I became a father in September of 2002, and that moment of instantly loving something more than can be measured was unlike any emotion I can describe. My life had changed. I now had responsibility outside of my job and marriage — I now had the responsibility of raising a child.
But what I didn’t expect was that my daughter — and later my son, who was born in October 2006 — would help raise me and make me a better person and professional.
As Father’s Day approaches, I’ve been thinking about what my kids have taught me about business.
Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned since the first time I held my daughter nearly 13 years ago:
1. Career advancement is a marathon, not a sprint
It’s hard to balance being a present parent when you’re striving to lead a team, develop your professional career, and grow a company. I can see now that I took my kids for granted at times in their earlier years as I was developing my career. I told myself, “I can spend time with them tomorrow,” but when tomorrow came around, there was always another work opportunity. Make time today to be with your family.
Likewise, don’t rush your career. It’s not about attaining the next job title as quickly as you can; it’s about soaking up the current opportunities, learning as much as you can at this stage.
2. Be patient with your work and your team
Anyone who’s ever survived the “terrible twos,” held their ground during an “eat your vegetables!” face-off or waited in line after line at Disney World will tell you that there’s nothing like parenting to build (and test) your patience. That’s not to mention the long-term patience required as each child’s personality and interests develop over the years. For example, my daughter has been in love with equestrian since she was 6 years old, while my son has been interested in drums, then baseball and now Tae Kwon Do.
Being a parent has made me more patient in my career as well. I’ve realized that being consistent and persistent in my work produces better results than chasing after quick wins. Take time to ensure you outline a strategy for your team, communicate your strategy and have patience in executing the strategy.
3. Establish priorities and put people first
In my family, birthdays are major priorities. No matter the meeting, no matter the importance — never, ever miss your child’s birthday. Be at every one of them, and be truly present (no phone, no texting and no emails). Make it clear that your child is your priority.
In business, make sure you’re prioritizing people amid the work. How can you recognize your employees for a job well done, or go above and beyond to thank customers for their business? Here’s a hint: Birthdays are a great place to start. No matter what the age, we all like to have our birthdays recognized and celebrated.
Bonus lesson: Bring an attitude of leadership home
This isn’t a business lesson I’ve learned from my kids; rather, it’s a parenting lesson I’ve learned from work. In business, you have to lead yourself in order to lead others, setting the example for your team. Be clear in your intentions and communications, and treat everyone with respect.
I’ve realized that a lot of these traits are also necessary for building great relationships with your kids. Lead by example, communicate clearly and demonstrate respect. Show them what being a leader means, and those skills will carry over into their adult lives.
You will accomplish many goals throughout your professional career, but if you choose to have a family, your children will be your greatest legacy. No one on his or her deathbed ever stated, “I wished I had worked one more day.” However, you will want one more day with your family. Outside of faith, family is priority. Take the time to enjoy both your family and your work. Make them proud of what you accomplish in your professional career, but also be present for the moments that matter, every day.
Brandon Sawalich is senior vice president for Starkey Hearing Technologies, which is a global provider in hearing healthcare. Sawalich oversees the company’s market development, leading a team of more than 350 customer-facing professionals
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