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  • Writer's picturePeter McKenzie

Your parents taught you leadership skills and you didn’t even notice

One thing that is shocking in life is how we turn into our parents!

Now at 53 years old, I find myself saying the same things to my kids that my parents said to me. However, in my head, I still see myself as a teenager.

I am mortified when some of my parent´s expressions come out of my mouth, like “these are the best years of your lives”, or “you wait until you have your own kids”.

My two teenage children pay as much attention to me as I did to my Mum and Dad i.e. not a lot!

That being said, I now realize that some of the stuff my parents said actually made sense. In fact, they were giving me lessons for leadership! Maybe if I had paid more attention to them at the time, I may have accelerated my own leadership journey. Who knows?!

So here are four expressions I am sure that you have also heard before from your nagging parents. See whether you think they apply to how you lead your team:

1. Always pick up your litter

For me, this translates into DISCIPLINE and ORDER. It was so easy to let that sweet wrapper fly off in the wind. It took discipline to hold onto it and drop it into the bin. Also, we were keeping the place clean and tidy at the same time, showing RESPECT for those around us.

As leaders we expect the discipline from our teams, to produce work that is both delivered to a good standard and on time, not a mess that needs clearing up by someone else.

2. Do it right the first time

Children find it hard to stick with things until they are finished as they lose interest so easily. Those that are able to stick with a job until it is finished are destined for greatness. The same thing applies to our teams.

As leaders, we ask for QUALITY work but also with high levels of EFFICIENCY possible (no defects or waste if we talk in six sigma terms). Our parents asked that of us, after all!

3. What do YOU think the answer is?

As children we were lazy (at least I was!). We expected that our parents did our thinking for us. My Mum was great at challenging me to stand on my own feet by posing this question to me.

As leaders, this is a super question to COACH our teams. We don´t want to spoonfeed our teams, we need to get them to propose solutions and ask them to think whilst empowering them to act. Don´t treat your people like lazy children.

4. Always say "thank you”

In my house, politeness was drilled into my sister and me. It may have become a rather automatic response to say please and thank you, but at least we were educated.

This phrase is not for our teams though, rather for us as LEADERS. How easy it is to forget to thank people for their hard work and efforts. We should ALWAYS say thank you. This is the ultimate form of RESPECT towards those that we lead. If we make this small gesture that so many leaders forget, it can make all of the difference

So our parents were right after all….

Looking back, some of the phrases that our parents came out with that seemed repetitive or tedious at the time actually shaped who we are today.

It is our responsibility as leaders to act as good "parents" to our teams, to remind them and ourselves of some very basic lessons that are equally applicable in the home and the workplace.

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