Archive: June, 2018

Post from Transformation Tom- Prove People Wrong: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - June 26, 2018 - News
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Prove People Wrong

            I was about to start this section as “prove negative people wrong,” but realized that not all situations involve a negative person. Some just involve an honest person strong enough to tell you something you may not want to hear, but need to hear. Years ago, I was growing tired of my computer programming position. I had been in the role for only three months. The computer programming assignment was more a move to get me out of my previous job than a move because the job was a great fit for me. It was not a match made in heaven for a communication major with no computer expertise.

I knew I needed a change. I became more dissatisfied with my job as I realized that it was not the proper career path for me and I had a steep learning curve in a position I was not motivated to pursue. The experience was good in teaching me that this role was not for me. I am glad for the time because I was put in the shoes of people who do this difficult job of getting calls only when something is broken or receiving the urgent request when someone needed it yesterday.

I surprised myself by proactively setting up a meeting with the senior executive to see what it would take to transfer somewhere else—anywhere else, actually—to become a manager of people again. My approach was not to complain about what I was doing at this point in my career, because as much as I disliked it, I was still doing a valuable function.

If you recall, this was the time in my career when I was removed as a manager because I, the “interpersonal communications major” could not relate well with people. The senior leader said he did not see me successfully leading people. He would only make me manager again if he saw me as someone who could lead an entire department. He wanted someone in whom he could see true leadership material. He needed to see the potential of a candidate two positions ahead, not just in the next promotion. He said he did not see that potential in me as a leader, and denied my request. I can’t blame him. My reputation was not stellar when it came to people management at the time.

As I look at it now, he was being direct and honest; something I crave now. I spent many years bitterly and conveniently remembering a different tone and context: he was out to get me, and I needed to prove him wrong. Although I genuinely believed he did not like me or want to see me succeed, I realize now that I created my own perception of the conversation to fit my need to be motivated. I needed the rejection to push me further to succeed.

There are two things you can do when you get tough feedback you don’t want, but need to hear. You can do nothing. Nothing can also be expanded to complain about it, be frustrated by it, and do not seek a solution. The other option is to accept it and make the most of it. You can use the feedback to make yourself better and stronger. You can build character and put yourself into a better position to succeed. Direct and honest feedback does not come as often as we like. There is value in it and we should absorb as much of it as possible.

I believe that that interaction with the senior executive that lasted no more than ten minutes saved my career. I had a specific focus point to motivate me. I must have thought about it every day for over five years. It drove me. It pushed me harder. It became my driving force to rally at a time when I was ready to walk out the door. My wife reminds me now that my misery and frustration were growing so much that if I hadn’t changed my career course at that time, we probably wouldn’t have stayed together long enough to marry. In simple terms, I was getting on her nerves with my constant complaining.

The manager who chose not to give me another chance in a manager role did offer me a chance to support a newly-formed business in another state. I would not be managing people. However, I now had the drive to prove him wrong. I did have the added motivation on the personal front of being newly engaged to a great woman, and I wanted to have a great life for my soon-to-be wife.

Being told I could not do something or was not good enough drove me to seek out the answers I needed to improve and eventually get where I wanted to be. As often as I thought about it bitterly for so many years, I am thankful for the courage the person had to tell me what I had to hear, and I am appreciative for the extra kick I needed to want to prove to everyone that I could do whatever I set my mind to. I needed to prove the people wrong who said I wasn’t ready for it. More importantly, I needed to make the doubt in my own abilities go away. I needed to prove myself wrong. I stopped thinking about that fateful conversation every day when I got my first job managing managers about five years later. I reached my goal with hard work and a push towards transforming myself into the person I wanted to be and towards the person I knew I was capable of being. I proved him wrong. I wonder now if he was trying to motivate me from the start.

 

Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):

  • Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
  • Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
  • Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
  • The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
  • From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
  • The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood

See “Products” for details on www.transformationtom.com.  Book and eBook purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the link to be re-directed: Amazon.com

Do you know about Avanoo.com?  Two-to-three minute eLearning programs that can change your life.

