Scott Bowden | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Scott Bowden

Background:  

World-class construction giant Skanska USA was established in 1971 in New York and now has more than 11,000 employees in 31 metro areas. As regional director of project accounting, Scott Bowden, has been in Nashville for the last 11 years. He has directed accounting and risk management functions for over $7.5 billion in revenue during his 14-year career with Skanska. He has overseen the construction accounting for some of the biggest projects in the area, including Nissan Americas Headquarters, West Riverfront Park and the new Nashville JW Marriott Hotel.

The Mistake:

Early in my career, in trying to fit into the corporate world, I think I was trying to be someone that maybe I wasn't, and instead be what I thought that the company wanted me to be. Actually, it slowed my growth in the industry because I was not being true to the person that I am.

One of the things that was always a struggle for me early on was how I communicated with people. I communicated in such a way that I had a hard time delivering bad news to people. I felt like people at executive levels didn't want to hear bad news. I felt like I sugar-coated too many things, instead of just being direct and honest and decisive with my words.

I never was dishonest, but I almost felt like I didn't give them the full picture of what I saw.

In every corporation, there are corporate politics, and I tried to play that game as much as possible. There's a lot of selling yourself to the upper management, and I came to realize that just trying to do that was outside of who I am. I'm a very genuine person.

When those corporate games started playing out, it was really draining on me and really bothered me. I just said I wasn't doing that anymore and decided to treat everyone the same. People are coming to me now more than ever because they know I will tell them the truth.

I truly believe that I would be in a much higher role today if I would have done this from the beginning, and that's why I'm trying to tell younger people. Had I started this reputation I have been building over the past few years 20 years ago, I think it would have carried me to a much higher level.

The things you admire in others are core values within you.

The Lesson:

I had an epiphany a couple years back. We had some college students that were coming in and I was going to be giving a presentation about Skanska.

I decided that instead of talking about our company, it would be more valuable for me to talk to the college students about what they should expect once they got into the corporate world. It just kind of formed really quickly in my mind and I started thinking about values and how to present yourself. I came up with this concept where you think about five or six people that you really admire and respect, and think about the qualities of those people that make you admire them.

What I came to realize is that the things you admire in others are core values within you.

My values are genuineness, fun, encouragement, motivation and perspective. At that point, I decided I would take these five core values of mine and intentionally live them out at work. From that time forward, in the last two and a half years, I have become this.

I'm having conversations with people that I've never had before in my career. People are coming up to me out of the woodwork asking for advice and my opinions on things. It's become my passion about leadership and living out my core values instead of trying to be what you think the corporation wants.

I have my five values in my briefcase, and whenever I am put in a situation like a meeting or a decision, I know my five core values and I use that to drive my decisions.

Pictured: Scott Bowden | Photo courtesy of Skanska

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