Archive: February, 2019

Post from Transformation Tom- Manage Your Time, Don’t Let it Manage You—Part I: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - February 19, 2019 - News
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I have found in my twenty-eight years of professional experience that poor time management skills are one of the biggest pitfalls for leaders. I am going to intentionally repeat myself: poor time management skills are one of the biggest pitfalls for leaders. I took organization training over twenty years ago, and I understood at that time the power of managing my day and beyond. More importantly, I realized I couldn’t survive in the business world until I could manage the swirling days, weeks, and months around me. By actively staying organized, I found I could dedicate the appropriate time to urgent and important items, spend more time developing people, and yes, put out those dreadful fires that often come our way.

Time Management 1

When you are running at capacity, the fire drill exercise will sacrifice something else that may need to be dropped. However, if you have full control and knowledge of your own capacity, you can not only do it right, but you have a chance to do it all, and more. Included in this section are highlights from an evolving organization course I have taught over the years for new and experienced managers. I have a positive reputation for being highly organized at work. Some call it being anal retentive or compulsive. However, very few people can remember me ever missing a key deadline.

First and foremost, people are the highest priority. Regardless of your job responsibilities or what is on your calendar for the day, people who work for you take the top billing. As a manager, how do you get all of the administrative work done if you are constantly bombarded with questions from your direct reports? Good managers can anticipate questions and concerns through staff meetings and team meetings. It is extremely important to lay out clear expectations and preparations, including what might be the best time to connect with you, what is on your plate for the day, and who to contact if you are not available. Being ahead of the game is also important. You can do this by anticipating common questions and put answers in your reports’ hands before the questions are even asked. Everyone wins.

Managers should also understand the most effective ways to present information to a particular audience. Knowing who you are presenting to and how well they will absorb the information is critical. How does your group like to be taught? For example, a manager might find success in asking open-ended questions to ensure clarity. Tossing facts and figures at a group of people and expecting them to remember can be difficult. There should be interaction and engagement from everyone. The group of people learning should feel comfortable, and the leader should invest the appropriate amount of time when it is all over. Sometimes in the past, I rushed information to people by talking at them, and was always surprised when I got a question later about the same subject. I have found it extremely helpful for time-management purposes to invest the time up front so that everyone learns and digests the information from the start. Group settings are extremely helpful in avoiding duplicate messages. If you are not a leader, you should ensure that this gets practiced by discussing this with your manager.

Leaders need to build time into their calendars for the unexpected. How can you do this if you don’t know what’s coming relating to those “I need it now” requests? If you are scheduled for an eight hour day, and your calendar is booked for that entire eight hours, it is guaranteed that you will not get everything done. The unexpected will happen during that time—I promise. I like to block off time in my day with follow-up items that occupy space on my calendar to cover loose ends. The blocks of time also allow flexibility if meetings go over or someone needs me for something important. These blocks of time are great for reflecting on past meetings, preparing for upcoming meetings, or conducting in-depth work.

You should also schedule time to get away from your desk. This builds in another block of time for the unexpected, and allows extra time for the flexibility to take a break and stay fresh. Below are some additional tips for the unexpected:

  • Schedule time for emails, return messages, etc. This minimizes your need to multitask and builds more open time. If you build an hour a day for this and it only takes thirty minutes, take advantage of the bonus time for other tasks.
  • Build in time for daily operations and be sensitive to potential impacts within your business. For example, in a call center, Mondays are often high call volume days. Managers are needed on the floor. Build that time on the floor into your calendar for non-meeting activities. Do not schedule your staff meetings during peak times, since the chances for interruption are high and a less productive meeting will occur.
  • Use miscellaneous blocks of time on your calendar for routine events that may not require a specific time. For example, you know you need two hours tomorrow to provide feedback to people on your team, or do a daily task like quality monitoring. You may schedule it for 10:00 A.M.-12:00 noon. The actual time is not as important as reserving the block of time of two hours. You can build in the flexibility to move this block of time through the same day as you need to as long as you remain committed to making it happen. Be careful of pushing it too late into the day, when you risk not completing it and are required to move it to another day. When you start carrying appointments over to other days, you run the risk of creating a bottleneck situation. For example, pushing the two hours to another day puts you four hours in the hole the following day.
  • Use recurring meetings to hold future times and dates. This habit gives people a heads up to reserve times and dates and should increase attendance to key meetings. It is respectful of other people’s calendars, since it will give everyone ample time to know what is ahead for them, and they can look forward to the same time and date each week or month.

