My New Skates

I recently was given a pair of roller skates, and they’ve been hell on wheels. I did not ask for these skates, and they were skates I did not want. Still, they were given to me. Roller skating is terrifying. Just getting to stand up is a task, let alone moving around. They are uncomfortable and wear on the backs of my heels. After the first couple tries, I fall eight or ten times. I start to move in a direction and my knees lock up. I don’t know how to stop, and I hit the wall because I don’t quite know how to turn.

New skates forced upon me, I have lost my identity. I am sore and bleeding from falling, and a simple thing like walking is near impossible. I could give up on skating and live a life on the ground where things are comfortable and force myself to believe that I am the same person I was before I was given skates. But falling and being uncomfortable with skates is all part of the metamorphosis occurring and being on the ground and feeling comfortable slows the process down. If I don’t practice, I’ll continue to fall, and I’ll continue to bruise.

Learning a new skill is challenging enough, but a skill that you never planned on learning in the first place can be impossible. But hey, isn’t that just life? There are so many moments in our lives, in our business, in our work, where we are forced to go through growing pains. Plans we didn’t foresee, a shift in the marketplace, something completely out of our control. But it’s these moments where we truly find out what we’re made of. We can either sink or become flexible enough to embrace this change.

Right now, I wouldn’t call myself a skater, but I can skate. I’ve learned to at least go forward, and I can turn without freaking out, but don’t expect any alley-oops or figure-8’s. I’m just happy I’ve stopped falling for the most part. That’s impressive, considering a month ago, I was completely comfortable without skates in my life.

We are all given our roller skates in life. For some, it’s the loss of a loved one, and for others it’s as simple as a new co-worker we are on the fence about. It’s nothing new, it’s simply the deck we’ve all been dealt, and it’s important to remember you’re not being singled out. Everyone suffers in the beginning of a transition. Everyone. I’m here to tell you it’s okay.

We all cycle through denial, anger, sadness and acceptance many times when we are learning something new. Just experiencing these feelings will help the process go smoother with time. Sounds pretty passive, huh? Well, exactly. Growing and learning isn’t something you do, it’s something that happens to you. It’s frustrating I know, because I just want to be there, at the end, ready to conquer the world, but really the closest I’ll ever come to controlling the outcome is to just relax and trust the process.

So I’m going to keep practice skating. I still fall from time to time, but I keep getting back up. I still keep taking risks even when they seem doomed from the start, I still keep growing even when I think I’ve seen it all, and I still keep dreaming even it seems impossible. How I tackle a new challenge is what makes me special and right now at this very moment in time, I’m going to continue to skate because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.


The Video Guy has recently been forced to learn some new things, and while it wasn’t actually skating, it was still pretty painful as growing pains tend to be.  How do you embrace change – wanted or not? Comment below or email Andrew directly.

Kickin’ It Old School

This week has been a homecoming of sorts.  Sadly, tragedy struck the family of a childhood best friend and a funeral brought some old friends together for the first time in several years.

We’ve attended each other’s weddings, texted birthday greetings, celebrated milestones at a distance, but the three of us have not spent any real time together since we parted ways in Jr. high.  A move took me away from our hometown, high school happened and somewhat separated the other two.  There was never an ill word spoken, just the distance that grows as you mature and come into your own.

However, the sadness was overtaken by great memories and some awkward ones too, hello mid-90’s, braces, and bad hair. If you saw us together that night, you would think that we were back in grade school comparing snap bracelets and plotting how we could convince our parents to let us have a sleepover on a school night.  Back to work the next day and all of it still heavy on my mind.

Naturally, I now relate to work.  As I worked through my morning projects, I had a few long pauses of thought and pondered how this used to be.  If these projects or processes had to revisit their childhood – would they recognize themselves?

Lately, my focus has been on quality.  I’m a small part of a much larger picture and work with some amazing people who do impressive things to improve our product.  It’s all rooted in the desire to do and be better and deliver the best remanufactured transmission to our customers.

New School: Service Cloud

We’ve moved on from stagnant reports to an interactive system that allows us to see gaps in our quality in real time.  Truly, enough praise can’t be expressed to our developer and the team who has worked so hard to put that together for us.

New School:  Quality Task Force

A proactive team in place to offer their expertise to our builders, perform whole unit random inspections, and test skills to keep everyone fresh and on the same page.

