Archive: November, 2018

Post from Transformation Tom- Play Music in the Background: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - November 25, 2018 - News
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Music

I am a huge fan of music. I enjoy many genres and have always enjoyed having it playing around me as much as possible. As the years have gone by, I have progressed from my first AM transistor radio with a one-ear primitive headset, to a clunky tape player I wore while mowing the lawn as a kid. My lifeguarding days in the summers were filled with the radio blasting and the swimmers around us all having a great time. I eventually put speakers in my office to play my CDs and transitioned to speakers for my MP3 player.

I am not sure why it took so many years for me to get past the “unprofessional” hesitation to play music in my corporate environment. We have heard that “music soothes the savage beast.” When I am grinding out the work on my own and am not in meetings or speaking to customers, I listen to my library of music. It calms my nerves, inspires me, motivates me, and just puts a smile on my face. I feel more in control and more alive when I am playing music softly in the background. Many times, I don’t even realize what song is playing. Sometimes, I often mouth the words to songs I know well. I listen to many different types of music depending on my mood, or simply listen randomly. In most cases, it doesn’t matter to me as long as there is music playing.

I found over time that people would come into my office and hear a song they had not heard in years and make an engaging comment. The music became a conversation starter in some cases, or just personal memories for others. These conversations spurred a new event for a group of people I was working with. I started walking around the floor and would ask music trivia every day. This simple act had a positive influence on the team’s overall morale. Even people who were not interested in music began to yell out answers, and surprised themselves when they knew more than they thought. We started to play music in the morning as people were coming into the office, and found that there was an official One-Hit Wonder Day in September each year that we began to celebrate. In group settings, we tried to vary the mix of music to include the interests of everyone. We used it more in group celebrations, and played it lightly in the background while everyone worked throughout the day. I found that music as a motivational tool was as effective as anything else out there.

I like all kinds of music, although I realize that there are picky music critics out there. They may need rock to run and soothing music to work with. The point is not the music you choose, but that I have found the therapeutic advantages of music in my own professional career. Music allows me to put myself into a state of mind that is strong and helpful in my workplace.

When playing it by myself, I usually don’t even realize I have it on in the background any more. What is interesting, however, is that I do notice when there is pure silence; I know I like the music to motivate me. I find myself tense until I press the play button. Maybe I just like the company of another voice. I am not sure of the reason why. I just know the difference it makes in my mindset as I am working through the day. If you can find a way to do it, give it a try.

 

 

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- Be Sensitive to Multiple Generations in the Workplace: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - November 13, 2018 - News
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We always need to be careful generalizing our assumptions when it comes to assessing employees of different generations. For the first time in the corporate world, we have four generations working side by side. How we manage the diversity of each of these generations is important. I have been in too many situations when managers made a blanket statement to a team of people consisting of multiple generations, and expected the same outcomes. We have to be cautious to manage each individual person and situation. Are you sensitive enough to know if generational differences in your corporate workplace are causing concerns?

We need to lead differently than we have in the past. We need to have a deeper understanding of what may be going through an employee’s head: what drives people, inspires people, motivates people, and frustrates people? At the same time, we must now seek to include how generations as a whole are perceived. Based on when people grew up, larger groups of individuals may react to circumstances and situations as a collective group differently. We have found that people of different generations are motivated differently, were reared by their parents differently, and grew up differently. These differences are what make us great. If we can capitalize on these differences, we can create a stronger bond through them and thereby create a stronger company.

Muiltiple Generations

We need to understand that we all grew up in different settings, locations, times, and cultures. My kids don’t know what it is like to walk into a bank. They only know about ATMs and watching Mommy and Daddy doing their banking online. These differences impact our ability to translate information at different speeds. Have you ever peered over the shoulder of a teenager while they were at a computer and tried to read the hieroglyphics of his or her instant messages or texts? It is hard enough trying to relate, let alone trying to read this new language. I at least know that, among other things, “POS” stands for “parent over shoulder.”

As a child of Generation X, I have become a parent with much more involvement in my children’s activities than generations before me. I have friends whose children chose to live in their parent’s home longer than past generations. We also have been part of a culture in which every child gets an at-bat in t-ball, and medals and certificates go to all participants just for showing up. There seems to be less emphasis on winning and losing earlier in children’s lives today, and competition is a secondary priority. I have talked with many parents who simply want to provide their children with the confidence to try new and different things, in order to help them figure out what they want to do as adults. There is some irony to this upbringing because of the parental intervention.

This type of close supervision, guidance, and support creates differences in when and how these people mature in their lives, including entry into the work force. I have had parents call after interviews to see how their child did, or ask what decision I made. I even had a worker’s daughter write me a note asking me not to fire her mom. I guess the parental involvement goes both ways. By the way, I had no intentions of firing the individual at the time, but she knew she was struggling and must have discussed it with her ten year old.

