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July 03, 2007

Improving Leadership/Management « Parenting/Leadership 101 »

The BBC says that movies are better for teaching management than books (note: link does not go to BBC, but rather an article about the BBC article.

I think that's pretty accurate, actually. If you want to change something in yourself, if you want to learn a new technique that mainly involves personal interactions (meaning, how you present yourself, your words, your body language, etc, is as important as what you want to communicate; i.e., the medium is the message), it is far better to watch people being effective than to read about it.

Modeling is better than explaining for performance-based skills.

I've watched several movies that have helped me be a better leader. When you see someone sacrificing their own personal interest to accomplish the corporate (unit/national) goals, it makes it easier for you to do the same thing in a stressful/crisis situation.

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posted by Nathan on 09:11 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

February 18, 2005

Kris brings up an interesting issue on the "I Hate Caillou" post below entitled "Hidden Messages?"

She points out that several TV shows are (or have been) banned from her house.

I've never banned a TV show yet (and I've never banned a commenter, either...).

I suppose I should, because Jay Jay, Caillou, DragonTales, and Clifford are about the most crappy, horrible, boring, lifeless, sappy, saccharine children's shows possible... I do like Jakers, Thomas the Tank Engine, Arthur (pretty good, for the most part; entertaining stories that aren't typical "liberal education ideal" garbage), and Cyberchase (all on PBS).

I guess I could be more concerned about the liberal education ideal content of the ones I don't like, but the way I see it, I was a TV addict growing up myself. The first thing I'd do when I got home after school was watch whatever was on TV until dinner, and I remember lots of nights doing nothing but watch TV after dinner, too.

But when Junior High came around, I started getting very involved in music, sports, and drama, and I often was at home only to sleep. About the same time, my friends and I got into roleplaying and simulation strategy wargaming. TV kind of dropped off my plate, and I rarely watch it anymore, except for football.

And I don't really see my children being affected by that stuff, either. It may be a TV show, but what seems to have the greatest effect on their developing minds is the interaction I have with them, the way I help them resolve disputes, and the system of rewards and punishments I have established to help them internalize the lessons I want them to learn.

Am I being myopic?


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posted by Nathan on 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2005

Mommy Madness (UPDATED) « Parenting/Leadership 101 »

Interesting article.

One thing that strikes me as that even when these women talk about trying to be the best mommy for the kids, I get the feeling that it is really more about being the best mommy so they can say they are the best mommy. It's less about paying attention to the kids and giving them what they actually need, and more about treating their kids as faceless drones who will be happy, successful Stepford Kids if the these women only follow the right magical formula and go through the motions. There is less heart in their actions and more ego. Motherhood by Superstition.

And then they complain about how no one appreciates their sacrifice.

Again, you don't do it for the appreciation. If it's not all about the kids, it's not right. Even the first lady quoted: "Three hours of intense parenting in the morning before work, three hours of intense parenting after work" is ridiculous. Yes, children need to be loved, played with, and engaged fully...but it also an important part of their development to see their parents interacting with love, to see them be whole persons with hobbies and interests and activities of their own.

It seems like none of these mothers quoted really understood about how to develop a whole person who could be fully independent and secure. They focused so much on mental development they lost some other things. A mommy being obsessed with playground politics? That's how kids learn to get along and resolve disputes! If the mommy gets involved, how will the child ever learn to deal with a bully? Because there are adult bullies in the workplace as surely as there are playground bullies...

And this supposedly explains why the lady cut her baby's arms off....


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posted by Nathan on 05:32 AM | Comments (6)
» Anywhere But Here links with: Mommy Madness

January 13, 2005

Parenting (Re: Recent Anecdote) « Parenting/Leadership 101 » « Stuff Important to Me »

Many thanks to all of you who have offered support and prayers and well-wishes.

One of the reasons I vent here is because you can only tell a friend so many times what is irritating you. The more something is bothering me, the more I need to say it; I wasn't looking for attention or affirmation, but it was appreciated, nonetheless.

