What Parenting and Leadership Have in Common

Love, Family

Essential ingredients for being an effective parent are critical for being a good leader.

Working as a coach in both organizational and individual settings, I've discovered something that is both obvious and profound: the elements necessary for effective parenting are equally essential for being an impactful and influential leader.

This is both good and bad news. If you're a parent it means that you need to bring the same rigor and focus into all aspects of your life, that is, you need to up your game. If you're not a parent, then you may not have as much direct and immediate experience with the repercussions of not doing these things well, which is to say, you may need more motivation to apply these game changing techniques.

But good news or bad, whether you're a parent or a leader in an organization, or both, you need to spend your time and attention focused on how to effectively influence the behavior of others.

In a recent study, the most influential leaders—those top five percent who succeed consistently at influencing profound and essential behavior change — spent as much as half of their time thinking about and actively influencing the behaviors they know will lead to top performance.

Here's what they spend their time doing:

Focusing on Relationships

While telling people what to do may have some short-term efficacy, history shows even the most powerful dictators loose influence eventually. In order to have sustained influence over other's behaviors, you must spend the time and effort to establish trust and credibility. This requires getting to know the people you want to influence, understanding their goals and motivations, knowing "what makes them tick."

Communicating Strategically

Communication is your most valuable tool, and listening is the foundation of communication. Ask open-ended questions to better understand the needs and motivations of others. Be sure to provide clarity and consistency in any messages (written, verbal or behavioral) that you send. Think of your messages as an arrow designed to land in the most impactful place. That location has everything to do with the people you're communicating with. Your message, your arrow, should be designed to land in just the right spot.

Being Intentional

We steer in whatever direction we're looking at or focusing on. We've all had the experience of steering slightly into the right  lane while looking at or speaking excitedly to our front seat passenger. In our interactions with others, we direct our interaction toward whatever we imagine to be the outcome, even if that outcome is precisely what we don't want to happen. This is a variation on the expression, "self-fulfilled prophecy." Educational research literature is filled with examples of how teachers play this out with their students. We do precisely the same thing in organizations, we create negative beliefs about others and we ensure the precise outcomes we hoped to avoid. If you have a particular outcome you're looking for with a person or in an organization, then steer in that direction. It's amazing how much more likely it is that you will arrive at your desired destination.

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