This week someone asked me how I would characterize myself. What a question!?! Not something that you ask a person like me lightly. What it caused me to do was to reflect on what is now almost a 39 year old life, a 17 year career, an almost 13 year marriage and the last 5 years as a mother.
Is it possible to characterize what I am known for with a phrase or a statement? I wonder if it can be that simple. How can I package this life I have lived into a statement without being trite or oversimplifying the wonderful complexity that has been my life. After a few moments of skepticism and frustration, it came to me.
I am a builder.
A builder of things: kiddos, relationships (including the longest, best one with Jon), teams, businesses, marketing programs, friendships and most recently a house. You name it, I like building it. One of the profound things you realize when you are building a house is that through a series of micro-choices (the floor plan, the materials selection, the fixtures, the lighting) a house is formed. It is amazing how relevant this is to life!! A series of small (and some big choices) help to create the life that you want. Sometimes those choices feel big – like whether to have kids – and sometimes they feel small – like getting out of bed to go to the gym in the morning. Either way, they help to determine who you are as a person.
So, as a builder, what is the next thing that I will build? Our house wraps up this summer, my team at work is in great shape, my kids appear to be normal, well-adjusted, kind little beings (at least most of the time), and Jon and I have met a number of the goals that we set out to accomplish. Enter the problem! I can’t seem to sit in this new so-called house (otherwise known as my life) that I have buit, and enjoy things. I am always on the look out for the next thing to build…something to harness my creativtity and the perspective I have learned from all of the other building projects I have completed.
This creates mental disonance. A feeling like I am not living in the moment, but instead, always looking toward the next project. This evening, as I sit contemplating that next project, I have decided instead of being frustrated by being a builder, I will embrace my pursuit of the next thing. It is just a matter of picking it wisely.
I am 38 years old with two adorable kids and a wonderful husband. 2 working parents with travel schedules, building a new house, trying to be involved in our community, and trying to be great parents. Living life in a place I love, with the people that I love. Pretty much the luckiest woman around. You could also read this as overly busy but trying to have it all.
For the last few weeks, as I have been working on planning for my husbands 40th birthday which is coming this fall, I have been coming to grips with how short life seems. I know that this may sound melodramatic. What hit me in talking with Jon about turning 40, is that mathmatically, given the average life expectancy, we are about half way through our life (or a little past that). This can either scare me or make me celebrate what lies ahead. What it actually has caused me to do, as I start thinking about it, is to wonder if it is true. We have a number of family friends or relatives that are dealing with serious cancer, and I have a coworker who is 48 who has recently been diagnosed with Stage 2 ovarian cancer. All of it is shocking, and sad. In particular those who are so young, and haven’t lived the life that they have claimed to have wanted. It is a morbid thought, but my worry-meter has been rising. This worry was capped off this week when I attended the “Go Red for Women” luncheon hosted by the American Heart Association. One of the speakers was a 38 year old mother of two boys who had a major heart incident at the age of 31. Yikes! A little too close to home.
But, the worst thing I can do is to worry. Worry fills my head and my time with ideas and thoughts that have no fruit. So yesterday, as I sat writing this at the salon while getting my nails done during “girls day out” with my lovely Katharine, I have a renewed commitment to enjoying the moments of my life (even the stressful and busy ones). A commitment to making choices in my life and our families life (our food, our exercise, our habits) that create a long healthy life together. And, a commitment to make what I hope is a longer second half of my life even better than the first.
We may be coming close to a major milestone in the Snavely household. Matthew has decided that he is okay with the potty. He has been working hard at potty training for the last few weeks and wearing undies to school every day. We are down to diapers for naps, overnight and of course skiing, with only a handful of accidents each week. After a long five year run, the most hated baby accessory in our house, the diaper genie, may finally be able to be sent to the dumpster.
One of the things that I forgot about with potty training is the absolute celebration that we have begun to have over pee pee or poo poo. I came home from work yesterday, and our babysitter was cheering Matthew on in the powder room, “You can do it Matthew! Keep going! You can put your poo poo in the potty.” I proceeded to go running down the hall, adding to the cheering, “You’ve got it buddy!” He takes it seriously, as obvious by the need to bring his camelback to the party.
What a difference 10 years makes. 10 years ago this month, Jon and I were celebrating our move to Utah and the purchase of our first home. We were excited by finally moving to Park City, and taking on the life we wanted, where we wanted it. Today, I find myself celebrating bodily functions with an almost three year old…Strangely, more excited than I was when we bought that first house. Loving the reminiscing about all of the cuddly baby moments and the diapered toddler moments as we move into the next phase of life.
What does it take to become a great place to work? Over my career, I have worked at some amazing companies. Each place taught me something about what makes a company great (or not so great). But, where I have learned the most about being a great place to work is at my current company, CHG Healthcare Services. This week is one of my favorites every year. We celebrated our sixth consecutive year on Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, ringing it in at #16 for the second year in a row with the last four years in the top twenty. Although this award isn’t why we focus on building a great place to work, it is certainly an accolade we are proud of achieving. So, what have I learned in my close to five years at CHG about creating a great place to work?
