Since I started Parent. Boss. Leader. (PBL), I’ve been consistently amazed at the talent and charisma of my guests – I learn so much from them. However, when it came to Phil Dana, the Chief Human Resource Officer at AskBio, I sat back in awe. I already knew him well but came to admire him even more post this conversation.

I met Phil as a client almost eight years ago, and we’ve both supported The Honor Foundation as they help veterans transition to civilian life. Here’s what I’ve learned about Phil over the years: he’s is a proud Naval Academy graduate and veteran, he’s lived and worked around the globe, he has a supportive family, he’s worked in HR for 20 years, and he has a wealth of experience he shares through his mentorships. I know all these wonderful facts about Phil, so I assumed I knew what he would say on the podcast, but I was wrong.

Phil has a wonderful way with words and a dry sense of humor. To fully appreciate Phil, you should hear things in his own words, but I still wanted to summarize a few lessons from our conversation. And as I started writing, I realized he offered so much insightful and practical advice that I had to divide this blog into two parts. Part one covers Phil’s mantra – don’t be the weak link, a phrase derived from his Navy training. And as for part two, well you will just have to stay tuned!

Don’t Be the Weak Link

This simple, direct statement is something I’ve heard Phil say often. The saying comes from the Navy’s 5th Law, which is part of a poem that cadets memorize during their early training.

On the strength of one link in the cable

Dependeth the might of the chain.

Who knows when thou mayest be tested

So live that thou bearest the strain.

As Phil elaborated, I saw how important and influential the concept has been for him – supporting the person next to him guides his entire career. Phil invests in helping other people become stronger links themselves, and I found that captivating.

Investing in Others

Phil experienced the challenges of transitioning to a civilian career himself, which inspired him to begin helping others in the same journey, and his HR career grew from there. “Originally, my link in the chain was helping other veterans as they left the military. I’ve always stayed in touch and supported others whenever I can, throughout my roles. They’ve remembered and returned the favor. Almost every career move I’ve made, every opportunity I’ve received, has been because of my network.” Help others, and they will often help in return. Great lesson!

Phil told me that he truly found his career “why” when he moved into life sciences and molecular medicine. At AskBio the company develops genetic therapies to cure some of the world’s rarest and worst diseases. Phil’s father had cancer and could have benefitted from the advancements being made today. “I look around the room and try to figure out how a simple guy like me can help these brilliant people be successful.”

As an HR professional, Phil’s job is all about strengthening others, helping the people he works with develop and grow professionally, which makes the companies he’s worked for more successful. It’s a lesson anyone who manages or mentors people can absorb (not just HR professionals).

Phil’s career has truly demonstrated the power of his mantra – don’t be the weak link. But he also chooses time and time again to focus on others, to think about how he can make those around him stronger links in their positions. In so doing, everyone becomes stronger.

Professionally, personally, or as a collective society, we are all links in many chains. If we choose to follow Phil’s example and focus on strengthening everyone’s links, imagine how strong our chains will be!

You won’t want to miss the full conversation between Laura and Phil on Parent. Boss. Leader. And don’t forget to check out all the great shows on the ATR Podcast Network!


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