Seeking Performance Feedback … From Your Kids?

Working in Human Resources, I spend a significant part of my day coaching people.  It can be anyone from a peer to a subordinate … from a Lab Technician to the Division General Manager … and topics range from  simple career counselling to the more difficult performance discussions.  At any given point, there can be line in front of my office (I’ve often thought of putting up a sign that says “Take A Number”).

Looking to see what new  coaching tools were “out there”, I attended a Coaching Workshop through Inside Out Coaching earlier this week.  I spent several hours learning their technique and then partnering with other people to practice and apply what I learned.  I had the opportunity to act both as the “coach” as well as the “coachee” and I worked on actual issues (both personal and professional) that I’m dealing with at the moment.  After each practice session, we were asked to self-assess our coaching skills, and then ask our “coachees” to assess us as well. The assessments were based on 3 questions:  What worked well? Where did you get stuck? and What can you do differently next time?  The feedback was quite enlightening (especially when you compare how you think you did vs. how someone else thinks you did!)

On my drive home, I thought about all the opportunities I have to get feedback (solicited or not!)  At work there’s annual reviews, mid year career discussions, or more informal “how am I doing”  talks with my boss and clients.  Then, there’s my friends, who sometimes put feedback into one simple question … “what the hell were you thinking?!”.  That’s when the reality hit me … my most important job is being a mom, and yet I’ve never asked my kids “how am I doing?”

So, the next day I was in the car with my 9 year old son Chaz, driving to his karate class.  I said to him, “Chaz, I was thinking about what it means to be a mom.  I think it means providing for you, teaching you, being responsible for your emotional well being … (and the list went on).  If I asked you, on a scale of 1 to 10, how I’m doing, what would you say?”

I could see the questions written all over his face,  “Are you serious?” and “OK, how much trouble am I going to get into if I answer truthfully?”    I immediately continued and said, “it’s really important for me to know what I’m doing well, where I’m getting stuck, and what you think I could be doing better.  And, I need you to be honest.”

He turned and said, “Mom, you’re an 8.  You would have been a 10, but you don’t get me everything I want, like that last XBox game I asked for.”  I turned and smiled at him.  And then he continued, “You should just keep doing what you’re doing … you’re a great mom.  Oh, yeah … but you could stop burning the food when you cook.”  And he smiled back, left the car and walked into the dojo.

Watching him walk through the parking lot, feeling satisfied with my score of 8, and happy that he thinks I’m doing a good job, I realized that I still wanted more feedback.  I needed someone to tell me that I have to do something differently (aside from not burning dinner.).

So, the next night, while I was having dinner with my  21 year old son, Jay, I recapped the sessions I took through Inside Out coaching and my subsequent revelation that I’ve never asked how I’m doing as a mom.  I then asked him to help me with those same questions … what’s working well, where am I getting stuck, and what could I do better.  Again, I got the “Are you serious?” question (although this time it was a direct question and not simply written on his face!)  Seeing that I was, in fact, serious, he took a deep breath … and then the feedback came.  “OK.  If you really want to know, I would rate you an 8.  Now you want me to tell you why?”

“Of course, that was the whole purpose of the question”, I said, anxiously awaiting for him to continue.

“I think you’re doing a great job.  Where I think you get stuck and where you can do better is in your follow through. I think when you threaten Chaz that you’re going to punish him, you should follow through and not just threaten.  When you do that, he doesn’t think you’re serious and then he continues to do what he wants.”

“OK”, I said.  “Valid point.”

Then he continued …” When you want to say something, stop worrying about coming down strong on us.  You tend to “sugar coat” things.  If you need us to work on something or if you’re upset about something, say what you mean and don’t hold things in.  When you hold it in time after time, it builds up and then you tend to explode down the line.”

Again, I said “Another valid point.  I’ll really try and be aware when I’m doing these things so I can change it.”  And then with a truly satisfied feeling, and with the utmost appreciation for the reality check, I said, “Thanks for the feedback” and kissed the top of his head.

A few minutes later, while passing the salad, he asked, “So, how am I doing as a son?”  I just smiled, knowing that he realized the value in getting feedback.  So, I took the opportunity to let him know what he’s doing really well, and where I think he gets stuck and where he needs to do things a bit differently …

Feedback … it’s a gift.  And even more important when it comes from your kids …

And that’s my two cents … for whatever it’s worth!

Creating Memorable Moments

Holidays … family, gifts, sharing … drama, chaos, angst.  And in the midst of it all, finding those opportunities that create memorable moments.

This holiday break, my son-in-law, Derek, braved a day trip with me to NYC along with my 10 year old son Chaz, and my nephews, Evan and Jake, who are 10 and 12, respectively.  If you’ve ever ventured into the city with three “tween” boys, you know an adventure awaits … you’re just not sure where it’s going to turn up.

The day was planned as a shopping spree in NY, where they would each pick their favorite store and then share in the commercialization of the season, spending their holiday gift money in packed stores embellished with elaborate holiday window displays, while being pushed in through cramped aisles after waiting in line half an hour to get into the store in the first place (it actually was really fun and part of the experience.)  Scheduled stops included the NBA and Lego stores, FAO Schwarz, and the Tree at Rockefeller Center (for unscheduled bathroom breaks and hot chocolate!)

During our last stop at FAO Schwarz, Jake turned to me and asked if he could spend the “extra $20” he got at the NBA Store.  Logical question … “What extra $20?”, to which he explained the clerk had made an error in his favor when he purchased his orange Knicks basketball jersey.   Instead of $40 in change, he was given $60.  Knowing that Jake has a reputation for exaggerating a bit, I took the liberty of opening  his blue Velcro wallet and found that, in fact, he did have an extra $20.

Before I could say anything, Chaz said, “We need to go back to the NBA Store and give it back.”  Not surprising, Jake said, “No.  The guy made a mistake and I’m going to keep the $20.”

As we started our two mile walk back to the car, chilled under a sky of falling snow (not to mention the soaked shoes and jeans), Jake got a rendition of “the world according to Chaz” …  “If you don’t give it back, karma will come into play, and something bad will happen to you.”

Seeing the sheer panic on Jake’s face (and trying hard to avoid a trip back to the NBA store), Derek brilliantly noted that you can give the $20 to charity, which would be just as good as giving it back to the store.

“Do you really think so?” asked Jake.  “Yeah”, said Derek.  “Or you can buy that poor woman a sweatshirt” pointing to the frail lady sitting by the golden facade of the Trump building, shivering under a thin white blanket.

With renewed excited and a mission in play, we J-walked across Fifth Avenue and straight into the Gap store.  Finding the perfect $20 neon green hoodie that symbolized the transformation that spring will shortly bring to us all, we walked up to the cash register to pay.  “That will be $14.99”.   The clerk might as well have told Jake he just won the lottery.  “It’s only $14.99!  Can I keep the extra $5 bucks?”

“Of course you can.  Do you see how things play out?  You did something amazing for that poor lady and you still wound up $5 bucks ahead.”

At that, we wrapped up the hoodie in the blue plastic Gap bag and ventured back into the cold, wet evening, back across Fifth Avenue, this time with a bright white star ornament hanging several stories above us.  Jake approached the woman who appreciatively accepted the sweatshirt (and the plastic Gap bag!) and then we continued our journey back to our car, knowing that we made a difference for one person in a city of millions.  As we continued to walk, I realized how incredibly proud I was of them and knew that we created a memorable moment that all of us will keep for years to come.

So as you venture through your days, look for those opportunities to create memorable moments.   They’re there for the taking.

And that’s just my two cents (for whatever it’s worth!)