Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Reaching Your Potential

We hear a lot today about the need for children and young people to reach their potential. In many places such as Australia any terms which may appear negative are prohibited in our preschools and schools. A person is not allowed to "fail" or "be naughty" - rather the emphasis is on providing feedback in positive terms so that growth will be encouraged. Singling out inappropriate behaviour and using methods such as "the naughty chair" or "time out rooms" are now not allowed in preschool and early school education. The intention is that the child will at all times be treated with respect and that the child's self esteem will be bolstered rather than harmed.

The intention is admirable. For too long we have "put down" people (including children) in the home, at school, in the work place, and in society at large. Those who haven't conformed to what was wanted by the parent, teacher, boss, or other authority figure have been subjected to sarcasm, insults, ridicule, and other elements of institutionalised bullying. The result has been some people with low self esteem who see themselves unable to achieve anything and therefore run the risk of drifting into what has been called "the detritus of society".

Recently in Sydney we had a conference on "Happiness". The emphasis seemed to be on encouraging positive emotions at all times. One speaker, the social researcher Hugh McKay, bucked the trend and made the point that to be fully human and to fully reach our potentials, we need to experience the full gamut of emotions - there is a sense in which we only really understand "happy" when we also know "sad".

We need to concentrate on the positive. No argument with that. But we also need to call inappropriate behaviour for what it is and ensure people (including children) understand both why it is inappropriate and what the appropriate behaviour ought to be. Sometimes this means we need to be very direct and to include some form of penalty that is clearly recognised as such.

This is a key component of Third Generation Leadership. Third Generation Leadership makes a clear distinction between the person (who is always acceptable) and their behaviour (which may not be acceptable). It doesn't 'gild the lily' - it calls behaviour for what it is and deals with that which is unacceptable in a way that doesn't diminish the other person's self esteem but, rather, is designed to help them reach their full potential.

Third Generation Leadership behaviours can be learned. Information about a workshop on this is available from http://bit.ly/b3fhou

Please let me know what you think about this. You can make a comment below.

More information about Doug Long at http://www,dglong.com