Archive: August, 2018

Post from Transformation Tom- Work Smarter, Not Harder: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - August 27, 2018 - News

I have known too many people who work far too many unproductive, long hours. They cause stress for themselves while running in circles to get their jobs done. Working more hours and adding more effort does not always complete the task you are attempting. I have found that when I am running on a treadmill harder, it does not get me to the destination any sooner. As I have worked harder, I have often lost my ability to think with a level head and I start to build up that feeling of self-induced pressure, pushing me to work even harder.

We may think that working harder means putting on the blinders and looking straight ahead to get to the finish line. We also think this means we need to work faster and put in more hours to get more done. When the feeling of control continues to get lost, you may feel the need to work even harder as the pressure grows more intense to meet approaching deadlines and get to that finish line. The feeling you have in the pit of your stomach may tell you to dig deeper and get more intense. I suggest the counterintuitive advice of stopping what you are doing at the moment and regrouping. I recommend trying to understand the goal or the task you are trying to accomplish. Are you trying for quantity or quality, or both? Are you trying to meet a deadline, or just trying to get through your emails? Who is putting the line in the sand? Is it your boss or personal pressure you are putting yourself under?

Taking the time to stop and understand the true purpose of your mission and task is time well invested, which will assist you in coming up with a game plan and pointing you in the right direction. You need to incorporate what should be considered a lower priority and push that to the side for now, or delegate those tasks while you accomplish the most pressing task. These first steps are critical in order to see what is on the horizon. The ability to stop what you are doing to outline the next steps will save you time and effort in the long run. It is possibly the hardest thing for go-getters to do because we have been programmed to constantly be going a million miles per minute.

I personally like to maintain and reference things I have worked on in the past. I pride myself in organizing my working files (paper and virtual) for easy access and reference. Far too many people waste time reinventing the wheel. Are you always scrambling to put together a last-minute presentation? I have base slides that I constantly keep updated and put together. There are few times that I can just copy the slides in without making modifications, but it always gives me a starting point to get past the writer’s block stage. It is also not plagiarism if you are copying from yourself and your team (as long as you have permission and are giving proper credit). The ability to have a solid foundation to work from actually gives you time to dedicate to the creative process (e.g., brainstorming, team discussions). You might be surprised that your end product looks nothing like the original, but that jumpstart puts it in motion. I have been around many hard working and smart people who have already put the effort into creating reference materials that can, and should, be used more than once when it makes sense. Using their materials is the sincerest form of flattery. The key is to keep it organized and updated, and know where to go to get off to a quick start.

There are certain times when there is a legitimate need to put in more hours to complete a job. You must ask yourself, is it necessary each day and each week? Do you find yourself constantly putting out fires and not being able to manage your calendar because of it? If this is the case, you should complete a self-assessment around what kinds of fires you are constantly putting out and what commonalities there are.

For example, at the end of every month is your manager asking for the same types of reports or summaries? The first couple of months may still be fire drills, but the rest should be routine. You should do what you can to build routines that minimize the unexpected.

In your preparation for the unexpected, you should categorize and target your efforts so that when you are under pressure, you know how to utilize your resources. For example, can you never find a phone number? If this is the case, make sure your phone directory is always updated. A few years ago, when we used to do more paper filing, I had a manager who tried to hide her files from me in a large drawer. When I asked her why she just didn’t file them immediately when she was ready to put them away, she said it would take too long. Looking at her pile, it was true, but if she had done it right away it would not have been an issue. I realize these examples are over-simplified, but that is the point. The simple actions of doing things right away are often our biggest timesavers.

Don’t let the simple tasks be your time constrainers. If you are not good at remembering to keep your directory updated, place a recurring appointment in your calendar as a reminder, delegate it to someone who can, or know where to get it from someone else. You can be creative in your simplicity, just make sure it gets done. Do not allow the small tasks to add up to a point where they are causing the frustration, or make you work harder than you need to.

Can you never find the notes you took from that meeting last week? Centralize them. Whether your notes are handwritten or done online, have an organized place to go back to them—you can have paper files, online folders, or scanned objects. It is not possible to remember every conversation you had. However, if you took notes, it was obviously important enough for you to jot it down. The key message here is to know where to go to get it. Do not dump it into a generic folder or stack in the inbox. To state the obvious, if it is related to something from Human Resources (HR), create a folder for HR. Your filing and organizational techniques will never be the same as anyone else’s. That’s all right as long as you know where to find things. I have seen too many “Miscellaneous” folders that only cause more hard work in the effort to find something that can be so easy to reference with a small investment of time.

