5 Lessons Raising Kids Can Teach You About Running Your Company

Your employees need your time and attention as they and the business grow. So why not use the lessons you learn at home with your work family. Here are a few key lessons executives can learn from our kids.

Every moment is a new opportunity.

Kids are fully present, always in the moment. They don’t obsess about the past or worry about the future. Children have what Shunryu Suzuki, the master who brought Zen Buddhism to America, calls “beginner’s mind.” In the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind Suzuki writes, “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Kids bring creativity, openness, and a natural curiosity to everything. Try bringing this fresh perspective to brainstorming with your teams. Challenge them to channel the unselfconscious, no-idea-is-too-silly energy of childhood.

Negotiating means making things work for everybody.

If you’ve ever seen a group of kids working together to make up their own game with their own rules, you’ll see how important it is for them to create something everyone can play together. One kid might try to boss the rest of them around, but if he can’t hold their interest, they will quit and go home. As a result, kids’ homemade games are naturally diverse and inclusive. Don’t be afraid to let your teams make up some of their own rules and find their own ways to bring everyone together.

Prepare for the unexpected.

Everybody loves a best-case scenario, but as any parent who’s ever tried to get a child out the door in a hurry knows, you need to build in enough time for some worst-case reality too. Just as you wouldn’t assume you’ll only need a minute to pack a diaper bag, you also shouldn’t make your product launch date dependent on everything going right. Smart parents will tell you: someone will get an earache, it will snow, plans will be derailed, stuff will always happen. Stay flexible and, above all, realistic about what you can do and how quickly you can do it.

Change is the only constant, so you better embrace it.

With kids, as soon as you’ve figured out how to handle one milestone, you can be pretty sure they will have moved on to the next one. The tactics that worked for a 3-year-old who won’t go to bed are useless with a 13-year-old who sleeps till noon. Just like what worked for your million-dollar company won’t work when you reach 10 or 20 million. And your junior employee won’t be new forever. If raising kids teaches us anything, it’s that we need to constantly adjust our strategies to suit ever-changing needs. Be willing to continually review and refine your company’s processes, and to make changes that keep up with your growth.

Sometimes everybody just needs a snack or a nap.

To avoid meltdowns with little kids, you have to pay attention to the basics: food, sleep, fresh air. It’s the same with your teams. Sometimes big problems are really small ones, but the team dealing with them is burnt and needs a timeout.  Don’t schedule important meetings when people are likely to be cranky and hungry, or anxious to get somewhere. Help your teams to recharge and reset when they need to. Model your own commitment to work-life balance. Employees who feel cared about will work smarter, not harder, and that’s good for everyone.

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