I guess you can call me a “Yes Man”. Not in the traditional sense, though. The traditional sense being the sycophant, suck-up, lap dog. You know, the person who is kissing everyone’s butt above them just to get ahead, or to make going into work everyday more comfortable. No. No, that’s not me. That would be too easy. And I like my things difficult. I like ’em scary.
You see, in my work life, I employ a “yes” style of downward management and approach most everything with a “why not” attitude. This approach suits me in every way. It comes naturally to me. It comes naturally because it aligns with my core values. My view of the world and how it works. My natural sense of curiosity and love of adventure. Nothing thrills me more than to try something, not knowing what the outcome might be. And it is even more exciting when success looks like the polar opposite of failure. The risk of failure is my drug. Yes. And it offers a high that is hard to match by anything else. Oh, I can just feel my heart race and the butterflies in my stomach as I write this. Should I ever seek therapy for this condition, I think the diagnosis would be “corporate risk junky” or something like that.
Most recently, as the housewares store manager of the local Crate & Barrel I had the opportunity to manage in that way. A few critical factors were at play. First, the store was not in the same city as the corporate office. Second, the store was brand new and the first in the market. And third, I had an encouraging and supportive manager who, I think if she allowed herself to admit it, was a little bit of a risk junky herself. We worked extremely hard together to open that store and for two years thereafter. We had a lot of success…..and yes, some failures. And when I decided to leave my position at Crate & Barrel to focus more on my marriage and family, I went into serious withdrawal. After all, I am a junky.
So back to the point of this post – saying “Yes”. I was thinking about this in the car on my way home after picking up the twins from pre-k. Here is just an excerpt of the conversation that got me thinking.
Cameron: “Mom, can I play with the purple Barbie when we get home?”
Cameron: “Can I play with the purple Barbie in the bathtub?” “With water in it?”
Me: “Um, sure. I suppose.”
Cameron: “Can I take my clothes off and get in with the Barbie?”
I hesitated, considering the fallout from responding affirmatively. Will Quincy want to get in? Will Cameron get irritated if she does, and will an argument ensue? Do I really want to bother with two wet kids in the middle of the day? And clean up the mess when they splash the water all over the bathroom? If I walk away to facebook/blog/check e-mail will one drown, or worse, attempt to drown the other one? And this consideration took me back to what that marriage counselor told me a couple of years ago about using my management skills at home. (See first blog post). So I said, “Yes.”
Now, at Crate & Barrel I had a team made up of very bright, experienced, hardworking, and service-minded people. They showed up to work every day with a curious and creative spirit, a desire to serve the customer, and a very genuine passion for the products. So when they came up with an idea, whatever the idea was, it generally had merit. And I, therefore, had a difficult time saying no to them. In fact, the only reason I said no was because I was, unfortunately, the one rubbing up against the corporate machine which included very real things like budgets and merchandising guidelines. I’m not necessarily a rule follower though. So, at times, I was even willing to bend the rules or push the guidelines. I am that weird blend of human-creature that isn’t afraid of getting in trouble, but is constantly seeking approval. Just typing it out like that reminds me of just how strange that is…..and difficult to manage, I imagine. (Sorry Mary!)
In stark contrast to that situation, my “team”, the people I manage at home, includes four crazy people. They aren’t fully formed, and sometimes I wonder if they are even human. Vital parts, like their brain and their mouth, aren’t properly connected up just yet. Their ideas consist of going head first down the stairs on their belly, writing on the kitchen table with permanent marker, banging a toy against their chest of drawers over and over until the paint chips off, and using kiddie scissors to cut their sister’s bangs OFF. Needless to say then, using the “yes” style of management to parent your children brings with it an entirely different set of risks. Risks so great that they render the form of management almost unusable, at least in its purest form. Or do they? And this is my quagmire.
Similarly, I have a co-manager at home and his name is Greg. I have to answer to him and him to me. And oftentimes I find myself saying no because I think that’s what he would want me to do. I am pretty sure he would tell you, and I would tend to agree, that I am definitely the yes man of our family. I am the one who allows the kids to do what they want much of the time. I give in. I am the spoiler. The truth comes out. I do say yes more than he does, but I also say no an awful lot. The fact is, when you stay home with four children every day the no’s add up quickly. And for a person so used to saying yes, this is extremely difficult.
So I’ve decided that I am going to conduct a little parenting experiment. For one day, on just a regular old day, I am going to log all the times I say no to the girls. And on the flip side, for one day I am going to say yes to everything…or at least try to say yes. I’ll admit, if it is something that risks their life or serious bodily injury I may say no. I promise to follow-up here with an honest assessment of the results from my experiment in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned…..