I passed my one-month mark in my new role and I am loving the challenge. Not everything is sunshine and butterflies, but the good outweighs the challenges. I have had some awesome experiences in my first month and many of them were a result of proactive things I’ve tried to get indoctrinated quickly, both at work and in my personal life. I want to share them, hoping the ideas may help you too, even if you are not brand new to your job.
- Go to Lunch – It is easy to work right through lunch when you’re busy and especially when you are new and feel like you’re drinking from the fire hose of information. I admit I have eaten at my desk many days over the last month. However, I’ve made a commitment to take one person to lunch from the team each week. I have gained many insights from these lunches including getting to know each person better, learning about things to do around the area and trying new eateries in Rocky Mount. During these lunches I have also received tours of town, learning about the history of the area and the local hot spots. One of my favorite lunches so far was with someone who packed a picnic lunch and we went to a nearby park with a pond to dine in the shade while chatting and watching a great blue heron. It was creative, engaging and memorable! Taking time out of your day to get out of the office and change the scenery is good for us mentally and allows us to be even more productive when we return.
- Get to Know the Full Team – There is value in knowing people throughout an organization, not just the people who you work with in your area on a daily basis. This concept is even more important for me in a General Manager role. In an effort to get to know the production team better I get out on the production floor at least once a day. I am still working on learning everyone’s names but I’m getting making progress. I ask about their families and what they are doing on the weekends. It was awkward at first but now I feel welcomed and often people wave me over to share something or ask me a question. Even if you are not the General Manager, there is value in getting to know people across your organization and for me, it brings a stronger sense of comradery.
- Search for Skeletons – Often we are afraid to dig for the skeletons in the closet because once we let them out, you can’t put them back in. In my approach over the last month I’ve done the complete opposite. I went looking for skeletons. I decided to conduct a qualitative study with our production and warehouse employees to understand our biggest challenges. I grabbed a clipboard, notepad and metal detectable pen (of course!) and headed to the production floor over four different days to survey the team with one question. If you were in the General Manager position, what one thing would you change about our company? I received all kinds of answers but there were strong themes that I heard repeatedly. The information I gathered during the survey will serve as my prioritization guide for changes we need to implement in the coming months. It’s important to remember that we as leaders don’t have to have all the answers, just ask the team closest to the problem and help make solutions happen!
- Take Risks – When I conducted the survey with our team, the top answer was that we work too many hours, and they want more work life balance. Upon my arrival, two mandatory and two voluntary Saturdays were being worked each month in addition to ten hour shifts Monday through Friday. Within the past year the company had even worked seven days a week at one point so this was in improvement but still exhausting for our team. Reducing the total number of hours of line time is a risk because we still have customer orders to get out the door and there are significant labor issues in the market right now so filling more positions to make up for that is not an easy task. However, after discussion with our leadership, we decided to take a risk and announce to the team that we would not work any mandatory Saturdays in September. The theory is that if our team members are happier with reduced hours and the option to have the weekends off, they will remain engaged and stay with us longer. I also believe that we will see more people sign up for the voluntary shifts because we don’t run every weekend. This has already proved to be true this last weekend when we saw more voluntary sign ups than in the past and were able to run more lines as well. This risk is still yet to play out but I’m feeling very good about it already and I strongly feel like it is the right thing to do to shift our culture.
- Use your Network – In this new role I’m responsible for all departments. We are a smaller company than any other I’ve been with and we have a great team. There have been a couple areas of our business that I want to bring new approaches that I’ve seen in past companies but I don’t necessarily have the expertise needed to know how to do it on my own. I have reached out to several people in my network for help and they have been awesome in sharing ideas, watchouts and free resources. If you don’t know how to do something, reach out to the people you’ve met in the past for the answers. I found that each person was happy to hear from me, how I’m doing and offer up more than I asked for. Lean into your network to move fast!
- Explore Your New Location – This move required a large relocation and we have started to explore our new locale. Before Jake and the kids arrived permanently, I went out to dinner with a team member to a “foodie” place in Roanoke. If you know me well, you know I love a great meal at an independently owned restaurant with fun atmosphere, excellent service and most importantly, creative food menus. I’m also a Yelp aficionado and I’ve used it to direct us to fun new places to try. Roanoke has a solid food scene and I’m loving exploring it. We also have been to farmers markets, rented a boat on Smith Mountain Lake and visited the pinball museum and the Roanoke Star. There are lots of other experiences on our to-try list and I’m looking forward to it. I find it is important to get out in your new community to explore early on in a new place even if the job is busy in the first few months. Without that connection to your surroundings, it can feel isolating.
- Introduce Your Family to the New Job Experience – If your workplace allows, consider having your family visit your office to get a feel of what you do and meet some of your co-workers. I invited the kids to tour our plant while Jake was back in Texas for the move. Our production facility is so cool. I may be a little geeked out over it being I’m a food scientist and I love dessert. We make ready-to-sell decorated cakes, cookies and brownies for retail bakeries. One day the kids came for lunch and afterward we toured the production floor where we were running 4 different lines, all with different cake designs – rainbows, balloons, rosettes and raspberry-filled. They got to see large equipment used to mix icing and guns that shoot icing onto the base cake before being smoothed by hand. Then they moved on to meet our employees who hand decorate using techniques of bordering, crumbing and adding sprinkles. It is amazing what our employees do and because most of it is by hand, each and every cake is like a snowflake – completely unique. Following the tour, the kids got to go to the cake selection area and each pick one out to take home. Not a bad day at work!
- Strive to Resume Work-Life Balance – In the moving and relocation process, life gets messy. Time away from work is filled with packing boxes, trying to find living arrangements in the new location, eating out, driving long distances, and getting completely away from your usual routine. The first two weeks I was in Virginia I lived out of a hotel and most of that, I was alone. Now that we are in our rental house, we have been trying to re-establish routines. The kids got back into school, which is going well so far. I was able to get back to planning and making healthy meals in a full kitchen. Woo hoo! Finally, I was able to resume my much-needed workout regimen. I mention this because it is important to try to get back to a “normal” routine as quickly as possible following a transition so you can resume the work-life balance needed to bring your best self to work.
If any of these ideas have spurred others you have utilized please share them in the comments. I’m always open to new ideas. Thanks for reading!