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Robert Dooley, dean of the Gary W. Rollins College of Business

Robert Dooley, the dean of the Gary W. Rollins College of Business at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga since 2011, heads a program of approximately 2,400 students. Forty years ago, he was in their shoes. A native of Athens, Tenn., Dooley graduated from UTC in 1983, then returned and completed his MBA in 1991, focusing on finance. He earned his doctorate at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and then spent 15 years at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

When the Rollins College of Business position at UTC became available in 2011 due to the retirement of Dean Richard Casavant, Dooley returned to his roots in the Scenic City, and to the campus where his career began.

 

Tell us about a book you've read that influences the way you think about your work and your leadership role.

Prior to my current career in academia I spent several years in the commodity business selling corrugated boxes. If there was ever an undifferentiated product, it is a corrugated box. Not only is the product itself undifferentiated, but the pricing structure is widely known through a publication called the "yellow sheet." Success in that business was determined by building relationships and persuasion, and the two are closely linked.

I now believe those early lessons learned in selling boxes are critical skills for success in any career. Regardless of the industry we work in, we spend much of our time persuading people toward a particular course of action.

It could be trying to convince your organization's leadership team of the need to change direction or convincing your boss to give you a well-deserved pay raise, or perhaps it is negotiating with your spouse on where to have dinner. To accomplish almost anything you have to get buy-in and support from those around you.

Dr. Robert Cialdini's book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" is, I believe, a must-read book. He distills decades of research into six principles of influence: reciprocity, consistency, social proof, likability, authority, and scarcity. Throughout the book he stresses that the six principles should be used with integrity and good intent, and not for the purpose of manipulation.

 

What else are you reading these days that you'd recommend?

Currently, I'm reading "The Last Girl" by Nadia Murad. It is a horrific story about the torture and genocide of the Yazidi people in Northern Iraq soon after ISIS took control of the region, and one young girl's determination to survive the atrocities and seek justice for herself and all the victims.

Parts of the book are difficult to read and haunting. At times, I must stop reading. However, it is an important book to read. It reminds us of humankind's limitless ability to hate and commit unthinkable atrocities and the sustaining power of community, love, and the human spirit.

I recently finished "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion" by Dr. Jonathan Haidt. In today's world of seemingly intractable conflicts over religion and politics, the book provides great insight into how to have meaningful conversations with people who have different convictions from your own.

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