Finally, set aside specific times to get to your routine tasks, such as reading your emails. You should set aside specified time to do this every day as opposed to managing them throughout the day while you are multitasking. Although some multitasking is necessary and can be done productively in today’s busy world, such as eliminating junk emails during a conference call, attempts to run your entire day doing multiple things at once is not working smart.

If you are attempting to read critical email details during a conference call, you are not truly listening to what the other person is saying. In reality, you are not even multitasking since you are sacrificing one of the tasks. You are simply taking up a phone line while reading emails. I am being realistic and want to make sure we all have the appropriate prioritization and dedication to the task. Remember, it is not about just getting the job done, it is about getting the job done right. You may create more work than expected if you give a half answer to a conversation you were only half paying attention to, or erroneously respond to an email without reading all the way to the bottom. I know we have been told to do more with less and to keep our noses to the grindstone. I get it. Just be smart about 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- Live in the Present: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - August 20, 2018 - News
2

Live in the Present

I was always worried about what people thought of me, especially if I had made a mistake in the past. This may have held me back because I was worried about old perceptions people may have had of me. My concerns about whether someone liked me or not, respected me or not, or trusted me or not, impacted my confidence level and my ability to enjoy the job I was doing in the present. For the most part, I was impacting my own ability to do the work I loved to do.

I have had some bad days, like everyone else. I also had a few undesirable jobs that I needed to grind through. Unfortunately, these negative feelings and bad days had a tendency to linger with me, because I was worried about repeating a mistake or trying to over-impress someone with whom I wanted to make an impact. I am hard-pressed to come up with immediate memories of truly enjoying what I had going on around me until the latter part of my career. The potential of repeating past mistakes worried me while my obsessive concern over potential roadblocks or traps kept me from enjoying what was happening then and there.

I think I was constantly trying to stay a couple of steps ahead of my next action, in an attempt to avoid past mistakes. I was living too far into the future at times based on my feelings from the past. I was too preoccupied to stop and live in the present. People around me were promoted and I congratulated them on their success. I would dig in, internally frustrated, and immediately went on to the next thing that needed to be checked off my list. I had presentations that went well but I never appreciated those successes because I was already thinking about the next big project that was due.

In the spring of 2010, I advanced through the first three levels of competition to reach my first Toastmasters District Finals. The winner of this Toastmaster’s contest would represent District 45 (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and all of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine) as the Toastmasters International Speech Champion, and would then move on to the World Semi-finals. Only eighty-one people in the world would advance. On the morning before the biggest speech of my life, I ran into Joey Grondin. I recognized him from the 2009 fall conference, in which he’d given a presentation on “Developing Your Signature.” His message was clear: be yourself and enjoy what you are doing right now. I told him how memorable that presentation was and how I’d incorporated some of it in my speeches, including the one I planned to do in the competition that night.

Joe was gracious and relaxed. He was conversational and engaged in our conversation. He saw my excitement and nervousness as a competitor, yet he did not even mention that he was also participating in the contest. He simply wished me luck and tried to provide me encouragement. Since he was a trainer in the previous fall conference, it never dawned on me that he would be competing.

He chose to avoid ruining my excitement until I actually asked him the question. He was allowing me to enjoy the moment and he was along for the ride. The smile on his face never wavered. Later in the day, I was nervously trying to calm myself down when I asked him what he did to calm his nerves. He said, “Enjoy the moment and live in the present.” He also mentioned this in his book, Living in Harmony with Our Children. That day, he said to me (paraphrased), “You have done everything you can to prepare for this. Watch the audience and feed off their laughter and reactions. You will never be at that moment on stage to give this speech again, so enjoy it because it will be gone.” Joe went on to win that competition, and subsequently the semi-finals, which put him in the top nine in the world. I found out later that he had been at the district level many times before and had never won. I was proud to watch his winning performance.

I was happy with my speech, after a small hiccup. I stumbled when I almost repeated a line, but that moment isn’t what I remember most about my performance. I don’t recall being nervous when I was actually doing the speech, but I do remember how excited and animated I felt up on stage. I also clearly remember the looks on the faces of much of the audience. It was the best time I ever had giving a speech.

