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One Size Fits No One — How Parenting Changed my Perspective on Leadership

by Makenzie Rath

As a mom of two, I drink a lot of coffee (probably more than I’m supposed to) and do more laundry and dishes than ever before. Sleep deprivation aside, I’ve realized from parenting as well as leading an organization that because humans are unique and different, it’s hard to treat everyone the same all the time. 

Recently, I listened to someone refer to the social sciences as the soft sciences, and I realized in that moment how much it pains me to hear that phrase. I don’t like equating people to “soft” sciences. In fact, I think people are the hardest science because every person is unique. Just like with my children, I have to tailor my approach at work to individuals’ specific needs, especially if I want to retain the right people.

Honestly, parenting was easy—at first

My two-and-a-half-year-old, our first child, was an easy sleeper. So we thought, “Babies are awesome!” From eight weeks old, she’s slept through the night. But as nearly any parent of more than one child can attest, the next baby was completely different. Our second doesn’t sleep so soundly, waking up at least two or three times a night. We’ve tried sleep training, cry-it-out, and every other tip we’ve been given. But nothing works. She is feisty and, unlike her parents, full of pep at . . . oh . . . midnight, 2 am, and 4 am.

I have to tailor my approach

It really hit home for me that I could try to parent my kids the exact same way, but they may react in completely opposite ways because they’re very different little beings. What worked for my first simply doesn’t work for my second. I could see our infant as the “problem child” because she doesn’t respond as her sister did. But I’ve learned that if I want her to be her true self and give to the world her distinct gifts and talents (and I do want that), I have to adjust my parenting style to meet her personality and needs. The same goes for employees.

Within your organization, each team and each person on that team requires a slightly different approach. Understanding that truth can give you a leg up on creating a healthy and sought-after work environment. 

Engaging employees is much more than giving out a free t-shirt. Employees need to know and feel that leaders care about them as individuals, recognize they have diverse needs, and spot the talents they each bring to the table. When you do, you help people shine at work. And by the way, if you need help engaging your team, Talent Plus has solutions for that.

It’s a balancing act

Of course, I’m always balancing a strong individualized approach with the organization’s needs, just as I have to balance my kids’ varying needs with my own. I can’t always give my kids or our employees what they want when they want it. But I do work hard to get a sense of what they need and provide it. It’s certainly a juggling act. As a leader, I have to consider what’s best for employees, clients, shareholders—the business as a whole. 

At the same time, I have to ensure Talent Plus’ growth and success. There are limits to what I can offer or say “yes” to. But boundaries provide security, which is why kids thrive when they know what’s okay and not okay. I believe employees respond similarly. The obvious difference is employees are adults who can tell me what they need to thrive. I’m eager to listen, and I rarely hear the same thing from every person. 

Work strategies need to come in all sizes

Being a parent as well as a leader has taught me that working with people is not a simple or soft science. Instead, it’s challenging—the hardest science there is—because a one-size strategy doesn’t fit all kids at home or all employees at work. Especially if we want to attract and keep the best people for our organizations, we have to expand our range of approaches. And we do that by listening to and caring about our people. 

After two years in a pandemic, employees want more flexibility and connection. They want to choose how to make their jobs work best for them and be known and appreciated by peers and leaders. While we can use many tools in the workplace to help us be more efficient, we also need to keep tailoring our workplace strategies to individuals and their unique needs. Because every employee matters.

author

Makenzie Rath is the President at Talent Plus where her role is to focus on our mission, “We know every person has talent.” Through supporting and partnering with our colleagues and client partners, Talent Plus works to create a world where people do what they are good at and enjoy.

“Talent Plus is positioned for unprecedented success and growth because we have the premier science in the industry alongside extraordinary colleagues.” – Makenzie Rath

Talents: Focus, Intelligence, Individualized Approach, Conceptualization and Persuasion