AT WORK, we performance-manage our employees the way we parent our kids at home.
You want your child to take initiative to do their homework, complete their chores and treat their siblings with respect, so you create the conditions for them to behave in these ways;
- You reinforce how smart they are,
- You reward them when they finish their homework on time,
- You threaten and cajole when they get into a spat with another child,
- You celebrate their participation awards for sports,
- You become their taxi drivers as your schedule is more and more dominated by serving them and their needs.
If they do get that A on a test, clean their dishes, and the house is void of drama, you can’t help but feel proud. “I’m a good parent. I’m doing something right.” Yet, when your kid struggles, you struggle and if things don’t improve, you feel it’s your fault.
At work, you’re accountable when your department receives a poor employee engagement score. You tell yourself: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink,” but in reality, you’re still responsible for employee engagement. So, you mentor, coach, praise, reassign, train, and empathize with the underperforming employee. If they improve, you’re praised by your leadership and become more promotable. You feel good. “I’m a good manager. I’m doing something right.” If things don’t improve you feel guilty and responsible. “I’m not a good manager. I’m must be doing something wrong”.
At home and at work the verb “engagement” describes a one-way effort: Success is staged, and the ultimate responsibility lies with the parent/manager. The child/employee is neutered from the experience of failure and the benefits of redemption and transformation.
Image engagement being a verb describing a two-way effort, where both parties are responsible for creating success or sharing in the accountable for the failure.
- Imagine an engagement score at work that measures the efforts of the manager as well as the employee,
- Image the employee taking more ownership and accountability for their engagement and the manager doing less avoiding conflict by hoping things “will improve with time”,
- Imagine the parent allowing their children to experience the full consequence of their actions instead of shielding them from disappointment and failure.
Work-mindsets about managing are reinforced by family-mindsets about parenting. If we’re going to improve our families and our businesses, we have to see that how we behave in one is often the same as how we behave in the other. And, we need to allow our kids and employees to grow and redeem themselves by fully experiencing accountability, self-determination, and transformation.