Change IS Good!

I started this last night on my way home from a managerment meeting in Atlanta. I didn’t give much thought to how well the auto-save function on The WordPress would work at 35,000 feet.

It didn’t.  Hardly the first time in my life I’ve had to start anew.  In reality, though, I’ve been kicking this post around in my head for the last ten days, thinking of clever things and feeling the fingers start to tingle for the feel of the keyboard as my thoughts hiccup through them into the blogosphere.

But I couldn’t get the timing right to start.  It was always time to head to the bar and recap the days events.  Or stay at the bar because someone else just arrived.  So, I commit to remember those pithy thoughts for later.

We all know how infamously bad my memory is…talk about starting anew.

That’s kind of what this post is about.

I started a new job a while back.  This is week four.  Weeks one and two were kind of a holding pattern until week three, which was conference.  Those first two weeks gave me some good context for the information presented at conference last week, so the timing couldn’t have been better.  Here I am at the beginning of week four, heading to work to start putting what I learned into action.

Hopefully, I can ramble my way through this piecemeal on Max during my morning and evening commute by the end of this week so that what I create is kind of a look back at my first month.

Is one month too early for a retrospective?


<deep breath, crack knuckles>

Here we go!

The last words the owner of Green Zebra Grocery said to me were, “I guess it just wasn’t a good fit” as we stood on the sidewalk outside the corporate offices on North Lombard.

My last words to her were a little less canned drivel and a little more representative of the Montessori management style at her little upstart.

“You need to surround yourself with winners” – I said they were a little less canned – “this company looks great on paper.  The values are amazing.”  

Why these types of mission defining statements all seem to take bullet point form is mind boggling to me.  That there generally seems to be ten of these bullets is less so.  That the employees working in that organization tend to pick and choose which of those typically-ten-values they embody as conveniently as Catholics choose their commandments isn’t surprising at all.  But it was the reason we were standing on the sidewalk that day while Lisa made yet one more damaging bad decision on behalf of her nascent business empire.

Of course, I felt compelled to make a helpful observation.

I’m a giver.

“That you’re letting your poor performers hide behind a specific value or two as a shield against performance management is costing you money.  You can’t afford that.  Your truly valuable employees will do their damned best to live all ten of the values you had in mind when you started this business.  The ones who can’t or won’t do the same are gonna drive your good employees away.  You can’t let them go over your store managers head in order to get out of contributing equally to the overall effort – and that’s just what’s happening.”

Three times in six months.So, there I was…unemployed again.

I considered that maybe I was too much of a retail dinosaur to work with millennials.  They – as a group – are proving to be amazingly resilient to the rewards of an honest day of work.  You find a few that know how to contribute; showing a little initiative and self-starting.  By and large, I find a lot of them are better equipped to self stop.

I had a chunk of savings from the sale of my Seattle condo that I had been using to offset yet another comparably meager start up salary. I decided to put that to work and get back into day trading, testing out a trial retirement.  I gave myself until the end of the year to pull the trigger on not working.  I set a goal of making $5k a month with day trading for proof of success.

Day drinking ensued.

I was a little surprising that I wasn’t more disciplined.

But really, I was!

I was waking up with the markets when I had active trades.  Then I’d go to coffee and the gym with The Fox.

I’d write a bit.  Blogs abounded during this so called test retirement.  I knew from prior employment gaps that I needed hobbies to occupy myself.  But here I was, exploiting my enjoyment of what might be the worlds smallest coffee klatch, working out and writing…along with some healthy Netflix binging, and I still had time to hit the bar by pre-happy hour.

My initial trades were successful and I cleared my first month’s financial goal in three weeks.  I lather/rinse/repeated my successful stocks when they retraced, buying again when they went low and setting sell targets so I could start sleeping in past 6:00.

Which had the added benefit of extending my bed time.

And drinking time.

Admittedly, I am a fairly undisciplined person.  In case you didn’t notice my earlier confession.

During my second month off, two things happened:

First, the stock market began hitting some fairly significant political waves.  I found myself loading up my portfolio with more of my favorite stocks as they went lower and lower.  Which had the added benefit of me losing money.  

On paper, at least.

See, here’s the problem with sleeping past market opening and not lurking on my E*Trade app all day: I miss opportunities to sell if my stocks begin to lose value.  I’m too stubborn to do that anyway.  By week three of the month, I’m sitting on three months of overhead…if my stocks rebounded to the same highs of the previous month.

I’m busy telling myself that I’m going to have to either learn patience for these longer plays or really surf the market waves as a day trader.  I prefer a bit more of a leisurely approach that trading -hell, to living – soi was hoping to learn patience.

Old dogs, right?

