The HR Juggler

My Summer Homework

Posted on: August 28, 2011

Over the past few weeks, my work-life balance has shifted slightly in home’s favour, which has been lovely. Having time off from work and spending more time with my family has been fantastic. As you would expect, my children have been a huge part of this home time and most days I am struck by how the things that they are learning and the way that they interact with each other provide me with lots of opportunity for reflection for both home and work, which I wanted to share. So this summer, my homework lessons have been as follows –
  • Autonomy

Towards the end of our camping holiday, once of my daughters told me how much she had enjoyed being more independent and doing more things for herself whilst we had been away. Just little activities like going to the playground within the campsite on her own, doing small jobs and walking from the bathroom back to the tent on her own. She asked me about how she could be more independent within our home environment and between us we came up with some suggestions which we have been putting into practice since. My point is simply this; that we all love and need some degree of autonomy to feel valued and to create a sense of achievement, whatever age we are.

  • Delegation

Very easy to talk about, harder sometimes to do and maintain. I have found that getting my children to do things that I have  usually done for them generally takes many times longer (at least at first) and requires no small degree of patience on my part. I am determined to stick with it though and have been encouraging them to do a task for themself, checking it over once they confirm that they think it is done and then giving them feedback about what is right and what still needs to be improved. And then the hard bit (when you’re as impatient as I can sometimes be!) – giving them the opportunity to complete the rest of the activity and starting the whole feedback loop again. It’s actually working quite well and they are definitely improving and learning new skills already…and I know I am putting into practice something that I undoubtedly need to do more of at work.

  • Doing things that scare you moves you forwards

Swimming lessons have always been a challenge, given that my children hate getting their faces wet or splashed at all. Last week during their regular weekly lesson, the instructor encouraged all of the children individually to dip their heads completely under the water. I was amazed when she gained agreement from each of my daughters in turn that she would fully immerse them in the water and that both of them allowed her to do this. Not only this, but that they didn’t cry or wail afterwards…even though they did look a bit shocked at themselves and the whole experience! They trusted her, as I did; she understood their progress well enough to perceive that they were perhaps ready for a step forward in their development. And in doing something that they had been truly scared of, my daughters gained a new confidence and took a huge step forwards in their development.

  • Learning

Two lessons here really. The first is that when we stop learning, we can forget things very quickly – when one of my daughters told me after a couple of weeks of the school holiday that she couldn’t remember how to spell our surname, I realised quite why the teacher had asked the parents to continue with some reading, writing and number work over the holidays!

We all learn better when we are doing something in an enjoyable way and when there are rewards and recognition associated with it. I have been doing some mathletics work with both my children over the summer, essentially fun maths-based games and activities that you complete on the computer. For every set of ten questions a child completes, they earn credits which they can either save up or spend on ‘buying’ a wide range accessories for their online avatar. This, plus a number of other ingenious ways of providing reward and recognition within the work, is amazingly effective in increasing motivation and interest. Now I just need to work out how we can implement some of this in the workplace!

  • Feedback and praise

Feedback is fairly meaningless unless it is linked to a specific achievement. But having two children of the same age can make this quite tricky when they achieve things at different rates and particularly when one twin seems to be ahead of the other in many situations, albeit temporarily. When one of my daughters managed to swim backstroke on her own (with the aid of a float) for the first time, I really praised her….and then had to deal with the tears of my other daughter, who felt I was being unfair in praising her sister more than her. Cue much explanation and reassurance, more tears and finally a smile, when I promised I would be just as proud of her when she managed to do it (which she did the very next day!). 

As far as I can see, although it can be tough at times, we have to be honest about achievements, praise appropriately and specifically for them, but also make sure we give positive feedback for progress and effort across a wide range of different scenarios, so that everyone has the chance to be included in praise and recognition…we all need some positive feedback on the things that we are good at, at home or at work. 

  • The constant of leadership

Regardless of how relaxed we are over the holidays, how much fun we have and whether we are at home or away, I’m always (rightly!) in a position of responsibility for my children. In the same way, regardless of the strength of relationships with my colleagues and any ongoing internal or external factors, I remain accountable for the HR activity in my division. Leadership is a constant and consistent part of the role…both when we do and when we don’t feel like it ;).

So that’s my learning over the summer, or my homework. I’d love to know what yours has been!

6 Responses to "My Summer Homework"

Nice, neither of mine seem to be able to string a sentence together never mind write one anymore. I have learnt all about patience and realised I have none…

Bless them…and you!…not long now 😉

My learning over the summer is as follows.
Don’t right blogs on certain topics.
Do go to weddings over seas.
Keep learning it keeps the mind fresh

I loved this blog

Thanks Jules…some lessons are tougher than others, that’s for sure.

Thanks for commenting x

This made me reflect on how the things we do outside of work teach us lessons that we can use at work? It’s a bit long for a comment but I got carried away!

I have learned all sorts of things from sailing and playing cricket. In sailing, for example, I learned to take mortal risks seriously (obvious I know, but you’d be surprised how reckless one can be). There are things you should actually be afraid of, like masts falling off, rudders breaking and your mate falling off the back of the boat. Playing cricket taught me that life is not fair and that fairness is anyway best viewed through the overall outcome not the moment in time. However, parenting is the one I have learned most from, a point well made here. At least, that’s how I read it !

I could go on endlessly about what I have learned from being a parent. The learning points mostly boil down to what it turns out you are capable of when you love someone. Translate love into an understanding of  inter dependance, perhaps a concept people are more comfortable with in the office but which covers many of the broad array of the relationship types we consider to be bound by that word,  and you can do more things than you think at work too.

A small example, not long ago, one of my kids was ill. He failed to get to the bathroom in time. This is annoying, especially when carpets are involved. You won’t be surprised to read that I just cleared it up, got him back to bed, made sure he was ok and left the gentle lecture about getting to the bath room on time to the next day.

There are some things that in some circumstances you just have to do. Your preferences don’t count. I am squeamish, I hate cleaning up unpleasantness. When you care, it’s a lot easier.

A lovely, lovely comment – thank you. I love the point you make about how we are always capable of more than we think we are and that when you love someone or something, we excel almost effortlessly. And you’re right that caring about whatever you are doing, be it the person or the outcome, makes all the difference. I guess love brings out the best in all of us…a wonderful leveller.

Thank you for your insight…and for making me think 🙂

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