4 Ways Parenting and Leadership Go Hand-in-Hand
Though it can often feel like juggling work and family is a never-ending balancing act, each plays a unique part in creating overall symbiosis.
By Ryan McGrath
Most working parents would agree that finding the “right” balance between their careers and their families can sometimes feel like the search for the Holy Grail. The reality is that both needs change every day, and instead of focusing all my time on which deserves more of my energy, I like to center on how I can draw strength from each to apply to the other.
Though it may sound counterintuitive, many of the skills needed to be a strong business leader are similar to, if not the same, the necessary skills to be a good parent. By harnessing the individual strengths that relate to both aspects of life, you will end up feeling like the time you devote to each is more effective than those whom it affects.
Prioritization always matters, but it becomes truly paramount when you have a child. Early in my career journey, I would use more hours of the day for work. When I got home didn’t matter as much, and my schedule was the only one I had to adhere to.
Now that I have kids, I make sure I’m home in time to have dinner with them every night. I have to allocate my time to what I think will have the most significant impact, not just on my life but theirs. As a younger executive, prioritization was still important, but on a smaller scale. What I focused on in the workplace affected me, my immediate team, and those I worked closely with.
As the CEO of a company with thousands of employees, I’m incredibly deliberate when deciding where my time is allocated and what my team is spending their time on. It’s a great privilege, but it comes with more obligations as I’m responsible not just for myself and a small team but for everyone in the organization.
If you have a kid of any age or have been around one for any significant amount of time, you can attest that patience is of the utmost importance. Being patient with children means being patient with the process; you know you will have to do or say something the same way many times before it sinks in.
My son recently had his first tutoring session, and we would practice his teacher’s name together for a week before it. I’d ask him who his teacher was, and for a week, he wouldn’t answer, so I’d tell him that he’d be meeting “Miss Ally” and hope it stuck. Then, on the morning of his first lesson, I asked him, with low expectations, who he would see that day. Without hesitation, he yelled out, “Miss Ally!” Though it did feel a little bit like he was messing with me, it was also incredibly satisfying to see that my week of questioning was worth it.
Staying true to the process no matter how long it takes ultimately delivers the best results. You can hit a rock 11 times, and it won’t show a crack until the 12th hit — patience manifests through persistence.
3. Clarity of communication
Clear communication is essential in every relationship, but just how essential it is becomes more evident in both parent-child and manager-employee relationships. If you tell your 4-year-old to put their dish in the kitchen, and then twenty minutes later you walk in and step on a plate of food, that’s on you — they did exactly what you asked, even if it wasn’t what you had in mind. Being explicit about what you want is vital as a parent.
Though someone you’ve hired should know that a dish would go in the sink and not anywhere in the literal vicinity of the room we know as a kitchen, it doesn’t mean they’ll know, for example, what you mean when you say you want “results.” If you aren’t straightforward about what you set out to do, whether that be your overall goals for your company or what success looks like to you, you can’t be upset when what your team produces doesn’t match the image you had in your head.
No one is a mind reader, and it’s your job to practice direct communication. That doesn’t mean you should be holding your employees’ hands, but they need to understand what is expected from them at the start for them to attain a level of autonomy.
4. Celebrating wins
In every facet of life, people do a better job when they feel empowered. Relatedly, positive reinforcement is one of the more effective ways to show someone that they are doing a good job and should continue to do more of it.
When your child starts to use the bathroom on their own, it’s a big deal. Of course, there’s a level of pride in seeing your kid learn to do something new, but making a big fuss and celebrating them when they do so also shows them that it’s something they should be doing regularly. Once you grow up, no one congratulates you when you go to the bathroom (unless you have some extremely supportive friends).
This isn’t to say that everyone should receive what is sometimes referred to as a “participation trophy” for simple or small tasks, but as we get older and gain more experience, we can forget to celebrate the things that matter. Words of affirmation and commemorating wins — even if they’re not monumental — can go a long way in making your employees feel like you genuinely appreciate them and the work they do.
When it comes down to it, parenting and leading can look very different depending on who you are, the children you’re raising, and the business you’re running. There is no one right way, but throughout my time as both a father and a CEO, I’ve seen patterns and connections show up time and time again, and working on the skills that apply to the two arguably most significant pieces of my life has consistently been advantageous.