When Your Job is to Find a Job—and Yourself

Manage Your Time—Don’t Let It Manage You

MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success:  A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby

 

 

Post from Transformation Tom- Be Impatiently Patient: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - June 19, 2018 - News
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Be Impatiently Patient

Maybe I will do it tomorrow. ‘It’ could be anything. Tomorrow I will set my goals. Tomorrow I will earn the big promotion. Tomorrow I will write the next great novel. Some of us keep wishing and some of us allow frustration to build up. Still, we take no action, except maybe a complaint or two, or maybe three. We have all heard that good things come to those who wait. However, I will tack on that great things will come to those who earn it and take action.

I have had many career conversations with individuals who complained that his or her manager had rarely, if ever, had a career development conversation with him or her. The complaints include comments that his or her manager has performance-based conversations that help with the present, but lack the long-term discussion to push them further in their careers. I have seen consistent focus group feedback and anonymous survey feedback reiterating the same thing.

I have had to provide some tough feedback to people by asking them, “When was the last time you read your performance appraisal?” A very large percentage of people I ask have answered that it was the day it was administered. People have a silver tray of feedback on their lap that they think they can memorize after a thirty to sixty-minute discussion. They are wrong. People need to reinforce the constructive feedback that will make them better. They should not wait for the next performance review that will take place six months to a year from the last one. People should take hold of that feedback and take action immediately. Grab the feedback head on and start to implement the actions needed to make you stronger. Be impatiently patient to make yourself better.

If the complaints are accurate and you are really not getting career advice or long-term direction, you have the right to understand and ask for it. You need to know exactly what it takes to get promoted or get to the next level, or even what it takes to maintain great performance results. The conversation does not have to be contentious or even demanding. A simple request of, “Can you help me to better understand what it takes…” can go a long way.

Everyone should do their homework to at least know the minimum requirements and expectations for their current role and what is needed to get to the next level. My company used to have minimum requirements to get promoted to certain officer positions, including taking certain courses, and submitting at least one original, formal, creative idea annually to make the business better. I would be amazed any time I had a conversation with a colleague who said he or she could not come up with a fresh idea or find the time to take the training courses.

The irony may be that the driving force for me early in my career was my inability to take accountability. I was driven to cover my bases for all minimum requirements to ensure that never happened to me. I refused to allow any decision maker to make an easy decision to count me out of the running for an officer promotion simply because I had not met the check-box requirements. That would make it too easy for others. Remember, I was in the habit of blaming others.

I was learning that if I was going to blame someone for not promoting me or giving me the next great role, I wanted to force the conversation to be more meaningful than, “Sorry, you missed the minimum requirements.” The drive to meet the requirements forced me to be impatiently patient because I was going to meet all of my annual requirements in January (if the cycle started at the beginning of the year), as soon as I saw it in my inbox, or as soon as physically possible to complete.

My concerns for missing small details or requirements, or gaining a reputation as a procrastinator, were not part of my personality. My fear of missing a deadline or not completing my workload actually enhanced the perception of me in the eyes of many leaders. I was gaining a reputation for getting things done quickly. I was also becoming known for reading the details that may have been glossed over by others. I was building a positive reputation based on my emerging skill set.

Although others were still getting promoted around me, it was not because I wasn’t meeting my goals. It was the many other components that had been reiterated many times over. My inability or slow adaptation to change how I got the job done was holding me back (e.g., relationship building, cynicism). The positive momentum change in how I was viewed in getting things done quickly was a good sign towards future advancements.

I would eventually find my way to meeting many of my professional goals, but it was not within my personal, unwritten timeframes. I was beginning to be more driven and more specific in establishing these goals. I would set a certain age at which I wanted to achieve a title or position. There were designated times when I wanted to expand my role. I was often close, but I was not always within my personal deadlines. I was all right with that because my impatience was driving me to take the better road to eventually get to the position or goal I wanted.

