I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately around the topic of parenting. Not surprisingly, there are benefits to both simplifying our parenting principles and not micro-managing the teams we lead.

As toddlers, my kids had quite a few “do’s” and “don’ts” to contend with. It got to the point where as parents we couldn’t keep up. There was just no way to create a rule for every scenario our highly creative little ones could get into. I mean, who, in advance, thinks to create the rule, “Don’t stick your hand fully in the peanut butter jar and spread it all over the wall”?

Rather than hard and fast rules, their dad and I decided it might be better to find a few principles that would allow our kids to grow into their self-responsibility and in effect begin learning to lead themselves.

We settled on three.

Have fun.

I’ll have to admit, this one came vehemently from their dad. I like to have fun as much as the next person, but my natural bent is to work and that meand until it’s done. All. The. Work. But work with no play quickly becomes drudgery.

Together, we wanted our home to be the one where our kids and their friends wanted to land. So we made fun a priority. Silly games. Spontaneous hide-n-seek. Harmless pranks. Summertime “drawers of happiness” (full of treats). And of course, a lot of laughter.

Make the best decision you can.

At first blush this principle may seem like an overly high expectation. But really it allowed for some grace in most situations. It recognizes that given different circumstances the decisions might be different. More maturity and experience will lead to better decisions going forward.

There were times when our kids definitely made decisions that as parents we would not have chosen. For example, rather than implement a specific bedtime for our then high schoolers, we left it mostly up to them. When they first chose to stay up too late, which each of them inevitably did (What teen wouldn’t?), and then suffered the next morning, waking for school or church, we didn’t acquiesce in allowing them to sleep in. Rather we had an after-the-fact discussion about what the better decision would have been.

They didn’t always learn the first time, but starting to give them dominion over their choices laid a foundation of trust that has become foundational to our relationship.

Be a better influence on your friends than they are on you.

We love this principle, and not surprisingly, have had the most frequent and most enlightening discussions with our kids about it.

When the boys were much younger, they spent summers roaming our neighborhood with a crew of kids their age. Our neighborhood pool allowed community members to charge food and drinks to a family account. One afternoon while swimming with some friends, the boys decided they needed a snack and allowed a friend to treat them knowing full well the friend was using another family’s account, not his own. About a week later, I received the call from the recreation director.

Of course the boys had consequences to deal with to make things right after that. But we were also able to talk about at which points in the situation they could have spoken up and influenced their friends for the better.

Now for the most part, our kids have chosen really great kids as friends. But no matter how good the crowd around our kids was, the principle helped to continually raise the bar.

Later on we added the principle, “Keep mom in the loop.” But that’s another story for another day.

But what’s an article on parenting doing on a leadership blog?

I have found that many supervisors, especially new leaders, can tend to manage their teams with lots of rules, otherwise known in the workplace as “micro-managing.” They try to predict every possible action and reaction from their team and “legislate” against the worst case scenario.

While every industry has various laws and compliance issues, the teams that thrive seem to understand the the guiding principles of their company and their leader. They are allowed the autonomy to manage their projects according to their individual work styles, as long as they are moving toward an objective. In that manner, a leader can lay the foundation of trust with their team and promote opportunities for open communication and personal growth.


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