Transformation Blog & Events

Give People Second Chances

Posted by tomdowd - May 13, 2019 - Leadership, News
1

second chance

I always seemed to wind up working for people who looked out for me
and were willing to give me second chances. Even as I griped about my
managers and blamed them for many of my downfalls, I was still asked to
go with them as they changed jobs within my company. In a corporation employing thousands of people, I had many years in which I seemed to work for people willing to give me second chances at a time in my career when I thought I was making too many mistakes. I thought, at times, that they were protecting me. What I found was that these special managers were not protecting me—they were willing to give me a second chance because they knew my strengths better than I did. Over the years, as I gained confidence and learned more about the business on my own, they saw my maturity even before I did. The people who gave me a second chance knew I would give everything I had for the business, and knew I was learning from my mistakes. Additionally, I was learning to own up to my mistakes and was making it an active practice to teach others by sharing what I had learned from my lessons.

In one of my first positions managing managers, I was new and naïve
to the role. I was previously a micromanager and I had stayed steadfast to
personnel policies. When I should have been a level higher than where
I was in order to manage managers, I was really a glorified version of a
manager because I knew the technicalities of the business but did not
understand how to manage it.

My manager invested his time with me, as I was new to the role. He
had a certain tone he used when I made mistakes, but sought to make
them teaching opportunities. I still couldn’t break out of the glorified
manager mentality, even though I was supposed to be a level higher. Mistakes
were made, and we both felt I was not coming up the learning curve
quickly enough. However, he made the effort to make me better and gave
me opportunities even though I was convinced I had not reached his
expectations. When he left the department, I appreciated his time and
dedication, and told him I would continue to make the effort to improve.
I was a little surprised when I got a call to join him in his new department.
I had previously worked in that department and could bring my
job knowledge. But why would he want me when he knew exactly what I
was—and was not— capable of? I’m now convinced that that was why he
made the call to me. He knew exactly what I could and could not do, and
he still saw the potential.

I thought then that I was still too naïve to truly lead the department,
since I needed to develop my own confidence level. I began to think that
I was being harder on myself about being perfect than I needed to be, but
I still lacked confidence. I was surrounded by tenured peers who I let take
control of meetings and drive the conversations. My confidence was not
growing, but my frustration was.

We used to have an annual event that was supposed to be fun, I did not engage in the event as much
as I should have. My avoidance of the event, which was supposed to
include tasteful practical jokes, only caused more unwanted attention
directed my way. As a result, I became an unwilling target. I felt an obligation
to defend myself and my team and went on the offensive halfway
through the month, after giving in to the pressure to participate. My
team and I devised some creative practical jokes that walked a fine line
of professionalism and ultimately landed me in hot water with Human
Resources. I pushed the limits out of frustration rather than simply playing
along from the beginning.

Whatever frustrations I had with the event remained bottled up
until my manager had to sit me down and explain his concerns about my
actions. I let it all out, including my disdain for the event, my growing
disrespect for my peers, and the fact that I felt forced into doing things
I was not comfortable with. I came to the realization that I was the only
one accountable to make the decision to do what I had done. I didn’t
think through the unintended consequences and the impact I would have
on my team and my peers. I vented and he listened, then we had a phenomenal
conversation. The conversation was straightforward and should
have occurred prior to allowing the frustration to build up.

As much as I was embarrassed that we had to have the HR discussion,
I needed it. I maintained my job with a solid slap on the wrist, and
learned some lessons. However, I was not convinced that I would ever
work for this person again, since it was a pretty big mistake in my eyes
relating to people management.As is the nature of our business, he moved on to another department.

I received another call six months later. He wanted me to work for him
again in a department that was full of newer managers. I jumped at the
chance because I wanted to prove myself to him, and I saw an opportunity
to teach all of my new peers to avoid my past mistakes relating to
people management. I saw my chance to give back and be the leader I
wanted to be. For three months, I was able to accomplish this and a lot
more. I felt like I had made a name for myself in this new department and
that I was there making a difference. I was asking questions and driving
the business. My questions landed me in a three-month task force that
lasted for over two years. Guess who joined me after I left his department,
two days later? You guessed it—he moved to my new department as my
manager, again. He apparently had had some inkling as to his next move
and wanted me to be there with him. He knew exactly what he was getting,
and he seemed pretty happy to know who had his back.

