55H

Fresh off a vacation with four teenagers all I can think about is how it relates to leading a company. Family travel is always a challenge; toss in hormones and stepsibling rivalry with a three-hour time difference and tensions understandably rise…some of the very same tensions left behind at the office.

 

Entitlement

This is a constant issue with our kids: no regard to the daily burn rate for six people on vacation. For example, one of our kids ordered Internet service for the room “because it was there.” 75 cents per minute and two hundred dollars later, the reaction when questioned was a simple shrug of the shoulders.  

This is similar to the employee that does the minimum as if it’s a right rather than a privilege to work. Lesson: Be sure to pick the employee with drive and commitment, and the one who doesn’t feel entitled to sit back and coast.  I know what you’re thinking. This seems obvious, right? But in fact, it’s not easy to determine true personalities in an interview, so it’s definitely an area where we need to be aware of little signals.  Unlike teenagers, who do not mask their entitlement, some employees can fake it. Looking back over several mis-hires, there were signs.

 

Complaint Department is Closed

Finding fault in every meal and excursion then feeling the need to whine or complain stems from entitlement and also from a lack of shared values.   Having fun is a challenge in the presence of negativity, which easily drags everyone down.

Core values are critical to a business and developing them early on sets a positive tone for your company.  Determining acceptable behavior using stated values as a touchstone is a balancing act between “mothering” and a hands-off approach. Allowing good, professional judgment to govern our time-off policy went awry over the holidays. Lesson learned all around: a bit of structure is a good thing.

 

Voice (not the show)

My personal favorite: the know-it-all teen “expert” on <fill in the blank with whatever subject> who shares their knowledge as unquestionable fact.  When challenged, the now infamous line that every family member needs an equal voice is hauled out. 

Ideas are welcome but different from an opinion. Think twice if your views are well researched and if anyone will care. Does it add to the conversation or are you telling others, often customers, what they should think? Lesson: More time listening, less time stating your opinion, especially if you are accomplishing your required tasks.

 

Enabling Dysfunction

Another family’s leader was seen every morning bringing up a heaping plate of breakfast to his teens. They explained to me it as, “the only way to get them out of bed.”  Really? One excursion where they had to suffer until lunch because they “couldn’t” get up would cure those kids.  Use natural consequences because in the real world, nobody is going to coax you out of bed to go to work.

At the office, when someone cannot accomplish a task, we need to set that person up for success. This does not include doing the work for them or providing a crutch. Instead, try mentoring or coaching. Asking questions should always be welcome, but asking for someone to hold your hand and do your work is not sustainable.

 

Sorry

Why is it so hard for the teen to come clean and admit to a mistake, say sorry, and move on.  Actually this is an area where many adults flop also.

Own your errors. If you are writing an apology, do not use the word “but” because you are not going to be truly apologizing. A half-ass apology with an excuse is worse than none at all. 

 

Self Over Team

All of the above behaviors contribute to a center of the universe mentality – apparently a tenet of teenage years. We had antics designed for attention: high drama incidents and visible stupid stunts to stand out in the crowd of four. Selfishness encompasses manners and there were some colossal faux pax.  Please, thank you, and excuse me go a long way and when they are missing, it reflects on us as parents. Cringing my way thru several excursions, I thought about how that translates to our office.

Take the time to fit in and not grandstand in meetings. Everyone has great ideas and putting them out there for the team in a respectful and polite way is golden.

 

So I took my almost eight days away from the office and the teenagers just made me think about work.  Live and learn as they say.  We are thinking of bribing them to stay home next year…