Saturday, January 26, 2008

Just a few thoughts for a Saturday

It constantly amazes me how fast time can fly. I can hardly believe that next week, we are at the end of January already - that is so crazy! How can so much time go by so fast? In some ways, this month has felt like eternity - a whole year in and of itself - but in other ways, it just can't be possible that *poof*, the first month of the new year is already over!

I think I can confidently say that I have never been through a month like this in my life. So much change has happened in this month and there has not been any time to process through it - or, the more accurate thing to say, is that I have not taken the time to process through the changes. And it is change in practically every area of my life - even literally down to the roots of my hair (which thankfully are gray no longer)!

This past Tuesday it became evident how much I have not internally processed everything that has changed, when at a career counseling session with a psychologist, I could not keep it together when she asked me the simple question, "So, what is going on in your life?" It was so awful crying in front of this complete stranger and I completely felt like the stereotypical psych patient on the couch who can't get a hold of their life. And though Dr. Bushkoff was completely nice and cool about and didn't care if I was crying or not, I still just couldn't believe how I couldn't seem to get one sentence out without choking on my words. It was very humbling and enlightening all at the same time, because I realized that I really haven't processed through my feelings.

Besides the crying though, the session was very worthwhile and I can't wait to go back. But it was kind of maddening also because Dr. Bushkoff told me that I am Generalist and I am happy being a Generalist and that I need to be a Generalist - my personality doesn't lend itself to being an expert in just one area - it has to have knowledge in all areas. This didn't surprise me, because I already knew that about myself, but it is frustrating at the same time because how do you have a focused career path when you can basically do anything? That sounds conceited to me, but it is the truth - I can learn to do anything, because that is probably the leading passion in my life - my love of learning. My problem is that I can get easily bored once I feel like I have learned enough about something, and so I desire to learn about everything, which has created this almost split personality. Another thing that Dr. Bushkoff said was that I was in best job that I could be in at Signature and that apparently my profile says that I don't want to make hard decisions, like a CEO or branch manager must do. I don't know if I completely agree with that though. She also suggested that a career path that I could consider, if I ever left Signature, was event planning. Apparently I am good at organizing things.

The thing that she said that completely surprised me though was that she thought I wasn't a procrastinator! I almost fell off the couch when she said that, because I have always thought that I was a terrible procrastinator. But what she said is that I need a "push" to do things, a "shove" in the direction that I am supposed to go in. Which is definitely true about myself - I do often need to be pushed to just do the things that I need to do, but I have always thought that is what all procrastinators need - maybe she and I need to relay our definitions of procrastination to each other. Maybe my procrastination all this time has just been either a lack of courage or sheer stubbornness.

All in all, it was very enlightening and I am really glad that I went and have been given the opportunity to go through this process. I am really interested to hear what she has to say next time, especially since I took an "interest" inventory test.

And as I am on the eve of this last week of the first month of the year, there is a mountain of work and other things ahead that I don't know how I'm going to tackle and get through, but here it goes nonetheless!

Friday, January 18, 2008

The 4 C's of Trust

This is my attempt to be like John Maxwell I guess. I had to develop this article for an overnight senior manager's weekend back in October and from then it has evolved into this, which actually was just published in one of our trade partner's newsletters. There is still more work to be done and hashed out, but this is the bare bones beginning of a concept that I think is important and kind of revolutionary for my company. But here it is in all of its glory for now and just keep in mind that revisions will be coming :).

You can’t get there without

Developing Teamwork within your organization cannot be done without first developing organizational Trust.

Together Everyone Achieves More” ~ John Hall, Branch Manager, Signature Companies

“There may not be an I in TEAM but there is in FIRE.” ~ Dennis Monte, Vice President, Business Process Improvement, Signature Companies

Teamwork is a common topic in many organizations, but it is in reality rarely found within them. The last four years at Signature Companies, we have set many cultural organizational goals, but it wasn’t until this past February that the most important organizational goal became teamwork! Signature Companies is an organization that I am immensely proud of and I believe that we are a very good company. Yet, as good as we may be, I still felt that we had yet to make the leap to being a great company. There are many great and dedicated individuals that work at Signature, but the potential we have to operate as a great team had not yet been realized.

