We all have expectations for our children. Some might be happy if the kids just stay out of jail, but most people want them to grow up to make important contributions to our world. When my son, Stephen, was in second and third grade, I tried to help him as often as possible with his homework assignments. I was a college accounting professor at Ohio Dominican University at the time, so I had more flexibility with after-school availability than did my wife, whose position as general manager of a Macy’s department store was highly demanding.
Every day, I would battle with Stephen to get him to do his homework. I felt frustrated, because I was intent on helping him avoid the same mistakes that I had made. Each day was a struggle. I’d get on his case about reading, doing his math, etc., and he would respond by expressing how much he disliked doing any of it.
Finally, it got to the point where we were advised to see a counselor about it. Lo and behold, he had been dealing with ADHD along with a reading disorder all along – which explained his negativity in getting his homework done.
That experience taught me a lot. Not only had I realized I wasn’t listening to my child and what his concerns were, I was pushing my agenda on him – not allowing myself to see past my own expectations. What I learned was that this was a case of the parent needing to listen, not of the child needing to listen. As parents we tend to simply tell the kids what they must do—and that can lead to a variety of problems.
How often have we worked under someone like this, or been like this toward our team? Not allowing ourselves to be open to new possibilities or sensitive to the needs of those that we manage? The whole idea of improvisation in the workplace helps us learn to be aware, responsive and adaptive to our environments, all with a positive outlook and approach.