Archive: September, 2018

Post from Transformation Tom- Step Away and Clear Your Head: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - September 25, 2018 - News
0

If something is not working, you are having a mental block, or you are getting frustrated with a situation, step away and clear your head. Your ability to mentally get through these types of challenging times is an important skill. Part of the mastery of this skill is to know when to give yourself a break to refresh that fragile mental state. Even in times of high intensity and urgency, the ability to take a step back and refocus on the situation is important. You can choose to spin your wheels or take a breath.

How long you step away is up to you based on the immediacy of what is going on around you at the time. Even a minute to push your chair back and not look at your computer could be beneficial during crucial times. If you can afford it, take a couple of minutes to get some water, or even better, if timed right, get up to take a lunch break. It doesn’t mean walking away from an important meeting or confrontation, unless it makes sense. You need to make an individual assessment of the situation prior to doing this. However, stepping away to clear the head is invested time that allows you to then come back with new energy and focus.

When you do choose to do it, you are not walking away from the problem. You are walking away for an answer and for a fresh perspective. Walking away can help soften some of the stress and create enough of a change in atmosphere to get the juices flowing again or calm you down from major frustration. I have had many days during which I drank a lot of water or twisted the chair around. There are other days when I have had to stick my tongue out at the computer, have a quick laugh at how immature I just was, and move on with the day.

We all need to take ourselves out of the root cause of a problem or frustration and understand the rejuvenation factor. What you choose to do to break free for that moment can be anything. If you can afford the luxury to read the news, listen to music, take a walk, or even go for a run, it is important to cause a significant enough disruption to your spinning wheels.

The break is important. I have found myself staring at a presentation and getting stuck on a particular page with writer’s block. I have tried to force my way through it by trying to find the next magical words. The inability to think clearly always seemed to get worse as I tried harder. If I just consistently make an effort to recognize that walking away is an important part of the process, I am much better off.

Make it a habit to break up a day of meetings or calls, or just go outside for the fresh air. If possible, try to find a regular time in your work day to schedule time away from the office, or at least step away from your desk. I actually put it on my calendar to take a lunch or break. Whenever possible, I personally like to go for a run and break up the day. I am convinced that since I started doing this I have been more productive and have had more creativity in my day. I am not sluggish at the end of the day. I knew going running on many days would add extra time. However, the increased productivity and satisfaction level actually cut significantly into that extended time. I was getting more done in the same amount of time. I know the concept of stepping away is counterintuitive to the notion of putting our noses to the grindstone, but it is worth 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

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- Open the Gift of Feedback: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - September 11, 2018 - News

Gift of feedback

I loved feedback when it emphasized my strengths. I listened to opportunities I needed to work on. However, I never proactively sought out the feedback that would make me better, nor did I spend a lot of time after it was given taking action based on that feedback. I either felt the feedback wasn’t valuable or I felt I didn’t need it. In many cases, even if it was valuable, I typically fell back into old habits and waited until the next performance appraisal to hear something similar.

As previously stated, I typically hit the statistical performance expectations, so I rarely invested the appropriate amount of time or effort into making a difference for myself. The irony is that the same feedback given to me caused a lot of my frustration. I felt that the management providing me the feedback must have been part of a conspiracy if different people wrote similar feedback about me. I just didn’t get it. I now tell people that feedback is not about agreeing or disagreeing with what they’ve heard, it is about doing something with it. Whether or not it has validity, at that point in time someone deemed it worth mentioning, therefore something needs to be done about it.

Feedback is considered negative in most people’s eyes. It is human nature to defend ourselves or feel that others are simply being judgmental. Feedback is a process designed to make us better. Your reaction to the process, and the feedback itself, is what will make us stronger. With addictive behavior, it is often said that admission is half the battle. Your ability to admit that you are not perfect is your first step towards being more open to feedback. Your strength will show when you are able to recognize the validity of that feedback and be accountable enough to do something about it. We should all take action on the constructive opinions designed to make us stronger. Someone invested the time and had the courage to provide it, and therefore we should do something about it. The key is to understand that we need to move away from the feeling that it is all negative and just grasp hold of the nuggets of wisdom sitting on our doorstep.

Do we need to implement every bit of feedback presented to us? No. However, we need to seriously listen to it and consider it. Again, it is not a matter of whether we agree or not, it is a matter that someone somewhere perceives something about you that needs to be addressed. It is worth the investment to pay attention to this gift.

As we open ourselves up to being more accepting of feedback, we should also go on the offensive. We should be proactive about asking for it and not wait for a prescribed time or place. Who said you had to wait until your year-end review to make yourself better? If you are even luckier and work with a company in which you are having monthly conversations, you should consider yourself blessed.

We should take advantage of every feedback opportunity and never let it go by without actively asking what we can do to be better. Once you get comfortable with asking, you will start to gain the trust needed to expand the feedback process, thus allowing more sincerity and depth to the overall conversation. That depth, in turn, makes each subsequent conversation more impactful. The proactive approach may surprise some of the people you work with early on, but it will eventually allow you to build a bond. In time, you will find that more people become open to it. Try to imagine that every day is a holiday with the free-for-all feedback right there for the taking.

I rarely have meetings with people I directly work with without asking what I can do for them and what I can do differently. I now thirst for feedback and gain respect from anyone who is willing to stop and provide it to me.

