by Nguyen “Tom” Griggs
I once watched my instructor Torey Overstreet work with a youth on a particular problem. Like many schools, TNT Jujitsu focuses on young people and their behavior and grades as a part of rank progression and overall development. One of our academic-based requirements is for kids to constantly improve their grades, especially in their tougher subjects.
One day, as our youth class was concluding, Overstreet reminded the students about grades and report cards/progress reports. As often happens, some of them were struggling. I recall one who was about 11 years old holding his head down because he hated math. I certainly wasn’t a math scholar and can recall spending many nights as a kid crying my eyes out in frustration and angst while trying to make sense of arithmetic. Seeing this student express his frustration through the defeated look on his face wasn’t anything new to me.
The student brought his report card to the next class. It showed that his math grade was a D. Overstreet spoke with him after class, saying that he needed to find a way to improve his grades. Over the next month, the student asked for help, and whenever possible, we engaged in some tutoring and provided tips.
When the time came for the next academic progress reports to be discussed, the student showed his grade, which was a C. While he obviously wasn’t happy and didn’t think he’d done anything admirable, his teacher did something very helpful:
Overstreet looked first at the progress report and then at the student. He paused, took a breath, gave the student an encouraging pat on the shoulder and smiled. He explained that small, positive steps lead to success and encouraged him to keep improving and never quit.
The student’s sad expression turned into a smile, and they shared a quick joke. The student left class feeling better and promised to keep working.
This story illustrates several important points you can use with your students, staff members and families when personal interaction is required to help those in need.
Pause: Just as Overstreet paused for a moment before saying anything to the student about his math grade, you can do the same when talking with your staff. In fact, pausing is a simple tool for demonstrating forethought or even a change in one’s thinking.
A staff member may ask you something or you may need to discuss an issue. Pausing before you speak or while making a comment is a great way to use silence to gain attention and have others focus on your next actions or words. It can add some degree of dramatic tension, but the point is to show that you’re contemplating the issue.
Breathe: When the young man was waiting to hear what his instructor had to say, Overstreet made it a point to take a deep breath. This wasn’t done just for show; as we all know, taking a breath is a good way to calm yourself and illustrate focus.
Taking a breath also shows that the weight of the decision is known and that you’re committed to the other person. Imagine a staff member is discussing something serious with you. Your intentional breathing helps you stay aware and keeps you calm so you can make the best decision and/or provide the best advice.
Give: The last thing Overstreet did was to give encouragement. The student needed something positive but challenging to keep him moving forward and to show that his progress was being recognized.
Your team members will need different growth components from you. Don’t just give a compliment or say something encouraging at every turn. A staff member may need reprimanding or a kick in the pants. Not everyone responds to feedback the same way, so what you give needs to be constructive and aligned with your organization’s values and culture.
If you have to give some tough love to a student, staff member or parent, do so at your discretion. But again, before you deliver such tough feedback, pause, breathe and then give. Remember to give your thoughts with purpose and intent.
Keep working hard, stay healthy and keep earning your stripes.
Nguyen “Tom” Griggs is a professional consultant/speaker on subjects that include teams, leadership and conflict. To contact him, send an email to [email protected]
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