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Three Things I Learned From the La-z-boy

We have a La-Z-Boy at my folk’s beach house. For those of you in the know, it’s a wonderful, gloriously comfortable chair that is the first love of many a bachelor and the first thing to go when your wife takes a firm hand on the furniture in the house.

In my 20s, I would go visit my parents there. Whether finishing my studies or starting my career, I would see the weekend as an opportunity to chill. Watch a movie, read a book. All from the wonderful comfort of that kick-back chair.

Unfortunately, my dad had other ideas. He saw my visits as wonderful opportunities to connect by fixing stuff up round the house together. He didn’t really care for sitting still much and was constantly fidgeting in the garage, in the garden, on the roof.

Drove me nuts.

I mean, I loved my dad. But I hated that I would just sit down, get comfy, then he would call me. “Just come help me with this one thing quickly. Then we’re done.” But we never were. Because as soon as I had helped him (and visibly disgruntled) to fix the beam or plant the tree or whatever, and I resumed my comfy position and tried to pick up where exactly I had left Jeffrey Archer, he would call again. “Just a minute. I need you.”

Now, my grandma always said I was lazy. I think my dad might have agreed. But I don’t think they got me.

If my father had done a tour of the house, determined what needed to be done, worked out what he needed from me, and then presented me with a two-hour plan of what we needed to do, and how we would do it, and then actually be done… well, I would have been keen as mustard. It was the constant up-and-downing with no clear view of why he needed things done that got to me.

You see, I’m a big-picture guy. An Enneagram 7. That means I need to understand where we are going and I need a disciplined framework to keep me focused. I don’t do well with a lot of interruptions, and I really struggle to get motivated if I don’t understand where we are going.

As leaders, and especially managing people from different generations, and particularly these days where we are working with flexible environments, remote working and all these new technologies… man, we have a hard job to do. We need to preserve and enhance culture, look after employee physical and mental wellness, communicate like titans, present a compelling big-picture vision and higher purpose, and still make sure sh*t gets done and hold everyone accountable.

My dad was an incredible leader and built a successful business. He was a good dad too, but there are many things he also did not do well and that one can learn from. Here are three lessons that I learned from his (mis)management of me on the weekends, and how it’s probably useful to the modern leader, especially when managing Gen Zs, Millennials and all the other collective nouns for people that are younger than me and demand more than I did:

  1. Paint the big picture: A lot can be said for making sure everyone is on the same page with regard to our goal, and what the expectations are around reaching it.

  2. Work as effectively as possible: Strategy before execution. Map out what where, how, then deploy resources. There is no advantage to constantly interrupting your employee with what they are doing because you have a new bee in your bonnet.

  3. Keep your promises: Set the expectations, map out the outcomes, and let people execute. And then don’t move the goalposts mid-stream, it will drive everyone nuts.

Oh, and if you have a La-Z-Boy in the house, you’ve won at life.

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