Jenna Z Hermans Chaos to Calm Blog Potty Training Leadership Lessons

How Potty Training Made Me a Better Leader

Turns out potty training doesn’t just teach your child how to use a toilet, it can teach you how to be a better boss

I wasn’t scared he couldn’t do it. I knew he could, but then he wouldn’t be my “baby” anymore. Plus, let’s face it, diapers are just easier in some ways (like long car rides)! I dreaded it. I didn’t want to go through him pushing back on the process, pee-pee accidents and all the extra mess. I wanted to fast-forward time. In other words, I really, really, really didn’t want to potty train. But, such is life, and I had to potty train my child at some point. 

So, I tackled it like I do most big projects. I went all academic, and I read a bunch of books on how to do it first. I read everything from Potty Training in 3 Days to Oh Crap! Potty Training (my favorite). 

Disclaimer: This is not a post about potty training, but it is about what I learned from the potty training “adventure.” 

It’s not to say that adult employees are like diaper-clad toddlers, but check out the leadership lessons that totally cross over from parenting to leadership at work!

Everyone has different ways they develop and learn 

Some kids need a sticker chart and rewards, some need to know why, some need extra positive reinforcement. Some need days to accomplish it while others take months. We’re all different, and the sooner you learn how to work with the style of the person you’re leading, the more calm you’ll be while teaching! There’s no one-size-fits-all for learning. 

Make it fun! 

For kids, racing to the bathroom so they can blast a cheerio floating in the toilet with their pee, or getting a jelly bean every time they make a poo can be very motivating. Now, I’ll assume peeing on a cheerio won’t excite your team (though, who knows), but making work fun clearly makes people more engaged and productive. Try ways to game-ify your team’s goals, or create a fun team building activity during a meeting. One idea is to play bingo during a meeting. Over Zoom, some of the bingo spots can be “spot a pet in the background” or anytime someone says, “you’re on mute.”  

Positivity works way better than punishment

When you yell at your kids for doing business in their underwear or your colleague for screwing up an email, it’s demoralizing, deflating and potentially shames them for what could have been their best effort. Instead, try instituting praise and rewards for a job well done. Rewards can be as small as doing the potty dance for your toddler or a team shout-out (especially if you know words are their love language) when someone you notice is working hard toward their goal! 

Train someone toward the ultimate goal

In my potty training research, I heard a tip that I should put a potty seat in every room of the house to prevent accidents. But why would I want to train a child where to go more than once?  Instead, I put a small insert on the real toilet to make it accessible and safe. Be efficient and teach them once. As my dad always says, “People get used to what they get used to.” So skip anything you don’t want as long-term behavior in your kids or your team. 

Once you commit, don’t waiver 

Kids especially can tell when you’re not fully committed and will push you to your wit’s end. Every parent can understand this phrase, “Persistence wears down resistance.”  Don’t start potty training and then stop because it’s difficult. When your kid sees you’re not committed to it, they won’t be either. Kids will exploit indecisiveness, and a team at work will sense when you’re not going to hold them or yourself accountable for a project or deadline and not give it their all, either. 

Sh%t happens, literally

To everyone. Freaking out about an accident or mistake won’t make anything go faster or more smoothly. Getting upset about it doesn’t serve anyone, including you. Own your calm by taking a forest view of things. Your child likely won’t be 15 years old and still wetting their bed. They’ll get there, one day at a time, and so will you! 

So if you’re frustrated in the middle of potty training right now, take comfort that you’re actually gaining work skills right now!

For more tips on how to own your calm and use parenting skills at work, sign up for the Chaos to Calm newsletter! 

Reach out, I’m here for you.

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