Friday, April 1, 2011

Servant Leadership Practice--Family Time

In 10-20 years, you'll be hiring the kids your employees and my employees are raising. We know that the early years are formative for success in school. If parents aren't around at important times or able to give them much attention (especially reading to them), then children will struggle. No one can raise kids like parents and therefore it's important as businesses that we have policies that encourage their presence in their children's lives. A few years ago, I delivered an open letter to business leaders at an Early Childhood conference.

One day, I walked into an engineer's office. As we chatted, he was stripping down a product so he could figure out what was wrong. A customer wanted to know what had happened to cause a fault. As he worked, he told me that his son was getting an award at school in a few minutes. Alarmed, I stopped him and kicked him out the door (not literally). It was important for him to be there. The customer can wait till the next day--it wasn't that urgent--or we can get someone else to do this work at that time. No one can take the place of this father.

Will there be an immediate benefit to the business that he was there for his son? We have a more committed employee who works harder for us when he can, but knows he can do what he needs to do for his family. With flexible work policies and an emphasis on work-family balance, we have less burn-out with our employees. We have their complete focus when they are at work. If they're distracted by family issues that can be solved by being home, I'd rather have them there than here making errors.

Will there be a long-term benefit to the business? Not directly. There's no guarantee that I'll be hiring the engineer's son, or any of my employees' kids. Somebody will. Maybe I'll be hiring your employees' kids. I hope you're letting your employees raise them as well as they can through being present.

Today, if one of your employees has a family event, at home or at school, tell them to leave and have fun. They'll come back next week more energized and appreciative.

For C12 and Truth@Work members, there are scriptures exhorting parents to "not embitter your children (or they will be discourage)" (Col 3), to "not exasperate your children" (Eph 6), to "train a child in the way he should go" (Prov 22). Are our business policies regarding attendance, vacation, etc. getting in the way of families? Aren't there other options that make work and family situations a win-win? Must being at work mean a win for the business and a loss for the family that could lead to embitterment, exasperation?

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