Sometimes I need to get stuff out, yanno? I want to do everything I can to preserve my children's love for their mother, so that when she is ready to be a Mom again (if ever), there are as many bridges intact as possible. Another way to put that: I never want my kids to hear me say anything negative about her ever. And I'm making the divorce as easy on her as I can. I want to be able to tell them that I did everything I could to help her find happiness and be successful.

I hope I'm a good Daddy. It's too soon to tell.

It's easy to deal with a 3-year-old's problems...most of them can be solved with a hug.

A year ago I wasn't all that good of a daddy. While I was more involved than many, perhaps, I still had the attitude of, "I work hard and I deserve to relax!"

6 months ago I still lost my temper too much, was still too much the (ex-) Army Sgt stereotype, ordering my kids to clean their room in the front leaning rest position (okay, that's an exaggeration).

If there's anything I'm doing right, it's that I've learned that all the theory in the world goes out the window if doesn't work in reality. And kids (at least my kids, perhaps) are straightforward enough that you can tell pretty quickly when something is working or not. I have enough leadership training that I can apply some of that to thinking of new ways to get the kids to eat vegetables, or potty training, or treating their toys and each other with respect.
Another thing I think I've learned that I haven't seen many people talk about is that you truly do make things better for yourself if you put your kids' needs totally in front of your own. Meaning, one of the most important things kids need is your Full Attention*. First, it lets them know they are worth your full attention. Second, half the time they don't actually need help, they just want someone to engage them. If you only do it halfway, they will just bug you more, so if you are putting it off because you are busy or need to relax, then they'll keep disturbing you until you go crazy (see: Me as "parent", 6 months ago). Fully engage your kids, giving them what they need to feel satisfied before you worry about your own needs. That way you will be able to relax or concentrate more fully.

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posted by Nathan on 01:20 PM | Comments (5)

December 28, 2004

Carrots and Sticks « Parenting/Leadership 101 »

One thing that struck me as I was driving to work with the kids*:

If something is important enough that you hammer a mistake with a punishment (even if merely a "don't do that"), then it is certainly important enough to hammer the success when they do it right. In fact, you should aggressively praise correct behavior quite a bit.

Much of good parenting and good leadership is catching someone doing something right so you can praise them for it.**

If leadership is the art of influencing people to do what they don't naturally want to do (and it is), then your tools fall into two groups: positive reinforcement of wanted behavior and negative punishment of unwanted behavior. You should have a much heavier toolbox for the positive reinforcement side. It boggles my mind that so many would-be leaders don't actively seek out ways to positively motivate their subordinates. It is inexplicable to me that someone who would sweat blood for 5 hours over an award package won't spend 5 words to praise a good performace. I understand the idea is that if one person gets an award, the rest will work harder to try to achieve that same award...but their are problems with that concept:
-awards don't motivate everyone
-awards only go to the person who did "the best"...thus a person gets the same reward for coming close as they do for not trying: nothing
-when one person wins a few of the monthly or quarterly awards, it actually demotivates those who feel (rightly or wrongly) that reputation may matter more than actual achievement

Consider how much a pat on the back can mean to someone who has been sweating and laboring without expectation of anyone costs 5 minutes of time, and maybe 30 minutes of observation to know who deserves it and when it would have the greatest effect. Compare that with the 5 hours of pain/frustration in trying to write an awards package, and a good leader should easily be able to tell where the time is better spent.

...not that writing awards packages aren't important. But if you spend more time observing your troops to know when/where pats on the back will do the most good, then you have a better idea of what your troops are doing all the time, which makes awards packages easier to write. While a leader certainly can't be expected to remember everything that 15-20 subordinates did over a full year, it is disheartening to a subordinate if the leader has no idea what you accomplished at all...

Simply put, if you don't know what your people are accomplishing, what exactly are you leading?

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posted by Nathan on 09:03 AM | Comments (2)

December 27, 2004

Closing the Circuit « Parenting/Leadership 101 »

One thing you hear time and time again from military leaders is "Loyalty flows both ways." I must assume it is a promise from a leader that if he receives loyalty, he'll give loyalty in, if the leader feels supported, he will provide top cover to the troops (or troop, as the case may be); conversely, if the leader feels a lack of loyalty from subordinates, he will allow "crap to roll downhill, and add a little of his own to it."

