Taking time away from my career to care for my kids has made me a better leader

Daniel Broder took a step away from work to care for his children over the past few months. Not only has it made him a better parent, he explains, but a better leader in an industry where communication, distraction, and negotiation is just as important as it is when dealing with kids.

My work and family life will often overlap. Sometimes, I may need to bring work home or take my family to work. I’ve had conference calls while giving my daughter a bath and brought my daughter to planning day. A website is operational all hours of the day, so sometimes I needed to be too.

I’m also extremely fortunate to have had an employer that understands parenting is the responsibility of both parents. When my wife went back to work, I had the opportunity to take an extended period of time away from work to care for my children – an opportunity that was most definitely too good to miss.

The last few months I’ve spent with my two girls have been priceless. Not only do I believe that I’m a better parent for it, but also a better person. It’s given me time with my family, but also time to think about who I am, what I want for my family, what I want to achieve, and, surprisingly, what sort of leader I want to be.

Who would have thought that changing nappies and changing minds had more in common than sometimes being up to your elbows in shit?

My two girls

Communication is key

Getting your point across can be extremely challenging in the workplace. But have you ever tried convincing a child to do something they don’t want to do? I have two extremely strong-willed children, which is definitely a personality trait I want to foster, but I could do without the testing of my patience on a daily basis. This is where communication is so important – children have the best bullshit radar and will call you out on it at any opportunity.

I’ve learnt that communication isn’t just what I say, but how I say it. If what you’re saying doesn’t match your body language, the message won’t get across. I need to make sure I’m clear, to the point and communicating what I want to say in the way I want to say it. Otherwise, I’ll be left with my foot firmly planted in my mouth.

The art of distraction

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from being a parent, it’s the importance of distraction. When dealing with a crying child, the quickest solution is to always focus their attention elsewhere. Make ’em laugh.

And when managing your team and stakeholders, you need to ensure their attention is focused on the task at hand. We’ve all wasted time dealing with the urgent while losing sight of the important. With stakeholders, perhaps it’s using the classic “Yes, and” to redirect focus. Have answers to questions you may get asked, and be prepared for almost anything.

Everything. Is. A. Negotiation

I never quite understood this until I had kids.

If you eat all your dinner, you can have a treat. If you clean your room, you can watch TV. If you let daddy sleep — please just let me sleep!

The best negotiations are where everyone walks away happy with the deal. But is it worth it to keep haggling, especially when it comes to a long-term business relationship? Nobody wants to deal with an asshole.

Fall, but don’t fail

“Fail hard, fail often.” We’ve all heard it, but I disagree. We can most definitely succeed without having to fail first.

Like a baby learning to walk, we may stumble, trip and even fall — but this is not a failure. These are steps along the way to achieving our ultimate goal.

To go as fast as possible, speed skaters need to find the edge of the blade on their skates. If they push too far, they’ll fall. But if they don’t find that tipping point, they’ll never reach their full potential.

So we must learn to fall – and probably fall – often, but this is not failure.

Keep calm in a crisis

Things will go wrong. All the time. No matter how much you plan.

The important thing is how you deal with it.

You know that look you get when your child throws a tantrum in public? You get the same look if you lose your cool in the workplace. The best leaders know how to provide stability and certainty within the chaos. When the shit really hits the fan, people turn to those who are a beacon of calm and confidence. Lose your cool all you want in private — but not in front of your team. It’s the quickest way to lose their respect.

Care. Really care

This is the most important thing. You must care. And it needs to be genuine.

It goes without saying that we care for our children. Our role as parents is to provide for our children, teach them, protect them and ensure they are safe and happy. But how often do you show genuine care for your team?

To be the best leader, you must have true empathy for your team. It is vital that you care about their wellbeing at, and away from, work.

When working with people, you’re probably only seeing one part of them. There’s always so much more under the surface: families, friends, hobbies, challenges and heartaches. Understanding the person as a whole will go a long way to building strong relationships. Because without genuine care for each other, what are we doing this for?

I know that I am a better father, and a better leader, because I’ve stayed at home with my girls.

So if you get the opportunity to be a full time parent, take it.

Daniel Broder is the former digital operations manager at Bunnings


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