Sunday, November 29, 2009

Maxwell's Law of the Picture

Recently, I completed an analysis of my company. The object of the paper was to compare and contrast the company with Biblical principles shared by Steward (2007) in Doing Business by the Good Book. I learned a great deal in the process of completing this study. In the process, though, I became concerned about sounding too critical of the company. Then, I realized that it is going to be necessary to step it up several notches. No longer is it just going to be possible for me to tweak technical variables and get the results that I want and the organization needs. Why? Well, people are involved. People with their own values, skills, and interests.

One of the strategies that I came across is Maxwell's (2007) Law of the Picture. To encourage desired behaviors, Maxwell reminds that it is necessary to identify positives examples and then affirm the behaviors. This seems pretty simplistic but it certainly sounds like a good start. This is a strategy that I'm going to try using intentionally this week. We'll see how it goes.

By the way, thanks to Trent for supplying the picture from Wii bowling and tennis night. Pictures like this certainly affirm taking Wii seriously (or something like that).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Jumping to Conclusions

I like to think about areas outside of business. In fact, people in business should probably spend a lot more time thinking about areas outside of business. Lately, I have been thinking about the dynamic of a band. Probably this is on my mind because I really miss playing in the band at church.

Let's say a band has a vacancy. What are the factors a band leader might look at to fill the vacancy?

Ability to get along with other members
Stage presence

I am not a band leader so their are probably other characteristics to consider.

Now, an outsider might quickly jump to conclusions that the most important characteristic is skill. However, suppose someone has a great deal of skill yet does not know how to play as part of the group. An outsider might hear the candidate audition and be wowed by the performance and focus only on the skill. The outsider might jump to the conclusion that the highly skilled performer will be a perfect addition to the group. Yet, when the candidate tries out with the group, he or she does not blend in at all with the rest of the group. Why? Because the candidate wants to stand out from the group and demonstrate his or her superior skill.

The outsider is blinded by the skill and hires the candidate on the spot.

The band leader, though, thinks about the situation differently.

Maybe the band leader really just needs another person on the stage to fill it out.

Maybe the band leader is looking to diversify the group.

Maybe the band leader is looking for someone with a deep sense of commitment to the group and to improvement.

It is not just about skill or any other common pillar (e.g., years of experience, educational background, work ethic, appearance). It is a package deal.

Friday, November 20, 2009

On Leadership

It seems like a long time since my last blog post. This week is probably the most intense week of the Applied Management Concepts course because our individual papers are due this coming Monday and group papers are due the following Monday. Meanwhile, we have the weekly case study and also need to prepare the PowerPoint presentation for our group paper. Needless to say, this week has included quite a bit of extra writing and editing.

Of course, leadership is the hot topic in the management class so I have spent significant time reading and writing about leadership. Last night, though, I witnessed leadership in action - at a 2nd grade music concert. Jenn's second grade program was last night and the kids did an outstanding job. They came into they gym in an organized fashion. The kids were enthusiastic. They smiled and did all of the motions. They knew all of the words and sang them out.

Yet, oddly enough, the leader was not physically there. Jenn left school sick yesterday and had to miss that concert that she had worked so hard to prepare. However, it was quite clear that even though Jenn was at home sick, she was with the kids in spirit. I could totally sense her presence in the choice of songs and the kid's enthusiasm.

This captures so much about what leadership is about. She inspired her students in such a way that the show could continue - even without her physically being present.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Yesterday, Jenn and I enjoyed the beautiful sunshine by taking an afternoon bike ride. Jenn rode her mountain bike. I rode my racing bike. (My hybrid wouldn’t fit in the car to bring to Rensselaer.) So as Jenn observed, she had to pedal about ten times for every one of my pedals. I hope that she won’t be upset with me for sharing that she felt bad for holding me back. I told her that there was no reason to feel bad. When I started running and biking in 2008, it was a very spiritual thing – right from the start. It was never about times or paces. It was more about the journey – about shared experiences.

I still remember one late night with my back on the wet grass of the football field just gazing up at the stars – in awe. For some reason, an inner voice had said to try running the school block mile – and compared to those many times in high school, it was easy. Then, Trent, Ben, and I took off on some awesome bike rides. We would be out in the middle of the country or one of the local towns – belching, honking the horn at dogs, taking pictures, sometimes even singing. The fall of 2008, Jim and I swam almost every morning. That was amazing to hit the water after lifting as the overhead lights above started to brighten. So yesterday, Jenn and I shared a journey – a journey through the countryside – a journey through God’s creation.

Last evening, after we returned from our ride, I headed over to the fitness center to sweat it out before church. (This week, one of my goals is to sweat so much that my t-shirt is entirely drenched. Pretty cool, huh?) Yet, as I drove onto campus, I felt compelled to stop by the grotto – and pray. Then, I walked over to the chapel and continued praying. My prayer was for direction… for wisdom… for guidance… for vision.

I am learning more and more that taking this time is critical. Right now, it is so important in my work. Like the experiences above, work is also something spiritual for me. Now, I am beginning to understand why it is so frustrating. It is not about dollars. It is not above the bottom line. It is about something much deeper - something that is difficult for me to put into words.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today, we had our health screenings in preparation for the new health care plan.

(First, a side bar... I couldn't find my swipe key to get into the plant. It is a virtual fortress without they key. So I waited around for someone to come to the door at the shift change and then raced up to the designated screening location. It was vacant. I immediately thought, "Oh, crap. I rushed around and it wasn't even today." Well, tt had been relocated upstairs.)

Of course, upon getting to the top of the stairs, one of the people running the screening asked for my name.

"Todd Huff," I replied.

"Huff?" one of the workers replied.

