Archives For work

“Switching from one career to another can be scary, but it also can be a thrilling experience. Look at it as an opportunity to really go after what you want to accomplish in life and make a difference in the world. The key is to take small, conscious steps and prepare yourself for a successful transition.”

Jack Canfield

Today is a significant day in my career.  I officially start a new position as the head of a department responsible for providing building automation solutions throughout Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, and Northern Delaware.  I’m excited about this step and opportunity to serve and lead at a greater level.  As I head into this new adventure, I’m working through a number of things I want to mark my leadership in this position.  Today, I’ve give you a glimpse into my head.

9 Essentials As I Transition Into A New Leadership Role At Work

  1. Stay humble.  It’s important to understand the legacy left by my predecessors.  It’s also important to recognize the experience and knowledge of those around me.  I must lean on my team.  I can’t do everything, because I don’t have time and I probably don’t have all the skills that my team members bring to the team.  I must set up a pattern for delegation and empowerment, so my team feels like they are part of the solution and like they are prepared to take on a greater leadership role in the organization when the time is right.  How can I lift others up today?
  2. Stay positive.  It’s easy to let the stresses and challenges of our work bring us down.  As a leader in the organization, it is critical that I remain positive.  I can be realistic in the face of adversity and still be positive.  What was great about today?
  3. Stay grateful.  Obviously, I’m thankful for my new job.  I need to make sure I express my appreciation to those around me.  I want to continue my practice of writing handwritten thank you notes as I move into this position.  I want those around me to know how much I appreciate them.  Who do I need to thank today?
  4. Lead with integrity.  Be truthful.  Expect integrity from my team.  “Always hand out the credit and keep the blame.”  Dave Ramsey  Recognize, admit, and take action to correct my mistakes.  Get others to hold me accountable to leading with integrity.  Have a led with complete integrity today?
  5. Have fun.  “They don’t call it [work] fun for a reason.”  Have you ever heard that statement?  There is some truth to that.  Work will not always be fun.  There will be challenges and serious conversations along the way.  As a leader, I have the opportunity to make sure my team knows it’s okay to have fun while getting the work done.  How can I have fun at my job today?
  6. Keep serving.  Moving into a bigger leadership role does not remove me from the responsibility (and privilege) I have to serve my co-workers and my customers.  In fact, an attitude of service is important to having a correct perspective when it comes to your team.  I am not just advancing my career and providing income for my family; I am responsible for my entire team and their families.  I want to lead from a servant’s perspective.  How can I help my team today?
  7. Keep listening.  A successful leader listens and gathers facts before giving their input.  In the midst of a demanding schedule, I must make sure I take time to listen to my team.  Keeping my door open as much as possible and having regular one-on-one meetings with my team members will be two of the ways I practice listening as I move into this new role.  What is my team trying to tell me today?
  8. Keep learning.  Leaders are readers, and leaders are learners.  I’ll continue to plug into leadership resources to help me become a better leader.  Thanks to a recommendation from a friend, I recently picked up two books which will help me as I transition into my new position:  The First 90 Days (Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels) by Michael Watkins and The New Leader’s 100 Day Action Plan (How to Take Charge, Build or Merge Your Team, and Get Immediate Results) by George B. Bradt, Jayme A. Check, and John A. Lawler.  What did I learn today?
  9. Keep stretching.  If you aren’t stretching and growing, you aren’t really living.  I look at this new career transition as an opportunity to stretch.  I don’t know what will happen in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, but I know that embracing the stretch will be critical to the success of my team and me.  Part of this stretching experience requires me to take action.  My leadership cannot be based on lip service; it must be based on action.  Actions speak way louder than words.  What do I need to do to stretch today?

“Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.”

Harold S. Geneen

 

What am I missing?  What steps have you taken to become a better leader in your organization?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Ice Breaker – Dream Job

September 2, 2016 — 2 Comments

DREAM JOB Ice Breaker

Most weeks on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question on Fridays. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

Today is kicks of Labor Day weekend here in the United States.  Most Americans see this as an end of the summer.  Labor Day is actually an opportunity to celebrate the impact of labor on our country.  While I am not part of a unionized labor group, I am proud to work in our country and to contribute to the betterment of our world.  Today’s Ice Breaker question is inspired by this special holiday.