The key is to learn from your mistakes of the past, but don’t dwell on them or let them weigh you down. The past is over, so move on. You can also spend too much time worrying about what lies ahead as you try to predict the future. Will I fail? What will happen next? You only have so much control over any of it, and besides, there is a good chance it will change or not be exactly as you predicted anyway. Move your present forward by learning from the past, but see the joy in what you have at the moment.

Unfortunately, I also want to add that it can be over in a flash. While I was writing this passage today, I was on vacation but thought I would check my work email. I found out that there was a horrific auto accident near one of our East Coast offices. Two managers were returning from lunch when they were involved in a crash that killed one of them and put the other on life support. In cases like this, we can only love our family more than ever and give our thoughts and prayers to their families. The timing of the news was purely coincidental, but it is a stark reminder to hold on to the precious present moments while we can.

 

 

 

 

 

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- Do Something With Book Recommendations: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - August 14, 2018 - News
0

Do Something With Book Recommendations

I was stressed around the December holidays one year. My manager and I were not getting along well. We were having an especially difficult time communicating with each other. Still, the holidays are a time to reflect upon the previous year and to add hope for the coming year. I came back to my desk to find a small wrapped present from my boss. I opened it up and found the book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson. We did not have to communicate directly to understand the message he was sending me.

We were not enjoying the work atmosphere because we were creating an up-tight environment ourselves. We were also spreading this throughout the work environment. The subtitle to that book is, “And it is all small stuff.” I got the point my manager was trying to say in a not-so-subtle way, and I really got hooked on what Dr. Carlson was trying to say. I received the book in 1997, and it has not left my desk since. I added a recurring calendar appointment to read a passage each day.

Reading a small passage everyday sets up my attitude with a fresh perspective and gives me the settling feeling I need to take on the business world. I am appreciative of the gift and the creative way my manager sought to provide me with the message he thought I needed. We still had our struggles and eventually found that we were both better off in other areas. However, my ability to tolerate my existing situation has improved with the enlightenment of the book.

Sometimes, a gift is just a gift. However, when it comes to book recommendations, especially obvious ones landing on your lap, it deserves to be read. Whether a book is a gift or someone says, “You ought to read this book…,” take notice and add it to your reading list.

Even if the message is not as obvious, you should take notice. You may be in a class and a book gets mentioned. Write it down and at least read the summary to pique your interest. Your world can be broadened and diversified. If you have a tendency to think one way or have a strong perspective on a subject, have a willingness to see the other side. Your openness to try to get a different perspective than your own will broaden your ability to be more diverse in your thoughts and beliefs.

You should also consider different genres, different styles, and mix between professional and personal reading. You do not have to load yourself up with 365 days of pure leadership and business self-help books. A few summers ago, I challenged myself to read War and Peace for the simple sake of saying I could do it. I had stared at the book on the shelf for so many years. Coincidently, I am friends with a couple who were also in the middle of reading it. I was excited to be able to share their thoughts when we got together. We had a great discussion for about the first half of the book. The second half may take a little longer since they decided not to finish it. I won’t give you my book review, but enjoyed the challenge of such a difficult and lengthy read. I tried to understand the complexity of the author’s attempt to weave in so many characters, and I tried to understand what had gone into making it a classic. I laughed when I had heard that the author was paid per word. I now understood, at least, a little behind the making of a classic.

I had a great manager who was also my sounding board after we went on to other positions. He is now a good friend and he referred a book to me that he was very excited about. My manager friend had such a cool head in the middle of a crisis. He always maintained a level head and provided feedback when you didn’t even realize it. He made the people around him feel these “aha” moments on their own—after a little prompting to encourage them to learn along with him, of course.

He was once described to me as having the ability to rip off your skin, and gently put it back on you. This so-called compliment of him was an accurate description because I was usually kicking myself after saying to myself, “How did I miss the obvious?” The book he recommended to me was It’s Called Work for a Reason: Your Success is Your Own Damn Fault, by Larry Winget. My manager friend was always teaching me about taking ownership. He encouraged me to put myself into situations I had always wanted to be in, but may not have been confident in my ability to do it. The book he recommended was not my natural style, but was a good lesson in learning how to read something from a different perspective. I finished the book, inspired to take on the world—with a little chuckle, of course.