During this time our senior management team began discussing how to create teamwork. In reading Leading With the Heart by Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University, it became apparent that in order to build TEAMWORK, you first need to build organizational TRUST. Teamwork, speed, and organizational efficiency flow from an organization full of people who have trust-based relationships. Trust between people breaks down communication barriers and allows the business to focus on its strategic goals.

In preparing for a recent offsite strategy meeting, I asked my assistant Lauren Taggart to put some thought into this issue and summarize three books that have been key in our journey as an organization (Leading With the Heart by Mike Krzyzewski, Winning by Jack Welch, Good to Great by Jim Collins)[1] as well as the website to present to our senior management team. Lauren reviewed the above materials and developed the concept of the 4 C’s of Organizational Trust: Candor, Connection, Competence, and Character. The 4 C’s of Organizational Trust, when practiced consistently, become the foundational pillars upon which an organization can build effective teamwork. Without these four building blocks, teamwork and trust become empty, nebulous concepts that do nothing to improve the performance and success of an organization.

There are many books and articles that discuss the benefits of honest, transparent, and clear communication between individuals. All of these words are synonyms for candor, one of the 4 C’s of Trust. The open dialogue that candor creates improves the speed and efficiency of an organization. However, just as there are many obstacles to creating trust with customers and within an organization, there are also many hurdles to the practice of candor. One of the problems with candor is that it poses the risk of alienating people who do not want to hear the truth or reality of their situations. Another problem with candor is that it cannot be practiced without mutually respectful relationships between two people. If a person cannot value another’s strengths and treat him or her daily with respect, then candor serves no purpose other than to point out another’s flaws and erode any kind of trust between the two parties. Candor also cannot be practiced digitally or in a memo format – meaning that in order for candor to truly be effective and build trust, it must take place on a face-to-face platform. Ultimately, candor and trust have a symbiotic relationship. One builds on the other, creating clear channels of communication between people, and simplifying situations that were seemingly insurmountable. By taking a risk and communicating in an honest, straightforward manner, trust is created between individuals and problems solved.

Genuine relationships, or what we call connection, also build trust between people. When people take the time to engage with another person and simply care about the other person, a foundation is built between the two. A mutual respect develops and the two people come to realize that they can rely on the other. Truly getting to know another person, beyond the outer surface that everyone projects, develops an even deeper trust and respect that allows these two people to communicate candidly with one another – which in turn develops more trust and builds a team. Trust cannot exist between people who do not connect with each other. And if trust does not exist between these two people, they become burdened with constantly having to both “read between the lines” and figure out the subtext, or they have to double-check the other person’s work, which slows the speed and efficiency of the organization. Connection therefore is critical to the development of trust with customers and within an organization.

The character of a person determines whether or not trust is created between two people. If people are accountable for their actions, keep their commitments, admit their mistakes, listen to others, and are truthful in all their dealings, they build a layer of trust, not only within their organization, but with all of their relationships. The integrity, the character, of a person will determine the amount of trust that colleagues and customers place upon him or her.

The last of the 4 C’s, competence, is the ability of a person to perform in their job, continuously improve that performance, and consistently deliver results, creating another platform upon which trust grows. If a person cannot perform in their job, the natural result is that his or her coworkers do not place any trust in them and are constantly double-checking that person’s work. Instead of a trustworthy, independent, self-managed worker, you have a worker that needs to be micro-managed. A worker who is not competent saps the energy out of his or her manager and takes time and focus away from issues that need to be dealt with in order for the organization to achieve its goal. Trust is eroded by incompetent people. The trick then becomes recognizing what competencies workers possess and placing them in the right job that utilizes these competencies.