The intense conversations I had on my retention task force interacting with frontline people and managers of all generations helped me to understand what it took to retain them. The research provided me with plenty of factual and anecdotal information regarding managing various generations. The fact is that for the first time in any generation, many offices are filled with colleagues from the last four generations. We have the older generation (typically defined as people born before 1945), Baby Boomers (typically defined as people born in the mid-1940s to mid-1960s), Generation X (or the MTV generation—typically defined as people born between the mid-1960s to early 1980s), and Generation Y (typically defined as people born in the early 1980s or after).

We have situations in which people from the older generation are coming back into the work force from retirement due to boredom or financial necessity. How do you train and manage someone who truly knows they are working simply for a paycheck, and do not plan to climb the corporate ladder? Or, did I just make my own blanket assumption with that statement? I don’t have the right to make the assumption that they don’t want to climb the corporate ladder, or that they aren’t just as driven as the twenty-two year old looking for the next manager’s opening. We have to be careful of biases, and make no assumptions. What if the person has twenty years of management experience and their current manager is twenty-five, with only a year or two of experience? The multiple generations add a new complexity to the work environment and add new layers of sensitivities required from managers and non-managers alike.

None of the situations described or questions asked are easy to address and answer. However, knowing that there is a potential need to adapt our style based on generational wants and needs will make us stronger leaders and more effective professional colleagues. Managing, or even just working next to, a returning retiree or a new hire straight out of high school doing the same job has to be handled based on each individual first and foremost, with a quick balanced glance into the overall generational consideration. Each person will have different goals, different experiences, and different expectations of the business and manager. Once we understand this and act on it appropriately, we will be ahead of the game.

Generation Y has been in a technologically fast world their entire lives—some seem like they were born with a cell phone in their hand. I have found that many Gen Y individuals are often looking for a fast-paced and flexible environment. A manager may have to go out of their way and be creative to keep someone from this generation occupied and moving. Gen Y is also known for constantly looking for positive and reinforcing feedback. When a manager screams at a Gen Y person for a small mistake, it may make a person who is always on the go and looking for constant stimulation simply not return the next day to work. The manager must assess the situation and may need to be prepared to invest a lot more of their time and effort to ensuring that they are keeping up that stimulation, providing the attention and praise that individual may be thirsting for.

A manager must also be flexible and understanding. I once had a young man call out “well” because of a new video game release. He spent over ten hours staring at a television screen and playing the game with no guilt in the world for missing work. He came in the next day exhausted and slightly unfocused. But he came in. He respected me enough to tell me the truth, and said he was taking the time afforded him by the benefits of the company. I think I would have kicked and screamed earlier in my career. I got a good chuckle and we went on with our day. That person went on to become a very successful technology expert in our company.

Baby Boomers are often identified as wanting to be defined by their job responsibilities. They value hard work and team work. Managers may need to be sensitive to putting them into more group-related functions, as opposed to assigning an independent task.

It is important to be careful not to stereotype. You should monitor and communicate regularly to get a feel as to whether these blanket assessments are accurate to the individual with whom you are working, or if that was just generational bias statements observed by common employee researchers. As a manager, it is critical to make your own individual assessment, but understanding some commonalities within generations may be the start we need in order to have an effective conversation. We should use our own observations to see if any of these so-called tendencies are accurate while we get to know each of the people working with us. The key message is to understand whether any of these factors impacted our decisions and actions regarding work assignment, management style, and how to drive the team towards a collective goal. As a colleague in the middle of multiple generations, I can look to build bridges and find creative ways for the most effective collaboration, training techniques, and partnership among everyone.

We have had generations who supposedly always question authority and the status quo. We have labeled certain generations as being constant multitaskers, disciplinarians, and so on. Each generation has had different backgrounds and influences, and each generation has their own visions, opinions, and ideas. We must also remember that individuals also have their own visions, opinions, and ideas.

We need to be aware of the generational differences as a whole, and sit down with each individual to understand what their visions, opinions, and ideas are to weave together the tapestry of the team in order to make it stronger. You should consider generational groups’ opinions on many facets in a work environment, such as:

  • Flexibility—schedule,      family situation, outside obligations
  • General      learning ability—fast learners, visual versus book
  • Coaching—give      direction and tell them to go do it versus hand holding
  • Work/life      balance expectations—weekends, nights, single parents
  • Feedback      and motivational style—constant encouragement, hands off, hand written      encouraging notes, team functions

We must always seek to build trust among the various generations and gain mutual respect for each other’s strengths. We must not make any assumptions or generalizations. We should be flexible in understanding everyone’s backgrounds and individual contributions to maximize the strengths of one another, while using our generational knowledge as a tool to build relationships and glean an understanding of the person as a whole. The company, in turn, will be given the gift of balancing the workforce with all generations in order to get the best of all groups.

