Because I’m reaching the “vintage” where the most junior employees I work with are now the ages of my own kids, I’m now recognizing this management phenomenon in the workplace more than ever before.
Do you treat your employees like your own kids?
On the surface it sounds preposterous. But then again, I treat my own kids pretty well. I care for them, guide them, give them my precious time and energy, and yes … I love them. So, why not the same for the employees you work with? Well, all except that last one.
“Most of the evil in this world has been carried out by people with good intentions” – T.S. Eliot
Let’s take a look at some behaviors/actions I’ve seen from the leadership ranks where they treat their employees like their kids, and breakdown the pros and cons of each action:
You protect them and don’t let them take risks – Ever heard the following? “I’m providing a safety net just in case they fall”, “I’m keeping the wolves at bay (fighting their battles for them)” or “I’m making certain they taste success and don’t have to endure any pain of failure”. Pro: You are investing time in their success. That’s way better than a manager who’s not accessible and supportive. Con: Most of us learn most by trying, failing, correcting course and trying again. This is the oldest and most proven learning cycle ever. If they don’t fail then they don’t learn. You may be creating a dependency that will be harmful to them, and to you.
You consider their success your success, and vice versa – Again, shared accountability is a double-edged sword. Pro: It’s great that you win/lose as a team. Everyone has a role, yours is to set the expected outcomes and be there to support them if/when they need it. Con: A wise mentor of mine once told me, “if you’re leading a parade and no one is behind you, it’s not a parade”. Don’t be too bought in. You can’t be the whole parade. And if failure is unacceptable because of your own reputation, that’s going too far.
You are explicit in what you ask for, and assume they will make the same mistakes you did – We’ve all been there. You don’t ask questions, you don’t allow for input. You know what you want/need and so you tell them the answer, explicitly. Pro: You are giving clear direction. All employees (particularly those who are junior or new in their role) really like that. Con: Employees (and your kids) generally like some level of autonomy and independence. Give it to them and then sit back and see what they can deliver. More often that not, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Really pleasantly surprised. You may not like this (I know I didn’t) but they are smarter than you were at their age. Don’t limit what they can deliver by what you were able to deliver. Provide expected high level outcomes, then cut the reigns.
You may have that inner voice of yours telling you “I was a good parent, I’m being a good boss”. But the two are different. There are things you can (and should) do for your kids that you shouldn’t do for your employees. Remember, you might have to terminate, suspend or demote an employee. Or maybe stack rank each of your employees or place them into a “managed distribution”.
Do you do that with your kids?
For the snarky reader who just answered that question in their head with a “h*ll yeah”, shame on you. And, I’ve got a dirty little secret to share with you … that crap isn’t good for your employees either.
Ed’s a career HR front man who’s advised business owners and the C-suite on developing great cultures and inspiring work environments since the profession was called “personnel.” Yeah, that makes him seasoned but also quick to call out the fluffy HR theoretical crap from HR strategies that actually work.
His versatility has taken him all over the world, continually acquiring knowledge of how to build a great company through innovative HR practices, learning mostly from real world experience and his own mistakes.
He’s the founder of HRO Partners, a HR consulting firm that specializes in guiding leaders on what they need and don’t need from HR for their business.