What does a metronome have to do with management?
A couple of weeks ago I received the results of the employee opinion survey. It’s hard to stomach reading about your failings as a leader, but if one can manage to set the ego aside, it can prove to be quite useful to find some improvement opportunities. The answer isn’t always what is obvious, but with some deeper analysis often some useful nuggets can be unearthed.
In my case, I was able to trace back a few key issues to a simple and common problem — communication. Specifically, my team felt that the information did not flow consistently and a couple of key topics. After having the sort of year we had, with the lack of a leader for over half of 2010, it wasn’t really a big surprise that I saw that feedback.
To respond to it, I have adopted the theme of rhythm. Rhythm is defined as the uniform or recurrence of a beat, accent or the like. In this context, I am applying rhythm by making sure that regular communication meetings, employee 1:1 meetings among others are prioritized and carried out. People tend to appreciate a level of structure that they can count on. It is kind of like a metronome is used by a musician. Even if they choose to complain about more meetings, they actually do want those frequent touch points. I also used to complain when a metronome was brought out when practicing piano!
This seems obvious, maybe, but the ability to respond, adapt and sustain new leadership habits is another example of a Big Play. So far, so good for me after making this choice. The feedback has been positive, and it has done a lot to help me reconnect with my team.
Here’s another story from Dad from the mid 1950′s:
Another story was when we were playing Cannon Falls at Cannon Falls. They didn’t have grass on the infield and the field was actually on hard, dry clay. Our pitcher had three speeds. Slow, slower and slower yet. We had just gotten new uniforms and we were pretty cocky. Cannon Falls had a first baseman that was about 6’5″ and 250 pounds. He was a farm kid wearing bib overalls. I was playing third base. He teed off on a slower yet fastball and hit me right in the chest. Knocked me back about 5 feet. I managed to
finish the game but I was really sore.
My dad and I have been having fun sharing stories from our experiences with baseball. Last September we got the opportunity to share a Twins game at Target Field, and as a result this conversation started.
My Dad and I at Target Field
Now, Dad is starting to write these stories down, which will be a lot of fun in the weeks and months to come.
The following account came from my Dad, from the mid to late 1950′s. I have heard many of his stories over the years, but I have not heard this one.
I was playing town team baseball for the Northfield
Knights. Our motto was “Once a king always a king and once a night is enough”. We were playing the Miesville Mudhens at Miesville.
Miesville circa 2008
They didn’t have a fence around the outfield, only a drainage ditch. The Miesville batter hit one into deep right field. Our right fielder at that time was Larry. He went wayyyy back after the high fly and ended up in the ditch that happened to be full of cow manure. Needless to say he was not a happy camper. There was no running water at the field so he stunk up the place for the rest of the game.
- Food for the Body and Soul
A couple of weeks ago, I finished off my involvement with Shannon Park Lego League by hosting the Showcase that had been previously postponed by weather. That night, I chose to have a steak dinner (a bone-in ribeye steak, please). Yes, I was hungry, but my soul needed it more than anything to mark the closure of this commitment I made a few years ago. I think the mind is a lot the same. It needs to be fed from time to time to keep it sharp.
Last night, I started a Mini-Masters course on Marketing Management at the University of St. Thomas. A few months ago, I decided to enter this course as a way to broaden my capabilities beyond the technical, leadership and management work I do today. In essence, it will provide some brain food. A healthy thing, I think.
As I sat through the 3 hour lecture from the professor, I feel like I may have stumbled onto potentially several other opportunities for me to make Big Plays in my life. I see opportunities immediately to apply the knowledge I am gaining to my current job, but also it got me wondering if there is a new Big Play I haven’t even though of yet? Is it a start of a new direction, or a new way to contribute within my current responsibilities? Only time will tell, but my eyes, ears, heart and mind are open to the possibilities ahead.
My daughter Emily asked me tonight about what music meant to me in my life, so I decided to answer with a blog post. Music has been an important part of my life since my early years. My mother and father were both singers in high school, and my siblings and I were encouraged to pursue multiple musical endeavors. I played in the orchestra until I was 15, sang in a choir until my second year of college, and continued in my adult life by singing in various church groups. I even took guitar lessons for a few years a while ago. Music was always fun to me. It continues to provide me with an important diversion from everyday life.
Probably the biggest event in my musical journey came in 2001. I was singing in the choir at my church, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota and we received an invitation in 2000 to join North Central College and another Twin Cities church to perform a concert in New York City at Carnegie Hall. It would be both an opportunity musically, but also a fun time to see New York City with some of my friends.
- Backstage at Carnegie Hall May 2001
The preparation musically was challenging. We held extra rehearsals to work out the difficult pieces we were planning to perform. It was much more involved than what we normally performed on Sunday mornings. After a few months of hard work we were ready to board the plane and head to New York.
The day after we arrived, the pre-show rehearsals to fine tune the music began. These were very focused rehearsals where the director of this mass choir nit-picked details until we sounded just the way he wanted. In between the rehearsals, there was plenty of time to see sights around town. Given that we were visiting before 9/11, we saw the Twin Towers and some of my choir mates actually went there. I think I held the lead amongst my friends for the most celebrity sightings, with the highlight being Regis Philbin, who I saw just outside ABC studios.
The day of the performance was very busy. That morning we were bussed from the hotel to Carnegie Hall for a rehearsal with the orchestra for the first time. I remember walking out on the stage and pausing for several seconds thinking, “Wow! I’m on the stage at Carnegie Hall!” The rehearsal went pretty well, but I remember the concertmaster firing one of the orchestra members because we saw a replacement later at the performance.
The performance itself was a moment I will never forget. The acoustics were amazing, and the performance went so quickly. All the hard work paid off as we all felt that it went very well. Probably more importantly, the sharing of this experience with some great friends was life changing. I hope the opportunity comes around again, but if it never does, I will be more than happy remembering the trip to New York City.
Jacob and Sadie - January 26th, 2011
After losing our dear Margo on Monday, I think all of us were looking for something positive to break out of our funk. So, Tuesday night we adopted a new kitty named Sadie to fill that void. Sadie is a five-month old Calico who we adopted at the Steele County Humane Society.
Our existing cat, Lilly, is starting to accept Sadie. Most of the first week included a lot of hissing and growling, but the cats are getting along. The humans in the home are also getting used to a new kitten in the house. Sadie has some new moves and a lot of energy.
My favorite part so far is how Sadie comes to greet me when I come home from work. She really wants to be picked up and upon doing that immediately starts to purr.
All in all, Sadie’s arrival was a big bright spot in a week that started out so sadly. Welcome home, Sadie!