Delusions of Grandeur

Archive for the ‘general musings’ Category

The topic we were covering in class today was organizational citizenship behaviors and proactive work behaviors.  There’s a lot of overlap between the two topics.  Both of them are positive behaviors engaged in by employees to help either members of their work groups or the organization as a whole.  The difference between the two is that OCB’s are in response to a current need, i.e. “I see that Suzy is having some difficulty balancing her workload right now and I have the skills and time to help her out so I’m going to offer to take something off her plate” whereas proactive work behaviors are more future oriented, i.e. “I see that Process C is somewhat dysfunctional and a source of problems for the organization so I am going to do a bit of research and suggest some possible changes that can be implemented.”  There are some personality factors that are more highly correlated with these behaviors, however interestingly there has been some research that has indicated that the same people who engage in OCB’s and proactive work behaviors when dis-engaged can act in ways that are detrimental to the organization (counterproductive work behaviors).  That would suggest that environmental factors can play just as big (if not a bigger) role in generating OCB’s.  While we were talking about this, I kept thinking of the work environments I’ve been in throughout the years and it struck me that one organization I’ve worked for actually managed to build an environment that did more to support and generate OCB’s than any other place I’ve worked or studied.  For those of you who’ve heard me rave about this place I can already see you rolling your eyes, and I know you won’t be surprised about what I’m about to write.  For those of you who haven’t heard about this amazing company, I’m about to introduce you the single best company I’ve ever worked for.

The Container Store’s hiring philosophy specifically seeks out individuals prone to engaging in positive work behaviors.  Their foundation principle which directs hiring decisions is 1=3, that is, 1 great employee is equal to 3 good employees.  By only hiring great employees they are deriving three times the benefit from their human resources as organizations that focus on good employees and even more than those organizations that don’t even bother to select for “good.”  Positive behaviors are further engendered through extensive training to ensure that employee’s intuition is aligned with the overall organizational values.  (Intuition does not come to an untrained mind was/is my favorite of the foundation principles, I still wish I had bought that shirt before I left!!).  So TCS uses selection to bring in employees prone to OCB’s, hones that tendency with training to ensure that those behaviors are of maximum impact to the company and finally the company ensures that it’s all tied to together by assessing for those behaviors.  When you complete your annual evaluation you are evaluated based on your overall contributions.  1=3 is simply average….all employees are expected to meet that baseline.  Employees aspire to be 1=4, 1=5 or at the highest level 1=6.  Each of these levels has clearly articulated competencies and each is associated with a different merit increase.  I remember when I had the conversation with my store manager for my one year evaluation, I as extremely proud to be at a 1=5, but even more motivating to me was the fact that I was so close to a 1=6, which is extremely difficult to do in your first year.  I loved that I was told exactly what was necessary to get to that next level and given a clear action plan to achieve it.  It was the most relevant review process I had ever been through and I think the transparency and obvious congruity with our daily activities was what made the process so positive and motivating.

By hiring for excellence, training so that employees have the tools to give excellence, maintaining an employee-centric culture that drives engagement, and assessing achievement of excellence The Container Store does an incredible job of building a culture of organizational citizenship.  The company serves as a model of how effective management of organizational culture pays out in multiple ways.  While I no longer work with TCS (honestly the evening schedule simply wasn’t sustainable with the needs of my family) I will always remember and appreciate the lessons I learned working with them.  Their success is proof that it is possible to take care of your stakeholders and still be successful. I hope I will be able to apply these lessons to improve other organizations as I move forward in the pursuit of my PhD in Organizational Development and Leadership and in my career in general.


One of the pieces of advice I’ve read over and over related to blogging is that you should pick one central theme and stick to that.  I’ve officially decided to respectfully disagree with that advice.  In the case where a blog is your own personal blog and you are writing it for your own personal exercise (and maybe to keep up with your friends a bit because many of them still complain that they miss the days of live journal), I think it’s perfectly acceptable for your blog to have just as many “identities” as you do.  None of us are one single piece of our lives.  We’re not only students or parents or children or taxi drivers or whatever (I could go on indefinitely, but I don’t want to drag it on).  Each of those things are only a piece of us.  So if you want to have a blog about scrapbooking, mountain climbing, silly internet memes, travel advice, the most annoying places you’ve stubbed your toe and the occasional post about underwater basket weaving in the north atlantic (dress warmly!), then that’s what you should have.   If the purpose of your blog is business related and you’re trying to drive one specific type of customer, then by all means make it single purpose, but if it’s your own personal ramblings, shouldn’t your WHOLE person be part of that?

