middle of her presentations—not at the end, as is usual—she’ll often ask the audience to answer questions, respond verbally to a video and tell her what they’re thinking; she runs insta-polls to capture the mood and feedback. Davis knows that more voices mean more opportunities to learn and share.
She also offers practical advice and insights. Regarding what professionals must do to increase their level of influence, for example, Davis posits “the four V’s”:
- “They have to have a vision about their purpose, what they want to do and where they want to be.”
- “They need to be visible—too many workers (particularly women and people of color) think their results will speak for them. They don’t learn to toot their own horn and they can’t hide in their offices and at their desks. They should be out building relationships, networking, and allowing the leaders to see who they are.”
- “They have to be vocal—they may get a seat at the table, but they don’t speak up on key issues, or ask for a well-earned raise or promotion, or ask to work on choice projects.
- “They must know their value and state their value–their unique skills and talents that have/can be developed and leveraged to make a difference. And they don’t do an effective job of sharing their successes.”
Davis suggests that finding the right mentor or sponsor can help. “You have to listen to voices around you, [people] who see in you what you don’t see in yourself,” she says. She said she first encountered this when “my kindergarten teacher saw something in me and asked me to be class valedictorian and deliver a speech. She recognized that she I had a gift for public speaking in addition to being a good student.” “So, I’ve been public speaking since I was a child.”
When she was 13, she entered her first pageant, drawn by an offer of a scholarship. One part of it was a speech competition. “I wrote my own speech. I delivered it with power and confidence,” Davis says. “I won the speech competition and placed 2nd runner up in my first pageant.”
She returned to the pageant the following year, and became Miss District of Columbia starting a 20 year pageant career. She went on to win Mrs. Oklahoma, Ms. Richmond and Ms. Virginia; in 2000 she won the national title of Ms. American United States. During her reigns, she honed her special skill even more. “I did press conferences, interviews, worked with speech coaches—I learned to master what I’m on this earth to do,” she says.
Davis is the first to say that her path to success was not smooth. She started her career as a bank teller and worked her way up to senior-level jobs at Bank IV Financial (now Bank of America), Circuit City, Constellation Energy, Capital One, and most recently as an executive at the world’s largest HR association in the world, The Society for Human Resource Management. Though she was always identified as a “high performer” at work, she suffered setbacks and challenges professionally and personally. Nevertheless, with the help of friends and mentors, and by studying executives and their strategies, reading self-help books, she learned how to reinvent herself.
“I rebounded, re-prioritized my goals, reset relationships and my repaired my finances,” Davis says. “When you let go of toxic relationships, regain your personal power, and stop self-sabotaging and giving away your power, you have a better chance of reinvention.
One of her mentors is Les Brown, world renowned motivational speaker and former member of the Ohio House of Representatives. He has seen Davis’ growth and development as a speaker and entrepreneur in the decade since they met. “She’s lived an achievement-driven life,” Brown says. “She’s one of those people who IS the message of what she brings. She’s powerful.”
Brown says he’s been a combination of teacher, coach and friend to Davis. “I’ve helped show her how to leverage her story and her knowledge,” he says. “She knows how to create value and impact. She orchestrates an experience when she presents, to create the desire within audience members to move their lives—create a shift in their lives—and reach higher. They see themselves differently and accept the challenge of being more self-driven and -directed.”
She continues to coach young girls competing in pageants on poise, public speaking, professionalism, and communication. Her daughter, Gabrielle Victoria, who watched her mother compete while growing up, started participating in pageant life about five years ago and won the first pageant she competed in–Miss Montgomery County Teen in Maryland in the Miss America Pageant System. Not surprisingly, she went on to win 4th runner up at the state Miss America Teen Pageant.
Davis is intent on helping others reinvent themselves. She now devotes all her energies to SDS Global Enterprises, and in addition to having a full schedule of speaking engagements around the world, is planning to expand her scope. She’s writing more books, new programs, new keynote speeches, and serving on several boards. She’s ready for all of it. “Life is boring to me if I don’t have 10 projects going on. That’s why I have to constantly reinvent myself. There’s so much in me that I have to get it out and I don’t have time to play around, deal with drama, and become complacent.”
For more tips and strategies on Reinventing Yourself in 2016, download my eBook or order a hard copy of my book today at https://new.drshirleydavis.com/product-category/books/
And for a limited time only, I am offering The Ultimate Success Reinvention Package including 6 personal coaching sessions, books, and other development resources that will help you establish a Life Plan and begin to take your life to the next level. Only 25 slots available. New Year’s Special Offer for $1999 (a $5,000 value). Click here to complete the form to get started with The Ultimate Success Reinvention Package. Invest in yourself today and begin your journey of reinventing yourself for success. We look forward to working with you.
For more about Dr. Davis visit her at www.drshirleydavis.com