How being a Parent can make you a better leader
In keeping with this week’s theme of reflecting on my time as a parent I thought I would share a few thoughts about how parenting has made me a better leader, or how I think it has made me a better leader. You may find some of these examples better than others, but I think each of them has its place in your tool belt as a leader and as a parent.
- Trust, but verify: Ronald Reagan used this phrase well when he spoke of dealing with the Soviets in the 1980’s and I think it holds true when dealing with parenting children. I have to be completely truthful also and tell you that this is a phrase my wife uses much more than I do. The point is this, all children, just like all people, are liars and we all stretch the truth. Knowing such, you must go beyond taking the word of your son or daughter in certain situations and make them offer proof. This holds true also in the workplace. Having a co-worker say they have done something is great, but show me the proof. Trust me, having yourself be surprised or let down just one time will make this much easier to implement.
- It takes a village to raise a child: Hillary Clinton takes some of the credit for this phrase, but it is an example that held true for us over and over again, especially when the boys were younger. Moms and dads will quickly recognize that their sons and daughters will begin to listen much less as they become teenagers. At the same time they think that the advice of other parents is almost gospel-like in its value. What you as a parent must do is get to know the parents of their best friends and plant your messages with those parents. Having them know kids who are ‘equally yoked’ helps with this. We found our time in Scouting to be an excellent method of planting these messages. This will also work in the workplace if you find a co-worker or subordinate doesn’t listen to what you have to say. Find someone they trust and see if you can share the message through them if you become a less desirable channel.
- The best defense is a good offense: There will come a time when your son or daughter puts on the ‘full court press’ for an item or an event that you find to be of lesser value than they do. When this occurs you can let them take the initiative or you can fight back by presenting an alternative that could be seen as a suitable replacement. This is not always the preferred method, but in some cases it can work wonders. There will be times where you must simply say NO and then move on. This holds true in the workplace also. Peers, bosses and coworkers will have ideas that you find to be not so well conceived and your best bet is to have an alternative or two worked out so that you can prevent this person from disaster.
- Situational leadership works best: We are learning this one first hand right now. If you learn this theory from the original Hersey-Blanchard books it goes from Telling to Selling to Coaching and then to Delegation. The problem with many parents is that they use the wrong method at the wrong time or they try to be their son or daughter’s best friend by moving to Delegation almost immediately. That is a recipe for disaster. As your sons and daughters age they still want advice, but your ability to tell them what to do, in most cases, is nil. Having a solid relationship with them will allow you to Coach in many situations and even Sell in some others. We have learned many times that 22 and 24 year old sons will NOT be told what to do. Having to Tell at early ages and still maintaining a relationship helps here, but if you Delegate too soon, you are toast.
I hope these examples have been of some value to you, both as a parent and as an employee or co-worker.
Best wishes and come back on Friday for some more experiential knowledge I have gained on the scarred path to two college graduations.