The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™
JUN 03, Sec. I
Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!
Table of Contents
Offerings: Training Kit & Book; AOL Chat
Rap: (A) Training/Speaking Business: Quick Ten Marketing Tips
Designing an OD-Team Building Process: Opportunities and Dangers
Up: www.officeresort.com, Stress Doc speaking at ColdFusion Conference
in DC, Towards Greater Success e-Book
A Profile of the Violence-Prone Personality
Readers: Doctors, What Is Love?,
1. Training/Marketing Kit: Want to strengthen your ability to
lead or market a stress workshop or any kind of speaking/training program? Consider the Stress Doc
Training/Marketing Kit, which includes both "how to" manual and articles and the opportunity for
phone coaching. For more info: Training/Marketing Kit
or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Stress Doc Book:
From Stress Brakes and Shrink Rap to Safe Stress and
Cool Moon Cats:
The Wit and Wisdom of the Stress Doc, Stress Doc Enterprises, 1995
A 90 page compilation of my former syndicated radio
essays, pioneering songs in the field of psychologically humorous rap music - "Shrink Rap"
Productions - a creative visualization poem and other humorous lyrics/poems. "Stress Brake"
radio essays are short (300 words), fast-paced and witty, covering such topics as stress, burnout,
anger and conflict resolution, time management, creativity, men's and women's issues, romantic
relationships, codependency, etc. (They make excellent fillers for newsletters.)
Price: $20 (which covers priority postage and handling)
Make check payable to: Mark Gorkin
Send check to:
Stress Doc Enterprises
1616 18th Street, NW #312
Washington, DC 20009-2542
3. Chat Group:
Stop by my
AOL/Digital City Shrink Rap (TM) and Group Chat DC
Support Chat, Tuesdays, 9:30-11pm EST DC Support Chat. It's a dynamic, lively, at times witty
and always warm, thoughtful and supportive problem-solving group. We raise questions and share our
ideas, hopes and experiences with each other.
B. Shrink Rap: (A)
A couple of pieces reflecting some Stress Doc Enterprises activities:
"Marketing Tips" ten outlines key steps and strategies for promoting a training or consulting
business. Frankly, it is also a self-promotion piece for my Training/Marketing Kit as seen above.
(Just in case you missed it.)
1. Training/Marketing Kit: Want to strengthen your
ability to lead or market a stress workshop or any kind of speaking/training program? Consider the
Stress Doc Training/Marketing Kit, which includes both "how to" manual and articles and the
opportunity for phone coaching. For more info: Training/Marketing Kit
or email email@example.com.
A recent addition to the kit is a promo CD (that is, a full version CD is being produced as you
read). The promo CD includes three of my pioneering efforts in the world of psychologically
humorous rap music, i.e., "Shrink Raps." And to help you recover from the raps, a ten-minute
relaxation-visualization exercise with my dulcet tones guaranteed to induce a meditative, if not a
(B) The "Initiating and Sustaining Organizational Development and
Team-Building Process" essay was sparked by several events: (1) current OD-TB work with a National
Institutes of Health (NIH) office high up the organizational food chain, and (2) proposals to lead
an OD-TB workshop on an ongoing basis for a national training company and on a one-time basis for
the Employee Assistance Professionals Associations in New Orleans. So it will be a return of the
(honorary) native in November.
Starting a Training, Speaking and/or Consulting Business
Quick Ten Marketing Tips
Design, and Develop Programs. Develop a program blurb or abstract, workshop objectives, and an outline for 3-5
one-hour, a half-day, and a full day program offerings.
2. Catchy Bio. Develop a
powerful and succinct bio, one hundred words to a half page. You also may want to have long-and
3. Testimonial Letters. After each successful program, ask for a
testimonial letter from the person who brought you in to the organization or from a key person who
attended your program. A half page is fine. Just ask the writer to try to capture the factors that
made the program successful, the audience's participation, valuable working tools, fun time, your
style, etc. If necessary, try contacting former clients for testimonials.
Pieces. Create a business card, a one-page marketing flier, and a two or three panel brochure.
For the flier and brochure, organize information in succinct segments; use bullets or highlighted
paragraphs to integrate the above material. Also include a list of clients and contact information.
5. Develop a Portfolio. A portfolio may include some of the above information but, in
addition, include any published articles, media coverage, copies of awards, etc. Another
increasingly important portfolio ingredient is having a video or CD of you leading an actual
workshop. For example, my video is about twenty-minutes of a ninety-minute workshop, professionally
filmed and edited. It's a substantial investment, but has repaid itself many times over.
Increasingly, organizations want to see you in action before signing a contract. And if you want to
cultivate a national clientele, a video is essential.
