Babysitting at work? 3 things you need to know.

I get asked all the time by dealership staff if I like what I do. People want to know if it is worth the jump out of retail. There are certainly times I miss it, the team building, the rush of a crazy chaotic day. The feeling of accomplishment when you crush a goal. I always follow up my answer with a return question; Do you enjoy your job? I have found the most common answer I get is this:

“I do, but I feel like I do a lot of babysitting”.

I personally never understood that saying until I had children. I’ve heard it many times and generally assumed the meaning, but never really understood it. I look at it literally now. Three years into being a father and I am finding what it is like to raise children, to truly be responsible for them. To be a parent is to be tied with them in all their successes and all their failures. You are a team, father and daughter, mother and son, or vice versa.

You know who doesn’t have an emotional tie to children? Who doesn’t feel pride with success or bitter disappointment with failure? Who doesn’t feel responsibility for them to grow, become better people?

The babysitter.

Last week I worked with a great manager, a real leader. It was refreshing to be around. Leaving that dealership, I thought of three things you can do to stop “babysitting” your employees.

One: “You manage processes, but you lead people”. I say that all the time, chances are you’ve read that somewhere, it came from someone smarter than me. A babysitter sets the rules for their time in charge; loose, wide guidelines for behavior. We will call them “keep them alive processes” or KTAPs. When Emily and I have a sitter over, I don’t expect anything other than simply keeping my children safe while we are out.

As a manager, you need to do more than set guidelines for behavior, you need to take an interest in their personal growth and development. Meet with them often and talk about how they’re doing. To lead people to personal successes includes more than KTAPs, it takes collaboration and teamwork.

Two: Empower your employees to learn and explore their talents. When Emily and I were both working we took our children to a sitter during the day. She was good, had some good KTAPs, they always came home with a smile. I think she truly cared for them as little people. When my wife stopped working we no longer needed the sitter. Noting the kids missed the interaction, we decided to enroll them in a preschool ran by a nearby church. There was a night and day difference between the sitter, who was great, and a teacher with curriculum designed to help them grow.    

As managers, we need to set up our employees to expand their skillset. Cultivate their talents and utilize them in our departments. It is amazing what a person can do when someone instills confidence, and pushes them to be their best. To lead your people, you need to realize that every failure is a teaching moment, an opportunity to expand their tools. If you are simply coming to work and expecting your employees to learn from their mistakes on their own, check in on them a couple times a day, then wish them a good night, you are a KTAP’s manager, a babysitter.

Three: This one is the most important one. You need to realize that if you truly feel like you are babysitting your employees, it is likely your own fault. Look at your processes and if you are leading your people. What are you doing to separate yourself from generic keep them alive processes. If you treat your employees like children, they will act like children.

It starts with you, so set the tone and help your employees grow and perform better for you. Take an interest and teach them why they need to perform the procedures, not to just do them blindly. Talk often about how you are a combined team, that each of you have a unique role to play.

When I asked the manager from last week if he enjoyed his job he lit up. He told me about the extremely low turnover his store has. The successes his team has had over the last two years. He was fully invested in each of his employees futures. There was no babysitting going on there, this was a workplace for adults.

I have a healthy respect for babysitters, they have a place and a great one is worth their weight in gold. We have great managers who just need that little push to move past their KTAP’s and boldly lead their people. It just starts with a little perspective.