Recently, one of my colleagues suggested that we have a “bring your parents to work” day at the company. It’s a great idea and one that I, frankly, would have never thought of even though it makes perfect sense. Many companies have a “bring your kids to work” day, although many people don’t have kids or their children are really too young to understand what it is mom or dad does. So bringing our adult parents, who can grasp the roles we play at work, into the office to see where their children work and what they do makes sense.
Most of us want to make our parents proud. It goes back to when we were kids. Maybe your mom or dad would proudly display your artwork on the refrigerator. Or, if you were like me, your mom would spend hours helping you through your homework so that when you got a good grade, you wanted her to see what she helped you achieve. Or maybe your dad spent time in the yard tossing a ball around, and you wanted to show him that his hard work with you paid off. Whatever your parents invested in you, you want them to see the fruits of their labor.
I often recall the last weekend I spent with my father. He and my mother came to visit me and my young family. My oldest was three years old, and my wife was pregnant with our second child. Our youngest wouldn’t come along for a couple more years. My wife and I had just purchased our first home, and I had a solid job that I enjoyed. I wanted my parents to see that we were doing well in establishing our family. So when my father passed away unexpectedly the day their visit ended, I felt like he died knowing that I was doing OK. That was important to me.
So having a “bring your parents to work” day seems like a great idea to me. Let those parents see that all they’ve done to help their children succeed has actually paid off. Let them hear how important their children are to the company and learn about the contributions they make to help it succeed.
A few years ago, I wrote about the impact my mother had on my life and career. Despite the fact that she was a stay-at-home mom, so much of what has guided my professional career came from her. I want to share again the things I learned from her that still have an impact on my daily activities at work. I wrote then—and still believe today—that everything I know about business I learned from my mom.
Here are those lessons:
Honesty is the best policy. There were times growing up when it would have been easier to talk my way out of a situation with something less than the truth—and there were plenty of times when I took that path—but often my mom was there to remind me that being honest and facing the consequences were a much better answer, if for no other reason than telling the truth was the right thing to do and therefore allowed me to go to sleep at night knowing I had done the right thing.
Treat others with kindness. My mom, maybe like yours, wore her heart on her sleeve and always went out of her way to treat others with kindness and respect. Oftentimes, people think they need to be tough or that kindness equates to weakness, but I’m a big believer in servant leadership. Leaders need to be prepared to put others before themselves. That’s a lesson many of us learned watching our mothers take care of everyone else before they did the first thing for themselves.
Be prepared. Yes, I know it’s the Boy Scouts motto, but it was also something my mother obviously knew and believed in. My mom was continually planning ahead and thinking about contingency plans. As a kid, I thought she tended to worry too much, but looking back, I can see she wanted to be prepared when things didn’t go as planned. A good employee needs to think about the various problems that might arise and be prepared to respond quickly when they do. You need to know what to do when things don’t go as planned because things NEVER go exactly as planned.
Patience is a virtue. Every mother is different. I’m sure some of you had a fiery mom to keep you in line. My mom was pretty soft-spoken and had the patience of a saint. She had to put up with me! My brother and I tested that patience on a daily basis, and my mom was virtually unflappable. Patience isn’t my strong suit. I wish I had inherited that gene from her or had learned the lesson that she taught by example every day. I didn’t. Whenever you’re dealing with people, you need to understand when to be patient. Whether you’re trying to teach them or lead them, you need to slow down and fully understand the people you work with. Patience is definitely a virtue.
Teach by example. It’s probably pretty obvious by now that my mom provided an excellent example for me and my siblings. While she was soft-spoken, her actions spoke volumes not only about who she was but also about what was expected of us. What you do says a lot more about who you are and what you value than what you say. The more visible you become in an organization, the more people watch to see how you behave. They’re looking for cues as to what is important, and they mimic leadership. Make sure you act in a way you want others to emulate.
Respect others. This is a lesson they must teach at Mom University because I think all mothers try to ensure that their kids treat others with respect. The question is how well we learn that lesson. My mom always taught me that respect is a two-way street—you need to give it in order to get it. Too many times people don’t understand this. They believe respect comes from a title or a certain level on the organizational chart. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t. Respect is earned not with a promotion but by treating others with respect.
Associate with good people. My mom taught me that you are judged by the company you keep. Yes, I realize she didn’t come up with the concept, but she certainly conveyed it to me. I can say that I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really good people over the years. Notice I didn’t say talented—I said good. It’s not that I haven’t and don’t work with some extremely talented people, but it’s equally important that these talented people have high standards for behavior. When things have gone wrong for me in business, the first thing I do is consider with whom I’m associating. Often I don’t need to look any further.
Praise matters. Who’s better than mom at giving a pat on the back? She’s always there to let us know when we do well. And even when we don’t, she seems to be able to find the positive in a bad situation and leave us feeling just a little bit better. People need to hear when they’re doing a great job. I learned early on from my mom the power of praise and even the importance of finding something positive in an otherwise bad situation. We all need to take a page from mom’s playbook and share some praise.
You see, our parents can have a huge impact on who we are. Why not give them a day to share with us where they can see that all they’ve poured into our lives has actually helped us get to where we are today? Let them see that what you do is important and has an impact on the success of the company. Maybe you should consider a “bring your parents to work” day, too.