I am an active provider of unsolicited, balanced feedback. I know that I had hesitation as to my own receptiveness to feedback early on. I also realize that many of my colleagues are not in the habit of asking for feedback, especially if they do not work directly for me. I do what I can to position my coaching in a way that they are an active part of the process or can easily buy in to it. It’s important to not let a coachable moment go, since it is a gift.

We sometimes rely on the formality of our specific manager or a specific time of the year to receive an evaluation of our performances. What we need to do is give people feedback whenever it is relevant, regardless of who reports to whom, and give it when it is still fresh in all of our minds. Immediacy is often lost otherwise, which impacts the benefit. As the one providing the feedback, I work to ensure that I am balanced in my approach, and that I gauge how the person may react, but to still make it a point to provide it as soon as realistically possible. The key is to provide non-biased critical feedback that will make an individual stronger. I have actually gained many mentors by providing this type of teaching feedback. The responses I have received have been along the lines of, “I wish someone said that to me earlier in my career,” or, “Thanks for telling me something I thought I didn’t want to hear.”

Whether you are the giver or the receiver, be honest and be direct (with a filter, if needed). I am not a big fan of the sandwich type of feedback by stating something positive, something that needs to be improved, and something positive again. The prescribed approach is too predictable and often comes across as insincere. If you are honest and forthright, you will build trust, respect, and credibility. To maximize the feedback process, make sure you attack the informal feedback channels to gather information. You can speak to your peers, as well as people that work for you and people for whom you work. In addition, you can talk with business partners whose paths you may cross but to whom you are not directly linked. The third-party, objective point of view is always valuable insight. Just be open to looking for it and doing something with it. Whether feedback is from up, down, or around, it is a gift.

 

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

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- Let Your Music Out: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - September 4, 2018 - News
0

How often have you said one of the following: “I wish I could learn more about a different part of the business,” or, “I wish I could learn to lead like the person down the hall,” or, “I wish I could communicate more effectively,” or, “I wish I could do something I have always dreamed of doing?” We often wish we could do more of something or start to do something we’ve always wanted to do. We may say that we do not have the time, the resources, or the drive to make it happen. We may say we have other obligations and priorities. What we don’t have is the drive or commitment to take that one step it requires to face our “wish” head-on and make it a reality. We still have the music in us.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” I say, “Or you can be hit by a bus tomorrow.” It’s time we let the music out, now.

Many of you have heard about the sad story of the Orlando Florida Sea World trainer, Dawn Brancheau who was drowned tragically by a killer whale in February of 2010. There has been controversy over the event. I will not go into the debate about animal training and the event itself. However, one thing is clear from the many pictures of her smiling with the orca whales. She loved what she was doing and died doing what she wanted to do. Her music was being played every day she was with those beautiful animals.

On a personal note, I learned the first twelve notes from the song “The Rose” by Bette Midler when I was about ten years old in school during music class. I have never forgotten how to play it. I never learned to play an instrument or even to read music growing up. However, for more than thirty years, I played these same notes on every piano I walked past. I have been an admirer of Elton John’s and Billy Joel’s music for as long as I can remember and I love the sound a piano makes, but I never learned to play. At the age of thirty-eight, I got a call from my in-laws, who were eight hours into their twelve-hour trip to see us. I was told to get some help because they had a trailer with their old upright piano on it. What a nice surprise. We had hoped to get their piano when they got a new one, but could never come up with the right timing or means to move it from Maryland to Maine.

The next day, slightly sore, I began to “let the music out,” literally in this case. I started with my wife’s piano books, which I found in the piano bench from when she was eight years old. I began the journey to learn to read music and play the piano. I had my first informal recital in front of a close group of friends four months later on New Year’s Eve. I do not claim to be great, but I do claim that I really enjoy playing. I also claim to be doing something I’ve always wanted to do. My three beautiful children decided they also wanted to learn to play. A couple of them stopped after a few years of lessons, but only to pursue other interests to let out their own music. I chuckle to myself when the two who are no longer playing walk by the piano and play a few notes of a song they learned. It’s funny how you let out your own music and you start to influence people around you.

I share this personal story because it carried over into my professional work. I have found commonalities with people I never knew played instruments, and have come to work humming tunes I was playing the night before. My increase in personal satisfaction has bled into the professional work as I started each new day.

On the professional side, I felt I had things bottled up inside me. I knew I needed to communicate more effectively if I wanted to move forward with my career. I joined Toastmasters. Toastmasters gave me the platform to significantly increase my confidence as well as the ability to think more quickly on my feet, and to tell my stories with more personality. Toastmasters encouraged me to strive to go farther in the organization through communication and leadership certification. They walked me head on into the competitive world of speaking. Over the years, that has opened so many doors that I feel my own music had just begun to play. This book would not be possible if I had not won a door prize at one of the Toastmaster International conferences. I won a CD and book from a professional speaker who was present at the conference. I decided the next week after reading the book and listening to the CD that I wanted to do what he had done. I had always had these crazy ideas running in my head about wanting to write a book. I had work to do, but I wanted to let the music out.

We may not even know what music we want to play yet. We “don’t know what we don’t know,” and thus may need to continue to search for our own music. When something gets your attention and you say, “I wish…” you should stop and ask if it is something you should pursue. You might surprise yourself by taking the first step.

 

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