Spring time means nicer weather, and more time spent outside. For parents, it also means more time at playgrounds and on the soccer field. Personally, I'm fascinated by people. So I tend to take little lessons from every interaction I see. The other day, we were at a playground and it was a particularly busy day. It was packed, kids everywhere. And they were having a blast. The more I watched, the more certain things kept popping out at me. It turns out, we adults have a lot to learn from these kids.
Here's what I saw:
They're engaged. Parents will back me up on this, kids don't play at half-speed, or just go through the motions. They're all in. For that period of time, they're focused on one thing. And they usually end up falling asleep in the car because they're spent (bonus for us parents!).
They're connected. How long does it take one kid to go up to another and just start playing? 5 seconds? 10? It's amazing, they'll make friends with anybody in less time than it takes an adult to order a cup of coffee.
This is my daughter, Evelyn (in the pink stripes) and a friend playing on the jungle gym. 3 minutes before this picture was taken, they had no idea the other existed. Now they're playing together, supporting each other (she was helping Evelyn navigate a piece of equipment she hadn't been on before), and having fun.
They're self-reliant. They make their own fun. They don't have to be somewhere with video games or complex activities. They make up their own games. Surprisingly complex ones with lots of rules. And they teach it to each other, so they all know what's going on. And they call someone out if they aren't following the rules.
They're resilient. Sometimes there are tears, bumps, falls. These things happen. But it's amazing how quickly they want to get right back out there and keep having fun.
They're adaptable. There are usually more kids than their are equipment. They share, play together. They make it work. And they don't need an adult telling them how to make it work, they figure it out.
They're persistent. Kids usually don't shy away from a challenge. When there's something they can't do, some piece of equipment they can't quite climb, they keep pushing until they get it. And then the next time it's a little easier for them. And the next time, a little easier yet.
Engaged, connected, self-reliant, resilient, adaptable, and persistent. Don't they sound like qualities that make a good employee? So why have we convinced ourselves and our companies that we need tons of training to be these things? Companies spend thousands, tens of thousands, millions of dollars a year to create engaged, adaptable, resilient employees. Why?
The simple truth is, we've had the right stuff inside us the whole time. We learned it at a young age. But somewhere along the line we started over-complicating things. Policies and Standard Operating Procedures started to overshadow the importance of how we treat ourselves and others. The basics got lost.
What's the answer? Slow down and reconnect with what we once knew. Let's stop listening to all the L&D jargon that insists we have knowledge gaps. We don't. We've known this stuff for years, since before we even knew what it was called. In reality, we have application gaps. We need to get better at remembering these skills and applying them to our every-day interactions.
Let's quiet the noise and reconnect with the things we once knew. Let's reconnect with our inner child. Our families and our employers will thank us.