Just to make it clear upfront: No, I didn’t have children to help my management career. ( 😉 )I became father at the age of 25, just 10 days before I started as a software developer at Exasol. I felt full of energy and ready to take on this new challenge. On the one hand, it was an exciting time. On the other hand, it was also very stressful to start two big life adventures in parallel.
If you have kids, you are likely to have initially felt “unprepared” for the role. I haven’t spoken with a single parent to date and heard the words – “Sure, having kids is exactly what I expected”. However, I think parenthood is very similar to becoming a manager in your career. Whatever training course or trainee programme you’ve been through, the reality is always completely different from your initial expectations.
Fast-forward 14 years and I am a father to three wonderful children. I am extremely grateful for my journey with them so far. Being responsible for kids is the most wonderful challenge you’ll face in life. It gives you the opportunity to learn so much about yourself and others. In the following post, I want to talk about a couple of important things I learned from my kids – things that have helped me manage my teams and work side by side with my colleagues successfully.
1) Accept how different people are and don’t try to change them
While raising my three kids and observing six more children from my brothers, the most important thing I learned is that people are individuals. More than 90 percent of a person is fixed in their DNA. If parents think that they can influence their child’s character so easily, they will be disappointed. My three cuties all have had the same education, and it is overwhelming how differently they have turned out. Looking back, I am surprised how early certain attitudes appeared, starting from the very first hours of their life.
Of course, you can stimulate skills and influence behavior, but deep inside they have certain characteristics that cannot be changed. I struggled myself with my kids’ quirks, but over the time I learned to accept them. Maybe it is partly my own shortcoming that I regard these behaviors as quirks, isn’t it?
This is a valuable lesson for those who manage people. If you can’t shape a child’s character in the early stages of their life, why would you think that you can influence the character of your colleagues? Forget it quickly, and accept who and how they are. Most importantly: invest time and energy in the hiring process to help you understand their personality and character, so you can then build a team of people who will work well together.
2) If you freak out, it’s your own fault
Have you ever lost your temper in the presence of colleagues with the thought that you are absolutely right? Have you ever felt the need to highlight what a great manager you are? This is the wrong approach.
Sometimes I raise my voice in anger at my kids. What parent doesn’t? However, the difference between these two scenarios in the home and the workplace is that you get instant feedback from children. Your colleagues are able to gather together and talk about you afterwards. But at home, you see the impact it has in their immediate reactions, especially if you look directly into their eyes. You won’t like the conclusion, but in most cases, freaking out is more a sign of being overstrained than good leadership.
So, next time you lose your temper at work, think about it and try to find another way to solve the issue without causing grief to your colleagues.
3) Set examples, not rules
The number of rules we set for our children is uncountable. We are constantly telling them what we expect from them and society is doing the same. But what I realized over time is that no matter what you keep telling your children, they won’t be able to observe your rules if you don’t follow them yourself. You can’t tell your child not to eat on the sofa and then do it yourself the next day. However, it can be quite cute to hear them lecture you with the utmost fervor.
My recommendation for managers is that you should lead by example rather than by rule. Rules and instructions might be followed, but if you lead by example, you will be far more respected, and people will follow your example unconsciously.
4) Celebrate your mistakes
It can be quite hard for kids to fulfill our all expectations. Parents tend to criticize children more often than praising them, even if you try very hard to change that. On the other hand, kids look up to adults as their role models. Sometimes, children like to watch their parents making mistakes, laughing from their heart when it happens.
The same applies at work. Managers or bosses often try to hide their mistakes. But if they happen, the employees secretly laugh about it. My recommendation is that every time you make a mistake, you openly show them, and laugh about it together with your colleagues. Their respect for you won’t be destroyed at all, it will grow significantly and you can all learn together.
I wouldn’t say that my kids made my career, otherwise they might get over-excited when reading this article;-). However, what I admit is that they are an exhaustless source to learn from. Thanks to them, you can learn more about yourself and life in general. Thanks Tim, Ben & Anna – I love you!