Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Fine Art of Decision Making

Not typically one to watch a chick flick unless somehow forced, I do have a handful of favorites. One of these is Beautiful Girls. It follows the lives of a handful of late-20s gentlemen as they try to figure out women and what it is they want with them exactly.

One of the gentlemen has been recently shit-canned by his girlfriend of seven years because he doesn't want to get married. After a few weeks, he finds out she, a vegetarian, is dating a meat-cutter. Clearly, this is just the kick in the ass he needs and he runs out and buys her an engagement ring.

He shows up at the diner she works at with the ring in an attempt to sweep her off her feet. When this is proving unsuccessful, things begin to get heated. Ultimately he is confronted with what some women simply have to say sometimes: he only wants to marry her after faced with losing her. His response is that he didn't like the alternative and is that not how one typically arrives at a decision?

"No, Paul. One arrives at a decision based on what one wants, not based upon what one doesn't. Get it?"

And the lady walks away. For good.

That's always spoken to me, it seemed the most logical thing ever. Him not wanting to live without her IS NOT the same as wanting to marry her. Clearly, while this has the obvious literal translation in terms of relationships (Does any woman really WANT to get married as a result of an ultimatum? I know I don't, someone either wants to marry me or he doesn't. I'm sure as hell not going to make someone marry me.), I really think it applies to everything.

For example, my focus on job hunting. I've just been applying for shit. I've been putting in applications for every job I see whether qualified, over-qualified, or under-qualified. I've been individualizing every cover letter, every resume and it's making me miserable. I've been doing this because I don't want to be unemployed. What I haven't been doing is focusing on what I want.

There are the obvious things: insurance, stability. But there are other things. I have a diverse educational and work background and I want to work in something that incorporates those things. I want to work for a non-profit so I have a feeling at the end of the day as though I've done something for my community. I want to have a job for which I have spent time becoming qualified and am valued for my qualifications.

I've made a decision to narrow down only 3-5 types of jobs I want to work in and, consequently, work really hard on only 2-3 resumes/cover letters that fit what I want to do. That way I don't have the stress of changing them for all of these different jobs that I don't really want and then spending time feeling dejected because I can't even get an interview for one of them (c'mon, Michigan, get it together already!).

Another recent source of stress is the increasing sadness I feel every summer when my kids go away to their dad's for the summer. As much as parents always say "I can't imagine what my life would be like without my children," I CAN imagine, I live it and it's horrible. I get so depressed over what it will be like when my daughter is a few years older. What if she's a typical rebellious teen? What if she hates me every time I say "no." The words "I want to go live with my dad!" are so dreaded that I'm spending every day of my time away from them terrified of it.

Truth is, that's no way to live. Because that's all about what I don't want. What I really do want is to be able to look back and say, "I was a good mother. All parents make mistakes and I made plenty, but I was a good mother." On that note, I'm making a decision to call my kids every couple of days and ask them what they did that was fun since the last time we talked. I'm thinking of the things we can do to make memories when they get back. Mostly, I'm thinking of how much I can't wait to hug them again and plant dozens of tiny kisses all over their faces when I pick them up in 19 days. And that is exactly what I'm going to do.

Of course, given what I've shared about one of my favorite chick flicks, I would be remiss not to discuss my relationship. It's been a year and a half now and we aren't always on our best behavior anymore. Sometimes I think we're in a rut. I'm finding that whenever I have "I don't want it to be like this" thoughts, my actions and thoughts become even more negative. Then, I have even more of those thoughts.

What I do want is to maintain the physical intimacy that has characterized this relationship as different from others. What I do want is to look across the table at a man who has been more patient than others, a man who seems to sense that I'm throwing things out of proportion and says things like "it was an accident" when my daughter doesn't hear the timer go off and the cookies burn. I want to rub my face on his prickly whiskers for years to come.

