Legos, Leadership, and Leveling Up

It’s not a bad idea for leadership to involve employees in hopes that they will increase their knowledge, become more invested in the work, and overall become a stronger asset for the team. But, involvement is only half of the solution that will earn you those results you want. What leaders must do is both involve AND engage employees. Here’s why and how.

Legos, Leadership, and Leveling Up

Willow and Lincoln, my two oldest kids, are often asked to play with Duke, my three-year-old, while I work in small nuggets of time with all the kids at home right now.

The toy of choice in our house is Legos – we have hundreds of them. My bigger kids love them so it’s the go-to activity when the big kids are on “Duke duty” while I knock out some work. My hope is as Duke plays with the big kids, he will learn how to build, learn bigger words, learn how to play well with others, and more. Of course, I also hope that the time they spend together helps build a solid foundation for their relationship.

Imagine the kids all at the table with hundreds of tiny building blocks. Do you know what happens when a three-year-old sees a new, tall, freshly built house his brother or sister just created? Well, I can tell you he doesn’t stand back in awe. Quite the opposite. Picture a threenager on level eleven, using his arm like Thor’s hammer and making vocalizations that would make you think a T-Rex had come back to life. Then, as Lego pieces come crashing down under the force of a toddler on a mission, without fail, the next sound I hear in older sibling unison is, “MOM!”

Immediately I know what’s happened.  Willow and Lincoln have involved Duke, but they have not engaged Duke. Here’s what I mean…

Involving Versus Engaging Leadership

Involving someone looks like all three kids sitting at the table, each with their own pile of Legos. Likely, the older two are building something with each other or that goes together. Duke, happy to simply be at the table with them, he is building by himself. He will look every now and then at what they’re doing, but if he tries to help, he’s quickly redirected or ignored. Eventually, Duke will get tired of being on the outside…involved but not engaged. That’s when we have the King Kong situation. When someone is only involved, not engaged, It ends up being a no-win situation for everyone.

However, both involving and engaging someone makes for a very different experience and result.

Involving AND engaging looks like all the kids are at the table playing with the Legos again, but this time they invite Duke to play a real part in their building process. They ask Duke what he thinks they should build, then they listen and consider his suggestions. When Duke asks why a million times, they patiently answer his questions. They encourage Duke to put Lego’s on the building, even if it might mean they have to do more work in the end fixing it.

When both involved and engaged, Duke learns how to play and build better. He ends up having more fun which means they play together longer (…more work time for mom!). And ultimately, Willow and Lincoln have made little deposits into the relationship bank with Duke that will reap benefits for their entire life. It’s a win-win for everyone.

2 Tips to Create Better Teams

You see, in organizations, oftentimes well-intentioned leaders involve employees, but they don’t reap the valuable results they hope for because they didn’t also engage employees.

As a leader, if you want your people to perform better, as well as create more respect and loyalty among your team, here are two actions for you to consider when it comes to both involving and engaging employees:

1-Invite more people to important meetings.

Sure, most people wouldn’t be excited to attend another meeting, but high performers probably would be! The opportunity to learn beyond their current role and responsibilities is a big deal to employees who are looking to capitalize on opportunities.

Is there an aspect of your business that some employees would benefit from understanding better? Maybe you could invite them to a meeting…a new loan officer to an Asset-Liability Committee meeting, a production supervisor to Annual Operating Planning meetings, emerging leaders to Succession Planning Meetings, etc.

And don’t invite them and let them sit on the side. Instead, let them play with your Legos. Let them build with you, not near you. Welcome questions, not silence. Be the leader that identifies people with potential and involves them in experiences that help them grow.

2-Give increased responsibility then encourage your people to try and fail.

It can be hard to trust someone who hasn’t yet proved themselves to successfully complete a job or part of a big project. Although, if given the opportunity, just like a really smart toddler, a person may surprise you with their success.

On the other hand, the person very well may fail. Duke may put the wrong size Lego in the wrong spot or accidentally knock something over while trying to help. But, after he recognized the mistake, he will work to fix it. And, it’s unlikely that he would make that same mistake again which means he becomes a stronger part of the team.

Failure stings, but pain is one of the best teachers.

Be the leader that creates increasingly strong, productive teams because you appreciate failed attempts that eventually deliver positive results.

Level Up Your Leadership

The very best leaders understand that true leadership is serving others. Involving and engaging employees is an act of service – one that will take serious time and effort. That act of service will be one that will improve your team and your leadership.

I want to encourage you today to take your leadership to the next level by both involving and engaging your team members better. It starts first with a little assessment:

  • Who on your team is not involved?
  • Who on your team is involved, but not actively engaged?

After you know who is where, work to bring everyone on your team to involved and engaged status. There is where you all will reap the benefits!

Alyson Van Hooser Leadership Relevant Testimonial

Learn more about our Transformational Leadership Development Training that helps leaders and teams ELEVATE PRODUCTIVITY and PROFITS through engaged leadership here: www.vanhooser.com!



Alyson Van Hooser
Author: Alyson Van Hooser
Alyson Van Hooser, Leadership Keynote Speaker, Trainer on Millennials, Gen Z & Women in Business With the grit that only comes from tough experiences, Alyson has learned a thing or two about personal and professional success. From her management experience with Walmart, as an elected city council member, bank manager — all before the age of 30 — Alyson has wisdom well beyond her years! Her podcast, Stake: The Leadership Podcast, offers a fresh perspective on leadership and helps multiple generations successfully work together! Connect with Alyson on LinkedIn and Instagram.

3 Comments

  • Avatar

    How can we encourage leaders to create environments where “failing forward” isn’t only possible but acknowledged as a natural part of the growth process?

    • Alyson Van Hooser
      Alyson Van Hooser

      Thanks, Ian! The fact of the matter is that failure is a natural part of the growth process — just as you said. Babies don’t just wake up one day and suddenly have the ability to walk. No. They fall, they fail. Over and over. Eventually, they get it! I think the answer to your question…a great place to start is telling our own stories. Talk about our failures and show how they got us to where we are. Leaders must be willing to share and show how their failures got them to where they are if they expect others to feel empowered to fail forward, too. Stories are incredibly powerful. When leaders share their stories — especially the difficult ones — with their people, they build trust for both parties. Trust is essential to employees being brave enough to just try — even if they fail. And when we share our stories and show people that they’re not alone, leaders begin building a culture of honesty and loyalty. Trust, honesty, and loyalty…the recipe for an innovative environment.

  • Avatar

    Well said. I love the story with your children. Spot on with engaging vs involving. How

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