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- – By Stephanie Leffler , CEO at OneSpace
Dads are good teachers. My dad was a great teacher. He showed me I was loved. He reminded me that I was special and that I could do anything in the world as long as I worked hard to get it. He instilled in me omnipresent self-confidence.
Fortunately he also taught me things that would help me succeed in the business world. I’m not sure if that was his intention or if he thought of those lessons as standard life skills. As I reflect on the bits of advice that have shaped my professional foundation, his early lessons remain at the top of the list.
Here are five invaluable business lessons I learned from my dad. While some might seem unusual, trust me: they make a huge difference.
- How to Speak the Language of Power
According to Susan Colantuono, roughly half of all middle management positions are held by women, but the percentage of women at the top of organizations represent less than one-third of that number. So why are there so few women in top leadership positions? Why do so many women get, as Susan calls it, “Mired in the middle?”
Most businesswomen are good communicators, are team players, seek mentorship and develop others … but they often lack critical financial background and strategic business acumen. As Susan says, women need to “be able to speak the language of power… not just talk about how great you are with your team but about the contribution you (and your team) can and will make to the business.”
Help your daughter understand that a command of finance and strategy are critical regardless of career path. Susan points out that this is career advice most women never receive.
- How to Do a “Real Pushup”
Do you remember doing pushups in elementary school gym class? I remember my teacher showing our class when I was in second grade. My teacher got in the pushup position (hands on floor, toes on floor, body in a plank.) He bent his elbows, touched his nose to the floor and pushed back up. “Now it’s your turn,” he said. “Give it a try.”
Then he seemed to remember something. “Oh,” he said. “Girls, if you can’t do a real pushup, just put your knees on the floor so it will be easier.”
Really? What do you mean? I can do a real pushup!
My dad taught my sister and I do to pushups and never mentioned that knees were an option! Most little girls can do a pushup… unless they’re told they probably won’t be able to do it. Then when it seems hard – because it is – they are told it is ok to do “girl pushups.”
Your little girl should be raised to be strong. She should know how to throw a baseball and to be proud of the fact that she can. The term “throw like a girl” shouldn’t be part of her vocabulary!
Encourage her – try not to push or lecture but encourage her to believe she can do hard things, challenging things, unusual things … to believe that hard work and effort and perseverance, not gender, make the difference between success and failure.
Set that example, and tell her you are proud when you see her exhibiting those traits. Little girls can do anything … even real pushups. All they have to do is try.
- Asking Questions is Much More Important Than Having All the Answers
When people stepping into their first leadership role ask me for advice, I tell them to remember one thing: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care about them.” (That’s not mine. It was my dad’s … until I found out it was Teddy Roosevelt’s.)
When people know that you genuinely care about their success, about what motivates them and what they personally are trying to achieve, then they can truly care about you and about your success as their leader. When people know you care, they will listen to you … and they will do almost anything for you.
Great leaders listen way more than they talk. They ask questions. They maintain eye contact. They smile and frown and nod. They respond, not so much verbally but with non-verbal affirmation that they are engaged with you.
Little girls are notorious for being talkative … at least more talkative than their male counterparts. Teach your daughter to ask great questions and to listen to the answers that follow. Practice at family dinners … Take turns asking questions and listening to everyone’s answers.
- How to Shake Hands
Most dads teach their sons to shake hands when they meet people. Most moms do not; they teach their daughters to make eye contact, to smile, to speak politely… but shake hands? Not so much. Why? That is a good question! (Dads just seem to be the keepers of the handshake knowledge in the world.)
When your daughter grows up to be a businesswoman, she must know how to properly shake hands. Regardless of gender, someone who offers a tentative, weak or awkward handshake demonstrates a lack of self-confidence and doesn’t convey qualities of a leader. Teach your daughter how to shake hands. Don’t let her get away with anything less than a monster handshake! Help her practice holding eye contact while giving your hand a solid shake.
- How to Change a Tire and Use a Table Saw
The more we know – the more we can do – the more independent we can become. While it’s great to rely on others (otherwise we wouldn’t get nearly as much done) a feeling of genuine independence comes from knowing that, if necessary, you can always rely on yourself.
My dad taught me how to hammer nails, how to use a table saw and a power sander. He taught me how to change a tire and timed me as I tried it myself (like Darren McGavin in the Christmas Story).
He didn’t want me to be stuck on the side of the road if I got a flat … more importantly, he didn’t want me to worry about what I would do if I did get a flat tire. He wanted me to know that I could take care of it on my own – because he wanted me to feel confident and independent.
Show your daughter that the only real difference in people lies in their skills, knowledge, attitude, and drive – and because of that, she can do – and be – whatever she wants.
Stephanie Leffler is the CEO and Co-founder of OneSpace. Follow us on Twitter@OneSpace_com