Through my career, I’ve sometimes perceived that I’ve been in the
wrong place at the wrong time, and sometimes I’ve felt that I’ve been in
the right place at the right time. I was learning to go with the flow and
learn from my mistakes. I also learned to give second chances. As a perfectionist,
I know that no one, including myself, is perfect. We can all
strive to do our best. I have always been appreciative of people willing
to give me tough feedback, even when I didn’t think I wanted to hear
it. I became a manager known for openly sharing my mistakes to help
others. In fact, a few times when I thought my people were holding back
out of fear of making mistakes, I started a regular event in our weekly
staff meetings to share our “MOW: Mistake of the Week.” We shared what
we had learned through the week and found that we all made mistakes.
We were willing to take calculated risks, work together as a team, and be
more creative. I now actively recruit people I know have made mistakes,
who are willing to own them and learn from them. I have found that giving
people second chances only strengthens the team and the individual’s
efforts.

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- Balance Being a Leader and a Doer— You Can’t Do Both at the Same Time: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - May 5, 2019 - Leadership, News
0

leader doerOn my mentor and networking monthly rotation, there was a question I asked of two leaders who had some familiarity of my background and reputation. I asked, “What would it take to get to the next level?” since I felt all of my recent moves were lateral. I was surprised to hear similar answers from these two respected leaders. I was told that I had a reputation of being the “clean up guy.” I was the one willing to get in the trenches and find the issues that needed to be fixed. I was independent in my thinking and did not need a whole lot of direction. I could execute whatever task needed to be done. I took these comments as a compliment.

The comments were really intended to inform me that I was good at what I was doing as a “doer,” but the question remained: What was I doing to prove that I was a leader? There is nothing wrong with being a doer; there is always significant need in every business for someone to come in and diagnose and improve. However, there is a distinction between a “doer” and a “leader” and I wanted to explore how to be the latter.

There were a couple of points being made. First, I continued to accept
new positions at a lateral level, so the consensus was that I enjoyed project
management and that I could execute on the deliverables. Second, I
had not adequately built up the reputation that I could lead when given
more complex job responsibilities. The job always got done when I was
there, but that was because I had a tendency to step in and start doing it
myself. I was not leading a team or project; I continued to be in the way
as the doer, or in team situations the micro-manager and meddler. It is all
right to want control of every detail, but this can cause frustration within
a team. In addition, it had the potential of sending a message that I did
not trust my people. It always crushed the creative juices of the collective
group if I simply pushed my own agenda onto them or moved them out
of the way. Both mentors told me to set clear expectations, and then get
out of the way of the team. I had the skills and potential to be a leader,
but first I had to stop being the doer, especially when I was the supposed
leader.

I was involved in a leadership program that diagnosed and identified
my certain tendencies as a leader. To no one’s surprise, I found that I liked
to roll up my sleeves and get dirty. We were asked to lead an initiative and
play toward our weaknesses. I had identified a project that needed to be
implemented. I assembled an extremely strong team, identified a competent
project manager, and watched from the sidelines. I made myself
available for periodic updates and attempted to eliminate road blocks.

With clenched fists and a constantly bitten lip, I watched everything
unfold in front of me. I allowed the process to run its due course. The
leader did a phenomenal job. The project was completed on time and had
greater business impacts than originally projected. I was able to allow
the team to present their findings and recommendations to the senior
leaders. All the while, I was there for support, suggestions, and debate.
Although I had the most experience and job knowledge, I remained silent
for the most part and allowed the team to shine. My name was listed as
the project leader, and that’s who I wanted and needed to be. I successfully
lead the project team members and was finally not a doer.

The first thing that was said to me after the presentation was how
smoothly this had run and how much we accomplished as a team. The
senior leaders praised me for being such an active leader in driving the
process. It had always seemed counterintuitive to let others do the work
because it may not turn out exactly as I had envisioned, but it made more
sense now that I’d experienced it in action. I could be detailed-oriented,
I could be intelligent about my business, and I could be there to lead the
business. I did not have to be a micro-manager and watch every detail
if I built the right team and set the right expectations. I needed to take
accountability for the final project, but if I did my job right, the success
for the project would take care of itself with a more satisfied team and a
better end result. I learned that I can’t be the leader and the doer at the
same time.

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- Surround Yourself With Pictures: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - April 22, 2019 - Leadership, News
0

picture collage

I once went to a work seminar on organization. One of the suggestions
the instructor made was to not have any pictures around you. The premise
was that the pictures can cause distractions. Since this class took place
during my first few months of being a manager, I took it seriously. I even
mentioned the concept to people who had pictures on their desks and
suggested they remove them. I didn’t win a whole lot of points with these
suggestions, but I did practice what I preached. I spent years with a desk
devoid of pictures because I didn’t want to be distracted. For the most
part, I didn’t feel distracted, so I reasoned that it must be working. What
I failed to realize at the time was that I was not married, did not have any
pets, or children, so I was not actively looking to put too many pictures
on my desk anyway. I was fully dedicated to the company.

