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What I’ve learned from playing with LEGO®

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 2 comments

(Photo: Legospective, originally uploaded by Guillermо.)

There I was, a young child, sitting in the middle of the floor in my parent’s living room with my box of LEGO® bricks, each in their own compartment sorted by color. My options were endless; with LEGO® I could be anyone, go anywhere and do anything. Now thirty odd years later in my own living room I relive those memories, sitting on the floor with my sons, toiling with them as they build their own LEGO® dreams.

As indirect as it may seem, I learned much from playing with my LEGO® building bricks. Many of those same lessons my sons will learn too.

1. Organization

“Organize your life around your dreams – and watch them come true.”

To this day, I am particularly organized; including lists, calendars, general tidiness and yes – color coding! Did it all start there so many years ago placing each color LEGO® into it’s own pile making sure none of the blue were mixed in with the red? Who knows, but I do know every day when it was time to clean up, each piece went back into its own color coded compartment ensuring the next time I brought them out, no sorting would be needed.

2. Following Instructions

I don’t remember them when I was a kid, but in today’s LEGO® sets there are step-by-step instructions of how to put together each item in the set. The coolest creations are made easy following along with page after page of pictures stepping you through the construction. Maybe it stifles the creativity a bit, but what it does is teach you how you can accomplish your tasks by following along with the directions. Not bad lessons to learn as you are starting out in life.

“Discoveries are often made by not following instructions, by going off the main road, by trying the untried.” – Frank Tyger

3. Creativity

“Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.” – William Plomer

Once you get past the instructions and let your creativity flow, the options are infinite. With the LEGO® bricks in hand you can build whatever you want; there are no limits. When you build a straight up tower of bricks, it can be a rocket ship or a tall building or a sword, your imagination is your own limitation. Let your mind be your guide as you steer toward your life’s destiny.

4. Patience

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” – Saint Augustine

Building with LEGO® bricks is a slow progression. It can be a grueling process, but it is a lesson in the value of patience. And patience is a virtue teaching you self control and restraint.

5. Attention to Detail

“In the successful organization, no detail is too small to escape close attention.” – Lou Holtz

Piece by piece you labor to advance your work of genius; each part needing to be in the right spot in order to achieve your desired outcome. I watch as my son studies in detail the pictures on the box, carefully calculating the placement and adjacencies needed in order to build his next LEGO® project. I recall similar analysis myself at a young age and to this day you can find me sitting down with a pad of paper and pencil to layout the design of my next project.

6. Adapt to the Situation

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. – George Bernard Shaw

One day you can build an airplane and the next day, with those same LEGO® bricks, you can build a skyscraper. If you find yourself a few LEGO® pieces short for your intended project you can modify your results by using another color, a different piece or scaling down your design. The possibilities are never ending. In life everything will not happen as we intended, we need to be able to revise our plans when necessary and go with the flow.

7. Any Mistake Can Be Fixed

“Ok, I can fix this” – My son upon breaking one of his LEGO® creations.

My son enters my office to showcase his latest LEGO® construction. As he extends his arms to present me with his creation as it breaks into two. There were no tears, no grumblings of anger, none of the negativity you might expect when something you worked so hard to build falls apart. On the contrary the first words out of his mouth were, “Ok, I can fix this.” We can all learn a lesson from this type of can do attitude, knowing no matter how awful circumstances may seem our problems can be repaired with a little ingenuity.

8. Problem Solving

“Any problem can be solved with a little ingenuity.” – MacGyver

One of the greatest characteristics I developed playing with LEGO® is the ability to know I could use my mind to remedy any situation. No challenge was too great; I would always be able to determine a method for success. It may not have been my original intended approach, but I knew there was always a path to my final destination.

9. You Can Build the Impossible Dream

“Without dreams, there is no reality!” – Luis B. Couto

Dreams are the means to a desired end. With LEGO® bricks you can capture those ideas, you can construct your vision no matter how large an obstacle it may seem. The same applies to your life; never accept that something cannot be accomplished – despite the barriers to can realize your dreams.

10. Never Give Up

“Never, never, never, never give up.” – Winston Churchill

Sure there are times when you want to throw your hands up in defeat, I did it myself and I see it from my sons as they construct a LEGO® projects, but the answer is to never give up. Determination is a key factor in life; if you endure the journey keeping the vision alive you will see some of the greatest accomplishments achieved you never thought would happen.

