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Six Lessons About Work We Learned in Kindergarten

Playing Well in the Sandbox at Work

The COVID-19 pandemic has led so many of us to reflect upon what makes us feel fulfilled and how we can live a meaningful life going forward, both personally and professionally. And more than ever, we find a large overlap between the two. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Reflections in the Sandbox

Organizations are emersed in the challenge of "the great resignation" as people determine whether they are heading down a path aligned with what matters most to them. Throughout the pandemic, employees have reflected on whether they have or can attain a meaningful and fulfilled life by doing by their current job, in the same company and, even, in the same field as before.

Companies are simultaneously looking for innovative ways to engage and retain their people, while also maintaining employee productivity and business results. Leaders and HR Professionals are focused on determining the best ways to support their people. Remote or ‘work from anywhere’ practices have been implemented to allow families to establish lives in more affordable, family-friendly and slower-paced locations and provide flexible schedules for those who need to work around childcare.

Some savvy organizations recognize the need to focus on ensuring meaningful work for their employees where they feel their contribution is valued and know the impact their work has on the organization. Some organizations are:

  • Revisiting goal setting and performance review processes

  • Ramping up career and professional development practices

  • Strengthening internal mobility approaches

  • Building talent assessment and succession planning processes

  • Implementing more targeted employee learning opportunities at all levels

This is an opportunity like never before, ideally with positive outcomes for both the organization and the employee… as long as both parties play well in the sandbox. It’s an opportunity to become an organization where people want to come work and stay, perform at high levels and contribute to its purpose and success. It’s an opportunity to become an organization where employees can do their best work; leverage their strengths and interests; bring their authentic selves to work (regardless of work location); and ensure their values align with the organization’s values.

Lessons Learned in Kindergarten

As I was recently doing some client work, I glanced at my bookshelf in search of a particular resource. What I saw first was a book that I had not read in quite some time, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. He wrote,


about how to live and what to do and how to be, I learned in kindergarten.

Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain,

but there in the sandpile at Sunday School.”

How true this is. Sometimes we lose sight of the basics. So many of the characteristics we look for in a culture in which we can be successful stem from the basic lessons we learned in kindergarten. As employees, managers and leaders, we may still have room for development.

Six (6) of these kindergarten-based lessons are:

1. Play fair.

2. Clean up your own mess.

3. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

4. Warm cookies and milk are good for you.

5. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

6. It doesn’t matter what you say you believe - it only matters what you do.

Let’s keep practicing and reinforcing what we have learned long ago…

* * * * *

When have you seen one or more of these lessons demonstrated, or not, at work?

Please share the situation and its outcome.


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