Question:  If money didn’t get in the way of your decision, what would you do for your job?

My Answer:  Honestly, I’m a little scared to answer this question.  I am so thankful for my job.  And I’m thankful for how it provides for my family and my future.  I’m an operations manager for a major construction firm in the Philadelphia area.  I have the privilege of helping team members succeed in their projects and their career paths.  Our projects focus on providing comfort, security, and safety to the building our customers occupy.  I like what I do (most days).

Is this what I would do if money weren’t part of the equation?

Tough question.  I’m not sure.

Here are some of the things I might pursue further if money didn’t matter:

  • Missionary in Guatemala – I’d love to travel to Guatemala multiple times a year.  I’d love to bring teams to Guatemala to help share God’s love to widows and orphans by building houses, providing meals, and teaching skills.
  • Mentor, Coach, Speaker, Writer, Mastermind Facilitator – As I continue to tip my toes into this area, I’m excited.  I’m excited to help others who can learn from my experiences.  I’m excited to meet new people.  I’m excited to tap into an area of my brain and heart that doesn’t normally get tapped into as an engineer/operations manager.  And I’m excited about the long-term impact of these pursuits on others and on me.
  • Reality TV Show Contestant or Host – I’m a big fan of Survivor and Amazing Race.  I think it would be a blast to be on one of these shows as a contestant.  I’d love the opportunity to meet new people, see new places, and STRETCH in new ways.
  • Professional Ice Cream Taste Tester – I love ice cream.  Need I say more?

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.)  And keep Stretching!

101 ICE BREAKER IDEAS

To get a FREE copy of 101 Ice Breaker Ideas (an eBook by me), sign up below:

Am I making a difference?

I work in the construction world.  Especially here on the east coast, it can be a cut-throat, brutal experience.  People are clamoring to get ahead of the next person or to squash the competitors.  Language choice is colorful to say the least, and sometimes the content of conversation makes the Howard Stern Show seem like a visit to Sunday School.  Living and working in this environment can be a challenge especially for someone who is trying to follow Christ and to represent Him with integrity and character.

I’ve worked in the industry for nearly twenty years, and it hasn’t always been easy.  I don’t always have the right words to say, and I sometimes regret the actions I’ve taken.  I question myself wondering if I said what I should have said or if I did what I should have done.  I want others to see my faith come alive in my words and in my actions.  After twenty years, I sometimes wonder if I’m making a difference.

Sometimes it’s the simplest conversations or interactions which remind me I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

A few weeks ago, one of my team members came into my office to tell me about the struggle she was having outside the office.  Her mom had been taken to the hospital.  The doctors at the hospital informed my teammate and her family that their mother was in her final days.  I listened for several minutes as my teammate explained the situation.  As she was leaving my office, I asked her, “I know this isn’t the typical question you get in the office, but I’ll ask anyway.  Is there something specific for which I can pray for you?”  She responded very affirmatively.

Then late last week, another one of my team members stopped by to inform me his young son was being taken to the hospital in response to some type of virus or infection.  I had the opportunity to listen to him and to offer my encouragement.  He texted me a couple of times throughout the weekend to give me progress reports on his son’s improving condition.  We didn’t have a major conversation, but I still had an opportunity to let him know I cared about him and his family.

It’s interactions like these which remind me I am making a difference.

I’ve been more aware of conversations and interactions with other employees throughout the office over the past couple of weeks.  People want to know you care.  They may carry around a rough exterior, but they are people who are going through all kinds of challenges and frustrations. They are crying out for someone to listen to them, and they are grasping to find the truth.  As Christian leaders in the workplace, we have a huge opportunity to show our team members a glimpse of Christ.  Will we always get it right?  Probably not.  But I’m convinced God can used messed up people like us to make a difference in the lives of others by shining His light.  We shine God’s light by being alert to others, by making wise choices, by acting with integrity, and by speaking with truth and love.

I hope and pray I never lose sight of the opportunity to serve and represent Christ right where I am.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… I Peter 3:15

How are you making a difference right where you are?