That really isn't the way it works.

Loyalty is a closed-loop circuit, just as in electrical matters. The only way for loyalty to flow at all is if it is coming down from above just as much as it is rising up from below.

This is one of the reasons "take care of your troops" is such an important maxim; if you don't, they won't take care of you. It's not a selfish decision as much as it is a natural result.

But the thing is, it is the leader who has the lead. Every breakdown of loyalty I've ever seen came from the top first, when someone in charge started caring more about their own promotion bullets than taking care of the troops or the mission. That creates a vicious cycle in which people start scrambling to cover their own butts, and the resulting train wreck is a sight to see...but not good for anyone involved. Unfortunately, it is usually not the leader who pays the price, because leaders have ways of deflecting blame for their own failures onto subordinates.

And you know what? It's amazing how much similarity there is between leadership and parenting.

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posted by Nathan on 07:45 AM | Comments (3)

December 16, 2004

Setting Up Your Subordinates « Parenting/Leadership 101 »

One of the things I hated about the Army was its over-emphasis on rank. Many times, it seemed like an E-2 just wasn't worth as much as an E-5. An E-7 was allowed to verbally abuse an E-4 at will. The Army as a whole didn't seem to care at all about junior enlisted.

But the Army seemed to excellent at growing leaders. Is there a connection? Could you develop top-notch leaders without having a rigid class structure based on rank? I'm not sure.

However, one thing I really liked about the Army was one pair of phrases I heard enough times to make me sick (at the time): "Setting up for success" and "setting up for failure".

The idea is, you don't just give a subordinate a task and let 'em go. Your job as a leader was to assess what your troop needed to succeed, and get it to them along with the task. Much of it was based on the level of experience of the troop, of course. A younger troop would need task, standards, detailed instructions, training, supervision, and follow-up. The more experienced the troop, the more you could drop.

The interesting thing was that if a troop failed at something, the first place they looked was at the troop's first-line leader: did you set up your troop for success, or for failure?

Where I work now, that's not really an issue, unfortunately. If your subordinate screws up, a "good leader" gives them negative paperwork. Enough negative paperwork, and the person is fired. That's doing a good job. I guess the best "leaders" must either be lucky enough to have self-motivated troops, or they are better at wording the negative paperwork to be inspiring rather than discouraging.

I wish I had some really profound insight to give on this subject. But simply put, if your subordinates aren't doing a good job, the first place to look is at yourself. Are you giving adequate and appropriate feedback? Are you ensuring the task and standards are fully understood? Are you providing adequate training for the task?

Not every subordinate is a good worker, of course. If you are setting them up for success, and they still fail, then perhaps the problem is with the subordinate. But that should be the last place to check, not the first.

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posted by Nathan on 06:30 PM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2004

Faulty Judgment « Parenting/Leadership 101 »

I think that perhaps the cruelest feedback you can ever give someone is: “You are having a problem due to faulty judgment.”

The problem with this assessment is that it is both the height of arrogance and impossible for the receiver to do anything about.

It is the height of arrogance, because the only way you can criticize a person’s judgment is if you completely understand the circumstances they were in and the information they had available and still think that you could have used better judgment. It is an automatic assumption that in almost any given situation, you would do better.

It is also impossible for the person to do anything about it because if they truly try to do something about it, they are put in the position of having to second-guess every decision they make, a recipe for certain failure. Moreover, unless you expect them to continually come back to you to make decisions for them, they will be using the same judgment you criticized as being faulty to decide what normal reactions are the result of faulty judgment. If not actually an impossible situation by definition, it is at least an untenable situation that will ruin self-confidence.

If you ever find yourself wanting to criticize someone’s judgment, it would be well worth the time to attempt to determine exactly what mistaken assumptions are held that might be leading to bad decisions. Assumptions can be changed, and decisions will be improved accordingly. Forcing someone to question their own judgment is a form of torture, I think.

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posted by Nathan on 08:02 AM | Comments (0)