Posts Tagged ‘Work’

resetI don’t normally think too much about my age. I’m a busy guy who loves my life and my work and the many opportunities to engage with friends, family, church, work colleagues and others every day. My health is good and I’m thankful that I can do just about whatever I choose to do when I choose to do it. While I grieve at the direction my country seems to be heading in a number of ways, I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I do not take such blessings for granted.

Nevertheless, passing my 59th birthday this past January and starting the countdown to 60 has impacted me more than I expected. More time is spent thinking about the next decade, changes I’m experiencing or want to experience to position myself to live life as I envision it being in the coming decade. Some changes are forced on me by health and aging. For example, I’ve noticed the last couple of years that my body demands a lot more sleep than before. For decades, 5-6 hours of sleep a night was adequate, but now the body wants 8+ hours a night (which I’m still not giving it, but at least I’m closer to that number than before). There are a few consistent aches and pains with feet and joints that remind me I haven’t found any magical fountain of youth. Reminders are frequent that I can’t continue indefinitely the pace I’ve kept for decades.

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about slowing down – about hitting a few reset buttons in life that signal a shift in gears or direction to something more suitable for life in my 60s. That does not mean retirement in the typical American sense of the word. I just don’t see anything biblical about ceasing to live a productive life and turning nearly hedonistic for the last few decades God gives me on this earth. That isn’t an option for me financially, anyway, but even if it was, there are too many needs around that I can do something about to sit back and live life as though I’m the center of the universe the rest of my days. (Here’s a good interview with John Piper on that subject.)

The slowing down I’m thinking of might be analogous to a road trip in a car. We started slow from our place of origin, picked up steam and cruised along for decades at a pretty high speed, only occasionally slowing down to rest. Now we are closer to our destination. Because of that, it’s time to exit the fast lane, get off the highway, take a slower ride through the remaining neighborhoods, and settle in to a new routine. It’s not the end of the road, but the end is more in view than ever before.


Current home in St. Matthews, KY

I have several reset buttons in mind that I can see myself pushing in 2016 as part of the path forward to life as I imagine it in my 60s. The first is to leave the wonderful home we’ve enjoyed for the past 28 years – the home we raised our boys in and dearly love, full of memories that will last a lifetime. We agreed in January to purchase a Victorian home in Old Louisville currently undergoing a total renovation. It should be ready in another month or so. It was built in 1900 and has stood empty and lifeless for a number of years – a blight on an otherwise wonderful block just two streets away from the church we’re so invested in. To that end, we listed our cozy Cape Cod home in St. Matthews (Louisville) and just accepted a contract to sell it a few days ago after 69 emotional days on the market. Closings won’t happen for another 1-2 months, assuming all goes well, so the limbo continues somewhat but with far more calm than before the contract.

Future home under renovation

Future home under renovation

That major reset button of being in our new home does several things. It puts us very close to my work, my wife’s work, our church, and my mother-in-law – basically where most of life happens for us on a day-to-day basis. It gives us a dream home that many may think is unwise for folks our age due to its size and three floors of stairs to climb, but which we love the idea of having for many reasons. At the top of the list (besides proximity to work and church) is the opportunity to use the home for hospitality on a regular basis with different groups, especially from the church and, we hope, the neighborhood. At some point down the road, it also gives us the ability to keep in the family many cherished items that now reside in my parents’ large, pre-Civil War home. Those pieces of furniture don’t work in a Cape Cod home like we live in now, but they work in our new home, and this gives us the chance to keep them in the family for at least one more generation.


My Parents’ home

There are two other reset buttons in view for me that deal with finances and work, but the details of both are still uncertain at this point. Time will tell whether I push them and what happens if I do. One reset button at a time is more than enough for now and the current one concerning our home will keep us occupied for the next several months.

The most important parts of life are the present and what has yet to happen. We can’t stay in the past because life just doesn’t move that direction. Regardless of one’s age, we ought to be thinking about and planning for the future, reinventing ourselves occasionally, making the most of our abilities and opportunities, adjusting as needed to the realities thrust upon us. I’m thankful for nearly 60 years of a blessed life with opportunities most people on earth don’t enjoy. My mind, though, is focusing on the decade to come and what changes I should make in the journey now to position myself to be where I should be, doing what I should do, in this next important chapter. It’s exciting! I thank God for the journey and the possibilities ahead, and I trust him to work them out as he knows best.

I’m looking forward to the journey ahead.


p.s. – It’s good to get back to blogging. I’ve missed doing so for the past two months while buying & selling homes was a major distraction. A lot of thoughts have built up and need to come out. Thanks for reading.

[edited April 1, 2016]

Work Relationships

Posted: December 15, 2013 in Relationships
Tags: , ,

a recent photo from the last day of a great team before some moved on to other opportunities

I’ve had the good pleasure of working with many great people through the years. I’ve been on teams that got along well, enjoyed each other, helped each other, and befriended one another outside of work while accomplishing much for the business. Such experiences have fostered long-term relationships that carry on long after we no longer work on the same team. That is not to say that all work relationships have been stellar. As expected, there are some people I haven’t gotten along with for whatever reasons. Fortunately, those are rare exceptions.