One of the greatest things I did for my own sanity was to keep a pad of paper near my nightstand at home. How does this relate to time management? When random thoughts pop into my head at night, I write them down immediately. The benefits are as follows: 1) I don’t forget, thus I don’t waste time trying to remember, 2) I sleep better knowing I have immediately addressed my thoughts, 3) I have stronger ideas since I have reached the inner non-stressed part of my brain and can formulate a plan of action. All of this allows me to enter into my day knowing where and when things are happening, with a clear plan of attack to get it done.

Don’t be a slave to your calendar, but be committed to it and avoid constant appointment pushing. Consistent appointment pushing to another day is a red flag that you need to change the calendar process—it is either too full or you need to be more committed to it.

You should invest ample time in understanding your future calendar appointments. Organize tomorrow before leaving today. You should invest five minutes before leaving for the day. I make very few promises, but I will make an exception. I promise you will sleep better knowing exactly what’s on your plate tomorrow. You should actually schedule this five minute event for the end of day as a calendar appointment. Five invested minutes will save you hours later. Additionally, organize the next week every Friday. Look out a week at a time. Again, schedule this Friday event on your calendar. Finally, organize each month with a few days before the current month ends. Look out a month at a time. Once again, schedule this event on your calendar. This shouldn’t be done on the thirtieth of the month—it should be done around the twenty-sixth to avoid surprises in the first week of the following month. The outlook a month ahead of time allows you to determine what normal routines you need to conduct each month and how to spread them accordingly. When we have certain obligations that are required on a monthly basis, I find as high as ninety-five percent of the people on any given month, if given the choice, will do the task at the end of the month. Be in the minority and get things done before they are scheduled and due.

We are in a culture of procrastinators. I am on the opposite end of the spectrum, almost to the extreme, viewing it as the antithesis of procrastination. I want tasks out of the way as quickly as possible so that I can concentrate on other things. I front load certain events in the first or second week of each month to get them out of the way, and allow flexibility in case other events come up that need to be accomplished prior to the month ending. There have been many times when something did come up at the end of the month, and a number of leaders did not meet their requirements as a result. Keeping ahead of your schedule allows for the unexpected. As I was going through my career growing pains, it was effective time management that often kept me afloat.

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- Build and Maintain a Strong Résumé: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - February 11, 2019 - News
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Resume

If you are looking for a job, résumés can be the difference between getting your foot in the door and getting a rejection letter without being granted an interview. Résumés are, at times, our first and only impression on a prospective company or new position. The importance of an effective résumé is typically not lost on those seeking a job. However, what about people who already have a job? Unless you work in a small company where you know everyone, a résumé works the same way by allowing others to get to know you professionally.

You should always have an updated résumé ready. The practice of building and maintaining a strong résumé is not always related to active job searching. The routine of keeping an updated résumé is to eliminate surprise pressures when something of interest does come up or someone wants to get to know you professionally. A prepared résumé that can be instantly obtained shows your preparation when someone may ask for it. This has happened to me more than once. It also ensures that you stay up to date and not forget about including key accomplishments. If a question comes up relating to recent accomplishments, you are ready to share instantly and are in a position for effective networking conversations. I have seen far too many people scrambling to put together a résumé because they were caught off guard.

Résumé writing is a skill that can be taught. When preparing a résumé, the key is due diligence and constant review. A résumé should always be considered a work in progress. There is no better tool in your arsenal than a résumé as a way to express yourself professionally in writing. With that said, I have seen résumés that were slapped together quickly with very little thought. I have also seen people pay a lot of money for someone else to put together a résumé that ultimately looked like it was put together just as quickly. If you are going to pay someone, be an active part of the process. No one knows you better than yourself. If you invest the time and get the right support, you will be proud of the work of art you put together.

A résumé is potentially a one-time shot to make that great first impression. You can’t afford to submit a document with spelling errors, with glaring grammatical errors, or a poor overall layout. The amount of time invested in a résumé is obvious. Often, readers are turned off because of the lack of visual stimulation and obvious errors as they glance over the information. This can occur before they even begin to read the content in detail. How a résumé presents itself on the page tells a very big story about you. Effectively organized résumés should point the eyes of the reader to the right places to help with the flow and readability. The appropriate investment ensures that it is the best-quality story possible.

