Embrace The Mess

Embrace The Mess cover

Most parents feel extremely uncomfortable at letting their child feed themselves, especially early on.

Most parents feel extremely uncomfortable at letting go. Period.

The thought of having to clean up both the child and the food mess after the meal sends shivers down the spines of the exhausted parent. 

Yet, if parents were to always hold the spoon, the child would never learn to independently maneuver the meal themselves. 

As managers in the workplace, it is often an urge to overly manage a situation, to pore over decision, to treat reporting colleagues as the little child who is unable to handle their meal and do the job for them. This creates 2 problems: (1) an unhealthy environment which does not support learning and independence from the staff, (2) a possible overworked manager who will then have decreased efficiency and lesser time to spend on things that really matter (i.e. setting the vision, the goals and developing the strategy).

So, let's look at how parents and managers can learn to let go and embrace the mess.

1. Provide age appropriate food or experience appropriate tasks

At about 6 months, infants start to develop some form, though a bit limited, of motor skills where they can grab things with their hands (not fingers). Then they graduate on to develop fine motor skills where they can pick up items with their fingers. Coordinating a spoon to scoop food and successfully get to the mouth is also a developmental milestone in itself. 

6 months: Mashed veges/etc in a bowl with a small spoon

Let the little one feed themselves. Don't worry about the messy face, the spurts on the floor. And, keep a backup bowl to complete the meal.

9 months: Small chunks of boiled veges/etc

Let the little one grab these up and shoved them into their mouths. Don't worry about the rubbing of dirty fingers on the table.

12 months: Smaller pieces of boiled veges/snacks/etc

Let them have fun picking at the pieces. Don't worry about dropping on the floor.

24 months: Cut-down pieces of normal food

Let them use their spoon and fork to eat. Don't worry about the dirty face and messy floors

At work? 

a. Evaluate the experience of your sub-ordinate and give them tasks that is within or slightly above their skill set. This will enable them to build confidence and pride in their work.

b. Gradually adjust the type of work to fit the developmental milestones achieved. 

Pull data only >> to prepare charts >> to develop presentation >> to present the plan

c. Be flexible: repeat certain tasks to build up a reflex memory, go back to basics when necessary to build confidence, step forward with challenges to increase skill level – this steps can happen in any order and at any time.

2. Get the right utensils/gear or the right tools in place

Gear up with a full-body bib or a simple bib depending on your child's age.

Use spoons and forks with appropriate length (IMO most utensils are produced too long, as children tend to grab them from the edge)

Use a deeper spoon to so the food doesn't fall over when travelling from bowl to mouth

At work?

Are the right tools in place? Laptop? Screens? Software (with license)? Conference facilities?

Are the right teams in place? Data-processing (can't expect inexperienced analyst to pull from database immediately)? Templates (PPT, WORD, Excel, Charts, most business processes have templates to leverage on immediately. By template, I also mean previous documents as a guide of what is expected)

Are the right help channels available? What if something fails? Are they able to report and get help quickly?

3. Encourage, encourage, encourage

For a infant growing to be a toddler than child, it is a steady but sure process with almost defined process. Encourage them all the way, so they have the confidence to continue learning.

For a younger executive, encouragement should also be appropriately given. It needn't be the rah-rah hyped-up encouragement every day, but it can be smaller and simpler forms of encouragement. For example, a congratulatory email on a job well done, or a coffee/tea to celebrate a project completed, on a larger scale monetary incentives can also serve as good encouragement, though that should not always be the case.

In conclusion, start embracing the mess with your kids or your team members. Define appropriate tasks, get the right tools and encourage them to keep going.

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills

"Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column combines of 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

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