Recently, I learned (another) leadership lesson from my parenting journey:
Are you trying to control or connect?
My defiant son is learning to navigate who he is in the world, apart from Mom and Dad (if I dare slip up and say, Mommy, he is quick to correct!). You can imagine the arguments, stress, exhaustion – on both sides.
I’ve embraced positive parenting or conscious parenting. But I was raised quite differently and sometimes, well, I mess up.
And by mess up, I mean lose sight of my goals to get a short-term hit of self-righteousness..
My goal is to raise a healthy, empathetic, kind, self-aware, self-sufficient human boy. My goal is to encourage him to speak up for himself, express his creativity, and develop a growth mindset.
But those goals go out the window when your kid back-talks you, rolls his eyes, or refuses to do something you’ve asked him to do a million times.
A wise therapist reminded me (several times), my goal is not to control my son. In the macro sense of course. I’m not going to allow him to run out into traffic or anything. He is his own person with unique strengths, challenges, and preferences. He is becoming who he is becoming and if the goals listed above are truly my goals, then I have to remember to seek connection more than compliance.
This will ensure we have a close relationship for the long term, so when things get harder for him as a teen and an adult, his Dad and I can still have influence and he will still feel safe talking to us and being honest. No parent wants a child who keeps important secrets or cuts ethical corners to avoid punishment.
That doesn’t mean I let him do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.
That doesn’t mean he has no guardrails or expectations.
But in those tense moments, when tempers start flaring, it might FEEL good to shout and scream so loud that I will him into compliance. Or I can take a more graceful tact, regulating my own emotions while still seeing who he is AND standing firm with my boundaries. Being a model for him with my own behavior so he knows what to expect and strive for.
So leaders: Ask yourselves:
Do you want control or connection?
Tight-fisted, authoritarian control may get you short-term compliance, to be sure, from demanding a return to the office, tracking keystrokes and badge swipes, or publicly berating someone at the next team meeting for screwing up – but what does that buy you in the long run?
What are your goals?
Are your goals really to force disengagement (for their own mental health, in that kind of environment), encourage the bare minimum, foster resentment, and lose good, talented people to your competition?
I don’t think so.
Or would you rather create a high-performing team for the long term that collaborates, innovates, solves problems, and gets things done – all while remaining extremely loyal to you and the organization?
You can still set high expectations.
You can still set boundaries and guardrails.
You can still have difficult conversations and get people to take responsibility and face consequences.
AND…you can do all of that while still prioritizing connection over control.
Remember your true goals. And choose connection over control. I promise it will be worth it for your goals in the long run.
Photo credit: RD Smith, Unsplash