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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery


Joan’s dilemma was this: As the leader of her sales organization she was concerned about Ted, one of her best young producers. While his sales numbers were outstanding, he was insensitive chronically to the needs of the other members of the team. He was terrible about getting his paperwork in or sharing the marketing resources that he used to such advantage.

Joan had given Ted feed back about the problems many times before, but he essentially had ignored her, secure in the belief that his sales performance would buy him forgiveness for any transgressions that he might commit in other areas. She now wondered whether she should just continue to overlook Ted’s uncooperative behaviors or take stricter measures to motivate him to improve his teamwork with his colleagues.

The answer: Joan (Mom) should firmly and fairly bring Ted (her son) back into line with the team’s (family’s) values of cooperation and teamwork (for example, through compensation). If she doesn’t, the other team members (kids) will also rebel and the fulfillment and performance advantages of team (family) membership will be lost.

First, please avoid any temptation to be outraged at the idea of “treating employees like children.” My perspective is that we’re all kids at heart, even those of us who are in the roles of parents or leaders, so there is no slight in comparing organization members to family members.

The main parallel between organizational and family dynamics is this: As the leader of a team or organization or as the parent of a family, you have considerably more power than your subordinates or children. With this authority comes great responsibility; your subordinates essentially have trusted you to lead them to happiness and success.

Wise use of this power includes sound parenting principles such as:

  • Clear expectations

  • Timely positive and negative feedback

  • Caring about others’ happiness and success

  • Consistency in how and why rewards and sanctions are given

  • Willingness to make the final tough decision for the greatest good of the family, even when it isn’t popular


Technique #1: When you find yourself with a difficult decision as a leader, ask yourself, “What would a good parent do?”

Technique #2: Use your leadership/parental authority wisely for the greatest good of he entire organization/family.

Technique #3: Give your subordinates/children clear expectations and feedback so they can know whether they are succeeding.

Technique #4: Don’t rear depressed subordinates/children by being overly critical or “cowboys”/spoiled brats by being overly indulgent.

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