Do you know the story of the three blindfolded men who meet the elephant?
One person is presented with the tail. He feels the swoosh and the stringy stands and concludes it is a rope.
Another feels the breath from the trunk and hears the sound and wonders if it is a trumpet or a French horn.
The third touches his ear. It’s thin, dry, and cracked.
Each of them feels safe … until the blinders are removed.
As we grow in leadership responsibility and power, we lose the perspective held by team members. Problem-solving without persepective only aggravates the situation.
If a challenging issue were seen from another angle, even better from multiple perspectives, we might make very different decisions.
Summer vacation is coming up and we often spend this time with children trying to forget about work. What if the kids could bring you fresh perspective for problem-solving of issues at work? Try these ideas which
- Build connection between you and your child
- Boost your children’s self-confidence
- Give you fresh perspective on a work challenge
1. Observe with an Open Mind
When you observe someone, how long do you wait to speak and ty to influence their behavior? Do these phrases sound familiar?
- Advice: “Listen…and don’t interrupt.”
- Coaching: “Try doing it this way instead. It will work better.”
- Critique: “Don’t just sit there. Do something about it!”
In my workshops, we ask participants to observe a colleague or family member for five to fifteen minutes. No a priori. Just watch to learn. Try it this summer.
What interests them and what makes them tune out? What are the cues?
What resources are they tapping into: persistence, patience, ingenuity…?
How would you describe their demeanor: comfortable, tense, enthused….?
Here is what one manager shared:
“I noticed how this young employee struggled with his Power Point presentation. She typed – erased – typed – erased… I wanted to tell her to STOP and think it through first. Instead I kept my distance and observed. She was tenacious. I realized she sought excellence…. I wanted to give her feedback and decided that instead of my usual advice I would ask her to self-evaluate: what went well, what she learned from it, and how she might do things differently next time. We would end up with the same conclusion as when I tell her what to do, only this time the insights would come from her. She would own her performance.”
Here is what a parent shared:
“My teen was doing his laundry. He had a wrinkled button-down shirt. He tried to smooth out the front to no avail. He went to get my curling iron and used it to smooth out the front of his shirt! Quite ingenious! Before intentionally observing him, I thought my son was so impractical and a dreamer. I learned that he manages…very differently from me AND quite well anyhow.”
2. Play the Multiple Perspectives Game
Is there a challenge with you and a child? How about viewing it from multiple angles together.
Maybe you want your daughter to help clear the table after meals. You could each try to understand this request from everyone involved (and more):
- Daughter: “Why me? Why not my brothers? Boys can help in the kitchen.”
- Big Brother: “I get to play while my sister works. My parents love me more because I can do what I want.”
- Little Brother: “My parents ask Sister to help and not me. She is big and can do many things. I am small and need help.”
- A Martian: “Why do they have plates? Can’t they eat with their hands?”
- A parent: “I want vacation too. If we all help a bit, then it’s less work for each one.”
- In 20 years: … Your daughter interrupts the game to ask, “Does what I do today make a difference for 20 years from now?!” and you have the invitation to embark on a meaningful discussion…
Who knows, your daughter might come up with a chore chart that includes clearing the table AND vacuuming AND picking up toys! And EVERYONE pitches in!
Similarly, at work this could entail trying to understand the perspective of the client, the finance team, the engineers, the supplier, the newlywed colleague’s spouse….
3. Explain the Challenge Simply
Relationship challenges are unique AND similar.
- Someone seeks attention and affirmation.
- Another wants power or control.
- A person has been hurt and attempts to retaliate.
- Others fear rejection and not being worthy…
Parents have questions about the challenges their children face. And kids are interested in the lives of their parents.
Try a mutual coaching between you and your child. Your kid shares a challenge with you and you do the same with her. This is not a teaching time; it’s a mutual discovery moment.
You might be surprised by their insight:
“You mean you are not friends with everyone at work?!”
They might be surprised by yours:
“So, the fight started when he hit you back.”
Learning opportunities abound!
4. Ask What They Would Like in that Situation
Many of us try to solve other people’s problems.
One child was slooooooooow to get up in the morning even though her Dad has tried everything. Mornings grew to become the worst time of the day for all. Finally, in despair the father asks, “What would make it easier for you to get up in the morning?” The child admits sheepishly, “I want a hug to help me get out of bed.” Their morning routing is now pleasant for everyone.
Is there a routine at the office that does not function smoothly?
Instead of being the one to find all the answers, try asking. The answers from your children could provide helpful insights for work.
“What do I want when you boss me around? It’s OK for you to tell me what to do. I just want us to play first.”
Application at Work:
Does your team have moments to connect as people: a weekly lunch together, a morning coffee ritual, or a WhatsApp group to share news and photos of successes.
“When I feel sad, I like to snuggle with my Froggy.”
Application at Work:
We each perform better when we feel better. How do you calm down and recharge?
One teacher reported used a toy palm-tree as a sign to students that she needed calm. When the trinket was on her desk, it meant to this-is-not-the-right-time.
What is your calming routine, and could you encourage team members to think of theirs: could it help you to walk down several flights of stairs? To do breathing exercises in the bathroom? To get a glass of water?
Enjoy your vacation and the inspiration you can glean from your kids.