Right vs. like

Every (weekday) morning there is an altercation in my house. On one side is my 3.5 year old son and on the other side his mother, and the bone of contention is a glass of milk. My wife does all she can to make my son drink the milk, while he does all he can (& more) to not give in.

As in many households, parents often spend many minutes coaxing their children to drink milk. And when the child doesn’t given in (which is often),  the last resort is to scold them and/or force them to drink it. During one such ‘combat’, my son commented sadly, “I don’t like Mumma.”

His saying so reminded me of a conversation I once had with a leader about giving harsh developmental feedback. During the course of the conversation she mentioned, “As a leader I sometimes have to be hard on people. And if that means that someone is not going to like me for it, so be it. Its like with my kids. I force them to eat vegetables, and they hate me for it. I am willing to be hated for their good. It sometimes gets tough, but it’s the right thing to do.”

“Its like with my kids. I force them to eat vegetables, and they hate me for it. I am willing to be hated for their good.”

David McClelland, in his renowned 1961 book ‘The achieving society’, describes three types of motivational needs that drive people – Achievement motivation, Power motivation and Affiliation motivation. As the names suggest, a person whose dominant motivator is achievement has a strong need to set and accomplish challenging goals, while the person with power motivation wants to control and influence others & enjoys competition and winning.  The third type, who are motivated by Affiliation, want to be liked, favour collaboration and want to belong to groups. And this is the type that has a hard time displeasing people. It’s not that they can’t be hard on people, but they are not comfortable doing it. They have to push themselves out of their comfort zone to do that.

The one thing that works best for me (also motivated by affiliation) is to separate the deed from the doer while providing feedback. The feedback focuses on the activity, not the person. Another thing that I am trying is to (in the words of the leader) ‘be willing to be hated for their good!’… and feel fine about it. It’s not easy, but it’s the right thing to do.

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2 Responses to Right vs. like

  1. Annie says:

    Very well written- love the analogy of mother forcing sunny boy to have milk against his liking to one of the key leadership competencies – Motivation and Feedback. This also reminds me of Stephen Covey’s Emotional Bank account where he mentions about deposits and withdrawals one makes in a relationship and how it impacts one’s EBA in that relationship. Mother and son combat over a glass of milk deposits short term withdrawal from the relationship (from the child’s perspective) but leading to a Long term heavy Deposit (from the mother’s perspective) – connecting to you key question of what I ought to do Vs what I like to do.


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