1. Trust is at the core of cultural success. In fact, Fortune’s evaluation to achieve a spot on their Best Companies list requires that you have a culture of trust (as measured by an employee survey) that measures “management credibility, the respect with which employees feel like they are treated, and the extent to which employees expect to be treated fairly.” Take aside the theory on this…my personal experience aligns with this. An environment that is steeped in trust accelerates the degree to which people want the organization to succeed and thus drives their contributions. Plus, it is just a better place to spend your days.
2. Transparency and vulnerability builds trust. In order to achieve this level of trust, employees and leaders must be transparent with each other as to both the current reality of the business as well as our individual engagement in the organization’s cause. Some of my most powerful moments as a leader have been moments when I share the real person I am with my team, or when I share explicitly that I don’t know the answer to the problem or issue at hand. Through these moments, my team realizes that it is both okay to be who they are, as well as to admit when they don’t know the answer. By doing this, we resolve the challenges faster and to come up with better solutions than any of us could ever do on our own.
3. Accountability builds trust. As with all businesses, at CHG, we are aiming to grow our company’s bottom line results. Sometimes, I read about companies building a great culture through adding high-end benefits, sabbatical programs, super cool workout facilities, etc. Although all of these are great, and do with certainty make a work environment better, they aren’t by any means the only thing that makes a great culture. Delivering on the results we set out to achieve, through personal and team accountability, creates wins for the organization and for individuals. If we are accountable and deliver what we say we will deliver, we build a culture of trust.
4. We need to have fun, and be proud of what we do. Work is work, but the more my team members and others around me at CHG can enjoy what they do, the people that we do it with, and be proud of the work that we do, the better our culture becomes. In order to be proud of what you do, it may take something different for every single person within the company. As individuals, we need to find our way to be proud and make it happen.
5. Building a great place to work never stops. I think that one of the biggest mistakes that people make when working to build a great culture is that they see it as a project or an initiative as versus a sustainable organizational commitment. There is no big bang, no silver bullet to building a great culture. Instead, it is a series of steps, both small and large, that get harder the better you get.
Maybe it is a pet-peeve, but one of the things that bugs me the most at work is the misuse of the word strategy. As per Merriam-Websters, the short definition of strategy is a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time. In my experience, people in a business setting throw this word around in ways that isn’t helpful. The misuse of the term drives confusion within their working team. Here are five of the ways I heard this week alone, where strategy was used in a way that wasn’t what the person speaking intended.
1. “You need to be more strategic.” This week I heard one of my managers give this feedback about their direct report. Having been on both sides of this conversation, I find this one of the most confusing pieces of feedback that you can give an individual. To have a skill in strategy, my perspective is that it means you can develop and execute plans that aid the achievement of your long-term goals. This leader didn’t mean that, although that may have been valide feedback as well. What they truly meant was, this person doesn’t think big picture and thus the work that they are doing isn’t aligned with our strategy. Be confusing the words, how is the individual on the other side of the feedback expected to know what to work on to improve the skill?
2. “We need a strategy.” This week at work, I heard this phrase used in a way that wasn’t clear. I hear this as “we need a careful plan to achieve our goal.” The problem is that the individual wasn’t talking about the plan, they were talking about the goal or the objective. If you mean, “we need a goal” then say it. If you ask for a strategy, you are asking for a plan to get the goal accomplished.
3. “That is not strategically aligned.” I love this statement as long as it is used with accuracy. It truly helps an organization stay focused on the plan that they have created to achieve their goals. That said, I heard someone use this during this week at work when what they were really intending to say was, “I am not aligned with our strategic plan.” A small difference in words, but if they would have said this instead we could have more easily discussed and resolved that problem.
4. “We need to be more strategic and less tactical.” If you look up the word strategic in Merriam-Webster, a synonym is tactical. All of these words come from military history. Tactics are specific steps taken to achieve a military strategy. Usually when people use this phrase in business, they mean that the broader plan isn’t clear but we are executing a lot of specifics. Often times, saying this is an attempt to pull a team out of the specifics for a moment in order to reasses the broader plan to ensure that it is the right plan to meet the goals of the organization.
5. “Our goals need to be more strategic.” Goals or objectives are where you are aiming. By definition, goals cannot be strategic, as the strategy is the plan it takes to achieve these goals. Often times when someone says this phrase, what they are truly saying is that they don’t believe that the current goals are the right goals for the organization. If that is what you mean, just say it.
None of these ways of using the word strategy or strategic are bad, as long as when said, it is what you truly mean. Let’s not use the word to cover up what we truly mean and our organizations will continue to be more productive than they are without effective clarity.