6. Start Writing. If you don't
have any published articles, get to work. With the Internet there are a myriad of e-zines and
newsletters looking for content -- 500-1,000 word articles. Write in a jargon-lite, nonacademic
style. Introduce a few key concepts and provide key tips for helping people gain a better
understanding of their problem and tool for achieving goals. Also, a little humor goes a long way
when dealing with "serious" content. Finally, consider producing a newsletter or regular "updates"
for your own mailing list readers.
7. Marketing Startup -- Safe and Small. After
offering programs or consulting work to former organizations, consider places that are always
looking for (lunchtime or after dinner) speakers: Rotary Clubs, associations, church groups. While
these may be freebies, you will be generating name recognition and goodwill. You will also be
getting practice, hopefully, obtaining leads and testimonials. And, of course, ask people for the
names of other potential contacts to call. Another plus about these freebies, is you can also
invite potential fee-paying clients to see you in action.
8. Join Networking Groups and
Professional Associations. Especially in this economy, many marketing and entrepreneurial and
business lead groups are forming. This is a good way for discovering new trends, learning what your
competition is doing, getting emotional support, and generating new leads.
Also, get involved
with your professional association. You might consider joining related associations, as a way of
marketing to a wider audience. For example, I've joined Professional Conference Management
Association (PCMA) to connect with speakers' bureaus and association conference-meeting planners
(who need speakers). The National Speakers Bureau is another network to consider joining.
9. Explore the Bright Side. The Bright Side is an Internet resource that helps a variety of
allied health professionals learn how to effectively develop and promote their business. For more
information about TBS-PRO email Deborah Harper at Deborah@the-bright-side.org. I am on the TBS
10. Go Web Young Cyberite. If you don't have a website, build one.
A website is essential for business credibility. You don't have to be a web maven; just work with a
web designer. And be actively involved in the design, building and ongoing upkeep. Also, you may
need someone to help you with search engine placement. However, you can influence this process. I
am convinced that because my newsletter articles get republished on a variety of sites, search
engines come across my links frequently. This contributes to good placement without having to pay
for this positioning.
Shrink Rap: (B)
In Part I of a two-part series, the Stress Doc outlines
six strategic steps and structures for initiating and sustaining an Organizational Development (OD)
and Team-Building Process. And if commitment at the highest levels remains tenuous, the process can
be easily undermined.
Initiating and Sustaining an OD-Team Building Process:
Opportunities and Dangers
Opportunities and Dangers
In today's economy, with organizations continuing to experience restructuring if
not outright downsizing, clearly more and more are having to do much "more with less." Big surprise
that the work environment can become increasingly "lean-and-MEAN." Morale, cooperation, and
productivity can be compromised. During rapid or far-reaching transition, it's critical for all
parties to grieve and manage the stress and loss of change. Teams must break out of silos and
communicate and coordinate more effectively and efficiently, both internally and with external
systems. Another concern is that the reorganizational change process has likely increased tension
and mistrust between management and employees, as well as among other departments or divisions. Not
surprisingly, outside and objective expertise in transitional turnaround may be needed to help the
organization fight through the big muddy and big moody. Strategic steps must be taken to transform
tension into renewed commitment and that performance edge.
Have no fear…. the Stress Doc ™ is
here with the first six (of twelve) steps, strategies and structures for helping a team, division,
or an entire organization overcome burnout and "bad blood." (Alas, as a former stress, team
building, and violence prevention consultant for the U.S. Postal Service, sometimes I speak
literally.) Consider these Key Steps for Generating an Organizational Development and
Team-building (OD-TB) Process:
1. Establish Management Buy-In. Forgive me for
beginning with the obvious: If management hires a consultant to effect organizational change and
team building, but the executive leadership quickly gets out of the development kitchen when things
start getting a bit warm, then positive systemic evolution is remote. Too often I've seen a center
director or division head unwilling to confront the dysfunctional behavior of a division or branch
manager for fear of the inevitable conflict. Another destructive variation, for example, is when an
executive's rigid micromanaging style is pointed out and the exec axes the bearer of truthful yet
painful feedback, i.e., the consultant. Of course, if engaging with a union shop, having labor in
the initial buy-in process is essential. And with a major OD effort, Human Resources also needs to
be involved in this startup phase.
2. Initial Climate Assessment. Depending on the
hazardous nature of the work environment, the time urgency, the size of targeted systems, and
project budget, organizational assessment can occur through a survey, one-on-one interviews, a team
meeting, or through a large group workshop. While anonymous surveys may be necessary in a fearful
workforce, if possible, during this beginning phase, my preference is for face-to-face interviews.
