First Slide

Long before the days of posting positive affirmations on your Facebook page there was a little blue engine that thought she could. She wasn’t the strongest or the shiniest or the biggest. But what she lacked in experience and size, she made up for with determination and optimism. “I think I can, I think can, I think I can.” She was little, but mighty. 

A month ago my son found a new love for ice skating. He went to a birthday party and even though he had never been on skates, he proved to be a natural. We were not yet out of the parking lot and he was already asking if we could come back the following weekend and if I would skate with him. I have not been on skates in decades. I assumed I would be spending more time sitting on the ice rather than gliding over it, however I agreed that I would give it a shot rather than watch him from the sidelines. 

As the following Sunday approached, I was more and more nervous. I, like the little blue engine, am not the strongest. I am not coordinated and I am about as graceful as an elephant on a tightrope. 

Ice skating day finally arrived. We walked in, got our skates and sat down to lace up. My mind was racing and my heart was pounding. As we approached the entrance to the rink, I said to myself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” And then I did. It was slow at first and I stuck to the wall. As my confidence grew I ventured further and further from the side. A month later, I now only use the wall to stop. I am faster and more sure of myself. While I may not yet be intrepid, I have found a pace that is comfortable and kept my rump off the ice until yesterday. Lesson learned, do not play tag on the ice with the kids. Every time I get a little bit quicker, a little more graceful and a lot less scared. 

I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could, and I did. 

What power will it give you to accomplish the seemingly impossible? Can a simple mindset make a dauntless task less daunting? 

How can you instill and promote the art of positive thinking?

  1. Recognize and plan for obstacles: Acknowledging that you will likely have to jump a few hurdles or give an extra push to get over the mountain is not a negative thought process. Being aware allows you to prepare, plan, face, and conquer the obstacles head on.
  2. Focus on the Goal: Why are you trying to do what you are doing? If you are just doing it to check the box, is it worth doing? Being committed to the success of something that you are invested in guarantees a reward when you cross the finish line. It is easier to stay positive when the carrot is dangling in your face, but you have to like carrots. 
  3. Make it a Habit: You will fail at something. It will feel gross. You won’t like it. Do not fall into a negative thought pattern. Think of what you could have done better. Use the opportunity to learn from what didn’t go right. The more times you recover from a misstep with a positive outlook the easier it will be to avoid slipping down the “Poor Me” slope. Repeat after me, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Say it until you not only believe it, but live it. 
  4. Reset Your Mindset: Misery breeds misery. It is easier to ask, “Why is this happening to me?” Playing the victim removes the accountability, it lets you fail without blame. Failing without blame makes it easier to accept defeat. Instead, ask yourself, “How can I get through this?” This viewpoint puts the power of achievement in your hands. You are culpable for your actions, reactions and steps towards victory. Negative thinkers have things happen to them. Positive thinkers get through things. 

A positive thought process can not guarantee success, however it makes achieving your milestones and overcoming complications more feasible. You might still falter, maybe even fall on your rump, but with a positive mindset you will be right back up. 

Where’s my ice pack?

Two months ago, I got bored of the treadmill. I am not a runner, my legs are fairly short and honestly I just don’t like it. But, with it being winter in Wisconsin, my options for exercise were limited. So I took the plunge and ordered what I can only describe as the Hybrid from Hell. It is a cross between an elliptical and a stair stepper. It came with these fancy instructor led workouts. “I’m not fancy, I don’t need that, I’ll just watch a show or read a book”, I tell myself. I made it a measly fourteen minutes. It was brutal, and it was terrible, and I did it again the next day with the help of my new pre-recorded friend Jim. 

It wasn’t that Jim is 8 years my senior that pushed me to the end of the thirty-four minute workout. It wasn’t that Jim really thought I could do it, he was totally rooting me on. It wasn’t even because I refuse to let this piece of equipment turn into a clothes rack. It was because of what Jim said. Jim said, “You get out what you put in.” I gave it my all, I could barely walk down the stairs when it was over and I was a sweaty mess. I did it again the next day, and the day after that. While I still refer to the machine as the Hybrid from Hell, it’s easier now. I can push myself harder and go longer. I put in the commitment and time. In return, I am stronger, less achy and have more confidence. I reaped the benefits of my efforts. I got out what I put in. 