Good old Dilbert cartoon

This week, I’m in the middle of the performance management process for my team members.  This is an annual opportunity to provide feedback to my team members on their performance over the past year.  With 12 direct reports, it could be easy to rush through this process which is required by my company.  I could simply write a couple of sentences about each team member and move on to the next year.

Taking this approach doesn’t do them any favors, and it doesn’t help my team or the company get better.  A well thought out  and carefully executed performance review can be the bedrock of success for your team and your company.

In today’s post, I offer ten ways to improve the performance management process.  This is written from a managers perspective; however, this is a great reference for those who don’t manage direct reports.  After reading today’s post, you may want to suggest that your supervisor start this type of performance management process for you.  You may simply want to tweak what is already happening at your job.

Whether you are a manager of direct reports or not, I hope you’ll find this list helpful in understanding ways to get better.  Success doesn’t happen by accident.  Success happens by being intentional, and this list offers suggestions – no, essentials – for being intentional with the performance management process.

10 Essentials for Enhancing the Performance Management Process:

  1. Start with regular one-on-one meetings.  It’s important to meet with your employees on a regular basis.  These meetings provide an opportunity to touch base on performance issues and other business and non-business related items.  You can read about the power of one-on-one meetings in a guest post I wrote for Matt McWilliams.  This year I started having monthly one-on-one meetings with my team, and it’s been helpful for my team members and for me.
  2. Set performance targets.  It’s critical that employees have SMART targets.  Targets should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  At the beginning of each year, I sit down with my team members to set targets.  These targets align with our overall business objectives, and they also provide opportunities for individuals to grow personally.
  3. Quarterly review progress towards targets.  It shouldn’t be a surprise at the end of the year when doing a performance evaluation.  I sit down with my employees once a quarter to review their progress in achieving their targets.  Doing this once a quarter provides an opportunity for my team members to make performance corrections that will help them meet or exceed their targets.
  4. Get feedback from others.  I encourage my team members to ask for feedback from their peers.  And I get feedback from other managers and supervisors regarding the performance of my team members.  Before completing the annual performance management process, I meet in a roundtable meeting which helps to calibrate my overall assessment.  This meeting also provides extra insight into developmental action items I might want to suggest to my team members.
  5. Take time to write an honest and detailed assessment.  When I write evaluations for my team members, I want them to be fair, well-thought, and encouraging.  Writing this kind of assessment takes time.  I schedule time to carefully review the past year of activity.  I look at notes from my past one-on-one meetings.  I review previous results from the quarterly updates.  And I take into account comments shared by my fellow management team members.  A written record provides employees a tangible document to review as they seek to grow and improve.
  6. Meet with employee to review results.  At the end of the year, it’s important to let your employees know how they have done.  Feedback provides information necessary to help them improve.  Feedback also keeps them doing the right things.
  7. Remember the good things.  Make sure you praise your team members for the good things they have done throughout the year.  A pat on the back goes a long way towards encouraging the right behavior.
  8. Create a development plan correcting issues.  As managers, it is our responsibility to help our team members succeed.  We have to give our team members help in getting better.  The performance review process is the perfect time to help employees get better.
  9. Discuss career progression essentials.  Most employees want to know what it will take for them to get tho the next level in their career path.  It’s important to talk regularly to employees about their plans for the future.  What are their goals for the next 5 years or 10 years?  What do they need to do in order to be ready for the next steps?  These are questions that will help you help them.  Are their expectations realistic?  How can you help them?  The performance review process provides an opportunity to discuss essentials for career advancement.
  10. Do it again.  It may seem repetitive, but you have to do it over and over and over again.  Doing this for only one year does not demonstrate a long-term interest in the performance of an employee.  Repeated year after year is essential to a successful performance management process.

How has the performance management process helped you succeed?  What would you add to the list above?  What do you need to do differently in order to improve your own performance management process?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit in the Philadelphia International Airport for several hours waiting to catch a plane to Chicago.  My plane was delayed for more than 3 hours, and the flight itself was close to 2 hours.  This gave me plenty of time to catch up on podcast episodes and reading.

I read Andy Stanley’s book, When Work and Family Collide: Keeping Your Job from Cheating Your Family.  It’s ironic that I would read this book while I was heading away from my family on a business trip.  The book is all about keeping your priorities straight especially when it comes to family.

