A Good Parent, a Good Leader?

25 Jun

What’s surprising is that the same skills are needed for both jobs!  Good leaders demonstrate the skills of supporting their employees and guiding them. This means that good leaders are present to employees who are either going through a difficult situation in their personal lives or are under great stress in the workplace. Enormous amounts of stress in the workplace can result from a hostile work environment with cliques or gossip among peers or with egotism displayed by supervisors. A good leader is aware of dysfunctional group dynamics and will seek to address this situation through mediation preferably by a third, unbiased professional. Egotism, on the other hand, is almost impossible to be aware of in oneself, and egotism — or narcissism — is a fairly common phenomenon in the workplace and in families. It would take the intervention of a person with higher authority to deal with a destructive narcissist.

However, supervisors can be open to allowing for some flexibility (even if it’s just 15 minutes of “flex time”) with stressed out employees. This bit of leeway plus having an open door and nonjudgmental attitude can go “yards” with helping employees feel understood. When an employee feels understood, s/he will demonstrate a “buy-in” for the current project and will experience a reward that may mean much more than a bonus! We at Beyond the Horizons Consulting would be happy to brain storm with you about the kinds of creative rewards which will result in a win-win outcome for leaders and employees!

Let’s now look at the skill of guiding employees. Guiding an employee can be applied to (1) skills sets necessary to the job; (2) proper ways of communicating, both in verbal and in written expression; and (3) the employee’s growth as a person. Nowadays skill sets are often learned through online courses or webinars. However, some skills are best learned hands-on or through demonstration by a supervisor. We need to remember that individuals learn on different channels — visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and so on. An apprentice chef, for example, may learn much more on the kinesthetic channel, checking out the texture of the foods s/he is preparing.

Teaching the proper way to communicate is likewise possible through online courses and webinars. However, we at BTHC also see that in-person workshops would have an important role. In these workshops the facilitator can demonstrate proper and improper communications through email, for example. Videos with actors demonstrating the verbals and nonverbals of person-to-person communication can also be powerful. What cannot be done in other learning formats is small group practice. Situations and roles are distributed to the participants, and their playing of the roles allows them to experience first-hand what is involved in a particular communication.

Probably the most difficult area in guiding employees is helping the employee grow as a person. Here the supervisor needs to hold the employee responsible to his or her job description. In addition,  a good leader needs to “hold an employee’s feet to the fire” in terms of making the employee accountable for behaviors the employee has agreed to. Guiding an employee also involves making available resources for them to learn new skills and encouraging them to take advantage of such opportunities.

In the workplace today we are faced with a new generation of employees — the millenials. The millenials are in their early twenties and have largely grown up with only a measured amount of support BUT little to no guidance in their lives. (This is the crucial connection between leadership in the workplace and leadership in the family!) Their parents have in most cases both had to work to provide for the family. After the age of 12, many of these young people have been “latch-key” kids with time on their hands after school and no parental supervision. They may have little self-discipline. Often they present as “bored,” and they surely do not have a clue as to what will be expected of them in the workplace. Unfortunately, many have been given many privileges, such as expensive electronic devices, at an early age, and they view such amenities as their right, not a privilege. Our upcoming generation has probably had few if any chores to complete in the household, again because the parents were too busy either working or dealing with their own “dramas” at home or in the workplace to make the children accountable for reasonable tasks within the family. This leaves us with a couple of intriguing questions: (1) Who will teach our future leaders? (2) Will these future leaders — supposing they will develop leadership skills — be able to motivate their millennial employees?


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