It’s winter time and we are getting ready for a new ski season: my five-year-old daughter is enthusiastic to return to ski school. A year earlier, when she stood on skis for the first time, she wasn’t mentally ready: the boots were uncomfortable, her helmet was too tight, it was cold…She wasn’t up to the challenge but she stuck with it and was the proudest little girl at the end of the week she received her first ever certificate. She kept saying that she would soon be skiing ‘as her mum and dad do’. Her mum. Me.
It would be funny if it wasn’t laughable!
My daughter didn’t sound that different to me when I faced skiing for the first time in my life. The difference is that I was in my early twenties and scared to death at the top of the mountain, cursing my lack of courage and confidence to cope with the slope while blaming my then partner (future husband) for believing in me even though I wasn’t ready for that adventure. A romantic winter moment to remember.
Does my daughter know this story? Not yet. Today, she only sees me, her mum, who loves to ski, who’s confident enough to explore new slopes and who keeps encouraging her not to give up easily.
Wrapping up this year, I can’t help but realize that skills and behavioural patterns we need to help our kids deal with new sports challenges, be it learning to ski, ride a bike or swim without arm bands, are not that much different from those we need in our business environment.
1. Role modelling is everything
Walk the talk. You can say different things, but if your daily behaviour, principles, words, and values you share don’t support what you say, it’s simply not authentic. Kids can see through you; not to mention your colleagues. As far as I know, nobody appreciates fake behaviour. If you try to teach your kid certain values, stop for a moment to think whether you actually behave accordingly. If you mentor younger colleagues, keep that at the forefront of your mind. Seeing is believing.
2. Experience it for yourself
Cliché or not, that’s the truth. You can learn the rules, you can master certain skills, but it’s the real-life experience that matters. Did my daughter earn some new scratches and bumps when trying to ride a bike? Yep. Has she tasted the salty water of the Mediterranean sea (followed by her own sea of tears) when learning to swim? Yes. But that’s life. No one is always 100% ready. The mistakes we make, the failures we face are all part of growing in life and in the business world.
3. Patience and incentives go hand in hand
Success doesn’t come with the snap of a finger. Kids’ tears teach you the art of patience. You need to give them time. You have to find the right balance between being a strict coach and an emotional parent; between pushing kids to their new limits and knowing when to stop and when to reward. If you don’t understand the power of incentive, try offering candy to the kids who are tired from trying to bend their knees in order to make a perfect “ski plough”. They will appreciate this encouragement and will get enough energy to start all over again after the break. As adults, we certainly need more than candy, but we do deserve encouragement. And a break to reboot.
4. Every beginning is difficult, but it doesn't last forever
We’ve all been there: moving to a new location, joining a new team, learning to ski, having a baby, the list goes on. Learning is a constant; change never stops. Some beginnings will be easier, some more difficult, but you can’t get rid of them. You can, however, decide to embrace them. As long as you keep going, working, practising, trying again, analyzing, finding new ways, and not losing your spirit, you’ll be fine. Even with a tear here or there, you’ll be fine. You’ll learn to ski, settle down in a new environment and meet amazing teammates. With the first signs of progress, you’ll start to feel much better and soon you’ll be telling funny anecdotes about your rough start. Trust me, I’ve mastered the art of storytelling in this field.
5. Being afraid is ok, but giving up is not an option
If you remember the beginning of the story, I was the one standing on the top of that “snowy beast” petrified. It’s a great drama queen situation, but I refused to give up. In general, I don’t give up that easily. It’s that no-surrender mindset that drives me further. I’ve been afraid dozens of times and found myself outside of my comfort zone on many occasions but I haven’t given up. What I have learned is to be less dramatic and I’m doing my utmost to pass this trait on to my daughter. “Anyone who ever wanted to ride a bike did it,” I explain, “so if you want to ride a bike, you’ll do it too” – I keep telling my daughter whenever she gives me her “I can’t do it” look, while I brush away yet another tear in her eyes.