The Art of Failing, Inspired by Mindful Parenting

Presented by Tomasz Smaczny at IT Matters Conference ONLINE

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Hello, I'm Thomasz Smaczny. I have been in the business for the last 20 years in different positions and different sectors, but mainly in sales and marketing. But what I'm doing now I'm a parenting educator and a leadership coach. For start, I would like to invite you for a walk with a child, this might be a child of your own, or this might be a child, you know very well. So imagine you are preparing for this walk, and the kid is putting his shoes on. But he's very, very struggling in. He's struggling with lacing his shoes, and he's getting frustrated. And all of a sudden, he's actually taking off the shoes and throwing them against the door. What do you do? And then eventually, you're leaving the house and you are in the playground. And the kid is climbing a structure and he's getting to the point that he's hesitating to go farther. He's pretty, pretty high already. But he's frustrated, he's a bit hesitating. And he calls for your attention. He calls help. What do you do? And then you, you continue your journey through the park, and you just walking around along one of the paths. And he's running freely, exploring the environments, but he's, he's really energetic, and he runs here and there. And all of a sudden, he stumbles and falls down. And there is this terrible silence for a moment. And then you start hearing him crying? What do you do? I'm not going to test your parenting knowledge. But with this simple exercise and maybe reflection of what would you do in this situation.

So I would like to just convey the message that we pretty much know what to do. And, you know, developmental psychology and child psychology give us a lot of hints of how to behave in such moments so that we really help our kids go through these experiences. And, and I believe we can learn from this knowledge actually, also in business, and for a long time I thought I was the only one although I see that these two worlds are not that that separate, that, you know, [one can think] one can think actually these two worlds are about human relations and human communication. So I googled once, whether there were other people thinking the same way and I just found ,came across, Simon Sinek, who you might know very well, and he was said, the closest thing to leadership is parenting. And I believe we can really get in lots of inspiration from parenting into leadership. So today, we will look at the failure. So how to deal with failure in business, taking inspiration from what we can learn from my mindful parenting. I really like] I would like to refer to Geeta's talk because I really liked what what she said at the, at the end about being very subtle, with offering help. So whatever you hear here today from me, it's not like you know, it's not like a solid 100% advice that you should follow it just an inspiration, and whatever, you know, however it lands with you, that would be good, whatever you can, you can take take from it.

