What my kids teach me about workforce dynamics Part 1 of 4

This is the first in a four-part series that will explore workplace personalities, and how different, unique strengths can be properly honed to achieve a balanced team.

Being a parent is one of the most meaningful, hardest, wonderful, exhausting jobs in the world. Scratch that, being a parent is absolutely all of those and then some! I dare you to find a job that is harder. And my absolute respect goes to all of these parents who choose to make that their full time job. As a working parent, I have found that there are many parallels between raising kids and working within a business setting. I mean, aren’t we all just big kids trying to fit in with our peer group? And there is no greater place where collaboration matters than the work environment.

What have I learned from raising my kids? I’ve learned that we all DO have unique talents that can contribute to the overall success of an organization. And I’ve also learned that we all have constraints that can work against us if applied improperly. So, I’ve come to understand that seeing past the flaws, in order to pull out and harness the individual’s natural talents, can be a great way to have a functioning team, department, and company – or in our case a family. Over the next four weeks, we will break down the kids of the Skidmore clan. We’ll start this week with my oldest daughter.

My 11-year-old daughter Alayna is super smart, straight laced, and a pleaser. I mean, this is the kid who beats herself up if she gets an A minus on a test – seriously! She is helpful around the house and willing to do chores simply to make us happy. A parents dream? In most ways yes. In business, these are often the people we thrust into leadership, give 20 more BIG tasks to accomplish, and walk away thinking all is right with the world. We expect them to be emotionally and intellectually ready to take on more and rise to the next challenge.

But Alayna is an interesting study in why that might not always be a great idea. At least today, she shows no interest in taking on more – or being a leader. In fact, if too much is on her plate, she tends to get a little anxious and unsure of herself. Yes, she’s involved in sports and other extracurriculars. In fact, you could argue she does A LOT outside of school. But the reality is that she tends to try out new sports and get involved in different clubs all the time simply to see what she likes. She loves just being a kid! She’s doing great and is a fantastic big sister to her younger siblings. I have no desire to push her outside of that until she is ready or underachieving. If I did it would not go well. Sure, I will continue to check in and take her temperature for more, but until SHE is ready, I won’t force her into more.

Yet, how often do we do just the opposite in a work environment? We push some more responsibility or a title on someone who has no desire or is not ready, then stand back 6 months later and wonder why they are failing. As leaders, managers, and co-workers, we have a responsibility to recognize what people WANT and are ready to do. Not what we think they should be ready to do. For example, while Alayna is absolutely leadership capable, she is just not interested yet.

So the lesson here: if you are a leader or manager, get to know your subordinates and peers. Try to understand what makes them tick and don’t rush to assume that what you want is what they want. Take the time assess their skills and interests as a means to help mentor them in the work environment. We are not all created the same – and that can be a VERY good thing.