I thought I would write about some of the challenges I faced starting my first day on the job at Chugachmiut. One principle I truly believe in, but wasn’t very conversant with when I started, was going to the Gemba. My first day of work was also the day of the organization’s annual Christmas Party. I was told the Party was at the Sourdough Mining Company off of International Airport road and drove there through fresh show excited for the opportunity to meet some of my new staff and their families. I walked into the restaurant and over to the banquet room. I didn’t recognize anyone there. I went to the front desk and was told that we were in a room in the back, but I would have to go outside to get there. I did. Was I every surprised. There was a large plastic covered wood framed “building” in back. I went inside to a buffet. The tables were actually large wooden spools of the type used for transporting electrical wire for industrial use. Employees wandered in, ate and left. Industrial style propane heaters provided heating. The visqueen room was chilly and employees were wearing their coats inside.
I resolved to have better parties in the future. The next year we started a committee to plan for next year’s party. We divided our Christmas Party into one for kids and one for adults. One year we held it at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel with a live band. We actually had 3 people attending another party in the same area come over to ours because ours was more fun. Another party featured Karaoke, one of my then favorite activities. It’s amazing the number of talented musicians we had at Chugachmiut, including singers.
Our kids’ party featured Santa Claus with gifts for each kid, lunch, a cakewalk, a reading of The Night Before Christmas and other fun activities. We invited our staff from Seward to come up for the party and spend the night.
Building a team requires spending fun time together. After 8 years, we learned how to enjoy Christmas together.