As I think about the range of possibilities for work relationships, I see the following primary types in the workplace regularly:

  • True friendship. This is the most satisfying type of relationship for me. It is one that lasts beyond working together. It leads you to help each other, be patient, try to understand, give willingly, share openly, be honest, and to be on the receiving end of those behaviors as well. This kind of relationship doesn’t happen quickly. It doesn’t happen automatically just because you spend a lot of time together. It happens for the same reasons friendships outside of work come to pass – making connections with kindred spirits where something positive clicks between you. Having true friends at work makes collaboration easy, although there is the potential down side of letting personal feelings interfere with making the best business decisions at times. Having colleagues transform into friends makes it more difficult when the work relationship ends, but it makes the time together more enjoyable.
  • Cooperative Professionalism. This is the most frequent type of work relationship in my experience. These are not relationships that are likely to intentionally continue when one leaves the company, but they serve the company well while working together. These range from very infrequent interactions to more frequent, and they seem to be transactional more than relational. Like cogs in a wheel that do their job to keep the corporate machinery moving forward, these relationships serve their purpose for the individuals and the business, and do so in a positive, professional manner. There is no real emotional connection present or necessary in these types of relationships. Accomplishing business objectives and doing so with professional courtesy drive what happens. This is the type of relationship that is most appropriate for managers to have with their subordinates, and what is likeliest between most coworkers. While it’s certainly possible for managers and subordinates to be friends, making that work can be like walking through a minefield.
  • Adversarial. Fortunately, I’ve encountered very few of these types of relationships through 40+ years of work. These are the toxic, frustrating relationships that not only hinder getting work done, but make the process miserable at times along the way. Motivations for someone behaving in this manner are as varied as the individuals involved, but may be due to attempts to climb the corporate ladder, maintain control of some aspect of the business, competing priorities, personality clashes, perceived threats, lack of trust, or hidden motivations we may never understand. There is no good excuse for these kinds of relationships to exist, but we all know that they do.

With so much time spent at work for the majority of adults, it’s important to have good relationships along the way. If you love what you do but dread being with those with whom you must do it, then you’re not likely to hang around for the long term. What we have a right to expect from work relationships at a minimum is cooperative professionalism. We also have a right not to expect openly adversarial relationships. If we are very fortunate, though, we will end up with some genuine, meaningful, true friendships along the way.

Job ChangeDue to the unfortunate circumstance of having everyone else on my team at work except my manager and me announce their movement to other jobs in the past few weeks, I’ve had an unwanted quantity of time to think about how people transition from one role to the next. How should it be done? Specifically, how quickly should it be done? I assume transitions should be professional, respectful, with no hint of burning bridges and relationships in the process, but what about the timing of the change?

(As an aside, let me hasten to add that the three departures from my team are coincidental in their timing and don’t reflect any issues  to my knowledge that would drive them to look elsewhere. It’s mostly the result of young people advancing their careers, chasing dreams and making life decisions they deem in their best interests. They are all leaving well-loved and would be welcomed back if the opportunity arose.)

Back to the subject of the timing of a transition, how much notice should one give? How much does a company have the right to expect? When transitioning to a new role within the same company, should time be split between the two roles for a gradual transition over several weeks or even months?

When moving to a different company, there is likely no option for splitting time between the two. The person leaving must agree to a new starting date with the new company, announce the decision, do his best to wrap things up and hand them off to those left behind, and move on.

Moving to another company is normally a short, clean break of about two weeks in our culture – sometimes more, sometimes less. It’s a quick divorce that may not leave everything as tidy as those remaining behind wish, but there isn’t much that can be done about it other than for the leader of the team remaining to rally the troops, assign what needs to be done to those remaining, fill the open role as quickly as possible, and move on. I’ve known some companies with the horrid practice of actually firing people immediately when they give a two-week notice. That’s cold and just wrong. That only trains people to leave you without notice and to show no loyalty in light of the company’s lack of loyalty to them.

Extremely short notices of only days really put the team remaining in a bind. Unusual notices of many weeks or even months can cause a disruption in team dynamics, engagement and morale that ends up harming more than helping with a slow, lingering departure.

As a side note, don’t take your last days at a company to unleash all the pent up anger you may have accumulated over time about what isn’t right with the business. If you weren’t mature and professional enough to address those issues in an appropriate manner while a part of the team, then keep it to yourself on your way out. It makes you – not your company – look bad to rant while exiting, and it leaves those remaining with a mess to clean up that they don’t want or deserve.

When moving to a new role in the same company, should the change in roles be just as clean and quick as when moving to a different company, or should both teams and managers involved try to work out a gradual transition that allows more time to wrap up tasks for the old role while easing into the new one? Let’s consider some advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

If you give a typical two-week notice and have a clean break in roles:

  • + The individual is able to give full attention after the switch to the new role.
  • + The team left behind is forced to move on and get things done, hiring a replacement as soon as possible.
  • + The grieving period that comes with the separation from someone well liked is shortened.
  • – Greater pressure is placed on remaining team members to suddenly add to their workload.
  • – Some things may not get done until the team is fully staffed again.
  • – Remaining team members may feel quickly abandoned, especially if relationships were good between everyone.

