Learning

5 Management Lessons I Learnt From My 5 Year Old Son

Guest Author
They say becoming a parent changes your life. You look at the world with new eyes. In the years since my son was born, I've learnt many things I never thought possible. How to burp a baby, how to grow eyes on the back of my head to track his mischief, how to catch him in that split second when he rolls off the bed, but before he hits the floor. But I never thought I'd be learning about management from him. Yes, the 5 year old, is teaching me management, amongst other things, by example.

1. Tune your communication to suit the audience
I was amazed when at 4 years old, my son would switch to a different language depending on who he was talking with. With my parents, he'd speak in Hindi. With his daycare staff, he'd speak in Marathi. With us, he'd speak in English. With his friends, it's a mix of Hindi and English, but he reserves a different style or tone for different friends.

So much of my role as a manager, involves communication - interacting with peers and team members, globally, and locally, to get things done. At times the communications gaps can be quite glaring. If only we made the effort to understand where the other person is coming from, and tune our message accordingly, we'd get more done, faster. The onus is on us, to get the message across effectively to the audience. Not the other way around.

2. Getting what you want - negotiate so that both parties win.

The brat is an amazing negotiator. Just to watch the way he pleads and whines and reasons with us to get what he wants, is quite a lesson. He'll first try asking nicely, and then he'll butter us up. If that doesn't work, he'll try negotiating with us, for example if we take him to buy a chocolate, he'll also 'let' us buy one for ourselves. Failing which he'll try out other tactics like agreeing to sleep in the afternoon if we let him watch youtube for 10 minutes. He just doesn't let up. And usually, trying to distract him, just doesn't work. He's learnt early that it's a game of give and take; and being persistent, pays off. Of course, sometimes it ends in a tantrum and tears, which I can't quite do at office, but then I fine tune my skills negotiating with a trouble maker.

3. Stand up for what's right

The other day we were late getting back home and it was already dark. Yet he insisted on going to the playground. Not to play. But to 'protect' his friend, D. Turns out 2 older boys had been teasing D the last few days. My little feather weight three footer insisted on being there to protect his friend from the bullying. I don't quite know how it went or what he did, but the bullying did stop after a while, since he said he no longer needs to 'protect' D. Size doesn't matter. Strength or position doesn't matter. Have the courage do to what's right for the company, for your team.

4. Don't take it personally

In the evenings, I take a walk around the playground, while the kids play. It is gut wrenching to see playground politics, with kids of all ages. It's as complex as office politics. And yet the 3 footer navigates it all smoothly. He hops over from one group of kids to the other, mixing with them, playing with them, making new friends while keeping the old ones. Sometimes they fight, they argue, and even get into fist fights. But they're fine the next day and playing together again. I still haven't quite figured out this one -how he does it. Perhaps the trick is to not take things personally.

5. Make people, not things, your priority

Each Friday, he's allowed to buy a small treat - sweets, candy anything he wants, for under 10 bucks. Invariably he asks to buy 3 or 4 or 5. Not for himself. He always has a list of half a dozen friends he wants to share it with. The other day after school, he wanted go buy some flowers, for a girl in his class. No, it's not what you think. The teacher gave some other girl a flower, but not this girl. And she was sad. So he just had to buy her flowers. Now what can you say to that. Kids are instinctively tuned in to read people, and to help, to care. We forget that as we get caught in the mad rush of everyday. People matter. Feelings matter. Take care of your team - make sure you listen to them; make sure they know that they matter, tell them that they're appreciated.

I learn new lessons from watching my son each day. This parenting gig works both ways. You teach, and you learn. What lessons have you learnt from your kids? Do share with us at tips@lifehacker.co.in.



The article has been contributed by Richa Jain, who is a freelance writer.

Photo by: Thinstock Images
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