Okay, so if you look at this photograph on the right hand side, then you can imagine that a small child running, it's in there somewhere in the park in the forest, and there is probably a playground hose so he's running with his stick, he's just jumping from, you know, from one bump to another you can see a slide in the in the in the rest of this picture. And probably he's totally indulging play. And so he, when you observe these children who are totally, you know, into this playful mode, they would go from station to the station. So they would go from slide, go down, then they go to a swing to swing for few minutes, then they would run, they would go to a sandbox, maybe climb, they would be totally into everything and anything enjoying play. And, you know, we we may think, okay, so are there any successes and failures during this time. And obviously there are, but we even hardly can notice them. And the reason we can hardly notice them , because the kid also, even before they happen, but the kid is so focused on playing itself, that they really, you know, they really go very quickly from one success to another failure from one success to another failure from one success to a faliure. They even don't notice this, because they don't matter so much. They're just part, an integral part of playing, you know, on this structure, I can climb four bars, but maybe, you know, yesterday, I climbed five, you know, on a swing, I may just swing a little bit higher than yesterday, they would maybe notice this, but they this wouldn't be the key thing that would occupy their their mind. So what what can we learn from this? Well, first of all, if we obsess or maybe you were interested too much in, you know, the success and failure. This playground could remind us that just part of something bigger, it's part of play. It's part of business. Yes. And so we can expect successes, expect failures, but what matters most is whether we still enjoy doing our business. Why are we here in the first place? You know, and I believe if you enjoy doing your business then you will thrive. So that's a good question to start with, do I still enjoy what I do at work? if I'm so frustrated, and you know, [some] obsessed maybe with success and failure. Now, if we agree that successes and failures are natural, and they are a natural part of life, a natural part of of business, then I think teamwork and effort are not perceived, and are not that natural. And they really want this, that we could appreciate more. But I would start from, again, from a child's point of view. Let's imagine there is a child coming from school and he brings an 'A' and 'A' being a very good mark, let's say. And there is a parent who says, Oh, yes, you you got an A in mathematics. So we will go to have an ice cream. Yeah, and the parent is very proud, the parent is very smiling. And then the other day, the kid is coming with an 'E', which, let's say it's a very bad mark. And the parent would say, oh, ok, so no ice cream today, you know, unless you, you do better, than there will be no ice cream, his tone of voice changes, he doesn't smile, he's not happy. And the message that the child is taking from these reactions over time is that actually the love and affection and attention of my parent depends on the mark that I bring. So he might be very motivated to get more as but not because he loves mathematics, science or whatever, but because he would like to see his parents smiling. And this is not what would be the good for his healthy development. What a kid would expect and maybe you know that what would help him to really focus on the job and also create a positive and very stable relationship with their parents would be that we acknowledge what happened, so [he got] you got an 'A', you got an 'E', but also talk about the effort and talk about the things that happens objectively, that got him to this point. So if he gets an 'A' it would be good for a parent to say, Yes, I have really seen you have worked on this on the subject for the last three days. And I saw your frustration and I saw you didn't come to see your friends because you wanted to, you wanted to finish this homework. And now you see you got an 'A', you know, and whenever an 'E' happens, the parent would react similarly with it with a similar emotions, you know, you're still my son. And yes, you didn't work on this homework, you didn't work on this project, now you you get an 'E'. So you know that the kid is focusing more on the subject. And he sees his parent all of the time behind his back, supporting him and assisting him in whatever happens. He's still a lovable child. And I think I think this is where we can also learn. And this is what we can also learn in the business that we appreciate the effort. And for example, being together more, except for only appreciating successes, or maybe just discussing the failures. So that might be anniversaries, which we tend to celebrate an anniversary of a person being in the company, anniversary of the company itself. But it may be just after finishing this project, not talking about the outcome, whatever the outcome is, but talking about, okay, how many hours we put into this project, how many days, how many pages we have written, how many pages of code you have written. And if we put this together and just put it somewhere on the screen. And so we can celebrate the effort with it as a team. Because this is what really matters. And the outcome may be different, but it's worth celebrating our effort. Or it may be even another day together. After all, it's just another day of our lives. And it's more for celebrating, you know, as sunrise and sunset. So it might be just a small thing every day that we, you know, make our team and just give our team that says that, that we are happy to be with them, you know, bringing something small; candy, or whatever, just to say, I'm happy I'm with you also today because it's a wonder it doesn't happen so much that we feel very well at work. Okay, now, why do we have a problem treating failure naturally, I mean, this is something that is being discussed, this is something you know, it's something that frustrates us. And there's lots of attention behind the failure. And it's, it's our history, it's life history that made it this way. So this is what we have learned at home, usually, you know, maybe you can refer to your childhood but many of us just heard the stories that I just described when we brought an 'A' or when we brought an 'E'. And this is what we have learned at school because we got grades. And there were teachers and I remember from my you know, my experience, but maybe it's also your experience, if I got an A, the teacher would love me would smile at me, would be very friendly with me. And I had friends who got you know, 'D's and 'E's. And not only they got bad marks, but the the attitude of a teacher was very negative, you know, they wouldn't talk to them, they wouldn't smile at them, they would treat them as a problem. And it's really you know, that the division between these good students and bad students, was what was really visible not only in the marks, but with the attitude of a teacher. Now, we are also deceived by biassed corporate news on LinkedIn. For example: I recently talked to a friend who is a leader for one of the IT startups. And I, you know, I read lots of positive news. He's expanding globally and you know, just good news. And I said, well, you're doing great. We haven't thought for some months you your business is doing great. And you know, it's, it seems like perfect, and he says "Tomasz it's not that way. What you see as success is only a propaganda of success. We are talking about positive things. I'm not talking about negative things and failures and problems on LinkedIn. I'm talking about positive things. So their impression is it's only success." A And it's even worse on Instagram, because it affects our personal lives on Instagram. Generally, we see only successful people. Very good looking, doing very exciting things. And travelling and drinking colourful drinks. And if we are in a more miserable, you know stage of our lives, then we think we are the only ones. We are really failures because everybody else is having good time as successful and it's an it's positive, but it's false, it's fake, everybody suffers, everybody fails. And I tend to remind myself just to also keep my stress out. Gheeta was talking about the stress. So whenever I see a celebrity or a successful sportsman, I'm sure he also fails and I'm sure he also suffers. And that that helps. also dealing with