The best way to predict the future is to create it.

Peter Drucker

I raised two boys or maybe, more correctly, they raised me. I was lucky – at the end of the process I have “two sons” that make me proud and I love dearly. I was unprepared to be a parent when I became one but through trial and error, the grace of God, and some blind luck I survived. As I reflect back on the experience – I also, in the process, got a “Ph.D.” in management and leadership. I now realize that parenting, like business, gives the organizational “parent” the opportunity to react to behavior or proactively influence the growth, development, and maturation of the child.

As I ponder the process of change and growth in the marketplace and in organizations that serve this global economy, I see parallels. Change is the transition from today through tomorrows. How we address this determines the success – ours and our organization and its members. Will we react and manage the behavior of our followers and the change that comes at us or will we be a leader and “architect” the future we want and grow, develop, and mature the people that are our organization. (People are the most important asset we have even though balance sheets don’t include them).

In a conversation with Beau (he’s twice the parent I am – he and Kaci are raising four children and doing a great job) we concluded that the world of parenting is a great laboratory for management and leadership issues. Consider babies and their crying as a metaphor for the people in your organization.

Babies cry when they are hungry, wet, or have some other “discomfort” that needs fixing. They can’t effectively articulate their “issue” but they can manipulate us as the caregiver (manager / leader) through their whining until we solve their problems or find a means to solve ours – to quiet them. Let’s compare our two options - pacifiers and breastfeeding.

Wikipedia explains, “There is a long history of parents giving their children something to suck on in order to comfort them.” Pacifiers have no nutritional value and left to pacifiers alone a child will literally starve to death. (In some countries a pacifier is called a “dummy.” Think about that.)

Breastfeeding, on the other hand, is recognized as the safest, best, and most natural means of nurturing a child. Breast milk alone can sustain a child in their first six months of life. Breast milk and breast feeding are about growing together – a most intimate linkage between the parent and child – it is not about quieting a child but about developing that child. It is a living system. It is the best.

As the head of your own organization – change happens. It makes you tired, sometimes overwhelmed, and causes great discomfort in the people you call your “team” or “family.” Do you manage the change by handing each “whiner” a pacifier just so they’ll shut up and get back to work and leave you alone? Do you accept the responsibility of leadership and do what needs to be done to “architect tomorrow?” Do you take the time to grow each team member – to quiet them through intimacy and nourishment – to make them better prepared for tomorrow? Remember a pacifier alone will assure their starving and “breastfeeding” will guarantee their growth. Think about it.

Copyright (March 2010) - Square One Consulting / Michael G. Manes

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