The amount of reward you get out of a situation depends on how much effort you put in doing the task. Think back to a time when you had a major test approaching. Did you study hard for days leading up to it? Or cram for an hour the night before? Chances are that if you put in the time to study the material you did better on the exam. 

It’s been a long time since I have had to study for a test but I do go to work everyday. Everyone has those days when the motivation to go above and beyond just isn’t there. You are just trying to get through. But the days that I sit down early with my to-do list out and prepped, and the intent to get sh*t done are the days that I am most productive. I pour myself into projects, checking off task after task. I answer questions from co-workers at the speed of light. I solve even the most difficult problems as if they were nothing more than a first grade math equation. I put in 100% of me and my output is mind-blowing. 

The people on our teams that simply tread water daily and barely meet the bare minimum are not go getters. They put in meager effort and in return the fruits of their labor are lacking. There is no satisfaction or accomplishment. There is no promotion or a “way to go champ”. They do not “Go All In.” 

The technician that just barely beats book time. The builder that cuts corners but gets lucky. The customer service rep that plays on their phone in between calls instead of getting other work done or taking the opportunity to learn something.  We see you. We know that it is only a matter of time before you quit or we ask you to leave. 

What can we do when we identify a teammate that is just skating by?

  1. Call it as you see it: As a leader, or a peer, if you see someone disengaged, confront the issue. Do not let them sit silently and continue to let them be only part of the team. Ask for more.  
  2. Give them a reason: Sometimes the people that seem to be distant just need a reason to shine. Ask for input. Question why they aren’t giving it their all.  Be there and let them know that you want them to want it. 
  3. Lead by example: You can not set the bar if your behavior exhibits the opposite of what you want others to do. Your work may be different and less measurable but your impact can be felt in your actions. Be available, be consistent and be reliable as a resource and a partner. 
  4. Let them sink: You have reached out multiple times. You have provided the tools to succeed. You have given them the chance to be the hero and yet they continue to bury themselves in disinterest and dissociation. It is not your job to save everyone. But sometimes it is your job to say goodbye. When there is nothing worth saving, let it go. 

Always reach for the stars. Put in 10x’s more than hope to get out. Your happiness is not based on what you get, but rather what you are willing to give. Sometimes there is an element of luck yet most often what you give is what is what you get. 

On that note, I have a date with Jim. 

Payday is great. But that deposit that hits my account weekly isn’t the only reason why I work where I work. I need security and appreciation. I need an environment that promotes growth and nurtures my natural talents. I need to feel like part of a team and I need to know that my voice will be heard. Lucky for me, I get all that and a paycheck. 

A giant part of ETE is our culture. I may have mentioned that a time or two, but it never gets old for me. Transmissions aren’t sexy. Transfer cases don’t get the blood flowing. The building of the product is pretty much what you would expect from any successful company in the manufacturing industry (well maybe a little better). We aren’t a culture of drivetrain, we are a culture of the people. It’s what goes into those builds and the sales and support processes that make our company different. It’s our culture, from the top down, that fulfills my needs. Sure, I could snag a new gig almost anywhere, but I would feel empty and unconnected. 

What happens when you have empty and unconnected employees? What do you get when your team feels like they are nothing but numbers? What happens when your people aren’t invested in anything more than that deposit hitting their account? 

You cultivate an anti-culture. You have a group of clock-punchers. People that are only concerned with what directly benefits them. There is no buy-in to get better. No collaborations on improving the process. No stake in the game. You might have a group of people that get the job done but they aren’t happy, they will walk the second they get a better offer. They are dating you, not married to you. 

I have been there, I have been that worker bee that came in, did my job and left exactly as the clock struck five. I walked in daily to glum faces that barely muttered a “hello”. The boss said nothing. All that I knew about these people, except for random pictures that hung in sparsely decorated cubicles were their names. Some, not even that. If I didn’t work side by side with you, you were a stranger in the halls. I had no connection, allegiance, or commitment to this job. I went on maternity leave and never came back. 

How do you create a bond strong enough that your employees would easily promise, “till death do us part?”