Whether you struggle with this issue just a little bit or a lot, this is a great book for men and women alike.  It provides examples and analogies of lives in balance and out of balance, and it provides solid Biblical teaching that helps someone bring proper order to their lives.

I especially like the author’s quote:

You do your job.  You love your family.  It’s when we reverse the order that the tension escalates and the tug of war begins.

In other words, we get it all messed up when we love our job and do the family thing.  It’s easy to do.  We get stuck in unhealthy patterns of seeking approval and pursuing success through our careers, and we permit our family life to suffer.  I’m guilty of it at times, and I would guess that many of you struggle with this tension as well from time to time.

When Work and Family Collide: Keeping Your Job from Cheating Your Family is a quick and easy read, and I would recommend it to moms, dads, husbands, and wives everywhere.

How’s your family life?  How’s your work life?  What is one thing you can do this week to make sure your family knows that they are the priority?

I received this book as a gift from Chris Patton.  He writes a great blog about Christians in the workplace – Christian Faith At Work.  Go check it out, and tell him I said hello!

A New Beginning

September 6, 2011 — 14 Comments

This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

Today is a day of new beginnings for our family.  Hannah starts her last year of middle school.  She is smart and confident and ready to go.  As I mentioned a few days ago, Isaac starts his first year of middle school.  I’m still blown away by how quickly this came up.  And today, Leanne starts a new job!  She will be helping preschool age children with special needs as she works as a behavioral therapist for Potential Discoveries.  (She’ll be great!)

God’s timing in each of these new beginnings has been amazing.  These opportunities have come at just the right time.  I rejoice today as I recognize God’s faithfulness to us despite our impatience and anxiety.

I’m excited about a couple of new beginnings for me as well.  I’ll keep you in suspense as I’m looking forward to sharing in future blog posts about what is new with me.

What’s new with you?

Leading Through Conflict

August 19, 2011 — 11 Comments

Conflict and confrontation are not my strong suit.  I much prefer when things go well and people get along even when mistakes and obstacles must be overcome.  Unfortunately, this is not the way it works.  People have different opinions.  People make mistakes.  People have different personalities.  And they don’t always get along.  Conflict seems to be inevitable.

As a leader and manager, I am faced with conflict on a regular basis.  I don’t have a choice to ignore it in hopes that the problems will just go away.  I often have to confront conflict to help bring about resolution and to hopefully be an agent for positive change.

The Bible gives some pointers for handling conflict between believers in Matthew 18:15-20 which may give some insight for handling conflict in the secular workplace.  Here are the pointers from Jesus:

1.  Try to resolve the conflict just between the two parties in conflict (v. 15).  Don’t bring anyone else into the conflict if it can be resolved first.

2.  Bring the conflict to one or two other believers (v. 16).  If the conflict cannot be resolved face-to-face in step 1, the Bible mandates trying to bring the conflict to a resolution through the help of a couple of believers.

3.  Take the conflict before the church (v. 17).  If all else fails, the Bible tells us to bring the conflict before the church.  If the conflict cannot be resolved then the person may be removed from the church.

In the secular business world, I’m not always dealing with fellow believers.  In reality, the construction industry can be full of some rather colorful and rough personalities.  Having said this, I believe these standards from scripture can be helpful for handling conflict in the workplace.  As leaders in the business world, here are some ideas for handling conflict:

1.  Encourage face-to-face conversations between the conflicting parties.  Often times, people are misunderstood.  A meeting of this type should provide an opportunity for both parties to get their frustrations on the table.  With reasonable individuals and situations, conflict can often be resolved here.

2.  Sometimes it’s necessary to get a mediator involved.  Here’s where I would suggest getting involved along with another manager.  If the two parties in conflict are let by different individuals, it would make sense to get the other manager involved.  The managers should facilitate a discussion in an effort to bring resolution.  This may take a couple of meetings, but it shouldn’t drag out.

3.  If all else fails HR (Human Resources) and higher level leadership may need to get involved to drive a resolution.  The may mean a change in assignment(s) for one or both parties.  Or it may represent a more drastic transition towards other employment opportunities inside or outside the company.

4.  In all cases, rumors should be avoided.  As leaders, managers should squash any rumors.  Rumors only lead to further conflict.

