Lego’s Gender Bender

As a male who grew up playing with Lego toys, I never thought they were only for boys.  After reading Businessweek’s article about Lego’s decision to go after the “girl” market, I started thinking back on my childhood.  I remembered my two younger sisters not playing with Lego Blocks, but then again when I was playing with Lego Blocks they were only blocks that came with the wide hipped, bright yellow toned skinned men.  Legos have certainly evolved since then; which makes sense that their business model is now shifting.

In January, Lego released a new set called Lego Friends, dedicated to girls.  This new set includes a cast of characters that have been updated from the toupee wearing, yellow block men of the past.  Instead, these female cast of characters are not only equipped with great accessories but with back stories.  The team at Lego didn’t stop there; they also changed the way the Lego construction blocks are packaged and have made these Logo Friends online interactive.  Needles to say, the team at Lego definitely did their homework with this one.

But will it work?

Lego spent years, decades, carving a clever niche in the “boy” market.  Money and time spent on marketing, research development, to make sure all boys in the modern world wanted…nay needed Legos.  Is Lego adjusting to the times or are they biting off more than they can chew?

When reading the Businessweek article, I thought about my business.  The bank I work at has a certain target market which we pursue.  In order for us to go after a completely new niche, there would have to be several changes that would need to happen.  In order to make those changes happen, valuable time and additional funds would need to focus on our new demographic; but we would also need to give enough attention to our current customer base/niche so that we would not lose market share in that valuable area.

In other words, we would end up trying to satisfy everyone and not exceed anybody’s expectations.  We would become the status quo, or even worse, we would become like Mega Blok, the generic/knockoff answer to Lego (no offense to Mega Blok fans).

Think of your business, are you currently focused on one niche?  Would it make sense for your company to seek out a new, different market?  If so, what would it take to change?  Are you willing to dedicate the effort and time it takes to make that change?

Good luck to Lego, I hope they can pull it off and make it a true success story.

And now for something completely different.


Integrity Above All

Earlier in the month, I had the pleasure of hearing General Carl W. Stiner speak at an event in Knoxville.  General Stiner, now retired, was Commander in Chief of United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) from 1990 to 1993.  His speech focused on leadership and teamwork.  It was by far the best speech I have ever heard and here are a few notes I would like to share.

Integrity Above All

In addition to integrity, great leaders need five (5) items

  • Physical Shape: Nobody wants to follow a messy slob.
  • Mental Shape: Always be learning, never be complacent.
  • Be the best at what you do.
  • Teamwork: Build your team.
  • Spiritual Shape: Nothing can substitute a close relationship between a person and God.

Pointers to Becoming a Great Leader

  • Great leaders grow those around them because they want to see their people succeed.  If you are growing those around you to only make yourself look good, you are not a true leader.
  • Treat those who report to you the way you would want your children to be treated.  Give respect, but don’t coddle.  Train and lead your people in the right direction.  Be firm and reward good behavior/results.
  • Cross train your people so they will be equipped to handle any situation.
  • Spend the majority of your time leading your people.
  • Get to know all you can about your people.
  • Pick one day out of the week to come into work one hour earlier than normal.  Do not turn on your computer and avoid phone calls for one hour.  Focus on where your people/department is currently.  Define where you want your people/department to be in one week, one month, three months, nine months, and one year.  Then create an outline of how you will get there.
  • “A great leader pisses people off.”  Great leaders don’t purposely try to piss people off.  They do this because they are focused on growing people and rewarding only those who do a great job.  Those without integrity or those who are not committed to doing their best will feel slighted because they are not being rewarded.  If you try to make everyone happy and make everyone feel appreciated, you will upset your best people and will create mediocrity.
  • If your people stop openly coming to you with their problems, then they have lost faith in you as their leader.

Fundamentals About Teamwork

  • You cannot do everything alone; you must be a team player.
  • You are as strong as your weakest link.
  • Those who are not a team player and do not follow protocol must be dealt with immediately.  Just one person can destroy an entire system.  Either get them on board or have them removed.

Improving Your Work Environment

  • Take your work very seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.  Learn to have fun in life and be able to laugh at yourself.
  • If you know less than 40% of something, then do not give your opinion or make a decision.  Gather more information.  If you are 100% sure about something, then you have already missed that opportunity.
  • Computers and technology are great and needed to improve performance; however technology can never replace human to human contact and decisions.
  • Never become satisfied with the status quo.
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