Persistence alone is not enough

Lately, I’ve been pretty frustrated with my son’s elbows, especially when they appear on the dinner table every night. He’s a teenager, and I’ve been reminding him to keep his elbows off the table since he was a toddler. It’s gotten to the point that all I have to do is say his name, glance a certain way, and he gets the message. But, his elbows tend to creep back on the table just a few minutes later. 

I know I need to think of something different. I want him to break this habit so he doesn’t look like a goon at a nice dinner party or fancy event. Clearly, my persistence alone is not enough.

In times like this, when I find myself scratching my head as a parent, I try to think like a leader. What would a leader do to change behavior? To lead transformation?

A successful transformation starts with a vision, followed by defining a strategy for what needs to be done, executing that strategy, measuring success, and celebrating accomplishments. With my son:

  • I have a vision: no elbows on the table at mealtimes,
  • I have a strategy: remind him each time he forgets, and
  • execute: pointing it out, over and over again.
  • But, I don’t measure and celebrate success. Or, not yet at any rate.

So, as of last night, we are now tracking the meals where my son remembers to keep his elbows off the table. He’s charting his progress on a clipboard that we’ll keep in the kitchen, and I’ll reward him with something special when he hits a milestone. (This approach worked well when my kids were younger–we used incentive charts with little dinosaur stickers to help them learn something new. I know he would be humiliated if I bought a kiddie incentive chart now, so I’m using a simple piece of graph paper.)

Now that I’ve got my game plan, I’m feeling better. The next time I, as a parent and or a leader, need to lead change, I’ll be sure to couple persistence with metrics from the beginning. It’s a winning combination.


© 2013 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.