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Parenting Can Give You Practice as a Leader

July 11, 2012

By Justin Sherfy, ECC Future Leader

You don’t have to be a parent to be a good leader, but if done correctly, parenting is a good platform to develop your character.

There are several qualities I’ve refined through my short time as a dad. The list is rather lengthy, but I’ve chosen to point out a few, which I believe are important to great managers.

I’ll never have enough patience. However, with three years of parenting under my belt I have a lot more than I started with. I’ve watched my wife extol this virtue time and time again as my youngest, 15 months, stands near her and repeats the words “mom” over and over again, almost as if he’s practicing the word.

We continually remind them not to let the dog eat from their fork—don’t climb on the table—don’t touch the TV screen. The list goes on and on. This may seem small, but those of you who’ve had little ones know you can’t get upset. You have to be patient. Rules have to be reinforced. In the workplace, patience is especially invaluable when you manage different personalities. I’ve worked in environments where people will test your patience intentionally. When you’re in these situations it doesn’t hurt to have some practice.

Communication is key. In addition to learning patience, my wife and I have learned to communicate clearly to our children. As mentioned earlier we reinforce rules through repetition. My wife and I decided early to answer our children’s questions. It’s probably not an overstatement for me to say that most kids go through the “why” phase. We answer every question to equip our boys with the facts so they can make informed decisions. We’ve been amazed by what our children retain.

Employees also feel empowered by a manager who informs and explains. I had one employee ask to be copied on every e-mail I sent regarding our project. He was right. By copying him on every e-mail it kept me from having to re-explain what was already available to read in the e-mail. Communication can be exhausting, and many times you will have to choose your words carefully, but communication will yield a return many times greater than if you had withheld information.

Don’t forget to praise your team. I lavish praise on my children whenever I see an opportunity. Don’t forget to give credit where it’s due. When someone praises a schedule my team has produced or a visual we’ve created I say “thank you, I couldn’t have done it without so-and-so”. It’s not easy to pass credit to the rightful owner, but it is simply the right thing to do. People will love working with you, and in most cases, move “mountains” for you when they see you praise their work to your management.

There are many traits to great leaders. As you refine your leadership skills don’t forget to keep patience, communication, and praise at the top of your list.