Do you work proactively in a calm, alert and focused way at work only to find that when it comes to things at home it’s a different matter? When we are not in charge at home it drains our energy and affects our ability to function well in both places. I know how this feels – before I had kids I worked as a lawyer in an office and when I asked people to do things they would do it, without argument. That all changed when I had a baby and a gorgeous pre-schooler. It was learning parenting skills that helped me to understand how good leaders use their energy. They set things up to go well, rather than reacting when it doesn’t. There are many ways to be a calm, alert and focused at home and it all starts with us seeing ourselves as a leader.
We are the leader
What do you notice about how you feel when you are working and how you feel with things at home? If I was a fly on the wall at your place what would I see? Would I see you being a leader? Whether you are a parent or not there are things that a good leader does to keep things going smoothly at work and at home: Leaders build strong teams by increasing awareness of the things they pay attention to. This requires a deliberate change in what we typically do at home. Parents tend to spend energy focusing on all the things our children can’t do. We don’t just do it with our kids, we do it with other adults too. It’s such an ingrained habit that we can find ourselves repeatedly asking our partner to do things like unload the dishwasher and when they don’t we feel resentful. If our default position sounds like this:
“You always leave clothes lying around” or “You never put the bins out” we are leaning towards this negative habit.
When we do this too much it causes disconnection and weakens the team.
Parents tell me all the time “I would say good things if I could find anything good to say.” I’m going to challenge you to look harder. There are things that are going well. Turn it around and find ways to build connection.
When was the last time you said this?
“I like the way you helped me carry in the shopping bags without me asking you, that was so helpful.”
“I loved the way you took out the rubbish without moaning.”
Maybe you are reading this now and are thinking I just don’t have time to do this. I am a busy person running my business/doing my job. People at home just have to do it. The problem is that when we keep on doing it the way we have always done it, we are going to get the same results. It’s not only ineffective, it drains us and we won’t have as much energy for work either.
Parent coaching is about learning skills that help parents to use their energy to set things up to go well, rather than reacting when it doesn’t. Focusing on positive interactions and making this a habit is an area which has been studied by experts in relationship. John Gottman from the Gottman institute has researched negative and positive interactions in relationships. What the research shows that in order to have a healthy relationship, we need to hear five positives to each negative comment. This is known as the Magic Ratio. Outside of conflict discussions, successful couples had an even higher positive-to-negative ratio—20:1. Having a ratio below 5:1 within conflict became one of the many potential divorce indicators found in the Gottman research. So, when it comes to helping things go more smoothly at home can we afford not to pay attention to what is going well? The choice to pay attention to what we want to see more of is a deliberate one. The more we pay attention to what is going well the more cooperation we will get and the stronger our team will be.