Business Dad, How Good Businessmen Can Make Great Fathers (and Vice Versa) by Tom Hirschfeld and Julie Hirschfeld
Many powerful, effective businessmen feel lost when it comes to raising their kids. As a result, some spend more time at the office, where they are confident and capable. To remedy this dilemma, Tom and Julie Hirschfeld, a husband-and-wife team, offer a class you won’t find in an M.B.A. program: Fatherhood 101. Presented as an executive briefing for a new assignment, Hirschfeld’s book teaches you to apply your business know-how to achieve parenting success. The concept is long overdue, though the book skims over the crucial topic of maintaining life-work balance and is prone to gender stereotypes. getAbstract recommends this handy guide to working fathers and fathers-to-be.
- If you are a good businessman, you have the potential to be an exceptional father.
- Today’s fathers are more active in their families’ lives than fathers were before the 1960s.
- Dads are not “second moms” – they provide certain things that moms can’t.
- Fathers are important role models for their children.
- Kids have four basic emotional needs: “love, acceptance, self-esteem and stability.”
- Each child requires a unique blend of these elements.
- Fathers face numerous obstacles in parenting, including a lack of training, role models and feedback.
- Your business experience is the key to overcoming these obstacles.
- Professionals have four main work responsibilities: “gathering information, making decisions, executing decisions and managing others.”
- By applying these skills at home, you can become a better parent.
Business Dad Book Summary
“Master of Fatherly Administration”
Today’s fathers must balance increasing work and home responsibilities. Business has grown more competitive since the 1960s. If you want to be successful, you have to work longer and harder than your competition. At the same time, the role fathers are expected to play in the family has also expanded. The social infrastructure – schools, educational TV programs, good neighborhoods – parents used to depend on to help them raise their children is eroding. Dads need to be more than just providers and disciplinarians.
“When it comes to fathering, everyone’s an amateur.”
Deciding to be a better father is a good first step, but you should prepare yourself to meet a few obstacles. Parenting challenges are different from those you face in your career:
- “No training” – You can get an M.B.A. from universities nationwide, but you’ll be pressed to find a school that offers a master of fatherly administration. Readying yourself for a product launch or merger is far easier than preparing for fatherhood.
- “No role models” – The professional world offers up numerous business titans to admire, including Bill Gates, Michael Eisner and Sam Walton. But there are few well-known fathering heroes. Traditionally, society focused more on grooming women for motherhood than preparing men to be fathers.
- “No expert status” – Moms have reputations as child-raising experts. What makes them so? The amount of time they spend with their children. Fathers should try to overcome this knowledge gap, even if they aren’t immediately successful. They must be willing to invest time in their families.
- “No evaluations” – At work, your employers generally provide you with a periodic assessment of your performance. These evaluations let you know what you are doing right and what you should improve. Your kids can’t give you such feedback until they can talk, and even then, you are unlikely to receive an objective performance review.
- “No competition” – The desire to outperform your colleagues, your neighbors or your college roommate drives your career. At home, there is such competition.
Parenting presents unique challenges, but you have a secret weapon. Your business experience is an untapped reservoir of fathering skills. If you are a good businessman, you have the potential to be an exceptional father. Although you can’t behave in the home exactly as you do in the office, there are enough similarities between the two environments to allow you to adapt some of your business skills for home use. In the workplace, you spend time on four main activities, each requiring different aptitudes and abilities: “gathering information, making decisions, executing decisions and managing others.” Look for ways to apply these skills toward the goal of rearing happy, successful children.
To gain important information at work, you keep an ear perked to your bosses, customers and colleagues. Yet, what your children have to say matters even more – and they have fewer listeners. Try applying these information-gathering techniques at home:
“Dads still have to be providers, but no longer just in the financial sense.” ”
•“Learning” – In business and in fathering, “keeping up is a whole lot easier than catching up.” Try to continually learn about your family – in the same way you are always striving to know more about your products, customers or industry. •Understanding – Demonstrating that you empathize with someone takes you much further than just listening. Being more effective at home involves showing your family you care about them. •Managing “by walking around” – Like your subordinates, children don’t always come to you when they have a problem. If you are not actively looking for warning signs, you can be blindsided. •“Critical thinking” – At work, you deal with many gray areas in your decision making. Gathering information helps you avoid making poor choices. At home, people will be more willing to accept your decisions if you show they are well thought-out and informed.
Managing your career involves weighing short-term goals against long-term objectives. The same is true for parenting. Indulging your children’s immediate wants can jeopardize their future. Balance is the key, but you should also cultivate the following strengths:
“[Fathers are] desperately needed as equal partners in child-rearing, in providing that warm, structured upbringing that could make the difference down the line between Yale and jail.”
•“Creativity” – Being creative at work helps you perform better, settle conflicts and foster a fun work environment. Creativity in the home can produce similar results. •“Proactivity” – You don’t succeed in business by waiting for something to happen. Your power as a father also comes from “action, not reaction.” •“Comfort with chaos” – Today’s business world is so chaotic that, in some ways, it prepares you for the madcap confusion of home life. •“Crisis management” – The way you respond to a crisis has a lasting effect on how your co-workers and supervisors view you. People respect Johnson & Johnson for its handling of the Tylenol scare in 1982. Likewise, you should remain calm and be competent in a family crisis.
