Organized and Lovin’ It

I consider myself a semi-organized person. I am not to the extreme of being anal retentive and neither am I a complete ball of disorganization. I live somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Well, I discovered a new product when I started with Alabama Power-Levenger Notebooks. They are nothing short of wonderful.

Levenger has a wide array of organizational office products. They are known for their leather bound notebooks. The cool thing about their notebooks is that the paper can slide in and out and can be placed wherever you want in the notebook. It is hole punched to fit the Levenger, but is not torn when you take it to place it somewhere else in your notebook.  I take it with me to every meeting and it has all of my important work information. I also have it tabbed for easy referencing.

Once you get one of these notebooks, you will not use a tablet, clipboard or legal pad again. It is well worth the money and you will be organized and loving it!


Leadership Lessons

The Leadership Secrets of Colin PowellI  like and can appreciate books on leadership. Over the past few years, I have gotten into that and always look to see what new books other managers have collected on leadership. I ran across a book about Colin Powell’s leadership lessons and have been pleased with it.

I was given a PowerPoint presentation that goes over his 18 lessons on leadership and in an effort to find more about him, I ran across his book. The book expounds on the 18 lessons and what they mean. I am doing this book and presentation with my leadership team at work. We cover 2 lessons a month and have discussion questions around it. We did it the first month and they love it! It is a great read and tool for anyone who likes to read leadership books.

Just a sample: the 1st leadership lesson is this-“Being responsible as a leader means sometimes pissing people off.”  WOW! That is a great lesson that a lot of leaders may feel uncomfortable around. But, there are numerous times that leaders want to play Mr./Mrs. Nice Guy and not address problem performers. Because of this, Colin explains that we ironically end up pissing off the people who are the most valued and creative in the organization.

This book has allowed my leadership team to have some candid discussions about their style of leadership and how they can improve. A must read for all leaders!

Engineers are Different

I know people should not stereotype, but sometimes you just can’t help yourself. So, indulge me for a moment as I discuss my stereotype of engineers. Let’s start off first with the greatest fact there is-Engineers are just plain different. Different from the rest of the left brain population for sure.

I now support and work on a team full of engineers, everything from chemical to electrical. This is actually my 2nd time working with engineers with the first time being when I worked at NASA in high school and college. Working for a utility/energy company that is highly technical gives me the opportunity to work around engineers constantly and it has been an adjustment. Let’s go through a few personal observations:

1. They need time to think and are perfectly comfortable with silence.  This was a huge change for me because in my old environment when you asked someone a question, they responded within a 1-2 second time frame. Daily in meetings, I ask questions and there can easily be a silent span of 1-2 minutes. When you are sitting there in dead space, 1 minute seems like an eternity.

2. They process things one at a time and have a hard time processing multiple things at once.I found this out within my first few weeks supporting this group. As an HR technique, sometimes I may ask a string of rhetorical questions that are not necessarily designed to be answered, but designed to cause them to think deeper. I learned quick that they cannot keep up for lack of a better term. They sit there with confused looks on their faces as if to plead for me to slow down and take it one question at a time.

3. They have a high need to act and solve problems. Yes, Yes and Yes-I will amen myself on this one. Their innate wiring tells them it is their job to attack any problem that comes their way and fix it so it is no longer a problem. I was talking to one of my managers about a concern I had and they immediately went into dissecting the issue, drew a diagram of the problem areas, and made decision trees on possible solutions. Hilarious! I was just venting and they were on a mission to apply every engineering principle they knew to fix it.

4. Lastly, they see things in black and white. It has to be defined and exact. This was confirmed one day when I did a team building exercise for the Engineering department and had over 20 engineers to facilitate. I did an exercise I have done countless times with all sorts of groups. Well, I lost the group on my first set of directions-I gave them a sheet of paper and asked them to draw a line on their paper.  The usual response is that I start to see heads down and pens on paper forming lines. Not so in this case. I had an audience of confused faces. Then these are the questions I heard: “Where do you want the line? What kind of line? Do you want a horizontal or vertical line? Do you want a big or small line? How long does the line need to be? Does it need to be a linear line? I was dumbfounded and speechless. I just tried to find the most polite way to say “People, just draw a line!”

Those are just a few observations and facts about engineers in my view of the world. I love working with them, but it is so funny to watch and see how the interaction is different. I have had to adjust my style and have picked up some of the mannerisms. I am more and more comfortable with silence and find myself taking the silent space to think before I answer the question. Also, I have learned to ask one question at a time. Most importantly, I have learned to give a specific and clear request on how to draw a line.

I must become different to interact with those that are different….

Culture and HR

What is this thing called culture? I remember first hearing about this notion of “culture” in my first HR class: Organizational Behavior. Little did I know at the time just how much culture impacts the workplace in everything you do and it definitely affects an HR professional in the workplace.

Now that I have worked for 3 large companies, I can fully see that culture drives everything and can alter your effectiveness in HR. I worked for Target for 6 years and it has a very strong culture-they called it Target brand. I did not realize how strong it was until I left and went to another company. As I navigated through decisions and process changes, I mentally would bounce them through my head and conclude that whatever new decision or process I was thinking would not work. Why? Because of the culture there.

I now work for a leading utility/energy company with a drastically different culture than what I am used to. There are so many things that I do differently or do not do at all because of the engrained culture there.  Culture is the accepted standards or norms for behaviors.