In fact, there were at least two times in my career where I was in the right place at the wrong time. I was given expanded responsibilities at a time when I was not fully prepared for the positions. In both cases, I was asked to step back to a lesser role or change my position completely. I also learned that getting exactly what you want at the wrong time can have devastating impacts professionally. I learned from both scenarios to set clear goals, but be prepared for when I get there.

The lessons of not only knowing what I wanted, but also when I wanted to get there, proved valuable. My impatience made me do more homework and research to set aggressive, but more realistic, goals. I knew myself better than anyone else and I began writing out a game plan to help me achieve my goals. Doing things on the fly and just pushing to get someplace fast happened far too many times early in my career, to my detriment. I had the drive to get there quickly, but I lacked the specificity of where I was heading. This held me back. I needed to know where I wanted to go and be impatiently patient to get there—with a plan.

Finally, if you are fortunate enough to take on a new role, you need to be impatiently patient in learning the business. You can never passively wait to meet the learning curve within a given timeframe in a new position. First, you need to understand the business is moving quickly and can’t wait around for you. Second, if you are effective in attacking the transition, you can accelerate your ascent to gaining technical knowledge. Your patient efforts to impatiently learn the business as quickly as possible will assist you in gaining credibility with the people you are working with as you gain insights on the integration between different faces of the business, technology, culture, and styles. Take advantage of a learning curve if there is one, but learn as quickly as possible by using the people and resources around you to absorb everything.

 

Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):

  • Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
  • Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
  • Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
  • The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
  • From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
  • The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood

See “Products” for details on www.transformationtom.com.  Book and eBook purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the link to be re-directed: Amazon.com

Do you know about Avanoo.com?  Two-to-three minute eLearning programs that can change your life.

When Your Job is to Find a Job—and Yourself

Manage Your Time—Don’t Let It Manage You

MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success:  A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby

Post from Transformation Tom- Differentiate Yourself—Make It Known: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - June 12, 2018 - News
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Differentiate YourselfMake It Known

Too many times in the professional workplace, we try too hard to conform and fit in. We do not want to rock the boat or make waves. It is human nature to want to fit in and be a part of something. If you don’t believe me, think back to your freshman year in high school. As a new employee, we are typically learning something new and do not want to make any mistakes…Or at least any big ones. We may want to simply blend in. As times goes on, blending in becomes part of the fabric and habits we’ve built.

When I first started my career in banking, I had success with my performance on the phones. I was able to take advantage of not being face to face in an interaction. I could quietly and effectively have phone conversations with my customers. My performance was consistent and I began to be recognized on a regular basis in front of my peers. I was asked to increase my job responsibilities and expand my role. I would be taught to assist with the reporting, and asked to spend time with peers who were struggling.

During my performance appraisals or the occasional internal job interview, I still sold myself short in describing what I did. If I was collecting bad loans, I would simply say I tried to help customers with their financial difficulties. I didn’t realize that I could be special and different among a sea of people with the same job responsibilities. With hundreds of collectors, everyone could give a generic job responsibility answer of, “I try to help customers with their financial difficulties.” This was a starting point but interviewers, future managers, and company decision makers wanted to hear more from someone willing to differentiate themselves. What’s interesting is that I could not identify this need myself and did not pick up on any cues given to me to stand out. I would get direction to work hard, hit my goals, and sometimes hear the phrase “try to stand out.” I always interpreted this as making more ‘widgets,’ going faster, and working longer, but not necessarily describing how I could differentiate myself. As much as we don’t want to think about it, we are always on stage, and—in many cases—in competition. This isn’t an invitation to step on others’ backs as you climb the corporate ladder. However, you do have an invitation to give yourself some credit when it is deserved, and be prepared to be your own elevator when the time is right.

I applied for an internal management development program in my second year at the bank. The program accepted fifteen leaders. I went through at least seven interviews with senior members of the company. Can you guess what number I was? I was number sixteen. Candidates aren’t typically told where they finished after the interview process, but the people who nominated me wanted to help explain why I didn’t get it. I was told I had the skills and that I was on the edge of being selected.

