Parents spend so much time teaching their kids lessons, everything from table manners to how to ride a bike. Yet there is so much we can learn from them, especially as managers and leaders. My eight-year-old daughter Amaya, for one, has taught me many lessons that I now incorporate into my career. Here are a few I’d like to share.
Find a meaningful way to express yourself.
I learned about TikTok from Amaya who is full of flare, sass, creativity and a love for dance. One day she was sharing her videos with her friends and she explained to me it’s her way of showing her friends her style and expressing themselves with one another. I realized this is her way of storytelling. When she got a new bean bag for our playroom this is how she decided to announce it her squad.
When I was leading a reorg, there were going to be a lot of changes, with a communications plan ready to go out. But then I was reminded of the way Amaya communicates with her friends, and I decided to personalize the messaging. So, I decided to record a video clip where I explained all the changes, going a bit off script so that I can express my emotions and appreciation rather than people interpreting how I felt by text in an email. (I didn’t do a TikTok dance, in case you were worried.)
Don’t ignore your team when they are down.
We recently received an email from Amaya’s guidance counselor. Immediately, I thought she got in trouble, but instead the email shared she was such a great friend that day. On the playground at recess, another friend lost her jacket and was upset and they couldn’t find it. While the other kids ran back into school, Amaya stayed to look for the jacket asking the teacher for a few extra minutes before they found it. This was something the guidance counselor believed was important to share with us.
We don’t always have one another’s backs like that in the corporate world. Sometimes it can even be cut-throat — every person out for themselves. Or we simply overlook when others are having a hard day. I decided to be more like my daughter in these situations. At an offsite, I noticed a colleague stepped out for a long time and returned visibly upset. I asked her if she’d like me to step in for her, and she was relieved because she received bad news about a family member’s health. The rest of the meeting ran smoothly, while she was able to focus on what matters most.
Show vulnerability when meeting new people.
My son Jayden plays competitive soccer, which fills our weekends with a few soccer games across the Tri-State. Amaya gets restless during soccer, but many times comes to the games to support her big brother. She’ll usually find a few other friends there where they spend their time doing cartwheels.
Once, on the ride home, we asked Amaya how she makes friends everywhere we go. She said, “It’s easy. I walk over and don’t say anything and do a few cartwheels in front of them.” They then want to learn how to do them too, and then Amaya will ask them how they do backbends, and they teach one another new tricks. Just like that, instant friends.
While I don’t do cartwheels at work, it can be awkward to socialize with new people. In one case, I was at a board meeting and everyone was going around sharing their titles and a bit about themselves. I decided to tell everyone I’m great at building digital products, but not great at coding, finance and other skills I heard mentioned around the table. I mentioned that I live with my wife and two kids, and that we’re struggling how to parent with social media. And that I have a battle between working out and eating desserts. I ended by saying that I am humbled to learn from everyone there.
Instead of pretending I had all the answers, I shared what I’m good at (cartwheels) and what I need help with (backbends) and it set a very open and warm tone for the meeting, and led to us getting to know one another in a more personalized way. Like with Amaya, it works every time.
I knew I was the luckiest to have Amaya in my life from the day she was born, but I had no idea she would help me become a better leader. I continue to learn from her day in and day out.
What have you learned about leadership from someone you did not expect to?