This particular topic is on my mind right now because I’ve taken a year and a half (or so) sabbatical from blogging and more than half the problem is that I forgot that I started this mostly to entertain myself and started thinking I needed to be “meaningful” and “insightful.”  Talk about Delusions of Grandeur eh?  So for my friends who are annoyed at me for taking such a long break, I’m back 🙂 and I promise more of the “whatever’s on my mind” ramblings that you were previously used to.  (The rest of the problem is a sheer lack of time, until I figure out how to convince the universe to let me use more than 24 hours in a day there’s not much I can do about that!)  Anyhow, I’m done with my little mini identity crisis and have decided to embrace my whole identity instead of trying to figure out which piece is the most meaningful to myself and to all of you.  The one exception is that I will still be keeping all of my Fragile X and most Elijah related posts in my other blog ( simply because that truly does make sense to keep in its own grouping.  Here’s to embracing our whole selves, let the random begin (again!).

One of the ironies of life is how seldom you do things at the time you’re “supposed” to be doing them.  I just finished an MBA.  At no point in time during that entire program until my capstone course did I read any of the popular business books.  You know the ones I’m talking about:  Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The Experience Economy, Good to Great.  You get the idea.  Part of it was that I wasn’t required to read them.  Part of it was that I hadn’t yet discovered the beauty of having books on my phone (thank you thank you thank you for the Kindle App….you’ve made all that time I spend in waiting rooms productive!!), and part of it was that I wasn’t really that interested.  Sad for someone enrolled in business school, but also a partial commentary on one of the deficits of the way education is set up.

It was actually the capstone course which was much less of a traditional “course” and much more of an overall “experience” that actually got me thinking about these books and in the weeks since my capstone I’ve been plowing my way through them.  Some of it reinforces what I learned in business school.  Some of it puts a more “real world” perspective on things and some of the material in the books is decidedly more optimistic and how things “should” be.  What I find most interesting is that I feel like I’m retaining far more from reading the books and working backwards to the concepts behind them than I did learning the concepts by themselves.  Perhaps it’s because I already know the concepts or maybe I just learn better this way.  The fact of the matter is that I won’t truly know because I don’t have a comparison right now to a state where I don’t know the concepts.  But I intend to find one.  As I work my way through these books I’m finding things that are vaguely connected in other fields, but which are equally interesting and I suspect when I get to those books there will be several concepts I’m not familiar with so it’ll be very interesting to see if the “backwards” learning style is still better for me.

In any event, I wanted to share a recommendation from this reading.  One of the books I picked up was David Cottrell’s “Tuesday Morning Coaching.”  It is one of the books recommended by the company I work for last year after he spoke at our annual company meeting and it’s one I’ve been meaning to pick it up.  I’m about 2/3rds of the way through it and so much of it applies not only to work, but also to a good way to lead your personal life.  He’s done a fabulous job breaking down very broad “life lessons” into accessible plans anybody can work into their own self-improvement projects.

So as we all know I’m pretty terrible at actually updating this blog.  Which naturally in Nikki logic means that I should create a second blog that I can ignore and not update, right?  One of the reasons that I’m so bad at actually updating though is that the thing that is frequently at the top of my mind is Elijah and his progress and information about his diagnosis.  Rather than completely overrun this blog with that information I’ve decided to create a dedicated blog just to that so I can leave this one free for the more trivial stuff that is a bit easier for the average reader.

As many of you probably know, I have major issues with people who constantly post downer status messages about their problems on Facebook and while frequently what I want to talk about is a celebration, the overall topic itself is still a bit depressing.  So for those of you who are interested you can follow the other blog ( and for those of you who aren’t I can promise that this one will go back to being the much more lighthearted blog that it used to be.  It will also still probably be updated extremely sporadically….because let’s face it, that’s how I roll.


“Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments” -Rose Kennedy

Every parent celebrates those major milestones when their child takes their first steps, babbles their first words, eats their first mushy bite of oatmeal.  I’ve not yet found a satisfactory description of the feeling of pride and joy that fills your heart when you see that miniature person grasp an activity or concept that is something you probably take for granted every other minute of the day.  As a parent of a child with fragile x I find that not only do I celebrate the big deal milestones, but that frequently things I’ve never even considered milestones or even really thought of at all take on tremendous importance.  Things like communicating a desire or request, the basic building block of communication, become just as big of a deal as walking when they’re things that your child has to work so hard to grasp.

It’s shortly after Elijah’s second birthday and communication is a hurdle we are still figuring our way around.  He’s just recently begun to request things like being picked up (by standing in front of us with his arms raised in that classic childhood pose which is so amazingly cute that you can’t help but feel your heart melt) and he’s also started bringing me his favorite story so I can read it to him.  It’s so amazing to have him doing these that even by the seventh time through Brown Bear Brown Bear I’m still happy to be reading it to him and read it with the exact same amount of enthusiasm as the first time through.

