By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
I have always believed that there is a sticky similarity between sensible parenting and leadership. Before you jump up and say that let us not mix the boundaries between home and the workplace, let me say in my defense that managing people well is as complicated a task as parenting. The rewards of both, center around having people reach their potential – in case of parents that means their kids deal with the world as capable and well adjusted individuals.
Eric Barker recently wrote in his blog about the study by Benjamin Bloom who studied 120 young men and women who were among America’s top performers in widely divergent fields—piano playing, sculpting, swimming, tennis, mathematics, and neurology. Their home environments had some common characteristics:
“The parents were “supportive” and had created “stimulating” environments. A stimulating environment was defined as one where there were opportunities to learn. The parents had high academic expectations from the children. Curiosity was encouraged by the parents spending time answering questions that the child had. The environment at home was considered supportive when there were well defined rules. The family members relied on each other and everyone’s roles were clearly defined.”
There is much that people managers and senior leaders can learn from these simple insights. Two actions that will create a supportive organizational culture:
- Create Rules That Are Simple To Understand: Organizations have rules. That in turn has a major impact on the culture. Leaders must periodically leverage their direct connect with the employees to understand which rules are enabling and which ones are stifling.
- Clearly Defined Roles To Ensure Accountability: For each project or task, identify just one person who is finally accountable for the outcome of a task. Many large organizations have an organizational structure that can be hard for an employee to navigate. Teach employees how to navigate the organization. If the accountability is fuzzy, remember, tasks do not get done.
What can the leaders do to create a stimulating environment? The parenting tips are a good starting point for this.
- Create Opportunities To Learn: In today’s context, it means supplementing formal training and development with job rotation, coaching and mentoring with technology enabled that helps learning of one individual to be available to the others in a timely manner. Information has to be given in interesting bite size chunks. Storytelling is therefor an important skill for leaders. Elements of the organization’s culture are best communicated through stories.
- Praise Effort Not Outcomes: Experiments run by Dr Dweck of Stanford on children has taught us an important lesson. Praising a kid’s results (and calling the kid a “prodigy” or “genius”) actually discourages them from taking risks and trying because they are scared of losing that label. Managers could learn from this and encourage risk taking by praising that behavior instead of the result.
- Ensure People Are Challenged: People are excited about challenges that seem just a little bit out of reach. That unleashes creativity in the organization. When tech companies create coding hackathons, they are doing just that. Facebook is famous for these. They say, “Hackathons are a big tradition at Facebook. They serve as the foundation for some great (and not so great) ideas. It gives our employees the opportunity to try out new ideas and collaborate with other people in a fun environment.”
Above all, the managers and leaders need to model the behaviors that they expect to see in the organization. The Yale Medical Group‘s research shows that “Children whose parents are overweight or obese are at higher risk for becoming obese themselves, studies have shown. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics, for instance, found five independent risk factors for childhood overweight. The main risk factor was parental weight.”
If an organization’s culture is toxic, the leaders need to ask themselves what kind of role models they have been. Could it be that the culture reflects the behavior of the leaders who are poor role models? The leaders in an organization, have the same responsibility as parents do at home.
What other parenting rule do you think organizations could use?
Do you think parenting rules apply to organizations?