What Bob the Builder Taught Me About Training

It’s not rocket science, but I’m talking about training to reach the stars. Forgive the pun and the cliche, but they seem most appropriate here.

Can we do it? Of course, we can. I learned all I know from the Cave Man who must have said, “I need to fix this. I have no other choice,” and Bob the Builder who reminded me and my children every day, “Can we fix it? Yes, we can.”

How to get people to reach for the stars? Isn’t it simply another way of saying, “Set high goals and be determined to reach them?”

How do we get people to dream big and reach high?

Besides trying to change company attitudes, we can ensure we reward initiative and new ideas, that we make brainstorming work as intended, that we facilitate to the best of our ability to be all-inclusive and letting everyone be heard, and most importantly, that we don’t put anyone down as having an unworkable idea or an idea too lofty. Hence: we reach for the stars.

Steve Jobs‘ untimely death is in the news now, and I’m sure we’ll be thinking about him for a long time as we learn even more about his accomplishments in the coming days. He was an underachiever in education, and he was pushed out of his own company; however, he was an overachiever in goals we may have thought impossible. His accomplishments are vast. I’ve heard it put, “He was the Einstein of Technology.” He certainly changed the world.

His lack of education and “failed” experience might have kept him out of a traditional job, but it was his achievements–his accomplishments that overcame his “disadvantages.”

So can you. By all means get all the education and positive job experience you can, but the career experts today say to write your resume as a series of accomplishments rather than a series of job descriptions. My resume is a combination, but if I’m trying to sell myself as a product I have to say what I’m good for. My accomplishments are examples of that attributes.

How can we go about training people to reach for the stars–no matter their education or experience?

It never stopped Jobs. Yes, we could argue that he was different. Perhaps, in his mind, there was nothing that couldn’t be accomplished, nothing that couldn’t be made to work if it was useful. He believed in himself. Pushed out of the company he started, Apple’s Macintosh company, he went to Pixar, and his accomplishments may have had something to do with Apple’s buying of Pixar and bringing him back to serve as Apple’s own CEO. We may never know the whole story there. Admittedly, people say he was a genius and how can we possibly think our accomplishments can be as magnificent as his. We can’t. Our accomplishments will be our own.

How do we train people to be so motivated to take the initiative?

It all began with Bob the Builder. Anyone with kids knows who I am talking about. Or, the Little Engine That Could. Children stories that tell us we can do anything we set our minds to do–if we only try. A bit sophomoric, I agree, but true. We did learn a lot in kindergarten, but we forgot it as we got older as other people told us what we needed to do to succeed in the job. They were very specific in their instruction and they weren’t wrong either. Sure, we aren’t children, but last time I checked we were still human with personal dreams.

Our dreams include our careers; we want to succeed. The message from any organization should be clear: If you help the organization succeed, you will succeed. Business as usual means we aren’t moving forward. It’s new, fresh ideas that move us forward. It was a new idea that got us started and we need an influx of new ideas to maintain our success.

How do you train people to show initiative?

You encourage and reward it. Never pooh-pooh an idea. Ideas are creations. If you are a religious person, pooh-poohing could be considered sinful. Instead, how about acknowledging it and letting it cogitate for awhile in as many minds that want to engage it. Somewhere there may come a spark, another idea that makes it applicable, affordable, politically agreeable–the opposite of your assumptions–the very reasons for “pooh-poohing” the idea in the first place.

We like to say we brainstorm, but we violate those rules by setting limits; let’s make sure that doesn’t happen. Have fun with it. There’s more to be gained with the free flow of ideas making the work place fun. Positive people make positive things happen. Reward initiative rather than slap it down when it doesn’t meet the “way we’ve always done it.” Learn to despise that attitude.

People are motivated by moving forward.

It doesn’t always have to mean promotion, but a step that says I’m a valuable participant and every idea that contributes to company success rightly deserves to be called an accomplishment. List those accomplishments and you have a sales package that says you are deserving of reaching the stars.

Remember, Bob the Builder’s famous words, “Can we fix it. Yes, we can.”

And, the Little Engine That Could, did.

My last two posts addressed A Look at the Education vs Experience Debate and To Be Eliminated or Not, That is The Question, which focused on eliminating job applicants. I did not talk about accomplishments in those posts, but they are clearly what makes a valued employee. Accomplishments means someone is a someone you want on your team–that is if you want a dynamic, productive team.

The initial screening of applicants may mean you probably won’t get an interview if you don’t have the prerequisite education and experience. However, if the screeners review a good cover letter or resume anyway and it includes a series of accomplishments, you may overcome that barrier. Personally, I like brief one-liners to highlight my accomplishments, then I can expound on them later in the interview when asked.

We know “fit” has a lot to do with getting the job and may indeed be a part of the screening process. A lot is said about giving the company exactly what they asked for so they can check off your qualifications. That may be part of how they determine “fit.”

Accomplishments that demonstrate hard work, perseverance, creativity and initiative are what corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and even government should be about. Instead of listing a job description and all the routine duties performed, include your accomplishments in the position, and you’ll have a stronger resume, too.

Please feel free to subscribe or RSS to my articles. I promise to be unique in my approach. I call it my Cave Man approach–a common sense guide to training and development. You’ll find more on my website. I’m open for business–not only training, but also speaking engagements, executive speech and presentations coaching as well as training development. Happy training.

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Nateria Dickey

Hi Jack, Great article! I have two kids, so I found your Bob the Builder analogy awesome! Actually I have often thought the same thing, when faced with a challenge “Can we fix it, Yes we can!” It is a catchy line that gets stuck in your head. I found this article refreshing and motivating this morning. Thanks for the insight!