When an organization has a high level of trust within it, clear, candid communication is present among a set of high-performing, competent people who genuinely care, connect, and respect each other and demonstrate personal integrity on a daily basis and they perform as a great team. As Signature’s journey over the past four years demonstrates, this does not happen overnight. Trust and great teamwork take time to develop the highly functional relationships in which honesty and candor are seen as virtues and not personal slights. Trust at its core is a risky enterprise. But when the 4 C’s of Candor, Connection, Character, and Competence are in place promoting trust and teamwork, there is nothing that the organization cannot accomplish.

This concept has proved immensely helpful to our senior management team as difficult personnel decisions had to be made due to the trying market conditions we all face. In the end, though the market remains weak, our organization is getting stronger every day as a result of living and promoting this philosophy.

John Lombardozzi
President and CEO
Signature Companies

[1] Leading With The Heart by Mike Krzyzewski: This book really brought home the notion of teamwork and how Coack K has developed it with his highly successful basketball teams at Duke. What I learned from this book is how important Trust is to the development of Teamwork.

2.Winning by Jack Welch: This book taught me how important Candor is in improving speed and efficiency in an organization.

3. Good to Great by Jim Collins: This book gave us the passion to define and focus what our company is all about. We developed our HedgeHog Concept to be “The Best Turn-Key Supplier, Period”. As it relates to this discussion, it introduced to us the importance of the “Right People on the Bus” concept.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Through the Looking Glass - What I think the Year 2008 will bring

There are many pundit shows out there that like to make predictions on the current year, and in light of that I wanted to try to make some predictions and see if they actually come true. I figure, why not?

1. The United States economy will enter into a recession.
Actually in terms of this prediction, I think we are already there - the economists just don't want to say that word. The housing market is not going to come back anytime soon - certainly not this year, and most likely not next year. Being in the housing market industry, we will be down 50% in revenues from just two years ago. It is absolutely incredible. We were setting records in terms of our revenues and to go so fast from such an economic boom to a bust has been kind of shocking. A lot of companies in our industry are going out of business now because they can't handle the pressure of the downturn.
The thing that is going to make the US economy go into a recession is the subprime meltdown that occurred this past August. CEOs of major credit companies are being ousted left and right over their failure to make sound financial decisions. The fallout from all of this is that now the job market is being effected. People are being laid off in the thousands, and with the jobs disappearing, the consumer will not be spending money. The fact that gas and energy prices are refusing to come down will also (and has) negatively effect the overall economy and consumer's spending power. The only thing that is keeping us afloat is that the consumer hasn't stopped spending yet. But I predict that that won't last much longer - or it will become much more difficult to pay the bills and spend money on big ticket items.

2. A Democrat will win the Presidential election, unless Mike Huckabee wins the Republican nomination.
The tide has turned in American politics. The scandals and abuse of power that runs rampant on Capitol Hill and in the White House has tired the American public. And the public associates that with just one political party and not politics itself. Honestly, if a Democrat wins the White House, I don't think that much will change in terms of American politics. There will always be abuse of power in the White House, because that is the precedent that has been set - not by Bush, but all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt - who changed the powers of the US Presidency because of the Great Depression. Ever since FDR, each American president has extended the powers of the Oval Office to fit his agenda. Whoever is newly elected will end up doing the same. Republicans and Democrats seem to be like the zebra - one is black with white stripes while the other is white with black stripes - basically, it's the same animal, any way that you look at it.
The only reason I give Mike Huckabee a chance is because he has Chuck Norris in his corner and he was a Baptist minister and I like the things that I've read about him. He seems very likeable.