About five years later, I got married. I had the first picture dilemma.
Did I put a picture of my wife up on my desk? She was beautiful and
special, and I couldn’t resist. I was going to take the chance and see if I
truly was distracted. We got a black Lab to add to the family. One of my
favorite pictures of all time came a couple years later. It was a picture of
my first born daughter in a tide pool with our dog looking over her. My
family grew over the next few years with two more beautiful daughters
entering my life. I never stopped putting pictures up of my family and
dogs, pictures of celebrated work events, and friends.

I had motivation. I had people to work hard for and support. I could
look at their pictures and see a smile when I was having a bad day. When
I needed advice, I could look toward my wife’s picture and know exactly
what she would think and suggest (I did not, however, get to the point
of talking to my pictures). I never felt distracted once. I felt moved and
driven to push harder to make sure they all had what they needed from
me. The harder and smarter I worked, the more I could provide for them.
As the years have gone on, I see my babies growing up into young ladies.
These young ladies will grow up to become adults someday and be successful
in whatever their hearts desire. I know I can’t stop now. The pictures
show me how quickly they grow and change and keep me motivated
every day.

Although it took years for me to figure it out, pictures add a new
dimension to my workspace. They bring the comfort of home and lend
familiarity and stability when you might need it most. Surround yourself
with pictures of good times with family and friends. I was given a
digital frame and immediately loaded it with over one thousand photos.
I periodically turn around and chuckle when I see a picture flash up that
brings back great memories. The pictures don’t distract me. The pictures
motivate me because they are of the people who mean the most to me.

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 the Bigger Person: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - April 14, 2019 - Leadership, News
0

bigger person

I started working for someone whom I felt talked behind my back and was making a major effort to push me out of his department. Prior to him joining our department, I had been put into a temporary position managing managers and felt I was on my way to a promising future. My bad feelings were confirmed after his arrival a little over a year later when I was removed from my position and asked to take a step back. My backward movement was to some degree a self-fulfilling prophecy because I was not motivated to work for him. However, I also could not seem to break through to find what it would take for him to change his mind.

Although I was not motivated to give him my best, I did try to hide my outward frustration by burying my head in my work. My goal was to work as hard as I could until something changed. I knew he was under a lot of pressure to perform, but I had the opinion that he spent too much time trying to impress the upper management for his next promotion versus running his own business well. I had some small wins, but I knew we would never find the mutual respect needed to succeed as a team.

We crossed paths a few times over the years and I still boiled over with frustration that he never seemed to respect my work. Years later, I ended up working for him a second time. We had both matured. I saw the relationship dynamic changing because he was not working for the same people he had always been trying to impress. A situation presented itself in which he needed my experience and job knowledge in his new department. He gave me more responsibilities and space to succeed. He allowed me the chance to lead a task force of over one hundred people in a completely different area, with a lot of reign in directing our road map to success.

Our professional respect seemed to be growing. However, the entire tenure of the second round always seemed to have an eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room. It was the frustration from our first go-around together. We should have had a sit-down conversation and put it all out on the table. We didn’t do that. We worked better together in this new partnership, but there was still so much more we could have accomplished if we had just hammered out our differences, or at least gotten over the past.

Soon after the merger, he left the company. I was actually the last person to see him in the hall on his last day. He asked if I would help him take a box from his office to his car. I had a quick thought of, “I can’t believe he still wants to put me to work.” However, I knew that wasn’t his true intention and he just needed a little assistance. Believe it or not, he did have an underlying motivation—even with the impromptu run-in with me. As we were walking out, he said, “I’m sorry.” He went on to talk about all of the pressures he had been under during our first time together and how he had wanted to climb the corporate ladder as quickly as possible, even if it meant stepping on people. He was confessing his own learning to me and confirming that my original opinions weren’t too far off.

I realized that if I had taken the first step by stating my opinion years ago, I could have avoided a lot of the uncomfortable feelings we’d had. He took the first steps and told me all the great things he appreciated about me and the respect he had gained from my ability to work through the difficulty he had put me through. I felt guilty for not making the first move but was proud of my ability to force my way through the hard times. I also gained a lot of respect for him for taking advantage of the current events to make a difference in our relationship.

I know it has a lot of similarities to a death bed conversation we would have wanted to hear earlier in our lives from that person. However, I had the luxury of still living in a small New England town with this individual. Our interactions in town are cordial and personable. He ended up getting a new job in one of our old buildings right up the road. I was driving home and passed his building on a Friday afternoon. We stopped and talked. He needed leadership help in his new business and asked if I would join. I did not take him up on it but carried the valuable lesson of what can become of being the bigger person.