But, here comes the tricky part: HR’s job is to drive the culture and move it forward. Culture, by default says it is the standard and it is the “way we have been doing it for years.” Now, you want HR (the people person) to attempt to change that or move it forward. Wow-what a task. But, it is one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of my job. It is an awesome responsibility but one that is pretty powerful. It is here of late that I have realized just how much culture plays a huge piece in your success of that. Just food for thought…

TEST-think about the culture of your workplace and compare it to a previous job? What are some things that are OK or acceptable where you work today that were different at your old job?

Scale Back Alabama

One of my new year’s resolutions was to get in better shape through better eating and exercise. The month is halfway over and so far, I am still committed to this resolution. I officially started my “new lifestyle” on January 5 and have done fairly decent with eating changes and exercise. Well, last week a test came. A test to see how committed I really was. That test was called Scale Back Alabama. This is a program found at  Scale Back Alabama is a statewide contest held the first of each year to encourage Alabamians to get healthier by losing weight and exercising. We are doing this program at work and one of my peers asked me to be on their team. The program lasts 10 weeks and the goal is for each person on the team to lose 10lbs in 10 weeks. Simple enough huh? Sure for the average person who is 2 lbs. overweight that wants to lose 15 lbs! (this represents my other 3 team members by the way) But, for someone that struggles with weight and has a hard enough time keeping herself focused-this just adds to the pressure and stress of a real commitment. I want to get healthy on my terms, by my speed and by my way. I do not want to have a group of three other ladies depending on me to do my share. That is the raw truth as bad as it may be.

But, I am new on the team and I could not come up with a “good” reason to say no. So, I said yes. I am on a team and need to lose at least 10 lbs in 10 weeks. Yea for me! Okay, I got over that and then the next drama comes. We had to weigh in to get our initial weight and then give our weight card to our team leader. My first thought was to bail for sure. It is one thing for people to see that you are overweight, but it is another ball game for them to see the “number” that represents just how overweight you really are! What more could be asked of me? Well…again I come not come up with a good reason to not do this part, so I just played it calm, cool, and collected. I weighed in and turned in my card. So, now one of my peers knows just how overweight I really am. There you have it.

All of a sudden, I do not feel good about that and must go. Stay tuned for the next 10 weeks of the “Work Biggest Loser”.

Keep it in Perspective

This story was sent to me in email today and I wanted to share. Read below:

A man came home from work late, tired and irritated, to find his 5-year old son waiting for him at the door.

SON: ‘Daddy, may I ask you a question?’

DAD: ‘Yeah sure, what it is?’ replied the man.

SON: ‘Daddy, how much do you make an hour?’

DAD: ‘That’s none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?’ the man said angrily.

SON: ‘I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?’

DAD: ‘If you must know, I make $50 an hour.’

SON: ‘Oh,’ the little boy replied, with his head down.

SON: ‘Daddy, may I please borrow $25?’

The father was furious, ‘If the only reason you asked that is so you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed. Think about why you are being so selfish. I don’t work hard everyday for such childish frivolities. ‘

The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.

The man sat down and started to get even angrier about the little boy’s questions. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money?

After about an hour or so, the man had calmed down , and started to think:

Maybe there was something he really needed to buy with that $25.00 and he really didn’t ask for money very often The man went to the door of the little boy’s room and opened the door.

‘Are you asleep, son?’ He asked.

‘No daddy, I’m awake,’ replied the boy.

‘I’ve been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier’ said the man. ‘It’s been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you. Here’s the $25 you asked for.’

The little boy sat straight up, smiling. ‘Oh, thank you daddy!’ he yelled. Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled out some crumpled up bills.

The man saw that the boy already had money, started to get angry again.

The little boy slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his father.

‘Why do you want more money if you already have some?’ the father grumbled.

‘Because I didn’t have enough, but now I do,’ the little boy replied.

‘Daddy, I have $50 now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you.’

The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little son, and he begged for his forgiveness.

I hope this gives some perspective during this busy holiday season and reminds all of us to spend our time where it matters most. Those we love, our family and friends, are the ones that matter. If we die tomorrow, the companies we work for could replace us in a matter of hours. But the family and friends we would leave behind would feel the loss for the rest of their lives.


Continuous Job Transitions

I have gone through Day 4 of my new job and each day has been better than the one before it. Each day I began to learn a little more about the company, the job, etc. Today, my boss came up from Atlanta and we met and I found out I am being moved to support a different facility in October. Yes, you are correct….it has only been 4 days and I am being moved to a different facility. I was surprised because yesterday was my 1st day at the location I am supporting and I felt like I was “settling in.” I felt comfortable with the leadership team and everyone there made me feel so warm and welcome. Now, today I find out I will support a different facility (the place where I worked Tuesday). I am OK with the change because both facilities have their pluses and minuses, but I now have to transition and re-shift my thinking. The new facility I am going to is a flagship location for the company with a lot of visibility and attention. The leadership team I will support is fairly new and the Plant Mgr I hear is pretty tough and extremely high level. So….over the next couple of months, I will be learning both facilities and will fully move in October. I feel like I will be in a transition within a transition. Just when I thought it would be easy…here comes the challenge. I will still take one day at a time and before long, I would have strung a lot weeks, then months and then hopefully I can write a success story in my blog!