3. US Troops won't begin to pull out of Iraq until 2010, at the least.
It is foolish to think that the Iraq War will be over anytime soon. From the moment that we invaded the country in 2002, I, a lowly foreign affairs student, knew that we would be in the region for at least a decade. The ethnic factions (and ethnic is probably not the right word) that are there - the Sunnis, the Shias, and the Kurds will all kill each other if we leave - which they do to an extent now. But I feel like if the troops pulled out it would turn into genocide. Trying to establish a democracy with these three factions is so stupid. What needs to happen is that the state of Iraq needs to be demised and changed into three separate countries. But there are two problems in doing that - one, is that if you create a Kurd state, you create a rallying point for the Kurds that reside in Turkey and cause them to rise up in rebellion against the Turks as they try to break off from Turkey and join the new Kurd state. The second is that if you create a Shia state, you give Iran a country to completely go after. They would try to annex that state into themselves, or at the least try to set up a puppet government that they could run. Iran has already tried to do this before, but funny enough, Saddam Hussein stopped that from happening.

4. Into the Wild won't win the Oscar for Best Picture - But it should!
This is the most underrated movie of the year - far better than Atonement. Atonement was actually kind of awful - there is nothing special about it.

5. The Writer's Guild of America will hold out and not settle with the studios in order to save the spring 2008 TV season. The Fall 2008 season might come to fruition, but even that might not happen.
Therefore bad reality shows will dominate the airwaves causing the American public to either lose all their brain cells or turn off their television sets to actually read!

6. The NY Giants will win the Super Bowl.
I actually don't believe this prediction at all - I think the Patriots will destroy the Giants - destroy them with a capital D! BUT I will root for the underdog nonetheless :).

7. Signature's new business venture, Signature WoodCrafters will take off and save lots of jobs at my company!
This prediction I completely believe in. I think there is a whole market out there that we have barely begun to tap and though there are some competitors out there, we can create a niche for ourselves and win! If you know anyone that wants to re-do their kitchen cabinets and countertops or change their carpet-grade stairs to hardwood, let me know!

8. The bright color trend will continue on through the spring and fall fashion seasons.
I love color - I love, love, love it. And I love bright colors. I think that this trend will continue because there are a lot of other people who feel the same that I do!

9. I will end up moving somewhere different.
I only think this because I have moved every year since graduating college. It would be nice to settle down somewhere, but I don't see the reality of that happening anytime soon. But we'll see.

10. None of these will come true.
This is so I hedge all my bets :).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

[Insert Creative Title Here]

First, I want to give a shout-out to my buddy Josh Hayden, over at Moments of Recognition. He has been blogging about some really thought-provoking, heavy theological stuff that is apparently been going on in Young Life that I had no clue about. Josh has been great in posting about this issue and though I don't have a complete grasp on what the issues are, I appreciate the discussion and thinking that the discussion provokes. It is always good to examine the reasons behind the things that we do. The way that my brain works is that it necessitates that everything I do have an ultimate purpose behind it - a big-picture view. I can't do things (and often stubbornly resist) without seeing the "why" behind it. Which is why I appreciate Josh's posts - they have been helping me to think through issues that contribute to the big picture of YL ministry in my life. So, many thanks Josh!!

Second, I think I have a serious problem with accepting change in my life. I have always found it difficult to adjust to change - I think the fact that the first big change in my life was so awfully traumatic, it has created this underlying wellspring of resistance to change that I often have to fight against. Like my split personality, I have completely dichotomous feelings towards change - on one hand I love it because it adds new things to my life and keeps things interesting. On the other hand, when things occur that frustrate and stress me out as a result of change, I hate it.

So much change has occurred in my little provincial town life recently and I am having a hard time adjusting to it all. I lost one roommate and added another in the space of a day essentially. And I haven't taken the time to examine how I feel about it all, but I know that there are residual issues lying underneath the surface that I don't want to confront.

I'm losing two teammates and face a complete abscence of volunteers to take their place. I am having a really hard time thinking about adjusting to their loss because of how much they have added to the team.

Work is a plethora of changes - from the acquisition of a stair and rail company, to dealing with the loss of my baseball coworker, to just the day to day changes that must occur in order for our business to thrive. And these changes I have just been dealing with and not really processing either.

