Leadership Lessons on Fatherís Day
This Sunday we celebrate fathers. The most important job a man can have. Being a father requires you to be a leader and manger. As the leader you share the vision of what’s possible for your children, and as the manager you provide support, guidance and coaching to help them make it happen.
I talk with a lot of dental leaders who are great fathers. They spend time with their kids. They support and encourage them in growing. They teach them right from wrong while guiding them to make better decisions. In my coaching conversations with these great fathers we often talk about challenging employee behaviors occurring in the practice. I continue to be surprised by how effective fathers don’t leverage their skills as a parent into their office leadership.
It just so happens I believe the behaviors that make someone a good father are the very same actions that make him an effective leader. Leadership is a process of development and discipline, no different than being a father. Fathers take action and make decisions that are right, even when they are unpopular…and they stand by those decisions. So too with good leaders. Here are some other ways to take those transferable skills from home to office.
Lead by example. As any good father and leader knows, you can preach and you can teach but if your example is bad it just isn’t going to work. Make values count. Among the most important is integrity…the congruence between what you say and what you do. Demonstrate strength by learning to deal with the unexpected. Stay calm and be resilient. You can teach a lot without saying a word when you handle things in stride.
Communicate. Successful fathers talk with their children regularly. They show interest in them. Spend time with your staff. Meet with each of them individually at least once per quarter to ask how they are doing, what they enjoy about their work and if they might need resources or help from you. Provide specific behavioral feedback to let them know when they are doing well. If there are gaps in their work performance, communicate what you want them to change. Don’t assume the person knows what you mean. Even if you think people know how you feel, say it anyway. Remember to be honest and kind at the same time.
Encourage responsibility and accountability. Raising children is more than just having fun and building relationships. It’s also about setting rules and expectations. When children know the boundaries and limits of what is allowed they feel safe and trusting. So too with employees. Provide them with clear job descriptions and guidelines about job performance so they know what they are supposed to do. Tell them when they are successful and reward their accomplishments.
Set limits without being abrasive or threatening. Children, like employees, feel more secure when they know the rules as well as the consequences for ignoring them. Limits are like values - they are communicated by what you do far more than what you say. Setting a limit without enforcing it is damaging. It undermines your credibility. Your words are meaningless if you do not stand behind them. At the same time, you don’t need to yell or demean to teach those necessary lessons. Being firm and being kind at the same time is the goal in setting limits. It’s normal to see disappointment or even anger, so be prepared.
Learn to earn respect without trying to be their friend. I know fathers who have been so concerned that their kids (and their employees) like them that they forgot their leadership role. As a father your job is to give your children the best tools you can so they can navigate the world independently. To achieve that goal you need to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. Respect gives you much more authority than likeability. Conversely, leadership without expression of genuine concern and affection is empty and misses a critical component of true human connection.
Adjust your style. Just like children, employees are not all the same. Each one has a mixture of different skills and personality traits. Some follow our lead easily and others are more spirited. How you parent - i.e. lead - depends on the person and the circumstances. As children mature and employees gain proficiency in their jobs, they have different needs of you. Your flexibility in when, why and how to adjust will help you to develop their abilities at a faster pace while creating a more productive team.
When you make a mistake, apologize. One of the best lessons you can teach your children and your employees is how to step up and own mistakes. Model that behavior and set the standard. Sometimes we get it wrong and it’s not the end of the world.
Make time to recharge. Being a father and a leader is hard work. At times it can feel overwhelming and you can lose your patience. Time away from your role is a necessity to influence effectively. It allows you to hit the ‘reset’ button and gain perspective.
Like your children (of all ages), employees are watching and listening. They see how you navigate your life and career, and are learning the lessons that will shape their futures and your practice. Be sure you’re teaching them well.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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