Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics

As with everyone else in the world, the pandemic destroyed my morning routine. My thirty-minute drive to the office is literally just rolling out of bed and putting up a green screen in front of the computer at the foot of my bed. It took me a long time to find another process of finding time for myself, and not just jumping straight into work, or begin doom scrolling social media. And again, like many of you, that meant getting out of the house and going for a walk around my neighborhood. It was in that walk this week that I ran out of my normal podcast episodes and began scanning something that I would hope would be interesting to fill the next hour or so.

One of the podcasts that I listen to during times like this is from one of my fellow Houstonians, Brené Brown, and her Unlocking Us podcast. It was the 19th most popular podcast, so it’s not exactly a hidden gem that I uncovered, and it’s not the first time I’ve listened either. There’s a great episode from a few weeks ago about the TV show Ted Lasso that was great and made me binge all ten episodes with my wife that same day. But this week’s episode was with Dolly Parton, and that’s just a must listen in my book. I was expecting Brené to talk with Dolly about her typical topics of shame, empathy, vulnerability, and courage. But, it was the unexpected business advice that Dolly lays out in the interview that caught my attention. Since this week is Thanksgiving here in the US, I thought I’d take a personal privilege with the blog and share this with you.

Dolly Parton runs a multi-million dollar organization and a brand that is practically priceless. She has a great personality and presents herself as just a nice person. And, to all accounts, she is. But, you don’t get to where she is in life and in business by being soft in business. She mentions that there have been a number of people over the years who have mistaken her kindness for softness, and she’s called them out on that.

Here are a few takeaways from Brené’s interview on management and leadership from Dolly Parton:

As a Leader, What Pisses You Off?
People not being on time. It shows a lack of respect, not just for the leadership, but for everyone else who is affected by it.

Employees are hired to get the job done. If someone can’t do what they said they would do, or get it done when they said it would be done, then there’s a problem. You’re being paid to do a job, and if you don’t take it seriously, or you think you can get a better job, then go somewhere else.

Being a Leader
As a leader, it is important to know when it is your responsibility to be the one who lets someone go (after all, you have managers of departments for a reason.) It is important to be honest and sincere. It is okay to be empathetic toward the person who is being let go. In fact, when you don’t find yourself feeling compassion for a person who is about to lose their job, it may be time to look at yourself and why you’ve lost that empathy.

Have Boundaries
It might hurt to tell people no, but you have to learn to say no. Understand when those around you are infringing upon your boundaries, and make sure that they know what the boundaries are, and make sure they do not cross those.

While I don’t think that Dolly Parton had any earth-shattering advice in her discussion with Brené Brown, sometimes you need to hear someone with her stature and humility talk about what it means to be a leader. It’s gratifying to hear from someone who has great success who also has some of the same issues with leading others as most of us have.