So, instead of allowing my feelings of injury dictate my actions when he insults me one too many times in jest, I'm going to trust that he'll remember that I told him it's not funny after the first couple of jokes. When he doesn't want to have sex one night because we just did it last night and the night before and the night before, I'm going to remember that as quickly as I can turn him on when I want to, his request to go to sleep is probably related to him being tired and not related to my lumpy ass.

Because, what I really want is to greet him at the door with a hug and tell him I'm glad he's home. So that is precisely what I will do.

In the end, making decision based upon what I don't want does nothing but breed negativity.

Currently reading (upon the suggestion of my sister):

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Conflict Resolution

This is the first of many blogs I intend to post documenting my job search in Michigan. The following is my answer to a conflict resolution question that I must submit along with a job application which I won't submit for a few days yet so I can critique both this and my cover letter. Please criticize!

"Describe a time when you had to resolve a complex problem for a difficult customer. How did you approach the problem, what types of actions and resources did you utilize to resolve the problem and was the customer satisfied with the resolution."

When I was employed as an Assembly Line Supervisor, my line was selected to go through a process we called “Kaizen.” Kaizen is a Japanese word that refers to change leading to an improvement in manufacturing processes. Consequently, I was able to serve on a team of individuals with varying job titles to increase the efficiency of my assembly line while improving quality. It was an extensive process, taking about six months to finish. At its completion, I was excited to have a new, re-vamped assembly line that I had the opportunity to help build.

As part of the process, we invited our customer, Chrysler, to come and see what we had done as our old assembly line had not been without problem and we were eager to show our customer the steps we had taken to remedy those problems in the interest of maintaining our business relationship.

Three representatives from Chrysler were to evaluate our new assembly line and, as the supervisor and a participant in the process used to build the new line, I was assigned to perform the walk through.

I performed all of the necessary steps one performs when a visit of this kind is to occur. I scrubbed the assembly line from top to bottom. I taped new lines on the floor. I added new, bright colors to the hourly production board meant to stimulate the senses of my employees and show my customer we cared about what we were doing. I coached my employees on how they should act and what they should do.

My boss was there to watch my performance and I sparkled in providing my tour, right up until the last station. Our plant built side view mirrors for automobiles, both electric and manual. My line was running electric for this visit, meaning that the mirrors had a wire harness that would hook up to the car allowing the driver to press a button to move the mirror around.

The last station on the line was meant to check the integrity of the wiring. If the harness was told to move the mirror left and it moved right, an alarm would sound and red paint would be sprayed on the glass to alert the packaging station not to pack that part for delivery- it had been wired wrong.

I had asked one of my operators to mis-wire a mirror, in the presence of the Chrysler engineers, so I could show them this great, new feature on my line. The operator made a slow and careful show of mis-wiring the mirror, but when it got to the last station, the testing station, it passed with flying colors. It was as though it had announced in its most proper, British voice, “I am positively wired correctly. Please pack me up and send me to your customer!” Based on the three sets of eyes now fixed on my face, not to mention, the very red face of my boss, who was clearly blaming me for this mishap, the customer was not pleased.
I was put in a position where my boss was speechless and my customer wanted an answer. I promptly apologized and turned to my assistant, requesting that he called maintenance. I steered my customer away from my employees and over to my makeshift desk. I told them that until maintenance arrived, I couldn't tell them what had gone wrong, but that I could assure them that this was the first time this error had occurred. I opened a binder that contained all of my notes and data regarding the Kaizen process and showed them the results of all the tests we had done on my line. It became apparent that this data did not solve their concerns and that they were very upset.

Ultimately, I told them that we would not leave them without support on this issue. We would get a team together to manually re-test the parts before they left the facility for delivery and I offered to lend my support by driving to the Chrysler plant fifty minutes away and stand on the door line to take care of re-working any mirrors that had already been shipped. I did this for three days until the re-tested parts came through. Gladly, none of the mirrors were wired incorrectly and I was able to turn in a data chart that showed that every mirror I tested was error free.

In manufacturing, there will always be something that goes wrong and responding becomes nothing short of procedural. However, building relationships in business will always be important. Customers feel assured when a face they recognize and trust shows up at the door to solve a problem.