They continued on by saying that they were waiting for me. They had seen a sign at the training room located in the Bremen facility. The sign says:

Caution: Huff at Work

I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but they proceeded to hear two shifts worth of commentary on me.

One thing I can say for sure, though, is that this made the health screening a most enjoyable experience. It was like this was an ice breaker. At each step in the screening, the conversation just continued merrily along. In fact, I heard about their experience with the Bremen Inn. The lady even showed me pictures!

So really, this taught me a lot about connections. I certainly had no idea that a goofy sign put up by my coworkers would have such extended ramifications.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Last night, I went to church at Horizon in Bremen. This is the church that has been a huge part of my life over the last few years. Over the past few years, I went on two mission trips to the Dominican Republic, went on retreats in Vermont and Wisconsin, played keyboard in the worship band, and served on the management team. The people are like an extended family and it was so wonderful to catch up with them last night.

Last night, though, was very different. Pastor Jim did something totally radical. Horizon is not really known for doing things like everyone else. Jim changed things up even more last night. He threw the typical message, or sermon, right out the door. He threw out the message style of the pastor standing on a stage and lecturing to the congregation. He threw out the message style that expects the congregation to just listen and absorb what is being said. Ironically, he jumped off the church bandwagon and landed right back in the Bible:

1 Corinthians 14:26 (The Message)

26-33So here's what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight. If prayers are offered in tongues, two or three's the limit, and then only if someone is present who can interpret what you're saying. Otherwise, keep it between God and yourself. And no more than two or three speakers at a meeting, with the rest of you listening and taking it to heart. Take your turn, no one person taking over. Then each speaker gets a chance to say something special from God, and you all learn from each other. If you choose to speak, you're also responsible for how and when you speak. When we worship the right way, God doesn't stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony. This goes for all the churches—no exceptions.

Now, for any of you that have ever gone to church, does this even sound remotely familiar to what you experienced? Last night's service was the closest that I have ever attended to resembling this model... and it was powerful. The message became a dialogue. People were engaged and sharing thoughts and insights. Several people gathered at the chalkboard after the service and continued the discussion for at least a half an hour. No one raced to get out of the church after the end of the service. Why? Because this was real. This was about people discussing and sharing. This was about empowering the congregation to be active contributors.

I was left wondering about traditions. The scripture is quite clear about church gatherings. How have our man-made traditions evolved so far from what is written in the Word of God? It was kind of like a light bulb moment at church last night: "Oh, now this is what church is supposed to look like. Duh."

Yet, this is not isolated to the church. On Friday, we were investigating one of the machines and realized that the annealing chamber no longer had nitrogen ports. All annealers are supposed to have nitrogen ports. Yet, somewhere along the way, someone unknowingly covered up the nitrogen ports, and they were quickly forgotten. Then, we are looking at the machine on Friday and that light bulb moment happens: "What the heck happened to the nitrogen ports?" So Andy pulled off a plate and added ports. This is likely one of the reasons for color variation in our copper. Yet, something so obvious had become hidden over time.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I am currently taking an applied management class in Indiana Weslyan's MBA program. Before starting the class in Lafayette, I was thoroughly enjoying reading and writing. Learning had evolved into a profoundly intrinsic part of of my life.

On Monday, as I was driving home from class, I became utterly frustrated by this class. We are working on a group project that involves the analysis of a fictitious company, CanGo. We have a CD that has a series of vignettes and other features such as financial data and memos. We are supposed to watch the vignettes and then evaluate the company and make recommendations.

This is frustrating because before this class I was already doing this for real. I spent a lot of time thinking and even writing about my observations. So I'm left wondering why we are studying a fictitious company. Why aren't we looking at our own companies or researching other companies? This project is quite stale compared to the real thing.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Light in the Cave

Last week, I officially moved into my new office. I knew that something was very different. However, it didn't dawn on me until when I was packing up at the end of the day.


I have affectionately been referring to the plant as a cave.

Consequently, it is amazing to have the sun shine through the windows and shed some light into the cave.

This actually is the first time that I have had an office windows. This really has shown me the importance of a good working environment. Having a window to the outside sure makes a difference.

This is actually what I have been trying to start fostering in the plant. Last week, the copper team members had an assignment. They had a series of questions and were required to discuss them with an operator, subject matter expert (outside of the facility), and another team member. I was unsure about the response. However, I was pleased to learn that nearly everyone completed the assignment. When one of the team members discussed his findings, I was pretty shocked by his enthusiasm. Later, one of the subject matter experts shared his thanks for the dialogue. More and more, I am starting to become convinced that is what it is all about. The technical side alone can only go so far. Communication and opening windows to the light will go the rest of the way.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Business Networking

Well, I have just a few minutes to write before class. The pace has picked up a bit more over the last week with class starting again. I have devoted any "extra" minutes to read, studying, writing, and, of course, raking leaves.

This past week, I also went to a business networking event in Indianapolis. I had a great time talking with students, alumni, and faculty from my alma mater, St. Joseph's College. It was particularly exciting to meet up with the CEO of a company that I interned with in college. He is an amazing businessperson - probably because he knows how to surround himself with truly the best people possible. His business has seen remarkable success - even in this sluggish economy. So having the chance to catch up with him was certainly a great part of this event. Some of his other secrets to success are present in some additional comments that he shared.

"I know you will do well in the future - just don't try to force it. Enjoy what you are doing, continue to challenge yourself, and continue to look for opportunities to use and develop your talents. Eventually you'll be at the top and you will have enjoyed the process of getting there. It's not about you being successful - it 's about you helping others be successful."

Yes, I'm pretty sure that this type of attitude is what has taken this particular CEO to the top.