Raising (and Leading) Humans

There are amazing similarities between parenting kids and leading and managing our people at work. Being mindful of this just might help you become more resilient as you groom your employees to operate at high proficiency. Being aware might also give YOU extra energy in the process. Because like raising kids, managing people can be extremely exhausting (yet some of the most rewarding work ever!).

  1. They’re All Different

You could have five kids that all look to be from the same family but what works for one never works for all.  In business, you could have five millennials that all dress similarly and have tattoos (hidden or otherwise) but are they all alike? Never. So, as you onboard, and in the months to come, it’s your job to communicate with each one individually.  What do they care about? What lights them up? Are they outgoing or more reserved? Even quiet, introverted people like to talk about themselves. The occasional two minutes spent listening and truly becoming curious is an investment towards building rich, trusted relationship and keeps you from the traps of biases, assumptions, and judgements.

  1. They Thrive When They’re Safe

You want your kids to be successful, just like your employees so begin with those trusted relationships.  Those are the basics (food and shelter for kids, a computer and health insurance for employees). You sprinkle in some care (hugs for kids, acknowledgement for employees). But that’s never enough. Ask anybody who’s ever raised kids and they know you can fortify that sense of safety by providing them with love, AND tough love! People need to know the rules, regulations, deadlines.  It’s OK to occasionally “instill a little fear”.  Kids will be punished if they bully their siblings. The same goes for employees who are blatantly dishonest or mean spirited.  Remember, people who are self-centered usually suffer from lower self-esteem. You can help break that vicious cycle by setting boundaries (family rules; company constitutions) and reminding them of consequences. So, get past any fear of speaking authoritatively. You can learn to make a point, and to be as kind as possible. Otherwise, the epidemic of entitlementwill fester.

  1. Give ‘em Roots and Wings

One of the biggest complaints I hear from peers is their grown children haven’t moved out. Professionally, clients and colleagues tell me they wish they were able to spend more time on strategic thinking, planning, and doing, and less time on conflict or having to replace workers who’ve left for better opportunities (or better bosses). This is where tenacity comes in. If you want to help prepare your people for senior positions (new nests), become more attuned. Ask yourself more questions. Do they need more support?  Do they need to lean into discomfortas they go through some rite of passage? At home, it’s easy to want to protect your kids. At work, it’s easy to let things slide or do things yourself! But people get their wings after they’ve stepped into discomfort, gone through the fire, and then realized, “Wow, this is where the magic is.” (Example: “I learned to play soccer with my left foot!”or “I attained that client I never thought would come on board!”). Going through the discomfort and getting to the other side is, without a doubt, the best way to build confidenceand help your people become independent.

Everyone benefits when kids and employees can cruise on their own…when they’re confident and self-sufficient…intelligent and emotionally intelligent…excellent at their craft and excited to be part of the team (family).  Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence, 1995, Altered Traits, 2018) says, “the earlier people get this in life, the greater chance for success.”

Becoming independent requires grit. One must lean into discomfort and navigate some levels of pain. It’s the process introverts go through to become great speakers. It’s what new managers go through to become the kind of leaders employees choose to follow. It’s what CEOs endure when they surround themselves with painfully honest advisors who care enough to communicate what might be missing.

Development always progresses more easily when there’s a foundation of safety and trust. When employees (and kids) comprehend that growing pains are a necessary part of life, they’ll buckle up for the ride. And, who knows, your people, at work and at home, may even seek out opportunities to lean into discomfortbecause, as we know, roots keep us grounded. Flying is fabulous!


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