EPIC Engagement: How Engaging Parenting Skills Can Inspire Colleagues

During one of the first programmes I ever delivered, a participant said that children spell love, T-I-M-E. In that the amount of time we spend with them reflects our love and investment in them. Now as a parent of two, I couldn’t agree with this sentiment more. In a period some economists are dubbing, ‘The Great Resignation,’ could thinking like parents inspire leaders with solutions on how to retain their people?

My daily discussions with business leaders consistently reflect a UK wide trend that their biggest challenge is recruiting and keeping the right people.

So what can we learn from our personal leadership role as a parent (or experience of being a child led by a parent) about how we can strengthen that loyalty and bond to inspire our employees to thrive, perform and stay with us?

Many organisations are focusing on what Herzberg referred to as ‘hygiene factors,’ (salary, fringe benefits etc) to combat the issue, yet perhaps to really achieve motivation, loyalty and truly engage our people in a culture they want to be part of, we should focus on investing time.

How much time do we invest with our people? Talking to them, finding out about them? How are they finding things at work?

When I ask my children, ‘How was your day at school?’ I usually get the response, ‘Fine,’ or, ‘Good.’ To which I ask more questions to get more in-depth answers and to try and really understand what is going on in their world. Do we always ask the deeper questions with our people, or simply accept the first response?

When my children come home from school with pieces of work they have done, they are always greeted with praise and adoration. Even if I can’t identify what they have drawn, or there are errors in their workbooks, I always look for opportunities to praise first, rather than critique or coach them to be better in their work. Can the same be said in the workplace?

As Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs would suggest, survival and safety are the basis of our needs. At home this is feeding, clothing and protecting our children. In the workplace it’s providing a safe environment and the equipment needed to get the job done.

However, fulfilling basic needs is not enough if our children or employees are going to thrive.

Two areas where proactively investing time will make a difference:

  • Create a sense of belonging

Some days my children come back from school having had a falling out with another child in the playground. By understanding what happened and talking things through with them, by the next day this disagreement is usually resolved. Other days they are best friends with everyone and I don’t need to invest any time and energy in fulfilling this need. However, by investing in a few minutes’ of discussion each day, I can understand what is happening in their world, unearth and resolve any disruptive issues early.

Interestingly, if I don’t ask how things are, they don’t tell me! It’s like going into a restaurant, having a terrible meal and not telling the waitress how much you didn’t enjoy it, but simply never returning there again. If people aren’t happy at work, don’t say anything, then leave, who is to blame? The person for leaving without speaking up, or the manager for not knowing and recognising that they weren’t happy?

Short, frequent conversations get the best results with my children, and this should be common practice in the workplace, even more so now that many people are working remotely.

  • Make them feel important.

When my children have a sense of belonging and strong friendships and relationships at school, they feel confident, important and strive to achieve. Feeding this desire to succeed by challenging them, then supporting them to grow is what should ensure they move into adulthood as educated, responsible people with strong values.

The same principles apply within a professional environment. When people feel they belong, are they challenged and supported enough? Do they feel like they are growing? Or are they going to look for their next challenge somewhere else?

We support and love our children to fulfill their potential, driven by our love and desire for them to lead happy lives and achieve more success than we have.

Although our role as leaders is not to parent our employees, research shows that when we truly care for our people and are passionate about supporting them in meeting their needs(belonging and valued) and achieving their goals they are much less likely to leave.

Tricia Nixon is Operations Director and a Senior Trainer for Dale Carnegie Central England. A passionate mother of two children, she specialises in helping organisations and individuals develop their communication, leadership and presentation skills.