We all Struggle

I recently experienced a cool Dad moment. It was early morning before school and my 2 boys had just come downstairs after getting ready. I’m the breakfast guy, so I was prepping the mornings grub ready while Mom made lunch. For parents, this time of the morning is unpredictable at best so we set our expectations accordingly. You never know if the kids are going to be happy, cranky, or as it often happens in our house, somersaults off the couch.

My oldest, Santino, is in a great mood and yells to me; “Dad, I’m on 462 on the Triceratops picture!” He loves Dot to Dot picture books and was excited about his new Dinosaur themed version.

I’m doing my best version of Iron Chef and his younger brother Griffith is playing in our entry way testing the boundaries with a football. I then notice Griffith walk to the table where Santino was happy as could be connecting dots. He watched quietly for a moment then Santino started encouraging him to start the new book he had recently talked Mom into buying for him.

Griff reluctantly opened his book. Santino then says excitedly:

“Awesome Griff! Find #1 then connect it to the next one!”

This is Griff’s first time so moments later he moans in frustration and wants to stop. Santino leans over “You already did 10 Griff! I see 11…you can find it!” Griffith quickly spots 11 and yells in an enthusiastic tone; “There it is! There’s 12 too!”

This continues for several minutes then I serve the hungry boys and little sister French Toast and Bacon. Griffith excitedly tells me how high he got and is laughing with big brother about how much fun and cool dot to dot books are.


Every Struggle teaches us Something – The Gift

Trying something new is scary for all of us. It’s immensely frustrating for the people we lead if we don’t give them positive encouragement as they’re trying these new things.

In Chapter 8 of the book, The T Chart, I share a gut-wrenching lesson I learned when Santino was a very young boy. It stopped me in my tracks and changed my mindset on how I give him direction. I share in the book how I transferred that life changing lesson to anyone I lead.

The story I shared above highlights the invisible forces behind my transformation as a leader during that time of my journey;

  1. Courage: Like Griffith, I first had to step into the discomfort of changing.
  2. Encouragement: Struggle is always a prequel to transformation, it’s hard. When Griff’s courage was running low and struggle appeared, Santino was there to encourage him. I surrounded myself with people that did the same.
  3. Trust: Griff felt safe enough and trusted his big brother enough to take the leap and accept his encouragement. This force speaks for itself.


Leadership is Sharing the Gifts

When Santino first started his dot to dot books, his mother and I modeled the same behavior he exemplified with his younger brother. When he was stuck, we relied on these 3 invisible forces to guide him while also using the Go commands I highlight in the book. In other words, we honed our energy on what he could do versus what he couldn’t.

Too often in leadership, there is disproportionate focus on the negative and on the things our people shouldn’t do.

I understand first-hand how difficult that is. The problem is that when we do it – the leaders we’re guiding will do the same.

My example of my family may be exaggerated, and you’d expect those forces to be there in a family setting. That’s precisely why I use it, I believe it should be the same way with the people we lead.

Wouldn’t you agree they too deserve the same? Kindness and compassion is an exceptional lesson we can all do better.


Become a Student of Struggle

Strong leaders intentionally self-assess the impact of these forces by asking themselves these questions:

  1. How am I modeling courage and curiosity with my team?
  2. Do the directions I give my people make them feel positive and encouraged?
  3. How are my interactions building trust with my team?

The most exciting part of this story is that we get to choose our impact in every relationship and how much of these forces we ignite. If 2 rambunctious boys can figure this out, imagine the possibilities for your leadership journey?

Hail the Underdogs!


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