Parents and Managers

Written by Joe Driscoll

November 27, 2009

The title of the feature story in the Wall Street Journal several weeks ago was intriguing, “Paternal, Managerial Roles Often Clash.”

The article, based on a study of 300 male executives, concluded that many successful young men who are competent at managing people in the work place are inept at managing their personal lives. The study reported that “many are finding that the things they are paid to do well at work create disaster at home.”

I was surprised at the findings. It had always been my experience that managerial skills and parental skills complimented one another. The more skills I acquired as a manager, the better parent I became. The more sensitivity I developed as a parent, the better manager I became. People skills were the common denominator

The subjects of this article might have managerial skills confused with managerial prerogatives. In other words, you can get away with some things at work that you can’t get away with at home. At the office, people get paid and most are smart enough to keep their mouths shut. At home, they’ll always let you know what they think. Wisdom comes from the mouths of babes!

Good managerial skills include planning, communicating (listening), directing, negotiating, and compromising. All of those things are indispensable to keeping an orderly household in this hectic world.

Time management is a skill that both parents and managers need to master. When you lose control of your time, it’s easy to become frustrated and rushed, whether it’s with co-workers or family.

The article cited an attorney who successful sets goals all the time at work, but when he tried to set goals and agendas at home, his two young children rebelled. It’s possible that some of the people who he was setting goals for at work rebelled too, but didn’t do so vocally.

Effective goal setting, whether it takes place in the office or in the kitchen, requires input of the individuals for whom the goals are being established. That’s something obviously intuitively apparent to this attorney’s two children, but perhaps not so apparent to Dad.

Another of the participants in the study was quoted as saying, “It is very clear what I need to do to become the CEO. But who sets goals for my family and children?” I think this young man will find as he proceeds along his fast-track career that he will be far more successful if he sets goals with people rather than for people.

The wife of another of these successful young executives was commenting on her husband’s skill in talking with the children. She said, “I find him acting like he’s holding a business meeting and using big words and he completely loses them. It’s hard to go from being a high level manager down to being a daddy of toddlers,” she says.

This guy’s probably held a lot of boring meetings at the office too. Ever been to any? When conducting a meeting or speaking to any group of people, the first and most effective thing that needs to be done is get their attention and their interest. If a young manager doesn’t recognize that, he’ll have difficulty talking with any group of people regardless of their age or relationship.

One valid point the article makes is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to prevent work place problems from spilling over into the home. Preventing the frustrations of a hard day on the job from impacting family relations is not easy. It requires constant work, but it’s a worthwhile objective. When you’re able to separate your work life from your home life, both will improve.

Enough with managerial skills helping on the homefront. How about some parental advise spilling over into the office. On the same day that this article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, I had the privilege of attending a ‘back to school night’ at my daughter’s third grade class. The teacher distributed a poem that read,

“If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.
If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.”

I know this was advise intended for parents, not managers, but it just might have some relevance at the office. Children are people and employees are too!

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