Saturday, March 26, 2011

Key Lessons Learned: The LEGO Experience


During the Welcome Reception for the Elevator Competition, Colin Gillespie, the senior director of marketing for LEGO Direct, was invited to provide a keynote speech. His speech was themed turnaround to transformation for the LEGO organization. When reflecting on Gillespie’s message, there are key lessons that we can incorporate in our professional and personal lives.


“Love what you sell…Sell what you love…Create amazing experiences”

Gillespie loved the LEGO brand as it was one of his childhood toys. When you are passionate about the brand or service, loving what you sell becomes inherent. When you combine loving what you sell with selling what you love, you then have the ability to create amazing experiences for your target audience. LEGO introduced the opening of their Rockefeller store by creating a giant apple with the help of the New Yorkers. The giant apple was a great marketing technique as it not only created a symbol for New York but involved the locals in order to create an amazing experience that they will never forget.

Continuous Improvement

“The best is still not good enough”

In order to become world class, you have to constantly look at ways of improving your best. Going overboard can also be damaging when you are stretched too thin. For example, LEGO developed theme parks, TV shows, computer games, dolls, and created life-style products. This allowed them to lose focus on their core products and they suffered profit loses.

Core Competencies

When stretching beyond core competencies, you lose sight of focus and start the walk of desert

When LEGO suffered loses in 2003 and 2004, they went back to the core - what are their core competencies. They had to set a crisp and clear direction and change the way they do business. They had to find ways to restore competitiveness and reduce the assets that were the most risky. They also needed great leadership to bring them back to basics. When LEGO made the turn from turnaround to transformation, they understood their core assets, had a matching business model, there was high amount of ownership and passion, and right people were hired to do the job.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Feeling Stressed?

Working full-time job, Evening MBA at Wake Forest (No piece of cake), spending time with family, taking care of home, maintaining friendships...the list can go on and on.

I personally like really allows me at times to focus and get things done. Stress can be good and bad. Understanding the trend of when we go from good stress to bad is key and will allow us to perform better.

I came across an interesting article that speaks to the subject. The key is to understand the Yerkes-Dodson Curve and when we are going too much on the right.


Our attention, mood, stamina, and body tells us if we need to start stress reduction methodologies so that we can control our stress. Ways we can start reducing our stress is to break-away from work 10 to 20 minutes, do a different task, or go somewhere for meditation. We also have to equip our bodies to handle stress and some long term items we can implement are:
  • Ask your company to build a relaxation room where employees can go relax and rejuvenate
  • Exercise regularly
  • Balanced diet
  • Sleep!!!!
  • My favorite: Avoid negative expectations - Always think positive thoughts

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Generational Diversity - Embrace the Change!

I just read a fantastic article on managing generation diversity at the workplace. As a millennial, especially in management, majority of my peers tend to be from a different generation. The beauty of diversity is that everyone brings something unique to the table and for me, I bring a lot of my "millennialism" which can be a huge source of conflict, especially if I'm in the minority. According to the article, the most common areas of conflict come from the following:
  • Choosing where and when to work
  • Communication among team members
  • Planning and scheduling
  • Accessing information and learning
The best way to handle the conflict is to be first aware there are differences and develop strategies to cope with the differences. Education is key as it increases knowledge and helps eliminates biases and stereotypes. Making gradual changes to accommodate the generation differences will allow both to co-exist. (Yes - Millennials and Baby Boomers can work together!)

In my experience, I seek ways to work with ones that have a harder time adjusting to the Millennial style. Once they understand me and see the throughput I produce at work, the biases and the stereotype slowly disappear. This strengthens our professional relationship and allows us to co-exist. There are some people that have deep rooted biases and takes time and patience to eliminate their perceptions but it is very necessary to keep up the fight and constantly educate.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Paying It Forward: 2011 Women’s Weekend

This year, the Graduate Women in Business (GWIB), hosted the Women’s Weekend, with the theme, “Paying it Forward” on Feb. 25-26. This was the first year they invited prospective students to join the event.

