Bursting with Joy

I like speakers who give talks to parenting groups and to professional organizations. They have a message that’s worth spreading to both of these audiences, and they often highlight an intersection of leadership and parenting. They are my kind of people!

One such speaker is Dr. Jane McGonigal, a world-renowned creator of alternative reality games, a leading researcher in how gaming affects the brain, and an expert in how games can improve our lives. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to hear Jane speak at my husband’s company; last month, she spoke to parents at my children’s high school. Granted, my husband works for a gaming company, so Jane’s talk was highly relevant to him and his colleagues. And, although I’m not a game developer, I found Jane’s talk inspirational to me as a parent and as a business leader.

In describing the positive emotions that you can get from games, Jane mentioned naches, a yiddish word meaning pride or joy in something that someone else does. Often it is used to describe the pride that parents have for their children. But, that feeling of “bursting with joy” is not limited to parents. Jane discussed how kids can feel naches after they teach a parent how to play a video game, especially when the parent does well. Wow. How often do we see kids bursting with joy over their parents’ accomplishments? A rare occurrence, right? Yet, it is one that should be treasured, given the research that links positive emotions like naches to healthier and more vibrant lives.

Her talk made me think about my previous blog post on the importance of leaders being open to learning things from their employees. Leaders who look to learn from their staff can create a workplace where naches and other positive feelings can flourish. Personally, I’ve felt such a sense of pride many times during my career. I remember feeling it after my manager delivered a stunning demo that I helped him prepare him for. I felt it after hearing my manager use an analogy I had used the previous day. But, there were many times I should have felt it, but didn’t, primarily because my manager didn’t give me credit for my contributions.

Are there things a leader or a parent can do to help nurture a sense of pride after their employees or kids teach them something? Absolutely! Here’s what I try to do:

  • Acknowledge the contributions of others. Thank your kids or the employees who helped you learn, be prepared, or deliver something big. Write about it in your family’s holiday newsletter, mention it in a meeting or email, or thank the person individually.
  • Celebrate the accomplishment with those who helped you. Give high-five’s or hand shakes, take them out for a meal, or hold a small party.
  • Reward them. Depending on the size of the accomplishment, consider bonuses or gift cards, spending time with your kids doing something they enjoy, or rewarding them in other ways that are consistent with your family or company culture.
  • Learn from them again. Look for ways to learn more from that person or team. It’s the ultimate compliment.
  • Cultivate teaching opportunities. You can be a strong role model for learning from others, but you can also help connect the dots. If your child needs help with math homework, suggest that they ask an older sibling for help. If an employee is struggling with a new skill, recommend that they reach out to another person you know who does that skill really well. Within a team or a family, teaching and learning from each other develops strong bonds and encourages that sense of pride and joy.

What are your ideas for nurturing a sense of pride in other’s accomplishments, at home or at work? I’d like to hear from you!

–Karen

p.s. Curious about how to pronounce naches? The “ch” is pronounced gutturally; it’s not “ch” as in “cheese,” but rather “ch” as in “Bach,” the composer. (From About.com.)

© 2012 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

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