Dad occasionally made things to keep his three boys busy and to enhance our enjoyment of summer. When we moved to a new house, Dad climbed the biggest tree and proceeded to attach a homemade rope to a strong limb.
The rope-making required two people. First, we found a pile of binder twine, which once held bales of hay. Then, we looped the pieces of twine together. When the length was appropriate for Dad's purposes, we doubled the entire length back onto itself and repeated the process until we achieved the thickness Dad desired. Finally, Dad twisted his end to his right and I twisted mine to my right. Several flips of the rope were needed to create an even diameter throughout the entire length of the final product. After three equal lengths were produced in a similar manner, Dad attached the three pieces to a large nail on the barn and began to braid the three pieces together. We tied the ends and had our finished product of a 20-, 30- or 40-foot rope. Years of lazy summer swinging was our reward along with numerous other rope applications.
Another source of enjoyment for my brothers and I was a see saw. Dad made a large saw horse about 4 or 5 feet high. He retrieved an 18-foot, 2-by-10 board from the barn. A couple of guides the width of the board were nailed to the center top of the sawhorse. Now, we had a giant see saw. When my older brother Joe sank to the ground, I found myself high in the air with little ability to force my heavier brother up until he was entirely ready. He tested my limited courage by keeping me close to the stratosphere for what seemed like hours. Once I got used to the height, I enjoyed my wonderful toy.
Later, Dad built us some stilts. About 3 feet up on a pair of two-by-fours, Dad nailed wedges. I had to lean the stilts against the barn to mount them. But once I was on them, I plodded across the barnyard like a carnival clown.
One other toy required a lid of a tin can with two holes punched in the center about one half inch apart. A string was threaded through the holes. When we pulled on both strings, the lid started spinning and singing, zzzz-woo, zzzz-woo. Several hours of fun ensued.
Dad was born in 1899. As he was growing up 100 years ago, you found ways to entertain yourself. My Grandfather died when Dad was 7 years old, so he didn't learn how to make our many toys from him. Maybe an uncle or neighbor taught him.
People invented creative ways of accomplishing life's tasks and having fun. Today's leaders must feel comfortable inventing new and better ways of getting work done. They should encourage and support the creativity of employees. There are many ways of doing any task. The best leaders experiment, learn from others who are experienced, and continually improve their processes.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.