Life as we know it has changed significantly in the last few months. We are no longer able to keep our worlds of work and family separate, having had the two brought together in the most unorthodox way.
We now lead organisations from our homes, manage company financials while marking maths homework, lead team meetings while our children sit beside us doing homework, and wonder if your teenager thinks geography is the study of the inner terrain of the refrigerator. While we typically have worked hard to keep these two worlds separate, there are more similarities to the two than we realise. Like raising children, leading people can be blindingly frustrating, challenging and rewarding all within the first hour of the day. Yet we can draw on our experiences raising children, or indeed our own experience with our parents, to get the best out of our teams.
Love at work
Love is at the foundation of all families and should also be at the heart of teams. Love at work is shown through respect, appreciation and connection. As humans, we need to connect as much as we need food, water and shelter. UCLA Professor, Matthew Lieberman, says our need to connect has been in our DNA for centuries and is the reason we build tribes, families and communities. This connection makes us feel part of something bigger than just ourself and it makes us feel wanted and included. Neurologically, we produce hormones such as oxytocin and dopamine, chemicals that help with social bonding and increasing motivation. A study completed by Towers Watson of 32,000 employees across 32 countries found that 'no single behavior more viscerally and reliably influences the quality of people's energy [to do work] than feeling valued and appreciated by their supervisor'.
Like how children are expected to make mistakes in order to learn, so to must we afford the same privilege to those we lead. When our people are free to safely make mistakes, they have the opportunity to learn and grow. However, blame often gets in the road of this and people are fearful of messing up due to the potential repercussions. Yet in a Harvard Business Review study of 84 US companies focusing on the level of compassion and forgiveness held by the CEO, researchers found companies with a CEO who had higher levels of these characteristics outperformed their peers by almost 500 percent.
Parents try to set clear expectations and consequences for their kids, and the same can apply to our people. When they have clarity on the work that needs to be done and by when, and the consequences if the work is not completed, we create an environment of accountability and performance. In the Gallup Q12 survey (2015), they found that when employees have clear expectations and the resources to do their job, engagement increases dramatically. Yet only about half of all workers surveyed clearly understood what the expectations of their role were. Providing a clear set of expectations helps employees to maintain focus on what's important to ensure the job gets done.
Like how parents encourage their children to build strong relationships with their friends, when our people have strong relationships with their colleagues, we see happier and more satisfied employees. Adam Grant, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has studied the linkage between workplace relationships and productivity and concludes that, 'jobs are more satisfying when they provide opportunities to form friendships. Research shows that groups of friends outperform groups of acquaintances'. They are also more collaborative, make better choices and get more done.
Like parenting, leadership is equal parts hard work, persistence and determination, and when we lead our people like those we love, the rewards are just as momentous and incredibly satisfying.