“Whatever game you show them, that’s the game they’ll play.”
Lt. Cedric Daniels, The Wire
There’s only one reason to read this blog.
Are you capable of change?
If you’re not, put it down now. I’m sorry if you landed here by accident—pass the URL to a friend.
All things change when we do. And chances are, if you started reading this blog, you’re feeling overwhelmed by your job as a parent, a manager or both. You’re not alone. In 2016, 56 percent of American working parents say they feel that work-life balance is difficult, according to a Pew Research Center study. (How do the other 44 percent feel, and can I get in the boat with them?)
The challenge of parenting is like the Greek myth of Sisyphus who kept rolling a rock uphill, watching it slide down, and rolling it up again. How often do you feel that way as a parent? You climb one mountain with your little people, and then behold! Another one in the distance, with the same rock. Except now, you’re exhausted.
This is how many of my friends and colleagues, in so many different industries—retail, marketing, healthcare, hospitality, food services, financial services—you name it—describe what management feels like. The word I hear over and over again?
Babysitting is different from parenting, in that babysitters get paid. They also get to leave. And managers may get paid (not enough!), but they don’t really get to leave. Work is a constant in most people’s minds. It’s where you spend 40, if not significantly more hours of your week. It’s also something that many of us use to gather self-esteem and understand our places in the universe.
Now I’m not a psychologist, although I do play one at almost every dinner table I’m at. I’ve had a ridiculous amount of therapy, which helps. My professional degree is in communications—I wrote my master’s thesis comparing Save the Last Dance and Dirty Dancing and the evolution of sexual identity politics in the United States (seriously—go look it up. But not right now.). I am a parent of three children who have serious doubts about my writing a semi-parenting blog.
So I’m not exactly “qualified” to write this blog. Except no one on earth is more qualified to write it than I am, because I’m actually doing it. And the reason I’m doing it is that I built a multi-million dollar business from my house while I brought up a young family. And what I can tell you, with every fiber of my being, is that management is like parenting and parenting is like management. When you master the core skills of each, you’ll be more effective at both.
Behavior is a Choice
In his brilliant book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson gives a crisp definition of adulting: Maturity is becoming more selective about the fcks we’re willing to give. Choosing how to show up at work and as a parent is maturity. So often we believe the winds of destiny define who we are: who we were born to, where we grew up, how we were educated. And those things matter—but once you are an adult, they can’t matter that much anymore. You can choose who you want to be. And so can your employees. It’s your job to model to your children that every behavior is a choice. Moods are a choice. The way we act is a choice.
Changing the way you think about this crucial part of your life will change everything.
The most important choice
This blog is dedicated to the idea that we have a choice to work on ourselves so we can show up better as parents and managers. My father-in-law was an educator for more than 30 years. I once asked him, “What would you do differently if you could do parenting over again?” Without missing a beat he said, “I would have worked on myself more.”
“What would you do differently if you could do parenting over again?”…”I would have worked on myself more.”
Think about that for a second. [Second].
An experienced educator understood that at the heart of every choice was who he was, not who surrounded him.
What does it mean to know who you are? It means to understand your values—the principles that you use to make choices. It’s a lifelong journey to understand which values truly belong to you, and which ones aren’t voices from your mental judging panel that should be fired. What old stories are you telling yourself about what you do value?
Time to decide what you really value if you’re going to be effective as a boss, a parent or both.
Working on yourself isn’t just about going to individual therapy. There’s group therapy. There’s self-help books. There’s classes. There’s training programs both in parenting and in management that can help you understand who you are and how you want to approach the people you work with.
Fill your toolbox with the right tools to manage and grow the people you love and care about. And then? Fill their toolboxes.
Filling the toolbox
I was struggling to deal with a situation with my daughter. I was talking to my friend, Sharon Mazel, who writes all those books, “What to Expect when you’re Expecting.” She said to me (as the mom of 4 girls), “Your job as a parent is to help them fill their toolbox. How they use those tools is up to them.”
This blog is about giving you the tools you can use to help both your children and your employees build and shape tools that will help them become the best they can be. They will add these tools to their toolboxes.
Those tools may sit in those toolboxes and get rusty. They may never use them. But you can’t force them to use them. Nor can you force them to use a hammer when they should use a screwdriver. But you can point out to them which tool might be best for the job in the future, and hope that the next time, they will make the right choice.
And that means we have to be brave enough to correct the people around us that we parent and manage. We may have to change to value conflict as a path toward greater intimacy, not something that separates us.
Conflict as a path toward greater intimacy
Our responsibility is to help nurture people to become the best that they can be. Sometimes that means that we have to give people constructive criticism that may hurt their feelings. You may even make them cry. (Don’t ever say, “Please don’t cry.” Just let people cry. Only assholes say, “Don’t cry.”)
You may even make them cry. (Don’t ever say, “Please don’t cry.” Just let people cry. Only assholes say, “Don’t cry.”)
Because of that constructive criticism, people may be angry with us. Most of the time, they don’t just get over it. It may take them a long time to quiet that hurt. But that’s part of the job.
And most of the time, when we talk things out with sensitivity and guidance, when we make constructive criticism a way to show how much we care, then we create better relationships. And better relationships create better people. And if you’re practicing these skills at home and at work? You’ll feel less like you’re rolling a rock up a mountain.
Are parents and leaders really the same?
The goal of this blog is to explore life lessons that apply to parents and managers. But are they really the same?
Let’s look at this chart:
To do those things, we need to know where we’re going and who we want to create at the end of this process. A successful parent waves goodbye to a child who wants to become independent—a successful boss shepherds an employee into leadership.
Let’s find out how.
This blog is separated into 3 parts:
- Nurture You
- Nurture Them
- Nurture Each Other
Each of the blog posts will be categorized by one of those tags. That way we can learn the fundamentals of Parenting like a Boss; Bossing like a Parent: Take care of you, take care of them, take care of each other.