article banner
From Where We Sit

Of kids and employees

Anton Ng

As a father of two iGens (also known as Gen Z, those born after 1994) and at the same time being exposed to the corporate world over the past 12 years, I noticed certain parenting principles that can be applied by leaders in their respective organizations, especially those dealing with millennials and, soon-to-be in the workforce, the iGens. These principles, which I abide by as a parent, stemmed from my desire to see my kids become the best version of them. If this is the same path we want our employees to follow, it could be worthwhile to consider the following principles:

Convenience has a cost
As a young parent, I am always tempted to just let my kids watch TV than to read a book with them. Worse, I considered lying to them or shutting them up to avoid further long discussions. I did realize, however, that all these I considered doing simply because these are convenient for me.

Similarly, in managing our employees, we tend to forego active coaching or building relationships all because we feel that it takes too much of our time or, shall I say, it is not convenient for us.

There is, though, a price to pay for our convenience: we are not doing our part in contributing to our kids and employees’ development.

Be willing to be vulnerable
There are times when my eldest daughter would have a difficult time accepting feedbacks from us or even sharing with us what went wrong in school. We felt that she wasn’t willing to expose her weaknesses to us. This led us to conclude that maybe our kids think that mom and dad are always in control, that we do not make mistakes, and that they should be infallible as well. From that point on, we decided to be willing to be vulnerable in front of kids. We cried with them. We openly admitted our mistakes in front of them. We asked them for help. When we showed our vulnerability, they, in turn, graciously allowed us to help them work on their weaknesses by being more open and sensitive as well.

We oftentimes wonder why nobody is asking questions at the end of a briefing session or a meeting. Does that mean that everybody understood everything clearly or could it be because nobody wants to look stupid? This type of behavior is probably brought about by the fear of showing one’s weaknesses. Similar to parenting, the willingness of leaders to show they do not have all the answers often enables employees to also admit their own deficiencies. This allows an organization to help a particular employee work on the identified weakness.

One-on-ones and more active feedbacks
Early on with our first daughter, my wife and I realized that the best way for us, as parents, to be able to teach is if we spend more one-on-one time with her. We noticed that our daughter was most open to sharing her thoughts and feelings during those one-on-one “dates.” Initially, it was difficult to carve out this time because, as working parents, we didn’t have enough, to begin with. But when I realized I spent a lot of time watching TV or surfing the net, this became a no-brainer of a decision.

In the corporate world, lack of time is also cited as the reason for not having these one-on-ones. Some say they either use their time to do their own jobs, sometimes forgetting that it is part of their job to manage their people. And if you closely analyze it, how does this sound: ten minutes every two weeks for each of your team member. That’s approximately eight hours each month for a team of 25. It is an investment of time that surely, if done properly, would have a good return in the future.

Children, young as they are, have their own insights to share. As early as our kids can talk, we already included them in deliberating certain family decisions, from something as simple as deciding where to eat to more complex ones such as determining what values toe spouse- to as a family. We thought that they are never too young to be involved.

Our employees now, particularly the millennials, want their voices to be heard. So let’s provide them a platform to speak up, take them seriously when they do and involve them as much as possible in business decisions that would impact on them anyway.

There are indeed similarities in raising a child and developing an employee: we should spend quality time with them, engage and collaborate with them, listen to them and, most importantly, view them as a person to nurture in the long term.

Anton Ng is a Partner, Audit & Assurance of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading Audit, Tax, Advisory, and Outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 21 Partners and over 700 staff members.


As published in The Manila Times, dated 20 July 2016