By Rick Melmer – Leadership Coach
Our daughter Tara asked if I could watch her two daughters (our granddaughters) for one day – she was obviously desperate so she decided to entrust her two children to me! At the time, Kya was 4 and Ivy was 1 so I had them outmatched in the age department. Despite my age advantage, I somehow knew that I was about to be taught a lesson or two.
I love reading and thinking about leadership, so as the day unfolded, I couldn’t help but pick up a few leadership themes that had application for me as a “babysitter” and you as a leader. None of these are revolutionary or new, but I think all of us benefit from being reminded of the basics of leadership. And we sometimes are reminded of these lessons in the strangest of places… Here goes.
Lesson # 1 – Leadership doesn’t always come from the position. My daughter made it clear to our grandkids that “grandpa was in charge”. But was he? Actually, no. The real leader in the home that day was the four-year-old, Kya. It became clear to me early in the day that if Kya had a good day, I would have a good day. She set the tone and could manage the issues better than I could. She knew where everything was and she understood how to adapt to Ivy’s moods to get the most out of her. All of us as leaders are dependent on key people in our organizations. If they are successful – you are successful. As a leader, it is important to identify who those important people are to you and your organization. Who are those key employees in your organization that are a key to your success? Have you acknowledged them for their important role in your organization?
Lesson # 2 – If something smells, change it. I forgot to ask our daughter about how frequently I needed to change Ivy’s diaper. So of course, I asked Kya (see lesson # 1) how I should handle it. She said,” If you smell something, then change Ivy’s diaper”. Great advice. As leaders, we sometimes tolerate the stench within our organizations too long. We think it will improve or hope it will possibly disappear but rarely is that the case. In most cases, if it stinks now it will only get worse. What is a situation that “smells” in your organization? What is preventing you from addressing that issue? (BTW, Ivy had a ripe diaper about 11:00 am and Kya was right – after she was changed everything smelled better.)
Lesson # 3 – Getting the credit is overrated. At lunch time I had to find a bib for Ivy. After asking Kya where the bibs were, I found a drawer that was full of bibs. I looked at the options and was struck by a severe omission. There were bibs like “Daddy Loves Me”, “I Love My Mommy” and “Grandma is the Best”. I looked far and wide for a bib with Grandpa on it but none were found. So, while I was clearly doing the heavy lifting for the day, Mommy, Daddy and Grandma were getting the credits. Leadership is like that – you are often quick to be blamed but not always quick to get credit for a job well done. Do good work anyway – with or without the credit. Do you know a leader who deserves some credit today?
Lesson # 4 – We get crabby when we are hungry or tired. Does this lesson even need an explanation? We are a lot like toddlers. When we are tired or hungry – we get crabby. As adults, we cope a bit better than my granddaughters, but not much. As leaders, we need to make sure that we take care of ourselves and ensure that we are meeting the basic needs of our staff members. It is hard to ensure that your staff members are eating well and getting enough sleep, but as leaders we can be tuned into their basic professional needs. Are you communicating with your staff members regularly, affirming their efforts and supporting their needs? Also, are you taking care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually so that you are a more effective leader at your workplace and in your home?
Lesson # 5 – Someone is always watching the leader. Right after lunch, I put Ivy down for her nap. Of course, our daughter has all the new gadgets that allow you to watch the infant in her bed. So I watched Ivy as she played and eventually fell asleep. She had no idea I was watching – but I was watching. It’s a lot like leadership – we don’t always think that people are paying attention – but they are paying attention. Never assume that you can go unnoticed as a leader. Your words and actions are magnified – and that can be a blessing or a curse. Make it a blessing by modeling the right words and actions in your workplace. Are you serving as an outstanding model for your staff in the workplace and for your family in your home?