Let Others Help You Grow

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

I used to have four kids, but they all grew up. Some have kids of their own, some own businesses; all of them are smart, accomplished people. And at least twice a year, I make a point of asking at least one of them for his or her feedback. I seek my kid’s advice… and I take it. I act on their recommendations.

There are at least three good reasons to do this, and why leaders who seek to inspire their teams should consider asking their subordinates for feedback… even advice.

I ask for my kid’s advice because it’s good for me. As smart adults who know me well, and who have a chance to observe me in action, my offspring are in a position to see things in my performance and behavior that I can’t see myself. And since they care about me, they’re in a position to give their feedback in a way that I can truly hear it. When that happens, if I listen, I become a better person. I grow in ways I could not have grown if left to my own self-counsel. And I make myself learn sneaky lessons I wouldn’t otherwise want to seek out. Chiefly, I learn (or remind myself) what it’s like to do what my coaching clients do: put myself in the hands of a coach, and take heed to feedback. It can be humbling, but it’s never humiliating. I need to remind myself, at least every now and then, that I don’t have all the answers.

Advising me is also good for my kids. It makes them learn what I have to keep learning and practicing as an executive coach: to observe with objective perspective, to analyze what I’ve observed rationally, and to deliver my “truth to power” messages with care and empathy. As a father, of course, these are great lessons I want my kids to learn; that’s why it was even more important for me to be consistent about asking their advice when the kids were forming themselves as both individuals and as leaders. Ask them, and they’ll tell you they were advising me on everything from my career to my relationships when they were teenagers. They’ve seen me succeed with their advice, and on rare occasions they’ve even seen me fail with it. It’s helped them become better leaders, and better participants in the leadership development of others.

So it’s good for both of us, advisor and advised. But I’ve found it’s also good for the relationship, and for the general leadership of the family. I am not the only “leader” in our family – indeed, our policy is that everyone’s pretty-much in charge of his or her own life, especially now that the kids are grown – but as one of the first grown-ups these people ever met I certainly have played a key leadership role in their lives. It was (and continues to be) a role I take seriously, and one in which I knew I had the opportunity to go far beyond the “permanent babysitting” methodologies I’ve seen other parents implement, to a position of great trust. I saw myself as teacher, coach, counselor… primary mentor to great future adults, long before I ever started doing the same work for strangers and for money. And by making advisors of my kids at an early age, and by their willingness and ability to take on the challenge of being a coach to their dad from time to time, I believe we’ve all helped create a stronger family of leaders.

As a parent, I strongly recommend that you do the same thing with your kids when they start hitting The Terrible Teens. Making them problem-solvers tends to give them something more productive to think about than how to be problem teenagers. Don’t take every little problem to your kids – that trivializes their help. Don’t put the burden of the biggest life decisions on them, either – that can overchallenge even the best coaches. And don’t ask them to advise you on disciplining themselves, or each other! That can be very destructive to the family, and you are supposed to be the grown-up and have a plan for that stuff. Have the humility to ask for advice on YOUR life, and on what YOU should do. Pick the right topics, and make sure you’re willing to follow-through with whatever they advise you to do. If you do it right, it strengthens you, it strengthens them, and it strengthens your family.

And as a leader and coach, I highly recommend you seek feedback and advice from your team members. Whether you own your own business or run a business unit for someone else, these days you need to be as inspirational a leader as you can be. And making coaches of your people tends to inspire the best in everybody on the team, and quite often, it goes beyond your team to inspire all the stakeholders in the greater sphere of your leadership influence.


 Michael Hume is a speaker, writer, and consultant specializing in helping people maximize their potential and enjoy inspiring lives. As part of his inspirational leadership mission, he coaches executives and leaders in growing their personal sense of well-being through wealth creation and management, along with personal vitality.Those with an entrepreneurial spirit who want to make money “one less thing to worry about” can learn more about working with Michael at http://www.caym.tv/18812Anyone wanting to jump-start their vitality can browse through the best (and most travel-friendly) nutraceuticals on the market at http://shop.enivausa.com/239824Michael and his wife, Kathryn, divide their time between homes in California and Colorado. They are very proud of their offspring, who grew up to include a homemaker, a rock star, a service talent, and a television expert. Two grandchildren also warm their hearts! Visit Michael’s web site at http://michaelhume.net
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