What can we learn about leadership from watching a parent? Just about everything. Parenting and leading require the same concepts and principles—communication, setting expectations, establishing roles, and setting boundaries. Let’s not forget building relationships and knowing what is important to the other person. In Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, one decree involves baiting the appropriate hook to suit the fish. In other words, knowing your audience and what they want. This requires you to think and speak in terms of the other person’s interest—in the Outside-In® world, this means being Customer Centric.
A great example of baiting the right hook involves my experiences as a young boy on any typical Saturday morning involving chores. The morning began with the Dale Carnegie approach from my mother, “Chris, remember today is chore day and if you still want to go to your friend’s house you have to clean up your room!” The answer was always, “Sure, Mom.” She would march off to scrub a wall, sweep, vacuum, or do the mounds of laundry that her active family always produced. Me? Well, I would go to the opposite side of the house; constantly moving and dodging parental contact. And then childhood pastimes would get the best of me—Saturday morning cartoons, eating, frankly staring at the ceiling, or even doing homework would be better than chores.
Then the second and even third requests would come, “Chris, why have you NOT started to clean up? You’re not going anywhere today and you’re really close to losing out on the whole weekend.” No longer was Dale Carnegie present in our household. It was “do it or else” time. Which never, ever worked. The more you push and tell me what to do, the less I will listen. (Did I mention I am an entrepreneur?) Try to make it my idea. Ask me. Explain the value of accomplishing the task. Even bribe me to do it. Don’t tell me what to do.
I find leaders start this way in work situations. We start by giving one a gentle push to complete a nagging, maybe slightly-behind project that is more important to us than the ones of whom we are asking. Then we check in and we get more directive, “I want that done by Monday. Are we in agreement?” And we end with the threat, “You know that your vacation day is in jeopardy and you are falling well off of plan. Performance reviews are right around the corner you know…”
So what does the inventive and creative Mom do when progress is behind? She takes the hill like a true Leadership General. She heads for the trash bag under the sink. Nothing moves people (or children) faster than the reach for the trash bag. Not following? Mom would grab the bag and head to our room or wherever our stuff happened to be piled that day. And she would say, “Anything I pick up you will not get back, it’s going to Goodwill.” And then I would come running, perhaps with tears streaming, “NO!” Sometimes it took action, not words to move the task or project to completion!
PS – Don’t try this on teenagers. They are prone to mumble, “Good now I don’t have to do it.” Or, “I have too much stuff anyway.” Any verbal warfare they can think of that gets to you!