I was a leader before I was a parent. Starting as a sales manager and continuing as a small business owner, I developed my leadership skills before entering into the daunting world of parenting. I tend to growth exponentially when challenged. As I juggle roles and projects, I learn about myself and am forced to become more efficient to succeed. Now, as a parent, I find myself challenged in whole new way. Challenged to work smarter, not harder, learn to perform at a high level, while creating balance. What I’ve really found is that my role as a parent is making me a better leader. Here’s 5 ways:
1. Eat Dinner as a Family
Growing up, my family almost always ate together around the dinner table. As we got older, it became harder to accomplish, especially on a daily basis, but my mother insisted on us eating as a family as often as we could. As a parent, I want the same thing for my family. Sitting at the dinner table allows us to “check-in”…ask about our days and connect. As a leader, you should be doing the same thing with all of your employees. I have frequent one-to-one’s with my staff in order to lay the ground work for the week, hold us accountable to our goals and ensure that we are on the right path. As leaders and parents, we need to stay connected, because our lives get busy.
2. Parent Every Child Different
Some kids stare off into space, while others can’t stop moving. Some listen to direction, while others fight you tooth and nail. How we parent will always depend on the child. Each one has certain gifts and abilities, as parents, we should identify those abilities and parent accordingly. This applies to our staff as well. As leaders, we must understand the strengths and weakness of our team, so we can put our staff in a position to win. Of course, rules are rules, and you’ll get nowhere if you’re always playing favorites. But understanding how much rope you can give an employee will help you develop their abilities at a faster pace, while creating a more productive team.
3. Make time for Mom & Dad
Parenting is hard, it can feel chaotic and tornadic at times. It can be easy to lose perspective and take your frustrations out on your partner. In order to be a great parent, you’ve got to have balance. That balance should include whatever it takes for you and your partner to feel re-energized. Date nights, golfing with your buddies, or a day at the spa…it doesn’t matter, just as long as the kids are not involved! As an organizational leader, you must take time away from your role in order to gain perspective and plan your future accordingly. At least once a quarter, I head out to a restaurant or coffee shop and plan my goals for all the organizations I lead. This allows me to hit the “reset” button and identify exactly where I want to take my groups. This also allows me to gain perspective on which team members are playing the biggest role in our success, and thank them accordingly.
4. Do as I Say, Not as I Do
You don’t have to be a parent very long to figure out this doesn’t work! The first time your child says a cuss word, or screams “why do I have to go to bed, you and mommy get to stay up!”, you realize that your parental actions will often be listened to more acutely than any direction that may come out of your mouth. This absolutely applies to the work environment. I recognize that my staff watches what I do just as much as they listen to what I say. Do you want your team to be organized, efficient, and proactive? Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you posses those traits, the answer could be telling.
5. Have Dance Parties
Come by my house on any random Saturday night and you’ll hear the volume turn up and see my family dancing around the living room. We laugh, we smile, we dance! My wife and I will always value having fun with our kids. You may not find it appropriate to have dance parties at the office, but you should be looking to have fun, however you see fit. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, maybe buy some pizza’s one day to say Thank You or sponsor a toy drive for the Holidays…anything that allows for a little fun and connection goes along way towards creating a great working environment. Don’t forget that the office can get very stale, it’s your job as the leader, to ensure that doesn’t happen…so get out there and dance!