Handling conflict can be a real challenge, but leaders must deal with it head on.  I wish I could say I always get it right.  I’m certainly challenged and stretched by this topic.

What tips would you add for leaders to follow in handling workplace conflict?

 

For Such A Time As This

July 30, 2011 — 6 Comments

I like my job.  I get the opportunity to help other people succeed.  I get the chance to support other people.  And I have the privilege of setting a tone and example for others to follow.  I confess that I don’t always get it right.  But I do pride myself on living with integrity and making decisions that represent Godly values and character.

Being in a management role, I have the honor of walking alongside team members as they celebrate the joys of life, but I sometimes have to provide support through their tough times as well.  Yesterday, I received some tough news from one of my team members.  He and his family are facing a very challenging time.  My heart was heavy yesterday when I got the news.  My thoughts and prayers have been with this family yesterday and today.

I don’t know what role I will have in the whole process.  But I do know that I will have a chance to provide workplace support to this individual as he focuses on what really matters at home right now.  Perhaps, I was put in my position a few years ago for just this time.  I pray that for them, and I also pray that I can lead in a way that draws others close to God.

As I’ve been processing this news over the past twenty-four hours, I was reminded of the story of Esther.  Esther was given a chance to be queen at a time when her people (the Jews) were facing persecution.  As a Jew herself, Esther had the opportunity to speak to the king and to sway him to protect the Jewish people.  The story is much more detailed than my explanation, but the gist of the story is that Esther was made queen at just the right time.  This verse from Esther 4:14 echoes this thought:

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Obviously, my position in management at my company is not quite the same as Esther’s position of queen, but I’m reminded that God can use us where we are at home, at work, in school, in the community.  Are we open to being used by God for His glory?

Where does God have you right now?  How do you sense that God may be using your current position in life to bring Him glory?

This past Thursday was a great day at my office.  Together with a few other co-workers, I helped to organize the 2nd Annual Sunny Side Up Breakfast Benefit to raise money and awareness for Warriors for Tim.  Warriors for Tim is an organization that was setup in honor of the son of a co-worker of mine.  Last year Tim lost his battle with H1N1.  Tim fought hard for 4 1/2 months down at CHOP in Philadelphia.  Warriors for Tim’s main goal is to raise funds to promote awareness about the urgent need for organ and tissue donors.  They are currently working towards a $100,000 fundraising goal that will fund a fitness center at the new Gift of Life Family House which is under construction in Philadelphia.

Our company banded together to make over 100 breakfast sandwiches and raise over $1,200 for this cause.  That means there will be a piece of fitness equipment that Siemens employees in Blue Bell are responsible for purchasing.  How exciting is that?

If you are not an organ donor, I would strongly recommend that you consider taking this step.  If you live in PA, NJ, or DE, you can easily sign up here.  And if you’re interested in donating to this worthwhile cause, you can donate on-line here.

I’m truly thankful for the amazing people I get to work with every day.  And I look forward to more adventures that we will have together in the future.

Here’s another picture to give you a feel for the day.


Adventure Aquarium

January 6, 2008 — Leave a comment

Last night, Leanne and I had the privilege of attending the annual “Winter Celebration” for my company. The event was held at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. Honestly, when I heard where it was this year, I was somewhat apprehensive. It was in NJ which is farther from our home than the locations in years past. Also, Camden doesn’t have the best reputation for being the safest place in the country. In fact, I believe Camden had one of the highest murder rates per population in 2007. Honestly, I was wrong.

The location of the event was incredible. It only took us 45 minutes to get to the aquarium from our house. Parking was great and the facility certainly seemed safe to me upon arrival. The banquet room provided spectacular views of the aquarium’s shark tank and of the Philadelphia sky line. (If you’re looking for a place to host your next big gathering, check the aquarium out.)

Besides these details, this annual event also gives us a chance to let our hair down so to speak and to celebrate the year past. It’s also a chance to say thank you to our spouses for putting up with all the stresses that go along with our jobs. Coincidentally, this event fell on my 12th anniversary of being with the company. In a way, this fact seems quite amazing. I am truly thankful for my job, for the opportunities and projects that I’ve achieved, and for the people who I get to work with every day.

Until the next post, watch out for the sharks…