President’s Message - Playground Rules

03.25.11
By Keith Wewe
Published in LMASE Newsletter

Earlier this month, I played daddy for the day for my 4 year-old niece, Kailey, at “Dad’s Day” at her school in Austin. My brother was away on one of his frequent business trips and since we are identical twins - I was a logical stand-in. I loved it. Of course, what was there not to love? Kindergarten kids get to color pictures outside the lines, play with toys, go outside, eat carb-loaded snacks and take naps. As Dad for the Day, I got to do many of these things, too. Next month, I’ll be enrolling myself as a pre-K student.

However, it wasn’t all fun and games because I learned a few things, too – especially on the playground. Courtesy of the kids at St. Paul Lutheran Kindergarten, here are 5 rules I learned that you can apply (or not apply) to your everyday work lives as legal marketers.

Rule #1: Proclaiming yourself “not it” makes you immune from any undesirable tasks.

I certainly remember saying these words many times when we played our own version of tag around our neighborhood, but these words rarely come out of my mouth now. I’m sure the same applies to each of you. We love signing up for tasks others won’t because it is our opportunity to shine and demonstrate that we are team players. But – are there some tasks that we shouldn’t be doing?

I once worked for a firm where no one liked planning the firm holiday party. My colleagues didn’t have time to do it and there was little satisfaction in a job well-done. I signed up immediately and did a great job. So great, in fact, it immediately became a part of my annual responsibilities and I soon became known as “Party Guy” – a moniker I was never able to shake. I tried to remold myself into “Business Development Guy” (which happened to be the job for which I was hired) to no avail.

My advice to you is to say “not it” on the tasks that don’t demonstrate your real value or work to achieve the goals for which you were hired.

Rule #2: At any point during play, yelling “time-out” immediately suspends the rules.

There was one kid on the playground who hated this rule. In fact, he proceeded to stomp off in tears and hide behind a tree (see Rule #5) after the girl he was just about to tag yelled “time-out” mere milliseconds before he touched her. She was then able to reposition herself so as not to get tagged and re-enter the game. Smart kid.

Here’s the application of this - during your more prolonged or difficult projects, take a time-out and suspend those rules by looking at your project from a different point of view. You might just find the unique solution you are looking for.

Rule #3: Name calling and rock throwing is encouraged with laughter and applause.

This is the cruelest of all playground rules. My suggestion to you – don’t engage in this behavior at all, even when up against the archest of enemies. As a colleague of mine says, “Take the high road.”

Rule #4: Sharing your toys earns you instant playground cred.

These kids shared amazingly well. Three of the girls (led by my darling niece) took turns riding and pulling the wagon around a turn-about. Whoever pulled the wagon last was next to jump into the back of the wagon, and the girl at the front then did the pulling. One of real dad’s was so impressed that he praised the girls – which was noticed by other kids who soon repeated the behavior.

When working with your co-workers, it’s important to work together to share knowledge, ideas – or maybe just office supplies. This builds teamwork and will result in a better working environment, improved performance or recognition of your grand achievements.

Rule #5: If all else fails – cry.

The kid mentioned in Rule #2 frequently used this rule, but was largely ignored and never received what he wanted in the end. Showing passion is certainly warranted in some situations, but leaving emotion out of every-day decisions will demonstrate your level-headed response to difficult situations.

In short – there are several things we can learn from kids. For me, I’ll be spending more time on the playground, and I suggest you do the same.

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