Last week my wife and I welcomed our 4th child into the world. The last week or so has been a roller coaster of amazing highs and difficult lows, all complemented by minimal sleep.
But I wouldn’t trade any of it.
Here are some of the Career Success lessons I have learned as a parent.
If there is any area of my life that has taught me the importance of being present, it’s parenting. Raising children is a lot of work, and I have a personal tendency to want to escape from the challenges and frustrations. It’s easy to find a distraction, check out on my phone, or try and get away.
I’m not proud of it, but sometimes my wife has to politely nudge me and say “come back to us.”
Yet some of the most beautiful moments I’ve had in my life have been through being fully present with my family. The conversations we have, the smiles and laughs we share, and even the increased ability to deal with a toddler tantrum – it all goes back to being more present.
This same principle helps me as I try to be a better coach, trainer, facilitator, speaker, and consultant. When I am present, I can get in flow, I can connect deeply with those I work with, and together we can make great progress.
It’s a constant battle for me, but one that is immensely important for success and fulfillment.
Listen – Really Listen
This is connected to the principle of being present, but distinct enough I wanted to call it out on its own.
My kids want to be heard. By listening to them, they also feel seen. They feel like they are a part of a family, not just a thing to be managed. This is true if my 7 year old wants to tell me every detail of a book she has been reading or my 2 year old wants to tell me what he wants to wear to bed.
Taking time to listen improves our bond, and helps us work together to accomplish our goals as a family.
I’ve shared this story before, but I had to learn how BAD of a listener I was at work a few years ago. I did a 360 degree review, where about 13 people gave anonymous feedback about working with me and my performance.
The big theme – Jeff doesn’t listen.
That stung. I cared about being a good team member and leader, but I had some serious work to do.
So I put reminders on my computer, in shared areas, and gave my team permission to remind me to listen. I wasn’t perfect, but my awareness increased and they helped me be accountable. We grew together as a team and achieved some big things!
Teach Problem Solving
One of the tough balances of parenting is figuring out what to do for your kids, what to supervise, and what to allow them or expect them to do for themselves. Household chores, homework, music practice, and even feeding themselves – it all needs to be done, but who will take responsibility?
One area in particular that is difficult to learn for kids is how to solve problems. Problems with relationships, something that is stuck, etc.
In our home we attempt to help our kids build the identity of being “problem solvers.” Instead of just giving them answers, we ask them a question. We try to help guide them to answers they figure out themselves and think through ways they can get to a solution. Sometimes they need extra help, and if so, we are there to assist them. Yet ideally, they can grow in their capacity to solve more complex challenges.
I see this same challenge with many engineers and leaders I work with. How much should they do themselves vs. delegate or share with their team? How do they teach them? Should everything be spelled out, or should there be some autonomy?
No professional wants to be treated like a robot, but they also need to be supported. Find the balance and help them take responsibility to become “problem solvers” and increase capacity.
Sure, this means not everything will go smoothly at first. It’s a process. But it’s worth investing in your people!
These are just a few of the lessons being a father has taught me. It’s part of the idea of More Than Engineering. I am an engineer, sure, but I have so many other pieces to who I am that help me live a fulfilled life. Being a father is one of those roles.
What lessons are you learning in other areas of your life that you can apply to your career? Please share!
Accelerate Your Career
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