Every Baby’s Different

My wife and I are expecting our first baby in March. We’ve shared the exciting news with everyone. The other night I was talking with a classmate, a father of two. As he told me about his kids, he shared a simple and elegant but powerful insight. “Every baby’s different,” he said. I thought what a brilliant bit of advice on parenting. Can we apply this advice to leadership?

One of the first and best books I read on management is “First Break All The Rules” by Marcus Buckingham. It’s based on an exhaustive study the Gallop Organization conducted which focused on the question “What makes a great manager?” After more than 100,000 interviews, Gallop discovered that all great managers have one trait in common: they recognize that each report is unique. Buckingham tells us about great managers:

They remember… that each individual… is true to his unique nature. They recognize that each person has his own way of thinking and his own style of relating to others. They know there is a limit to how much remolding they can do to someone. But they don’t bemoan these differences and try to grind them down. Instead they capitalize on them.

This lesson applies to all aspects of the manager’s job. Communication, motivation, coaching, and training. As a manager, are you providing off-the-rack solutions for your people or are you custom tailoring your style to fit each individual’s unique blend of strengths and weaknesses, their way of thinking?

We can apply this lesson to other areas of business and leadership.

Great companies, like Amazon, customize shopping experiences to each individual customer. Sales managers describe great sales people as chameleons; able to adapt their presentation for each unique customer. Likewise, teachers and their students. How else could the best teachers get through to challenged students?

The days of one-size-fits-all, vertical, autocratic leadership are over. I’m finding that leadership is about the led, not the leader.

Maybe after the baby is born, I’ll find that parenting and leadership have a lot in common. And I’ll try to remember every baby is different.

In what ways do you think management and parenting are similar?

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