Some of you know that my firstborn is six years old and in kindergarten. He’s learning all the basics – how to add, how to read, how to tie his shoes. But he’s also mastering some great lessons that it would behoove all of us to remember as we slog through the work week and attempt to advance our careers. Here they are: in my son’s words:
“Always try to do it yourself before you ask the teacher.”
The kids in my son’s class, especially the boys, have challenges putting their coats on and getting out the door at the end of the day. Yet, they are required to work their zippers themselves or ask a classmate before going to the teacher. Similarly, at work you should exhaust all avenues for resolving an issue on your own before taking it to your boss.
“You have to show what you know.”
There is a lot going on in the head of a kindergartener. It’s difficult, though, for them to translate what they’re thinking to what they’re writing – and if they don’t learn this skill quickly, they will score lower on assessments than they should. It’s the same thing in the professional world. You will not get ahead unless your stellar work is visible to the right people.
“You can only get good at something if you practice hard.”
At the beginning of the year, my son could barely hold a pencil correctly. He despaired, thinking he’d never be able to write. But after months of drilling sentences every day at school, his handwriting is fantastic. He has learned that practice makes great (if not perfect). The next time you expect yourself to be an instant pro at a new work skill, remember Malcolm Gladwell and the 10,000 hours of practice required for proficiency.
“It’s not right to be mean to someone – even if the teacher isn’t looking.”
Bullying and disrespect of any kind is strongly discouraged as early as kindergarten. My son knows that it’s unacceptable to curse at another student or call her a name whether he will be held to task for it or not. In the same way, you should never intimidate or harshly criticize a co-worker or direct report behind closed doors. It’s not good for their self-esteem or your reputation.
“It’s good to read with your buddy from the third grade.”
Every Monday, my son gets together with his third grade reading buddy. He loves this time because “Audrey has been in kindergarten already and he knows everything.” At six, my son has mastered the importance of a mentor. At work, you should never be without someone who is a few years ahead of you on the ladder, has been where you are, and can advise you accordingly.
“Not everything you read is true.”
In kindergarten, kids learn the difference between fiction and nonfiction. My son now understands that some stories are just meant to be enjoyed and he shouldn’t believe everything he reads. In our digital age, this is a critical lesson. Even if an online source looks professional, vet it carefully before considering it gospel.
“Listen during circle time when other kids are talking.”
Kindergarten children often sit on the floor and take turns sharing details about their lives. You do not interrupt or goof off during this time. My son has learned that you make friends by paying attention to, showing interest in, and being empathetic toward others. If you practice this habit faithfully at work, you will always be the best-liked person in the office…guaranteed.
“There are so many things to learn!”
Six year-olds are curious about the world. A question about the weather leads to a question about the solar system, which leads to a question about the metaphysical nature of the universe. We can all learn from kindergarteners in this respect. No matter how many years you’ve been in your career, you can never have too much expertise or knowledge.
“It feels bad to wait until the last minute to do homework.”
We usually try to do the week’s homework on Saturday, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. My son has realized that putting it off stresses him out. A lifelong battle against procrastination has begun! Remember that the more efficiently you nip your tasks in the bud, the better you will feel about your overall productivity.
“People don’t want to hear about how smart you are, they want to hear about how smart THEY are.”
My son said this after his bragging made a fellow chess player cry. I was proud of him as I know many 60-year-olds who still haven’t learned this essential key to interpersonal communication. Promoting your work is important, but so is bolstering others around you. The next time you are tempted to brag at work, make a special effort to acknowledge the contributions of co-workers too.