Here is an excerpt from a talk I gave years ago titled, The Businessman and His Teen Age Daughter.
The big season was about to start. Football fever was in the air. My associates started whispering around every corner about our boss’ latest fantasy football fetish. He was trying to recruit all the managers to join in the pool at fifty dollars a crack.
I turned his request down for a real football experience on an actual game field with a 75-lb. peewee football team. I was the new coach, up for the challenge, and proud of it. My objective was simple: Win five key games and take the team to the play-offs.
After verifying my strategies with my couch-potato football associates, I reviewed my materials for the first day of practice. My overall plan was to instill discipline from day one, followed by gradually reducing the pressure every time the team demonstrated positive skill development. My plan was fool proof and received the praise of all my macho friends.
As I finished loading the football gear into the trunk, my teenage daughter wanted to talk with me. I winced at her request to join me at practice. After all, having a girl at a man’s practice, well, a little boy’s practice wasn’t proper. Then came the guilt trip about spending enough time with her. She had me convinced I was spending more time with the football team than with her, and we hadn’t even had the first day of practice.
I gave her specific instructions as we drove to the field. She needed to clearly understand my expectations so I’d be free to coach. I wasn’t going to be on the field to baby-sit her. I was a coach and going to lead a winning team to victory.
Practice started well and the kids were obeying my every instruction. They wanted to win and were working very hard to earn the right to win. While the assistant coaches were working defensive drills, I needed to cross the field and talk with the league president. My daughter asked is she could join me and I agreed.
On our return, my daughter reached out her hand to take mine. This was a very awkward moment for me. I didn’t want my players to see their coach do something “sissy” on the football field. I also knew that if I pulled my hand away from her, I would be pulling a part of me out of her life and possibly loose the opportunity to get that part of our relationship back.
I swallowed hard, felt awkward and continued walking hand in hand. Suddenly a football got away from one of the boys and rolled nearby. It was my opportunity to let go of her hand and quickly “help” the boy by passing back the ball.
Then it hit me. My macho attitude was alienating my precious child from my life. I was allowing what I perceived as coolness to determine my future with her. I also realized that she soon would have the same choice to make about her potentially un-cool dad.
I grappled with the fact that this situation was only a symptom of a much deeper issue. I could sense that it was starring me dead in the face and I couldn’t see it. Nor did I have a clue of what I needed to do about it.
My lack of insight was depressing. Some how, after years of raising three kids, I felt like my skills we tiny like a mustard seed compared to my giant redwood tree sized business skills. It was clear I had a major weakness that needed to be overcome. Or, at least covered with one of my business strengths until I had time to develop the proper skills and knowledge that I lacked.
That’s when it dawned on me, I was responding intuitively to the situation based on my business prowess. I immediately ran a “what if” scenario through my mind. What if I approach my daughter and her need for a good relationship with me as a business deal – could it work? While I was uncomfortable about the concept, I realized it might be enough to steady our relationship until I could learn to be the dad she needed.
I quickly accessed the tools I’d need to pull it off. I decided my calendar, personal mission statement, cell phone, and computer would all come in handy. It was now time to plot the strategy.
Just as I planned out the football season, it was time to make plans for my new growing relationship with my daughter. The goal was clear: to feel comfortable being with my daughter in any circumstance. Putting the goal into objective measurable terms, so I’d know when I achieved it, was the next step.
In this case it was easy. My goal would be met when I could hold my daughters hand anytime or in any place that she wants to hold my hand. Once achieved, an obvious follow-up goal would include my initiating the hand holding with her. But, I’d start with an easy win to set myself up for a few successes in the beginning of this mission-critical venture.
I was going to be a great dad, even if I had to use my business skills to get there.