The weekend began with a dessert and cocktail reception with keynote speaker, Lisbeth Evans, who shared her marvelous story on why it is important to follow your dreams. She came from a strong family of very educated women. She is a “Double Deac” herself and her story truly showed how she followed her passion. She started out being a teacher after completing her undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University. After a year of teaching, she went to Wake’s business school to earn an MBA. After business school, she worked as a developer for a real estate company, joined Morgan Stanley, worked for the government and was a former N.C. Secretary of the Department of Cultural Resources, and invested in the fashion industry.

Evans is currently the owner of Once Upon an App, which makes educational programs and games for children. Her underlying message was to go pursue your dreams: We as women need to have the power and self confidence to follow our passion and it could lead us in various industries, roles, and paths.

On Saturday, the event kicked off with having the Alumni Panel. Our panelists consisted of Evans; Katharina Haynes Bethea, associate marketing manager at Wal-Mart; Kathy Hackshaw, general manager of Tanger Outlets; and Kelly Lockwood-Primus, vice president of marketing for Primo Water Corp. Topics of discussions included challenges women will face, mentoring, and paying it forward. Here are key points from the discussions:

  • Challenges Women will face in the work-place
    • We as women want to do it for less, which is okay if it is a job that you want to do and are passionate about.
    • Make sure you are aware of your talents. Don’t pigeonhole yourself in an industry.
    • Women are often self-critical.
    • It is easier for women to blend in, especially if they are the only girl at the table. When you start blending in with the rest of your counterparts, you automatically set yourself to lose. Don’t be afraid to show your feminine side – express yourself
    • Sometimes, in order to maintain your passion, leaving the company may be the possibility. Have a good balance of work and life. Develop a social support.
    • Strongly recommend reading the book: How to succeed without a penis and learning how to play golf.
  • Mentoring
    • Studies have shown that mentorships are very crucial in order to be successful in your career
    • Connecting with a mentor and ensure they have the skill set that can help you get to the next level. Use different mentors at different times of a career
    • Have a sponsor: Someone that can promote or advertise you to others in the organization. The sponsor should have a big enough voice in the organization.
    • Mentoring should be a two-way street. Allow the mentor to provide you guidance but also ask them if you can assist them on a project or a task
    • Shadowing the mentor is also a great way to get the experience
  • Paying it Forward
    • Need to have the mentality to provide support to others based on lessons learned not getting stuck in your own personal struggles. For example, if it took me five years to get there, teach others of your struggles so they can make it there in less time.
    • Always have each others back – not being catty.
    • Provide constructive feedback to others if they are unwilling to bring you along.
    • If there is back-biting, address it head-on.

After lunch, we had a great session by Kathy Korman Frey, founder of The Hot Mommas Project, on the topic of New Sisterhood of success. Here were the key highlights:

  • To Don’t List
    • It is not enough just to have a to-do list. Having a “to-don’t” list will allow you to maximize your time effectively. Key point in this discussion is to stay out of the e-mail vortex of death, where we often want to check a quick e-mail and fall into a malicious trap of responding and addressing issues that can wait.
  • Value Spreadsheet
    • Quantify your value. Do a quantitative analysis on what you are worth to the organization. This will assist with salary negotiations.
  • Understand needing support where you log most hours
    • This will allow you to have more focus. What are the most important priorities that need to be completed and reaching out for support?
  • Work-Life balance
    • Playing multiple roles – at home, work. Women typically get a lot of care giving responsibilities, whether it is child care or taking care of elderly relatives.
  • 5 Mentors
    • Studies have shown that women that have five or more mentors are more successful.
  • Key message for all women: Ask others how you can support them by providing your examples and experiences. Forum technique, where you are not giving advice but experiences builds a support network.

Overall, the Women’s weekend was a big success. There were a lot of experience sharing and knowledge that we were sharing. Key to keeping this momentum going to ensure you are following the techniques provided and not allowing constraints of real life sneak up. As a millennial female in the workforce, this has taught me a valuable lesson. The key message it has taught me is the idea of paying it forward. The struggles I have faced in the workforce or at school needs to be shared with others so the next generation of women can learn from my mistakes and take that knowledge and pay it forward to the next.