Ever since I became a father a few years ago, I’ve been constantly amazed by the amount of things I learn about parenthood and human nature that can apply to every other aspect of our lives, including our professional ones. Project management and parenthood are remarkably similar in that they both involve organization and coordination, need patience and forward thinking.
Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned, and I hope you find these just as poignant:
1. Step Up Your Game
It doesn’t matter how you are outside of work/away from the kids. When you’re on the clock, you’ve got to step up your game and give it your best. Whether it’s scouring the house for loose items your toddler might choke on, or keeping track of a dozen deadlines at once, the time for being that happy-go-lucky college coed is past. If a management style doesn’t work, change it to something that does.
2. Don’t Swear in Front of the Kids
Kids notice adults’ bad behavior, and so do employees. If you’re going to lead, you have to provide a good example. One of my managers used to make it a point to be early every morning to help inspire the team.
3. Parents aren’t Infallible
Kids look up to their parents as role models, and teams look to project managers for leadership. That’s a lot of pressure for a person to handle. We strive to do our best, but we’re just people. We make mistakes. We have bad days.
The key is to place these mistakes in context, overcome them, and make an effort to improve ourselves so that they don’t happen again. Strive for perfection, but don’t be afraid to stumble.
4. Guard Your Time Jealously
Anyone who’s spent a day babysitting can tell you that parenthood is just as much a full-time job as project management. But when you’re both a parent and a project manager, that’s when things start to get really interesting.
You’ll stretch yourself thin trying to do both roles at once, and every minute of free time that you have suddenly becomes more valuable than diamonds. Guard it jealously. Make sure you’re spending your free time exactly the way you want to—whether it’s taking a class, reading (or writing) a book, catching up with your spouse, or even catching up on a few z’s.
5. The Kids are Their Own People
Every child, even an identical twin, has quirks that make them unique. They’re motivated by different things and react differently to the same situation. Team members are the same way. They have different strengths and weaknesses, and an effective manager is one that knows which task is best suited for which person.
6. Be Firm
When you’re teaching children, you can’t be wishy-washy. You’ve got to be firm. The same thing applies to handling projects. Soft or lax leadership often results in a muddled project with no sense of direction. You have to set a direction and correct behavior that would damage your chances of success—even from the client.
7. Protect Your Kids
This one is a parental no-brainer. There is no instinct more ingrained in a human being than protecting a child. But in a way, your project teams are your “kids”, too. You are responsible for them, and you should watch out for their well-being too. When things go south, they need to know that you’ve got their back.
Both project management can be extremely stressful and extremely rewarding. I’m constantly surprised at how well lessons from one transfer to the other, especially in the context of team management. Try it out, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Just don’t treat your team like babies.
Image credit, Flickr, Russ Robinson