Parenting, Professionalism, Principles, and Personal Accountability

My wife and I were recently organizing a box of keepsakes we have been collecting over the last few years: birth announcements, first report cards, self portraits from art class that are indecipherable. And in that box, we found a note we had written to ourselves, where we had laid out our intended principles of parenting. We wrote it when my wife was pregnant with our first child, and during that period we spent a lot of time thinking about the type of parents we wanted to be, and what was important to us.

We wrote down things like this:

  1. Treat each other with respect, always. Our kids will learn an enormous amount from watching the way we treat each other.
  2. Practice what we preach. Hold ourselves accountable in the same ways we hold our children accountable.
  3. Allow tons of time for play and expression.
  4. Encourage the kids to pursue the things that they love to do.
  5. Teach the “golden rule.”
  6. Always encourage questions, even when we are exhausted and just want silence.
  7. Privileges come with responsibilities. We care about both in our house.
  8. Failure is completely OK.

You get the idea. Yes, we are a little nerdy… we wrote it all down, and saved it. But I’ll take a heavy dosage of the nerd gene in cases like this, because it was a hugely valuable exercise. As I look now at this document, more than a decade after we first wrote it, I see how valuable it has been for us.

Why? Because it is easy to forget what is important to you when things get hard, and you are in the heat of the moment, frustrated and not thinking straight. When the hard days of parenting arrive, and you are exhausted, and don’t feel great about yourself… those are the times when it is easiest to compromise on the things that matter most to you. You either forget your principles entirely, or you say, “Screw it… I don’t care right now.” Either way, the principles get compromised.

Those are the times when you need to have something you can refer back to, to remind yourself what matters most to you. As I look back now, I can easily think of many key moments, when we were able to lean on the things we had talked about and written down ahead of time. And I am not sure we would have had the presence of mind to come up with clear parenting principles when we were exhausted, refereeing screaming kids, and feeling like we couldn’t do anything right.

This is a business blog, not a parenting blog (although sometimes there is some overlap). So while I advocate doing something similar for your own parenting principles, my real point today is that this sort of personal accountability and planning is enormously helpful in the workplace too. What kind of leader do you want to be? Write it down. What type of colleague do you want to be? Write it down.

Capture what matters most to you, in a calm moment, before things go crazy on you. You will rarely need to refer back. But those few moments when you do will be among the most critical moments of your leadership or professional (or parenting) life.

Have a great day.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.