leadership instructor Tony Oliver

Instructor Spotlight: Tony Oliver

In his two decades of experience in a variety of roles, including project manager, business analyst and change management specialist, Tony Oliver has come to believe that listening is the most essential skill for facilitation. Leveraging his project management and Six Sigma certifications, he is currently a senior manager with Aetna, a CVS Health Company, and has experience as a peer and career advisor and mentor. He has been an instructor for UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education since 2017, teaching for the Project Management Certificate Program as well as the Tailored Business and Leadership Program.

Establishing Effective Leadership

Aside from strong listening skills, Oliver believes that a good leader should also have a desire to gather and evaluate data. “Delegating analysis is one thing; outsourcing critical thinking is another thing altogether,” he says. “There should always be spirited debate to determine alternate views. Effective leaders should serve as sounding boards for problems, help bring alternate viewpoints, ask ‘what if’ and facilitate connections.”

An important lesson Oliver has learned about leading people is that you should imagine counterarguments to your positions. “It doesn’t lessen your argument or make you look weak,” he explains. “It prepares you to address resistance to change, which is inevitable.” Another valuable lesson he’s learned is to stay levelheaded. “Being passionate about a topic shows that we care, but being emotional can lead us to sometimes overlook critical considerations.”

Being a Lifelong Learner

As an instructor, Oliver believes in the importance of bringing concepts to life. “Often it takes a story, analogy, an example or even a sounding board to help others grasp difficult concepts,” he says. “Project management and business analysis are dynamic disciplines and practitioners can constantly acquire new skills.” He explains that learning the basic building blocks of a topic is often the hardest step. “My classes address this by connecting concepts to the experiences that students have already had and building from those conversations.”

Another aspect of Oliver’s approach to teaching is to instill in his students a passion for the subject matter. “My best students have been those who have become lifelong learners, who have asked insightful questions and wanted to dig deeper into the topics,” he says.

Advance Your Skills in Business and Leadership​​​​

Whether you’re looking to expand your business skills or looking to provide management training for your team, we’ve got you covered.

  • Business Programs: Available in several key business areas, including HR, Project Management, Accounting and Coaching  
  • Leadership Programs: From Supervisory Leadership to Management Development and Executive Leadership, we offer a continuum of leadership training
  • Tailored Business and Leadership Training: Prepare your team for success with customized programs to fit your organizations needs

Staying Current

For those looking to expand their knowledge in the leadership and management arena, Oliver recommends finding articles to stay current. A faithful reader of BusinessWeek, the Economist and the Wall Street Journal, he says good articles can be found in many places, including medium.com, the Sacramento Business Journal and Entrepreneur.

Oliver also says that one industry trend that students should be aware of is customer-centricity. “Putting the customer first rightfully connects all the back-office elements of the organization to the end customer, rather than assuming that no direct connection means no connection whatsoever,” he says. “This serves to remind employees to look for both upstream and downstream impacts, to ask more questions and to poke around beyond their area in an effort to understand the entire process, rather than just their own.”

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