What leaders can learn from being a parent

Most of us do not get trained to be a parent. Approaching parenthood invites thoughts & suggestions on how to handle & manage a newborn.  In early days, the focus remains on getting the basics right, but it is during this period that the baby starts to develop, begins to understand you, and starts to build his own sense of right and wrong, and thus his response.  Later on, when he learns to speak, parents see the flaws and try to correct them, only realizing on self-reflection that it is from them that he is learning and behaving.

It was a coaching conversation with my client about leadership management skills that made me revisit those years. I then very simply realized that there are lessons we can draw, learn & apply to our professional world. I am sharing a coaching conversation with my client. It is a transcript, almost. It is being shared with due permission, though I am not providing any names or links. The coach always maintains confidentiality and trust with the clients.

The central idea of sharing this conversation is for the readers to understand that:

Each one of us has the answers to our problems.

The coach during any training related to leadership management skills only triggers thinking and reflection through powerful questions that empower the client into reconsidering the way they define a dilemma, perceive an issue or provide the choices and answers to their problem.

The conversation stays focused on the solution and steers clear of problems.

The coach support clients to build a solution which works for them, not an ideal solution nor an imposed one.

The focus and action are key to change & improvement.

The Coach listens carefully to words & tone of the client.

The Coach helps in flourishing the leadership skills.

The Coach facilitates learning’s which could be applied to different aspects of life.

The Coach works for his client & his transformation – including honing the leadership management skills.

Conversation Between Coach and Leader

Here is the conversation about leadership management skills:

Coach:  What is it that you want to focus on today?

Leader:  How can I be as successful in a workplace?

Coach:  When you say as do I sense a comparison with some other place?

Leader:  Yes, my home, family & friends.

Coach:  What else could be part of the comparison?

Leader:  It is not that I am not successful at work in terms of relationships. I am, yet I believe that I could be much more than I am at present.

Coach:  So what is your definition of success at the workplace?

Leader:  I want to be as appreciated and loved at the workplace by my team and colleagues, as much, if not more, as I am with my family and friends.

Coach:  That sounds interesting & how would you know you have achieved that?

Leader:  I would use multiple ways to measure that. One way is to see how many people approach me to share what is happening rather than only when they have problems, and they want solutions or decisions.

Coach:  It seems that you are missing out on something at the workplace?

Leader:  Yes, I do want people to come to me and feel comfortable to share their lives with a sense of ease, which doesn’t happen today. In fact, I also wish to do that, go over to a colleague have a cup of coffee and just talk about life as such.

Coach:  What if you were not to work in this area now?

Leader:  It is not that I have not tried, but somehow, I have not been able to manage it on my own, so been deferring it. But now, I realize that this aspect hovers over my mind all the time, and I must act on it now. Here I need your support.

Coach:  You sound committed now.

Leader:  Yes, I am.

Coach:  That is a wonderful beginning. Shall we then look at things you do at home? Would you share some evidence of what you consider the outcomes of being a success at home?

Leader:  Oh yes, very many. First, my children rush to me when I reach home, eager to share their stories about the day. Stories which make them happy and also those where they want help.  Secondly, when I am late in reaching home, while they would have dinner on time, they would wait on the table while I have my dinner, say goodnight and then sleep.  Importantly they smile whenever they see me. I can even sense their smile when they talk over the phone.

Coach:  That is Amazing. What do you believe has been your style which has led to such outcomes?

Leader:  Could you clarify?

Coach:  Sure, I would like you to reflect on what have you been doing at home which has led to all those successes which make you and your family happy.

Leader: (Thinking & smiling)

I guess, and I am thinking aloud as I speak…

Firstly, I always listen to whatever stories my children have for me. I laugh with them and comfort them when they are sad. I guess I do not even interrupt. In fact, when I do, they ask me to hold back and first let them relate. I do so. I treat them as equals.

Coach:  What else?

Leader:  I think I smile much more when I see them. They smile back. Now, even if I am not smiling they would smile and speak/share and that makes me smile. We now tend to cheer each other up.

Coach:  Anything else?

Leader: (thinking) Well another thing is the level of comfort that they have with me.  They can call me anytime, and I do not hold their calls or ignore them. Even if I am in a meeting, I take the call ask for time, and they always call back.

Coach: That is quite interesting. You mentioned comfort. What do you believe has led to your children have this comfort with you?

Leader: I have never told them not to call me; I have encouraged them to talk whenever they feel the need.

Coach: It is amazing that you provide such high levels of comfort. What else is coming to your mind?

Leader: (Laughingly) Early in my career I had learned to focus on behaviors and not the person, meaning not criticize people, critique the behaviors. Give them constructive feedback.

Coach: What made you laugh?

Leader: I realized that I had done this more at home than at office and perhaps that is the reason my children do not find me judgmental or critical of them. This encourages them. WOW! Does that also explain why they want to narrate stories to me? Yes, it does. I, therefore, not only look forward to spending time with my kids, I even schedule time with them just talking and not distracted by anything else.

Coach: I sense you are thinking more now?

Leader: I feel that the behavior that I have with people at home is not the behavior that I display at the workplace, because if I had, then my results would have been similar.

Coach: That is a co-relation you are drawing. What would you like to do now?

Leader: Well, I must prepare a plan & then monitor it.

Coach: That sounds good and a conception of effective leadership management skills. What could stop you from executing your plan?

Leader: These could be many. Firstly, time challenges, then my past relationship issues at the office, also work-related differences.

Coach: What else?

Leader: My own expectations. I may expect quick results, and in the absence of same, I may lose hope and switch back to old ways.

Coach: That is good acknowledgment. So, keeping into account these, how would you go about your plan?

Leader: (Thinking) I would like to begin with just one thing initially & that would be listening. Just smile, listen to people, without interruption and then respond.

Coach: Listening is your starting point. How long do you wish to work on this aspect?

Leader: At least next 2 weeks and then I meet you again.

When we met 2 weeks later, he was smiling already. He said, I am not there yet, but I am going to be soon. I want to begin action in other areas now. He said he now understood how leadership management skills could help achieve a balance in the professional life.

And the coaching continued ….

Later conversations focused on drawing a parallel with behaviors; the client found it useful and easy to replicate his success at workplace. He was quite challenged by the fact that team and colleagues at workplace did not respond as he expected. It was because of the leadership training; he was able to improve his leadership management skills and made him confident to achieve his goal. He persisted though & eventually achieved the success he desired.

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