New School:  Warranty Review

At the end of each day, our Quality Task Force meets with product support and parts to discuss the day’s findings, solutions, and create action plans.

 

I would like to think that where you came from is always at least a little recognizable in your present and future.  I’m excited to be working towards something better and looking back helps me appreciate where I’ve come from and how much more I, and my colleagues, can do.

Looking back on my childhood, I’m sure glad those braces are off, but I’m even more thrilled to still have an appreciation for my core and the people I came from; both family and friends.  I think little Girl Wonder would recognize me today.

 


AVA_RU-Blog-ADaughertyGirl Wonder likes to kick it old school – except when new school strategies can help remind you of that young, invincible time… None of us – nor our businesses are invincible – so when a little nostalgia can inspire a new school approach, lean into it. Comment below or email Angie.

 

 

Take the Road Less Congested

It’s Thursday morning, and I’m running late for work. I scramble for my shoes, grab a banana for breakfast – don’t forget to feed the cat, oh, and remember to lock that door behind you! – I jump in my car and take off. So far so good: all the lights are green, nothing seems to be stopping me from making this the greatest late morning recovery in human history! Forget being on time, heck, I might be 10 minutes early at this rate! And then I follow the bend on to the interstate…and immediately step on my brakes.

Commuters during rush hour are estimated to spend 42 hours a year in traffic. If you have the same job for 5 years and don’t move, that’s just a little under 9 days of traffic congestion.

At this point, I realize I have two options:

  1. I can scream and honk my horn and damn the universe for having me suffer this miserable experience.
  2. I can treat traffic congestion as a perspective wake up.

The obvious lesson here is to always be prepared. Nowadays with cell phones and computers, there’s simply no excuse why I can’t just look up my workplace and find the fastest route. Often during rush hour, my phone tells me which side roads are faster at that time of day. Being prepared to identify and take the fastest route, even if it’s not the usual way, can lead to less stress about the little things in life, and subconsciously, I am more alert of my surroundings when I’m unfamiliar with the route. I notice a restaurant I’ve never seen before, a shop that looks really appealing, or maybe even a park I can take a walk in.

While making the most of a traffic scenario is one choice, perhaps I simply just need to reschedule my drive. I shouldn’t risk being late to work anyways, so maybe it’s probably time I suck it up and avoid traffic by leaving an hour earlier than usual. My work has flexible scheduling, so coming in early is never an issue. For some, work-flexibility is challenging. Could you leave early and spend that hour accomplishing hard-to-find-time-for goals you may have near or around your workplace? Need time to read that book? Interested in joining a gym? Need to do research on a job that understands the importance of flexible schedules? All of these you could make happen with an extra hour on hand.

Well, if you’ve stayed with me this far, it’s been about 4 minutes – and I’m still stuck in traffic. At this rate, being early has gone out the window and being on time is not looking so hot either. I need to accept the fact that I’m going to be late, but I also need to accept the fact that a change needs to be made not only in my work route but in my life route. I can’t keep accepting traffic and tardiness as an answer… or else I won’t be dealing with either for much longer.

Hypothetical job termination aside, it’s also important for my well-being: I don’t like traffic congestions, and I won’t accept traffic congestions. 42 hours a year is an incredible amount of time to be stuck next to semi-trucks sporting wheel spikes. I deserve better. So does everyone else in this jam. But it starts with us.

If we all choose to avoid normalcy and embrace change, even when it feels like a gamble, what’s possible? Reaching our destinations in a timely – and slightly self-improved – manner. It just might influence you to make changes elsewhere in your lifestyle.

And hey, if everyone chooses to find different routes, then some of us can maybe choose to use the interstate again!


The Video Guy hates traffic. Who doesn’t? This week, go along for the ride as he shares his advice on finding better routes – to work and in life. How do you deal with congestion? Comment below or email Andrew directly.

Moving On Up, Around, & Over

I’m moving on up—I mean… over. At the very least I’ll be around. And that’s okay. Up is a limiting direction—no, really, it is. Once you start going up, your options are to continue to go up, which is obviously the best-case scenario, go over, which after going up feels stagnant, or go down. Me? I want to go around, and it just so happens that’s where I’m going.

