They Know What’s Up

Here are 3 parenting principles that my wife and I talk about more than others:

  1. Kindness
  2. Thoughtfulness
  3. Respect

These clearly aren’t unique and, I imagine, are universally shared with every parent on the planet.

But why I know that they matter to us more than other similar ideas and ideals is that we continually use this language with our children.

In other words, when they do something poorly or make a mistake or ask a question or encounter something new… we almost always use one of these words in our response.

Are you being kind? Were you thoughtful in that decision? Are you being respectful or disrespectful?

Many of our response(s) are framed in questions rather than telling our children if they are or aren’t being / doing something well. We want them to think through their thoughts and actions. We want them to be critical of themselves, the biggest (healthy) critic and their biggest fan.

Code and coffee? Yes. Image via BOSSFIGHT.

I’ve given this some thought more recently because I’ve been thinking about the difference between what I say and what I do. What I want for them and what I am actually training them to become.

And, more specifically, I’ve been thinking about this for my own startup as we continue to grow and build something that I get more excited about with each passing day.

As we scale and start building a team I think about our organizational values and what we feel inclined to share with others and the gap between what we say we value and what we actually value through our actions and history together.

Not-so-strangely, many companies have a “Do What I Say, Not As I Do” type mentality – and they don’t do it on purpose, it’s just what happens. The problem, of course, is that this isn’t sustainable nor is it ultimately healthy.

If I say to new staff members that we care about their personal health but model behavior that doesn’t actually showcase that belief then we are lying to them and to ourselves.

When we say (stupid) things like “We believe in work-life balance!” but then work 7 days a week and leave little time for rest and recuperation we are janus-faced. We are liars.

And no one wants to be a liar. And your staff, just like your own kids, aren’t stupid. They know what’s up. They know what’s going on. They know when what they read on the nicely-framed picture of your “Value Statements” isn’t actually true.

You see, our actions showcase what we really believe. What we say (and do) repeatedly is how things actually are. As a parent, I’m trying to do this better every day (at-bat rate is so-so…) and as a manager and leader I’m working on it just as well.

Damn, it’s hard. But, worth it.