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Standards.

Standards.

I had the TV on in the background this evening, when I overheard something that made me pause.

He said, “Maybe your standards are too high.”
She replied, “Our standards are who we are.”

They weren’t talking about dating. They were talking about quality of work. And again, I think it’s funny when things happen when you need them to happen, because I’ve been thinking a lot about my own standards both in my personal life and my professional life.

My boss likes to tease me, because I was a straight A student, and I always strive for 100% on our audits. And I always ask him, “Why would I strive for anything less?”

In The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, Mark Manson talks about some guy named Becker and his theory of “immortality projects.” Immortality projects are the things that drive us to leave behind a legacy. Becker believed that humans are so fearful of death, that it drives them to do great things to be remembered when their physical bodies leave the world.

Religion, politics, sports, art, and technological innovation are the result of people’s immortality projects.

Manson explains that these immortality projects are our values. And values can be defined as the standards of one’s own behavior. Like, whoa, right? I’ll give you a second to re-read that.

If the standards we set drive our behavior to achieve things out of life, why would I ever strive for something less than great?

Our values are what we find important in life, and if we don’t hold those important things in life to a high standard, well, I mean, who wants to go through life being mediocre? I want to go through life standing out, trailblazing my own path, and marching to my own drum.

Personally and professionally, I strive for perfection. But I’m not a perfectionist. I know that shit happens and that reality doesn’t always live up to our expectation. So why would I ever strive for less than perfection knowing that the expectation may not be met?

Our standards really are who we are, and they are what motivates us to move forward.

Work.

Work.

I’ve been working in the office a lot lately. While I don’t mind paperwork (to some extent), I really miss being out in the field. I miss the sunshine, the dirt, talking to our foremen, mud on my boots, and even the often miserable Santa Maria wind.

I had to take a break from preparing for audits. My brain has been so overloaded that I couldn’t even think straight anymore. I’ve been going to lots of meetings, a training, and talking to so many people trying to navigate the changes. The politics, the wrong perceptions, the misinformation, and the over regulation as a result of it just had me feeling very defeated about where our industry is headed. (Not to mention outbreaks…ay.)

So today, I escaped to the ranches.

As I repaired a sign, all I could think about was how good it felt to be outside. As I put the drill bit in my drill, all I could think about was how great it felt to work with my hands.

I put the shovel in the bed of my truck, and waved to one of our tractor drivers. As I got in and shut the door, I looked out the windshield to a field of young romaine plants. I sat there for a minute. And in that moment, I was happy.

I spent a very long time, many years, going from job to job, from industry to industry, searching for a sense of belonging. While I recognize that I will change, and agriculture may not be my future, it is my present. And it is the perfect present for me, right now.

To be able to say that is special. They say that when you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. While work is still definitely work, overall, I do love what I do. Today was the perfect reminder, and for that, I am thankful.

Culture.

Culture.

It seems the word “culture” is popping up everywhere, as people use it to describe the attitude and behaviors of a workforce.  In my area of food safety, I read a lot of articles and such expressing concern that employees simply do not care about food safety.  People cite the need for training, education, checklists, internal audits, etc., etc.  But none of those things matter if the employee, his or herself, does not care about what they do and why they are doing it.  I agree, most employees do not care about food safety, but realistically, I also think that a lot of those people don’t take pride in what they do.  “It’s only a job.”  So how do you get them to care about food safety when they don’t really care about their job?

The definition of care is:

“the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something.”

I recently read that once your basic needs have been met, there is no correlation to more money making you happier.  I think a lot of employees consider their job as a fulfillment of their basic needs.  It’s a paycheck that puts food on their table and shelter over their heads.

When I was working in a restaurant nearly 15 years ago, there was no talk of food safety.  I didn’t even know the concept existed.  I was young, living paycheck to paycheck, just trying to pay my rent.  I hated working in foodservice.  People treated me badly, and it took a toll on my self-esteem.  I was trying so hard to keep my head above water financially and emotionally, that I didn’t take pride in what I was doing.  I didn’t care about the “provisions” of our customers.  I only cared about the provisions of my basic needs.  Would I have taken the extra steps to go through a training?  Yes, because it would have been part of my job.  Would I have gone above and beyond my call of duty to better the restaurant for the well-being of our customers?  Probably not.  I was bitter.  Customers treated me like shit.  Why should I care about their well-being when they clearly did not care about mine?  Treat others as you would like to be treated – I was always taught.

Then I look at our field labor employees.  We regularly train them on food safety issues.  I am out there checking them multiple times a week to ensure they are following our food safety policies.  Do I think the trainings help?  Maybe.  Do I think they genuinely care about food safety?  Not really.  I think that they know I will hold them accountable for following our food safety policies, and they follow the rules to not get written up or deal with the wrath of “Sheriff Lacy.”

