My daughter is about to celebrate her 9th birthday and this seems like a great opportunity to riff on some of the essential business lessons I’ve learned while parenting her.
- Listening matters.
The easiest way to frustrate my daughter is to interrupt her. Sometimes I think I know what she is about to say and it feels expedient to cut to the chase, but expedience is rarely the best way to build thriving human relationships. She needs me to listen and she needs to feel heard. So do the the people you work with. If you are just waiting for your turn to talk then you aren’t really listening.
- Parenting is leadership and leadership is a lot like parenting.
I want good things for my daughter. My job is not to rule her, but to help her learn and grow and pursue her own brand of amazingness. Interestingly, I also want good things for the people I lead. My job is not to rule them, but to help them learn and grow and pursue their own brand of amazingness. What would be different if you chose to care about the people you work with like you care about your family?
- It can be really frustrating to fail.
When you are in the third grade it’s basically your job to fail at things. You are learning new things every single day and some of them are really difficult. As an adult I can often trivialize how it must feel for her to fail over and over again. My world has been carefully arranged to amplify my strengths and I don’t always push myself into areas of weakness on purpose. Strong leaders create cultures in which failure is an expected part of innovation and growth. They are able honor the fact that failure feels gross while affirming its necessity.
- Everything you do is being cataloged
My daughter is constantly watching. She is constantly comparing my stated values to the way I treat her, the way I treat her mother (AKA my wife), the way I go about my work, and about a thousand other things. This means I have to walk my talk, and be open to having candid conversations about the times when I have fail to do so. The people you work with are watching too. They are keenly aware when the things you say don’t match the things you do or when you attempt to sweep your failures under the rug. Being consistent and genuine isn’t just a best practice, it’s an imperative.
- Gratitude is essential.
My family unit is at its best when we are thanking one another for the myriad little things that need to be done around the house. Saying thank you when someone makes the bed, empties the dishwasher, or takes out the trash goes a long way to making them feel noticed, valuable, and appreciated. The same thing is true at work. Being intentional about saying thank you to the people around you will make a world of difference in how they feel about themselves…and how they feel about you.
- Playing is important work.
I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point most of us separated work and play into two diametrically opposed camps. That was dumb. Play is incredibly important to children…and I’m convinced it is also incredibly important to productive professionals adults. Working without breaks for laughter and relationship isn’t healthy. Neither is forfeiting your personal time in favor of cranking out a little more work. #bringbackrecess
- Sometimes the best way to help someone is to allow them to struggle.
I hate to see my daughter struggling with something that she can’t seem to figure out, but my best work as a parent often centers on discerning when she needs me to intervene and when she needs me to say “you’ll figure it out,” and walk away. Work isn’t much different. Sometimes the best thing you can do for those you lead is to leave them hanging.
- Everything is temporary.
The braces, the multiplication, the favorite bands, and the hairstyles are all temporary. So are the frustrating bosses, the impossible deadlines, the bad parking spots, and the meetings that have absolutely no redeeming value.
- Fear is incredibly powerful, but rarely rational.
There isn’t a great deal of difference between being afraid that a character from a movie is going to come after you while you sleep and being afraid that your boss hates you because she didn’t ask you about your weekend on Monday morning. Neither are particularly rational, but both are powerful. Maybe the best way to deal with both is to skip the rational arguments, acknowledge that the fear exists, and develop a plan for where to put it when it shows up.
Maddy: thanks for making fatherhood such a great gig.
Travis, Rhonda, Ashley, and Melissa: thanks for making every day interesting and rewarding.