I want as much honest reflection as possible regarding any authoritarian managers or interpersonal
tensions, as well as dysfunctional or nonexistent team structures (such as lack of team meetings).
Interviews provide such benefits as:
(a) questioning and clarifying immediately a person's
(b) processing verbal and nonverbal data
(c) allowing individuals to vent
frustrations and fears
(d) making both an intellectual and emotional connection with individuals,
(e) determining whether there are any large scale burnout-inducing or hazardous environment
and/or diversity issues; if the system is undergoing significant change, are there issues of loss
affecting individual behavior and organizational relations?
The most dramatic example of this
last item occurred during a reorganization when a division of skilled crafts professionals were let
go by one federal agency and were temporarily assigned to the dark cavernous belly of the beast…the
basement of the Department of Commerce. At the same time, these professionals, mostly senior and
white male, were being threatened on two other fronts: (a) the possible loss of jobs through
computerization and privatization (that is, allowing private industry to bid for federal contracts),
and (b) the recent influx of women and racial minorities into the shop (who were more savvy with
computers than the old-timers). Not surprisingly, during this vulnerable period, racial tension was
rising and tempers were flaring. Some folks started pulling up KKK websites; other began bringing
Louis Farrakhan tapes to work. And upper management didn't know how to handle this transitional
tempest…. So they employed the ostrich defense, burying their heads in the operational sands. It
wasn't until an EEO analyst realized the government was hemorrhaging thousands of dollars in formal
grievance procedures that I was brought in to stop the bleeding and prevent full-scale escalation.
(In this critical situation, one-on-one interviews were bypassed; we moved quickly into a full-day
stress and anger management workshop with all parties. After the workshops came a series of team
building interventions. More shortly.)
Getting back to the one-on-one assessment, a final
benefit is that individuals get a chance to eyeball me, the consultant. While I won't claim a sense
of trust is realized, the interview at least leaves employees with an impression of my skills,
style, and, hopefully, substance. The surprise factor is reduced.
3. Create a Safe
Workshop Atmosphere. For people to open up, occasionally, it's necessary to hold separate
employee and management meetings or workshops. Whenever possible, though, I have all levels
involved in the problem-identification and problem-solving process. Ultimately, this interaction
helps expose inaccurate assumptions and begins to transform communication barriers into
collaborative bridges. There are several keys to making this opening stress and team-building
workshop successful: it has to be thought provoking yet fun; it must be very interactive, allowing
for much audience participation. (My two favorite exercises involve an innovative, slightly
outrageous yet wildly popular drawing and discussion activity, as well as traditional role-playing.)
While laughter is vital, especially when a department or entire organization has experienced
profound loss due to major change, the program must set the stage for group grieving. As that comic
genius, Charlie Chaplin, observed: The paradoxical thing about making comedy is that it is
precisely the tragic which arouses the funny. We have to laugh due to our helplessness in the face
of natural forces and in order not to go crazy. With one organization, for example, we instituted a
"forms funeral." This allowed employees to acknowledge and vent their frustration with a topdown
change process. Employees were given the chance to bemoan the loss of the old ways of operating, to
criticize management's exclusionary decision-making, a process that bypassed employee input, and to
question the functionality of new operational procedures. Not surprisingly, with such
management-backed creative and communal problem solving, group resistance to change dissolved fairly
Also, over the years, I've learned that you can't let management or a workshop
planning committee set the workshop/program agenda. The heart of the agenda needs to emerge through
the spontaneous engagement of all attendees. In this way, the real barriers and potential bridges
to organizational change have a chance to be identified and further defined, along with developing
objectives, action plans, and time lines. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org for my article detailing the
operations of such a Practice Safe Stress Workshop.)
4. Reduce Pre-Workshop
Decision-Maker Anxiety. When management and employees are attending a workshop together, both
groups may be on edge. With all parties, but especially with management, it's important to
establish that the workshop will not become an encounter group or blatant blame session. A vital
balance of structure and real sharing combined with solid leadership skills and group laughter
comprises the performance and support mix for safe yet genuine interacting and learning.
the same time, if employees are not participating in a meaningful way, and there's acknowledgment
that mixed company is dampening discussion, you may need to ask management to temporarily leave the
room. Now employees will likely articulate at least some of their concerns. And once management is
allowed back in the room, the facilitator can confidentially summarize key employee issues. This
procedure usually reduces antagonistic tensions enough that we can find or construct a pass in the
5. "Save the Retreat." As mentioned previously, a successful workshop will
generate some goals and objectives that have implications for organizational development and team
building. To preserve the newfound energy, the credibility of the change process, and the forward
momentum, there must be some systematic follow-up. I suggest a "save the retreat" matrix team.