He’s also started babbling with a few more sounds these past few weeks.  I’m trying not to read too much into it as he’s done this in the past and then regressed for months at a time, but there’s always the hope that maybe this time he’ll continue to make gains in communication.  I suppose the overall theme of our days is that there is always hope, but in the meantime, rather than focusing on the milestone, we’re enjoying the moments 🙂

I couldn’t come up with an actual title to this post, so you’re stuck with what’s above.  Sorry.  I wanted to get this down so I would have actually written it instead of just thinking about writing it and instead spending all of my time trying to think of what to call it.  Suggestions are welcome in the comments ;).

So it’s confession time, although not earth-shattering, juicy, entertaining confession time.  I have a serious addiction.  I love to buy books.  I almost never read them though.  My bookshelves are those cube shelves from target that are divided into 11 3/4 inch cubes in various configurations.  I’ve got at least four cubes full of books on writing.  I’ve read maybe ten pages total out of all of them.  I have 8 cubes of Judaica books, I’ve read two cubes worth.  I’ve got five or six cubes of business text books, I’ve flipped through some of them.  I’ve got a cube and a half of Harry Potter….okay, well, I’ve read all of those, all three cubes of parenting books and most of the Dave Barry cube as well, but those are really the exception to the rule.  But anyhow, you get the point.  I am clearly spending a crap ton of money on books that I feel compelled to own but to never actually open after I get out of the bookstore.

Obviously this is not a sustainable habit in our current economic environment (poor) and the likelihood that I will somehow magically develop the time to read any of these books dwindles at an alarming rate on a daily basis.  But habits are hard to break, and I think I read in a book somewhere (I’ve got a couple cubes of self-help type books too, haha) that the easiest way to break a habit is to replace it with a new one.  So now when I get the urge to go browse the shelves of Barnes and Noble (seriously, this stuff is like crack to me, but without the weight loss and SWAT teams) instead I pick a book at random and pretend that I’m buying it all over again.  I read the back, open the cover, browse the chapter titles and look at a few pages here and there and convince myself that I’m really going to use this book so I remove it from the bookshelf and set it next to the computer where I will supposedly faithfully read it every single day until I finish it….or, in reality, leave it in a scary tower that piles up until Elijah pulls it over and then I put them all back in their places to be found again on another day.

Today’s book was “The Lie That Tells a Truth” from one of the writing cubes.  I’ve read the first couple pages and remember why it is that I bought it in the first place.  I highly recommend it based on the first three pages, the chapter titles and of course the front cover, which is how all books should be judged ;).  It is currently at the top of my pile and I am sure that I will faithfully read it every day until I am finished with it and it has transformed my life…or at least until tomorrow.

So there you have it, my attempt to turn an idiotic addiction into a slightly less expensive, but no less idiotic, habit.  After all, I’m not sure that it’s possible to use the habit replacing technique if the two habits are not equally stupid, but I’m not sure because I don’t think I made it through the entire page in the book that talked about it….

The topic today on the post a day/week challenge blog is to share something that makes you smile.  My little “show and tell” object is actually somewhat related to some of my previous posts and something I’ve wanted to share for a while, I just keep losing it.  In the back of the Mahzor that my Synagogue uses are some supplemental readings and home ceremonies which I always browse through when I’m not necessarily paying attention to the service (yes, there are definitely times I’m not paying attention, I admit it).  One of these has always stuck with me and I finally got around to asking our Rebbetzin to make a copy of it for me so I could have it.  It’s called the “Little” Resolutions and can be found on page 873, although I have no idea what the specific Mahzor we use is called.

“Little” Resolutions

A little less impatient with those we deem to slow;
A little less arrogant because of all we know.
A little less conceited since our worth is slight;
A little less intolerant even when we are right.

A little more forgiving and swifter to be kind;
A little more desirous the word of praise to find;
A little more eager to help others to rejoice;
A little more careful to speak with gentle voice.

A little more effort to see another’s view;
A little more determined to live faithfully as a Jew;
A little more willingness to extend a helping hand;
A little more commitment to our people and our land.

A little more eagerness to listen and understand;
A little more readiness to respond to God’s command;
A little more resolve to do what must be done;
And a greater understanding that, truly, “we are one!”

This may seem like an odd thing to make me smile, but picturing the world that would ensue if we all managed to do even a portion of the things suggested in this poem is something that could bring a smile to anybody’s face.


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