Dr. Diane Hamilton, Founder and CEO of Tonerra, a business behavioral expert who focuses on developing curiosity in the workplace.
With a Ph.D., Masters, and Undergraduate Degree in Business Management, she has worked in various industries such as media, education, software, banking, real estate, and pharmaceuticals.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family?
I am a business behavioral expert who focuses on developing skills like curiosity in the workplace. My technical title is Curiosity and Behavioral Expert, Keynote Speaker, Author, Thinkers50 Radar Member, Nationally Syndicated Radio Host, Advisor at Global Mentor Network & Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue. I am married and have two grown daughters. Neither of my parents worked, which is interesting because I am a workaholic. I am a native of Arizona.
Have you had any formal training or family business?
I have a Ph.D., Masters, and Undergraduate Degree in Business Management. I have worked in media, education, software, banking, real estate, and pharmaceuticals.
How did you come up with the idea for your business, and what was the process of turning that idea into a reality?
I am the CEO of Tonerra. It has morphed since I began it. Initially, it started as a company behind my speaking and consulting business. Then, after I developed the Curiosity Code Index that accompanied my book, Cracking the Curiosity Code, and expanded my media presence, the company grew to accommodate that. I am the former MBA Program Chair at the Forbes School of Business and Technology, so I had a vital business education that helped me with the process. I have considerable knowledge that is self-taught as well. One way to turn an idea into reality is to research what you want to do and read everything you can about it. For example, I had to teach myself factor analysis to do the statistics required to create my assessment.
How have you grown as a leader since starting your company, and what have been some of the key lessons you've learned along the way?
I have learned that some of the best lessons come from failure. I initially took courses in everything I could think of to help me, which might have been overkill. I have learned not to give away my time. I get contacted daily by so many people, who want me to meet with them, and I don't have the time I used to have to do that, so I have learned to say no.
Can you tell us about a time when you faced a major setback or failure in your business, and how you overcame it?
One of the biggest challenges I faced with creating the Curiosity Code Index was finding good programmers to design it. I had to recreate it from scratch after having chosen the wrong vendor. I have high expectations of quality and wasn't getting the end product I wanted. It can be challenging to delegate things to others at times. I had to recognize that I could not do programming and coding, so I had to trust someone who could.
How do you stay motivated and focused on your goals, especially during challenging times?
I need to constantly grow by challenging myself. If I don't have goals or am not pushed into being a little uncomfortable, I get bored. I see many people who are waiting for something to motivate them. That is why I became a curiosity expert. If you develop curiosity, it improves motivation, engagement, and more, which leads to productivity. That's why I give keynotes and train organizations to build curiosity.
How do you balance your personal life with the demands of running a business?
It all kinds of blends together now post-Covid. Many people have learned to work at home. I have worked from my home for decades, and I love the flexibility of being able to work at five am and not have to work at five pm. I turn off my phone at five pm, and I only work for a couple of hours in the mornings on weekends.
What are your plans for the future of your business, and how do you see yourself evolving as a founder and leader?
I continue to partner with other organizations that want to develop curiosity and other behavioral issues in the workplace. I plan on expanding the reach of the Curiosity Code Index. I evolve as a leader by surrounding myself with people who are smarter than I am. I am on multiple boards, including mentorship companies like the Global Mentor Network and The Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue.
If you could go back in time and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Do not be so afraid to fail. Failure teaches the best lessons.
What's the most unconventional thing you've done to grow your business, and what was the result?
I gave away and continue giving away much free content. I interviewed thousands of people on my nationally syndicated radio show and did it at my own expense. It led to creating everything I do now, including my passion for curiosity.
What's the most important lesson you've learned from a failure, and how have you applied it to your business?
I learned that failure is a teacher of things you would never have known had it not occurred. It is critical for growth. I share what I have learned in my keynotes and training.
What's the most meaningful compliment or feedback you've ever received from a customer, and why did it resonate with you?
I have been fortunate to receive some great testimonials. However, I like when someone contacts me immediately with some unique way of saying they appreciate something I did. I remember interviewing a Hall of Fame speaker who instantly created a video and put it on Youtube to say how impressed he was with my work. I was also honored to have Thinkers50 (Considered the Academy Awards for Business Thinkers) include me on their Radar list and in their inaugural book co-authored with Wiley.
If you had to choose one thing that makes your company truly unique and sets it apart from the competition, what would it be, and why?
My organization is the only one that provides what I do. I created the first and only valid instrument to determine the factors inhibiting curiosity. Because of that, organizations like Verizon, Novartis, Forbes, LinkedIn, Wiley, and many others have hired me to speak and work with their people. I focus on delivering relevant content they have yet to receive about the value I can bring to their organizations to help them be more productive and engaged.