What can a baby teach you about management? As it turns out, a lot. Here's a little story.
My wife, Kate, is a trusting woman. She is very smart, and yet she still thought it would be OK for me to take care of our 16-month old daughter, Susie, for four days while she was out of town.
On Thursday morning, she left to go to her sister's bachelorette party. I was in charge for the next four days. Fortunately, we already had help arranged during the day on Thursday and Friday. On Friday night, after Susie went to bed, I thought I was halfway done. The easy part was over -- now it was just the two of us for two days.
My plan was simple -- keep Susie entertained all weekend long with lots of things to see and do. We got up, went for a walk with the dog, jumped in the car, and went to Costco and the grocery store. Back home for a nap, a quick lunch, then to every little girl's favorite store, Cabelas. (Come on, they have stuffed animals, a huge fish tank -- it's not that bad. And she did enjoy it.) On the way back home, we stopped at the best BBQ joint I've ever been to, Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas. We came home and she fell right asleep.
At this point, I was singing my own praises. With my brilliant plan, she was stimulated and kept busy, no time to miss her mom and get bored. "This parenting thing isn't that hard," I thought. I went to bed excited and proud of my brilliance.
The next morning, I was back in go mode. We got up, had breakfast, and got back on the road. We went to a store -- and then to my office. Hey, Dad has to work sometimes. But as soon as we got to the office, Susie saw my five-foot-tall Homer Simpson statue and lost it. It wasn't a typical "I want some candy" crying. This was a full-on freak out. I quickly packed up and headed home.
On the way, I came an important conclusion. Everyone has a comfort zone of old and new things. We all like tradition and normalcy to a certain point, and we all like new experiences. I was only half correct with my plan for Susie -- the new stimulations were necessary, but I needed to give her some consistency too. By introducing too many new things all in a short period of time, she was over stimulated. This freak out was all my fault.
As soon as we got home, I tried to put her down for a nap. No dice. She was pissed, and there was no easy solution to it. As I realized that we had to get back to familiarity and basics, we sat down and read her favorite book. Eleven times. Then we played with some of her toys, read a few more books, and just played quietly until bedtime. Monday morning she was back to normal. And I have a new plan for my next weekend alone with her.
Lesson learned. More accurately, relearned. Everyone (kids, employees, readers of this blog) all need new things, but also need some consistency to stay happy and at his or her best. Too much new or too much old and you stagnate. Remember this when you're doing big picture planning for your company -- if you're making some wholesale changes, be sure to keep some very familiar things for everyone too. Find the balance and you'll find happiness.
Last updated: Sep 3, 2008
CLINT GREENLEAF is the founder and CEO of Greenleaf Book Group (GBG), an Inc. 500 company, and a leading publisher and distributor with several NY Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. Clint (a CPA) sits on the University of Texas Libraries Board, blogs for Inc.com, is a regular guest host on Fox Business Network and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. magazine, Fox, MSBNC, Money magazine, Men's Health, Forbes and Entrepreneur. @clintgreenleaf