Using parenting skills in everyday management


A business Family Hierarchy


“Being a good role model”, “Setting a good example”, “Growing together as a family”, “Linking core family values with business values”, “Introducing family dynamics into the workplace”.  Business speak is very similar to that which we use in the family environment.  Across any team there is a network of relationships, which is not dissimilar to that which exists between siblings.

Let's focus our attention on the business 'family' hierarchy, headed up by the boss.  Around him or her you have the employees which can be likened to siblings; brothers, sisters, even cousins. If we go one step further with this analogy, the chief executive can be likened to a grandparent figure, and the head of finance/logistics to that of an aunt or uncle.

Within this context it then becomes interesting to observe the interaction that takes place between these different players.  This is particularly true when looking at the relationship between a manager and his/her team.  Here are some examples:
Employees tend to compete with each other. They try to get on the right side of their boss, like children trying to gain the attention of their parents.  The game plan is always the same: to be the best, to make a good impression and to show one's abilities.  The ultimate aim is to gain approval, recognition, and ultimately, rewards.

The manager plays the role of referee within the team.  They are very much like parents trying to settle arguments between their children.  The race for recognition always takes place in a competitive environment where everyone compares themselves to others, and tries to do better.  It is all about standing out from the crowd, gaining the upper hand and being the boss' 'favorite' employee.  As a result what often follows are displays of aggressive behavior, just as one might find in the school playground; harassment, strategic alliances, lies, betrayal and manipulation.  

Finally there are managers who find it difficult to give up control and allow their employees to find their own ways of doing things.  This might be despite the fact that they actively encourage and praise initiative.  This scenario can be likened to parents who want their children to be responsible, yet fail to grant them the independence to do so.  They are constrained by the belief that their 'little ones'  are not knowledgeable enough to do things by themselves.  Either that, or they don't have sufficient know-how to do things properly. As a result they continue to protect them and show them the way.

We can learn a lot by looking at professional relationships in the same light.  We can begin to gain an understanding of what causes interpersonal conflicts in a business environment.  We can also explore new avenues for enhancing individual and team performance.



Parents communication is evolving encouraging kids self-esteem development


Over the past few years, parenting skills have seen rise to many new practices when it comes to adult-child relationships.  Some of these are very convincing and worthy of special mention.

Parents nowadays want to provide their children with a fulfilling childhood.  As a result they are always looking for new ways to do so: ways which can be seen as a compromise between the authoritarian methods of the sixties and the overly-liberal methods reminiscent of the seventies.  Looking back, Françoise Dolto (a French pediatrician and psychoanalyst) highlighted how the actions of adults have a significant impact on how children think and behave.  As time has gone on, consciousness has evolved even further, and now also considers the ways adults think and how this subsequently affects the way they interact with children.  For example, with statements such as “You're too young......you can't go alone....you're a dreamer....just do what I say”.

Such statements can have a big impact on the way children view their capabilities and future potential.  Not only does it have a big influence on how they communicate with other people, but also on their role in society and interactions in the workplace.  Some can even give rise to interpersonal relationship problems.
“If adults didn't believe I could do it, then I don’t think that others can either”.
“If I did not feel respected as a person, how can I be expected to respect other people”?
“If I was constantly given orders, how am I meant to know how to give others freedom of choice”?

The approaches adopted nowadays, by more and more parents, certainly can be adapted for the working environment.  This is especially true for employer-employee relationships.  However, let us be clear.  It does not mean psychoanalyzing employees or making them undergo workplace therapy sessions.  Neither does it mean discussing the authority and role of managers. After all, just like the role of a parent is governed by particular rules, constraints and objectives, so is that of a manager. 

The actual aim of these new approaches is much simpler: to help managers look differently at their teams and to support and encourage them.  It is about finding kinder ways of communicating, based on the methods and practices employed in the world of education and society as a whole.  If you consider things from this angle, then relationships with your employees can develop more positively.  Furthermore, you can encourage those working for you to adopt a more responsible and motivated attitude.



How this could be transferable to the working place ? 


In his book “La compétence des familles”, Guy Ausloos views the role of the 'mentor' as someone who offers guidance within the relationship framework.  “Asking the right questions is all about looking at what you know, but also about discovering what you didn't know you knew.  This knowledge not only influences the way people do things, but also the way in which they live their lives”.
By taking on board this information, and looking at things from a different perspective, it becomes possible to further develop inter-personal relationships.  As a trainer and coach this has often been my experience when working alongside corporate teams, teaching professionals and parents.

In his book “Between parent and child”, Haim Guinot invested a lot of time into researching the interaction between parents and their children.  Here some of his key-finding that can be  applied to the workplace.
Taking time to listen to a child's feelings makes them feel valued and respected.  The art of listening allows a sense of release and self-expression.  By simply listening to a child, without judgment and without offering personal opinions, you allow them to effectively express their emotions. Once children get to a certain point, when their emotions have almost exhausted themselves, they will then be in a position to rediscover their cognitive function and to find a satisfactory way forward independently.


This approach can easily be adopted by managers when dealing with different emotions within a team (frustration in the workplace is just as common as that which we find among children!).  Learning how to listen is paramount.  Just as with children, not all personal frustrations with employees need to be resolved, but lending an empathetic ear can bring huge rewards. Autonomy allows a child to realize his own capabilities and to learn from his/her own experiences. Supporting a child's development involves believing in them, indulging them, being patient and knowing when to take a step back to allow them to grow.  The adult's role is quite simple: to provide a framework, which can be flexible to some degree.  It is then a case of accompanying the child through the learning process.  During this time it is important to provide factual and non-judgmental observations.

It is the same when managing people.  By using this same mindset, you will have a powerful motivational tool at your fingertips.  By allowing freedom of expression and creativity, you will allow your employees to grow and learn self-development tools.  When giving feedback on an idea or project, it will always be more positively received if it is done in a friendly manner, with factual observations rather than opinions.  For example, you would first of all underline the positive points of the idea/project.  Then you would acknowledge the effort that has been put into creating it, and encourage self-evaluation. It is usually best to let them draw their own conclusions in their own time.

If an employee is not open to these methods, or is simply too complacent, there are alternatives you can try to effectively challenge them.  For example you can encourage them to reflect on their idea/project by asking questions such as such as “What could you do to make your idea/project even better”?


To conclude, while these methods may not solve all inter-personal relationship problems within the workplace,  it does allow you to nurture a positive environment where everyone feels they have a role to play.  Additionally, employees will feel that their voice is being heard and that they are respected.  Once this framework exists, they will be able to develop and enrich themselves and each other.  Admittedly this will need a deep understanding, willingness and respect from everyone involved.  This transition can be facilitated through training sessions on the subject.  These sessions could include varying professional scenarios to demonstrate how the different approaches work in reality, and ultimately how they can positively or negatively affect the workplace and those within it.




Céline Chatti




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