We had a child behaviourist stay with us last month to see what tweaks we could make to ensure life with our two-month-old was as good as it could be. Our other four children continued with their daily routines which has quite an impressive structure and they’re brilliantly compliant. We weren’t expecting our other four children would even been mentioned, but we received some advice that week that completely changed the way we parented. The stress from running around and managing five children virtually disappeared and the kids feel so empowered as a result of using their own initiative.

 

Reflecting on this, I realised the exact same problem occurs in many workplaces. Employees usually do well following instructions, but often lack initiative outside of that provided structure. This of course can really affect the business brand and reputation, creating client retention issues.

 

So, what was this simple advice that had such a powerful impact?

 

We stopped thinking for them.

 

It didn’t occur to me how much I was thinking for our children. I had everything running like clockwork and ran our house almost like an army camp. I would track the time, send out instructions and kept on their backs constantly to ensure they were adhering to the schedule. It worked great, everything got done, but I was stressed to the max from trying to maintain that constant control.

It wasn’t so much about managing their time, it was the constant pressure I created for myself to be continually on their backs. I was stressfully encouraging them along relentlessly. Nicole, our visiting child behaviourist, pointed out that by giving them instructions for everything, answering every question each of them asked, and helping with everything was completely killing their ability to learn to think.

 

Every decision I make as a parent is driven by wanting to make our children excellent adults who are confident, resilient and independent.

 

Yet, I was failing them.

 

Nicole suggested from now on, we were to answer every question with “I don’t know”, and let them work everything out. We weren’t to tell them when dinner was ready, that their school lunches needed packing, to have a shower before they missed the movie, or even where a bowl belonged when emptying the dishwasher (despite being told a hundred times). If something wasn’t done in time, or correctly, they learned, because they weren’t “ready” for the next thing they were looking forward to. If they hadn’t cleared the table after dinner and hadn’t had a shower in time, they weren’t “ready” for a movie, and we (parents) would go off and start watching it until they were “ready”, if they didn’t figure it out, it kept playing through, and they missed out.

 

The change was instant.

 

They generally only needed to miss something once, perhaps twice before they pulled together and started working things out for themselves. They started problem solving, worked as a team and started using their initiative significantly more than before. As parents, we’ve never been so relaxed! I can be pretty highly strung when I’m on task, yet that has now completely disappeared. I’m energised, I’m calm – I’m free.

 

Think about what impact this could have in the workplace.

 

If you didn’t attend to every employee’s questioning, every need – you gave them space to work it out for themselves and come back to you with options instead of questions.

What would it mean for you if your employees were independently making great decisions? Using their initiative? Problem solving as a team? More importantly, what would it mean for your brand? And your clients?

 

When you stop thinking for others, you get back your time, your energy – your freedom.

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