Running a business is difficult. It’s a high-wire act of balancing customer needs, and making sure daily operations are running smoothly — all while working to improve the entirety of the business and execute on big-picture initiatives.
The challenge of leading an organization and being responsible for its success, while professionally and personally rewarding, pales in comparison to the challenges and rewards of parenthood. There is quite simply nothing like the challenges — and joys — of being a parent. However, those challenges and joys of parenthood, while seemingly very different than the business world, have helped mold me into a more successful person. Here are the two key ways being a parent has helped me become a better leader.
Being a parent has given me the confidence to let employees make decisions
While there’s no real definitive guidebook for how you interact with your child, there is a best way to approach that relationship. I have worked to maintain an authoritative parenting style (not to be confused with authoritarian) where I have high expectations from my children, but I first give them the tools they need to succeed and the freedom and safety net to fail and learn from their failings.
For example, if I ask my children to pick up their toys, I expect that it will be done the right way — but I also make sure to clearly model what the right way looks like. By showing them the task — setting clear definitions about what constitutes completeness with a good final result. I give them the framework they need to be successful. I make sure that if they do fail, I am attentive and available to talk them through what happened, and how they didn’t meet the expectation, while also reinforcing their feelings with what they did correctly, and make sure they know I love them. This allows my kids to build up their skill sets, but also know that they can come to me when they mess up without feeling overly criticized or shamed. Successful relationships with employees can look a lot like that.
When I am working with an employee at my Amazon agency, I want them to have clear parameters about what’s acceptable and not — particularly in client-facing roles. I communicate the values of our company and our primary mission, make sure they have the training to have confidence in the task, and then have them execute the task. This builds a more resilient, responsive, workforce who can think outside the box, but also understands the clear boundaries and needs of the company.
Being a parent has made me a better leader
Parenting can often lead to challenging moments where you’re frustrated with your child. Though you always love them — sometimes it’s hard to like them on the most difficult days. In those moments — when you have the least amount of patience — is often where you can build the most trust and foundation with your kids. Children react poorly to being yelled at or severely verbally disciplined. Too much yelling, for example, can lead to low-self esteem and higher rates of depression with children. Those moments of frustration are so critical to not only make sure you’re not shutting down communication with your child — but also showing them healthy communication skills.
I try to embody the same approach while working with my employees as I do with my children. I try to ask them questions about the frustrations and feelings they might be experiencing and see if we can get to a constructive place of understanding. Rather than being stern and shutting down a struggling employee — I’ve found it’s so much more productive to ask them “Can you help me understand some of the challenges you face in this area of work?” Generally, by asking non-accusatory questions — that relate to exterior problems and not the person themselves — I’ve found that there is much more room for dialogue and solutions. This doesn’t always mean, as discussed earlier, that there are no consequences.
Both parenthood and business leadership are some of the most rewarding — and demanding — adventures a person can embark upon. Those roles can sometimes come into conflict and mean concessions on one end (prioritizing family is so much more important), but, if you reflect on these areas you’ll find a lot of similarities and be able to draw on them. Parenting has allowed me to give my employees more freedom and learn to be a better leader. Other business owners should take time, regularly, to examine how they can improve and refine both areas in their life. Chances are that they’ll walk away with clear, actionable, strategies to become better in both domains.
Written by Jason Streiff.
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