There was a lovely Associated Press story this week about using business skills to make home life more efficient. The story was particularly lovely because I was quoted in it!
So let’s expand on the idea in the article — how can you use what works at your workplace to make your home life better?
For Single People: Planning is extremely important for a single person. Consider making your own Personal Strategic Plan, just as your business might. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? What would success look like? Enlist a friend, family member or coach to help you through the process. And, while you’re in planning mode, make sure you have your legal documents — such as a will and a power of attorney — in place. If the idea makes you feel icky, consider it your “succession plan.” One more plan? Every business has an inventory. So, inventory your household possessions, and send a copy to whomever you designate as your executor in your will. And, if you ever have to file an insurance claim for your stuff, you’ll have everything documented.
For Couples: Plan a weekend “leadership retreat” to have a meaningful goal-setting conversation (and if you sneak in some golf or spa time, that’ll make it just like your company retreat). Use a format like the Personal Strategic Plan I mentioned above, but take into account what both of you want. The key to this kind of work is to put everything out on the table — nothing is undiscussable, and all the ground rules around effective communication are enforced. That means you listen with openness, respect and kindness, rather than with barbed jabs, condescension and temper tantrums. Remember that mandatory training class you attended on “Difficult Conversations”? Well, use those skills here. Continue the discussion at home with monthly planning meetings — you can boost the fun factor by making it a “date” at your favorite restaurant. Now, that’s what I call “team building”.
For Families With Little Kids: Think of little kids as interns or your new employees. As their manager and mentor, it’s important to play to their strengths, so they can feel successful. When you give them tasks, make sure you’re setting them up to do well. That means they stir the batter rather than take something out of the oven. That means they tidy rather than thoroughly clean. Little kids really have no sense of time, or of the value of money. So, rather than saying, “We’re leaving in ten minutes” which has very little relevance to a three year old, say, “We’re leaving after Mommy gets the diaper bag organized and your sister uses the potty.” You can teach them about money if you let them select a birthday present for a pal and give them a dollar limit to stay under. Sure, it’s easier to do it yourself — but what does your kid learn from that? Let’s call this “delegating” and “independent decision making”.
For Families With Older Kids: Treat your teens or young adults as your senior staff. Provide them with the information they need to make good decisions on the family’s behalf — give them access to a family calendar, either using online tools, or, if they live at home, a large whiteboard. Pull back the veil and give them an understanding of the family income, expenses and financial goals. Do a performance review with your kids. Ask them what’s working in their lives, and what’s not working. Ever heard of Covey’s Seven Habits? One of my favorites is, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” So listen to what your kids have to say. Too many times we parents reverse the order like an autocratic boss and risk undermining our kids’ ability to be their own best advocate. Find a way to ask this kind of question: “How do you plan to handle your homework this year?” rather than telling them how it’s going to be. With each of these steps, you’ll be teaching them a ton, and giving them the confidence of your trust.
See, all those mandatory training meetings you’ve attended really pay off! Maybe not the way your boss or HR expected, but there you are.
Making your home life work well requires every tool on your belt. The good news is that you’ve already got plenty of tools and you know exactly what they can do. Now, go home and get to work.