Recently, I was walking out to my car to retrieve my instructor notes for a class. As I walked to the parking lot, I was thinking about how to introduce Cindy to the participants in the class. It’s always an honor to have Cindy attend, and I like to acknowledge who she is as a person when I introduce her—something that creates a positive starting place for her and for people who will interact with her throughout the training session.
As I walked, a very simple thought occurred to me. “I like having Cindy in the room when I’m teaching because I’m better when she is watching me.” I remembered some of the things she has said to me over the years, such as, “go slow,” “be yourself,” “enjoy the people in class.” More important, I was reminded of being at my best.
I thought about how true that is in so many places in life—you and I are better when someone is watching us practice, perform, or interact.
There are several reasons for this. First, we are more attentive, deliberate, and thoughtful under someone’s watchful gaze. Second, someone watching can help us remember and pay attention to things that will make a difference in what we are doing. Third, we cannot see ourselves perform.
- Managers lead more effective meetings when someone is observing their performance.
- Golfers swing in a more precise manner during a lesson.
- I interact with the grandchildren in a more thoughtful way if Cindy is nearby.
- You probably do yoga poses more precisely when you work with a personal trainer.
This is why coaching is powerful. People who want to be effective, who want to learn, don’t try to do life on their own. They have come to a place in life where they realize that being coached or given feedback doesn’t diminish who they are in any way.
Several things also hold true about people who are easy to coach or mentor or train:
- They are willing to disclose flaws, mistakes, and what they don’t know.
- They are willing to share what they are experiencing, thinking, and noticing.
- They are willing to tell colleagues and friends that they are being coached.
Can we apply this concept to being better parents and grandparents? I think so. Certainly our interactions with our children are far more important than how we swing a golf club. If we are willing to discuss how we interact with our kids and grandkids, and if we are willing to have someone watch us and later discuss what they see, we can not only continue to improve over time, we are likely to be better immediately simply because we are being watched.
It’s not easy to acknowledge that we might not be at our best with our kids. While we can confess to a golf coach or a cooking instructor that we don’t know something, it can be more difficult to admit we are still learning how to be wonderful parents.
So it might be useful to think that raising kids is another field that allows for mastery—so even if we are already good, there is level of interaction possible that is beyond good—and that trying to do it on our own might not be best. Think about finding a very safe, thoughtful person who might observe and give you insight about your interactions.
When you ask for their insights, let them know the following:
- You want to be really, really good with your kids, and their feedback will be a gift.
- You are interested in anything they notice, no matter how small.
- You will simply acknowledge their comments without being defensive.
Ask them to give their impressions and observations to you later, when the kids are not around.
I recommend giving them no specific instructions on what to look for, just whatever they happen to notice.
Later, if you are working on something specific, such as giving less advice or not multi-tasking or not interrupting, you can ask them look for those elements.
Fortunately, remarkable improvement can come from small changes in how we interact and converse with our kids. All we need to do is begin to notice, and sometimes it starts by having someone help us see ourselves.