This past week I celebrated my second anniversary as President & CEO of Commerce Chenango. I didn’t even realize it was my ‘workaversary’ until I received a notification from our payroll system. It put a pep in my step and lightened my mood, which I really needed.
I was not having the best week. It wasn’t that anything was wrong specifically, but I had just gotten back from a mini vacation and on top of having a couple hundred emails to catch up on, my week was an endless stream of meetings and phone calls. Literally. I don’t think I had more than 30 minutes free any day last week that I wasn’t in a meeting or on the phone.
Also, I really need to start looking at my calendar closer. I am so used to everything being a virtual meeting that my brain isn’t remembering that I am starting to have in-person meetings again. Twice last week I nearly missed a meeting because I thought it was virtual. I blame it on Disney-brain, but it’s also because my schedule was so packed that I didn’t give myself time in between to take a breath and look closer at my schedule.
Despite it being a crazy (busy, insane) week, the notice of my ‘workaversasry’ did turn my mood around. I took a few moments (we just established that’s all I had) to take stock in why I was suddenly so busy.
Two years is not a very long time. In fact, with most jobs I would say it takes at least two years to really understand your job, going through a cycle of learning (year one) and implementing changes (year two). After two years you should know enough about the organization to really make an impact, but you are still “new”. In most new jobs, and in leadership positions, it’s recommended that you wait at least a year before you change anything.
I didn’t follow any of those rules.
In the past two years we went through a re-brand, implemented a new website, a new look, a new tagline (that everyone keeps stealing – you are welcome). We overhauled our entire membership program and revised our events. We updated our loan program. We were a key player throughout the pandemic. We announced a significant investment by purchasing a building in downtown Norwich to develop a hotel. We hired new staff. We are finalizing a grant application for a 10-million-dollar investment to the City of Norwich. We began an outreach program, visiting businesses in communities across Chenango County. We expanded our business counseling and business start up services. We started working on a three-year strategic plan. We found new ways to promote Chenango County, leveraging our tourism dollars to expand our presence online and throughout the northeast. We developed a brand-new Chenango County Community & Relocation Guide (did you stop by and get one yet?).
Yes. It’s been a very busy couple of years at Commerce Chenango, and I’ve learned some things along the way.
Lesson One: Building relationships takes time and trust. Having a position or a title will only get you in the door or a seat at the table (sometimes not even then, and you need to bring it with you). You need to prove yourself and show, through actions, that you are part of the team and willing to work together. This goes both ways. While I find myself being judged (who is she?), I am also watching how others treat their teams. How do they build consensus? Are they working collaboratively or are they a bully? Do they use the art of debate and compromise, or do they stamp your feet until everyone else gives in? You know who you are and yes, those of us watching do too.
Lesson Two: Creating the right team is hard work, especially when your organization is going through changes. Everyone is trying to figure out their roles, responsibilities change, and things shift. Office culture is everyone’s responsibility and when the team isn’t working as a team, then sometimes the players need to change. Ultimately, it’s about trust, respect, and everyone pulling their weight. There’s a time for fun and a time for work. Although my feeling is, when you love what you do then work never really feels like work.
Lesson Three: Not everyone can see your vision. You have to share it, say it again, say it in different ways, draw a picture and then say it again (louder) for the people in the back. Even then, you need to keep repeating it because when you think you have exhausted this point, you will still have people saying “huh?” and “what?”.
The past two years has been a whirlwind! While in some ways it feels like I just got started, in other ways it seems like I have been at this for forever. Yes, last week was a tough one for me, but this is a brand-new week. Even when I am stressed, tired and so busy I don’t know which way is up, I truly love what I do. I love coming to work and being in a position that can make a difference. We are making a difference and that’s why I am so busy lately!
Before I wrap up this lovefest with my job, I just want to also say thank you to all who have supported me, my team, and the work of Commerce Chenango.
While I still may have that “new car” smell, there are a few things you should know about me.
I am innovative. I have strong opinions and have no problem sharing them. I do see the potential that Chenango County has. I will challenge those who would rather complain than do something about it. I will speak my mind. I will always defend those who can’t (or won’t) defend themselves. I will not stop working, each day, to make Chenango County the place I know it can be.
Let’s see what we can make happen in year three. Hold on tight, it’s going to be a fun ride!
Be well, Chenango.