3 Parenting Books that Will Improve Your Management Skills

Yesterday I was running a workshop for potential leaders in the NHS when I found myself quoting a parenting book.  This is not the first time I have done this.  I read parenting books as a parent, like many others do, to check there is no quick fix to the joyful struggles of dealing with beings who dedicate their lives to keeping me on my toes.  To me, parenting seems like the toughest job on the planet, just on sheer exhaustion levels alone, and I have tried out a few interesting jobs (removal lady, fruit picking, shoe sales, waitressing, debt collecting to name but a few).  Even being the Chair of a Board of Governors at a school in Special Measures was a breeze in comparison to the most difficult aspects of parenting.

This particular workshop was about how to be objective when observing, assessing and feeding back behaviours.  I have been running this course in this particular organisation for nearly 4 years now and it is really well received.  I have noticed that the bit people get most engaged around is the section on giving difficult feedback/having difficult conversations.  All too often it becomes clear that they have few role models for how it should be done.  Yet with some preparation, a couple of key tools and the chance to practice they leave feeling “empowered” and “equipped” to deal with those conversations they have been putting off or dreading for some time now.

As we go through the session, there is always one person who asks the question, “What do I do about someone who…?” and what follows is usually one of the following:

  • Cries when I try to give them feedback
  • Argues back at me all the time and gets really defensive
  • Accuses me of bullying
  • Doesn’t think it is their job
  • Tells lies about other people so I can’t be sure of my facts

None of these is easy, and like parenting there is no quick fix.  Yesterday the question was about a compulsive liar accusing her manager of bullying, and the situation struck me as similar to those described in a book I had just read about teenagers.   “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Teenagers” by Nigel Latta.

This particular book had described in a humorous and down to earth way, the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” that many teenagers use to keep parents disoriented and get their own way.  I showed it to the delegate and she smiled, “they’ve read this list” she replied.

Using the guidance in this book we found the same principles of dealing with bad teenage behaviour would help in dealing with this employee.  Amongst them were:

  1. “Keep it simple” – pick the one thing that you really need them to work on now.
  2. “Be the rock not the sea” – when they escalate, get emotional, get angry, stay calm and focussed.
  3. “Don’t make their problem your problem” – tell them what the rules are and give them clear consequences if they don’t stick to them
  4. “Find moments of connection” – try to find small situations to build trust and find out more about what interests and motivates them.

Taking the train home and reflecting on the events of the day, it struck me, I have used many parenting books to help managers think about how to deal with employees.  So just in case you are a parent or a manager here are my top 3:

  1. “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Teenagers” by Nigel Latta

A very funny and helpful book by New Zealand Psychologist and TV personality.  Particularly useful is the analogy between parenting and underpants…. “not too tight, and not too loose” a great metaphor for situational leadership; delegation and empowerment

  1. “Toddler Taming: A Parent’s Guide to The First Four Years” by Dr Christopher Green

A simple explanation into how to create behavioural change through calm and consistent application of rewards and consequences

  1. “How to talk so Kids will listen and listen so kids will talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.  

I have used this often in my coaching work with leaders who, due to previously very controlling behaviours, are struggling to engage their teams to get involved in collective decision making.  It is also very powerful in working with leaders and managers who find they are being put to work ‘fixing’ everyone else’s problems for them.

I’d be really interested in your thoughts and views so please do comment below, or if you want to find out more about how I help managers and organisations then please send me a message.

Thanks for reading and parent or manager… Good luck!

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