Apply the principles of “prioritization, organization and disciplined time-management” that you use at work to help you make the most of your home time. Stress these qualities and tactics:
“In a cruel trick of timing, [Dads’] most severe period of career testing coincides with [their] prime child-rearing years.”
•“Reliability” – In business, your reputation as a reliable person earns people’s trust and helps you meet your goals. Your children must also be able to count on you to keep your word. •“Delegation” – Delegating is a crucial aspect of your professional decision making. Knowing when to delegate a project and when to do it yourself helps you use time and resources efficiently. At home, you may be tempted to delegate tasks to your wife, but remember that some things call for your involvement. •“Negotiation” – Businesspeople must be savvy negotiators. Sometimes you can apply that know-how to change your kids’ behavior. •“Respect” – Showing people respect earns their cooperation. Treat your kids respectfully and they will act more worthy of that respect.
Good business leaders inspire those who work for them. Think of the pep talks you give at the office as practice for motivating your kids. Remember these motivational tools:
“There may be no such job as professional father, but the most electrifying work throughout history has come from amateurs, those nuts who excel for the sheer love of what they do.”
•“Authority” – Being a vice president or dad may entitle you to give orders, but no one will follow them unless you have an air of authority. Increase your influence by using discipline justly and employing negative and positive incentives. •“Tolerance” – The flip side of discipline is tolerance. Showing a little patience can prevent mutiny at work and at home. •“Values” – Businesses try to differentiate themselves through a distinct company culture. Identify and support your family’s unique values. •Mentorship – Consider yourself a mentor to your children. Just as mentoring at work grooms people for success, your mentoring at home prepares your children to realize their full potential. •“Leadership” – To develop your role as a family leader, earn the trust of your family members and ensure that you all share the same “vision” for the family.
Dad’s Place in the Organizational Chart
A dad is not a second mom. Fathers are equal partners in raising their children and they fill a unique role. For example, a father’s physical strength can make children feel protected. After his father’s death, a very young John F. Kennedy Jr. once asked a family friend “Are you a daddy?” When the man said yes, Kennedy asked, “Then will you throw me up in the air?” The boy, who deeply missed his father, was searching for “something he thought only a daddy could give.” Fathers should try to engage in physical play with their kids – wrestling, and playing hoops or catch. This type of activity promotes their children’s physical development.
“We can’t and shouldn’t remake ourselves from scratch to become effective fathers.”
Moms and dads enforce rules differently. When children break rules, mothers are more apt to “make greater allowances for extenuating circumstances,” whereas fathers tend to insist on “the letter of the law.” Each approach teaches children distinct lessons. They may learn compassion from their mothers and develop a “respect for rules” from their fathers.
Raising a Happier Child
Both boys and girls need positive male role models. A boy looks to his dad as he tries to define his male identity. Without such a figure in his life, a boy can become too aggressive or, at the opposite extreme, he may not learn assertiveness. Sons observe and learn from how their fathers behave, including coping with frustration, interacting with women and handling responsibility. Daughters also learn from their fathers. Girls whose fathers are involved in their lives tend to do better at math and logical thinking. Additionally, they view their fathers as models for their future husbands. The way you interact with your daughter will influence the kind of guy she will want to marry, so treat her respectfully and lovingly. You must attend to the basic emotional needs of your children if you want them to be happy. These fundamentals are “Love, Acceptance, Self-esteem and Stability”:
- Love – The simplest way to provide the love kids need is through affection and cuddling: “When in doubt, give a hug.” Show your love by empathizing with your children’s problems. Be willing to abandon the shield of emotional toughness you use in business, so you can really feel your child’s pain.
- Acceptance – Acceptance does not mean approving of everything your children do. Show your kids you accept them by telling them you care about their success, but that’s not how you measure their worth. Your acceptance must be unconditional. If you reject your kids when they do something wrong, they’ll start keeping their failures from you, which prevents you from being able to help or comfort them.
- Self-esteem – Many experts make the mistake of considering only the short-term aspects of self-esteem. They communicate the overly simplistic message that, above all else, kids should think highly of themselves. However, raising your kids to be “little egotists” will not help them make friends in the long term – and lack of friendship does contribute to poor self-image. Help your children learn from their mistakes instead of ignoring them. Teach them to view self-esteem as “a feeling of intrinsic self-worth independent of one’s abilities, but which does not artificially alter one’s judgment of those abilities.”
- Stability – Children are in a constant state of flux. As their minds and bodies change and mature, consistency in other areas of their lives is critical. Make sure your kids see you and your wife settling disputes constructively, complimenting each other, laughing together and treating each other as equals. Provide a structured home life for your kids by making clear rules for the whole family.
“[Dads] should take the habits, managerial and otherwise, that [they’ve] already internalized successfully, and open [themselves] to the idea of using them at home.”
Children’s four basic needs relate to the four elements: water, air, fire and earth. The water children need to survive is love. Acceptance is the air that, if withheld, “suffocates growth.” The fire that “ignites their explosive change and progress” is self-esteem. Stability is the earth that provides them a “firm footing.” The right mixture for each child will vary, but incorporate all four elements in your parenting.
About the Authors
Tom Hirschfeld is a venture capitalist. He was previously the assistant to the mayor of New York. He has written two books about video games. Julie Hirschfeld, Ph.D, specializes in family therapy. They have two children.