the subtle art of doing nothing

Yesterday, I shared about finding my teenager asleep on the couch when I went downstairs at 5:30 a.m. Game of Thrones was still on and he was out cold.

I was asked, “how did I handle it?” “What happened next?”

After turning off the TV, I woke him up gently and sent him to his room to get better sleep.

When he got up later, I asked a few questions about how late he stayed up? How it happened and how he felt.

I prefer the Socratic method of honest questioning rather than counter-productive lectures of which I was subjected to often as a teenager.

Not much was said after that as we each went about our day.

I could see he was dragging throughout the day. We homeschool, and I work from home, so I got to see the fruits of his actions.

Overall, not a big deal for me, or him, just one of the many small learning opportunities in life.

You might be thinking I should ground him, No TV for a week or so other punishment. But, missing out on a night of good sleep is pretty good punishment and learning, especially when it DOESN’T come from me.

It reminds me of my favorite, yet least popular, leadership lessons in business (and life).

Question: “What is the hardest thing to do as a leader?” (Or boss, spouse, parent, friend)

Answer: “Nothing.”

Allowing employees, children, spouses, friends, and family to screw up, recognize their error, correct and continue…without saying a word.

I find that to be incredibly powerful.

Sure, there are issues that need to be addressed – sometimes. But too often, the ‘leader’ forgets what it was like as a student, employee, spouse or teenager, and behaves the same way they hated when the situation was reversed.

So, stay up too late. Make an error on that email, put the wrong number in the chart. All these things, when brought to the perpetrator’s attention is usually enough. No need to puff up your (or my) self-importance by lecturing someone relentlessly.

Besides, I can always take a look in the mirror if I want to be reminded of what I could work on.

So, the next time your teenager, or employee, or spouse does something ‘less-than-wise’, try a different approach and do….nothing. Say nothing – to include zero facial expressions.

And then observe what happens.

Over time, I think you’ll be impressed.

And if that sounds too difficult, foreign or downright uncomfortable, schedule a consultation with me and let’s talk about better ways to manage your employees to increase morale while getting better performance. It’s easier than you think.