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- Become a Good Listener: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - April 8, 2019 - News
0

Better Listener

Everywhere we look, people have headsets in their ears listening to music while the world goes on around them. I’ve seen people blindly walk into street poles as they are texting. We multitask more than we want and our attention span gets spread to the limit. We have side conversations with people in the room while a conference call is going on, check messages, or make a call in the middle of a conversation with someone. One of the more difficult things I’ve tried to learn is effective listening. I have to make a concerted effort to try to give my undivided attention to one person at a time. I have to emphasize that the operative word is try. This lesson is a constant work in progress. There are too many opportunities to pull my attention and focus somewhere else.

Effective listening is at risk of being a lost skill. I have found, however, that most successful decision makers and leaders have this rare ability to listen effectively. The ability to focus on one person at a time and truly hear what they have to say allows the whole story to be heard, and builds the relationship for more productive conversations in the future. Listening also builds trust and respect. Think of the person who is always interrupting you and speaking over you. I often found (all right, present tense: “find”—this is still a work in progress) myself doing this. I never had any intention to be rude, but had ideas swimming in my head that needed to be blurted out before they were forgotten or became irrelevant. Maybe I was attempting to be the smartest person in the room, trying to gain attention from my managers, or just wanted to be heard. When this happened,

I was causing frustration and disruption to any real conversation, since the discussions were more one-sided then they needed to be. I had to force myself to listen and not speak. I thought I solved it by taking notes while someone else was speaking. However, I found that the notes started to dominate my own thoughts. I was still selfish in my approach to the conversation. I was silently interrupting someone’s thoughts because, in reality, I wasn’t truly hearing what they were saying.

Many instances of speaking over people are caused by our need to share our next thought with the person we are talking to, regardless of what they are saying. That is really not a productive conversation. I knew I was making progress when I entered the 2009 Fall Toastmasters International Speech Evaluation Contest. The goal of the contest is for all contestants to listen to the same “test” speech. The contestants can take notes during the speech and for five minutes immediately following, must organize and formulate their thoughts. The contestants then give a two to three minute overview “speech” of the key points they want emphasized for the “test” speaker and audience. I ended up finishing in second place in District 45, which includes over 100 clubs. I was using a critical ear, and more importantly, it was making a difference in my professional career.

I found significant improvement in my ability to have productive conversations and build more effective relationships when I put down my pen and simply listened to what someone said. I found there was a more open and fluid dialogue, and this generated more ideas and satisfaction on the part of the other person. Others involved in the conversations started to contribute or at least felt the openness to contributing when they had something important to say. I found greater success personally and more productive teamwork simply by truly listening and not worrying about formulating my next thought.

True listening was a career-altering discovery for me. I still feel the pull, at times, to multitask or gather my next thought. However, the pull gets easier as I continue to practice this skill. The practice has taught me to be a more effective communicator all around because I am now more engaged in the conversation since I am invited to ask open questions and clarify and confirm points. It is amazing the great things others have to say when I just started paying attention.

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- Get to Know the People You Work With: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - April 4, 2019 - Leadership, News
0

get to know people

There are far more people I have managed whose names I can’t
remember than people whose names I can. Besides having a poor memory
with names (I’m working on it), the key driver is the fact that I did a
poor job early in my career of getting to know the people I worked with
as real people. I knew them as employees. I knew their statistics, the way
a baseball manager might know his players. I knew their tendencies. I
knew their strengths, and their potential to improve.

As I changed teams or people came and went, I would pick up on the
statistics and begin the exercise to get to know the new numbers. I had
failed to truly get to know the people I worked with. I once had a senior
leader say, “Us being friends is merely a convenience.” He meant that our
personal relationship was not important. Since I had heard this prior to
being a manager, I took it seriously and was self-driven to find my way to
get to the next level. Once I became a manager, I steamrolled through the
people I worked with to drive them to maximize their statistics the way I
had when I was in their shoes just a few months before.

I did not get to know the people who worked for me at a personal
level. As their manager, I was missing part of each of my employees’ stories.
If I had learned the value of knowing the personal side of people
early in my manager experience, I would have known what makes a person
tick. I could have adapted my feedback to better meet their style, gain
more buy-in, and probably gain their respect. We would have had more
to talk about and I could have built up our relationship. Instead, we simply
talked statistics and I would ask, “How was your weekend?”, although
I really didn’t want a real answer to the question. I was missing a chance
to become a more effective leader and, more importantly, I was missing
a chance to get to know the people to build a lasting relationship that
would assist in everyone’s growth—mine included.