When is the last time you touched your résumé? I review mine quarterly and I am not shopping for a job. I have a recurring appointment that pops up on my online calendar. After the initial investment to put the full document together, I invest about five minutes per quarter into maintaining it. I learned early in my professional life not to have a dusty résumé. Growing up with a father with over twenty-five years of Human Resources experience with Sears Roebuck & Co., and my subsequent twenty years of interviewing job candidates taught me to always be prepared.

My analysis on retaining employees, my recruiting experience, and interviewing has allowed me to see hundreds, if not thousands, of résumés. The following are tips to help you to build and maintain a strong résumé.

  • Style. There is no right or wrong style. The Internet has plenty of websites dedicated to résumé styles and formats. I have yet to find two that are exactly alike, which should clearly tell you there is no magic formula. However, while there is no right or wrong, there is still a first impression.
  • Bullets versus sentences. I personally think it is a preference and that it doesn’t matter as long you are consistent, clear, concise, and succinct with your information.
  • Use of effective spacing and layout. Proper spacing and open areas on the document grab attention. Don’t crowd the document with words. Use the open areas to your advantage to ensure that key items catch the attention of the readers and point their eyes to the key words/places on the document.
  • Hesitancy in sharing. Go out there and share it with everyone. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, you need a third party’s opinion and proofreading skills. Another set of eyes is a must. I had someone review my résumé recently and she found an extra space that had been there for years. Second, share your résumé for networking purposes. Having your résumé floating around is not a bad thing when it gets into the right hands. You will also surprise some readers who may not know all of your background. The only assumption you should make with a résumé is that no one knows you.
  • Editing. Running spell check doesn’t count as editing. Enough said.
  • Routines. Have a recurring calendar appointment to update your résumé quarterly. No need to think about it, just do it.
  • Jargon. Match your résumé language and headings consistent to job descriptions, but avoid internal jargon. You can use language familiar to people in your company if you are using your résumé internally, or use similar language to a job advertisement you are applying for. For example, if you have a sales background and you are pursuing a marketing position, use terms such as “Marketed products to…” However, when possible, I try to minimize the amount of changes by staying broad enough with your terminology that both internal and external readers can understand it, so you only need to maintain one document. In large companies, you also can’t assume people in different departments are familiar with all internal terminology.
  • Be specific. Assume the people you may be speaking to do not understand your past jobs or responsibilities. Be specific. Even if you are meeting with someone who is familiar with the job description, use specifics on your résumé that differentiate you individually.
  • Use statistics. Job descriptions should include powerful information that shows the size and scale of your responsibilities; numbers can be insightful (e.g., Collected on 5-million dollar portfolio, exceeded goal by over twenty-five percent for twelve consecutive months). Dollars and percentages visually stand out.
  • Word choice. Avoid support language (e.g., Assisted…) and use language that shows your leadership (e.g., Created, Directed, Prepared, Piloted, and Developed).
  • What makes you special? Use differentiating accomplishments and descriptions. What makes you unique? Go beyond the duties and tasks of the job.
  • Order of facts. Key points should be prioritized in the job descriptions. For example, “Managed as many as fifty people” should be placed ahead of “Maintained timesheets” in your job assessment.
  • Final document. There is no such thing. Your résumé is a fluid document. You need to adapt it regularly and as needed.
  • Outside experiences. Include assets and experiences that may not have a direct link to the job in which you are interested, but show differentiating and special features. A friend of mine had a résumé that didn’t list his Military reserves experience. Not including these details instantly neglected over fifteen years of critical leadership, commitment, and service to our country.
  • Volunteer work. Don’t forget to include your volunteer activities and other skills, regardless of what you are interested in. Volunteering shows you can balance time and responsibilities and shows you give back to the community.
  • Certifications. You should include appropriate certifications and system proficiency. For example, you can write “Proficient in Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Excel” if it’s applicable to your knowledge and background. Also include key certifications, such as “Six Sigma Green Belt Certified.”
  • How personal? Include personal items if they strengthen your cause. For example, you may add something like, “Perfect attendance five consecutive years,” and “Excellent health—run twenty miles per week.” Both examples differentiate you from a typical résumé and show that you will come to work energized and ready every day. Another example might read, “Married for fifteen years.” Although employers can’t discriminate or even ask questions based on your marital status or health, it proactively rounds out your full story and shows more personal differentiation and stability.
  • Sequence of events. The most common formats are chronological and skills-based (e.g., jobs, volunteer work, and training). Just like résumé styles, this can come down to personal preference, unless you have done your homework and found that your company of interest has their own preferences.

If you don’t have a résumé, or have not touched your résumé in the last three months, pull it out and start today. You never know when you will need it. Make it a work of art.