11. Teamwork

“The nice thing about teamwork is that you always have others on your side” – Margaret Carty

We can all use a little help now and again, my sons will periodically come up to us for assistance with their LEGO® creations needing my wife or me to snap a piece or two together. Sometimes we can all use a little guidance to get us through a tough spot and it is good to know you have others to rely on. There is no need to go through a difficult situation alone; the insights from others can often be inspiring as they allow us to see circumstances from perspectives outside of our own architecture.

12. Celebrate your Achievements

“The virtue of achievement is victory over oneself. Those who know this can never know defeat.” – A.J. Cronin

Finally, you have worked so hard to carry out your objective don’t let your labors go unnoticed. Boast your accomplishments with humility and place your LEGO® creation up on the shelf for all to see. The same policy is relevant in later life; use tact, but be proud of your accomplishments.

Those are just a few of the lessons I learned from play with LEGO®; I’m sure there are many more. Who knew back in 1934, when a carpenter turned, wooden toy maker, Ole Kirk Christiansen, took the first two letters of the Danish words LEG GODT, meaning “play well,” and put them together; the concept later developed by LEGO® would expand into a global staple of childhood toys shaping the minds, visions and futures of children into adulthood.

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” W. Clement Stone

What other life lessons have you carried into adulthood based on your childhood experiences?

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4 Ways to Improve Yourself ~ A cut above the rest.

Thursday, December 3, 2009 Leave a comment

20-047

(Photo: Stanley Tools)

You may have heard the phrase “Sharpen the Saw” in Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®. He uses the example of a woodcutter sawing day after day continually losing productivity as the blade of his saw becomes dull. The solution is to periodically sharpen his saw so he can continue to be productive as a woodcutter.

Times have changed!

If you have ever used a hand saw you might think a saw is a saw, it cuts through wood and you send up with two pieces of wood and a pile of sawdust in the end. Although this is true to a point, Stanley® Tools makes a saw, the FatMax® Saw with BladeArmor™, they also make this same saw without BladeArmor™.

“Yeah, so, who cares, what’s the difference?”

Now if you were to take these two saws and try to cut through a 2×4 you would realize the difference. The Stanley® FatMax® saw without BladeArmor™ will cut through the wood and it will do a sufficient job, it might tweak here and there and it might stick a bit from time to time but in the end you have two pieces of wood and a pile of sawdust. Now using the Stanley® FatMax® Saw with BladeArmor™, you will still end up having the same results, two pieces of wood and a pile of sawdust, but you will have it in half the time. Why? Because the BladeArmor™ gives you:

  • 50% less friction
  • 2x rust protection
  • 6x abrasion protection

You might spend a couple extra dollars, but in the end it is worth it because you created two pieces of wood and a pile of sawdust in half the time and you avoided the:

  • Extra friction of the saw cutting through the wood
  • Toll that rust can take on your saw
  • Abrasion caused by cutting through the wood

Now what if you could apply this concept to your day-to-day life. How would you like to go through life with your own armor which provides you:

  • 50% less life friction?
  • 2x protection against the corrosion caused by life?
  • 6x less abrasion from others?

You would love it! So why not take the time to upgrade your saw?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How sharp is your saw?
  • Does it cut smooth?
  • Does it cut straight?
  • Does it cut through wood like a hot knife through butter?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then take a step back and look at where you can make improvement to your skills.

What needs to be done to improve your saw?

First, you need to take time for yourself.

It is all too easy in this industrious world we live into skip a meal, forget to exercise and not sleep as much as we should. All of these things are important to keeping you healthy, energetic and alert. According to MayoClinic.com improving these areas of your life can help you to:

  • Enhance your mood
  • Combat disease
  • Manage weight
  • Boost your energy level
  • Promote better sleep
  • Improve your memory
  • Enrich your health

Second, spend time with your family, friends, and colleagues.

Studies have shown our social relationships can directly affect our mental and physical health. In order maintain solid relationships it is important to be:

  • Approachable
  • Genuine and honest to others
  • A good listener
  • Loyal and respectful of confidentiality when others confide in you
  • Supportive of their situations and to add perspective to what they say
  • Considerate of your relationships and giving of your time and self

Third, contrary to what you might think; YOU DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING!

