If you’ve ever walked outside with a group of friends this has happened to you. You’re hiking up a wonderful trail, enjoying nature. Then something interrupts the good times. A smell. At first, you assume that someone in your group had a momentary release of toxins from their body. As the smell lingers, you start to assess the proximity of animals. Up until this point, everyone in your group has been quiet because they assumed the smell emanated from you. Now, everyone is asking… “did you smell that?”
Whether you stop now or later at some point the realization is that there isn’t an overabundance of animals in the area, but rather a smell that is following you around. If you’re a parent, it’s time to call it out, “everyone check your shoes.”
Parenting On Poop
If you have kids, poop is a household word. This wonderful word is used to describe everything from a bodily function to describing a day. Recently, I had what I would call a parenting moment where this word became invaluable.
Sometimes I struggle talking to my kids. I’m not very patient and I’m even a worse communicator. You see, my face is connected directly to the emotional part of my brain. I could be thinking I’m as cool as a cucumber but my face says I’m ready to charge down a hill screaming Freedom!
I love writing because you have no idea how intense my face is or whether I’m laughing right now. What makes poop such a great tool is that my kids know that word inside and out. From infancy, they’ve used that word and can understand nuances with it.
When a parenting opportunity arises (in case you’re lost, I’m talking about an opportunity to correct behavior), often I swing and miss. Usually, I over-react, my fleshly desire to be sarcastic comes out and then I have to spend the rest of my time praying that I didn’t scar my kids for life. On the plus side, my children have gotten to witness what repentance looks like.
Recently one of my children lied. I know, publishing this blog post is going to ruin their political chances (on second thought it might help). Like an enemy combatant under interrogation, my child played this game of “how little can I give up” in order to get out of this. If you’ve ever caught a child in a lie, you know it’s very obvious. I know it, you know it, I just need you to admit it. However, I tried everything short of waterboarding and my child was not budging (the CIA would be proud).
It was this exchange that made me think of poop.
You Stepped In It
Parents come equipped with a liedar (a lie radar). When a child lies, at first no one knows. In the beginning, as parents, we know something is amiss but can’t really put our finger on it. As the lie begins to unravel, more questions arise. However, once caught, the lie is pretty obvious.
You see when you lie, it’s like stepping in poop. At some point, everyone can smell it, you know it, they know it. Unfortunately, for my child, we both could smell the poop but they wanted to pretend like it didn’t happen. I could see their mind racing.
“How much does Dad know?”
We both smell it.
When I explained this new metaphor to them, they understood immediately. The only way to remove the stench is to come clean. Confess and repent. If I’m one hundred percent honest with you, it didn’t go like I wanted it to go. My child opted to continue the ruse. They figured wiping his shoes on the grass was enough to get rid of the stench.
In order to completely be free from a lie, you have to do the same thing you’d do if you stepped in, well, doo. You need to examine your sole (Dad joke intended!) and clean them off with water. It wasn’t until we finally did that they ever felt free again.
What Does This Have To Do With Leadership?
In order for my children to know what to do, I have to tell them and show them. My child knew they needed to repent because we tell them and they go to church with us and have learned it there. However, they know more about repentance and forgiveness because they have witnessed me come to them repeatedly. Every time I yell at them, I have to go to them, apologize and tell them I never, ever want to do that again. They hear me ask God for forgiveness. They witness the same confession and repentance cycle with my wife and me.
If you’re leading an organization and you expect your team to come to you every time “they step in it. ” You have to go first. I know this seems counterintuitive. You want to present a strong, stoic leader image. However, by being vulnerable and admitting your mistakes first and asking for forgiveness, you show them how to come clean. Mistakes are part of any team and if you want to know about them as they happen vs at the exit interview, then lead the way and go first.