Magazine article Work & Family Life

If You've Raised Children, You Have the Skills to Manage Almost Anything

Magazine article Work & Family Life

If You've Raised Children, You Have the Skills to Manage Almost Anything

Article excerpt

Wanted: People who can relate well to others. Who are grown T T up and won't jump into the shallow end. Who are responsible and committed to the welfare of the company, not simply to their own personal gain. Who want to build, not just get. Who are determined, strong-willed and won't give up. Who have personal humility and compelling modesty rather than huge egos.

Doesn't that sound like a help-wanted ad for a good parent? In fact, it's the job description of a leader who can take an organization from "good to great," says Jim Collins, one of the most popular management thinkers today.

Management gurus, authors of business books and executive trainers have begun to connect the dots between managing a home and managing-or working in-an organization. For example, "7 habits" author Stephen Covey has written a sequel called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. "Applying the 7 habits to the family is an absolute natural," he says. "In fact, it's where it was really learned."

My own "ah-ha" moment came when my son was born. I began to notice an uncanny resemblance between the advice in parenting books and the material in management books. I pursued this hunch by signing up for a seminar at Harvard by William Ury, coauthor of Getting to Yes, the bestselling business book of all time. The seminar was called "Dealing with Difficult People and Difficult Situations."

Ury told the businessmen who attended the session that his material came from a Chinese general and a Prussian military strategist but, in fact, he confirmed to me privately, much of what he taught came from Haim Ginott, the humanistic psychologist whose 1956 classic Between Parent and Child became a parenting bible (and was reissued recently by Three Rivers Press).

Some skiffs are transferable

Anyone who has learned how to comfort a troublesome toddler, soothe the feelings of a sullen teenager, or manage the complex challenges of a fractious household can just as readily smooth the boss's ruffled feathers, handle crises, juggle several urgent matters at once, motivate the team and survive the most Byzantine office intrigues.

But not all parents learn these lessons-and you don't have to have a child to acquire these life skills. This wisdom can be gained as an older sibling caring for a younger brother or sister, or as an aunt or godmother or stepfather or by caring for a sick parent. But for this discussion, we are going to use the term "parent" to cover most of these categories.

So how does parenting inform work and work inform parenting? In my conversations with parents, four categories of transferable skills were mentioned over and over again.

1 Multitasking This is one skill that parents learn, especially mothers. Many can establish priorities, keep a number of balls in the air at once, maintain their focus in the midst of constant distractions, manage complexity with efficiency and handle crises with a steady hand.

Workplace tips learned from parenting

* Set priorities.

* Don't sweat the small stuff.

* Remember the four D's: Don't do it (unless it's absolutely necessary). Dovetail it (do it along with something else). Delegate it (to the kids). Delay it (until you don't have to do it).

2 Interpersonal Skills These are increasingly understood to be part and parcel of every competent leader's repertoire. …

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