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ATD Blog

Q&A with Learning Leader Tim Tobin

Friday, June 12, 2020

Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in, and what you’re committed to in your work and life? Tell me about them.

I have been fortunate to have several great mentors throughout my life. There is an interesting common thread around how each of them came about. They were all previous bosses. We remained in touch after either they or I left the organization, and our relationship organically morphed into a mentor relationship. It’s funny because “mentor” was never used any of the relationships. In each case, it had been an informal mentorship. There were no structured meeting times or agendas. Our conversations were driven by a combination of personal interests and specific business challenges or needs. For some, we have kept in touch nearly 20 years. And the relationships have morphed quite a bit. Early on in each relationship, they saw something in me that I didn’t quite see in myself. They challenged me, asked a lot of questions, and encouraged me to take some professional chances—to take on challenging projects and roles. Over the years, a couple of them have even sought my advice on a variety of topics.

How and why did you end up working as a vice president of franchisee onboarding and learning at Choice Hotels? What led to this job?

One word—relationships. I was already working in the hospitality industry and had built my career in various learning roles across multiple industries. I had an opportunity to get to know the head of human resources at Choice while working on a hospitality education committee. We worked together on the committee for a couple years, so I got to know him well. I was really struck by his insights and approach to the business. Timing worked out where they were looking for someone to lead their franchisee learning group, and I was ready for my next opportunity. It has been the best move and best organization to be part of.

What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? What are you most excited or passionate about?

My mission is to provide opportunities that help people reach their greatest potential. I’ve been fortunate to be able to do this via multiple outlets. My work is completely dedicated to this—including our franchisees as learners and helping them open their hotels and run their businesses as effectively as possible and leading my team—providing challenging opportunities, feedback, and coaching. The two leadership books I’ve written help me reach an even wider audience and connect with people in a different way. The books have also opened the doors to speaking and coaching opportunities, which are other outlets for helping people elevate their leadership. I’ve also reinforced my mission as an adjunct faculty member, teaching undergrad, grad, and executive education classes for more than 20 years. In that environment, it is focused learning so easy and rewarding to see the “light bulb go off” when people learn something new.

What are you most proud of accomplishing?

Professionally, my accomplishments are due to working with a great team, so I need to start there. I am proud and fortunate to be a part of and represent my team. The two biggest accomplishments we achieved is a ChoiceU transformation, which included a major transformation of learning functionality and content. The other was the development of the Opening portal—a custom-built learning and project management tool that provides greater transparency and educational resources around the hotel opening process. It is a first in the industry and greatly helps our franchisees.

Personally, there are a few accomplishments I am proud of. Earning my doctorate degree is something I never thought I would or could do, and it has completely shaped how I approach business challenges. I am proud of having written two books on leadership and that both have exceeded expectations. And I am proud that I have finished 10 IRONMAN Triathlons. All of these are a reminder that anything is possible with the right effort, focus, and determination.

What would you do differently in your career if you had a chance?

Have the confidence to ask more questions earlier in my career. I am naturally inquisitive, but when I was just starting out in my career, I always felt like I had to have more answers. I think I put that pressure on myself. It wasn’t until later in my career that I developed the comfort and confidence to ask questions. I often seek input from peers as well as at every other level of my team. I’m always impressed with how knowledgeable they are around the work they do, and I am always learning something from them. A footnote to this is that it is important to distinguish when to ask questions and the type to ask. For example, as a leader, at some point you need to be decisive and take action.

About the Author

Timothy J. Tobin is a learning and leadership development professional with over 25 years of experience. He is committed to helping people and organizations achieve their greatest potential. Throughout his career, he has been directly responsible for the development of thousands of leaders from C-level to first time leaders across multiple industries. He is the author of Your Leadership Story: Use Your Story to Energize, Inspire, and Motivate (Berrett Koehler).

Tim is Vice President, Franchisee Onboarding and Learning, at Choice Hotels International. Previously, he was vice president for global learning and leadership development at Marriott International. Tim has also held senior learning and leadership development roles in multiple professional services organizations both as a consultant and internally as a department head. He has stood up and elevated multiple corporate universities.

Tim has led outstanding teams throughout his career. Programs developed under his leadership have won multiple awards including Chief Learning Officer awards for Global Leadership Development and Innovative Learning, Bersin & Associates awards for Leadership Development Strategy Excellence, Enabling High Impact Learning, Learning and Talent Initiative Excellence, and Operational Excellence, and the Helios HR Apollo award for outstanding employee development programs. In 2017, Tim was recognized for Outstanding Services to the Learning Industry by the Global Council on Corporate Universities.

Tim received an Ed.D. in Human Resources Development from George Washington University, an M.A. in Organizational Management from University of Phoenix, and a B.A. in Psychology from University of Delaware. He also maintains both a SHRM-SCP and SPHR certifications. He has been an adjunct professor spanning over 20 years at several universities including University of Maryland, Catholic University, Trinity University and George Washington University. He has also been a member of several academic and professional advisory boards.

Tim is a frequent invited speaker and panelist and has presented his work at numerous regional, national and international conferences. His writing has been published in diverse outlets such as Harvard Business Review Blog, The International Journal of Strategic Business Alliances, Drucker Forum, SmartCEO Magazine, Leadership Excellence, Organization Management Journal, and Social Psychology and Education, among other academic and popular press outlets.

On a personal note, Tim has completed numerous endurance athletic events including a 4.4-mile open water swim, multiple century bike rides, over a dozen marathons, and more than five ironman triathlons.

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