On Father’s Day — and of course on many other days of the year — I am thankful for my six children. They add giant doses of joy, humor, affection, and fun into my life, while occasionally driving me crazy. Like so many other fathers, I try to teach them everything I’ve learned about being a good person, being humble, the value of their educations, and the importance of giving back. But I’ve learned some great lessons from them as well — lessons that, ironically (given that my “teachers” range from ages eight to sixteen), are very applicable to leadership and management.
PwC U.S. Chairman Tim Ryan and his six children.Courtesy of Tim Ryan
So, in the midst of the cooking out, backyard soccer, and ice cream that typify our Father’s Day celebrations, I want to share the top four business—and life—lessons my kids have taught me:
The importance of one-on-one time
With six kids and a busy work schedule, finding time for one-on-one interactions with each child is extremely challenging, and very worthwhile. The other day, I walked my son to the bus stop. It was just the two of us and our dog, and we spend 15 wonderful, uninterrupted minutes together. Really focusing on one child — even briefly — is extremely meaningful. I’m very proud that PwC’s parental leave policy ensures that mothers and fathers can have this precious time at the beginning of parenthood. All parents (birth, adoptive or foster) are eligible for up to six weeks of fully paid leave (in addition to any short-term disability benefits – typically six to eight weeks). Parents who have more than one child at a time get an additional two paid weeks off.
In the workplace, I find one-on-one time is also precious. Although teamwork is essential and rightly emphasized, building individual relationships is too often overlooked. A one-on-one walk, coffee or lunch is often where I discover new commonalities with a colleague or hear a candid assessment.
As I said earlier, teamwork is essential, and getting to know each individual is an important part of building a great team. My children play hockey and I watch them every week (every week from September through March, that is) and I see how important the mix of skills and personalities is to creating a great dynamic. If everyone is a flashy goal scorer or the whole group loves defense, you won’t get far or have much fun. A diverse set of skills, backgrounds, and problem-solving styles is crucial — a principle I set out to implement when I put together our new U.S. Leadership Team. I consulted with our partners and staff on what they’d like to see in their team. Beyond the natural asks of expertise in various areas, one thing came up over and over again: people wanted this team to lead not just from the top, but to lead with them to serve our clients, our people, and our communities. People wanted team members to whom they could relate, those who would welcome new ideas from every level in our firm, and importantly, those who clearly understood the collective values of PwC.
I recently had the privilege and pleasure of serving as the keynote speaker for a class-wide “Shark Tank” contest at my 13-yr-old son’s school. These young innovators had fantastic ideas and little time for obstacles. They were all about getting to “yes.” In the grown-up world, there are plenty of practicalities we can’t ignore. But many of us could benefit from channeling our inner child and assuming that if we can envision it, we can find a way to get it done.
Whether it’s a questionable call by a soccer referee or unearned preferential treatment (perceived or real) is the surest route to tears and anger in our household. My kids’ keen sense of fairness reminds me of the importance of transparent, even, merit-based management. Being fair may mean making an extra effort and stepping outside your own comfort zone — for example, by taking the initiative to mentor someone with a different background; someone who may have had a different journey from yours to get to where they have.
As it turns out, wisdom comes in packages of all sizes. This Father’s Day, I’m raising a glass of milk or juice to my youngest advisors, and all that they’ve taught me so far.