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Service Leadership: Using Parenting Techniques to Cultivate a High-Performing Team

One of the greatest joys of parenting is watching your children grow to become independent thinkers as they figure out their own identities and develop their unique talents. As the father of four terrific kids, I have the opportunity to experience this joy on a daily basis.

As a founder, an investor and an operational leader, I feel similar pride and satisfaction in seeing high-potential individuals turn into top performers who have played a key role in the success of a company. And while I would never suggest that employees should be treated like children, I cannot help but notice the striking parallels between parenting and leadership.

Just like there’s a middle ground between the stern family Patriarch and a helicopter parent, there’s a sweet spot between Command & Control leadership and Servant leadership.

Here are five ways leaders use effective parenting methods to build a world-class workforce:

Empowerment For kids to thrive, they need to be given the space to create, experiment, fail, learn, and ultimately succeed. Good leaders empower associates to use their judgment and give them the room to make small errors, but stay close enough to stop them from making devastating mistakes. Parents and leaders must allow the freedom to make decisions, solve problems, and take responsibility for outcomes. Skinned knees can prevent broken bones; lost sales leads can teach how to retain large accounts. Mentoring and coaching play an important role by keeping people on the right track and promoting personal and professional development.

Resources (and Expectations) Parents endeavor to give their children every advantage to help them succeed in life, including securing the best education available. Leaders also understand the value of providing the right training, tools and technology to optimize employees’ performance. Additionally, effective leaders make sure each team member understands they are expected to use the right resources to produce exceptional results. A $3,000 violin sitting in the back of a bedroom closet doesn’t help anyone. A leader’s role is to create a supportive environment to allow and expect the workforce to innovate, produce, and thrive.

Collaboration Good parents create nurturing, cohesive environments to promote stability, open communication, and healthy interpersonal relationships. Sometimes there’s yelling. Good kids (and parents) disagree and get on each others’ nerves. By living the behaviors we want to see, my wife and I try to set the expectations that siblings are to treat each other with respect. Respect is the base that any team builds on. Leaders must also establish a positive company culture where employees can collaborate and work cooperatively to achieve business objectives.

Ethics Teaching kids right from wrong is a core component of any parent’s job description. How that happens matters - I wouldn’t sit my kids in front of an Ethics online training course. Morals come from within; they develop from an understanding of consequences to their actions. Through example, leaders set the tone within the company and institute policies to promote compliance with regulatory regulations, industry requirements, and company standards. It is up to executives to create a culture that promotes honesty through large and small actions.

Firing Underperformers Just joking.

Employees are not children and parents are not (necessarily) executives. But when considering parents’ objectives of creating high-performing, accomplished, ethical individuals, it’s easy to see how leaders can benefit by adopting some of their strategies.

Do you see other similarities between parents and leaders? Please share below.