I raised two boys, or, maybe more correctly, they raised me. I was lucky – at the end of the process I have “two sons” who make me proud and whom I love dearly. I was unprepared to be a parent when I became one, but through trial and error, the grace of God and some blind luck I survived. As I reflect back on the experience, I also got a “PhD” in management and leadership. I now realize that parenting, like business, gives the organizational “parent” the opportunity to react to behavior or influence the growth, development and maturation of the child.
As I ponder the process of change and growth in the marketplace and in organizations that serve this global economy, I see parallels. Change is the transition from today through tomorrows. How we address this determines the success – ours and our organizations’ and their members’.
Will we react and manage the behavior of our followers and the change that comes at us, or will we be a leader and design the future we want and grow the people who are our organization?
In a conversation with a friend named Beau (he’s twice the parent I am; he and his wife, Kaci, are raising four children and doing a great job) we concluded that the world of parenting is a great laboratory for management and leadership issues. Consider babies and their crying as a metaphor for the people in your organization.
Babies cry when they are hungry or wet or have some other discomfort that needs fixing. They can’t effectively articulate their issue, but they can manipulate us as the caregiver (manager/leader) through their whining until we solve their problems (and ours, by quieting them). Let’s compare two options: pacifiers and breastfeeding.
Pacifiers have no nutritional value, of course, and left to pacifiers alone a child will starve to death. (In some countries a pacifier is called a “dummy.” Think about that.)
See also: Key Difference in Leaders vs. Managers
Breastfeeding, on the other hand, is the safest, best and most natural means of nurturing a child. Breast milk alone can sustain a child for the first six months of life. Breast milk and breast feeding are about growing together – a most intimate link between the mother and child. Breast feeding is not about quieting a child but about developing that child. It is a living system. It is the best.
As the head of your own organization, you know that change happens. It makes you tired, sometimes overwhelmed and causes great discomfort in the people you call your team or family. Do you manage the change by handing each “whiner” a pacifier just so the person will shut up and get back to work and leave you alone? Do you accept the responsibility of leadership and do what needs to be done to design tomorrow?
Do you take the time to grow each team member, quieting the person through intimacy and nourishment, making the person better-prepared for tomorrow?
Remember: A pacifier alone will ensure starving, while “breastfeeding” will guarantee growth.