Archive: March, 2019

Post from Transformation Tom- Know When to Let Go and Move On (Get Over It): Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - March 24, 2019 - News
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Know when to let go  

It used to take me about thirty minutes to commute to work.  I often would spend the drive home analyzing my day to look for what went right. Unfortunately, I do have bad days. In these cases, I would spend time evaluating what I did wrong and what I could have done better. It is a good way to assess my performance and myself so that I can become better the next time. I’m sure my wife appreciates the wind-down time more than when I worked two minutes from the house. Unfortunately, I also have a habit of over-thinking my day’s assessment and continuing this far into the night. I overanalyze a lot of things, but there have been too many times when I have beaten myself up over things I should have just let go.

As a newer manager, I wondered why a solid performer of mine had been out of the office for a long time. I was getting worried about him and decided to call to make sure he was alright. We had a decent relationship and I felt comfortable making the call. When he picked up the phone, he said he was quitting. I asked if there was anything I could do to keep him. I was not looking for him to go into his health history, but I did want him to know that I cared and that I was there to help. He said that he was having a nervous breakdown and “no thank you” to the assistance. I thought the response was odd considering that he had never had any performance or conduct issues in the past.   He had always come to work with a smile on his face, ready to work, and gave no indication of any mental issues. However, I knew I was getting out of my psychiatric league, so I offered some internal services to help. He responded as if he was annoyed with my caring attitude. He said that I could not help, but if I truly wanted to know what was going on he would tell me. I was hesitant now, but if he wanted to get something off his chest, he could use me as a sounding board. He told me he had broken up with his girlfriend. Now, I personally was no expert on relationships since I was single at the time, however, I knew it could sometimes be difficult. However, I did not think that most break-ups caused nervous breakdowns.   I thought I was being a good manager when I said he could use more time away from the office so he could work things out. He started to yell at me and said it was not possible to come back to work, ever. This was probably the time in the conversation to let things calm down, but I wanted to be the patient manager and be a good listener. The employee went on to say that his ex-girlfriend was the official voice on the prompt that every associate in the company heard at the introduction of every single phone call. This means that he would have had to listen to her taped introduction every time he answered a call—eighty times a day.

I learned a lesson that day: sometimes you can’t help, even when you want to. You can always try, but there are times when we just need to let go. I later found out the person did need professional help and there was not much I would have been able to do for him long term.   Sometimes, there are better things around the corner. You may recall my story about when I was not hired for a position in which I would have managed hundreds, but was given the opportunity to start a new taskforce role to reduce employee attrition. Not being hired for the original role taught me the value of losing, but also taught the lesson to “get over it.” I started to realize the many great things that are ahead of us when we let go and move on. Hard work and patience did pay off with a job I was better suited for, even though I did not know it at the time. The great news when I changed jobs was that I did not have to relocate my family, and I have since grown into several other, higher-level roles because of that particular stepping stone. For further validation that I was on a better trajectory, several years later, the economy crashed, the site I would have worked in closed, and the market we had been house hunting in dropped like a rock. I most likely would have been in financial trouble. We have all had bad days or want something different.

We may want to revisit a mistake, we may want a “do over,” we may want to go back to the way things were, or may want what we can’t have. I have to repeat three simple words: Get over it. Sometimes, our control over circumstances is limited. We need to deal with what we can, and learn to get over the rest.   I grew much happier when I began to understand that my career is not a sprint, it is a marathon that I hope grows and prospers with my ability to learn and become better. To use business jargon, if we continue to try to “die on this hill” or “spin our wheels,” our attempts to move forward are hindered. If I am going to hang on too long to something, I should make it the great days in my career. We should all play off the positive energy and momentum from the high points in our careers. We must take the appropriate time to recognize and celebrate the wins and enjoy them, learn from our trials, and get over the rest.

