by Michael Holland     

Managing employees is a lot like raising kids, and someone has to be the adult in the room.  Best bet is you’re being paid to be that person.  Employees and kids need the following:

  • Boundaries of appropriate performance and behavior
  • Guiding advice and latitude to make character-building mistakes
  • Care and feeding
  • Deadlines and curfews
  • Follow- up to see if they accomplished what they said they’d accomplish
  • Affection, recognition, counsel and every now and then a hug

A good leader will develop wisdom over time that will allow them to provide just the right amount of freedom and restriction to motivate and inspire their employees as each employee grows and develops.  A key insight is to know the “work age” of your employees, and subsequently, the appropriate levels of freedom and restriction.  Here’s a start to a list describing the age of employees.

  • Toddler – curious, desires immediate feedback, will work until he drops, temper tantrum when he doesn’t get his way, desires love and affection to know you care
  • Tweener – intrigued, works diligently but easily distracted with technology, trying to fit in to the culture, likes attention but maybe not in public
  • Teenager – works independently but wants to know there are some restrictions, rebellious to autocratic power, can be lazy at times, inclusion, caring though not reciprocated
  • College Aged – passion for causes, works odd hours and will work endlessly if motivated, out-of-the-box thinking as knowledge and wisdom converge, seeks equal but separate relationships

Truly great leaders are able to balance the “work age” requirements of their employees with a full understanding of their own style and maturity of leading to enable an environment for success.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • List your employees and label their current “work age.”  Now, think through various transactions and events with each employee, assuming their work age and the success or struggles you’re having with each.
    • How are you performing?
    • Are you building up your employees to be successful in society?
    • And most importantly, are you being a “parent” or attempting to be a friend?
  • How would you describe your leadership style in parenting terminology?
  • How does your boss perceive your “work age?”