Episode 99 – Tran Taylor Shares Wisdom from the C-suite

Episode Summary

Our special guest is a gifted leader who has run the HR programs from the C-suite of several of America’s most admired and successful corporations. Join us as Tran Taylor, the Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) at Up-Bound, shares a trove of wisdom and enlightening stories. You’ll learn about Tran’s exciting journey in the corporate world, the invaluable mentorship he received from Dennis Donovan, and his approach to leading with authenticity.

Discover how Tran Taylor utilizes his knack for uniting people in his career, how Dennis Donovan helped shape his path to success, and the critical life lessons he has gleaned so far. He provides insights on how to maximize the skills that have brought you success and how to resist the temptation to be all things to all people. This episode is packed with wisdom and advice for personal and professional growth. Don’t miss it!

Brief Bio for our wise guest – Tran Taylor

Tran Taylor has served as Upbound’s Executive Vice President — Chief Human Resources Officer since July 2021 and as the Chief Diversity Officer since May 2022. From 2008 through 2021, he served on the executive leadership team as the CHRO/CPO for Bumble, Mr. Cooper and Travelocity. Tran has a demonstrated track record of leading the Human Resources function, establishing human capital strategy and optimizing culture and people practices. From 2001 to 2008, he led the human resources function for global, retail-focused companies, such as Alliance Data and The Home Depot. He has led human resources integration for multiple merger and acquisition efforts and also served as a key enabler for several transformational change initiatives.

Tran earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from West Virginia University and completed HR executive development certification from University of Michigan Business School. He joins us from Dallas, where he resides with his wife and three children.

Take your mark and get set! Over the next 9 minutes you will discover why Tran Taylor is one of the wisest people I know.


Contact Tran Taylor on LinkedIn


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Episode Chapters

[0:00:01 – 0:04:30] – Intro, Welcome and Guest Bio; the connection between Tran and Skip

[0:04:31 – 0:06:55] – Tran’s career; earning a seat in the C-suite; his mentors along the way

[0:06:58 – 0:08:16] – Leadership style; Tran’s competitive edge; developing others

[0:08:20 – 0:11:50] – Tran shares his Main Thing; applying this wisdom to navigate one’s career

[0:11:55 – 0:14:15] – Applying the finishing touches; seeking inspiration from Maya Angelou


If you enjoyed this episode with wisdom focused on authenticity, plus career development tips, you will also enjoy:

  • Episode 96 – featuring Ayanna Pope, founder of Silver Line Radio
  • Episode 93 – featuring Marc Gorlin, founder and CEO of Roadie
  • Episode 88 – featuring Tom Minturn, owner, entrepreneur of Chick-Fil-A
  • Episode 80 – featuring Maxwell Knapp, founder of Black Bear Capital

Full Transcript of This Episode

0:00:00 – Announcer

Wisdom. It’s an incredibly valuable asset, someone say more precious than gold. It’s attractive, appealing, admirable. Conversely, a lack of wisdom is the basis of immaturity, blind spots and bad decisions. Wisdom, it can be gained over time, but it can’t be rushed. But wisdom can be shared. That’s precisely what we are here to do right now, today. We are here to hack wisdom, to distill it, to understand it and to process it. Why? To get better at life. Welcome to The Main Thing. This is your new 9 minute podcast. I’m your host, Skip Lineberg, and I’ve set out to interview the wisest people I know. We’ll see what we can learn from each one when they’re faced with an incredibly difficult, soul piercing question. 

Welcome back to The Main Thing Podcast. I’m your host, Skip Lineberg, coming to you today from Parkwood Studios with another special delivery of wisdom. If it’s your first time here, I encourage you to head over to our website to learn about all the resources that we offer, all the ways that we try to help you get a little better at life. Just visit the main thing podcast dot com. There you’ll learn about our newsletter, our special events, our recommended products and discover all the ways that we help you and support you as you get a little bit better at this thing called life. 

You’re in for a real treat today with our special guest, Tran Taylor. Tran has served as Upbound’s executive vice president and chief human resources officer since July 2021 and its chief diversity officer since May 2022. From 2008 – 2021, he served on the executive leadership team as the CHRO and CPO for Bumble, Mr Cooper and Travelocity. 

