By Anja van den Berg
Insight into how others experience us is a vital tool for change. That is true not only in the workplace but also at home.
We are often so busy as employees that it’s easy to overlook the impact we have as parents and partners, says Scott Edinger, the author of The Hidden Leader: Discover and Develop Greatness Within Your Company.
At work, we measure our performance as well as the performance of others. We assess ourselves and align our actions to our goals. We even access tools (like coaching or workshops) to help us grow. Yet, at home, we rarely invite constructive criticism from our loved ones – especially not our children!
The good news is that, by following the best practices you woud use in the workplace, you can solicit upward feedback from your children. Edinger suggests a plan to help you identify areas to improve as well as positive behaviours to continue:
- State your intention and set a positive tone
To ensure a positive experience, give your child context and a sense of safety. You may be aware of a specific behaviour or pattern of engagement with your child that you want to improve. Set the stage for honesty and authentic feedback. Even if you enjoy a good relationship, your children might be concerned about how you’ll receive their feedback. Emphasise that it’s okay to share anything — positive or negative. Tell them that you’re strong enough to hear bad news and that you plan to use their feedback to make central changes in your behaviour.
- Give them three questions to think about
Consider asking the following three questions:
- What do I do that you like or what you’d like to see more of?
- What do I do that you don’t like or has a negative impact on you?
- What would make me a better parent?
Don’t expect immediate feedback; give your children time to think about their answers by sharing the questions in advance. Then, try to listen to the answers without judgment. Encourage the conversation to develop by asking follow-up questions. If something is difficult to accept, acknowledge that by saying, “I didn’t realise how difficult that’s been for you. It’s hard for me to hear.”
- Manage your emotions
The entire process will backfire if you don’t respond with grace and appreciation, Edinger warns. If you’re feeling defensive about their feedback, remind yourself that your goal is to understand your children’s perspective. If you get angry or upset, you may harm the relationship you’re trying to improve. Take a breath and try to maintain your curiosity.
Now you’re ready to develop a plan for change. Based on the feedback you’ve received, you’ll probably have some ideas about what you can do differently. However, just like leadership development plans, a family plan that focuses on grand actions once a month will not be sufficient. To produce real change, come up with a few ideas you can do every day, even multiple times per day.
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2020/07/learn-to-solicit-feedback-from-your-kids
The Hidden Leader: Discover and Develop Greatness Within Your Company. https://www.amazon.com/The-Hidden-Leader-Discover-Greatness/dp/0814433995