Parenting Isn’t a Democracy

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


I'm sure folks that read my "Chronicles" have concluded that "One-liners" drive a lot of my learning and belief system. Sayings such as: "You Can Only Expect What You Inspect." When you begin to think about many of them, they truly speak volumes. That's how the one-liner title I’ve used--referencing “Parenting”--hit me. Of course we know that a newborn doesn't come into this world with a neat computer chip that has pre-trained and pre-programmed that baby....They're "wild little animals" and the training starts right after they're born. Looking back in time, the child rearing “Model" has changed so much. Fifty or more years ago, you heard expressions like: "Only speak when spoken to," or "Always say, yes ma'am, yes sir" and discipline could get pretty rigid and often unforgiving. Then when the 1960s and 1970s hit, it was an almost complete reversal..."Modern" child psychologists told you not to discipline… "Let them ‘find’ themselves"...Never raise your voice, or fuss—it might hurt their psyche for life! Many parents and family members were taught, "There are no "winners" or "losers"....Just hug everyone and the world will turn out o.k...and so on. Today, there is an emerging model that seems to try to pick some of both...Just keeps on evolving!

So what has this got to do with you, as the owner, CEO, or manager/leader of your company? When you hire on new folks your fervent hope is they'll succeed in the task you give them. It costs a lot to "vet" folks, to hire and bring them into your "Culture"...to eventually insure they become a productive member of the team. And in the same way…You as the “parent,” their leader, are not running a "Democracy"...I doubt that you present a (hopefully) well thought-through plan, and yet turn to your team, and say, "Well now let's have a vote on it." As "Leader," more times than not, after all the dialogue is conducted, homework done, etc., you alone have to finally "pull that trigger." (Think Parent!) And then, with the backing of the team, with continuing input and direction, good training, etc., you execute that plan.

So some tips on running this "Not Really a Democracy"...Elicit good, honest input from all, and take it in without “flavoring” it with your immediate criticism. Continually ask for different ideas. (Remember, how great your plan may be, you have to remain objective and not fall in love with it!") In implementation there will be "miss-steps." Can't start "criticizing"…Offer help and support and continue to fine-tune with all participating. I can't stress this next one enough...Don't wind up being "Friends" with your Associates. By that I mean "Close" friends...I hired a Friend years ago, and because he was a good friend he and his wife, Ann and I, would go out for dinner, etc., and then one day, after struggling with really poor performance on his part I had to sit down and "Fire" him. That's extremely difficult to do with a "Friend" when you failed to differentiate between "Friend-Associate." And a sidebar here…I remember a couple of our friends who had two really neat daughters. As they became teenagers, the parents became "Friends." They wanted to be involved in what their kids did: They followed their fashion in clothes, music etc. It really didn't work that well, and they eventually had to do things parents actually need to do, and it not only was difficult to now change "Roles," it was darn near impossible. Said a different way, you can't live your life vicariously through your kids (or through your employees!).

When you really think about it, there are many comparisons between being a Parent or a Boss...And certainly many of the "lessons" cut both ways. I'll end with this: In either role, you have to be honest, open, be fair...always, treat all with respect. Be their staunchest ally, but don’t be afraid to discipline as needed. You know...all the good basics…And at the end of it all, it is not a Democracy as such, whether you're the Parent or Boss--it still comes down to you! A tough balancing act, but once learned and mastered, works most every time! And one last comment…As you can never stop teaching, learning, listening etc., as you develop children or employees, you must also be willing to Change and Grow yourself!!

Al E. Bavry, CEO, Kimal Lumber & Hardware 3/7/2017

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