by Mike Neill

Don’t Parent Your Employees

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Have you ever heard a manager say something like this about their employees – “These people act like three-year-olds. I feel like I’m running a daycare center. My own kids act better than this.”

Of course, you or I haven’t said that about our employees, because we’re awesome. But the OTHER managers, you’ve heard them say it, right? Want to know why? Because it’s true.

Employees begin to act like children when managers behave like PARENTS!

We all know the saying, “If you’re going to act like a child, I’m going to treat you like a child.” We may have even said it to our own kids. One of the things we naturally gravitate toward when is correcting behaviors is to try to “parent.” It’s understandable because so many of us have a context for parenting. I mean, how many of you have had children? How many of you have ever been a child? See? Everyone has a context on parenting or having been parented. So, when you’ve never been fully trained on how to be an effective manager, we do the natural thing. We gravitate toward parenting.

In management, we can start treating employees, who aren’t doing what we expect or want like they are children in need of parenting, rather than adults. But the reality is – we can’t parent our employees.

Once again, because this is important, we naturally gravitate toward a parenting model when we haven’t been trained in a coaching paradigm. 

In a coaching paradigm, leaders treat employees like adults. Here’s what I mean. They give employees all the tools, systems, information, encouragement, and expectations needed to be successful. Then, it’s up to employees to take the ball and run with it.  

If the employee uses those resources to be successful, we recognize and honor that. If the employee doesn’t use those resources – the same resources that have been given to other employees who DO succeed – then we have to confront the ineffective performance in an adult-like manner.

As a credit union leader, you have a limited ability to create success, and you need to do ALL of those things:

  1. Great environment to work in
  2. Expectations clearly laid out
  3. Measurements & minimum expectations
  4. Recognition for doing things well
  5. Accountability for failure to do it
  6. Equipment necessary to do the work

After doing these things, your expectation should be for employees to perform and succeed.

Instead, what some leaders do is start trying to parent their employees into success. It won’t work. It never does. Whether it’s acting as a “Buddy Parent” or a “Tough Parent,” you’ll create child-like behaviors in your employees. They’ll play games like, “Let’s See You Make Me Do It.” Or “How Many Do I Have To DO?” Some of you reading this are probably sweating right now because this stuff is too real! The only way to be successful in creating a high performing team is the adult-like model. Then, what will happen is that your employees, over time, will begin to mature into adult-like behaviors, like taking responsibility for their own performance.

There’s more to coaching than this for sure, but this is a blog, not a book, right? But, Parenting vs. an Adult approach to coaching is an important concept for credit union leaders to understand. We need to avoid treating people like children and us acting like the parent.

Speaking of Coaching Paradigm’s that will allow you and your fellow managers to create highly engaged, high performing employees, check out our Vertex Management Development Program and reach out to us if you’d like to learn more. And, trust me…You do.

“Go for it gang! You know where to find me.”

– Mike Neill

Michael Neill is the president and founder of ServiStar, a company he started more than 20 years ago. When he isn’t intravenously consuming his daily Diet Coke, you can find him at a Nashville Predators hockey game with his lovely bride, Becky, yelling helpful tips at the players.