I’ve watched enough Maggie Dent videos to know that when I talk to my preschool aged son about his day, I’m not supposed to look at him directly and I’m not supposed to use too many words. I know I’m supposed pick my moment to talk, I need to be patient, slow and calm.
Sometimes I feel like Jekyll and Hyde. The moment I leave the house for work, the way I need to communicate changes so dramatically it gives me whiplash.
But here are some lessons my kids have taught me, that I take into the office:
- Praising people for a good job isn’t hard. It breeds loyalty and, dare I say it, even better work. We have a point system at home, if the kids are well behaved and kind, they get a point. There’s points for manners, points for making your own bed and even points for not waking Mummy up too early. Ten points and it’s a trip to the shop for a Kinder Surprise. In the workplace the points are invisible, but I still like to tell people when they’ve earned one.
- If during an important business meeting, you put your hand in your handbag to grab a business card, only to find it dripping in leftover honey from your child’s breakfast, your client will probably understand. It’s ok to fess up and have a laugh (even if the ruined handbag was ridiculously expensive). We’re all human.
- Does anyone else let their kids decorate the Christmas tree, and then go back and swap it all around when the kids have gone to bed that night? I mean, what kind of crazy person would put the two blue baubles on the exact same branch. I don’t interrupt the decorating ritual because I love seeing the pride on their little faces. Whether its the success of the tree, or coming home with a merit certificate for good listening at mat time, feeling good about what we’re doing makes us want to do even better. During any communication training session, there’s always a turning point where I know the client just found their confidence. It’s the moment just before they absolutely nail their performance.
- There’s a few things I don’t tolerate in the work space. Bad language is not one of them, but bullying is. On the walk to school this morning my son was talking about bullies, and with all the wisdom of an (almost) 6 year old, he told me bullies felt bad and sad about something going on with them, and were just trying to make other people feel bad and sad as well. It’s funny how a simple change in perspective, can completely change the way you feel about someone.
- Has your toddler ever offered your CEO five half licked soggy Cheezels that he’s wrapped around his little 2 year old (now orange tinged) fat fingers? I gasped with embarrassment, the CEO laughed, the meeting continued, and nobody cared. A client or employer is buying your 20 years of experience, not only the few hours you’re sitting with them. For me that experience comes with life lessons and responsibilities outside the workplace, I need to juggle it and I’m totally ok with that.
- It never ceases to amaze me how big the tantrums can be when I cut the toast into squares rather than triangles. I’m pretty sure the screaming isn’t actually about geometrics. It’s not my job to gossip about it to his brother, or even try to fix it. However, it is my responsibility to give him a big cuddle, tell him I understand it’s frustrating and disappointing. Then move on to eating breakfast. In the office, people have stuff going on that you don’t know about. It’s ok, you don’t need to re-cut the toast. Appreciate they don’t like square cooked bread today, and consider empathy over embarrassment.
- We have a little emotions chart hanging on the kitchen cupboard. It’s a throwback to home-schooling during the Covid crisis, and I haven’t taken it down yet. When the kids are feeling a big emotion they can only express by lashing out, I ask them to point to the chart and we try to find words to explain how they’re feeling, or what they’re thinking. It doesn’t always work, but we try. Unfortunately, emotion charts probably won’t fly in the workplace. But asking your client, colleague or boss to explain things you don’t understand (using big grown up words rather than emotions), is life changing.
In our work life we all try to be our best selves. We want the other grownups to think we’ve got it perfectly under control. But life isn’t an Instagram post. When I’m media training, I tell people the single most important thing they need to be is ‘relatable’. If people can identify with your flaws, your triumphs and your vulnerabilities – they’re more likely to listen to what you’re saying.
These days I go to work mostly for an opportunity to pee on my own. But I do know that keeping it real when communicating with anyone inside or outside my house, makes the juggle much easier to manage.