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5 Ways You Should Lead Your Team Like You Parent Your Children

Think of a good parent with their child. Now, think of an effective leader with their team. If you compare the two, do they have similar qualities? In my opinion, they do. I believe that as a leader you should lead your team like you parent your kids.

Now, I know that there are differences between leadership and parenting. After all, our employees are not our children, and we cannot treat them exactly as such. For example, while we might care about our employee’s personal lives, as leaders we must draw a line. With our children, we take into account who they are as people when we make decisions that involve them. As leaders, we must not focus on who employees are on a personal level but rather only who they are on a professional level when we make decisions on promotions, raises, and more.

However, there are ways we treat our children that we should imitate in the office. If you think about it, we are leaders of our children so being leaders of our employees should not be completely different.

5 Ways You Should Lead Your Team Like You Parent Your Children

Teach them

One of our many jobs as parents is to teach our kids. They are learning from us from the moment they come into the world. We actively show them certain things like how to use a fork, make their beds, or to drive a car. There are also things we teach them more passively, through them only watching and listening to us.

Right now, my husband and I are teaching our oldest to ride a bike and our youngest to transition out of diapers. We could never expect our girls to learn these things at their ages without teaching and encouraging them.

As a parent, we also recognize that for some items we are not the best instructor. For these activities, we find the right teacher. For example, I had no expertise in teaching children how to swim, so I found them an excellent instructor.

We should do the same with the teams we lead. Just like we cannot simply expect our children to do something new without being taught, we cannot expect our teams to learn without a teacher. We either need to be that teacher or find them the right person to help them learn.

The teaching does not stop once an employee completes their initial training just like education does not stop just because your child becomes a teenager. You need to continue to grow your staff so that they continue to be an asset to your company.

Moreover, do not forget that you are also passively teaching your employees. They are learning from you ever day. Make sure you are displaying the behavior you want them to imitate. How you lead them is how they will lead their current or future employees.

Celebrate them

When our children do something well, we celebrate them. We congratulate them for scoring in the big game, acing a test, or learning a new skill. Often, we publicly celebrate them by sharing their successes on our social media networks.

From this behavior, our kids learn that we are proud of them.

We should mirror this behavior with our employees. Often our employee’s small successes, and even sometimes the large ones, go ignored. We expect a lot from them without ever saying thank you or way to go. If we do acknowledge their accomplishments, we often do not share it with others including those above us on the leadership ladder.

Celebrating successes creates an environment where people want to go above and beyond. They know their work will be appreciated which results in the willingness to continuing to work hard.

As I mentioned, we are transitioning our youngest out of diapers. When she goes on her little potty, she cheers for herself. It is the cutest thing to hear. She started this behavior because we cheer for her, too. By celebrating her success, she learned that she was doing the right thing and wanted to continue the action to please us.

Your employees will do the same. Cheer for them and tell others about their successes – big and small. Maybe it is when they close what seemed like an impossible sale, handled a difficult customer with ease, or kept the kitchen clean and organized during the lunch rush.

Cheer for them, and they will work hard and naturally improve to continue receiving that behavior from you.

David Marquet said in Turn the Ship Around!, “Simply providing data to the teams on their relative performance results in a natural desire to improve.”

Be open to failure

Our children make mistakes. No matter the age, they have failures.

Even when we think that we could have handled a situation better with our kids, we are probably more forgiving with our children than our employees.

You might be quick to say that it is ok because your employees are adults but I do not think that is the correct approach.

Kids fail because there is so much going on that they forgot the rules; they do not realize they are not following the guidelines. Adults fail because there is so much going on that they miss steps or think something was already done; they do not realize that they are not following the expected procedure.

Kids fail because they are learning. Adults fail because they are learning. It is hard to get it right the first time.

Kids fail because they are not looking at the bigger picture. They do not realize that their doll will be ruined if they cut its hair. Adults fail because they sometimes forget or lack access to the bigger picture.

When my kids fail, I make sure the why is understood. This includes me understanding why they did it and them understanding why it was wrong. I also make sure they understand the future expectations. Lastly, tell them that mistakes happen; we just need to try our best.

I took this approach with the teams I managed. As a result, they were open and honest with me about errors. They also took the lead to share their failures with each other to help their team members learn from their mistakes.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between an error and maliciously doing something wrong. Handle these situations differently.

Let them rest

As parents, we encourage our kids to rest and take breaks.

We give our children a bedtime because we know that they need a full night’s sleep to function the next day. Nap time stays a part of the day as long as possible so our children have the same pleasant temperament in the evening as they did in the morning. Moreover, when naps stop, we encourage a quiet rest period to allow our children to recharge.

As leaders, we need to do the same for our employees. I am not saying you need to start a companywide nap hour or bedtime – well, your employees might want the nap time. Instead, accept the fact that your employees need this time.

You cannot expect your employees to be at the top of their game if you do not give your employees enough time to fully recharge between when they leave the office and when they are expected to return.

The same holds true for mid-day breaks. To step away from the desk for lunch, a walk, to run errands, or even to catch a quick nap in the car can significantly impact the afternoon’s productivity levels.

Of course, it is entirely okay to have the occasional long work day or to have to work through lunch. Project deadlines sometimes depend on this extra time in the office. However, just as you encourage your kids to rest, do the same for your employees. Have the long days at the office be the exception instead of the rule.

If possible, acknowledge that your employee worked longer than regular hours for a project by letting them have a few hours off after achieving the deadlines.

Encourage them

The four points above can all fall under one theme. Encouragement.

We encourage our children to be their best.

Our job as leaders is the encourage our employees to do their best.

Remember this quote by Ralph Nader, “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”

Encourage your team to be their best by teaching them, celebrating them, accepting their failures, and letting them take needed breaks.


If you are looking for additional tips on growing your leadership skills, be sure to read the book Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders, by L. David Marquet.

Read my review of the book by clicking here.