Take some time to learn. By taking time to improve your mental skills whether it be through formal classes, reading, writing or even teaching others. It will help you to:

  • Be more productive and efficient
  • Ensue a competitive character giving you an advantage over others
  • Enhance career opportunities
  • Improve your skills by getting better at what you do
  • Become a disciplined individual

Lastly, take time to enjoy life!

When was the last time you jumped out of bed in the morning exhilarated for the day with a complete calm, not thinking about the issues affecting your life? When is the last time you dived into a pile of autumn leaves, without thinking how dirty you were going to get? When is the last time you jumped in a puddle, with no concern of getting wet?

“Childhood is that state which ends the moment a puddle is first viewed as an obstacle instead of an opportunity.” – Kathy Williams

It’s about:

  • Finding peace in your life
  • Taking the time to appreciate all your existence has to offer
  • Enjoying those little circumstances you encounter each day which brighten your spirit.

There are a number of ways you can cultivate your spirituality:

  • Go for a nature hike
  • Listen to music
  • Visit a local gallery to appreciate some art
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Pray or attend church

“Everyday is a new opportunity…so don’t waste it!”

Each day provides you a new opportunity to renew your being. Take time for yourself, be social, spend time learning and enhance your spirit.

What will you do to improve your saw?

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ON A BUDGET: Motivating your team, bolstering loyalty & elevating morale. (Full Series)

Monday, November 23, 2009 2 comments

(Photo: stopnlook)

(Originally posted as a series November 16 -20, 2009 on The Blog of Jason Christensen – “Your Life as a Remote User”)

Times are tough right now. Raises are not being doled out, salary’s are being cut, 401K’s are not being matched, people are losing their jobs…morale is low. Many managers may not be concerned if their remaining employees are unhappy; where do they think they are going to go in this economic environment? Don’t be short sighted; employees who are not happy are looking elsewhere and when the climate turns many will abandon ship. Now is the time to keep your employees exhilarated!

“So what can you do to motivate a team and create loyal employees when morale is low?”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————
In this economy it’s imperative employers concentrate on non-monetary motivating factors by:

  1. Taking a genuine interest in people
  2. Keeping an open line of communication
  3. Helping people to understand the importance of their role
  4. Bestowing recognition on your team
  5. Cultivating career development plans

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

1. Take a genuine interest in people.

When times get tough people band together; they take a bona fide interest in one another.

  • Find out what is going on in the life of your team members
  • What is important to them right now
  • Let them know you understand
  • Do what you can to help them
  • Offer advice if they are looking for it

Try making a mental list of everyone you may encounter today; think of what they are working on or what they have going on in their life and try to relate to them. People appreciate it when you take an interest in their lives. It will increase morale, let people know you care and help them realize they are not just another number in the corporate books.

Remote Note:

When your team is remote and you do not see them face-to-face this can be especially challenging. Take the time to work with each of them personally. Be sure to contact them weekly even if it is just to touch base. A one-on-one call will let them know you are thinking of them and will be there help should anything come up.

Keep in mind; this may be something you have to ease into if you have not shown an interest in the past; otherwise they may think you are prying and become suspicious. So take it slow, work to re-develop those relationships and with any luck it will lead to a motivated team, stronger group bond, greater retention rates, and increased team morale.

Think of others first, show interest in their lives, offer a helping hand.

What are some ideas you have to strengthen the bonds with a team?
Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

2. Keeping an open line of communication.

An open door policy sends a message to your coworkers you are approachable, willing to listen and discuss issues as they come up. An open line of communication also acquaints you with your team in order to know what is important to them. If you are familiar with their goals and desires, you will be able to lead them more effectively grooming them for the next steps they wish to achieve. Without and open line of communication you are leading them blindly and will not get the synergies needed to achieve your goals.

  • Ask employees for their ideas
  • Be a good listener
  • Take notes
  • Work to find ways to incorporate their ideas into the corporate vision

You may be surprised at the good points of information they will provide to you. And when you do use their ideas and the employees see them in action you will be surprised by their loyalty to you and the company.

Don’t forget, communication is a two way street. People feel important when they know what is going on with their company. They feel a sense of power when they are “in-the-know” on breaking news. Reach out to your staff when there is news to be shared, organize your thoughts and convey a clear, concise, informational message without breaching company confidentiality.

