When things go wrong, it is really easy to start blaming people and trying to find fault with others…
But a shift in how you view problems can make a massive difference to your own and your team’s resilience and ability to pick yourselves up, learn and move forward stronger than ever…
This week we had an unhappy parent at the After School Club. This particular parent can be a bit spiky in the way that they communicate with us (ie a difficult pain in the neck!) so as a team our very first instinct was to close ranks and tell ourselves that she was wrong, overreacting and that we were not happy to work with her….
I was dreading Tuesday’s After School Club, not wanting a confrontation.
This felt really uncomfortable for me.
I couldn’t sleep on Monday night, thinking abut the situation… then at about the 3:00 in the morning – the magic hour, I had a sudden flash of insight.
The reason I was feeling uncomfortable was because we weren’t reacting in the way that we would with other parents. I knew that we weren’t meeting her needs, and so by association we weren’t fully meeting the child’s needs.
We weren’t communicating well with this particular parent, so she was feeling anxious and not reassured that all was well. She was understandably worried about her child, and trying to help her child in the only way she knew how – by creating a stink and lashing out.
We were not listening to her concerns, because we knew that the child was OK. But the parent did not know or feel that the child was OK.
This particular person had got us feeling defensive, so we were behaving in a defensive way, even though we actually were doing lots for her child, and taking great care of her.
In fact, I know that my team were really looking out for the child and going above and beyond, as they do, because they are so caring and skilled.
My insight was that we were not communicating this to the parent, because we felt like she was accusing us of not looking after the child properly, and this felt unfair to us, so we were trying to protect ourselves, instead of reassuring the parent.
So on Tuesday, armed with my new angle, we worked on this as a team.
I shared my insights, and asked the question – does the parent know how much you have been doing for her child? Does the parent know how happy the child is at After School Club? Have we been communicating positively with her?
It was like flipping a switch.
We discussed how we were very good at settling children and parents at nursery, and how we could use those tried and tested strategies and that positive communication approach to work with the parent.
Instead of focusing on why the parent was being unfair and how wrong she was, we came up with strategies to help her to feel reassured and secure when her child was with us.
My manager phoned her up and had a lovely talk with her, and suddenly we were back to doing what we are great at – working with parents, helping them to feel that their child is in safe and secure hands and looking after the children with joy and fun.
Isn’t it amazing how looking at a problem from a different perspective makes all the difference?
That’s how we learn – we reflect, evaluate and adjust what we do.
This is how we get better at doing what we do. This is how our teams get better, and mature as a team, by being allowed to fail, as long as they learn from the experience.
So our job as leaders is to make it OK to fail.
To make it OK to make mistakes, so that instead of being defensive and trying to deflect blame we can pull together, learn and then succeed.
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