The organization you run just knocked off the Miami Heat in the opening round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs with 4 wins against Miami's 1 win, and so preparations begin for the next round on the path to a possible slot in the NBA Finals. But Philadelphia 76ers and Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment CEO Scott O'Neil is focused on something else this Thursday. He's fixated on what it means to be a working parent.
O'Neil has been a working parent since he was 30-years-old, serving as President of a small start-up called HoopsTV. That project ultimately failed, but O'Neil didn't.
Today is Take Your Child to Work Day, which has special meaning to O'Neil and his organization. I stole some time from him to learn about why the day is so special and how he believes others can learn from the 76ers when it comes to promoting working parents' relationships with their families.
1. Leaders need to be more flexible, supporting and compassionate with working parents.
"Parents working in the sports industry know that they will exchange a few bedtime stories for tip-off, or a puck drop - but we ask ourselves every day how we can be more flexible, supportive and compassionate, to help them achieve their ideal balance," says O'Neil. "The vision for a culture that celebrates working parents comes from our Managing Partners, Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who have ten children between them who have hustled to their share of school plays or little league basketball, baseball or hockey games."
Harris and Blitzer often even bring their children to important post-game press conferences and O'Neil says that the organization is run like a family business. Every employee is given playoff tickets and encouraged to bring their families down onto the court for pictures.
2. Leaders must understand that there is no ideal working situation for working parents.
"There is a perception, and perhaps a reality, that the demands of the sports industry are not ideal for the working parents - late games and events, post-game press conferences until midnight, early mornings on the ice - and some of those time commitments we simply cannot change," says O'Neil. "We have a responsibility to the younger generations of executives within the industry to create a culture in our organization that celebrates working mothers and fathers, their families and their ambitions to be extraordinary in both."
This holds true even for working parents outside of sports who are often challenged by long and/or inconvenient working hours as compared to when their children are either in school or at home. While it is tough to negotiate a change of working hours with employers, those managers can be convinced to at least understand and appreciate the complexities involved in having a job and needing to cater to loved ones.
3. Leaders should not only demand focus from working parents while at work, but also at home.
"For better or worse, the world is elastic today, I've done my share of Saturday afternoon conference calls timed to the half-times of Josh (Harris) and David's (Blitzer) kids' basketball games," says O'Neil. "The same technology that receives such censure when your phone rings in the middle of a Girl Scout Bridging ceremony, becomes the hero when it enables me to take two conference calls outside the gymnasium prior to coaching my daughter's basketball practice and be fully present when I blow the whistle to start practice. I'm 100% present with them."
The 76ers organization stresses the importance of being present to its employees. It has a "no phones" policy for organizational meetings, but the same rule applies when workers are with their children. There is a concept that you can bring your children to work, but also bring your work to your children, incorporating them in all aspects of your life.