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How To Learn Great Management from Our Kids

Learning comes from many places. And one of the most wondrous opportunities is right in front of us. At dinner, at play and at bedtime, every evening. It is there on the sports field, on vacation and during homework. Our children have clues we can use in our business and organisation, right away..

  • Listen to Them
    Kids tell us a lot about themselves, if we are prepared to listen. Often, especially when they are quite young, they ask us unexpected questions, that, if we are prepared to hear what they are saying to us, can lead us to more questioning. We can sharpen our senses to what else is going on by listening to them, to give us clues as to what else might be going on.

    What Managers Can Learn Here
    Using our senses means that we can understand people well. But how much, as managers, we can get from this depends on how we develop our more subtle senses of intuition and more particularly, our 'hearing' skills.

  • Watch Them at Play
    Have you ever been completely engrossed is what you are doing? So much so that anything could have been going on around you, yet you were so focused that you would not have noticed. My sister could do that - she could read and become so in tune with her book that nothing could disturb her. Kids do that all the time. They have the joy of being so focused when at play, that nothing else matters in that moment.

    What Managers Can Learn Here
    When we become oblivious in the workplace, it is because we are entirely at one with the activity. Noticing this gives us clues about what our strengths are. When working in an area of strength, we are more likely to be at our best. So are our people and utilising this knowledge can strongly leverage an individual's performance.

  • Talk to Them
    Children love to listen to us. Telling them stories, explaining things to them and seeking information all prove they have a fascination with being spoken to. They hear what we say and interpret that. Sometimes it means that they come back to us with a clarifying question - sometimes embarrassingly direct!

    What Managers Can Learn Here
    When we talk to children, they are too innocent to hold back when something is unclear. When we talk to people we manage, they sometimes don't and are left with wrong impressions, unclear instructions or, worse still, a poor impression of you and sometimes even themselves. We can encourage them to be honest and open with us and not be afraid to seek clarification.

  • What they See
    Children are very observant and tell us so. Ever been in an enclosed space with a child who comments on the other lady's 'funny hat'? Children see many things because they are curious to learn and understand more about their world. They often comment on what they have noticed, which sometimes is something we have not noticed ourselves recently. We might have become too close to something and notice no longer.

    What Managers Can Learn Here
    When we become used to something; people; circumstances; environment; we fail to see things as they creep up on us. Time passes, the familiar becomes the norm, becomes poor standards. Standing back and being a child again and asking things like 'Why?' Walking into your office or your shop or your call-centre and viewing it from the eyes of someone new, just like a child might and notice things, will bring out comfort-zones and help you ask yourself and your team about substandard quality.

  • Their Passion
    Children do get excited about things. (I remember when I was seven and I had my first pair of football boots, I slept with them!) Children love doing things, so much that they show how much they love it. Be it dancing, playing an instrument, writing stories, collecting special cards, they do it with a passion, a zest and much joy.

    What Managers Can Learn Here
    How much passion do our teams show in what they do in the workplace. How much has the joy and fun of work been sterilised. How much could our people share laughter with each other and with our clients/customers? As managers, understanding that passion for their role is a strong quality and can be very valuable in the business.

  • How they Learn
    Children love to learn. Give them a pastry roller and a bag of flour and water and they will be straight into jam tarts. Give them a rake after you've mown the lawn and they'll love to help. And watch them - they really want to get it right. As you show them what to do, they will want to be left alone, to have a go themselves. They will glow as you praise them for a job well done and they will want to do more.

    What Managers Can Learn Here
    Challenge, show, try, review, show again, try again, receive praise, want to do more, to learn more. It's a simple yet powerful model from showing a child how to learn something new to an opportunity every manager can use, day in, day out, and teach to others. The outcome is a learning organisation, with everyone just champing at the bit to learn more, because they have learnt well.

  • How they Dislike Things
    When a child does not like something, they usually tell you, from being a small baby to a late teenager. They are usually quite vociferous to parents about their likes and dislikes. If you've ever bought the wrong pair of jeans or tried them once again with brussels sprouts - you know about it! They are open and honest with their feedback!

    What Managers Can Learn Here
    How honest is the feedback in the organisation - how easy is it for people to say what they feel and what they would like to say. Often in a grown-up world, we think it is 'nicer' to hold back and be reserved. But this doesn't work well, does it? As managers, we can provide safe spaces for people to share their thoughts, ideas and opinions openly and safely. It might be uncomfortable at first, but it will be a lot more energising and healthy for the business in the future.

  • What Gives Them Confidence
    Kids get confident when they get things right. They then want more. More of the same; more new things. As they get it right, they feel good about it - successful and they like that, so they want more.

    What Managers Can Learn Here
    Catching your people getting things right makes a lot of difference to them and they respond positively. They get motivated at the job they do well and want new challenges building on the confidence you give them.

  • How they Take to New Things
    With curiosity! They get nosy and like to fiddle around with things to try them out. They inspect and work things out. In fact, they often like to do it alone.

    What Managers Can Learn Here
    It's about letting your people familiarise themselves with new stuff. Let them be inquisitive and don't get into showing them at first. Let them find their curiosity and play with it. And remember that often, people take to things at different speeds. Just like children do, so let that be OK

  • What Damages Them?
    At first, when very young, children are not damaged by the things they investigate. OK, they put their finger on something hot and they cry. Harsh though it might seem, that's all learning is about. As parents, in a modern dangerous world, it is about ourselves that we worry and it translates itself into defending our children. As they are 'protected', they lose their inquisitiveness and their confidence and they end up as grown ups, without the skills and qualities that as children they held so cutely.

    What Managers Can Learn Here
    When we take on the responsibility of managing our people, we have to accept them as they come to us. And their life experiences will have placed them in that place. When you manage others, you have the responsibility not just to deliver your results, but to do it in a way that you enable, encourage and realise the potential of your people. Whilst this is a big weight to carry, the results are fabulous for everyone - and your business.We can learn much from observing our children. the biggest lesson of all is that in everyone, there is a latent talent which it is beholden on us to uncover and release. And create new lives for every single one of our people.

    Martin Haworth is a Business and Management Coach. He works worldwide, mainly by phone, with small business owners, managers and corporate leaders. He has hundreds of hints, tips and ideas at his website, (Note to editors. This article may be edited for use in your publication or newsletter as long as a live link to the website is included)

    ...helping you, to help your people, to help your business grow...

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