A year into a new job at a new company in a new field, moving around professionally sounds vague, unfocused, and it does not sound fancy, but I’m not a fancy person. As soon as the weather drops here in Milwaukee, I wear the same tie-up boots every dang day. And those boots were made for walkin’, and where do they walk? All around our building.

I’m one of those people that when asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” instead of humoring the inquirer, I’m honest (as I am in most things) and respond with the verbal equivalent to a shrug. It’s not indifference or lack of ambition. It’s a genuine acknowledgment that no previous five-year period has seen me where I thought I’d be, so the exercise in prophesizing seems like an expenditure of energy I’d be better off using to decide what I want for dinner.

That being said, I am not aimless, un-invested, or goal-less. On the contrary, I am aimed, poised toward the future I want—it just so happens that that future is flexible, and changing as I grow, learn new things, and am exposed to expanding experiences.

A year ago, when I walked in to begin acting as the Director of First Impressions, I had little concept of what a day would look like, let alone what I’d be doing 367 days from then. I started, bound to a specific place for a specific purpose, except when there was a random polar bear sighting… Three months in, I was in Virginia. Four months, Tampa. Six months, I started sneaking away from my desk, finding places I was needed, filling in gaps, and solving problems that weren’t mine by assignment but by choice.

   

Thus, a wandering path was chosen: a path on which there are forks and hills and obstacles and loops sometimes taking me back to the start or getting me lost, and sometimes I get stuck on a long, straight section of trampled earth wondering if there isn’t something to learn there, too.

My path, while perhaps wandering in job responsibilities and field – and life – isn’t as wandering as some. And there are those 5-year planners, who trek purposely up that hill, who would shudder at my choice, but I consider myself lucky to have found a place that allows me to not know a little, experiment, fail safely, and ultimately, climb – metaphorically or not.


 Up is one direction you can go, but The Rhythm of Reman wonders why simply go up when you can go all around? Not all paths are straight, and Andee likes it that way. Do you shoot for the hill or take the path where it goes? Comment below or connect with Andee directly.

Tying the Professional Knot

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Business connections: you’ve made them at some point in time throughout your career. You’ve had your good, your better, and your best ones. Remember how great it felt when you achieved what you set out to accomplish together?  However, what might not be as fresh in your mind is what it took to get you to where you are with those people now.

While in Las Vegas this past week for the ATRA Powertrain Expo and AAPEX, I attended a session about building business relationships with other professionals outside of my organization.

As I sat there, I reflected upon the building blocks that it takes to make a good professional relationship work and how much you can liken it to that of a marriage.

Flirtation: In the early stages of a new connection, there are many calls back and forth and maybe even a few emails as you get a feel for one another. Do they feel the same way about your company as you do about theirs? Are they comparing another vendor alongside you?

Making it Official: As time passes and products and dollars change places, you both establish that you’re the right fit for one another. Whether by handshake or signing on the dotted line, you make your status official.

The Relationship: Navigating each other’s habits, tendencies, priorities, and issues that are deemed deal breakers is a crucial phase.  You have to be conscious of the other company’s values, where the business is trending, and how you can continue to work together to foster growth.

The Rings: The hard part isn’t finding or having a relationship, but in maintaining it for the long run. How do you continue to build upon the foundation? How do you handle the push and pull of growing pains, of the initial excitement fading? There must be the realization that you both want what is best for each other individually – and together as a team.

Relationships on any level are not a perfect science. How did your best business connection turn into more?

photo credit: © kelly marken – stock.adobe.com


AVA_MDrewsThis week, The Trans Detective hit the road. This edition, she’s bringing one of her lessons learned out of the office right to your inbox. How does a business connection turn into a longterm commitment? Comment below or email Megan directly!

What’s Your Spirit Animal?

Spirit Animal

It’s no secret that we’ve been growing. Beyond the new 160,000 square foot production facility that will be coming online in the near future, we’ve been adding staff to our Customer Loyalty teams. That means lots and lots of interviews.

Now, I’ve been in my fair share of interviews, but never as the interviewer. When I was asked to help vet candidates, I was excited for the opportunity to, in some small way, help shape this growing team. For me, how someone may fit with our unique culture is almost as important as his or her skill.

After lobbing in some basic questions – what did your former job entail, what drew you to this position, what can you bring to the team, etc. – I like to throw a curveball or two.