I just am having a hard time all of the sudden adjusting to everything that is going on around me. So I want to be like my friend Seth over at Thunder Sword and be depressed about life and how I cope with it. :) Can't things just return to normal? Whatever normal was?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


For the love of the Lord, I did not know that this beginning month of 2008 would be so flippin' congested with everything under the sun. That is kind of a vague statement, but I just need to blog about the craziness of my life right now before I can go back and continue trying to tackle it.

1. Young Life - Two of my teammates are leaving, I want to try to create a small group with girls, we are going to be doing All-Area clubs, I don't know what to do about camp this summer, there is a complete absence of other volunteers, Feb. Banquet, and we need to plan for the semester. It feels like it would be a lot easier if I just volunteered once a month at a soup kitchen. Which I probably should do anyway.

2. Work - Signature: Putting together Powerpoint presentation for our annual Employee of the Year meeting, setting that meeting up, planning for it, coordinating our Awards Banquet, working as a team leader, putting together that powerpoint presentation, helping my boss put together his presentations for those meetings, implementing a new HR system company-wide and conducting training classes, continuing to test the new HR system, creating a new company cultural program - the 4C's of Trust, creating posters for that program, coordinating employee development training, coordinating and putting together meeting arrangements for our Quarterly Business Review, putting together that agenda, finding a way to cater the event, getting the appropriate people to create their presentations. Baseball: Putting together financial statements for the Braves, meeting on Sunday for the Braves, collecting contracts, following up on documents and payments that still need to be turned in, start thinking about fundraising opportunities, coordination of golf tournament for 08, ordering t-shirts for winter campers, putting together a program for the marketing interns this summer, finding the interns, NVTBL financial refunds, requests, turning in documents to start new money market sweep fund, continuing to fill in for our administrator who suffered an aneurysm this fall, set up a meeting for ODL teams, website maintenance, alert and to-do maintenance.

3. Personal - Set up the financing for my new car (which, yes I did buy, and have accomplished one of my 2008 goals, yay!), sell my old car, change registration address on my new car, driver's license, town decals, and register with the Commissioner of Revenue(?). Continue working on my first half of 08 goals.

So much to do (and most has to be done by month's end!) and SO little time! But I'm going to try to make like the ants (thanks analogy that I read last night) and chip away at this a little at a time. Hopefully it will all get done without my hair turning completely gray!

Friday, January 4, 2008

On the road to being a "Meaningful Specific"

Well, now it's time for a more upbeat post, one that has to do with goals.

I still don't have these all figured out, but this is what I'm going to pursue for at least the first half of '08:

1. Buy a new car. I may actually get this one done by this weekend, unbelievably. This is something that I've been thinking about and researching for a while, and I've put the wheels in motion to make it happen, so that's a good start! I've just had it with my car and though my baby has been very, very good to me, it's time for a new one. It's kind of sad to think that my Corolla will be gone, but the vanishing of the fear that my car is going to blow up driving down the road will be most welcome!

2. Start a small group with my YL girls. I think that I've lost sight of what my ministry is supposed to look like. It's not just about the events that we put on on a Monday night. It's supposed to be much deeper than that. It is so easy for me to use busy-ness at work and the craziness of kids' schedule as an excuse to not do anything. So I want to be very intentional and get this started this year.

3. Read More. I am a TV-holic. It is so easy at the end of the day to go home and numb the brain with whatever is on the tube. But there are SO many books out there that I want to read (which if you are a friend of mine on GoodReads, you know this well!).

