Are you your child’s ideal boss?

Imagine your child is your employee.

I hear the howls of protest echoing across the internet. The very idea!

Oh relax, it’s just a thought experiment…

Now imagine that the work of your employee is to grow as an individual – physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, inter-personally – every single day.

Big job, right?

Now what would the ideal boss be for an employee with such a huge job?

From the most unlikely parenting advice source of all, the Harvard Business Review, I pulled the following nuggets that seem to apply.

Kinda perfectly if you ask me.

1. Butt out.
“William Coyne headed research and development at 3M—the company behind Ace bandages, Post-it notes, Scotch tape, and other inventions—for over a decade. Shortly after retiring, Coyne spoke to a group of hundreds of executives about innovation at 3M and his own management style. He said he’d started at 3M as a researcher and learned firsthand how well-meaning but nosy executives who proffer too many questions and suggestions can undermine creative work. So when he became head of R&D, he was determined to allow his teams to work for long stretches, unfettered by intrusions from higher-ups. Coyne understood his colleagues’ curiosity; if successful, an R&D project could generate millions in new revenue. But he limited their interference (and his own) because, he said, ‘After you plant a seed in the ground, you don’t dig it up every week to see how it is doing.'”

Take home: Let’s see. Am I…well meaning? Check. Nosy? Uh, check. Asking too many questions? You might say so. Proffering too many suggestions? Doh. Baldly, this means….butt out. Or put slightly more gently, have faith that the seed you planted is growing very nicely, thank you very much.

2. Be a human shield.
“The best bosses are committed to letting their workers work—whether on creative tasks such as inventing new products or on routine things such as assembling computers, making McDonald’s burgers, or flying planes. They take pride in being human shields, absorbing or deflecting heat from inside and outside the company, doing all manner of boring and silly tasks, and battling idiots and slights that make life harder than necessary on their people.”

Take home: Let your child do his or her work. In peace. And keep on doing the boring and silly stuff – like laundry.

3. To underparent, or not to underparent? That is the question.
“The late theater director Frank Hauser… advised focusing on the play, not yourself: “Guard against the director’s first great vice—rabbiting on, making the same point again and again, getting laughs from your inimitable (and interminable) anecdotes.”

Take home: Ah, yes, the old “rabbiting on, making the same point again and again.” Sound familiar? I does to me too. Let’s zip it, shall we?

4. Make it safe to fight.
“When people have mutual respect, arguments over ideas are productive and creative. The best bosses orchestrate constructive battles—enabling people to feel safe to speak their minds, even to the leader. Pixar’s Brad Bird, who won Academy Awards for directing The Incredibles and Ratatouille, is a vigorous advocate of constructive conflict.”

Take home: Part of our job is helping our kids engage in healthy conflict, with each other and – gasp! – even ourselves.

Courtesy of Harvard Business Review’s Management Tip of the Day…


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