Tran Taylor has a demonstrated track record of leading the human resources function, establishing human capital strategy and optimizing culture and people practices. Additionally, from 2001- 08, Tran led the human resources function for global retail-focused companies such as Alliance Data and the Home Depot. He’s led human resources integration for multiple merger and acquisition efforts, and he’s also served as a key enabler for several transformational change initiatives. Tran earned both his bachelor and master degrees from West Virginia University and completed HR Executive Development Certification from the University of Michigan Business School. He comes to us today from Dallas, where he resides with his wife and three children. 

Buckle up and get ready for a high energy dose of wisdom. Over the next nine minutes, you’ll discover why Tran Taylor is one of the wisest people I know. 

0:03:14 – Tran Taylor, welcome to the Main Thing Podcast. 

0:03:17 – Tran Taylor

Well, thank you, Skip, it’s just great being here today. 

0:03:20 – Skip Lineberg (Host)

I appreciate you making time to come on and share some wisdom. I can’t wait to hear what you’ve chosen for your Main Thing here shortly. Let’s go ahead and reveal the mystery here. You and I go way back. I think we go all the way back to Martinsburg South Middle School. We grew up together … boyhood friends. Jump in here and help me tell this story. 

0:03:40 – Tran Taylor

Yeah, well, look, as you’ve said, to know someone for that long and to stay in touch for this many years is something that you cherish. Friendships, and I know that you stay in contact with several of our classmates from high school. I stay in contact with several of them. 

You and I reconnected about, I guess, 19 years ago. I was sitting in the front row of a TCU West Virginia basketball game. You saw me and you reached out and we reconnected. But that speaks to the friendship and where we grew up, where we came from.

0:04:31 – Skip

Yeah for sure, Tran, your career as a successful leader in the people area of Corporate America in the HR suite of business doesn’t surprise me. I think back to you as a young man. You were someone that always brought people together. Everyone was included. You were the guy that brought the new kid around and introduced them and started, you know, poking fun and telling jokes right off the bat so that person would feel welcome. You were an elected official of our class every year. So just no surprise that those aptitudes and those wonderful characteristics about you, you’ve leveraged those in your career, I would say.

If you would be so kind, please walk us through your career and I’ll just ask you to comment on who inspired you to aim for the C-suite in business. Who helped you set those aspirations?

0:05:31 – Tran Taylor

I would say Dennis Donovan, Skip. He’s an individual that I worked for at Raytheon and then he gave me a call to go with him at the Home Depot. I moved from what I call that senior director level into my first officer role at the Home Depot. So I would say Dennis Donovan. 

0:05:53 – Skip

Wonderful! Gosh … Dennis Donovan. Didn’t he have some time at GE? 

0:06:00 – Tran Taylor

Yes, he was the CHRO for several years. Yeah, and Bill Conaty, that group, if you remember those executives. 

0:06:09 – Skip

I do … from my GE days right out of college. Dennis Donovan was an innovative leader in our human resources, hiring, management, development, training programs. Very respected leader, that’s great. Wow, the fact that you got to be mentored by him – what a great propelling force for your career!

0:06:32 – Tran Taylor

Yeah, he’s definitely someone even to this day that I speak to. Wow, I wouldn’t say frequently, but maybe once or twice a year. He and I always make sure we connect at networking events or if there’s a particular forum that he would like me to attend. Dennis has been very good to me across my entire career. 

0:06:55 – Skip

Wonderful, wonderful. Tran, as a business leader. What are you known for? And then, what gives you the most satisfaction in your work? And they may be the same thing, but could you comment on those two aspects of your business leadership? 

0:07:10 – Tran Taylor

Yeah, I would say I’m most known for enabling the business. Truly taking a look at corporate objectives, key drivers, the strategy of the business, and then enabling the business through human capital, human resource and people planning would probably be number one. 

Then I would say personally, in terms of what I give back, just developing others along the way. Bringing others along so that the emerging talent and the succession within the companies I work for are well equipped. When the top leaders or the executive team move on, that we have the succession in place. And you do that by developing others. 

0:08:01 – Skip

Yeah. So what I’m hearing is you don’t just stay in your silo of human resources. You are intimately involved in helping the business grow and and meet its objectives. 

0:08:14 – Tran Taylor

Absolutely. At the end of the day. That’s what it’s about. 

