Archive for January, 2010

Parenting Is A Lot Like My Day Job

You must admit that most of us are open to inspiration from any source. Inspirational breakthroughs are especially warranted when leading teams though challenging work or complex environments. Even with an attitude of openness towards trying new strategies, I never dreamed parenting a teenager would help me so much in my role at work. There is a deep reservoir of similarities. Here are just a few examples. You will be able to relate even if you don’t have kids because when you look in the mirror, you’ll be reminded of the kid you once were.

Transferable Knowledge:

 1) Change: A shift in behavior is not as easy as the owner visualizes in his or her mind. “Just don’t leave your dirty socks on the bathroom floor.” No matter how clearly the owner of the change sees value, there will not be a sustainable shift until the person sees value what’s in it for them. There has to be an upswing somewhere or a cost for not changing to get buy in.

 2) Training: Just because you gave training one time does not mean it will be done to precision immediately after the training has been done. “Son, this is the trash can, this is the bag that goes in it . Once the trash reaches this level, it should be emptied.” That sounds pretty clear, doesn’t it? Verbalizing training is one thing, PowerPoints are good, too, but getting someone to ownership is a whole different story. It may take several iterations of training and hand holding before the behavior sticks.

 3) Attention Span and Distractions: To get the mind share of a kid is really tough these days. On any day, the number of distractions is overwhelming. With ear phones on, texting in the right hand and updating a Facebook status on his netbook while completing homework, my son will declare if you are lucky. “oh, you said something?” This is true at work too. In the middle of meeting, keystrokes are pecking in the background and you’ll get. “can you repeat the question?” People are overwhelmed with content and overloaded and distracted with technology. You rarely have 100% of a person’s mind share. .

 4) The Right Information and Solution but Wrong Timing: Sometimes you can give your kid quality information like, “you know planning ahead on your homework assignments will prevent you from staying up all night.” In that moment, the information may not have an impact. Don’t assume because it wasn’t received the first time that it is impossible to be heard at a moment when the timing is better. If the information is the right information and adds value, stay focused and eventually it will coincide with the right timing.

 5) “No” is debatable sometimes:  Kids are never discouraged by “ no.” I love their resilience. No is never the end of the story for my son. It’s the beginning of new dialogue. Experiencing this with him has increased my persistence at work. Kids simply do not focus on the no; they focus on working on a solution that moves the conversation from “no.”  They keep working it creatively from different angles. Although sometimes no ends in a definite no, it is never personal and there is no fear about bringing the topic up again in the future.

 I’m sure there are many other similarities and some under construction, too. Share any similarities you have experienced between parenting and your day job. Watching my son grow up mirrors in so many ways how my projects grow up at work.

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