It's Time We Learn Something From Our Kids

As parents, we spend our whole life caring for, investing in and coaching our kids. The interesting part – now that my kids are older (27 and 23) – is that they are actually teaching me to be a better leader. 

I know people often seek to learn lessons from me as CEO of a growing technology company. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog. But as I write this 50th blog post, I’d like to share a few key leadership lessons I have learned from my kids:

1. You can’t make people do something they do not want to do.
I focused a significant amount of time and resources preparing (and saving) for my kids to go to college. I guess I thought they might attend a private college (or maybe even the University of Dakota like me), but they chose their own path and I am glad they did. 

My son, Ryan, chose to attend St. Cloud Technical and Community College. He graduated in two years with a sales and marketing degree and today he is building a successful sales career – at Marco. My daughter, Sara, became a registered nurse and is living her dream of building a work schedule around her family.

The lesson here is whether it’s your kids or employees, you can influence the process; but ultimately, you can’t mandate the outcome.

2. It’s time to communicate in new ways.
The millennial generation – maybe more than any other in recent time – will transform how we communicate in the business world. I recently shared in a blog how I had a conversation with a CEO and encouraged him to invest in a phone system that had texting capability. My kids – like most 20-somethings – prefer communicating via texting, Facebook and Twitter. They follow their favorite sports stars and get their news on Twitter in a way that many in my generation read in a newspaper. YouTube is fast becoming the primary search engine for information with this age group.  

I’ve had to get comfortable with these tools to connect with my kids. But we’re all going to have to get comfortable adopting these technologies in the workplace to most effectively connect with this future decision-making generation. At Marco, we are assembling focus groups of our youngest professionals to ensure we understand how they are using these tools to communicate with their co-workers, colleagues, and customers.  

The lesson here is to pay close attention to how your kids are communicating, because before we know it, that’s how we’ll be communicating with our next generation in the workplace.

3. Money doesn’t motivate like it used to. 
It’s evident that the 8 to 5 job, punch in and out, no longer applies. A good-paying job with a benefits package is no longer the biggest motivating factor. Flexibility is. That will completely change how we work in ways that we have not imagined – and it already is. This next generation of leaders is not interested in working 50-60 hours a week to get ahead. This doesn’t mean they’re lazy or lack motivation. They’ll find a way to leverage technology to be more efficient around a schedule that works for them. 

My daughter, Sara, puts more value on the flexible work schedule of being a home healthcare provider than working a traditional registered nurse position. This allows her to spend more time with her kids while contributing to the household income.

At Marco, a part of our culture is to allow flexible work schedules and we’ve invested in the technology so our employees can work remotely when appropriate. Tools such as video conferencing, remote network access, and mobile devices support these work habits. Sara reminds me of the positive impact this can have on the work-life balance of our employees. 

I know this is just the beginning of the leadership lessons my two kids will teach me. They are following their own dreams and defining their own success.

As I prepared to write this 50th post, I thought back to my first post and how the “blogosphere” has changed since I joined it in 2010. It certainly has become more active – with more people blogging on everything imaginable. I am honored to have so many followers, and I thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings. 

Topics: Work-Life Balance, Lessons, Learning