Can Your Parenting Skills Help You Become a Better Manager?
Managing and parenting are alike in many ways—and you can use your child-raising skills at work to be a better manager. Expectations must be set, accountability must be enforced, mutual respect must be fostered and praise must be doled out with some regularity—all of which come together to support an individual in becoming a self-sufficient and successful human being. It’s about assessing where a person might need help and shepherding them down the right path, not just doing the work or fixing the problem for them. If you’ve raised children, you understand the similarity.
Mind you, the last thing you want to do is treat employees like children. That’s a definite recipe for resentment and a lack of retention. It does no good to take up the mantle of “helicopter leader.” Nor is it beneficial to try to be everything to everyone at all times. Give people the tools they might need and leave room to learn from missteps. Then, provide the autonomy necessary to carve out an individual path while still offering your guidance when required. Both managing and parenting are balancing acts.
Something that I love to do with my children and with my team as a CEO is talk about wins and losses. At home, we call them highs and lows. Each of us shares the good and not-so-good of the day. We celebrate what deserves celebrating and discuss how to recover from or better manage what’s gotten us down.
In the office, I employ a similar format. During one-on-ones and team check-ins, we share the wins and look for ways to commemorate hard work and achievements. We also take the time to discuss losses, with an eye toward brainstorming solutions to prevent similar missteps in the future. In both situations, it’s important to establish a safe space for everyone to share their losses. Otherwise, learning and growth take a backseat.
Putting your parenting skills to work… at work
Parenting can be a lot like coaching, and that’s something all managers should strive to be. You can apply that coaching mindset to supporting those on your team. Here are some ideas to get started with utilizing your parenting skills at work:
1. Listen more than talk.
When given the opportunity, kids are more than willing to tell you about their problems and how you might help arrive at a solution. Not much really changes as people get older—as long as they’re afforded that same opportunity. Whether there’s a scheduled one-on-one meeting or an open-door policy where anyone can swing by, it all comes down to carving out the time to truly listen to your employees. You can learn a lot about what someone is going through by simply listening.
Strive to avoid…
Don’t insert your own opinions. Doing so takes the conversation off track. It also leads to more handholding than necessary, which does little to build employees’ problem-solving skills or maximize their performance potential. Not that you’d be alone in taking such an approach. One Gartner survey found that “Always-On” managers—popular hiring choices in organizations, they are constantly reviewing employee performance and giving feedback—“degrade employee performance by up to 8%.”
Strive to do…
Acclimate new hires to the organization on the first day with proper onboarding. For one, the practice fosters stronger connections with other team members and cultivates a positive rapport company-wide. It also provides an opportunity to show hires how to be successful at the start of a new role, which can help people feel empowered to make decisions and think independently when issues arise. Onboarding also sets the tone for your relationship with the team. Start it off right, and you’ll get to know direct reports, uncover what makes them tick and establish an understanding that you’re always available for questions, feedback and support.
2. Prioritize transparency.
As a parent, transparency can build trust and set a good example for your child to learn from. Transparency, as they say, also breeds trust within an organization. If you’re not upfront and honest about objectives or initiatives, what’s meant to be for the good of employees can seem like empty gestures. Transparency also has a way of creating a culture of inclusion in which employees feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to the office. This can have a cyclical effect, helping drive your organization even closer to greater transparency—and, in turn, better outcomes.
Strive to avoid…
Refrain from negative or destructive language. Even if you’re not a parent, you know better than to label people. Terms such as bully, lazy, selfish, troublemaker or snitch (to name only a few) do nothing but lead to assumptions about people, many of which will be hard for them to shake. Don’t blame others for losses. Instead, look at how a situation or miscommunication resulted in achievement gaps, and then determine how to fix it and offer the necessary support should it happen again.
Strive to do…
Again, everything goes back to empowering employees. This time, however, the goal isn’t focused on independent thinking or autonomous decision-making, but on building on those traits by allowing people to experiment and fail—all while balancing and managing risks in the process. Schedule regular check-ins with team members to offer feedback and set clearly defined objectives, making sure to offer the “whys” and not just the “whats.” The why provides purpose and helps employees engage in next steps. Also, seek out information on how individuals might approach solving or executing goals and remain focused on the ultimate objective: output.
3. Plan for their success.
Planning for an individual’s success starts early. Parents can certainly attest to that, as they’re no strangers to helping their children establish realistic goals and arrive at logical paths to achieving them. Employees deserve the same attention, more so around career development plans or project frameworks. It’s all about helping people become more self-sufficient in various circumstances.
Strive to avoid…
It’s easy to become hyper-focused on short-term goals. They’re easy to define and often easy to accomplish. Focusing on them also makes it easier to pretend you have all the answers. Short-term goals are clear. However, this can cause you to neglect what’s inevitably on the horizon: career progression. The evolution of team members’ skills and experiences will be more impactful for both the company and the individual.
Strive to do…
Assess team members’ skills to determine where there might be gaps. Champion their desire to grow, evolve and learn new skills. Find ways to advance their knowledge and experience. Present them with opportunities to take on projects that benefit the company and their own personal and professional growth.
Uncertainty is part of leadership as it is in parenting. It takes time to find the balance you need to lead and guide a team. Eventually, however, you’ll be on solid footing and arrive at a management style that’s beneficial to yourself, your employees and your company.
Photo by Dragana Gordic/Shutterstock
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