All I really needed to know about managing I learned in kindergarten

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I sent off my oldest to kindergarten last week, and I’ve been reflecting a lot about career lessons that I want to pass on to him. Neither of my parents graduated from college (in fact, I’m the first woman in my family to do so), and there were times when I wished an adult could have guided me about education and my career path–someone who had been there and could pass on lessons. While I am far from having it all figured out, it’s important to me to share what I learn as I go with my kids with the hope that they will have both fulfilling careers and family life.

During kindergarten orientation, my son’s teacher passed out the essay All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum, and I couldn’t help but smile. If you think about it, the tenets in the essay are simple, yet so true, and certainly apply to managing a team.

Here are five lessons from the essay that stood out to me:

1. Share everything – Work as a team. Share credit for wins and the burden of failures. Impart lessons and tips without feeling threatened so young and mid-level professionals can advance and shine.

2. Play fair – The Golden Rule is a powerful guidepost. Be nice  and a straight shooter. Treat others in a manner that allows for sleeping well at night even if they are a-holes. Believe in karma to keep you motivated.

3. Live a balanced life – Set an example for your employees, your managers and your family. Be there when it counts at work and at home. When both entities are pulling you in opposite directions, do the best you can (and it’s OK to cry on the days when you feel that you’re failing on all fronts). If you’ve built a solid reputation with your manager that you are dependable, you’ll get some slack when your kid has a fever for five days. When your employees need some slack, return the favor (after setting expectations up front). On the hard days, remember the adage that no one writes “I wish I would have worked more” on their tombstone.

4. Be aware of wonder – Inspire your team. Give them thinking time. Ask why. Challenge norms. Create strategic visions that are fueled by innovation and solicit ideas from unlikely places. Give everyone a voice.

5. Hold hands and stick together – Build trust. Reward high performers. Celebrate successes. Change the way it’s always been done and build something you’re proud of. Have each other’s backs. Build a tribe and shatter the corporate ceiling together.

I’d love to hear your core philosophies on managing teams. Please share!

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Christina Klenotic

Christina Klenotic believes that you can be nice and successful in your career (screw mean people). She also doesn’t believe in having more kids than arms since she’s frequently toting both of her toddlers around Cleveland’s neighborhoods. Or, biking with them both on her mamacycle (baby seat in the front, tandem in the back).

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I loved all of these - and I even learned something new about you (being the first woman to graduate in your family). Another one that works for me is to be honest. I think we can over complicate feedback or avoid it out of risk of confrontation. So, I try to give really honest feedback to my staff on how they are doing, how others see them in the office and where they need to grow. I don’t sugar coat it - good or challenging - but I make sure they know I am in their corner. Great blog!

  • Great post and excellent reminder. It really is true especially about sharing successes and giving credit. I owe a lot to so many people who guided me, provided feedback, and pitched in! Saying thank you is very powerful.

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