The burnt child dreads the fire – Greek Proverb
On a beautiful sunny summer day at southern California’s Coronado Beach, I was enjoying people watching near the water. The idyllic scene was pierced by the sharp cry of a 5 year old girl. She was walking along some rocks, slipped and cut her toe. She collapsed in a heap on the ground, refusing to get up. Her friends came running to her aid. One of them saw what was wrong then bolted away to get her parents.
Soon her burly dad shows up. He bends down, examines her toe and says, “It is going to be okay. It is just a little cut.” She is not convinced. She says through her tears, “I can’t walk.” He repeats, “It’s gonna hurt but you will be okay.” With that he scoops her up in his arms and carries her to the spot where he will bandage her wound. As he walked past me I heard him repeating, “It’s going to be okay. It’s just a little cut.”
As I thought about the incident, it hit me that parents, as leaders of their families are given the task of helping their children process their bad experiences. Leaders, in any arena do the same.
We get to help our team members move through their mistakes and failures in a way that leaves them better. We don’t want team members who, like the child in the above proverb, dread taking a risk. We want team members who are willing to get out of their comfort zone.
Our job as leaders is to give our followers the truth: Yes, you messed up. Yes, you were walking where you shouldn’t have been walking. Yes, it is going to hurt. Yes, the fire burned you. Yes, you didn’t meet expectations.
The other side of our task then is to bring comfort and perspective: It is going to be okay. It is just a small cut. We will do it better next time. We will learn from this and go forward.
Bad experiences don’t have to hinder team members. Rather, they can be used to propel them further if we give them truth and comforting perspective.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you balance truth with comfort. You can leave a comment below.