Parents discipline a teenager

Being a manager sometimes feels just like being a parent. To those of you with both roles, I’m sure you’ll be familiar with these similarities:

  • Endless requests
  • Frequent difficult conversations and a tendency for those in your care to seemingly ignore your requests for them to do the most basic things
  • Their palpable embarrassment when you appear in the room and they’re with their friends

Perhaps – it does of course depend on your relationship with them.

However, one commonality that should be in every manager’s mind is that ultimately (like your children) you’re responsible for their safety. Your job is to influence, coach and persuade people to make the right decisions daily. And, given the difficulty of persuading people to do the right thing, it’s all too easy to fall into a “look… just don’t do it!” trap.

Yet it’s being a parent and once a child that can really help you out. Think back now to your teenage years. Do you think the just don’t do it mantra worked? Well, maybe the more virtuous amongst us (almost) avoided the usual pitfalls of drink, cigarettes and the odd inappropriate coupling. However, overlooking even mature influences like time and money, at the end of the day we’re all human so we all make mistakes.

So is the just don’t do it mantra effective? My personal opinion is that you’re on shaky ground if you don’t start with the premise that everyone makes mistakes, wherever you are in the world.

The important lesson here is to admit our flawed nature, and then help others to be open about theirs too: my name is Mark Ormond and I’m a (insert shortcoming here). Provide guidance on what people shouldn’t be doing because that’s your role, but also accept that they’ll sometimes make mistakes. As a manager, it’s your duty to furnish them with the skills and guidance they need to prevent or mitigate mistakes and learn from the consequences when the inevitable happens.

You’ll know you’ve cracked it when you have your I am Spartacus moment about unsafe behaviour.