What Managers Can Learn from Mom
In daily work as managers we experience many teachable moments. These are those little opportunities that pop up in every day work life when just that right situation arrives to help an employee learn. How often do you make the time to take advantage of these valuable moments?
Five things you can count on mom to do for her kids:
- Keep them safe.
- Teach them skills.
- Help them learn to get along with others.
- Teach them to admit their mistakes.
- Praise them when they do right.
How do these lessons translate for managers?
1. Keep them safe
Mom knows how to balance order and freedom, slowing letting her kids have more and more autonomy as they demonstrate the ability to apply it. She does this to keep them from getting hurt or hurting others. In the NOW work world we need our people engaged, and yes we have a long history of wanting them to simply do what they have been told to do. Now we need them to think, make decisions, and watch for opportunities that move our organizations closer to its goals.
But fear prevents actions. So in the NOW world your people will be cautious to step into it and start making decisions. As they do, stay near so you can help them recognize when the direction they are headed is one you know won’t work. It’s okay to get bumps and bruises and learn from experience, but broken bones need to be avoided. Guide people who are stepping up to help them be successful. Success breeds confidence and confidence comes from a track record of appropriate decisions.
2. Teach them skills
Mom is on the lookout to teach new skills to her youngsters. She’s great at spotting the perfect opportunity to learn – the point in time when the lesson will help the child achieve something they want.
Your employees are not children, but as they move into the NOW world (see Business at the Speed of NOW) they are learning new skills that are preparing them for success in the real-time economy. These new skills – problem solving, collaboration, decision making – are skills you need them to have so they can thrive in our new NOW world.
3. Help them learn to get along
Oddly, few of us were blessed enough to have been taught skills such as constructive conflict or the basics of collaboration. As Americans we seemed stuck in the belief that it is better to be polite than to be honest about what you think. The net result is we often simply avoid dealing with things that involve differing views or concerns about people’s performance because we believe it will be uncomfortable and awkward.
Mom knows just what to say to her kids to help them hear what she is saying. She knows her children and realizes that when they are not getting along with others that it is an opportunity to bring in new skills. Mom knows that in any given situation you don’t have to be rude to say what you are really thinking. You just need to choose your words thoughtfully and constructively before you open your mouth. The way in which Mom corrects her children is incredibly important. The words and the tone determine whether the child can hear the message without being shamed and managers need to master this approach, too.
4. Teach them to admit their mistakes.
We all make mistakes, yes, even mom. The best mom is the mom who knows when she has lost her cool that she needs to circle back around and tell the children that her response was not the right way to handle the situation. Mom will admit her mistakes so she can teach her kids that when they make mistakes they can also admit them.
As managers we have to use mistakes to teach not to punish. We have to also make it safe to make mistakes by acknowledging our own.
5. Praise them when they do right
Mom knows the best encouragement is to acknowledge when her kids are doing the right things. She also understands each child has unique needs for acknowledgement. One child might treasure a big hug while the other sees a piece of chocolate as a great reward for a job well done.
As humans we thrive on recognition, but each of us have unique needs in that space. Acknowledging an employee at a company meeting is motivating for some and brings great embarrassment to others. When in doubt, a handwritten old-fashioned thank you note works well for most people. That said, take time to recognize people who take risks and step into the NOW world.
My mom died a few years back, and I do miss her, but whenever I think of her I remember her always-steady hand in preparing me for life. We can learn a lot about management from reflecting on the lessons mom taught us.