with personal failures. Now accept the emotions that come with failure, if we again look at this parent child relationship, kids needs to express their heart feelings safely, to clear their head and move forward safely, meaning with a person they trust, and usually these people are, who they trust, or they are their parents. And so, but it's not easy. It's not easy, because you know, when we hear crying, you know, when we see a child crying, and we hear them crying, naturally, and genetically even, it's uncomfortable, it's uncomfortable, because it is made this way so that we come and do something about it. But what we are doing about it, is usually suppressing the emotions, because we don't know what to do, we don't know what to say, and we, you know, we evoke, we, we feel uncomfortable, uncomfortable with our emotions, so we want to end it. And unfortunately, very often we just hear, you know, parents saying, "Oh, don't cry, there's no reason to cry, "Oh, you know, "Oh, look, there's other children are not crying, and you're crying", or just simply "Stop crying because I cannot stand it anymore". And this is not helping the children to process the emotions, so they can really clear their system and move forward. So if we now go to a business situation, and you know, ask ourselves, how can we use this and get inspired by this, it would be you know, this, the simple thing that we could offer and do: is just listen. If we don't know what to do, and how to, you know how to deal with somehow some somebodies failures, or somebody, you know, emotions, if he's open up enough to share with us. So the first thing we could do is really listen and be with them. And this is what they would need. And that would be hard enough for us in the beginning. Because, you know, it's really hard to look at somebody suffering and be with them, and not trying to stop, stop it in a way. So, but that would be very helpful. Somebody is by my side. And then the next step, if we're more comfortable, instead of saying; "Oh, don't worry, there will be another project that we do will be better", "Tomorrow is another day, and somebody else is even in a worse situation." We could just paraphrase and, you know, and observe how he's feeling what he's doing, and just, you know, offer a narrative of what's really happening, so we can say, Yeah, I can see that you are suffering, I can see it would ,you know, from your words, I can hear that it's been very important and you feel disappointed? Yes, I know, you put lots of work in this project, and it's normal and normal that you are now you know, sad. I see your pain. The acknowledgement of what's happening is very powerful. And it helps going through the failure and moving forward. Okay, now, there might be also another part of the story where we can actually bear with somebody else's emotions. And that would be, let's say, let's come to this parent child situation where the parents would say, Okay, I can bear with your emotions, I can take whatever it takes. And I would like, I would like to protect you from this. So from this situation I described in the beginning, for example, there would be you know, a child is putting his shoes on, and he's very frustrated. He cannot put his shoes on and he's thrown his shoes so that this protective parent would come and say, "Oh, don't worry, I will put this shoes on. Yes, yes, yes. Let's do it here. Okay. The shoes is on Are you happy now?", and, to his surprise, the child is not happy, because it was not about putting his shoes on, it was not about having his shoes on, but it was about putting his shoes on the process. And there might be, you know, as in this example, that a child falls down and falls down on. And luckily maybe nothing happens physically, but the child is crying a lot and the parent would go and hug them, I would say, in this overdoing way, so that "You don't need to cry, I'm with you, you know, now you are safe", etc, just protecting him from whatever small disappointment or struggle or suffering in the world. And, and that's not helpful, either. Because what kids need from parents in this moment is some kind of confidence that, they, the kids can handle their own problems, you know, if they feel that the parent is always there, and is solving their problems and keep, you know, and so and also protecting them from from suffering, they may get an idea that they are not able to do it themselves, they are not able to go through pain, they are not able to solve the problems, and they are dependable for life. So they would always go to his parents, for constellation and for advice for how long, you know. And if you think that, you know, the parents, one of the parents role is just making our making children independent, and just prepare them to go to the world by themselves, then it's not the best, the best strategy. So when you are a leader, and you may be seeing yourself that you may be over protective and you'd like to, you know, solve all the problems for all other people. Then ask yourself, How much do you believe in your team? Do you think you're, you know, maybe better at something, it might be true, but how much do you believe they can learn as well, they can handle if you have this belief, they would learn if you don't have this belief, then you just repeatedly solve the problems and for themselves, and they will just learn to come to you. Okay, now, if you're a leader, let's say a project leader or team leader, you might think okay, so I agree, I would let ,you know, my team to solve the problems by themselves, I would be maybe attentive to the emotions, but I myself, I, oh, I wouldn't share the share that here. I wouldn't, I wouldn't never, I would never show that I'm you know, and I'm then I'm weak, for example. But again, if we come to the parenting knowledge, then whatever we may say to the kids, so that they open up in front of us, and they, you know, whenever they have a problem, please talk to me, this is what we would like, you know, kids to do when they come from school and preschool, and we'd like to know what's happening, especially when they are sad. So we say yes, it's totally fine. You can share with me anything, any emotions, fine. But if they don't see that we are doing the same, that we are modelling this behaviour, they wouldn't they wouldn't believe they wouldn't go notice why they also need to see the children that if we are sad that we will show it, not you know, with again, without overdoing, but if they see that there's a tear in my eye, and they ask, okay, so "Daddy Are you sad" Oh, and I say "oh, no, no, it's nothing you know, it's just I'm sweaty" you know, they will see there is some false message in this there is fake and they wouldn't able to the same they would do the same. They wouldn't tell me why they're sad. For example, they would say, "Oh, Daddy, there is nothing, it's nothing. It's just you know, nothing happened. No, no, there's nothing." So if you would like certain behaviour and culture in your organisation, just there's no other way than model it. And and I'm not saying now, you know, that if we have a failure in the company. So the leader comes to the stage and say, "Oh, yeah, now there's a disaster and then you know, there will be disaster for forever and you know, for another month, you will be going with your head down". But I guess there is this, there is this mourning period. So if there is an announcement of a bad news, just let it be uncomfortable and let it be painful for this day on, you know, for some certain period of time, and not just five minutes so that we say, "Okay, so we failed, but there's, you know, there's so many positive things. So this one small bad thing, but there's 1000 of, of positive things". While everybody feels that really something bad happens, and they need time to process it, and the leader if we are brave enough, and he says yes, "I'm also disappointed. I'm also sad. And I'm also angry, and I'm with you on this, okay, and this is the, this is the day of the failure." Fine. But then if we come back to the first slide, and the leader likes his job, then naturally the next day, he comes to the next day, and maybe in a few days, and you know, whatever time, whatever time is needed, he comes back to the office and, and he would say, "Yeah, I'm now focusing on something else, I just go past what happened. That was then I felt bad. But today, there is another day, and I'm enjoying what I'm doing. So we are focusing on something else. Are you with me?" And that would be more authentic, and I guess help people to go through this failure better.