“What’s your spirit animal?”

Reactions run the gamut from deer-in-headlights, to confusion, to amusement. Am I really going to judge a candidate based on their spirit animal? No. That’s ridiculous. But I am going to judge a candidate on their ability to think on their feet, gather their thoughts, and put together a reasonably convincing answer.

Sure, these questions may seem sadistic. But they have a clear purpose – to see how well someone will fit within our quick-witted team and navigate the fast-paced sales environment. To hire someone knowing that they’re not a good fit is a disservice to all parties involved. In those terms, even something as goofy as “What’s your spirit animal?” is vital.

I asked the rest of the team to share their favorite curveball questions and why they like them.

“‘If you had to be shipwrecked on a deserted island, but all your basic human needs were taken care of, what two items would you want to have with you?’ It shows what is most important to you. Are you logical, emotional, or just want to enjoy life?”

Megan Drews, The Trans Detective (Retail Service Manager)

“‘What do you think about when you are alone in your car?’ It can answer a few questions: Do you think when you’re alone? What are your primary concerns in life? Are you creative? Or even, do you seek continuous improvement?

Ben Stern, The Sales Cyclist (Inside Sales Manager)

“I’ve never been asked this one, but my daughter has: ‘If you could high five anyone in the world who would it be?’ It’s a very fun question. There’s no right or wrong answer, but it really lets your show off your personality.”

Mary Matthews, The Queen of Key Accounts (Customer Loyalty Specialist)

So what are your thoughts on curveball interview questions? Do you have any favorites that you ask your potential hires?

photo credit: ©vvvita / Dollar Photo Club


When it comes to your unique company culture, who shapes what it is and will be? The team you put in place. Why is “fit” so important? Just as our Jill of All Trades. Like what Aimee has to say? Comment below or email her directly!

Role Models are Overrated

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Last month, I went to the historic Riverside Theatre in downtown Milwaukee to see an astrophysicist give a PowerPoint presentation on science.

Seriously.

OK, so it wasn’t just any old astrophysicist; it was Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium and host of ‘Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey’ on Fox. And his presentation, “Science as a Way of Knowing,” was less about scientific theory and more about scientific literacy – knowing how to ask questions and encourage curiosity. And this was his second night of back-to-back sold out shows. But the fact remains that it was a really nerdy way to spend an evening.

At any rate, the crowd of 2,400 sat in rapt attention as he discussed subjects like who a country chooses to depict on its currency is a reflection of its values, explained the difference between a hypothesis and a theory, and recited Carl Sagan’s famous speech “The Pale Blue Dot.” He opened the floor to questions from the audience.

One such question was about who his role models were when growing up. It’s a fairly pedestrian question, to be sure, but his answer was really intriguing.

He doesn’t believe in role models; he thinks they’re overrated.

Here’s a guy with millions of Twitter followers and a prime time show on a major network – a guy whom many consider their role model – disparaging the role model concept.

He explained that, as a person of color growing up in the Bronx, the streets weren’t exactly packed with astrophysicists to idolize. Instead, he built a role model á la carte. Characteristics from individuals he respected – the selflessness of his parents, the physicality of favorite athletes, or the passion of people he met at the planetarium – were assembled into the Voltron of role models.

In a recent video for Business Insider, he delved a little more into this subject. “What is a role model? It’s someone who kind of looks like you, and grew up the same way you did, and then made a profession of where you want to land. If you need a role model to become what you want to be, that precludes you from doing something that no one has done before. For that reason alone, I think role models are overrated.”

And, in a weird way, it made sense.

See, there are two upsides to this approach:

  1. When you refuse to follow in someone’s footsteps, you are better equipped to blaze your own paths.
  2. There’s less shock and disappointment when an athlete or actor or politician reveals their inherent flaws.

When I was little, I wanted to be a Tyrannosaurus rex. After realizing that there were some significant species and time barriers to overcome, I wanted to be Indiana Jones and the president and the Stinky Cheese Man and drive an ice cream truck and a mom. I was a little all over the place. But now I realize I was, in a less sophisticated way, doing the same thing. I wanted to work with history like Indiana Jones, to command the respect that the President had, the Stinky Cheese Man’s ability to make people laugh, to make a living doing what I love (eating ice cream; I was a fat kid), and the patience and love of my parents. So far, I haven’t been disappointed (except for the being a Tyrannosaurus rex thing).