Thomas B. Dowd III’s books The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World (Honorable Mention at the 2012 New England Book Festival) and From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide (2013 Axiom Business Book Awards Gold Medal Winner and 2013 Paris Book Festival Honorable Mention).  Audiobook version of “From Fear to Success” is also available! 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 Responsible With the Power of Position (P.O.P.): Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - March 18, 2019 - News
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Position of Power

Do you understand your true relationship with the people that work
for you? If you are a manager of others, you are given power simply by
having the title of manager next to your name. This title comes with
great responsibility. Dr. Paul Hersey wrote in “The Situational Leader” that,
“Power is influence potential. Power is the resource that enables a leader
to gain compliance or commitment from others.” Earlier in my career, I
knew people “had” to listen to me because they reported to me, so I took
advantage of it. I wasn’t cocky or arrogant. I took advantage of what I
thought were my responsibilities to provide feedback and make people
better. The feedback pointed toward me at times was that I was often too
direct and to the point. My intent was never to belittle, but to make my
people better. I had not established a solid enough foundational relationship to be this direct. I was learning to be a manager, but I was not learning to be a leader.

I once walked into a new hire classroom and was asked a business-related
question. My answer contradicted the trainer, who was not in the
room. I instantly blurted out that she was wrong. The shocked looks on
the newly hired employees said all that needed to be said. A so-called
titled manager of this company had just taken away the respect that
the trainer had been working so hard to gain. There were better ways
to handle that situation. I could have said, “Let me check on that and
get back to you,” and discussed it with the trainer. Regardless of the final
“right” answer, we both were in positions of authority in the eyes of the
employees, and I abused my power and potentially adversely impacted
the credibility of both myself and the trainer. I may have also left a lasting
impression on the new employees’ opinions about their decision to stay
with the company. They may have asked themselves if all managers were
like me.

Some people feared me. I grew to realize the fear wasn’t because they
would get yelled at. I made people feel badly for not performing at a level
I thought they should be. I did not account for their individual circumstances, such as tenure, experience, and confidence. I would push everyone the same way, with the same intensity. This method worked for a few people, but not for most employees. I followed policies to the letter of the law, and people did not see me as someone who would listen to all sides. I was their manager and not their leader. One day, I placed someone on corrective action for a customer situation. I based it on the side of the story I heard from others.

When the person chose to supersede my authority and went to see my
manager, I was upset that he had gone over my head. He told a completely
different story from my interpretation. What I learned was that I thought
I knew all of the answers, knew the policy, and had the authority to make
the corrective-action decision. I soon found out I was missing facts and
needed to listen more. When the situation settled down, I realized that
I could have supported the employee by listening to his side prior to
making any decisions. We all would have been better off. My manager
gave me simple feedback that stuck with me: “You need to be sensitive to
the power of your position.” That day, I put a note on my desk that read,
“P.O.P” to remind me every day of the power of my position.

Managers and leaders must decide how to effectively use the authority
given to them when they start managing people. There are times when
managers must make tough decisions to use their authority and position.
However, everything is not about reprimanding. There are positive uses
of authority, such as issuing rewards and recognition. What’s important
is the person in the position of power understands and assesses each situation as being unique.

A manager also may have the power of having more information
at his or her fingertips than people may want or need. Managers have
natural power that comes with the title and how they wield it becomes
important in the eyes or their employees. Sometimes, I might just need
the person to listen to me. If there is a fire in the building, that may not be
the best time for a group discussion. However, I weighed too heavily in
the past on this type of management style as a way to send my messages
to employees about what to do, as opposed to them learning on their own
or coming up the learning curve at their own pace. I had to understand
how to adapt my style based on what was required at the time for the person, the situation, and me. This learning moment was critical to my own
development, for my effectiveness as a leader, and for the earned respect
of the people who worked for me.

Every move a manager makes is watched. As a manager, you are on
stage whether you like it or not. You may not always be respected, but
people feel the requirement to listen to you due to a fear of losing their
job, repercussions to their job or responsibilities, or impacts to their compensation.

You have the power of your position and must be careful in how this power is exercised. What kind of reputation do you have? I didn’t know my reputation except for what was coming to me through focus groups and some feedback from my managers. I wish I had listened—I mean truly listened—because they were always accurate. Do you want respect because of the title, or do you want respect because of the work you and your team are able to accomplish? The power to move the business and gain the respect of the people around you is greater when that respect is earned and put to good use. We should make the effort to make the most of the influence we are given.

Thomas B. Dowd III’s books The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World (Honorable Mention at the 2012 New England Book Festival) and From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide (2013 Axiom Business Book Awards Gold Medal Winner and 2013 Paris Book Festival Honorable Mention).  Audiobook version of “From Fear to Success” is also available! 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- Don’t Try to Boil the Ocean: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - March 11, 2019 - News
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The first time I ever heard the corporate jargon, “you can’t boil the ocean,” I was impressed with the simplicity and obvious nature of the statement. We have all bitten off more than we could chew at one time or another. I would think there are enough clichés related to this topic for all of us to get the point. However, we don’t get the point. Whether we are in an effort to overachieve, trying to do too much, or trying to be the corporate hero, we all try to boil the ocean sometime.