Now, lastly, there's a good question. When we raise our children, whether we plan for this moment, whether we plan, you know, if you go out for a walk, whether we plan for this walk, or whether we plan for a lifetime, yeah, because we plan for the for the walk, then we may really be very impatient with the time that kids take to put the clothes on. So that we ,you know, so we go faster, okay, so I would you will help you, I'll put you on a jacket, we have to leave, we are in a hurry. Maybe we're hurrying , maybe we're not. So that would be a plan just for this situation. But if we think long term that we would like to our kids to learn and innovate and solve problems by themselves, we would give them time, lots of time. And we would give them our patience, because we always know that we will do things faster and better than them. And that requires our patience, not to interfere with too much. And I believe it's the same as the business. If you plan, you know, for short term is the result, you're very biassed. And you're very, you tend to do things for the people. And maybe you have the plan and they just have to execute. But if you plan for a longer period of time, and you would like to build the team that would in the future might be create things that you can innovate not imagine now, then it needs time. It needs your patience. And and I believe coming back to the beginning, if you enjoy what you are doing, then you will have this time, you will have this patience, and you will thrive in the business you are doing just like kids in the playground. Thank you very much. I know my q&a is not possible right now probably because I just running out of time. But I will be in 'Gather Town' right after this talk. And please also join me in on LinkedIn or on social media. If you'd like to connect and speak then I would be happy to. Yeah, to meet you. Thank you very much.

