RAISING ACCOUNTABLE KIDS: It’s About Principles, Not Perfection

You can observe a lot by watching. – Yogi Berra
When grandparenting you aren’t in the thick of the responsibilities that come with raising kids, so you have a bit of time to observe. So, as a grandparent, here’s three observations I have about the state of child raising these days:
  • There’s no more important leadership responsibility than within the walls of our home. The greatest success lies in building strong character in our young people that will enable them to be contributing citizens of the world.
  • We’ve never been more aware of the needs of our children because we have access to extensive information on child development, the impacts of trauma on brain functioning, mental health, the importance of attachment, emotional regulation, and self-esteem and well-being.
  • We are now extremely anxious about how we’re doing as a parent and how our kids are going to turn out. And all the anxiety is spilling over onto our children. Paradoxically, the more we worry about our kids, the more anxious they become. Anxious parents raise anxious kids. They have enough of their own anxiety without us contributing to it.
For those who have assumed the vital and arduous work of leading young people, here are four strategies to consider:
  1. Don’t make life too easy for your kids. On the wall of my daughter’s high school English class was a quote by Van Jones, the political commentator: I don’t want you to be safe, ideologically. I don’t want you to be safe, emotionally. I want you to be strong. That’s different. I’m not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots and learn how to deal with adversity. I’m not going to take all the weights out of the gym; that’s the whole point of the gym. This is the gym. In other words, making the space within the walls of our homes and our schools safe doesn’t mean rescuing our children from the challenges of life. Just as the struggle to break through the cocoon builds the strength of the butterfly’s wings, if we want our children to fly one day, they must struggle and develop strong wings. Don’t raise your children to be happy. Raise your children to be strong. Strength comes when our kids know they are not alone. We are right beside them, in their corner. Loving without rescuing. Being there without doing for them what they can do for themselves. With strength, happiness will follow.
  2. Don’t be afraid to parent. Saying no is not abuse. Our children do not need us to be their friend. Their friends are their peer group. What our children need is a parent. There’s a big difference between pleasing your kids and loving your kids. Pleasing is about giving them what they want so they will be happy and like you. Pleasing comes from insecurity. Loving them is giving them what they need – and what they need may very well be different than what they think they need or what their friends have. Children are not born with accountability – the ability to be counted on; they have to learn it. And they learn it, in part, when they can count on the caregivers in their life. If you are a parent, your kids are counting on you to be one. Let’s work at being secure enough with ourselves that we don’t depend on our kids for our self-worth. It’s not their job.
  3. Set clear boundaries around digital media. Digital media was originally developed for two reasons: information and communication. When it exceeds its function and is used, like any product or substance, to meet our emotional needs or to escape from our life it becomes addictive. Monitoring our own use and consciously and carefully supervising the use of devices with our kids is now an integral part of parenting. You can’t leave it to chance.
  4. Relax. You don’t have to get it perfectly. I remember a time when our youngest daughter wanted to change her curfew to go to a friend’s party. The easy road would have been a quick “yes” or a quick “no.” Instead, we spent the better part of a week negotiating with her and struggling to do the right thing. I don’t know, to this day, if we did the right thing. What I do know is that my daughter knows she was loved. She knows she was loved because she knows that we invested in the relationship. As parents and caregivers of children, we never really know what “right” is. There’s no formula. The goal is not necessarily to be a better parent. The goal is to find joy on the journey. And finding the joy will make us a better parent.
In Blackfoot culture, turtles are considered to be a symbol of creation and motherhood and embody the concept that is similar to “Mother Earth” in English. To the Blackfoot, the turtle is patient, wise, knowledgeable, and long-lived. The Blackfoot saying Iikakimat mookakiit means be wise and preserve and can be used to describe the turtle’s characteristics. And these characteristics fit well into my own approach and philosophy of raising accountable kids: be patient, wise, a good role model and the kids will be alright.

The best leaders are the ones who have the courage to face the demands of reality.

When Jesper Brodin, CEO of Ingka Group/IKEA, was asked to take over management of IKEA China, the operation required significant change to be successful and sustainable. He would have to close offices and support many employees to find new employment. Before accepting such a difficult restructuring, he asked himself an important question: “Do I have the courage and stamina to do this?”

An interminable conundrum for leaders is how to do the hard things that come with the responsibility of leadership while remaining a good human being. Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter, in a recent HBR article https://lnkd.in/gvztwTKT argued that the binary choice between being a good person or being a tough, effective leader was a false dichotomy. Their thoughtful article builds a good case for managing the conundrum through the development of two key leadership ingredients – wisdom and compassion.