Boil the Ocean2

There are a couple of key points. First, I have worked for managers who were unclear in their expectations of me relating to deliverables. The vagueness, or in some cases, vastness of the request was not realistic. I am all for stretch goals and the reach required to develop me while strengthening the business. However, if you’re asked to solve world peace, and your manager wanted you to think globally and act locally, these are two different requests (I couldn’t resist the additional cliché). The requester should have the end result in mind in order for the task to be fully understood and determined feasible. If the realistic nature of the end state is in question, refer back to the requestor. An assessment may be needed to determine if the request is even possible prior to investing too much into an unattainable request. However, the expectation needs to be clear that you are being asked for an assessment, not the ultimate end state.

Second, if you are the one doing the tasks, you can’t take on the world by yourself all the time. If you try to boil the ocean by yourself, you will only succeed in increasing your frustration over time. I am a huge fan of small victories. I am not taking the easy way out, but I want you to be accepting of recognition for successful progression. The small victories will add up to many large wins. However, if you are constantly swinging for home runs, you may eventually hit one, but only after you strike out quite a few times. If you go for solid hits, and use the support system around you, you will all succeed as a team (I couldn’t resist the baseball analogy). If you are the recipient of the grandiose “empty out the ocean” instructions, break it down into smaller parts. You need to also understand ultimately what the end result should look like. If you do not understand the expectations, ask clarifying questions until you get it.

Sometimes, managers aren’t exactly sure what we are asking. Managers may pass down information that is filtered, and re-translated. It is your obligation to slow down the process enough for clear directions in order to increase satisfaction, improve production, and gain more wins by not boiling the ocean. If there is a big body of water in front of you, gather the team, resources, and invest the time required to confirm expectations needed to navigate through it. Far too many times, we attempt to do too much on our own. We can divide the responsibilities based on skill set, experience level, or many other ways. The point is the team can accomplish more with clear instruction and role clarity.

Our success is in our ability to know what is being asked of us and that we can’t do it all on our own. The best leaders make sure they know what is being asked of them and don’t do it by themselves. They surround themselves with a well organized team, delegate effectively, and play to everyone’s strengths.

 

 

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

Posted by tomdowd - March 5, 2019 - News
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Time Management 3

I would consider myself a pack rat when it comes to holding on to information. However, I am realistic enough to know that I can’t save everything. For example, I don’t need every daily report saved. As part of my organizational improvement, I found I can’t always be the controller of information—but I can know where and from whom to grab it. You should know who the key contact is for critical information. If you don’t know who the key contacts are, you should invest the time to learn—it saves time in the end. How will doing more save you time? By making you more informed and effective, you will save time. Let’s find out how.

To increase your effectiveness, you should read all of your emails and avoid the systemic rules for auto-deleting. If you need to set a rule to auto-delete the email (e.g., daily reports), don’t bother getting the email in the first place. Also, read the entire email; don’t just pull up the attachments or read the beginning. There are often key points in the body, or the email trail, that might need to be addressed. If you are one of the few reading the entire body of the email, you are in the minority—a minority that gives you an information advantage. Although there is etiquette to delete needless pieces of an email and to summarize when you are the person who forwards it or replies, we are realistic enough to know it doesn’t always happen. Use the details to fully understand what is going on around you.

If there are attachments and you simply open them without reading the email, you may be missing out. There are often high-level summaries included in the email that provide context that will be extremely important as you pull up that attachment. Read the key points and the summary. This may save you time researching information that may already be in front of you.

Checklists are both a blessing and a curse. We have all used checklists. Some people use them better than others. Some people write out checklists chronologically, some people write out by priority, and some people write first come, first served (not recommended). Some people move the checklist from one day to another. If you are the daily shifter, stop using the checklist. Checklists are not productive if you constantly shift them from day to day—they simply become time wasters. If you have moved the same task for multiple days, how important is it? If it is important, take action on it. If it is important, but not urgent, don’t schedule it for tomorrow; schedule it for a week from now when you know you can get to it. If you are proactively staying ahead of your day, your week, and your month as stated earlier, you should be on top of this anyway.

