When you can’t discipline in private

Photo of young girl in trouble with motherPraise publicly, discipline privately. A great mantra for both leaders and parents! But, what about those times when discipline is called for and there is no privacy to be found? Perhaps it’s because your child made a driving mistake and you want to point it out immediately, even though a best friend is in the back seat. Or, you pull aside an employee to give him feedback in private, but his team members know exactly what’s happening. While you try to deliver the message in a thoughtful, respectful way, you’re still doing it in front of their peers or friends. It can be humiliating!

Even worse, imagine how humiliated you’d feel in this scenario:

You’re attending a parent education talk at a local school, along with hundreds of other parents.

About half-way through the talk, the host interrupts the speaker to announce that there is a dog locked in a car, the windows are rolled up, and the police are going to break the window if the owner doesn’t open up the car in the next 10 minutes. You gasp as you realize it’s your car, and you completely forgot that your dog hopped in the backseat when you left the house that morning. 

You’re going to have to stand up, make your way past dozens of parents sitting in your row, deal with the stares from everyone in the auditorium, and run to the nearest door. 

You’re going to feel humiliated.

But then, a miracle happens. Before you even stand up, the speaker asks everyone to stand, stretch, and say hello to the person in the next seat. He causes a diversion, letting you deal with your mistake without being the subject of everyone’s stares. In your mind, he just became the most gracious person in the world. 

While this person wasn’t me, I was at that talk. Boy, was I impressed that the speaker, Shawn Achor, thought of doing this. Not that he was disciplining her, but hundreds of people were about to cast judgement. He created privacy for that parent in the crowded auditorium. It was the perfect thing to do.

Sure, we should try to wait until we have privacy to discipline, but it’s not always an option. Have you created privacy when you’ve needed to, as a parent or a leader? I’d like to hear your ideas!


© 2013 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

(Photo credit: BigStock.com)

A Gratitude a Day Keeps the Stress Away

Scan of Keep Smiling CardWhen I was growing up, my mom had a card on her kitchen bulletin board that had the simple phrase, “Keep Smiling.” I imagine she must have looked at it often when she was raising her five children.

I think my mom was on to something. Today, there is scientific research on the positive effects, even competitive advantages, of being happy and grateful, with many authors and speakers spreading the word. I had the opportunity to hear Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, talk about positive psychology. In fact, I heard him twice: once at an executive offsite held by my company and again a few months later through Common Ground, a speaker series sponsored by my children’s school. He surprised me by giving the same talk to both of these audiences. Clearly his message is equally applicable to both leaders and parents.

Shawn recommends five small changes that will have a lasting impact on your optimism:

  1. Make a life habit out of gratitude. Write three things at the beginning of every day that you are grateful for. At dinner, share things that you are grateful for with your family.
  2. Keep a journal. Write about one meaningful, positive experience you had over the past day. Do it every day for 21 days, and it will become a habit.
  3. Exercise every morning. You will be more successful with your daily responsibilities because of it.
  4. Meditate. Take your hands off your keyboard and watch your breath for two minutes. You will learn to focus more and multi-task less, which will reduce stress.
  5. Practice random acts of kindness. Write a two sentence email to thank someone, personally or professionally, before you read anything in your inbox. Start off your day expressing gratitude.

Soon after hearing Shawn speak, I added “Gratitudes” to the agenda for my weekly staff meetings. I’d start the meeting with something I was thankful for, either at work or at home, and then I’d ask my staff if they had something to share. I liked the way I felt after doing this. The stress of whatever I had been dealing with that morning was left behind, and I was able to focus fully on the meeting. I also learned some neat things about my staff and what was going on with their groups or in their personal lives.

I wish I could say that I do the same thing over the dinner table at home. On occasion, we will share what we are grateful for, but it is not a daily habit. I think I need to start it. If my kids are reading this post, be prepared!

What do you think of Shawn’s five small changes to improve optimism? Do you already do some or all of them at home? At work? I’d love to hear from you.


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© 2012 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.