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?
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?
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?”
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:
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.