Everything I need to know about management, I learned from raising kidsAugust 25, 2009 - Author: Dan Vonderheide - Comments are closed
Say what you want about the joys of having children (and there is a lot to say there), but the massive effort that goes into giving them principles, habits, and skills to succeed in family and life is a gargantuan effort. The good news is that, in general, you really only have to manage one at a time and you get plenty of practice with the first child so you’re better prepared when the second, third, etc. show up on your doorstep.
That’s a good thing considering how tough it is. It just so happened that when my first daughter arrived, I was cracking open The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. I didn’t immediately see the correlation between motivating and empowering employees to work at peak performance, but as my daughter grew into the “terrible twos”, it started to occur to me that perhaps there were some simple principles I could apply to make life easier for everybody in the house (and I’m borrowing liberally from Blanchard and Johnson here).
1) Establish clear objectives and expectations. Laying out a grand plan is great for enlightening your crew as to the end game. But empowering them to find the way there not only inspires innovation, but it improves them as employees by sharpening their problem solving skills. If I can get my daughter to pick up her doll, think ahead about the next time she might want to play with it, then find an appropriate storage space for it, then I won’t get the inevitable “Daddy! I can’t find Polly Pocket!” cry which will interrupt the cleaning of….whatever it is that I’m cleaning at the time. We are all, by result, a more productive household.
2) Be quick with (but not overly enthusiastic with) positive affirmation. If somebody clearly knows what you expect from them, they’ll be more apt to deliver it quickly without incident. There will be times when they’ll need some guidance (and being available for them is crucial), but more often than not the goal gets met. The older my daughter gets, the less “overjoy” she gets when she does something right. That’s not to say, of course, that I don’t recognize her success. But when she does what I expect (and understands my “vision”), it’s a mutually beneficial outcome. As these responsibilities come to be understood as something that naturally occurs in the course of a day, I can then give her more of a role in keeping our house moving forward and give her positive reinforcement for those things.
3) Be quick, fair, and not overly harsh with reprimands. Motivation and empowerment is the goal here. If you’re going to teach responsibility and problem-solving, you have to deal with mistakes and miscues appropriately and not instill a fear of “management”. Be clear about it and let them know that they’ll need to consider an appropriate course correction. But lectures and sit-downs aren’t productive for anybody. Of course, with a four-year old, the occasional timeout is invevitable. But a properly administered time out (according to the Super Nanny anyway) involves consideration of what went wrong, where, and what other choice could have been made to avoid the situation. Then a quick hug (for my daughter…not an employee), a word of encouragement, and they’re back to work with the knowledge that they’re free to make decisions that will end up with the result you’re looking for.
Somebody that managed me several years ago noted that conflict comes from expectations (or the non-meeting of them). That principle is pretty tried and true in any situation. Managing expectations up front and with clarity will inevitably lead to better results from people at any age…and will lead to those becoming better managers and leaders when their time comes.