The Most Sacred Corner Office: Lessons in Parenting from the Business Shelf

The New York Times “Corner Office” column presents weekly lessons from business leaders on how to lead and succeed. Over the years, this, in addition to leadership books, have helped me in the lifelong quest to become a more reflective and quality leader.

One of the books I read this summer is called Radical Candor which was recommended to me by one of our teachers.  It is a book that is about improving as a boss and a team builder by combining caring for others and directly challenging them to grow at the same time.

Interestingly, while reading it with a professional lens, my lens as a parent kept on creeping in.  This is because so many of the lessons about being a good supervisor equally apply to being a good parent.
-Good supervisors want to guide toward success with care. So do good parents.
-Good supervisors want the constituents to bring out the best in one another. So do good parents. It was in the chapter on guidance where this parallel was most striking. A few lessons:

Situation, behavior impact.  Author Kim Scott says that when giving feedback, the best thing to do is to 1) tell what you saw 2) talk about the behavior and 3) discuss its impact.    As a parent, instead of speaking in generalities in telling our children that they are being unkind or rude, use her three step formula.  For example,  “When we pulled up to the house after the car trip, you didn’t help bring in the suitcases. Now, not only did it take us twice as long to get it done and my back hurts, but it made me feel like a porter at a hotel, not a parent.” The more specific we are in our timeline and the combination of event and impact, the more impact the conversation will have.  (p. 137)

Guidance has a short shelf-life and unspoken criticism explodes “If you wait to tell somebody..the incident is so far in the past that they can’t fix the problem or build on the success.”  Also, “remaining silent at work for too long about something that angers or frustrates you makes it more likely that you will eventually blow up...”

As a parent, all of us have to pick our battles.  Yet, unless you are going to let the issue at hand slide, deal with it at the moment. We all have short memories, and, even more so for children, this is the case as yesterday can seem like years ago.

Even when dealing with praise, details are critical. Scott points out that at work, we should give praise, but the praise must be detailed.  “Giving meaningful praise is hard.” Just like criticism, praise must be candid.  As parents, telling our children why their actions were praiseworthy is critical.  For example, “When we were discussing politics at dinner, I know that you knew more than your brother.  Yet, when discussing it, you showed real patience and respect for his input. I admire the way you did that.” When praise is contextualized, personal and specific it has much more staying power.

Sefer Mishlei, the Book of Proverbs teaches us יַסֵּר בִּנְךָ, כִּי-יֵשׁ תִּקְוָה., “guide your children for there is hope.” (19:19)
It is upon us as parents to be the supervisors-- to give mussar to our children, to give them timely, detailed moral instruction and discipline.

Put simply, being a good parent is like leading any team.  While each one of us has responsibilities in our work life that are critical, it is our parenting “corner offices” where our leadership and guidance matter most.  This guidance will hopefully result in the most תִּקְוָה, the most hope of all -hope for a thougtful and well equipped next generation.


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