  1. Invest In Them: And they will be invested in your company. Provide opportunities for employee growth. Acknowledge not just weaknesses, but also strengths. Don’t just say you care about your employees, show them by taking time to know what is important to them and then doing something about it. 
  2. Connect: Get to know your people. Know what interests they have. Hobbies? Pets? Even their favorite color. Know what makes them tick. You do not have to be best friends or an on call therapist but show enough interest to make them know you see them as more than a drone. 
  3. Do Not Assume That Silence Means Satisfaction: The quiet employee that never has anything to say. They love their job, they would love to stay late and to help solve the next big issue, right? Most likely wrong. Maintain communication with your teams. Ask how they feel in regards to their role. Whether it be weekly or monthly make sure you stay in tune and up to date. Even if they voice that they are unhappy and looking elsewhere it’s not a total loss. You have the opportunity to prepare for their departure, get some candidates in the hopper. Or better yet, if you value them as a team member,  DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. 
  4. Celebrate: The team that plays together, stays together. Holiday themed potlucks, special events, public recognition. Little things go a long way to bring your team together. It’s more difficult to be miserable and move on when you are surrounded by friends. 

By creating an environment that breeds friendship, communication, and connections, you won’t only have long term employees. You will have happy ones. 

As I write I realize it’s only Monday, I suppose I’ll wait til that deposit hits. Mama needs a new pair of shoes.

Each time we engage in a culture fit interview the question gets asked, “Well now that we know a lot about you, what questions do you have for us”? Often, the candidate asks us in one way or another what our favorite part about working for ETE is. While I have many reasons, my answer is always, “I am allowed to be me.” Sure I have to be a little less myself sometimes, I know how to put on my professional pants, but I’m still all me, just a temporarily modified me. I am quirky, loud, slightly unconventional and maybe even a tad bit bonkers. Not only is all that accepted, it’s embraced. I am Sari, and this is who Sari is. 

We foster an environment that promotes self expression and we do not judge a person for who they are. You can be quiet, you can be funny, you can even be a smidge odd. But as long as you live by and believe in our core values and our culture, you are one of us. 

If you toured the maze of cubes taking up the second floor of our building it is likely that you feel like you already knew some of our people simply based on the items that adorn their walls and shelves. Seth, he’s a golf guy, the mini putting green gives him away. Andy digs drift racing, as is apparent from the rows and rows of badges. Ashley and her ducks, there’s nothing more to say about that, it’s obvious. And me, my space is a mixture of my kids, Disney and a giant Christmas pig I haven’t had the heart to put away yet. It generally looks like a tornado tore through it and dropped a house on a wicked old witch. I was hoping the munchkins would come out, until I realized I am the munchkin. Suppose I should step up my singing game. 

I have suffered through jobs where I had to walk the walk and talk the talk. My lines might as well have been scripted. I was told how to sit, and even how to sneeze. Let me make it clear that I have no issue playing by the rules. My problem lies when I am forced to be fake.    Our people need to be able to express themselves and be accepted for who they are – especially if we expect them to feel fulfilled, have longevity and become one with our culture. 

What can you do to encourage self-expression in your workplace? Here’s how we do it:

  1. Create a safe place for expression: Don’t knock what you haven’t tried. I could make fun of Seth for being a golf fanatic. He probably wouldn’t put away the putter but my opinion could have a negative effect on our working relationship. Let your people sing out loud if that’s what makes them them. 
  2. Be Exclusively Inclusive: Allow experiences for people with common interests. If there is a vegan club, let there be a meat club. Cheese Club. Mmmmm Pickle Club. By allowing our team members to engage with others with the same palette, they have a collective way to express their likes and build relationships. And just because Eric doesnt love pickles doesn’t mean he can’t join the group, he just can’t judge us.  
  3. Be a No Judgement Zone: You don’t like tattoos, don’t look. You don’t like buckets of candy, don’t eat it. You don’t agree that a Christmas pig is still on display in February, stay out of my cube. Allow people the right to be themselves and express it without demeaning them in front of or behind them. 

ETE is one team made up of hundreds of people. We have had different experiences. Lived different lives. Believe in and practice different things. But we are all ETE and that’s what makes us one.