falling off a bike

It was a balmy Saturday afternoon when Sian, my 6 year old daughter reminded me that the simplest of things can often teach us the most powerful of lessons.

This Summer’s challenge was clearly understood by most of the family.

A father with a background in HR, coaching, and development had to teach his bright, beautiful and brave little girl how to ride her pretty pink bicycle.


Not quite.

We had the weather, we had the equipment, we had the full commitment of the coach. …

All we lacked was student will.

Yes, we had the venue… A smooth long patch of a neatly cut grass, that cushioned any fall..


Yes we had the plan … Ok it was based on history and white lies,  and earthed in the dark recesses of the coaches memory .. the fading echoes of another father’s voice  ‘YES CARL … I’VE GOT HOLD… KEEP PEDDLING … KEEP PEDDLING ‘… (quieter)… still holding … (quieter) You’ re doing it… keep peddling.. ‘

So, we had the blueprint…

We even had the track record,  buoyed by recent successes of two older children who endured the technique. It was painful granted, but it worked

No, we couldn’t fail to deliver our plan

Here’s the thing.

We failed.

Well, strictly speaking, I failed.

I was the only one bought in to the plan.

Sian hadn’t failed.

Sian wasn’t on the plan.

After 2 stressful hours and on the 36th attempt at pushing a tearful child on a pretty pink bike across a beautiful lawn… We gave up. I gave up.

‘Daddy, i just don’t want to ride a stupid bike, ever ‘

Sian had made her position very clear.

I retired… I walked away..the gravity of the situation hit me.. this was seriously bad coaching. I was supposed to be good at this stuff.. I was useless. I had just been defeated by my new 6 year old nemesis.

I had seriously crashed.

Later that night, with ego partly numbed by a large glass of wine, my wife and I held the post mortem.

The first offering to the court was that failing to teach your child to ride a bike is a humbling, painful experience.

The second, was that perhaps our daughter was just difficult. There was a comfort in blaming the student.

The third… maybe… well, perhaps she just wasn’t capable yet… (still her fault., we note)

The next uncomfortable thought was more sobering… perhaps if I stopped making this all about me, put my ego aside and placed Sian in the middle of the problem…

Then the killer thought arrived… ‘what problem?’

Sian didn’t have a problem. Why would she want to ride the bike? Learning to ride a bike was painful… No, Sian didn’t have a problem. We had a problem.

Time for a rethink.

The following week, my genius of a wife brought Sian’s 7 year old cousin, Sophie, round to visit Sian.

Sophie brought her bicycle. It was purple. It was pretty. It didn’t have stabilisers.

Within 15 minutes , Sian decided she now wanted to ride her pretty pink bicycle.

Within an hour, Sian’s 7 year old Cousin had taught her how to ride that pretty pink bicycle.

She did this all with encouragement and fun. We had no tears.

For the record, my clever 7 year old niece, has no formal coaching certificates.

For the record, and to the best of my knowledge, my clever little 7 year old niece, has never held a senior role in HR or business.

However, I would add, just for the record… what is clear is both my 6 year old daughter and 7 year old niece do understand something pretty fundamental , something I had clearly forgotten… the best type of learning is powered by 3 simple things ..

1 A clear dissatisfaction with the current state
2 A focus on an exciting future
3 Fun.

Seeing her cousin ride a bike, helped my daughter evaluate her own situation. Riding a bike looked fun. Riding a bike with her cousin was cool.

With the help of a positive coach, who made it fun… this learning couldn’t fail.

Go figure.

If i was as smart as a certain 7 year old Coach i know… I might suggest that the best way to develop our people is to help them identify and draw their inspiration from higher performing colleagues they already trust and like, make the coaching simple. Make the coaching fun.

But we don’t need this reminder do we?

We haven’t forgotten have we?

No,of course not,

Good coaching is just like riding a bike…