Hey, thank you so much. That was really, really nice. Thank you. And I really liked what you said about acknowledging the pain as well. And not just the end results. That was really nice. Yes. And when the leader sort of shows pain, that they're able to express their pain and not suppress it and say, oh, everything's fine. Don't worry, that is fine. You know, and when we're able to do that, then the children are able to follow that example. Exactly. Pleasant. Yeah. Thank you so much. No worries if you have any questions, but too much please join him in 'gather town'. Oh, there's actually a question for you. Do you have some favourite books about parenting?

Oh, that's a that's a good question. Because actually, I'm writing one now. So I would say the perfect book is not is not available yet. But But you know, it's interesting. Just maybe ill anwser in a in an in a different way. Because it was also interesting Simon Sinek got the question from the audience once. And it was a talk about leadership and he got a question. "Okay, what's your favourite book on leadership?" And he said, The one book I would advise you would be, (I can maybe you know, the title in English would be a bit different) but but it's a worldwide bestseller. So he would recommend a parenting book, which is called, 'How to speak so that our kids listen' something like this. This is a whole series of books. And he will recommend this book as a leadership book. But I think it's also a very good parenting book, as well. But I can give you some other titles, especially, you know, the the direction I like, I like going Can I took Also in, you know, I use in this speech, there's some books available in English that I could recommend, but I guess it would be good. You know, I can do it like after this talk. Yeah.

That would be great. Thank you. Thank you so much. Awesome. And Natalia says, I know that one, and I feel it in your presentation. That's really nice. Ilana says, I think I might be ready to be a parent. Well, that's good news. Very inspiring for you. It's great.

It says something about you know, maybe you're thinking about, you're thinking about it already.No, okay. Okay.

Okay, so now and thank you so much. And now we're going to go over to 'gather town'. Sure, we can all gather with the other people in Track Two as well as the other speakers. So I'm going to put the link here in the chat. Okay. And you should have a password to access that. Let me just copy the password in case you don't have it so you don't look for it every day.

And I hope just to finish the meeting, I hope I know Crystal, it was very stressful for you as well. But you handle it very well. And I just appreciate your effort waiting for me.

So thank you. Thank you so much. I think this talk was literally the best talk to have just after that. Yeah. Okay, so I will see all of you in 'gather town'. I'm going to be joining as well. Thank you so much. See you later.

Bye bye. Thank you, everyone.

About the talk

Simon Sinek claims that the closest thing to leadership is parenting. I absolutely agree. Parenting is solidly researched and may be a valuable inspiration for professional growth. In this talk I will explain how you can overcome a business failure by applying mindful parenting principles.

About Tomasz Smaczny

Tomasz helps organizations operating better, healthier and with more fun by taking care of employees’ core needs within Healthy Organisation Project. He believes that parenting is an art worth continuous learning. Mindful parenting makes people more relaxed and competent both at home and at work. For leaders parenting may be the most effective and free form of training. If they accurately use it. Tomasz personally hosts unique parenting webinars and workshops at organizations and designs leadership development programs inspired by mindful parenting.

Tomasz has had 20 years of business experience. He has spent most of his career in marketing and sales in global corporations. As a leader he has led international teams across cultures and continents. He is an accredited ICF coach. In 2017 he spent almost entire year on a parental leave. Since then he has been blogging on RIE parenting philosophy at, as the first person in Poland. He co-created the most dynamically growing fathers’ group in Poland on Facebook – Lepszy Tata. In 2019 he set up Healthy Organisation Project, which brought together best of class wellbeing and team coaches who advocate humanistic view on the business.

He has climbed all 7 Summits except for one. He has travelled to all continents, Antarctica included. He has completed a marathon and Ironman 70.3. He has an MBA in Communications, MA in Intercultural Relations, and a postgraduate diploma in Sociology. His daughter’s name is Tosia.

Photo of Tomasz Smaczny

Tomasz Smaczny

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