September 23, 2012

The Dumbest Parent, No Really

So we took our daughter out to shoot some arrows.

She was really good, shooting off one after another and hitting the bullseye way down field.

Of course, when I gave it a try, I couldn't even hit the side of a barn.
Next to us, at the range, where two girls and their mother.

The girls were jumping around with their bows, grabbing the arrows, and popping off shots at a target set at a distance appropriate for their age.

What comes next is the dumbest and most irresponsible parent I've seen for some time.

The mother yells out to the girls--"Hey, I'd like to take a picture of you guys!"

Then she goes over to them and pulls them off the range and faces them at each other about a foot apart--with their bows and arrows pointed at each other!

The girls not understanding the danger they are in and playing around as kids do--pull the strings on the bows back to pose for the shot--literally, and with the mother egging them on. 

I am feeling like I am watching a horrible accident about to unfold in front of my eyes.

I say politely, but with obvious fear and concern, "Stop!--the girls are pointing the arrows at each other--that's dangerous!"

But the mother, puts her finger up as if to hush me, and says emphatically that she just wants to take a picture and "it's so cute."

I am watching what appears to be the younger of the girls--the one on the right--start dancing around with the bow and arrow, pulling back and pointing right at the other girl--who in turn mimics her and does the same back.

At this point my wife joins me, and we are not sure how to stop this or whether its time to take cover, while the mother continues to ignore any semblance of safety and refuses to pull back from her cherished photo op of the children.

This mother was not just dumb, but completely irresponsible--for the safety of her kids and everyone else around on the court.

When the "photo shoot" was over--and the kids let the strings go and ran back to the range, we sighed a sigh of relief that nothing worse had happened.

A number of days later, I found myself doing some strategic planning and using the Force Field Analysis tool.

In the Force Field Analysis, we try to identify and examine the driving and limiting forces for and against change, and more importantly the actions we can take for influencing each force. 

Usually, we view the forces for change as something positive, and the limiting forces as a hinderance, blocking our goal achievement. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while change can be positive when undertaken for the right reasons, there are times when restraint is necessary as well. 

For example, in applying this to the situation at the archery range--the parent is hell-bent on taking the photo no matter the forces for restraint to prevent a serious accident happening to her kids or to others around them. In this case, some parental restraint would have been appropriate. From an influencing perspective, probably some much better supervision at the range would have been in order. 

To me, it was interesting to think about it in this context and contemplate how to tip the forces for change or restraint to where they need to be depending on the situation--whether it is a good goal and a good time to pursue it, or not. 

Also, it is worth noting how challenging it can be to influence driving and restraining forces, especially when dealing with ignorance, foolhardiness, or people who may just refuse to listen to reason.

As leaders, the Force Field Analysis can be a useful framework not just for planning, but for trying to understand our environment and how best we can shape the events around us--no matter how quickly or dangerously they may unfold.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


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