Remote Note:

It can be tough to have a so called “open door” when you lead a team of remote users. Here are some tips to help:

  • Always take their calls or return their calls as soon as you are available.
  • If you only have a moment, let them know and schedule a definitive time to speak with them further.
  • Hold weekly conference calls to allow for corporate communications, success and improvement stories as well as an open forum for issues affecting the team.

Keep an open line of communication, be a good listener and make them feel important.

What are some thoughts you have to enhance the communication within a team?
Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

3. Helping people to understand the importance of their role.

People like to feel needed, so helping people understand their contribution to the corporation and showing them their efforts DO make a difference will increase their morale. It is important for people to understand how each gear turns to keep the machine operating effectively. They need to understand the part they play in the overall corporate structure and the flow of the business.

Take a particular function in your business as an example:

  • Where was it generated what is the intended outcome?
  • What path had the process taken before it reached your team?
  • Where did it go afterward?
  • What was the result and how did it contribute to the goals of the company?

It is important to illustrate this so people understand their role is not idle and without function.

Another way to generate a feeling of contribution to the company is to delegate authority. Delegate authority by:

  • Encouraging people to take on additional responsibilities
  • Aligning them with the company goals
  • Letting them take ownership of certain processes.

This increase in leadership responsibilities will build the bench strength of your team and increase fellowship amongst employees. Furthermore take the time to publicly recognize them and convey how their initiatives helped the company and/or the customer. Better yet invite the customer to take the time to provide a public testimonial of the employees efforts. This kind of respect in a timely manner will go a long way with your team.

Remote Note:

When your team is part of a remote workforce it can be especially challenging for them to understand the role they play in the company and the path processes take from inception to fruition. By illustrating to your team the route a business process takes whether it is through a slide presentation or work flow chart it helps them understand the function of their position and how they can affect the overall process.

In addition, it is important for the remote work force to understand the appropriate contacts for varied situations they encounter in their day to day. This will help them know where to go for answers when a problem arises.

Help your team to understand their overall role in the company and build bench strength through delegation.

What are you doing to build the bench strength of your workforce?
How do you communicate workflows and processes within your group?

Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

4. Bestowing recognition on your team.

Expendable funds are minimal, but how do you recognize your team for a job well done? One of the best ways is to allow your employees a greater stake in the company. By offering your team options in the organization it generates a deeper interest in helping the company to succeed. The closer the ties, the more loyal they will be and the more desire they will have to look out for the best interest of the company.

A lesser option is to provide them with a gift they would not otherwise spend their own money to purchase. In better times companies had gift catalogs allowing the staff to pick from a selection of nice items. In today’s climate a more resonable token may be company logo merchandise. It allows the employee to boast his affiliation with a nice corporate logo while at a minimal cost to the company.

Let’s face it, people enjoy recognition, but the timing and context have to be right. Be sure to:

An award is good, but bragging rights are better!

Remote Note:

With a team of remote users it can be difficult to publicly recognize a job well done. A great vehicle for recognizing a team member is through a weekly newsletter. Create a short article touting the wonderful job they did and if you can get a customer testimonial it makes the achievement all the better. There is nothing like being able to show others your achievements right there in print.

Another great method is on your weekly team call where their colleagues can applaud them in person. It is always nice to have a quick pat on the back for a job well done.

What a terrific way to spark a friendly internal competition for your team members in order to vie for that top spot.

Awards and recognition generate loyalty and elevate morale.

What forms of recognition do you use?
How do you recognize an employee for a job well done?

Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

5. Cultivating career development plans.

One of the worst feelings as an employee is not knowing where you are going with your employer. Take time with the individuals on your team and sit down with them to develop a clear career path showing them the next steps they can take based on their achievements. A great time to cover this is during biannual performance reviews. Take this time to provide constructive feedback AND discuss with them what they can do to grow with the company. Find out what you can do to help each of your team members advance and work to make it happen. Not only will it help them, but as management sees future leaders continually being produced from your staff it lets them know the value you offer to the company.

Develop your team using:

  • Books and short articles on related topics
  • Online Courses
  • Out of office training workshops or seminars

When people are excused from their regular duties for a short period of time to participate in these type of events, it makes make them feel important amongst the crowd.

Out of sight out of mind.

Remote Note:
When you manage a remote team it is challenging to enhance the visibility of the work your team does. Often their achievements get overlooked by people who work in the office since they do not see your team members regularly. This can make it difficult for members of your team to exceed in the workplace and continually grow with the company. It is important to create campaigns to tout the accomplishments of your team. It could be through a company newsletter or possibly a weekly email stating the highlights of the week. Be creative and find a method which fits your corporate structure.

