Every year, on the fourth Thursday in April, 37 million people at 3.5 million companies bring their children to work. At Points Group, we welcome the joy of this day (read: chaos) as well as the responsibility. What are some valuable lessons we can teach? What types of engaging activities can reinforce those lessons? We put a task force together to tackle these questions, and it was during the planning process that a thought occurred to me: How much of these concepts do we, as adults, actually implement and enforce in the workplace?
Think about it: When our children are young, we give a lot of thought to the way we treat them, the words we use around them and how our behaviors might impact them. It’s very important to us to monitor what they do and say, instructing them on common courtesies and appropriate behaviors. But it often seems that somewhere along the way, we lose touch with these ideals. We don’t practice what we preach, especially in the workplace. With that in mind, I decided to re-examine some parenting-isms and see how they can be implemented by leaders to drive engagement:
As a parent, you may find yourself repeating, “Say, ‘thank you’” to your child a dozen times a day – when someone compliments their outfit, shares a toy, gives them a free sample at the grocery store, etc. We, again and again, coach our children to thank a person when kindnesses are bestowed upon them.
This phrase is just as imperative at work. We need to say it and, most importantly, MEAN IT. Employees who feel appreciated work harder and are more loyal if they feel like their contributions are noticed and regarded. Even acknowledging effort can create momentum leading to success.
“How are you?”
Asking your child how they are doing (checking in) is imperative. It helps them know that you care and that it is okay to talk about struggles. It creates trust between parent and child, and that trust will hopefully encourage the child to speak up if they are in trouble.
If the above explanation sounds appropriate for home, why not the workplace? Employees who feel that they have a trusted advisor that’s concerned about them and their success are more likely to speak up during times of woe rather than allowing resentment to build (resentment that could cause good employees to leave). That trust will allow for open communication, giving supervisors the opportunity to anticipate future needs. This creates a proactive environment (instead of a reactive one).
“What resources or training do you need?”
With our children, we might not say these words exactly, but we do say it. For example, if we see them fumbling with a new skill, we ask, “Do you need help with that?” or “Can I show you an easier way?” If they want to try out for the school band, we inquire if they would be interested in music lessons.
The workplace should be no different. When we hire an individual, we do so with the understanding that they have certain skills and background to fill the role. But, there’s still a learning curve to consider. Often, leaders make the assumption that their employees already know everything they need to know and everywhere they need to go. Think of the impact of asking the simple question: What resources do you need? It shows a level of support and provides a low-risk opportunity to clarify questions they might be too afraid to ask, saving mishaps on the backend.
“How do you like the current project you’re working on?”
When it comes to our children doing any kind of work, we regularly ask them if they are enjoying it. “Is dance class fun?” “What do you like learning at school?” We ask this to learn about their interests, strengths and weaknesses, as well as to provide guidance.
This line of questioning can benefit the workplace, as well. Not only does it show your employees that their satisfaction matters, but it will also help identify which tasks are a right fit for them. Now, you may not be able to always shift an employee’s responsibilities based on their preferences but asking what they like might give you insight into how they think and work.
It’s important to note that these questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to saying things that build engagement, but it’s a good place to start and a crucial step in the right direction.
Consider what other things we say and ask of our children, and then ask yourself what information that line of questioning uncovers. Would that question reveal something of value in the workplace?