While being human and making hard leadership decisions may not be mutually exclusive, it is naïve to think that you can avoid the struggle. The best leaders are the ones who have the courage to face the demands of reality. They wrestle with the tough decisions, determined to integrate humanity into their leadership and their commitment to ensuring results. And they do it imperfectly.

Like life itself, leadership is an imperfect journey. We don’t always get it right. Sometimes we miss the mark. Our commitment to results can override our compassion. Alternatively, our honest concern for individuals can compromise the tough decisions we have to make for the long-term greater good. And then, at those rare times, we discover that doing the hard things becomes the most human thing to do.

If we stay with the struggle and accept our imperfection as our leadership journey unfolds, we can stay real and earn the credibility it takes to build a great organization and make a difference in the world.

The Authentic Leadership Academy

The Authentic Leadership Academy is just a month away, and we are so happy to be back in person for this transformational event!!

Whether you are looking to level up your own leadership or develop the leadership of those in your care, the Authentic Leadership Academy promises to deliver an experience that will inject new power, purpose, and passion into each attendee.

The Academy will be hosted at the University of Calgary, May 30th – June 2nd.
You can find full details here: https://lnkd.in/gMi2euzp

Here is what participants had to say about our last academy.

Self-Care Is Not an Option Or A Luxury. Self-Care Is a Responsibility.

We all understand the reason flight attendants tell us to, in the event of an emergency, “put your own oxygen mask on first.” We are truly no good to anyone else if we don’t look after ourselves. One of the accountabilities that comes with leadership is your responsibility to take care of yourself—and no situation or person can justify neglecting this duty.

But what exactly is self-care?

  1. Self-Care is not the same as Self-Centered. We take care of ourselves so we can take care of the world we serve. Self-Centered means we take care of ourselves so we can take care of ourselves.
  2. Self-Care is not comfortable. In the words of Brianna West, “True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake. True self-care is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.”
  3. Self-Care is knowing what your values are and establishing non-negotiable daily habits that are in alignment with these values – not because it’s easy but because you made a promise to yourself to ensure that what matters most, matters most.
  4. Self-Care means accepting being an imperfect human. We can’t be all things to anyone. We can only be who we are. Self-care means that we understand that we can say no, so people will trust our yes.
  5. Self-Care means understanding the difference between loving and pleasing. Loving comes from overflow. Pleasing comes from emptiness. Loving comes from strength. Pleasing comes from insecurity. Loving gives us energy. Pleasing depletes us.

Five Common Mistakes Leaders Make That Break Trust

We all understand the importance of trust and how it’s the glue that holds organizations together. However, trust is like a delicate flower. What can take years to earn can be destroyed in a decision.

What are the biggest mistakes leaders make to break trust – and how can we avoid them? We all get that lying, stealing, committing fraud, or making ethical or legal violations will destroy trust. But there are also more subtle, pervasive, corrosive actions that will erode trust in relationships if we aren’t conscious.

  1. Making sloppy agreements. Don’t be vague about when you’ve promised to do something.
  2. Not showing up on time. Some people don’t care if you’re five minutes late to a meeting. For others, it will cost you a contract or even a job. Why take the chance?
  3. Gossip. Make up your mind to be loyal in people’s absence. It will earn you self-respect and the respect of others.
  4. Not delivering on promises. Be a person who never makes a promise they don’t intend to keep.
  5. Covering up errors. No one will ever think less of you for putting your hand up and saying, “I’m responsible for that.”

Are you guilty of any of the mistakes that erode trust? Decide to be a leader that fosters trust by avoiding the mistakes that break trust.

The undervalued virtue of human goodness

The undervalued virtue of human goodness

Growing up on a farm meant that we took our garbage to the dump every month.

A man named Monti lived there in a discarded trailer. Monti lived off of what other people dropped off. He had a thick, matted grey beard that hung down his chest and was always dressed in same old tattered coveralls. He smelled worse than a dead rat. And every time we visited the dump, Monti and his toothless smile greeted us as we unloaded the garbage.

Dad would faithfully stop with a thermos of hot chocolate and visit with him when we were done. It was painful for me to sit through the conversation in that old, foul-smelling trailer. I never quite understood why my father had the time of day for Monti.

That is, until my parents sold the farm and Monti rode his old bike ten miles to say good-bye to my father. He had tears in his eyes the last time he and my father shook hands. I saw how much my father’s kindness meant too him.

Today, after many years of working with and learning from a wide range of leaders, I understand that those seeds of goodness planted in my formative years were my first exposure to leadership. I’ve learned that although ability matters in a leader, inner qualities matter more.