I said that this was unfortunate because I thought my performance spoke for itself. In collections, I was the top performer nine times out of the twelve months. I was doing extra work on the side to assist the manager, and had recently completed a manager-selected program in which our group made some significant recommendations that would improve our business. I told the person giving me the feedback that it was all there on my résumé. The decision-maker said many résumés, especially after only two years of internal experience, looked alike and I should have brought these facts to light. There are few times in your life that you should assume anything. This type of situation was one of them. I was given feedback to not assume that they had any knowledge of me, had read my résumé, background, or application, and that I needed to bring that information to the forefront.

I began sharing with everyone the saying, “It is not bragging if it is a fact.” Stating your own facts, when timed and communicated appropriately, is acceptable. I am not overly confident to begin with; therefore, I do not typically come across as cocky. However, the inverse is that I have come across as plain and non-descriptive. You should be proactive in order to find your way of differentiating yourself and make sure the people you work with know it.

We are all special in our own way. Yes, this is a cliché, but still holds true. The message here is to bring out what makes us special and different in our interactions with others. In my mentoring sessions, I will often ask the people I am working with what they accomplished during the month. I often get typical answers such as, “Not a whole lot,” or, “Nothing different or out of the ordinary.” When I keep digging deeper, I find that they were involved in a project that saved thousands (or millions) of dollars, helped out an extremely frustrated customer, or asked to assist on a project team. Did everyone else accomplish these exact things, too? The answer is often no. You don’t have to brag and shout from your rooftops telling the whole world what you have done. However, you need to realize the difference between your day-to-day functions and what makes you who you are. As a mentor and manager, I have made it my mission to exert the effort to have people spill their guts to me when it comes to their accomplishments. I encourage people to proactively share their highlights and get used to telling their own special story.

I would often ask my direct reports to submit their accomplishments on a monthly basis. There were many months when I could put two side by side, and they would look very similar. The side-by-side exercise is what started to get me thinking about how to teach the people who worked for me how to reach for higher goals and therefore put more meaningful accomplishments down on paper.

We started to share more accomplishments openly in our staff meetings. The purpose was not for competitive reasons, but to share best practices. I would often praise them, and emphasize that being creative and innovative in order to make the team better made everyone stronger. I believe that the courage to try new things, whether or not it worked, is in itself an accomplishment.

When we had managerial requirements to go back on the phones for four hours a month, my employees often listed the requirement as one of their accomplishments. I would ask them what they truly accomplished by doing that? If they answered, “Met the requirement,” they were not getting the full picture and I had more work to do to teach them. If they gave an example of how they resolved a sticky situation with a customer or mentioned how they now understood what the front-line associates were complaining about relating to their computer system and had a solution to fix it, they were differentiating themselves as leaders.

No two people are the same. I am very proud to list out the various jobs I have worked. I can say that no one in the company has followed my career trajectory. I would often joke around, saying that I couldn’t keep a job. I wasn’t sure if people were kicking me out or if people really wanted me. As I thought about this more seriously, I realized that early in my career, people were indeed ‘kicking me out.’ They were attempting to have me get more experience and to play to my strengths—the things that made me special…made me different. I realized later in my career that this was still true to some extent, with more weight on people really wanting me. People wanted me because of my diverse background and the broad knowledge I could bring to their business. I could bring best practices, creativity, and freshness to jumpstart some spinning wheels. What makes you special? Does everyone know it?

 

Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):

  • Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
  • Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
  • Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
  • The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
  • From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
  • The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood

See “Products” for details on www.transformationtom.com.  Book and eBook purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the link to be re-directed: Amazon.com

Do you know about Avanoo.com?  Two-to-three minute eLearning programs that can change your life.

When Your Job is to Find a Job—and Yourself

Manage Your Time—Don’t Let It Manage You

MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success:  A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby

 

 

Post from Transformation Tom- Stand Up for What’s Right: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - June 5, 2018 - News
0

Stand Up for What’s Right

Similar to communicating assertively, you have the right to show your character and integrity. There are times where you can’t—and should not—accept what is going on around you. You may not always get your way, but you will know in your heart and your head that you did the right thing. If you are anything like me, you have the pull of guilt during situations in which you’ve said to yourself, “I should have done that differently.”