4. Establish discipline in my life. This is a lofty goal, because it kind of covers at least three subsets:

a. Reading my Bible daily with a daily QT - the most I ever learned in my walk with Jesus was my 4th year in college, when I practiced this. I don't think the correlation between the two is a coincidence. I've waffled in this since moving back to Warrenton, so it's time to really try and stick with it.

b. Exercising - Ugh. It's not that I don't like to exercise, because when I do it, I'm glad that I did it. It's just the fact that in the war that goes on in my head between laziness and exercising, laziness usually wins. I guess I just need to aim for baby steps with this one.

c. Disciplined thinking - My brain goes a million miles a minute, from one thing to another to another. My head often feels like a cluttered mess, with all these "things" crowding and swimming around and it often leads me to do nothing because I'm just jumping from one thing to another. This is particularly bad at work and makes me very unproductive, because when I can't focus on what I need to do, I just end up suffering the internet and reading most every news story out there. So I need to become better at just thinking - organized thinking. Lists, etc.

5. Figure out how to go to Italy and Young Life camp and handle my baseball responsibilities. There's just gotta be a way to do it all.

6. GOLF!! This is one hobby that I really want to get better at. There are at least three golf tournaments that I will participate in this year, and I would like to have fun and hit that ball a long distance, straight and true. So, taking a lesson will definitely be on the docket, as well as using the passes to VA Oaks that my boss gave me as a Christmas present! I'm going to start by practicing how to yell "Fore!"

7. Work - I just need to figure out how to reconcile the two different aspects of my job: Baseball and Signature. I love both and I can handle both, but there might be an opportunity staring me in the face with baseball that I could seize if I want to - being the Northern Virginia Youth Baseball Czarina kind of sounds impressive, but might give me more grey hairs than I can handle! In the end, I just want to be able to be productive at work and start feeling like I'm accomplishing something, which I think will happen once I start down the path of disciplined thinking.

I think that is it for now...those are good goals for the first half of the year, don't you think? (Now to print these out and post them on my bulletin board so that I remember to do them!)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Clipped Wings

Well, instead of posting goals today, I need to vent.

Yesterday, the second day of the new year was absolutely awful and if this is the way that this year is going to start off, I need someone to dig me a hole, so that I can just crawl in it and hibernate until springtime, when at least I have sunshine and beautiful nature all around me to cope with the things that happen in my life.

Not only have I apparently started losing brain cells at the tail end of my 25th year (evidenced by the fact that 1. I locked myself out of the house that I was housesitting last week and 2. I completely forgot my work computer (!) yesterday morning!!), but also everyone seems to be getting the hell out of Warrenton. My dear friend Katie Brazzle left for her grand CT adventure on New Year's Day, and now I find out that my two Young Life teammates, Zach and Aileen Weik, are going to be moving away in two months!! By the end of February, they will be gone!

It's like a literal knife straight to the heart.

Especially when we have had such amazing clubs this semester. Club has been such an encouragement for me, seeing all the new kids that have been coming. And it has been such a joy to be on a such a great, functional, in-sync team, relying on all our different strengths and weaknesses, to pull together and have great clubs. And now with Zach and Aileen leaving, I don't know what we're going to do. I know that God has a plan, and maybe this is His way of making me rely on Him more, especially since I have not been intentional with our relationship, but man oh man. I don't know how to deal with this.

I feel trapped, like a bird stuck in a cage, in her small town. It is my beautiful, wonderful, amazing small town, with beautiful, amazing, wonderful, awesome, supportive friends and community. And it's not like I was thinking of leaving anytime soon - But. But it all feels like a gilded cage. And now I feel like I can't even entertain the option of thinking of moving to another place because of the responsibilities to the ministry and to these kids that are all of the sudden now all mine. I have no idea how I am going to handle camp - I don't even want to go to camp! I absolutely abhor Young Life camp. And I don't know how the hell I'm going to be able to take two weeks off with baseball responsibilities this summer to go to Italy and to YL camp - one of which I'm dying to go and the other, I would rather die than go.

That may be a little dramatic, since I do err on the side of exaggeration, but it's also kind of the truth.

So, here's to 2008 so far - Year, the only thing you have going for you, in your first three days of being, is that there is now a Mr. and Mrs. Tommy Webster in the world. Other than that, you really stink.