During those days of self-reflection, the second interesting thing happened.  A former colleague IMed me on The Facebook to ask if I was interested in an opportunity with her husband’s (also a former colleague) company.

This would actually be my second attempt with this company – an airport retailer.  I had applied for another opening they had about four or five years ago.  It was in Spokane, though, so I was a little less excited about it than the current opening at PDX.  This position was a new role, supporting the HR needs of all five of their locations at PDX.  

I met with my potential new boss and he told me that it was a lot like the previous work experience we shared: always too much to do and not enough staff to do it, but…he generally worked less than 50 hours a week.  He called it retail heaven and told me just to hang on til after the first of the year so we could get the machine firing on all cylinders again as I came on board and provided the extra management presence needed.

I got the job!

And, I had always wanted to work at PDX, so this was a huge bonus…even though my first day was inventory.  My boss kept apologizing, but I told him that if you work in retail long enough, you either start a job at Christmas or inventory.

I rolled with it, just as promised.  I didn’t even mention the blister I’d developed by that Friday.  Still, I got an insight into the frustration my boss and the existing assistant GM – as well as everyone else on staff – had been existing in for the last year.  Or eight months.  Or three or four years.  It all depended on the day and individual, but I didn’t think Amy of it was hyperbole.

During week two, I began double-socking it.  Also, I actually began to feel like I was in the groove, if only because there was so many areas where I could make an impact.  There were days where all I seemed to do was hang shirts, but I didn’t mind.  One day I busted through seven entire pallets of freight, I didn’t mind at all.  The stockroom is too small for all of the clothing stock the stores need to support sales, so most of it stays on pallets and gets pulled into our glamorous basement hallway at the start of each day.  I think our stockroom holding area can store eight pallets overnight.  The rest has to chill in the hallway.  It’s not ideal, but hardly a perfect system.  I’ve gotten to the point where I walked out and there were only three pallets left out in the dark overnight.  Any day that it’s single digits feels like a win.  I walked 40 miles at work that second week, which was essentially a pant size.  I was sweating through my clothes daily.  Seriously, I’d go to pay for a purchase and the cash in my pocket was wet.

Well, moist.

Fatty Xtopher needed that.  My trades also rebounded, ca-ching!

Week three was conference week.  Well, I left Wednesday and returned the following Monday.  The Sunday before I left, I spent some time on my first HR training task:  scheduling.  The lead who had been scheduling before my position was approved was easier to begin my training so she could hand off to me.  I felt like I had enough context going into conference that I had context for what I learned there.

It’s 5:30 in the morning on Friday and I’m waiting for the train to the airport.  It’s my one month-aversary.  I’ve got two commutes to wrap this up…I sure hope I can tap out the rest of my ramble by then!

Happily, I’ve been able to either ask or observe what some key people need from me as a new resource for them over this last week.  I feel like being a good manager means providing good service to my internal customers.  The answers were universally:  PEOPLE.  Which I definitely get.  I did get a little flack, though, for declining to reach out to a couple of applicants who’s resumes were simply gibberish.  The management team had been hiring heartbeats before I arrived.  They couldn’t afford to not.  I’ve been warned that I will have to learn to throw everything I learned about hiring in my career away and set the bar at “If they show up for the interview, they’re hired”.  I can’t do that.  At least not yet.  But my take on it is that if I hire people who suck at their job, then I suck at mine.

Time will tell.

But, the team seems fairly stable right now, regardless of the opportunities.  I think that gives me some luxury to attempt to find some solid team mates for them versus hiring someone that will only make things worse for them by not showing up or not pulling their own weight.

Of the resumes I’ve been given – this company moves slowly with its system permissions process, so I don’t have access to the applicant pool myself yet – I did manage to contact three of the five.  

Today will be an interview day!

The other responses I got to asking how I could be a good partner ranged from “Staff Coffee”, which seems easy enough, to an observation I’ve made.  That observation being that I need to help pull my co-workers out of the moment they’ve been mentally stuck in for the last year.  

Or eight months.

Or three or four years.

Almost literally everyone is stuck in crisis mode, hyperventilating through their day.  Or they’re the reason everyone else is.

I look at situations as you’re part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.

So getting my team out of that moment where they start to make better decisions about what priorities they achieve will help ease that frantic feeling that makes up a significant part of collective morale. I’m eager to do it.

I’m excited to do it!

But I’m also excited to be back from conference because all I seemed to do there was sit and eat and drink.  I think I gave back some of that pant size I’d lost last week.  But I’m back in the groove and walking my gut off.  Since I’ve no ass to speak of…

I bet you read the title of this blog and thought it would be political, dincha?



Change IS Good!

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