What a 5 year old can teach us about leadership

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I have to admit I learn something from my daughter Rae nearly every day. Ok she is only five but nevertheless…


In amongst everything else one of the things I’ve noticed, is Rae hardly ever gets frustrated by the behaviour and actions of other people. Instead she gets curious, asking questions.


A great example of this was travelling home in the car the other day, obviously I was driving she is only 5 remember! Just off the A10 someone pulled out in front of us very suddenly. Now my typical reaction would normally be to turn the air blue and have lots of less than complimentary views about the person driving. I’m willing to bet I’m not the only person to think like that but watching Rae deal with it was really interesting and after I’d calmed down a bit really made me think.


The first thing she said was “Daddy, why did the man just do that?” she said it with no judgment or animosity just pure curiosity. I answered the only way I could “I don’t know? “


Rae with a very serious look said “Maybe he is late for dinner daddy!”


I had to admit that made me chuckle and in a moment all of my anger and frustration at the other driver disappeared. However Rae wasn’t done yet and came up with a new game about all the reasons why the man pulled out in front of us. I’m not going to regale you with all the suggestions but being chased by a giant blue octopus wasn’t the most outrageous of our suggestions.


Needless to say I was now in a completely different place in my head but it got me thinking… how often do we see someone at work do something or behave a certain way that we choose to let frustrate us or make us angry. Just like the driver in the car that day, in reality it’s highly unlikely their intention is to frustrate you or make you angry, annoyingly, we are the ones that choose to feel that way.


I think of how often, as a leader, I have let my frustration control my actions even though I can’t remember one occasion where that has been helpful or improved the outcome.


So how do we become fascinated rather than frustrated? It’s actually more about remembering rather than learning. We were all fascinated as children just like Rae is today; we’ve just forgotten how to do it.


So here are a couple of things that I’ve tried that have really worked for me.  Yes, some of them sound a bit odd but I promise you they work…


  1. Take a slow deep breath in through your nose, making sure your shoulders remain relaxed and then breath out slowly through our mouth. Really concentrate on the breath. Do it a couple of times and notice the difference. I can almost guarantee you won’t be as frustrated as you were a moment ago.


  1. You could also be like Rae and no I don’t mean play a game! But you could think of all the reasons why the situation or the person has caused you to allow yourself to feel frustrated or annoyed. Remember it’s unlikely that was their intention in the first place so start so start thinking about what else it could be.


  1. Finally, and probably the most difficult one to practice, remember you’ve CHOSEN to be frustrated, remind yourself how many good decisions you’ve made while feeling that way and choose a different feeling.


So if you, like many of us, find yourself getting frustrated at the actions of others give one of these strategies a try and let us know how you get on.


Speak to you soon




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  • Tim Holmes


    Good one Mart!

    May 25, 2016 at 7:46 am

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