A Leadership Model in 2018. The Nutri-Grain and the Mirror.
At an age where self-regulation, emotional intelligence and sensory consciousness are no longer just buzz words but absolute necessities in business and it’s evident that they are still some of the hardest attributes to teach. Years ago at a very expensive and reputable leadership forum my group was asked to discuss specific leadership behaviours and management strategies. With this we had to explain how we would check they would work in real life and how would we know. Now metrics can be a fickle thing but I proudly stood up and stated that I test my leadership skills on my (at the time) 4 year old son. I was for all intents and purposes laughed at as this was clearly not a traditional business metric. Well, to this day, I continue that strategy.
Whether we realise it or not many of you are a leader. When you have situations in your life in which others may be required look to you for instruction, you are displaying leadership attributes. Teenagers applying for their first serious job, new parents coming back to the workforce who for the life of them can’t see the leadership impact they’ve had. If you have friends who call on you to mediate relationships? You’re a leader. If you have siblings or children that depend on you for resources? You’re a leader. So I am not surprised based on my experience of who can be a leader that my now 7 year old son has also taken on his very own leadership model which in all honesty, can and has been proven to work. You probably have had your very own Nutri-Grain and Mirror leadership example occur and not even realised it.
So, what happened you say?
My son had been experiencing some less than ideal experiences at school. Apparently it happens to all of us (don’t even get me started on how that’s not blatant enabling but I digress). After a meeting with his teachers it was established that he was starting to negatively react to his environment and became a crumbling, sad, defiant and rude young boy. We were not happy but alas it seemed to be a school thing as at home he was his usual chipper self. Until one day. It all fell apart. The devastation, horror and mortification I heard in his voice that day will never leave me.
Are you ready? Can you handle it?
Well… the dog ate his Nutri-Grain. Not all of it. Just a little bit of it. But the dog ate his Nutri-Grain nonetheless. His blood curdling screams, the rampant punching of the couch, the heaving tears crying that he wished he never had a dog. Our Saturday morning was ruined. His life was ruined. It is a day that will stay with us for a very long time.
Now excuse me whilst I compose myself from laughing but what the actual hell just happened? Ok, so the dog ate your breakfast I say. Who cares? Well wouldn’t you know it but apparently he cares. ALOT! So I explain to him that it’s easy fixed. ‘No its not’ he screams. Well yes it is I say. I give him a stern look and tell him to take a breath and calm down. ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO’. ‘I wish we never had a dog, I wish you were never here’ he continues to rant at our little Cavoodle who’s been eating left alone breakfasts for nearly 8 years. This is not a new thing but it seems our reaction to it is definitely a new thing! Swiftly, I remove the bowl, replace it with a new bowl filled with fresh Nutri-Grain. It is worth mentioning that after all this he didn’t even eat it. Not because he was too upset but because he forgot it was there and it went all soggy so he didn’t want it anymore (insert my WTF moment).
This whole ordeal was an absolute eye opener to me. Not in memory had I seen him fly off the handle like that for something so trivial. I spent hours afterward trying to explain to him that his reaction wasn’t necessary. It could have been this and you could have done that. All the usual Mum ramblings that your kids (and for that matter probably your colleagues and team) ignore you for.
Well, as luck would have it.
Much later that afternoon there was a second incident. He and I were getting ready to go out with friends for dinner. Master 7 decided on this night he shall do his hair ‘cool like Ed Sheeran’. So I insisted that he go into my bathroom and do exactly that. He wasn’t a baby. He knew how to do his hair cool if that’s what his heart desired. It was very quiet in there so I decided to go and inspect the situation. Well low and behold, he was just quietly doing his hair and making it cool. I was suitably impressed. A much different child than what had been experienced several hours earlier that day.
We continued to get ready next to each other sharing the bathroom mirror when he turns to ask me a question about the mirror that sat atop my basin. A magnified, double sided, LED mirror purchased from Kmart as part of a previous year’s Christmas present. He says, ‘Mum, did you know your mirror is broken’? I said ‘yes, I think it accidentally got knocked by the cleaner but that’s ok. It still works fine’. He continued doing his hair for a moment but looking sideways at me. He stops and picks up the mirror in question and flips it over to reveal the other side. I stop and look at it. I look at him. I look back at it. I look back at him.
Now hold up, wait a minute (as the Pussycat Dolls would say). I looked hard at the mirror trying to recall when it had a whole side of glass cracked. My face clearly indicative of my confusion he says to me “Mum, it wasn’t the cleaner, it was me”. Now, I really liked this mirror (not sure why as it magnified every damn blemish my face could muster with NASA telescope precision but none the less). I look at my son, yes kudos to him for admitting his mistake but he instantly senses my rage. I’m so peeved but then I remember his meltdown earlier in the morning and all my bullsh*#t rantings about staying calm and breathing and choosing a more rational reaction so what am I to do? I want to blow my top but nooooo, I must set an example. So, I took a breath possibly an internal grrrrr’ing sigh but whatever. In my mind, I take myself back to Year 12 drama class and be sure to create a performance of calm that even the Dalai Llama would tip his hat too. I show my son that I am taking deep breathes. I show him that I am calming down before I act. Once I have done this I show him that I am considered in my response despite his pleas for forgiveness. I explain to him that I am choosing my reaction. I am choosing calm. I am choosing to listen to what happened to the mirror and I am choosing to act with a rational and informed mind. I am choosing considered. I explain after all of this that I know a way to fix it but this is won’t work for everything and that each situation requires its own carefully considered solution. He begs to know how he can resolve this indictment and rectify this tremoring experience. I instruct him to carefully pick up the mirror of which he gently and carefully picks it up. I ask him to move to the corner of the bathroom at which point I too move closer. I open the small bin, lid wide open and ready to receive any new goodies it can. I tell my son with great clarity to hover the mirror over the opening of the bin. He looks at me with a screwed-up face, confused but obliges. I tell him, “drop it”. I say it calmly. I say it with consideration. He does it. I close the lid. The issue is fixed. He looks at me with sad eyes continuing to apologise and asking how does the bin fix my mirror? I explain it doesn’t as it can’t be fixed.
“I say what can be fixed is
how you choose to deal with it”.
Leadership in 2018
In 2018 there are now more than 25 million people in Australia alone. With over 53% in employment, over 6 million are students with the balance being made up of pre-school aged children and retirees.
No matter your status, age, employees, employer, wealthy, poor, you get the gist we ALL can be a leader this day and age. We have the capacity to CHOOSE to breathe. We have the capacity to CHOOSE to listen. We have the capacity to CHOOSE to be rational. We have the capacity to CHOOSE to be considered. We have the capacity to CHOOSE our reaction. When we choose our reaction, it becomes more and more conscious every time. Those around us in turn choose to trust us. Those around us in turn choose to choose their reactions. Those around us in turn choose to work with conscience and consciousness. This is not a utopia but the epicating of choice. Will you choose to be the Nutri-Grain or will you choose to be the Mirror?