Many people have referred leadership books to me over the years, with some being better than others. Without getting political, I really enjoyed Rudy Giuliani’s book Leadership. September 11 was hard hitting for the United States and much of the world. Whether we liked it or not, Rudy Giuliani was the leader when one of the more tragic historical events of the U.S. occurred. He had several key messages including “surround yourself with great people” and “weddings discretionary, funerals mandatory.” I enjoyed the cut-to-the-basics approach of his message.

If someone thinks enough of you to hand you, send you, or suggest a book, take advantage of it. You should be honored and humbled that someone thought of you when he or she picked it up. You should invest the time to read it and understand the connection that made it relevant to you. Your ability to like or dislike the book to some extent is irrelevant. The message someone is sending to you could be strong. The investment from you, and the possibility that you walk away learning something, is strong. Take advantage of the situation and read the book. Be aware: sometimes, there is not necessarily a connection to you and it is just a good book. There is nothing wrong with that, either.

 

 

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- Set an Example: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - August 6, 2018 - News
0

Be the person you want others to be. This is easy to say but hard to do. Whether we like it or not, in the professional world we are constantly on stage in plain view of people around us. Whether it is the people we work with, work for, or customers we serve, we are always being observed and judged—in person, on the phone, or through written communications. We are constantly being viewed, whether face to face, in conference calls, video conference calls, or just walking down the hall.

Observers are making judgments constantly, and we are being labeled with an ongoing reputation, good or bad, every day. There is a laundry list of people with reputations in any office, and we have probably worked with them all at one point or other. In some cases, I know I’ve made my own uninformed observations and judgments of others.

Every company has one of the following: the complainer; the individual who refuses to work unless given A to Z instructions; the person who freezes under pressure; the one too good to associate with others; the one only in it for himself, and at least one overly competitive team member. The list can go on and on, but you get the point. Reputations and judgments can be made quickly and are tough to get rid of. There are traits and personalities that only add to the intensity of the reputations that bubble to the top. In any case, you are constantly being looked at and judged in the eyes of your peers and colleagues.

When our corporate culture was a little looser with expenses and entertainment, we had month-long events in one of our departments. We had contests and practical jokes, all in the supposed context of fun and employee satisfaction. Points could be accumulated as part of the team competition through practical jokes. The event culminated in a festive sports outing during which we went outside to release some tension and have some fun. I was constantly reminded by my manager that it was “supposed to” be fun. I say “supposed to” because over the years of this annual event, the practical jokes got more intense as teams tried to outdo each other. Besides the risk of injury, there was a higher likelihood of risk to reputations if you were a target. The atmosphere began to get a cliquish feel to it, like the days of junior high and high school. The leadership encouraged it. As a manager, I was told to play along.

I like to have fun as much as the next person, but felt the intensity was reaching a level that was pushing the line of professional boundaries. As soon as I had this feeling, I could have done something. There were several examples I could have set. I could have had a long conversation with the leaders who condoned this and clearly stated what was on my mind. I could have reacted better to the jokes that were being played on me. I could have realized nobody was getting hurt and subsequently could have made it more of a team effort.

There were times I felt that I was individually being targeted, which only exacerbated the issue, pushing the jokes to see how much further our competitors could get under my skin. I would come in as early as possible to rid my office of whatever was in it or done to it. In the month-long event, I had a reputation for overreacting to the practical jokes, and I inadvertently created a game in which the other teams would see how much they had to do to keep me from cleaning up their practical jokes before everyone came into work that day. This caused stress personally and created a divide in an event that was originally intended for the cohesion of the collective group. What kind of example was I setting?

I should have shown more maturity, gotten the right people involved, and set the example. I could have gathered the opinions of the team and determined how they wanted to handle the entire event. If we had talked through it, we may have even found that no one wanted to do any of it, but felt the peer pressure to keep it going. I had the opportunity to set the right example but never chose to take it.

Unfortunately, some of the events brought Human Resources into the picture that forced a long conversation with me. I had a chance to state all of my points. It was not easy or comfortable. However, it felt right. I wish I had set the example and not waited for HR to intervene. Although I moved on to another area the next year, the event was significantly toned down, and the pressure to find the next great practical joke was gone. Instead, it was back to good old-fashioned office fun, with competitions and food. By the way, you can never go wrong in making people happy with food.

 

 

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