By Kristen & Carter Williams, Directors of Xperience Growth Coaching
Over these last few months it’s become obvious how lessons from parenting and leadership are so blended and applicable in both environments. Lately it has been a struggle to maintain calm and kindness with our daughter, a typical well adjusted, cheerful 3.5 year old. There are moments where she will fly off the handle and lose her marbles, daily, sometimes multiple times a day for no real reason. I get it, living in quarantine is getting to us all – bless her 3 year old heart, managing the emotions isn’t easy for anyone. However, as a solution based person, I find myself searching for ways to bring our 3 year old back to the emotional center. As I’ve been desperately searching, attempting anything that remotely sticks as a solution I finally found something that worked, and then I had an aha moment as it’s not just a lesson for a 3 year old, it’s a lesson in relationships and can be applied to our business too. I am calling it, “Feed the Lamb.”
It started unintentionally as we were playing with loose change in our change jar. Then turned into a lesson where I was teaching her about money at a 3 year old level – what is a penny, a nickel, a dime, a quarter. Then developed to who is on each coin. Thankfully I knew everyone on each coin except for the dime. If you don’t know who’s on the dime, I’ll let you figure that out. I still don’t know and I’ve forgotten to look it up.
I am digressing… so then I remembered she has a lamb piggy bank. I thought, what if I got the lamb bank and let her put money in it? Then I thought what could she do to “earn” the right to put money in. And since we’d been struggling with kindness, how about every time I catch Ellee doing something kind, I’ll let her “feed the lamb.” Things like listening to me when I reminded her to go to the bathroom or being sweet to her baby sister or throwing her snack bar wrapper in the trash instead of the floor. I began to look for things she was doing right and then telling her to go feed the lamb. I realize this is classic “positive reinforcement” rooted in psychology. The study was conducted by BF Skinner who developed the study where the rat would press on a lever and a food pellet would come out. I am familiar with this behavior yet I didn’t realize the effect it would have on me, as a mother and a business person.
When I was intentional about catching her in the act of doing something right, not only was her behavior better, I found that I was looking for her do-good behavior. It’s been a few weeks and it still works great. Sometimes her motivation to do good is slightly lower. Today she said to me, “I don’t want to listen to you mommy so I won’t get to feed the lamb” and to that I say, to you, the reader, “help me, lol”. Yet what I’ve learned with this is a valuable lesson for me. I am training myself to catch my girl doing right versus correcting when she’s done wrong.
The even bigger lesson here: As a parent, wife, coach, business owner, we often catch ourselves and others doing wrong much more often than we catch people doing right. And even if we internally acknowledge someone did right, do we even bother to tell them? Do we thank them or acknowledge it? I know I’m guilty of letting a do-good moment pass by because I’m moving so quickly.
This concept takes me back to a conversation I had with a team member about her role in our organization and how she was doing. I personally think this person is doing a phenomenal job in her role. She’s risen to the challenges thrown her way and is excelling. I knew that and yet I had not specifically verbalized it to her. Therefore, she had insecurities about her job performance. My first thought when we had the conversation was to tell her how silly she was. Because I hadn’t shared it with her, she did not know. I did not catch her doing right.
As a business owner and leader, I have now made it a priority to verbalize positive feedback. I trust and hope my team members would agree, yet I am sure I can continue to improve. In business, family and with all important relationships, I have realized how important it is to catch someone doing right. I’ve now added this into my daily affirmations that I read to myself each day. With all the special people in your life, let them “Feed the Lamb.”