If a longer transition time is allowed while splitting the person’s tasks between the two roles:

  • + More time is allowed to find a replacement.
  • + Less pressure is placed in the short term on remaining team members.
  • + The person transitioning can ease into his/her new role.
  • + More of the transitioning person’s responsibilities will get completed or documented.
  • – Long, slow goodbyes are difficult emotionally.
  • – Interest and engagement can radically decrease on the part of the one leaving, doing more harm to team morale than a quick departure.
  • – The person leaving can feel in limbo and unsettled for an unhealthy length of time.

Managers of those leaving understandably want to hang on to them for as long as possible – getting more work out of them that perhaps only they can do while documenting things for the benefit of whoever might eventually replace them. Managers who are getting someone in the transition understandably want to get all of that person’s time as soon as possible – not sharing him/her with others. It’s a tug of war in which the transitioning person is the rope. The rope never wins.

Your experience may vary from mine, and it’s possible for emotionally mature adults to go either of the above routes successfully, but each is not without its advantages and disadvantages. Given the above concerns and my recent experience with departing and incoming team members, I’m currently in favor of a short, clean break when transitioning between roles in the same company. Make a decision and move on. Don’t jeopardize the engagement and morale of the remaining team by having others around who don’t want to be there any more. Don’t play with the emotions and loyalties of the transitioning employee by tugging him/her in two directions for an extended period. Let the change happen and let everyone start fresh with their new circumstance. The team and the business will survive. Just do it.

What do you think?

I’m Thankful For My Work

Posted: November 25, 2013 in Attitude
Tags: , ,

Choose A Job You Love“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” ― Confucius

I work hard. I work long hours. I can’t remember a year in recent memory where I didn’t average more than 50 hours per week for my job. But I love what I do, and I am happy to voluntarily sit in my favorite recliner at home in the evening  – drink on one side and dog on the other – and churn out some things for work because I love doing it. I don’t mind coming in early or staying late.

Many of us spend more waking hours at work than at home. How awful would it be to not like what you do, to dread being there, or to always be wishing your circumstances were different? Fortunately, that isn’t the case with me. Sure, there are times when I get tired and need a break. There are regular frustrations that come with the territory and the aggravations of large corporate life. But those are thorns on the bouquet and not worthy of my focus.

I am thankful for my work for several reasons:

  • It is enjoyable.
  • It forces me to keep learning.
  • It is cutting edge.
  • It makes a difference to many thousands of individuals and to a Fortune 100 company.
  • I get to share my work days with wonderful colleagues.
  • I work for a company that treats me fairly, that allows me to reinvent myself every few years, and that I believe in.
  • I work for a manager and senior leadership that I respect and trust.
  • My company offers constant, helpful initiatives to improve the well-being of associates in the areas of health, security, purpose and belonging.

How could I not like such a circumstance? I would not have celebrated my 10th anniversary a few months ago if my work was not a very good fit for who I am, what I’m passionate about, good at, and eager to continue for the foreseeable future. I probably have another ten or so years of full-time work ahead of me. I expect to be quite content to continue doing what I’m doing for a long while to come.

Work is an honorable thing. Doing one’s best is what I expect from myself and from others. To be in a situation where doing so is both a challenge and a pleasure is a treat that not everyone is fortunate to experience, so I am grateful for my work situation every day. In a time when so many people are out of work, my appreciation is even greater.

Thank you, God, for my work.

This afternoon while browsing in the gift shop at The Abbey of Gethsemani, I saw a simple gift item with a quote that I think is profound: “You cannot plow a field by turning it over in your mind.” The message is clear: If you want to accomplish something, you have to do more than think about it. You have to act on it.

While that seems like an obvious truth, observing the behavior of some (including myself on occasion) indicates that we don’t always follow it.

On the strange side of the subject are those teachings, philosophies and trendy Oprah-pushed fads that try to get you to just visualize yourself in some other situation and then magically life is going to fall into place the way you wish. Not gonna happen.

I have nothing against positive thinking. I prefer it over the alternative. However, if I want to retire with a nest egg of a million dollars, thinking of some ideal retirement state isn’t going to do squat compared to making significant monthly contributions to sound investments over a period of many years. Imagining myself in a dream job isn’t going to substitute for working hard, developing the right skills, initiating proper connections and working my way up the ladder toward my goal. (I’m already at that one, by the way, just in case my manager is reading.) I can dream all I want about some blissful relationship with the person of my dreams, but if I never take a chance and introduce myself, there will be no relationship. (Again, just an example… I’m very happy with my wife.)

My father was raised as a farmer and still farms today at the age of 77. He knows the truth of this lesson about plowing quite literally. Most of us will have to settle for the application to our own lives in whatever context makes sense.

What do you hope and dream for? What do you want to come to pass more than anything else?

What are you doing about it… today?

Leap year lesson #86 is You cannot plow a field by turning it over in your mind.