An organisation is like a family… lessons from home

February 8, 2018 3:11 pm Published byAzesta

As many of you know, I have a large family. Last night (Sunday), after an afternoon of trampolining, I set up a marble run for my 2-year-old, helped my 11-year-old finish off constructing a hydraulic robot arm, tested my 14-year-old on polygamy, monogamy, pre-marital sex and divorce ready for an RE exam and helped my 9-year-old practise for the eleven plus. Thinking about it this morning in the shower, it struck me that there are a number of ways that the businesses I support are very much like families and I thought we could draw a few lessons from there.

  1. Like children, employees all need support and one-to-one time with their managers to grow and develop

In a family, you wouldn’t dream of only spending time with the children that need help and support to manage at school, so why do some managers do something similar? It’s a common mistake to spend lots of time micromanaging those that are underperforming and to ignore those that have high levels of skill and will, and those great performers may move onto pastures new if you don’t check in with them regularly and give them plenty of opportunity to take on projects that interest and stretch them.

  1. Like children, employees need consistent messages from management

In a family, if one parent refuses a child’s request, it’s crucial not to say ‘oh just ignore your stepdad, you can have that or do that’. In the same way managers must be united and discuss things together. In a few organisations I know, it is common for employees to ask, for example, for a couple of weeks leave at a very busy time of year and on being told by their manager that it’s not ideal, make an appointment to see their manager’s manager, or maybe a welcoming and open Chief Executive. It’s their right to speak to someone else if they feel they are being unfairly treated, but it’s essential that a higher-level manager doesn’t just go against what a lower level manager has said without discussing it with them and if a new message is needed, potentially allowing them to deliver it.

  1. Like children, employees need a level of discipline

Allowing a child or employee to walk all over you will not create an environment of mutual respect and will make employees less productive. This type of management is not fair to those who consistently follow the rules and I know this because I am guilty of it in my own parenting! It is crucial to follow through on expectations, rules, regulations and procedures and to hold children and adults accountable.

  1. Like children, employees need patience, empathy and recognition and plenty of it

In a family, if a child is not behaving how you wish they would, you can’t just give them a P45. Try practising a bit of unconditional empathy with your employees like you would with your children and be as committed to their long-term success. If they achieve something new (like tying their shoe laces), make sure you recognise it. Help children and employees feel empowered, self-reliant and able Some things that are not a big deal to you are a big deal to them which brings me onto the next point…

  1. Like children, employees need to be treated differently according to their own strengths and preferences

Fairness is important, children should receive the same value of presents at Christmas, employees should receive the same salary for the same job, but there also needs to be some individualisation. Not all of my children go to the same clubs for example, one does 6 different kinds of dance every week and another only wants to go to Scouts. Some employees will want one-to-one time with you every month, others will be happy with quarterly. Some would absolutely love to be ‘employee of the month’ and some would hate it, so individual preferences need to be catered for if you are to get the best results.

Shirley Gaston

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