We are ALL Connected!!

We are ALL connected to so many things…We’re connected to this world, to our families, friends and even to ourselves. Our connections support and nurture us, they help us to change and grow and the really great ones provide all that support without passing judgment. 
As many of you know, after attending the Lego Serious Play course last month I ordered lots of Lego supplies, and am now ready to teach the many benefits of “playing”. One of the boxes of supplies holds what are called “connections”. They are a collection of assorted strings, ties, chains, poles, fences, and ladders that can be connected to Lego bricks to illustrate and emphasize our connections in work and in life. I loved using them in class to illustrate all the ways I was connected to the models my classmates had built, so I couldn’t wait to try them out at home. 
For my latest build, I not only used two types of connectors to make and hang a swing, I took it a step further and connected Lego mini figures to show the value and importance of the connections in my life. 
Hanging the swing required that I build something strong enough to hold it up. I built two pillars, because for me, they represent pillars that hold me up in my life. The significance of the pillars was based on a class I took years ago at the Washington National Cathedral where we walked outside and observed all the pillars and buttresses holding up the Cathedral. We were required to name all the people who were pillars and buttresses in our own lives. I’ve never forgotten the emotion and intense power of that exercise. 
After seeing my latest build, my daughter Kim asked “who are those four Lego anchors? I know they aren’t just there.” It was a great question and Kim was right, they aren’t just there! The four mini figures at the top and bottom of the pillars didn’t actually represent people in my life, but rather the different facets of my life – my work, home, caregiver and adventurous lives! The figures are wearing different color tops and bottoms which for me represent all of life’s events and experiences AND how they impact me. 
Kim also asked “who are the rest of them and does their placement have significance”? Another great question! The twenty additional mini figures in my model represent the team of connections that work together to support me. Some of them are close enough to touch each other, illustrating that some of my connections intersect, while some of them are not. Their placement didn’t have significance per se, the goal was simply to cover as many of the open spots as possible, closing any gaps where there wasn’t a connection, to illustrate that I, like all of us, need support from time to time in every part of my life. 
One of the points that is driven home to caregivers is to ensure that there is a network of support in place for whenever it is needed. I believe my network of support is wide and deep!  Most of you know my family and frienalies (friends who are family) and all the amazing things they do to support me. I love them ALL! There are times however that they even surprise me by providing support even when I didn’t know I needed it. That’s how you know your connections are strong!
Kim surprised me that way just last month, as she and Kendal spent 8 hours with me on my walk for The Longest Day Alzheimer’s fundraising event. I didn’t think I’d need any support as I’m accustomed to walking miles and miles alone, but as it turned out I DID need them and all the fun and laughter they brought along with them that day. I felt so embraced and loved by them both and it was a day I’ll never forget. 
What support do you provide to your connections? What connections have you built to support YOU in your life? Life can be hard without the right connections, but it’s never too late to build some great ones!!

Serious WORK and Serious FUN are great descriptions for my Lego Serious Play class!

I’ve wanted to become certified in the Lego Serious Play method for years, primarily because it’s known for helping people and organizations perform better. After I finally registered for the course, I had a hard time containing my excitement! Now that the class is over I can honestly say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself! As a certified facilitator in the Lego Serious Play Method, I am looking forward to taking my new skills out into the world and helping organizations and individuals achieve greater success.

I’d talked about this class so much that I promised to write a blog that would explain the methodology and my class experience. So, what is Lego Serious Play all about? It’s a facilitated thinking, communication and problem-solving method for organizations, teams and individuals based on four essential steps. Step 1 – Participants are presented with a question or challenge for which there is no obvious correct solution. Step 2 – Participants then use Lego bricks to build a model of their meaning of the question or challenge and develops a story that explains their model. Step 3 – The story of each participant’s model is shared with the group. Step 4 – Participants are encouraged to reflect on what was learned about all the class models. When all four of the steps are completed, Lego Serious Play unleashes insight, inspiration and imagination, all of which I can personally attest to!

I could barely contain my excitement last Friday as Tim and I drove down to Charlotte, NC the site of the course. There was only one problem,.. I hadn’t felt well for days. I was tired, and had a sore throat and chills. I was popping ColdEze like candy, but it didn’t really seem to be working. Even so, I was positive that I’d feel better before the class started.

