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Leading to change

My experience of parenting has strongly influenced my leadership and management style, and vice versa. Family life was a great place to try out and prove the effectiveness of new techniques and theories.

You soon realise that the only difference between work and home is the feeling of who is in control.

The reality is as individuals we are ultimately in control of ourselves at all times, however when at work we often provide others with more control over us than we should.

I was taught about four management styles, instructing, coaching, supporting and delegating. Each of these has a use in parenting. Knowing these really helped when working with my own children.


Those new to the job require a lot more direction and instruction. If you have never attempted a certain task before you will have no former information or experience to use. This is like our children when they are young or trying something new. We need to provide them with support and positive instruction, increasing their toolbox of skills.

If others have formed an expectation that you should already have the skills required, then you are being set up to fail.

When working at a training centre I used to help on the induction programme, one of the things they used to do was cooking. Some of the trainees did not know what a potato was, let alone how to peel one. They had never been shown. This was not a reflection of their ability, only their knowledge.

If you are trying to do a job but do not have the right tools you are always going to struggle.


Breaking jobs into the specific tasks allows us to provide options. This choice aspect can help motivate. If we stay in the instructing mode once the task has been learnt, it can create defiance and resistance as people do not feel respected or part of the solution. The idea is to encourage our children to work with us. They are able to do what they feel capable of and to watch us doing those bits they do not know how to. There needs to be a feeling of trust and mutual respect, questions are accepted and answered without judgement or sarcasm.

We had been shopping, on the way home I got a call from my husband asking me to hurry up as the girls were due to go to sports practice, which I had forgotten. I told the girls that we had been taking too long and Dad wanted us back.

“I will need to clean my teeth when we get back as I did not have time to do them earlier, It’s your fault for rushing me Mum” said my eldest.

I listened to what she said and thought about it for a while. Before we had left to go out I had seen her sitting on the sofa and asked her what she was doing, “Waiting for you, I’m, ready to go” she had said.

I said “Ok, I just need to put my hair up.” When I had finished she got up and we went out.

I pointed out this conversation to her and got her to note that I had not rushed her at all. She looked at me and said “Oh, sorry, I just forgot this morning.”

I let her know that that is ok but she needed to take some personal responsibility for her actions and not blame others.

“We all forget things but it made me feel bad to think that my actions may have caused you to rush and not have time to look after yourself properly.”

Coaching can encourage self-reflection, an important skill to learn.


The only way to know what a person knows already is providing them with the opportunity to show you. As adults I know I feel good if people ask my opinion and allow me to show what I can do, our children are like this too. By working alongside others we grow our confidence in their skills at the same time they build their own. Sometimes we can answer our own questions; however voicing the question out loud can help. Knowing when to answer the question, to let it hang in the air, or to answer it with another question, is the challenge all parents and managers have.

My eldest came into our room to do her hair; it was where we tried to keep the hair brushes for everyone so they did not go missing. I could tell that it was not going to be easy for her as she had not brushed it properly for a number of days. As she tried to pull the brush through, I could see her getting more and more frustrated, grunting and whinging with tears forming in her eyes. I chose to stay quiet as I knew anything I said at this point would not go down well. If she had asked for my help then I would have tried to do so but there really was nothing I could do. In similar situations in the past my offer of help had been taken up just to end up with me being on the receiving end of her frustration, especially if I was the one which caught the knot. She eventually came to me to tie it back and I congratulated her on her persistence to get it done. “It was very knotty” she said.

We are our children’s safety net. They will want to go ahead and have a go at things, but as tweens they still need to feel supported. Try not to rush them into things, they will gain in confidence in their own time.


At this point jobs are given, or left up to the person, with the expectation that they can and will be carried out. There is scope for communication if things crop up which help is needed for, but overall the expectation is that they should be able to get on with things on their own. With children it is useful to remember that they do not mature at the same rate in all areas of their life. Things can go wrong when we see situations with our adult eyes and ask too much of our children in terms of delegated responsibility. They feel unsafe and fear getting things wrong. This means that for certain jobs or when making some decisions some coaching or support may still be required.

Your child may know how to feed their pet rabbit, but feeding the dog to them is different. It eats different things, has a different bowl in a different place etc.

Having learnt the skills as a manager I have learnt that to get the best from the workforce they need to be used at the appropriate time. Your child has not taken a backwards step, or failed in some way, if you find yourself having to coach them more than usual, you will probably find that the skill they are trying to master is, in their eyes anyway, really different to every other. If there are similarities to other skills already learnt, most will pick this up eventually.

When my youngest was 14 she asked me how I know what to do at work. I decided to explain using the different management styles and how they should be used with new staff to help them to do the best job they can. I used her experience of rock climbing to help give her a context she could understand.

Instructing: To start with she was told which hold to go for, and which hand or foot to use.

Coaching: Then she would be given the chance to have a go herself and given ideas of how she could possibly do the climb differently.

Supporting: Then she was left to get on with it, and given feedback to encourage her to persevere with her chosen route or given the suggestion that maybe she should try another way.

Delegating: She was left to climb in her own way, and no instruction was needed to make changes as she would do it herself as she could tell that what was needed to succeed.

I pointed out that a good manager wants to see their staff succeed and we all need to go through the stages to learn what is needed from us in our roles. Sometimes we make the wrong choice and metaphorically fall off the wall, but again a good manager knows that we have learnt from this error and are likely to be better for it.

Would you agree that your family has helped you learn to be a better manager?

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All the very best

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