Normally, I don’t suffer from jealousy. I’m usually delighted if someone I know wins the lotto or marries into the Swedish Royal Family. But lately I’ve noticed myself becoming jealous about really good kids in other families. I hate conversations that start with: “Robbie is totally confused. He doesn’t know whether to do that PhD in Columbia University or take up the job offer from PWC to manage their team in Hong Kong. It’s a shocking dilemma”. That’s not a dilemma. Wanting to slowly beat your kids to death for not doing a tap of work but knowing that you will receive an automatic life sentence if you get caught, now that’s a dilemma. It all comes to a head during Parent-Teacher meetings. Parent Teacher meetings combine the two things I hate most in life (a) Being at the end of a long queue and (b) Getting told that my kids are bone lazy (when I already know that).
Clontarf Game: Let me tell you about a game that’s played very skillfully in Clontarf (I suspect, this particular game is also played elsewhere). It’s called: ‘My kids are doing great, how are yours doing’? The game is played between family members, with neighbours, sometimes with complete strangers. The game is played so well that you seldom get to compare real notes, to find solace in the fact that other kids are underperforming. You never get to ease your conscience by meeting other parents who are watching episodes of CSI to find out how to bodily harm their offspring while hiding the evidence. Linda (my wife) has identified one other woman who talks about how her kids are really doing; when they meet, they’ve christened those coffee mornings ‘The Bold Boys Club’. And, they talk about the kids being ‘Street Angels and House Devils’. Some time back, Cillian (my son) worked in his girlfriend’s house, helping her mother to fold napkins for a lunch with her friends. The hypocrite!
Process Re-engineering: Next year I’m going to speed up the Parent Teacher meeting process by introducing a key weapon within the management consulting bag of tricks. I’m going to get a huge sign made. Clear white background. Black font in 48 point size that reads: NICE Kid – NOT Doing A TAP! Instead of talking with each teacher in turn, I’m going to stand in front of the teacher and say: “Does this broadly capture it?” Then, simply move on to the next teacher and repeat the exercise. As you can see from the above, 100% control does not exist (in my house) in the parental space. Because, somewhere along the line my kids have (stupidly) decided to live their own lives rather than the brilliant life I had planned for them. On this topic I have definitely been a ‘slow learner’ i.e. its taken me a long time to realize this. With only one kid left to go ‘through the system’ I can identify with the following saying: “I always wanted to have 4 kids, but now that I have 3, I’d really love to have 2.”
Total Control: Perhaps, total control doesn’t exist in the managerial space either. Perhaps it shouldn’t exist. Our job as parents is to get the kids ready for independent living – to help them fly the nest and set up on their own. By making mistakes. By developing independence, even where their ideas are contrary to ours. In organizations, our role as managers is similar. We develop staff to maximize their potential which implies an independence of thought and action. Now, of course, it’s not carte blanche to do what they like – or do nothing at all. But, neither is it a micro-managed sequence of events in which everything people do is decided by the senior team. Executives don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. Finding the balance between those two extremes is the ‘sweet spot’ in parenting – and in management.
Now, I just have to find that craft material and get busy making that sign for the meeting!
PS I’m taking nominations for the worst designed building in Ireland. My current personal choice is the car park in Tallaght Public hospital. You can’t drive up or down the levels without clipping the side of the car – unless you own a Fiat Punto or a SMART car. There is more ‘black’ on the walls than in a rubber plantation in Malaysia. Send in your nominations and lets see if we can plumb a new depth in architecture!
PPS: Lighter Note: (from Larry McGivern). this is what firemen do when they are not putting out fires – telling sexist jokes. It’s a national disgrace. When the next government is announced, I’m sure that they will ban this type of stuff.
A GUY WAS SITTING QUIETLY READING HIS PAPER WHEN HIS WIFE WALKED UP BEHIND HIM AND WHACKED HIM ON THE HEAD WITH A MAGAZINE. “WHAT WAS THAT FOR?” HE ASKED.
“THAT WAS FOR THE PIECE OF PAPER IN YOUR TROUSER POCKET WITH THE NAME LAURA LOU WRITTEN ON IT,” SHE REPLIED.
“TWO WEEKS AGO WHEN I WENT TO THE RACES, LAURA LOU WAS THE NAME OF ONE OF THE HORSES I BET ON. I BOUGHT YOU some FLOWERS WITH THE WINNINGS, as you might recall” HE EXPLAINED.
“OH DARLING, I’M SORRY,” SHE SAID. “I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THERE WAS A GOOD EXPLANATION.”
THREE DAYS LATER HE WAS WATCHING TV WHEN SHE WALKED UP AND HIT HIM IN THE HEAD AGAIN, THIS TIME WITH A FRYING PAN, WHICH KNOCKED HIM OUT COLD. WHEN HE CAME TO, HE ASKED:
“WHAT WAS THAT FOR?”
“YOUR HORSE PHONED”
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