Take time with your team to make sure you understand what their goals are with the company and help them to develop and achieve those goals.

What have you done to develop your team?
What are some methods you use to boast the triumphs of your team?

Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

Keep your team on board! Think of others first by conveying an interest in their lives, talking with them frequently, letting them know they are doing a good job and you appreciate their contributions, then help them to develop in their careers. With any luck it will lead to a motivated team, stronger group bond, greater retention rates, and increased team morale.

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Don’t GOal into Debt, Balance your Goal Checkbook.

Sunday, November 1, 2009 2 comments

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(Photo: megan/quinn)

Goal setting; what a waste of time, right? WRONG! Every year without fail, I grieve over this process. And every year without fail I start looking at how I did and think, WOW, I did this and that, I could have done better here, and could use some improvement there. But you see it’s like taking time to balance the check book. You hate to do it, but it has got to be done so you can see where you are at financially. Consider goal setting and goal reviews as your personal checkbook to balance. You need to take time to balance your life and figure out if you are on the path you intended.

First, start by reviewing last years objectives:

  • Did you come out ahead or are you in the red?
    • If you came out ahead, what led to you to achieve your goal and are you able to utilize a similar process to attain other goals?
    • If you came out in the red, what could you have done differently to change the outcome?
    • Look for areas where you can make improvements and work to do better.
  • Did you blow your goal out of the water?
    • Set that goal even higher next year.
    • Or has it become so routine and natural, you don’t need to include it as a goal anymore?

Now give yourself a pat on the back for what you did well and a stern talking to for things you could have done better. Don’t be too rough on yourself; resolve to do better in the year ahead.

 

Second, set SMARTER goals for the future.

  • As you set goals, verbalize them in a positive tone and it will keep you optimistic. Never discourage yourself by stating your goals in a negative fashion.
  • Start with your major objective and break it down into small clearly defined achievements which will stair step you up to your major objective making it a reality.
    • Having these smaller goals makes your major objective seem more achievable.
    • Accomplishing these smaller goals will motivate you and improve your self confidence as you near your major objective.
    • Prioritize your goals keeping the most important one on the top of your list.
  • Develop a method to evaluate your goals for achievement.
    • You need to have a way to measure your goals in order to know if you have achieved them.
    • Whatever the case set a realistic number and then just for the fun of it tack on a little bit more than you can handle. This becomes your “go get” target. You know you will likely reach the realistic goal, but can you “go get” that little bit extra? You bet you can!

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”Robert Browning

 

  • What are the realistic levels of achievement for your goals?
    • Are there areas of improvement which you could add to your targets?
    • Set both qualitative and quantitative result oriented goals:
      • Qualitative: goals tied to quality improvements.
      • Quantitative: goals that can be measured and are usually tied to numbers.
  • Apply a specific timeline as to when you have each goal accomplished.

Finally, take a few minutes to review your goals frequently. Reviewing your goals keeps them in the forefront of your mind and will make them more achievable because you will be thinking about them often and looking for ways to make them happen. It’s like checking your balance. Are you going to end up in the red? What strides can you make to change that? Take those strides and be sure you always end the year with your checkbook balanced in the black. Before you know it your goals will be accomplished as if it happened by banking error in your favor.

Ready, Set, GOal!

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Building your future.

Monday, September 28, 2009 Leave a comment

(Photo: Mrs. Maze)

My young son is playing with his blocks this morning, taking them one by one and stacking them on top of each other. Slowly he progresses along; building things up and in a moments notice everything comes crashing down into a pile of ruble on the floor. Is he discouraged? No! He just starts from the bottom building the blocks back up, one by one into a new tower, this tower surely to be better than the last.

Let’s take a lesson from my son playing with his blocks. When something you are working on does not turn out right or comes crashing down after you worked so hard to build it up; don’t be discouraged. Experiences like this can actually be kind of fun, it allows you to rebuild, to try a different route, to learn from your mistakes and move forward in a different direction to the same destination.

My son enjoys the rebuilding process so much he intentionally knocks down his blocks just so he can start over again. What an opportunity to correct our mistakes and rebuild with improvements as we reflect on what we really sought after all.

Learn from and build upon your setbacks.

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