The ingredients to being a good father and a great boss are not as secret as we’ve been led to believe. Scott McCulloch examines the formula.
With a bit of humility, a leap of faith, and good old-fashioned hard work it is entirely possible to be a good father and a great boss.
About 25 years ago Psychology Today ran a short yet thought-provoking piece called My Father, My Boss.
When I re-read the article, I was struck by its subhead: “The primary reason (family enterprises) go belly-up has nothing to do with economics and everything to do with family relations.”
It’s not an entirely fair statement but it sums up how struggling family businesses are often perceived. There is harmony in many family firms too, but that rarely makes headlines.
Harmony comes in good parenting. And good parenting skills are transferable to the workplace. I know because, as a parent and mentor, I’ve lived it.
So can a good dad be a great boss? Yes. Does that guarantee the family enterprise will thrive? Well, no.
We’ve all heard the oft-stated argument by family business commentators that the dominant parent with the strong personality typically runs the family business.
That may be true in some cases but “dominant dad” doesn’t automatically mean “bad dad.”
It has been said that being a good boss is like being a good parent. It works the other way around too. All it takes is a sensible dose of stress. Seriously.
Good parents are meant to give children stress, eustress in particular, which is a non-extreme form of stress that creates a feeling of fulfillment.
“We do not experience personal development in the absence of stress.”
A father who wants his children (or adult children) to do their best should push them out of their comfort zones. Not just for the business but for their own personal development.
Humans do not experience growth or personal development in the absence of stress — this is something canny parents and great bosses know and use to help their children.
Stress is known to boost your immune system, according to a study conducted by the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection at Stanford School of Medicine.
It also makes us more alert and helps our bodies recover faster.
Fathers must also be conscious of the fact that, during a child’s earliest relationships, they learn how to form alliances, resolve arguments and be included in groups. And yes, how to survive conflict.
Such interpersonal skills, say psychologists, are essential to managing work life. When families fail to teach these skills, work relationships – and potentially people’s careers – can suffer.
Another way to be a good dad and boss is by supporting your child. It’s a no-brainer but like a good dad, a good boss should always have your back in public.
A father can be tough on a child – that’s part of the job. If he wants to take you to task when no one is around, that’s fine but not in public. Shaming undermines confidence at home and in the office.
It’s essential to establish healthy boundaries between family and business. If a father has a personal beef with an adult child, one that spills into business territory, that should be an issue for the family council to address.
Last but not least, good fathers should set up their children for success. When a child succeeds a parent succeeds. When an employee succeeds the boss succeeds.
Everyone looks good, but the magnanimous idea is for the protégé to one day exceed the master. If you keep an employee down, for fear of being outshined, resentment will creep in.
So how do you be a good dad and a great boss? Dispense your advice, not your ego. Teach humility and practice it yourself. Embrace the fact that the next generation are here to replace you.
Just make sure that they’re better, faster and stronger.