Put your management skills to work in the family

MANY of us spend at least 10 (if not more) hours at the office managing issues, meeting people, motivating team members, generating another innovative idea to outdo our competitors and strategising that quantum leap in the next financial year. More often than not, we think what we have done at the office stays in the office. Sounds logical but surely if you have done a good job at work, there must be something right that you can apply back home.

One day, while conducting a motivational workshop for my team, it suddenly dawned upon me that I am a far better motivator at work than at home. My family, most precious to me, did not get the level of encouragement and attention that I have showered upon my team members. Perhaps it was the long hours I spent at work but still that was no excuse. It was a wake-up call. That evening, I gave my son a big smile, commended him for doing his best for the day and thanked him for being a wonderful son! He smiled and the evening went extraordinarily well. Since then, I have started to selectively apply some of my more effective managerial skills back home as one of the means to help strengthen my relationship with the family members.

The following are some suggestions which have worked relatively well for me but remember like all corporations, there is an existing culture which really evolves the people more than the system. Do not be too rigid in your application and be prepared to take time to cultivate. More importantly, love conquers all else in the family which incidentally is something you could also apply in the office in a judicious fashion to reap positive dividends!

Setting direction and goals form a common task undertaken with team members at work. Do that also for your family after establishing with your spouse the ethos to which your children should hold strongly. Share your vision for the family with the children, talk about it whenever possible just as you would with your team at the office.

Establish a system
An operation without some form of structure often brings about disorder, duplication of efforts and lacks in transfer of corporate knowledge which is disastrous in the long run. In the same light, a disorganised household would mean not just mess but inaccessibility to things (since most of us rely on the domestic help), and weak/inadequate administration and management of important matters related to finance, welfare, value, etc. In our home, we have a summary of items kept in the store room placed behind the door so that everybody knows where the less frequently used items are. Files are labelled and documented for easy reference for all family members. The children work within a system that values and puts a high premium on schedule and discipline management. The latter area includes instances like requiring them to place things back in its original location such as shoes in shoe rack (not just on the floor), books back in their place on the shelf after reading, etc.

Lapses in communication in the office, whether through our inability or unwillingness, can lead to ineffectiveness, wastages and a possible loss of that major deal. On the home front, however, we should do better since family is a relatively smaller entity. Still, arguments do occur in the family over the smallest matter due to either a lack of communication or miscommunication. Just as we would improve our communication channels in the office via lunch, team-building sessions, suggestion boxes/forums and regular updating presentations, why not do the same in the family? Try the following:

One-on-one session

As you would spend that ½ to 1 hour weekly/fortnightly with your staff, do so also with your kids. Avoid talking about school work. Just chat about his interests and enjoy the session. Perhaps you may conduct your staff session at the office over a coffee. Similarly, your session with your child could be over an ice-cream at his favourite joint.

Chat over dinner

As most of us work late and entertain as well, some families do not have the luxury of dining together. Sure it will take some effort to arrange this but it will indeed garner handsome future dividends, especially if this means at least 4 to 5 times a week. Importantly, do not have TV dinners...the goggle box will just as quickly take over! Instead, talk about the day, the latest ‘gossip’ in the entertainment scene, the hottest trend in town or just hear them share. Re-capture that rapidly vanishing art of family conversation/discussion. In doing so, be warmly aware that you could be creating or re-creating a time-honoured family tradition that could have a dramatic positive impact on family togetherness!

Showcase the moments

Remember those holiday photographs that you took with your digital camera, and the many other candid shots you perhaps took with the mobile phone? Organise them (try www.slide.com) and ‘present’ to your family every quarter, perhaps over a family durian fest (or something else everybody loves)! For dramatic effect, play over your wide-screen TV in the hall. The kids love this. They will discover how much they have grown, the ‘silly’ things done in the past, and the achievements as well. Is it not like your quarterly reporting? Just that it is more fun and fulfilling especially if you have engaged your children in the preparation.

Leadership in servanthood
Good managers don’t just delegate and direct. They lead the way, listen and will serve in order to be served. In the same way, do not instruct your children especially when they are at the stage of discovering and working on their identity. Initially delegate small responsibilities to establish their level of competence. While you would keep an appropriate watch from the distance (figuratively), be ready to guide if needed. Should they fall, give them a lift and hear them out to understand their challenges. Assist appropriately but not to do their job. Show them the way to fish and they will harvest eventually under your guidance. Avoid talking down and abusing your authority as you would not enjoy that form of treatment from your superior as well.

Set objectives, review, motivate and reward

Communicating your objectives and expectations are essential to achieving the common goals of the organisation. Morale management is a key function of every manager and we constantly encourage our staff to help boost their confidence. Without a review, how do you improve and set expectations for the next quarter or the next year? And imagine not being rewarded for your performance, in which case you would likely throw in the towel!

How different can this be at home?

In line with your vision, determine the objectives for your plans with the family and share them regularly. Be versatile and be prepared to consider alternatives or even change course, or else it would become very stressful. Let your family members know how you feel about their attitude, their contributions and their ill manners, if any. Do not criticise but do it with love and always distinguish between the person and his actions. Be generous in your praises – for the dinner prepared, the homework completed or the smile on their faces when they greet you. Share with your children the forms of reward they will get should they perform well based on the ‘Key Performance Indicators’ set. Offer them the bonus for exceeding the expectation. Make your reward system realistic and achievable as you would expect from your management. Otherwise, it would be a futile effort.