Checklists, if kept, must comprise the least amount of work you expect to get done and still consider the day a success. It might sound counterintuitive since we are trying to get the most out of a day. However, I specifically think of it as the, “I can’t leave until this gets done” list. This should be your very realistic list. Anything finished after this list should be considered a bonus. Use a pull system to bring the bonus tasks into your freed up parts of your day as opposed to continually pushing the tasks to another day. You will start to find you will have a lot more bonus days as you get control of your checklists and calendar.

It is important with checklists to not write something down today if you are not going to do it today. In addition, you should double the time you expect to complete the tasks, even the regular ones, and account for interruptions (e.g., calls coming in, questions being asked, etc.). Doubling the time is critical for being realistic with time expectations.

The following are additional miscellaneous tips that will influence effective organization and time management:

  • How a request comes in may impact your time management. How the requests are communicated to you play an important role when establishing priorities. Be cautious of email—it can be a time consumer if you are spending all day reading it and trying to interpret the exact request. You also increase the risk of multitasking. Use a specific block of time in a day to go through your emails and organize what is being asked of you. Additionally, pick up the phone and clarify the request, if needed, to avoid having to go back for rework.
  • Keep a copy of your calendar with you, even when not at your desk. You can use an electronic/virtual version, print a smaller pocket version, or tape one in a notebook or portfolio you carry with you.
  • If possible, turn off the features that confirm you have a new email or messages. Research has proven that it takes an inordinate amount of time to get back to your original thought when you are interrupted—regardless of whether it is by email, text message, or someone asking a question. Additionally, don’t pay attention to previews when an email comes in. It will naturally pull you to read the entire message and it takes away what you were previously dedicating your time towards. Turn off all indicators, whether it is visual or sound.
  • Touch it once. Read it, take action, move it to a time when you can get to it, or save it for future reference. Stop moving it day to day because of an inability to take action; stop reading it more than once. Take actions on the emails—this might be moving it to another location or scheduling a meeting or a phone call, etc., to take it to its conclusion. Don’t read an email and just leave it in your inbox. This causes you to read it multiple times.
  • I recommend not organizing emails by categories, senders, etc. It takes away from your ability to see it once. This causes you to have to look into multiple places when researching or looking for something. I have rarely seen this work effectively without something falling through the cracks.
  • Give yourself some breathing room before you start your day so you are not rushed around. It sets the tone for the day. Don’t walk in the door at 7:59 A.M. if you are supposed to start at eight o’clock. That rushed feeling takes a while to go away.
  • Many of us have a tendency to do the easiest things first for the sense of accomplishment. We must understand the difference between ease and true accomplishment. If you get a lot of easy things out of the way, after a while the more difficult things start to pile up. Also assess what is urgent, not urgent, important, and not important. Each of these needs to be reacted to in a different way. Do not give each a blanket reaction. Also, respect that what might be urgent or important to you may not be important or urgent to others. You should ask questions if you are unsure.
  • Ask what happens if the deadline if missed. Know the rewards and consequences. You will be surprised how frequently what you thought of as urgent was really only important or vice versa, once clarity is added.
  • Understand that internal pressures are sometimes greater than reality.
  • Always take a notebook to meetings and actually use it; then go back and refer to it. Put any actions needed on your calendar.
  • Immediately file and organize—this includes paper, emails, and online filing, as needed. Don’t pile up.
  • If you have pushed the same task more than five days or made no progress on even starting on something, make a final decision on what action you need to take, including dismissing it. You do have options to take that immediate action: delete it, schedule time to address it, or take action to finish it now. A decision to do nothing is still a decision—just understand the consequences.

My former company used to consistently solicit people for their opinions regarding time management for certain roles. I used to laugh because the conclusions never changed. We used to conduct these time studies and came to the conclusion that there was not enough time in the day to get everything done. Don’t wait for a time study to figure out what you do all day. Self-awareness will lead to your success. If you are feeling strained, you must discuss time management challenges with your manager. Silence will only hurt you. You must over-communicate with your manager regarding what’s on your plate.

Time management is a requirement for all levels in an organization. If you don’t have enough time to invest in improving your own time management, take another serious look. There are only twenty-four hours in the day. They should not be all devoted to work, but if you don’t manage the work piece, you can’t balance the personal piece. Start immediately.

 

 

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