I think one of the best ways to learn is to immediately apply what you are trying to learn. So last night I jumped on the perfect opportunity to practice skills from First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. As you’ll see, it wasn’t as easy as it sounded.
Jacob, our 7 year old, plays baseball and while he’s quite good, he doesn’t take it very seriously. This drives his dad (Frank) nuts. (It would probably drive me nuts too but I think Frank has it more than covered, so I try to stay out of it.)
So last night, when I overheard Frank telling Jacob yet again that he’s doing really good, but if he’d just apply himself … I decided to intervene.
My first attempt to show different people have different talents or drivers failed miserably. I told Frank (in front of Jacob) that he might just have to deal with the fact that Jacob doesn’t want to be first. (I meant that Jacob might play baseball to hang out with friends instead of winning.) Jacob broke down crying. So after I tried to reassure Jacob and at least got him to stop crying, I tried again.
"Dad likes to play baseball because he’s really good at it, and he likes to win. If he wasn’t good at it, he probably wouldn’t play. I don’t like to play softball because I’m good at it – or I wouldn’t play. I play because I get to play with my friends and have a beer afterwards." He thought the beer part was funny and we agreed that he probably shouldn’t play for a beer. Then I asked him why he liked playing baseball and he said because it was fun. It took several back and forths before he decided it was fun because he learned things. I asked, learn things like in get better at them or learn completely new things. He said to get better but Frank interrupted with "I think you’re saying what you want me to hear." So we tried asking, "at baseball camp last week what was one really fun thing you did?" He said the bunting contest – he didn’t know how to bunt before and learned how during the game. So now maybe we can work on getting Jacob to take baseball "seriously" by focusing more on what he’s learning instead of how fast he’s running or how much better he is doing than the others. We’ll see, it might take a few rounds.
One of the main points of the book wasn’t just to figure out what your
employees are good but to help them figure out what they are good at:
The initial Frank/Jacob conversation started because Frank was wondering why Jacob had been monkey for so long during monkey in the middle that afternoon – he though Jacob wasn’t trying hard enough. I suggested that Frank could teach Jacob a way to throw over anyone’s head no matter how tall they were (assuming that Jacob would like to learn and practice a new technique more than he wants to "win"). Jacob said that would be neat. Now I just hope Frank knows a way to throw like that. If he doesn’t, I know the challenge will be motivating enough to him that he’ll find a way!