Parent Pick Up at Elementary School and Leadership

I have been thinking about this for a while and watching….parent behavior in the pick up line at school.  There are so many interesting behaviors that translate directly into the workplace setting and how we interact as leaders.

I was recently speaking to some senior leaders about motiving their teams.  One executive brought up a topic, the motivational power of which I think is underestimated by team leaders:   Manners.  Yes, it might sound trite, but the workplace is comprised of people; people with emotions and motivational needs.     And the team members model themselves after the leader. 

So back to the pick up line at the elementary school:  I think there are specific categories of parents and actions that directly translate into motivation and leadership in the workplace.

The Rusher:  You rush through the bus line; pull out, not looking behind you to see if there is someone there, almost causing an accident.  Think about those leaders at work.  Always rushing, not thinking about the consequences and repercussions.  They just want to get the work done—almost causing a “crash” with their lack of thinking through options.

The Pushover:  Someone who lets two, three even four cars ahead of them—almost never getting out of the bus line.  Altruism is important and key to our well-being—but what is important for your growth and your own career?

The Clogger:  In the bus line, there are those parents who get out and slowly walk around the car to get their child, holding up the pick-up for everyone else.   So, at work, when are you going to give your team the rope, delegate, let them make the mistakes?   Don’t clog the system—let the team do the work

The Rule Breaker:  The Rule Breaker goes up on the side of the curb to get around the cars already in line—no manners, just cuts other parents off without a wave.  While it is important to innovate, bend and even break the rules, when is this behavior from a leader too disruptive for the team, causing failure? 

The list could go on with different behaviors and consequences.  But if we look at this holistically, each of these behaviors is neither good nor bad, all have their place and time.  It is how you use them to motivate your team.  Know your team, figure them out—what behavior inspires them?  What should they model?  What works for each individual?  But just like life outside of the office, it often just comes down to simply minding your manners.  

WJM Faculty Member Anne Sugar is an executive coach who partners with companies to maximize breakthrough performance for their leaders.   Previously, she served as SVP, Media at Digitas, a leading global digital advertising/marketing agency.

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