Of course, I’m generally speaking.  We have some employees that feel passionately about food safety and fully understand that what they do in the field can have a great impact on their job, our company, and public health.  But I also feel passionately about food safety.  I genuinely care about what I do, which leads me to be the example and hold our employees accountable.  I take pride in what I do, and that’s reflective in my attitude and my performance.

The food safety culture of our company directly reflects how I lead the program, and the culture of our company directly reflects the attitude and performance of our leadership.  But that’s in any job, in any industry.  It’s about finding the right people, not just hiring a body.  Easier said than done, I know.  But passion is contagious.  As John C. Maxwell says,

“People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”

It all starts at the top.  You can train people all you want, but training, education, checklists, and internal audits themselves are not going to improve the food safety culture of your business.  The culture of a company runs deeper than documentation.  Besides, documentation is after the fact.  Those of us in positions responsible for food safety are so bogged down with following up and collecting documentation, that we can’t actually be out there preventing food safety incidents from occurring. This is where the company culture plays a critical part in business.  If employees genuinely care about it, then they are preventing it.

Braving the Wilderness – Part 5

Braving the Wilderness – Part 5

The key to joy is practicing gratitude.

When I read this statement, I sat in disbelief for about 5 seconds.  Then I immediately stood up, walked to my office, grabbed a Post-it and wrote down the word “gratitude.”  I propped it up like a teepee and set it on my night stand facing my bed, so that it is the first thing I see in the morning.

This morning I had been complaining to a co-worker that my boss implied that only lateral movement would be available to me.  I was so disheartened when my boss and I had that conversation.  I told him I was looking beyond just a manager position.  After all, that’s what I’m working for.  That’s why I attend leadership programs, why I read books, why I seek out learning opportunities.   After his implication, I immediately came to the conclusion that if I was going to see a C-level position, it would have to be with another employer.

Like, whoa.  Right?  I went from 0-60 in an instant.  Who’s to say that I’m even going to want a C-level position in the next few years?  Life changes!  I work for an amazing employer that values my opinion, includes me in the hard conversations, allows me to influence their leadership, and truly cares about my well-being as an employee and a person.  My employer is a diamond in the rough, and I should be grateful that they afford me the opportunities that they do!  But I was so focused on what they may not offer me, that I completely overlooked what they do offer me.

As I continued with my reading, Brown went on to say that we should stop looking for confirmation that we don’t belong or that we’re not good enough.

That is exactly what I was doing.  I was looking for confirmation that I don’t belong.  I’ve been having a hard time at work though.  I’m going through growing pains, and so is the company.  Instead of owning my pain, I was looking for an exit strategy.

It’s funny too, because at work, I am leading a movement to change our culture from being reactive to being proactive.  We’re trying to recognize and reward positive behavior in the effort to minimize disciplinary action.  Then here I am, automatically assuming the worse, seeking out the negative.  So tomorrow and days in the future, I will choose gratitude.  It will take self-discipline to recognize when I’m falling into the trap, but “the key to joy is practicing gratitude.”

One Reason Why.

One Reason Why.

I’ve been feeling defeated lately.

Why do I take my work so deeply to heart?  Why do I volunteer for all these organizations?  Why do I stress myself out over little things?  Why do I take on so much work?  Why did I start my own business?  Why am I pursuing a degree again?

It’s been an uphill battle the past few months with little reward.  I know that it will pay off in the end, whenever that may be, for whatever issue is weighing me down.  Specifically, with my volunteer work, there’s been a lot of added drama contributing to “why am I doing this”?

Today, I was reminded.

We had a farmer come and speak at our luncheon today.  His family has been farming in Lompoc for over 3 generations.  The man is probably in his late 60s, and he described to us his family’s history, his experience with industry changes, and why he supports our organization.  He described an ongoing battle with the Department of Pesticide Regulation and the Environmental Protection Agency.  He explained that they don’t want him to farm his land due to an “endangered” salamander.  He listed all the audits they go through, and how each customer tries to outdo the next by slapping on more regulations to another audit by said customer.

I sat there feeling connected to this man whom I’ve never actually met.  He reminded me of my mentor, and my grandpa who is now deceased.  I was moved by his passion and dedication.  But I could feel his concern for the future of farming.  And then it hit me.

He is why I do this.

He is why I joined California Women for Agriculture in the first place.  He is why I will argue with auditors and don’t get pushed around by unreasonable customers. He is why I created www.youknowyoureafarmer.com.  He’s been fighting these battles long enough.

I’ve only been in this industry a short time, but I’ve quickly grown to love it.  There’s just something about it that pulls you in.  The people are kind.  They are down to earth, resilient, proud, and hard-working.  They exhibit perseverance and determination.  They are people I am proud to call colleagues and friends.  So I do it for them.