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- Laugh at Work; Laugh With Others: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - February 3, 2019 - News
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I used to provide newer people at work a business overview once a month. I would go into the classroom and spend about an hour talking about my business. I tried to be as engaging as possible and attempted to add some interesting stories and humor to the presentation. We would get evaluations back, and every once and a while I would get one back that said I was funny. My wife has often said, “You’re just not funny, but that’s not what I love about you,” then we both laugh at ourselves. I have a tendency to get straight to the point and straight to work in the professional environment. She said enough with that comment to remind me to enjoy myself at work and to inject humor, on occasion, to get through tough times, or to just enjoy a laugh with colleagues for the sake of a laugh.

Earlier in my professional career, I had a serious undertone to my working style. I was too uptight and often too businesslike when a good laugh would have been better. I was inconsistently funny in some situations, and attempted to be funny in other times when it was not appropriate. I knew when a laugh was needed, but attempted too hard to make it happen.

Laugh1

I have found, early on, through Toastmasters, and by observing fellow colleagues who could effectively work a meeting with well-timed humor, that it is a communication tool. If I worked hard enough on my speeches and presentations, and consciously applied humor, I could have a more positive influence on the people around me since they remained engaged. I may never be considered a comedian, but I was starting to pick up that humorous communication is a learned trait and must be honed. Humorous communication is about timing and delivery, and about how to effectively use the tool. I still had work to do on my humorous side, but I saw the value.

Humor can be an effective form of communication. If the person attempting humor is not considered funny, it can be an ineffective form of communication. I will state the obvious and note that humor can be inappropriate, poorly timed, or offensive—be aware of the audience, timing, and potential impacts.

There were times when I knew I was trying too hard in my attempts to slip in a funny comment that wasn’t natural for me. In many cases, it may have been blurted out of nervousness. One of my managers hit me between the eyes with feedback once by telling me to relax. I knew my body language at the time showed tension. The manager followed up the comment, “You need to relax,” with, “and you can be really boring, at times.” Ouch. It’s tough when someone is so dead-on accurate with his or her feedback. We discussed it further. He was making the point that we had laughed together in the past and he enjoyed that side of me. He wanted me to be more myself. We also discussed timing and style. I know that I am not a natural story or joke teller. But, I do enjoy self-deprecating humor and appropriately timed one-liners in my personal time; I just had difficulty carrying that over to the professional side. If I learned to be a better storyteller, I could transform my style to one that would possibly reduce my own anxiety, improve my satisfaction level, and change the perception of people around me.

Do you remember that my wife said I’m not funny? In reality, my wife and my manager were both right. I needed to be more of myself at work and enjoy the ride. Toastmasters International has annual humorous contests. I heard tenured members say that the humorous speech was the hardest speech to write. However, they also emphasized that it is an important part of communication. If you can react effectively to a joke, or actively tell a story that can keep an audience’s interest and make them laugh, you are winning in the game of communication. I had to work hard at acting naturally to create memorable speeches that grabbed the audience’s attention through humor. I gained more audience reaction and increased my confidence level the more I did it. As I “practiced” being more myself and being less prescribed with what I said and how and when I said it, I was able to be more personable in my interactions. I was turning into someone I already was—the person I was outside of work. I was starting to be perceived as less uptight and even funny, at times.

The goal was not to be a comedian, but to be able to relax and be an active part of any engaging conversation. I became more conscious of my own enjoyment at work. I could also see how people seemed to be enjoying our conversations more. I now periodically get a note that says, “Thanks for making me laugh today…I needed it.” I have heard that more often over the last few years from people who worked with me in the past. They have gone out of their way to mention how they enjoyed this side of me and had no idea I had this type of personality. These comments go a long way in increasing my confidence level.

I ended up finishing third in my first Toastmasters Humorous Speech Contest for our Division in 2009. The division represented the state of Maine and a small part of New Hampshire. I was proud of myself. I entered a contest for humor when I knew I had to work very hard at being funny. I was learning through Toastmasters, and through better self awareness and practice about my “looser” communication style, I was learning to find my true voice. I even won the division humorous contest in 2011. I was breaking out of my serious shell and having good laughs with others along the way. I now try to consistently incorporate natural humor into my presentations and speeches to get across key points, and in some cases, purely for entertainment purposes. My satisfaction with work has been through the roof over the past several years. So has my productivity and quality of work; and so has my success. It is not a coincidence.

 

 

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