How rewards from your youth affect your performance today

As children, we quickly learn that our actions will receive either a positive or negative response from our parents. Since the brain is built for reward, we learn to avoid the reprimands from our parents and aim for praise and recognition.

With that in mind, let’s look at some advice that you may have received from your parents that may affect your performance today:

Don’t be selfish . As children we are taught to share our toys and not to be selfish.

As adults however, this advice may play out as caring for everyone in the team, before caring for yourself, so you risk burning out.

You may need to reframe the word ‘selfish’ as ‘self-care’. I advise managers to put their own oxygen masks on first, before helping others in their team. If you don’t care for yourself first, you may not have enough energy to care for your team. The healthier and happier you are, the more you can help others.

If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it. We are taught to be kind and nice to our friends and family.

As adults however, we may not be able to give critical feedback to our team members as we don’t want to offend anyone. We want to be nice.

Reframe giving any form of critical feedback as that of giving a gift. Feedback can be given kindly, yet firmly, and quite frankly, without it your team members are unable to grow and learn new ways of working, that will help them develop in the long run.

Respect your elders . As children we are told to respect our parents, grandparents, older siblings and extended family.

As an adult you may respect hierarchy and find yourself silently sitting in the boardroom. You may believe that the other, more senior people in the room need to be respected, leaving you with little or nothing to add. The way you act and react in situations today, is often the result of years of hardwiring and affects your performance.

A client related how powerless she felt to voice her opinion to senior peers, even though she was the project lead and had to offer her advice and guidance. She didn’t want to speak her mind because she didn’t want to seem disrespectful. As a child, her mother had told her she should hold her superiors in high regard.

My client was hardwired ‘not to challenge’ and to ‘act respectfully around her superiors’, albeit that she disagreed with them and knew her advice was sound.

Irrespective whether you are the youngest or least experienced person in the room, you must remember that you have been invited to the meeting for a reason. Withholding good advice can be more harmful than saying nothing at all.

A good place to start understanding why you may act and react in the way that you do is to:

Become aware of where your emotions, thoughts and feelings stem from, and challenge them.

Ask yourself ‘How does this behaviour reward me?’ Remember that there is reward in all of your behaviour, albeit that you may find it less useful today.

Reframe your old ideas into positive actions that reward you today.

When you start to understand where your natural responses stem from, you can begin to change your reactions in the moment and improve your performance.

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