021 – Joanie Connell – Where Parenting & Leadership Meet

Author - Flying Without a Helicopter – How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life

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What do parenthood and leadership have in common? Where did helicopter parenting come from and what has been the impact on the Millennial generation? What is the age of the Façade – and how is it impacting us? How are Millennials performing in the workplace and how should they be led professionally?

In my conversation with Dr Joanie Connell we’ll tackle these questions and much more. This episode of The Team Guru Podcast resides in the intersection of parenthood and leadership.micromanaging-parents

Dr Joanie Connell is the author of Flying Without a Helicopter – How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life. She is an organisational consultant and leadership coach – and a great podcast guest.


Lessons Learned

Here’s what I took from the episode:

Leadership and Parenthood

Similarity: Leaders and parents need to learn how to say ‘no’. Joanie says that leaders who are also parents have learned from their relationship with children to say ‘no’ and that can flow into the workplace.

Difference: parents are ‘leading’ largely irrational children – while in the workplace leaders are working with more rational young professionals.

Leaders tend to be more collaborative in the workplace than parents are at home with their children.

Despite the fact that there are differences in the way we behave as a parent and as a professional, it is still true that we should we should be striving to find that authentic self – being fundamentally the same person whether we’re at work as a leader, at home as a parent, socially or with our partner. In fact, Joanie sees a problem with parents who try to present a perfect front to their children – not allowing their children to see them make mistakes. When children grow up observing a ‘perfect’ parent, they don’t learn how to manage themselves when they make mistakes, lose their temper etc.

The same is true for leaders – the best leaders are comfortable and willing to share their weakness as much as they are their strengths.


The Age of the Façade

Joanie says that one of the consequences of ‘The Age of the Façade’ – the managed Facebook/LinkedIn profile, the ‘perfect parent’ front – is that when young adults enter the workplace they see it as normal to present a fictional version of themself. This is evident in the resumes that are presented by young people – largely overstating their skills, knowledge and experience.

The Millennials have been praised all through their childhood. They have been part of the generation where every body was great, everybody got a trophy and no one was criticised. As a result they don’t have a grounded view of their capability.


The Helicopter Parent

The most obvious and common consequence of helicopter parenting is that children don’t have the life skills required to succeed in the workplace when they grow up and are ready to leave home.

Joanie thinks that parents of Millennials have been so focussed on preparing academically that they have forgotten about life skills: learning independence; how to make mistakes, fall down and pick yourself up and stay positive; how to interact; communicate face to face; to write; be creative and resourceful when you don’t have everything at your fingertips.


The Parents of Millennials

Parenting has changed significantly in the last generation. At the root of that change is parents’ urge to protect their kids – September 11, fear of terrorism, graphic media and news etc. So parents are a lot more anxious than in previous generations.

The competition for jobs and places in tertiary education has increased significantly for this generation so parents have responded by pushing them academically and clearing the path (or helicoptering) them in the rest of their lives.

Also, the rise of the helicopter parents has coincided with the rise of the middle class. As this generation have found the time and the means, their parenting style has become more protective.


Millennials in the Workplace

Having lived a childhood in which they didn’t receive criticism, they all receive ‘A’s and a trophy, Millennials have struggled to accept the ‘harsh’ reality of a workplace where they will receive constructive criticism, re-direction and learn that they are not ‘super’ at everything.


Advice for the Modern Parent

  1. Let go
  • Anxiety is fuelling this urge to keep control – so think about where you can let go and where you can let your child explore independence
  • Challenge yourself – ask ‘why not?’ when you find yourself saying no or limiting freedoms and opportunities for independence. Are you afraid for yourself or are you really afraid of their judgement. Is it you or them?
  • Empower younger children through simple methods like encouraging them to chose their outfit for the day
  1. Coach
  • Stand behind and coach rather than ahead protecting
  • Coach them – asking them questions to guide them through the thought process that will help them make decisions
  • Resist the temptation to keep them out of the equation and make decisions or do things for them


The Strengths of Millennials

The Millennials copped a bit of a hard time through this episode, but it’s important to point out that their historically unique upbringing has resulted in some seriously strong qualities:

  • Highly educated
  • Technically savvy
  • Fast – especially when it comes to finding information
  • They are open minded towards diversity and good at leveraging it
  • They are connected globally – not necessarily in a deep way, but they have large networks


Tips for Leaders of Millennials

  • Be a coach – get behind. Help, support, ask questions so they can work through the thought process
  • Let them make some mistakes – learn lessons and develop resilience
  • Identify and utilise their strengths


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