But what are your thoughts? Do you prefer the 1-for-1 or a la carte approach to role models?

photo credit: © yuryimaging / Dollar Photo Club


Do you have a role model – someone who has influenced your career or life? Pfft. Sucker. (I kid. I kid.) Our Jill of All Trades would like to hear your thoughts on the concept of role models.

Like what Aimee has to say? Comment below or email her directly!

A Crash Course in Project Management

Having a unique skill set can be a blessing and a curse. In my case, I’m the go-to girl for graphic design projects. While there’s some degree of security in being the only person with that ability, being the only person that can do a particular task can get real overwhelming real fast.

In the past, I’ve taken any and all projects. Redo scheduled maintenance sheets? Sure! Make a sign for a door? Coming right up! Write a blog post? I’d love to! They’re all billed as quick and easy tasks, but the reality is that they were rarely quick and seldom easy. Between designing the piece, getting approval, making edits, and working with outside vendors to produce the damn thing, these 5-minute projects became big, complicated time-sucks. And, worse, they were getting in the way of completing more important projects.

After getting burned on some projects that ultimately suffered agonizingly long deaths and coming dangerously close to being burned out, I had to take a step back and reevaluate how I handle my workload. The result was this: A crash course in project management.

Before starting anything, clearly define your project

Even Houdini couldn’t pull an effective project out of his butt. Your coworkers or staff shouldn’t expect you to do the same. Yes, it may take time on their parts, but the result is a smoother process and that produces better outcomes. Make sure this thing you’re creating is built on a solid foundation by clearly:

  • Defining objectives
  • Establish project scope
  • Determining deliverables
  • Forming a timeline with due dates
  • Creating benchmarks
  • Setting a budget
  • Assembling a team 

Be flexible and always have a Plan B

Now, don’t tell my coworkers this, but I usually build as much as a week into any project timeline. People may get sick. Machinery may break. Deadlines may get overshot. Stuff inevitably happens. Don’t let that stuff derail your progress or, worse, derail your project altogether. Take into account human factors. Do you know your boss isn’t good at giving you feedback in a timely fashion? Make sure you give them ample time to do so before your project is due. Will you have to source a new vendor? Take the time to find and vet a vendor that will best help you achieve your goals. What if a team member gets sick (or sick of the project)? Know whom the next best person is to take on that team member’s responsibilities.

Use your resources

I often liken getting everyone on the same page to herding cats. Mr. Pickles is playing with a ball of yarn on the opposite side of the building, and not privy to day-to-day project updates. Günter is in the middle of a big laser pointer-chasing project and won’t be able to devote his full attention to your project for a while. And Moosey is flat pretending like he can’t hear you calling a meeting.

There are many ways in which you can disseminate information and improve your workflow. For instance, I’ve built an internal site wherein members of our sales team can access resources and information. While it’s a passive means of communication, it has the wiki-like ability to collect, organize, and disseminate a large amount of information. In addition, I’ve created a work order form to better manage the one-off tasks with which I’d previously been inundated.  Go ahead and check it out for yourself.

Finally, know when to say “No”

As Jennifer explained in last week’s article, there are few words in the English language that are as powerful as “No.” It’s explicit. It sets boundaries. And, sometimes, it’s absolutely necessary.

As with its equally powerful counterpart “Yes,” with great power comes great responsibility. Use it sparingly, but have a good reason to do so and mean it when you say it.

If you do not have the time to give a project the attention it demands, say no.

If contributing to a project is not the best use of your time, say no.

If you do not have the proper skills necessary to complete a task, say no.

If there is someone who is better suited to complete a task, say no.

If a project has unreasonable deadlines or expectations, say no.

BOOM! Project Managed.

These tips may seem elementary. Some just have an innate sense of order, so project management comes as naturally as breathing. For others like myself, who prefer to operate within what my mother affectionately calls “a sh*t tornado,” project management is a learned skill. It takes a bit of practice and a bit of patience, but these easy tips will help keep your projects running smoothly, your workload more manageable, and your sanity (somewhat) intact.


Jill of All Trades Aimee Brock might be super girl when it comes to juggling projects, but she knows the importance of project management for keeping it all together. How do you handle your workload? Leave a comment below!