WORKAHOLIC FATHERS WAKING UP

by Matt Thomas

In the last few months I have been watching a phenomenon unfold that I find fascinating. My leadership coaching work and the nature of our relationships with most of our recruiting clients means I get to know a handful of business leaders pretty well. Most would probably say I am in their kitchen. And, in some cases, they are in mine as well.

The surprise has been the amount of business leaders, primarily fathers, who have realized how little time they spent with their children prior to the onset of covid-19.

In regular check-ins I always ask how things are going on the home front, with many still adjusting to the disjointed workflow. Most have settled into a new rhythm and many appreciate the newfound increased efficiency of plugging away at a desk in the basement. The surprise has been the amount of business leaders, primarily fathers, who have realized how little time they spent with their children prior to the onset of covid-19.

Recently I spoke at length with a coaching client whose previous weekly routine involved getting out the door by 5am, heading straight for the gym, at his desk by 6:30, and lucky to make it home for dinner two nights a week. He was usually too exhausted to help with tuck-ins or much else around the house. Every other week he was traveling for work, with trips more and more frequently bleeding into the weekends. He has three kids under twelve. Now forced to work in his basement, he celebrated the daily “lunch breaks” he was taking with his kiddos. I didn’t have to say much for him to realize that he had fallen into a seriously unhealthy rhythm that would have had long term consequences for his relationship with his kids.

Another business owner I spoke with a few weeks ago with a similar pre-rona routine to my friend above has so enjoyed the increased time with his family that he is taking a lengthy sabbatical this summer to make up for lost time and focus on health and healing. I’m proud of him and the others who are realizing that we don’t have to sacrifice our kids on the altar of success in business. Leading an organization well and being a great dad aren’t mutually exclusive.

I’m proud of him and the others who are realizing that we don’t have to sacrifice our kids on the altar of success in business. Leading an organization well and being a great dad aren’t mutually exclusive.

The problem, as I see it, is that most young male business leaders are motivated by a fear of not having what it takes to run a successful business. So they double down on their hours in hopes that quantity will equal quality. Heck at the very least, no one can call them lazy! It’s usually not a conscious neglect of our spouses and children, but those relationships are the ones who will suffer if we continue on that path.

I am grateful that the pandemic has shed light on sacred cows and unhealthy rhythms. Lord knows I’ve experienced my share of illumination in the past few months. If whatever we’re digging our hands into is causing our little ones to miss out on quality time with their dad, we need to recalibrate or dig our hands into something else. We cannot buy the lie that success is contingent upon hours logged at the office. I am not advocating for flexible PTO or Friday ski days. I like working hard and have no difficulty pouring myself into my work. What I am hoping is that dads take advantage of the wake up call and build in some new habits that prioritize the little guys and gals in their homes.

If whatever we’re digging our hands into is causing our little ones to miss out on quality time with their dad, we need to recalibrate or dig our hands into something else.

Here are a few tips for staying engaged with your children while you lead an organization. Some I experienced with my own dad, others I’ve observed, and a few I am trying on with moderate success.

Take Your Kiddo to Work

Once a year is plenty. Don’t shuffle your schedule to find a day without any meetings or you’ll end up working at your desk with your kiddo in the break room watching netflix. Find a day where you have meetings you can bring your kid to. Better yet, figure out a way to put them to work and compensate them for their time. It’s good for our kids to understand what their fathers do for a living.

Carve Out 1-1 Time

Monthly. It doesn’t have to be some big adventure. A trip to the grocery store or a short hike is all it takes. A man I respect told me once that mama may want the whole clan together, but it’s the one on one times with each kid that formed the bond he now has with his adult children.

Make It Home for Dinner

More often than not is the rule in our house. Sure there are times when you have to work late, but those should be less often than the times you show up and share a meal with the family.

Turn Everything Off

Turn it all off before you walk in and don’t turn it back on until the kids are down. Phone, tablet, computer, etc. All of it. This is a simple discipline that will produce significant fruit if you are able to make it a habit.

Share a Hobby

Make it a mission to share at least one hobby with each of your kids. My oldest daughter loves to ski and mountain bike. I’m all in. My son also loves to ski, but is obsessed with hunting, fishing, and four wheelers. My youngest daughter loves to dance. Find something you can do with each kid for the rest of their lives.

One of the most significant moments of a man’s life is when he realizes that he gets to carve his own path as a father. He can take the good he received from his father and shed the bad. He can try on new rhythms and discard bad habits. If you lead an organization then you are the gatekeeper for balance and healthy rhythms. Your employees will take their cue from you, and so will your little ones.