I have matured enough to learn to get to know the people I work
with better. We have personal conversations. I ask pointed questions
about their pets, kids, or spouse. I remember things better because I have
been more engaged in the conversation. I like the people better, because
I actually know them. I had gone too long being professionally driven. I
was given the unfortunate advice, “We do not have to be friends to succeed.”
I didn’t go to work to make best friends. However, we all need relationships
in our lives. If you nurture these relationships, everyone wins.
If you happen to get a good friend out of the deal, then you will be better
off. If you happen to only strengthen a working relationship, then the
organization and both individuals are still better off.

Leaders flexible enough to tailor their styles to each individual’s drivers
and motivators are an asset to any company. I am now in a much
better position to motivate the people who work with me because I
understand what inspires them to come to work each day. In fact, many
times, I simply ask the question, “Why do you come to work every day?”
There is nothing like getting straight to the point. Now, I know whether
the person is working because of family, pride, money, promotions, or
simply a pat on the back.

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- Send Your Message to One Person and Watch it Grow: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - April 1, 2019 - News
0

Watch Message Grow

I can remember the many times I was sending a message to a group of

people and wondered why the entire group didn’t get it. Trying to swing

the tide for a group of people is difficult at times. Although more of an

investment needs to be made up front, I have found consistent success in

my ability to make a difference by working with one person at a time, or

with smaller groups of people. People learn in different ways, and at different

speeds. Although larger group lessons—especially business-specific

training—may save time, more difficult or complex messages may be

better suited for one-on-one situations or smaller groups.

Additionally, in meeting situations, there are a variety of personalities,

opinions, and experience levels. Not everyone in a room or a meeting

is going to agree with what is being said, interpret what is being said

the same way, or even engage in the same way. If you are trying to gain

mutual buy-in for a new proposal, for example, you can gain an advantage

in getting your points across more effectively if you have support

already in the room. You can prepare by having conversations ahead

of time with specific individuals. Even a quick conversation hitting key

points reduces the surprise factor and will engage that person more in the

conversation about the message you are trying to convey. If you feel there

is going to be contention, it is much easier with support already on your

side. Popular opinions grow when there is more support behind them.

Your invested time prior to the meeting will not be wasted time; in fact,

the invested time should make the meeting more efficient and effective by

minimizing the arguments and contrary dialogue. I am realistic enough

to know that the pre-meetings are not required for every meeting, but a

targeted approach for key circumstances will be beneficial when there is

a crucial message you want to convey.

I want to share a story about a message blossoming. I saw a résumé

on a central printer in our workspace that was not organized well and

contained multiple typographical errors. I decided to proactively contact

the person and provide them feedback. I had experience in this field and

wanted to make the story of her career stronger. I didn’t know the person,

but I wrote some notes and gave them to her manager to pass along. She

came to see me and we went over the suggestions. The final product was

excellent and one that made her burst with pride. She told some teammates

about our interaction. I soon had a few more résumé conversations

that turned into career direction conversations. I felt like a counselor, but

I was enjoying the interaction and felt like each conversation was a learning

experience for everyone. I was making a difference one person at a

time. I became driven to help the people I was working with succeed.

More often than not, they needed the little extra push to find their right

path. I was learning that a positive message gets used and passed on.

In another example, I was invited to a small gathering to help spark

interest in getting managers involved in developing themselves, developing

their people, and getting more involved in the community. I shared

many of my professional experiences, relating how my communication,

confidence, and overall growth improved when I began to take steps to

improve myself. I often mentioned Toastmasters as an opportunity for

others to improve their communication and leadership skills. A few

expressed interest in joining the group.

I was surprised when a senior leader whispered an invite to me to

teach her managers how to more effectively manage up. I took the invitation

and prepared an hour-long discussion. The small group interaction

went well. A manager in another department had heard about it from one

of the attendees and asked if I could teach his newer managers how to

communicate more effectively. The session was expanded to include how

to become more organized, how to network better, how to write résumés,

and how to navigate through their careers. We turned the interactions

into a monthly series, and the targeted audience was expanded to include

more tenured managers and people from outside that particular line of

business. Not one of these people reported to me, and not one of them

was obligated to listen. I was learning to adapt my messages based on the

audience, and was improving my ability to provide a message that people

could walk away with and spread to others.

The next time you are finding little success in having your message

absorbed, change your tack. You have important messages to send. Be

proactive, patient, and creative. Pull someone to the side and watch the

message spread.

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- 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
0

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
0

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
0

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