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    Being a Dad Makes Me a Better Leader

    As we approach Father’s Day, it reminds of the important role a father plays in the family and also how it can apply to your work-life. I think being a dad has made me a better leader. It certainly has had an impact on our family-friendly culture at Marco.

    Jeff_Gau_Family-1I understand the importance of work-life balance and flexibility because I lived it as a father who wanted to be present for my kids’ activities while building a successful career.

    Growing up in rural Central Minnesota, we had a strong family unit. I could always count on eating dinner as a family at 5:45 p.m. in our assigned seats. My dad always played an active role in our lives, taking us fishing, playing ball, exposing us to all of the motorized sports and taking us on many fun family road trips. I have fond memories of my upbringing and will always be thankful for how I was raised. Dad was a good mentor to us and showed us what a good father looked like.

    When I look back at fatherhood and building my career, I think I did a pretty good job at balancing both. Of course, you would have to ask my 28-year-old daughter, my 25-year-old son and my wife, but I think I would get a pretty good report card. I did not shortchange myself as a father to build a successful career, and I did not shortchange my career by being the father I wanted to be.

    Here are a few fatherhood lessons that apply to leadership, too:

    • Focus on teaching lifelong skills.
      I tried to expose my kids to a variety of activities and made sure they learned a few practical skills that would help them throughout their lives. Sure, football and gymnastics are fun when you’re young. But golf, bowling and public speaking serve you well even when you’re in your 60s. I apply the same principle to talent development at Marco. I encourage our employees to learn and practice key lifelong skills like business communication and social networking that they can apply to any position.

    • Discipline is the hard part.
      I never liked disciplining our two children. It was uncomfortable for me and as my wife can attest, I was probably not as good as I could have been in that area. I think it’s my least favorite thing to do, but it’s necessary, whether you’re growing great kids or growing a great company. Boundaries are what build healthy children and healthy companies. When they’re broken, you’ve got to follow through and issue consequences. 
    • Keep your priorities in check.
      As a father and professional, I was intentional with my time – every day. I work hard, but I’m not a workaholic and believe in the importance of family and leisure time. That’s why I made it a point to attend all of my kids’ activities when they were growing up and today create a work schedule to spend time with my grandkids. I recall four years ago when I canceled a very important business trip to be present at my grandson’s birth. I’m not sure I realized at the time what a good decision that was. As CEO, I sincerely promote work-life balance. I realize when our employees have their priorities aligned – including their work, family and social life – they perform better. You will hear me tell our employees that family stuff comes first. When those moments arise, I always say “take care of your family and we will take care of the rest.”

    Throughout my career, my wife has reminded me to not live with “I wishes” and be the podium speaker who shares what he gave up for success. I think if you ask her now 30 years later, she will tell you that I was a good dad and engaged with our family.

    Life happens fast – as a father and a leader. So often we wish time away and want our kids to be older or our company to be larger. But it’s those early days that really shape us. Now, when I look back on my 28 years as a dad and 10 years as a CEO, I recognize even more the importance of being engaged and present for all the moments. I am thankful for my two kids and two grandchildren and the lessons they continue to teach me. To all you dads, Happy Father’s Day!