This group is a cross-section of employees and management, as well as representatives from different
departments or teams. Limit this entity to five to eight members. To strengthen a participatory
atmosphere, consider an employee for meeting facilitator. The matrix will further clarify the
problems designated in the workshop, establish or refine goals and objectives, or enlist a specific
task group to do the same. The matrix team must be effective and efficient. To sustain
post-workshop enthusiasm, timely feedback on the matrix team's progress and on any remaining
barriers to "save the retreat" efforts is vital. Ideally this report back will not simply be for
management's eyes and ears. Feedback must involve all workshop participants, allowing for open
exchange between the large group and the matrix team.
6. Reassess Management Commitment.
Now comes a critical moment for any potential post-workshop OD-team building efforts. You must meet
with top management and determine if they are still on board with the change process. And even if
they use the right words, will they walk the talk…. And for how long. Let's return to the
reorganized division of skilled crafts professionals that was on the workplace violence edge. Two
one-day stress and team building workshops were held, thirty people in each program. Management and
labor leaders attended both sessions. The drawing exercise and role-plays gave both the senior and
junior folks a chance to talk about and literally act out their anger and fears. There was a new
sense of begrudging understanding, if not harmony, amongst the various segments. And, almost
defying credulity, all the grievance proceedings stopped.
Next step involved my meeting with
the various work teams. However, there was a troubling sign. In a total staff meeting, management
seemed uncomfortable allowing people to emote during a discussion about privatization.
Understandably, many of the skilled mapmakers were worried about future contracts and job
stability. The division director, alas, seemed to need an infusion of "emotional intelligence."
The final straw occurred when a female employee accused one of the supervisors of harassing
behavior. When management did not take the accusation seriously, the union was enraged. (The
director was a close friend of the accused.) Not surprisingly, the team building process was
interrupted and adversarial actions began replacing union-management collaboration.
disgust, the female manager who initially had advocated for bringing in an outside stress and
violence prevention consultant, transferred out of this once again sinking ship. The irony, of
course, is that this dysfunctional turn of events would in the long run likely contribute to the
demise of this division. Was their a higher level power source pulling the strings or, at least,
not too unhappy with this cycle of regression and possible extinction? Who knows.… I no longer was
a player on the scene.
Part I of this two-part series has outlined six strategic steps and
structures for initiating and sustaining an Organizational Development-Team Building Process. These
(1) Establish Management Buy-In
(2) Initial Climate Assessment
(3) Create a Safe
(4) Reduce Pre-Workshop Decision-Maker Anxiety
(5) "Save the Retreat"
(6) Reassess Management Commitment
Part II will examine in greater detail the building of
productive teams and the dismantling of disruptive barriers to change. Key processes include
intervening with dysfunctional individuals and mediating interpersonal conflicts at all levels of
the organization. Until then, rebuild the fire and…Practice Safe Stress!
C. Heads Up:
1. A very cool website re: all kinds of way to bring
stress relief into your office.
Comments: I would like to exchange links with your site. Our
URL is http://www.officeresort.com
2. I will be speaking at a conference for
ColdFusion programmers called CFUN-03 in the Washington DC area on 6/20-6/22/03. I will
be showing programmers how to give dynamic presentations (on June 20) and how to practice safe
stress (on June 22) -- which given how pressured today's programming teams can be is both useful and
timely. The conference is run by TeraTech and has 28 speakers and over 40 topics in 4 tracks. For
more information on CFUN-03 see http://www.cfconf.org/cfun-03/
3. Towards Greater Success e-Book
by John Brazic
difference between success and failure is neither luck nor the
possession of exceptional
qualities but usually a question of method. The
laws of success are the same for us all, and the
qualities which enable us
to succeed are also the same. Once you discover and exploit the powers
within you, you can shape the future to your liking. This is true of
anyone, regardless of his
age or sex or condition. It is all a question of
The purpose of Towards Greater
Success e-Book is therefore to teach you the
laws and methods that lead to success. http://www.towards-success.com
Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a psychotherapist, an
international/cruise speaker (Celebrity Cruise Lines) and syndicated writer, was recently
interviewed on BBC radio. The Doc is now a "Motivational Humorist" for The DC Improv Comedy Club as
well as America Online's "Online Psychohumorist" ™ running his weekly "Shrink Rap and Group Chat" on
AOL/Digital City. See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com (recently
cited as a workplace resource in a National Public Radio feature on "Bad Bosses"). Mark is also an
advisor to The Bright Side --
www.the-bright-side.org -- a multi-award-winning mental health resource. Email for his monthly
newsletter recently showcased on List-a-Day.com. For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress"
programs, email email@example.com or call 202-232-8662.
(c) Mark Gorkin
Shrink Rap Productions