The Mentoring Parent – Take your inner parent to work

February 22, 2016

Our latest blogger, Michael Fryer, is a seasoned coach, mentor and a ‘work in progress’ parent. Taking work home with him (and vice-versa) has become philosophical practice for Michael. Check this out.

When we tell a manager, ‘you’re parenting people’ it’s generally a damning accusation, a definite no-no – I think that’s a hasty judgement. Good parenting behaviours are not infantilizing or patronising, bad parenting ones are. In fact, as a manager, aren’t healthy parenting principles precisely what you need to do a better job?

As an executive coach and mentor, and father of two young daughters, I’m struck how good managers and good parents share similar goals, and have a surprising number of behaviours in common.

As parents we strive to help our children be successful, happy and fulfilled; to contribute and reach their true potential. Isn’t this equally so for managers who want high-performing people?

Pick up any book about parenting and it trumpets behaviours like:

  • set boundaries and expectations
  • give feedback
  • offer encouragement to succeed
  • give acknowledgement and praise
  • be patient and kind
  • explain ‘why’
  • help learning
  • give respect
  • foster independence and responsibility

I could go on. Don’t tell me that this list isn’t critical for a manager too.

Unhealthy parenting tendencies – molly-coddling, indulging, intimidating, ignoring, not holding to account, displays of temper or frustration – are equally ineffective in a manager.

So, if you want to be a manager who can build an engaged, capable and committed team, get in touch with your inner parent at work; check the principles you are working from – are you helping human beings make the most of who they are? Is compassion and empathy balanced equally with the need to have people feel and be accountable?

Now most people would assume that a key differentiator between parent and manager, is the presence of love. But hold on, where our love is expressed in the quality of our intention and behaviour towards others, then in my opinion, this is just a question of degree. What do you think?

Work hard. Be kind; and please – tidy your room.

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