Class started bright and early on Sat June 28th. There were 12 excited souls in the room – seven men and five women of all ages and walks of life and professions. There were three huge tables in our conference room. The first table held our class notebooks and was where we learned the methodology and proper facilitation of a Lego Serious Play class (see pic below). The second table was where we built all of our Lego models (second pic), and the last table which was placed between the other two was where teams built models together. For most of the first day I forgot I didn’t feel well. Class time flew by and I felt like I was in heaven building models all day long!

pic1     Charlotte June 2014 111

Those who follow the Lego Serious Play methodology, knew we were in the presence of Lego Royalty for our four day class. Our class facilitator was Robert Rasmussen, a former Lego Director in Denmark who was tapped to develop the Lego Serious Play method. He and one other person were the original Master Trainers of the process and now delivers the Lego Serious Play course all around the world as a Lego consultant.

Robert really put us through our paces, and kept us on track!! We worked diligently all four days from 8:30 am to 5 or 5:30 pm. On the third day of class we actually had a team evening assignment too, where we had to design a 3 hour Lego Serious Play course that we could use in the future. Robert posed incredibly challenging questions during the entire class and just when myself and the 11 other participants would think “how are we supposed to build THAT?”, Robert would say “just start building and the ideas will come!”. REALLY??, and he was right!! As soon as you started putting a couple of bricks together, something would pop into your head, and it all made sense!!! You not only had a model that you created with your own hands, you also had the story to go with it. I hadn’t expected that it would be that easy to “think with our hands”, but it actually was! Below you can see my model illustrating my identity. It’s me training a group of people (yellow heads), allowing them to jump over barriers (yellow barricade), walk the yellow brick road to achieve success (the clear blue tower), even while overcoming life’s challenges (me laying on a hospital bed during my years of illness). That’s my identity in a nutshell!!


The other thing I hadn’t expected, was when you told your story about what you built, you were instructed to touch your model as you explained it, AND your classmates looked at the model as you talked, and not at you!! While that may seem odd at first, it’s a key principle of Lego Serious Play, known as leveling the playing field. Lego Serious Play believes that everyone, regardless of their status within a company, has something unique and valuable to contribute to discussions, decisions and outcomes! By looking at the model and not the person, the focus is on the idea that was created, and NOT on the person who thought of the idea. It’s one of the things I love most about the methodology!

By days three and four I was really feeling worse and not sleeping due to a horrible cough at night. Yet, I still had so much fun, even though it was very hard work too. We built towers that represented our definition of trust, our lives to this point, our identity and even our fears and our aspirations!! That may not sound hard, but it was emotionally DRAINING!!! The most challenging and rewarding work of the four days was building shared models. Each of the twelve of us would take the piece or section of our individual models that was MOST important to us and combine all the pieces to make ONE shared team model. WOW!! That exercise was priceless!! it showed that no matter where you were from or what you did for a living, you could form a shared identity and purpose with others. The twelve of us learned so much about each other during the class and will be friends forever. Several of us are even planning to do work together. It’s been four days since the class ended, but I can still recite at least one story about each of my classmates models without looking at a photo. How many people can say that after an ordinary business meeting where new ideas were shared? The pic below left is my team’s discussion with our individual models prior to building our shared model on Trust which represented all six of us! (pic on the right)

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To give you an idea of how intense the class was, on the last day of class the hotel power went out, but we never missed a beat… Three people instantly pulled out their phones and opened their flashlight apps and shined it on our model table and the placard Robert was holding (see pic below). Robert kept talking and we never even investigated why the power went out. We didn’t lose focus for even one minute, even when the hotel staff arrived to bring us huge lanterns that lit up the entire room. About 25 minutes later the power came back on, and the phone flashlights and lanterns were put away as we finished up our day.

The Seaweedies June 2014 Charlotte 017

As bad as I felt on the last day of class, I was so proud of myself for pushing through and earning my certification! Everything I learned in the Lego Serious Play course I can use in my business, my everyday life, AND with my Mom too. It was all about finding new, creative and imaginative ways to tackle challenges and listening to what everyone in the room has to say! More than 50 years ago when my Mom brought me my first set of Legos, I never knew I’d eventually be using them as an adult to help people communicate more effectively. You never know when you’re going to discover something that will give you a new way to look at things! I love playing Legos with my Mom because I learn something from her every time. In the pic below taken on Easter Sunday, Mom shared that she was building her new home that had lots of doors.  I was very impressed!


In the Lego Serious Play class I learned that you can create change just by building something new with your hands! I also learned that asking questions and posing challenges to stir imagination and creativity can result in wonderful outcomes! I can’t wait to play with Mom again to see what my questions about the past may lead her to build. There’s so much to look forward to in both my work and personal lives all because of some Lego bricks!! Love you Mom!

What new models and ideas will you build this week??