Being a parent is one of the most humbling and rewarding experiences a person can ever feel. To think that you are solely responsible for the life and development of a human being is a monumental task – one that I do not take lightly. And being a parent is sometimes what managers have to do in their respective places of employment. Making sure projects are completed, balancing the personalities of multiple people at the same time and keeping everyone engaged are some of the tough responsibilities that managers are assigned. I looked back over my last five years as a parent of two children, and I’ve got 10 things managers can learn from parents to apply on the job.
#1 – Provide structure, but don’t micromanage. As a parent, one thing you are responsible for is providing structure for your kids. Get up at this time, eat lunch, take a nap, play outside, eat dinner, take a bath and go to bed. That’s an average schedule for kids, but that type of structure is what kids need, otherwise, they won’t be ready for the real world where everything is structured. Your employees require similar structure in the workplace. And by structure I mean parameters and guidelines to follow, not direct orders. The structure is simply having an organized system in the way of doing things. Don’t cripple your employees by micromanaging their every move as that eliminates the structure and thus everything around it falls apart.
#2 – Utilize every mistake as a training opportunity. This is simply a change in mindset. In some households, we punish the kids for making mistakes, which is counterproductive. That type of behavior puts fear in them of ever making another mistake and can lead to the child having anxieties. Mistakes happen every day, so it’s about learning from those mistakes so that you don’t repeat them again. Confronting those mishaps head on, and letting your employees know that you will train them to not make the same mistake again, will build up the confidence and morale of your workforce.
#3 – Give them balance. Kids need balance. You have to make sure they have ample time to work and play. You have to make sure they have the right amount of vegetables and fruits and the right amount of sleep. Employees need that same balance. Make the workplace one in which they don’t feel like it’s all about work. Take team lunches, where no one is allowed to reference the company name, or have team meetings outside of the office. A well-balance employee will help you as the manager to better navigate the workplace when stressful times arrive.
#4 – Know there is more than one way. The world is ever-changing, and just because you did it one way, doesn’t mean it always has to be done that same way. We’ve all heard our parents tell stories of how they used to do this and used to do that. But those were different times for different people. People who never change get left behind. Don’t get left behind as a manager, allow your employees to open the door to new possibilities for you. Allowing them to show you new ways, results in higher employee engagement.
#5 – Take away their toys. Kid love toys, I think we all know that. Toys provide amusement and an outlet to get away from the reality that they live in. They are vital to kids, so when you take them away, it’s used as reinforcement for disciplinary actions. As a manager, it’s okay to remove those “toys” your employees enjoy if they are not performing up to standards – just so long as you return them when things get good again.
#6 – Discipline to correct, not to hurt. You have to be real careful when it comes to discipline, as there is a fine line between spankings and child abuse. Discipline serves as a systematic instruction to correct bad behavior. You’ll notice your employees misbehaving from time to time, and you’ll need to step in to restore order in the workplace. Restoring order does not involve demeaning or dehumanizing your employees, as hurt employees will resent you as a manager, and will not perform.
#7 – Surprise them with treats. I’m like a kid myself when it comes to treats – I LOVE OREOS! Now that I have kids, nothing makes them smile more than when I offer them candy or some other treat. That behavior doesn’t go away as we grow older, in fact, as we get older and experience the ups and downs of life, treats are what motivate us to perform to our best. Make sure that your employees know that you value them, by rewarding them with “treats” for a job well done.
#8 – Rejoice in their happiness. My kids get excited over the smallest things, things that don’t necessarily excite me, because I’m an adult. But I find happiness in knowing that they are happy. As a manager, it’s your job to connect with all of your employees so that you can share in the successes of their lives too. Even if it’s a “been there, done that” situation, the fact that you are happy for someone else, means that they’ll return the favor to you. In the church, they say, “if God blesses my neighbor, then I’ll be happy for them, because that means he’s on my street” – same thing applies for the workplace.
#9 – Prepare them for the future. As a parent, I always think about the future of my kids. Will they be prepared for school, will they be taken care of if they get sick, and so on. The biggest gift a parent can give a child is preparation for the future, because you are not always going to be there. As a manager, people change jobs frequently, so it’s imperative that you are training your staff for the future in the case of an employee leaving or you yourself take another position. Helping your staff prepare for the future, shows them that you have a vested interest in them, and in return, they will perform to their best.
#10 – Let them go. Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with this situation yet, but we’ve heard the story over and over. A child has a disagreement with the parent, and then that disagreement turns into an argument, and that argument escalates into someone leaving. Or maybe it’s that situation where you’ve done all you can to correct the bad behavior, but they just aren’t getting it. That’s when it’s time to cut ties and move on – separation is not always a bad thing. Matter of fact, sometimes letting your employees go is best for both the organization and the employee.