0:08:17 – Skip

I love that. Well, Tran, I’d love to talk business, and I especially love to talk to gifted leaders like you. But given that this is a short format podcast – just about nine minutes of your wisdom – I need to ask you that pivotal question that I’ve asked each and every wise guest: Tran Taylor, what’s the main thing you’ve learned in your lifetime so far? 

0:08:42 – Tran Taylor

Skip, the main thing I’ve learned in my lifetime so far is to remain true to who I am … and really embrace my core beliefs in everything that I do. Don’t try to be someone that I’m not.

0:08:59 – Skip

That is such a great wisdom nugget. That’s wisdom truth: stay true to who you are. Stay true to yourself. Tran, I know there’s more there. Could we ask you to unpack it and tell us more about that wisdom and how you apply it?

0:09:18 – Tran Taylor

It comes into play as an HR executive. Skip, you are well aware of the role that HR plays, and especially at the executive level. You navigate and you influence, you advise, you coach. You’re the trusted liaison to a lot of leaders. How I apply it … and how it plays out is that at the end of the day, the corporate environment is very competitive. You have executives and leaders who want to rise to the top and, occasionally, become something that they’re not … or grasping for attributes or characteristics that they don’t have. You know, I always remind them: if you stay true to who you are, that’s what got you where you are today and that’s what will drive your future success. So that’s how it plays out in my work life, for my career.

0:10:19 – Skip

Gosh, that is so, so important, so vital. And we lose sight of that, don’t we? 

Let’s say that I’m a great communicator and creative problem-solver. But if I try to be a great financial analyst, that’s me trying to be something that I’m not. That’s not going to get me very far. But if I lean into those characteristics and aptitudes that got me to where I am today, then I can continue to ride those to greater heights. Is that a fair statement? 

0:10:48 – Tran Taylor

Yes, I would say it this way as well: don’t become dilutive. Don’t try to be too many things.  Know what your core is … your subject matter expertise and the things where you can add value. And stick to those things. Stay true to who you are. 

0:11:07 – Skip

Yes, great. Tran, a listener right now heard your wonderful main thing wisdom but they haven’t embraced it yet. If they need to lean deeper into what you told us as your main thing, what might be some indications, symptoms, or pain points that they might be experiencing? 

0:11:26 – Tran Taylor

Yeah, great question, Skip. I think it’s a fear of retribution or not being accepted. You know if I believe this, and if I remain true to who I am, I may not be accepted for who I am. I think that’s that’s a key pain point. It’s just fear of the retribution.

0:11:56 – Skip

Tran, as we wrap up, a final question to ask you, someone who is so driven and successful … and you seem so focused … what’s next for you on your life plan or goals? Maybe something that you’re aiming to try or master? 

0:12:11 – Tran Taylor

Yes, Skip, that is just a great question. And, by the way, I love the way you set that question up.  It gets into my style. There’s a tendency in my past that folks see me as uber-focused and very competitive. And this is how … you giggle, you remember?

0:12:21 – Skip

Yeah, I do.

0:12:37 – Tran Taylor

Yes. But what I’ve learned, and what I’m working on … for the … let’s call it the latter end of my career … is being more aware of my style and how I make others feel. I will borrow on a Maya Angelou quote, and it’s that “people will always remember how you make them feel.” 

Folks may not remember Tran being ultra-focused and delivering results or the competitive nature. But that what they’ll remember is how I made them feel. And so I’m working on my style in that regard. It’s a personal development opportunity that I take very, very seriously.

0:13:28 – Skip

And that will be your legacy, won’t it? 

0:13:30 – Tran Taylor

Yes, absolutely.

0:13:33 – Skip

Tran, this has been a blast! Thank you so much. You are indeed one of the wisest people I know, and thank you for sharing your wisdom today. Thank you so much.

0:13:43 – Tran Taylor

Well, Skip, I can’t thank you enough. It’s great to reconnect, and however I can help you in the future … you know, I’m just a text, phone call or email away. 

0:13:55 – Skip

So long for now. 

0:13:56 – Tran Taylor

Alright. Take care.

0:13:58 – Announcer

Wow, that goes by incredibly fast, doesn’t it? Time flies when you’re hacking wisdom. I hope you’re left wanting more sync. Up with us again next time on the main thing, for nine more minutes of wisdom. 

Transcribed by https://podium.page

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