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Management and Parenting – What do they have in common?

Written by Terri Wallin

If you are in a management position and have children, this is probably an easy question to answer. For those of us who are in leadership positions and watch others who have children, the question is probably also an easy to answer. Parenting and executive leadership have a fair amount in common. The boss wouldn’t be needed if all employees knew what they had to do, how to do it, why they are doing it, when do to it and how to work in a constructive positive way with their co-workers. As with raising children, employees need attention, praise, thanks, direction, coaching, and at times, discipline.

Depending on how leaders hire, they may have a team that is mixed in maturity that is not always related to chronological age. For example Joe is 18 years-old, the problem is that he has had 55 birthdays. Hopefully age bequeaths experience, skill and wisdom and displaces the self from being the center of the universe, but not always. Sometimes there is a person who is young, but quite mature; other times there is a person who is older, but not as mature. If a leader hires for “fit” and one of the characteristics of “fit” is possessing maturity regardless of age, you will have a more mature team. If you don’t pay attention to how you hire, you will have some children, some adolescents and some adults – in behavior not age.

Managing and Parenting 13861999_ml (2)With parenting, you have to grow children as you go, but there are times when one child innately is more mature than a sibling. Effective parents learn to adapt their parenting style to the unique temperament of each child. The same holds true with managing people. Use the same management style on everyone and at least a portion of your employees will have unmet needs.

The following list, although certainly not exhaustive shows behaviors that can be seen at any age and can frustrate the parent/manager who can sometimes feel like they are managing a day care filled with unruly two-year olds:

  1. The “have they had their coffee yet?” syndrome. Individuals manifesting this syndrome insist that people skate on the thin ice of their rudeness or emotional distance until the stars align for their personal world. This is sometimes known as moodiness.
  2. Captain of the world syndrome. This manifests itself by an imperious demanding of wanting what one wants when one wants it; my way or the highway.
  3. King of the sandbox syndrome. This is the tendency to not play well with others – in or out of a sandbox – not sharing, not helping.
  4. The green-eyed monster syndrome. Envy manifests itself in character assassination and the clandestine plotting to weaken the rungs as fellow co-workers try to climb the corporate ladder. Its allies are coveting and jealousy. Children with this syndrome steal their friend’s toys; adults steal co-worker’s jobs.
  5. Thin-skinned syndrome. This manifests itself in being easily hurt and over-sensitive and taking your marbles and going home and is otherwise known as pouting.
  6. It’s them-not-me syndrome. This manifests itself by an artful deflection of any blame thereby safeguarding the dysfunctional personality quirk and sometimes requires being loose with the facts of the case.

Having a defined set of corporate values helps deal with moodiness and other maturity shortfalls, provided the values are followed by all employees, including you. Holding someone accountable for behavior that isn’t known to be an expectation doesn’t work any better than it does in a family where a behavior is all of a sudden not okay without any warning. The goal is to outline the behaviors you expect and what happens when the worker/child decides to do the opposite.

Managing and Parenting 22395305_ml (2)The organizational culture sets the framework for executive parenting. Stiff-arming disruptive personalities is best dealt with before hiring. It is important that the leader be clear on the behavioral qualities they desire and interview prospective employees in a manner that discloses whether they have those qualities or not. There are some individuals an executive cannot afford to hire, regardless of résumé, and do-overs in hiring are painful for everyone involved.

With organizational intrigues eclipsing anything you’d see on a soap opera, watching your back is rule number one for street-smart employees and managers. Julius Caesar discounted it and we know the end of that story. The interviewing process is a good way to detect candidates who only are out for themselves. Unless the executive desires a dog-eat-dog culture, they should not hire those candidates.

Having been someone who was extraordinarily sensitive, it is easy for me to identify with the child/worker who is easily hurt. What worked for me was a thorough understanding of the expectations of my behavior and the impact to the organization of co-workers and bosses tip-toeing around my feelings. If the employee is coachable, the behavior will change.

Lying, not telling the whole truth, or blaming others is sadly typical in family and work environments and sows a legacy of mistrust and fear. Holding employees accountable to the values of honesty and integrity are critical to the health of the organization. If the executive is the poster child for these behaviors, employees, like children will mimic what they see. It may be wise for the executive to have an accountability system to ensure that his behavior is worth emulating.

While there are innumerable books on managing people and raising children, it is still an art to lead or parent well. People are not stamped out of a mold; each one brings unique behaviors and skill sets into the work environment. Being clear about organizational values, its mission and vision will help steer the right candidate to your HR department.

Whether you are a corporate leader or a parent, both roles require responsibility and oversight of behavior to get the best outcomes. If you need help in assessing your organization, call us!

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