Two weeks ago, my thirteen-year-old son completed a rite-of-passage experience facilitated by a local volunteer organization called Threshold Passages, Inc. I served in the kitchen with another dad as my son experienced a series of ordeals and expressed his deeper truth about what he wanted to leave behind as he journeyed from boyhood to manhood.
My son was learning what it meant to be a man and, to my surprise, I was learning what it meant to be a mentor. In the handful of sessions I attended, I realized I was lousy at creating environments of permission around me; I was very good a creating environments of judgment.
Permission means blessing someone for the choices they make, even when you don’t agree with or support the choice. Judgment is what happens when you know you are right and another is wrong. The result is an environment where people feel wrong and criticized (even if you don’t say anything, judgment comes in very subtle and yet very powerful forms) and they respond by rebelling, becoming unexpressive or performing (showing off or over-achieving).
I’ve worked with many leaders who say they want to create an environment where people are willing to take risk, where employees act like owners, and where the leader can get out of the day-to-day and serve as a strategist or visionary. They keep being sucked back into the detail because they don’t know how to mentor and they are addicted to one or more of four behaviors.
The staff of Threshold Passages uses the acronym FRAP to remind people what not to do when serving as a mentor. I have since used this in my executive coaching, small group trainings, and at home with my two teenage children.
To not FRAP means you don’t:
Fix: People aren’t broken
Rescue: This is feeding people fish, not teaching them how to fish
Advise: This is ok if people ask for it, but often they are asking to be rescued
Project: It’s better to get curious about what’s going on inside you
When I don’t FRAP I notice people around me feel blessed, accepted and loved without judgment. As a result, they have permission to change. As I’ve stopped judging and wronging him, my son has relaxed and begun to initiate his own changes; not to mention we enjoy our time together a lot more.
Here is a challenge for you. The next time you are stirred up when you see your teenager, aging parent or employee doing something you deem stupid, go against your habitual reaction. Instead of FRAPing on them: 1) get curious about why you are angry, 2) get curious about what’s driving their choices, and 3) simply ask them if they’d like any support and what that would look like.