“I’m the boss of this house.” How many times have we parents uttered those famous words? I recently heard someone make that comment and it made me think about that scenario. I pictured the family as the corporation and the parent as the boss. The children, of course, must be the “employees.” It made me smile, and then it made me think, “If my home were a business, would my children want to work for me?”

I hope so (for they are truly stuck, at least for now). I do know this: I want to be an effective boss of this little business called the family. I want my children to be “employees” who have fulfillment, who grow and who thrive. I want this particular business to be strong. I want to be a “good boss.” A good boss is an effective boss, and if we learn from corporations, we know that effective bosses generally share some characteristics:

♦ They equip their employees with good training. They not only tell them what is expected, they show them. They have a vision for their business and ideas about the kinds of behaviors that help the business, as well as their employees, grow.

♦ They are consistent in their expectations. While rules and policies may change over time as needs dictate, in general the policies are consistent with the expectations. Rules don’t change on a daily basis or on a whim. There is thought given to change.

♦ They praise their employees and acknowledge the good work their employees do.

♦ They also enforce consequences when employees fail to meet expectations. They provide mentoring or teaching to help the employee grow stronger. Sometimes, there might be a reprimand.

♦ They reprimand in a respectful way (without humiliating or destroying the sense of self that the employee has). They are fair in the way they treat others.

♦ They encourage and inspire the best out of their employees.

♦ They keep a broad vision about the end goal in front of their minds and this helps prevent them from being drawn down into minutiae and drama. They keep focused on the mission of the business.

♦ They are flexible and work to meet the needs of both the company and the employee.

♦ They follow through with promises.

♦ Most of all, they listen and learn from others.

“Bad” or “ineffective” bosses, of course, generally have these traits in common:

♦ They are never satisfied. Their employees can never please them no matter how close to the mark they come. They are quick to tell their employees what they did wrong.

♦ They don’t pull their share of the load. They may have a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality and expect others to follow behaviors that they themselves don’t practice.

♦ They are inconsistent in enforcing rules. It is difficult to know what is acceptable from day to day and working for these bosses can feel a bit like chaos.

♦ They play favorites.

♦ They put down their employees or call them names or berate them in front of others. Humiliation and fear are a part of their workplace.

♦ They change the rules without warning or on impulse. Employees never quite know what to expect.

For me, I know I want to work for folks who help me grow, help me reach my best potential, are present with me, work alongside me and share relationship with me in a positive way. (I’m very fortunate to work in such a place). I think that most of us generally respect that boss who consistently lives by the values they preach, who works with us and partners with us and who is honest and trustworthy. We relish the chance to work for someone who shows compassion, who sets clear expectations and values the perspective of the employee. And while we know that all workplaces generally experience challenges at some point (I call them growing pains), the effective boss helps steer the ship through that growth experience.

Let us all strive to make our families into places that our children would want to “work” if the choice was theirs to make. I know I will.

Tina Bartleson is the executive director of the Exchange Club Family Resource Center, which provides in-home parent education and mentoring to families with children 0-12 years. She has 29 years experience working with families and may be contacted through www.exchangeclubfrc.org.

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