One of those guilty moments that I have carried with me for years is a performance appraisal conversation I had with one of my employees. She always had been bright and creative, and exhibited great people skills in my eyes. She was likeable, but was often seen as too soft and lacking the ability to drive performance. Many of her past managers carried this perception and managed her by providing feedback to be more direct and have more forceful conversations with her subordinates.

After some of my own observations, and a significant amount of time together using open-ended questions to bring out her strengths and opportunities, we both came to a mutual agreement that there wasn’t a need to drive people harder. What she needed to do was understand the reporting and analytics of the business better in order to better target performance discussions with her people. This “aha” breakthrough moment was important to building our relationship as manager and employer. We both felt good over the outcome of our intense conversations and started to see improvement.

At performance review time, my scores for her were lowered by upper management. One senior leader had clung to the older perception that she needed to have more forceful conversations to drive performance. I “tried” to persuade the senior manager to increase the scores back to where they had been. Looking back on my argument, it was more emotion based and lacked enough substance to make a difference.

The conversation to pass on the lowered score to my employee was extremely difficult, to say the least. The reason for the difficulty was my problem. First, I had not properly prepared her for the discussion, because we both felt like we were on the same page with our assessment of her performance. Second, I was telling someone else’s story. I tried to communicate the corporate direction, but did not believe it myself; and she knew it. I did not want to come right out and say to her, I scored you higher and I disagree with my manager. The conversation was a mess. As I have pondered this conversation in my head many times over the years, I’ve realized that I had facts and figures to show her team’s improvement. Not only did I have her team’s results, I had action plans that she and I were working on that clearly identified her specific opportunity. My argument to increase her scores was glossed over with too much generalization and did not give me the facts to clearly make my points.

She was obviously upset. I found out later that she seriously considered leaving the company. Who could blame her? Do you want to work for a company that does not judge you on your true merits? During the conversation, she maintained more maturity and composure than I would have expected of anyone in that circumstance.

Although she constantly reminds me years later of that conversation, it is more jovial because she has seen my genuine learning and belief that she was better than she was scored. I learned to manage others differently based on that conversation, and I saw in her a confidence that she could prove people, like the senior leader, wrong. It showed me her strength—a strength I needed personally. Our personal relationship grew over the years and we became close. We have bounced ideas off of each other and became informal mentors as our professional paths grew apart.

She took the high road. I now make sure that I do as well. I have a card she sent to me a couple of years later. It appeared out of the blue. It was a simple hello card. She wrote in it that she wanted to thank me for taking the time to teach her about leadership, integrity, and attitude. She mentioned in the note that she appreciated the encouragement and challenge to grow. She even added, “For kicking me when I needed it.” I wish I had beaten her to the punch. I should have thanked her for her leadership in a time when she was a subordinate, for her integrity when she knew I was having conflicting thoughts, and for her positive attitude during a trying time. She “kick” started me into understanding how to act in a tough corporate environment. When there are times I feel the pull to go back to old habits, I just turn around and re-read the card. I have done this dozens of times to put myself back on track.

In an interesting twist, the senior manager who did not believe in her at the time brought her back to his line of business several years later. He clearly saw her leadership abilities by then. He showed his ability to be open to admitting he was wrong so many years before, and he needed someone who showed heart and character. She had always been willing to learn and adapt. He finally saw that and was able to utilize her maturity to assist in leading other less experienced managers.

 

Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):

  • Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
  • Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
  • Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
  • The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
  • From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
  • The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood

See “Products” for details on www.transformationtom.com.  Book and eBook purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the link to be re-directed: Amazon.com

Do you know about Avanoo.com?  Two-to-three minute eLearning programs that can change your life.

When Your Job is to Find a Job—and Yourself

Manage Your Time—Don’t Let It Manage You

MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success:  A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby