Correcting Behavior, Preserving Self Esteem

When Parenting Works;

Our November Ho‘ohana

The story which follows is an excerpt from Chapter 1 in
Managing with Aloha;

It tells about the first time I met the pediatrician who would care for both my children, and of the parenting lesson he taught me.

Correcting behavior, preserving self esteem

There is a parenting lesson that can help you be a great manager.

When I had my first child I was your typical obsessive new mother, seeking to find the perfect pediatrician for her care. My obstetrician tried to help me identify candidates to interview, but no one was quite good enough. So the day came that my daughter decided to arrive six weeks prematurely, and fragile as she was, she really needed that great pediatrician whom I still had not found for her. From the delivery room she was quickly taken from me to get the care she needed from some mystery man my own doctor summoned.

When I woke up in the recovery room two hours later, the mystery man was standing next to my bed, and he said, “Congratulations, and don’t worry, your daughter is fine.”

Still not fully awake, I asked him, “Are you going to be her doctor?”

He answered, “Well, that’s up to you, and I understand you give a tough interview. I think she’s really beautiful, and I’d like to be her doctor, so you can ask me whatever you’d like to know. Can I share something with you first?”

Not feeling much like talking anyway, I silently nodded, and this is what he said.

“I’m sure that the moment she is brought back to you, you will believe there is no possible way you could love another human being more completely. But being her mother will require a lot of you. Days will come that she will misbehave and make you furious, and you’ll have to be very careful about what you say to her. No matter what happens, you need to remember how much you love her at this moment, and never ever tell her that she is a bad person. You can tell her that you are disappointed in her behavior, but because you know how great she really is, you know she is capable of wonderful things, and she can behave better from now on. Then you ask her to, for she must choose to.  Whether I’m her doctor or not, will you remember to do that for her?”

Again, I nodded.

No other question came to mind for me. As far as I was concerned, the interview was over, and Dr. Galen Chock became her doctor. Three years later he’d begin to take care of my son as well, teaching me even more about being a good mom for my children with every well-baby visit, immunization and yearly physical. Over the years I’ve kept my promise to him, telling my children how great they are whenever I can, and telling them I am positive they are capable of making good choices for themselves. I applaud like crazy when they do.

I’d recall Dr. Chock’s advice on a day I was stewing about what to do with a particular problem-child employee: It was one of those “aha!” moments in management for me. I realized that what Dr. Chock had said in the recovery room held the same promise and potential for the staff I managed. Love and respect the person, treating them with the dignity they will seek to earn from you, correct and guide their behavior. If there are any variables to be sought out, they are probably lurking in the reasons behind the choices that had been made; talk them out.

My problem child was summoned, and I prepared my thoughts for our meeting.  I thought back to when I first hired this employee, remembering why I’d considered him such a great candidate, and why I had been so excited about making him the job offer. I thought about all his successes as he sailed through his introductory period, securing customer compliments, nailing his performance review with honors and graduating probation with flying colors. I thought about some great things he’d done just in the last few days.

When he entered my office, his feet did their duty, shuffling him reluctantly forward as his eyes avoided mine. He was embarrassed and filled with dread. He knew he’d disappointed me, and clearly he was disappointed with himself. This was an employee anticipating a lecture and bracing himself for punishment: He knew he’d done wrong and he expected me to hammer him for it. This was someone who clearly needed the arms of Aloha to reach out to him.

His demeanor did not change my resolve to tackle the problem head on, and that afternoon we did speak of why he’d made the wrong choice when he had other options. But I didn’t lay into him as he expected me to. Instead I told him I knew he was capable of better, I’d seen it in him on an almost daily basis, and I knew how good he was when he was at the top of his game. So I asked him please, could that be the way he conducted himself at work from here on in?  And he did.

We’d come to an agreement that afternoon: If he struggled with a future choice for any reason, he’d raise his hand, and I’d be there to help guide him through it. As I write this today he is known as an informal leader among his peers, for he has learned to carefully evaluate the choices that seem obvious and dig deeper for those that should also be uncovered. His opinion is consistently sought by his co-workers and by his manager. He is no longer a problem child: He is a role model of outstanding performance.

Aloha was in my office that day. As I recall, the word “Aloha” may not have specifically been spoken. It was there as the outpouring of good intent between us. It was a value we shared, one that gave us a comfortable and workable common ground. It centered our purpose for meeting as two human beings, and it gave focus to our conversation, even when there were difficult things to be said. The day was yet another example of what values-centered leadership can successfully do for a manager.


  1. says

    Thank you Dan. Meeting Dr. Chock was a defining moment for me, for this is certainly a lesson which has served me well through my management career. It has played out in similar ways with many different employees … conversations I have long lost count with, but felt very good about … my daughter is now 22!

  2. says

    1-13-05. The date Rosa, that I underlined, “No matter what happens, you need to remember how much you love her at this moment, and never tell her that she is a bad person.”
    There isn’t a shadow of doubt in my mind that you’ve exceeded the Doc’s statement!

  3. says

    Thank you Dave, thank you. Your comment was read at a time I needed to read it most, and your aloha is greatly appreciated.

  4. says

    What wise words. Trying to remember patience, love and maturity when I’m filled with indignation is the true test of my skills as a manager. I hope that this story fills my mind the next time I’m about to get that look on my face or tone in my voice. It only takes a second to knock down the 3 weeks of foundation-laying we’ve been putting in place. Thanks for sharing the story.

  5. says

    Aloha Chris, thank you for visiting Talking Story and sharing your comment. I think that all managers can very easily relate to your cautions. We learn many management skills, but before they can be used most effectively we need to cultivate habits of self-restraint and curb our impulsiveness!