 

 

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- Lead the Parade: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - November 6, 2018 - News
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In the early 1990s when the word “clueless” was popular and I was in my early days on the phones talking with customers, a peer of mine looked over at another teammate of ours and said, “Some people lead the parade, some people watch the parade, and some people don’t even know there is a parade going on.” His reference for this peer was the latter. He was saying the person was “clueless” in a descriptive manner, but he was right. The person came to work each day and many times we wouldn’t have been surprised if he didn’t know what day it was. He was in a constant fog, and seemed to let the world around pass him by. It was hard to describe, but the fog was not about attention to detail or intelligence. He seemed to come to work, do his job to the minimum (not coast, because that actually takes effort to slow down), and went home. Sometimes, I wondered if he even remembered coming to work after he left. His cluelessness could only be accurately described as not even knowing a parade was going on.

I imagine in most corporate and professional settings, your colleagues, your management, and your customers depend on you to do your job well. However, it can be more than doing well at your own job. You can be the leader of the parade. Be a leader strong enough to motivate more people to get in the parade—regardless of your position in the company. You are surrounded by people who may be coasting along professionally hoping to do no more than the minimum. You have an opportunity to maximize your own performance and the performance of others.

You can assist in leading the company by staying informed about your business, and sharing what you learn with the people around you. You can read and watch the news about industry updates, and overall national and global events. You should also stay informed with internal company news when it is available, to give you a good idea of what is going on in your surroundings. These surroundings are not just the physical space; you should also be keeping up with current events, business relationships, organizational changes, personalities, styles, idea generation methodologies, meeting preferences, and routines.

You can be part of the parade by asking questions and being curious. You can take the lead by sharing the information you’ve gained with others. The information is great for your own learning and development. You become a leader when you share your own development with others and allow the information to keep on giving. You can share stories via email, or talk about interesting business information during down times rather than discussing the most recent sitcom or sports. These types of conversations can spur new ideas for your business. You can also add to the conversation by sharing your best practices. You might call this, “Have a clue, get a clue, and share the clue.”

I have been involved in many meetings, especially conference calls, in which people were obviously not engaged. The disengaged population are often multitasking. Besides the people who readily admit they are multitasking (you would be surprised at the number of people who come right out and tell me), there are the people who don’t say a word during the entire meeting, other than to say hello in the beginning and goodbye at the end. The multitaskers also are the obvious ones who say, “Huh?” or “Can you please repeat the question,” when they hear their name directly. Some are bold enough to say, “Johnny and I were just instant messaging and I didn’t catch all of that.”

Ryan Buxton cited in 2009 a new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found that multitasking may do more harm than good. The article states, “Multitaskers are more susceptible to memory interference by irrelevant details, according to the study.” The effort to move from one topic to another and the exertion required to return where you were impacts the true retention of information gathering for multitaskers. I won’t be a hypocrite and say that I have never done it. However, since I’ve limited my multitasking, I have found myself asking what just happened in a meeting much less than I had in the past. I will say that my concentration level and my engagement has grown substantially since I made a concerted effort to concentrate on one task, one meeting, and one conversation at a time. I became more knowledgeable about what was going on and could react and take action in the conversation. Much of my success can be attributed to my effort to reduce my multitasking. I found myself taking more of a leadership role in many phone calls than I previously would have as an inactive listener.

We all have the opportunity to step up and lead the parade at times when there are stale or unproductive meetings. Although it may be difficult at first, try to professionally disregard hierarchies during the times when no one is stepping up. What I mean by this is that leaders are born during a crisis, or when there is no clear roadmap to get there. Be proactive by creating the roadmap and developing solutions yourself if they are not clearly in front of you. In a meeting, this doesn’t mean just taking over or dominating it. It means assisting with the meeting facilitation in order to achieve the purpose of that meeting. In some cases, the purpose itself is unclear. Start with questions of the audience pertaining to what they want to accomplish and massage that information until you find a clear direction. You can also lead by turning meetings into brainstorming sessions, in which you can ask open-ended questions and facilitate dialogue, as needed. Don’t wait for someone else to do it—everybody’s time is valuable and you are simply looking for that value.

If you are not leading the discussion, you can at least take an active interest in a meeting and be ready to answer questions, assist the dialogue, and offer ideas or suggestions. You are already invited to the meeting; you might as well make it productive. If you feel the meeting is not worth it or is unproductive, particularly if it is part of a long-standing series, speak up. There may be other people in the room or on the phone who feel the same way. I realize that this is easy to say, and tough to do. However, try it and you will start to gain a comfort level and see the true impact you can have. Your fellow employees will see that you are only looking out for everyone’s precious time, and this should increase their respect for your courage.

We have all most likely worked at one time or another with people who were constantly late for or missed meetings, lost track of time, derailed conversations to fulfill their self-interests, waffled at decision time, or never made a decision. All of these situations and personalities can cause frustration, confusion, and relationship tension that grows over time. However, many times, these are just the people who don’t know that the parade is going on around them and can’t even hear the band playing. Next time you are in a meeting or on a conference call with several people, look around and actively listen. Ask yourself, “Who is leading the parade, who is in the parade, and who doesn’t even know a parade is going on?” Then, choose to be one of the few to lead the parade.

 

 

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