Parenting and Managing; Evolving Practices

I was surprised when a couple of Highly Regarded Silicon Valley folks, canceled a leadership themed dinner due to lack of interest.

Is this an interesting topic to the current generation of CEO’s and senior executives — especially those under 40?  I asked a serial entrepreneur, CEO friend of mine:   “Not so much,” was his reply.

Reflecting on why this might be the case, I started to think about parenting, and how very different Dr. Spock’s parenting advice fifty years ago, is from one of today’s parenting gurus, Alyson Shafer, in Honey, I Wrecked the Kids:  When Yelling, Screaming, Threats, Bribes, Time-Outs, Sticker Charts, and Removing Privileges All Don’t Work.

I’m still working through my thoughts on this.  However, I’m coming to believe that by looking at how parenting practices have changed over time, we can learn a lot about how management practices have and might continue to evolve.

For those familiar with today’s parenting guidance, and working in the business world — do you have insights and stories to share?

Published by Linda Stone

I coined the phrases continuous partial attention, email apnea, and screen apnea. I write about attention and our relationship to technology.

5 thoughts on “Parenting and Managing; Evolving Practices

  1. Parallels between parenting practices and management practices would make for interesting reading. I look forward to you developing this thesis!

    The lack of interest in the leadership themed dinner for under-40s might have a simpler explanation than parallels between prevailing parental & management practices.

    I think it boils down to this – Our concept of leadership has undergone a quiet metamorphosis in the past decade. Our culture has, rather abruptly, realized that leadership is over-rated.
    The word “Leadership” carries the baggage of Command-and-Control management. The under-40s view Command-and-Control as a lamp shade blocking their light. The cultural epiphany is that leadership is about inspiration and sparking change. One can’t teach others how to inspire. As such, a leadership themed dinner today is perceived as a yawner – where the Over-40s recount “success stories” by placing too much emphasis on themselves and not enough emphasis on the catalysts that inspired change.

    If you’re interested, I have a couple of posts where I articulate my feelings about leadership (cf. and


    PS. I don’t see a clear distinction between Alyson Shafer’s “democratic parenting” and the ideas that Spock put forth in the 50s and 60s, or for that matter, the “firm & friendly” approach my spouse and I used to raise our currently 18 and 21 year old children. But more reading is required.

  2. Hey Linda, This is Rebecca Xiong, I worked for you and Steve at Virtual Worlds at MSR back in ’98. Been a while. 🙂 Now I’m a new mom and also starting my 2nd startup. (Last one was, sold to AOL.) I’d say don’t think about leadership day to day, I’m more worried about executing, improving process, figuring out best way to succeed. Parenting strategies I like are more level-headed and less extreme, and help me figure out how to deal with practical problems. So there’re some similarities.

  3. Good insight!

    As a single parent for much of my children’s formative years, I can tell you from firsthand experience that being a good (single) parent made me a much better manager in all of my startups. And conversely, being a good manager made me a better parent.

    One example was empathy for other parents. Occasionally, I would come across a parent who was distracted or worried about a sick child at home or at the daycare. There was never any hesitation to send them home immediately to take care of their child as a first priority, with no strings attached or sick days taken; my comment would always be, “You’ll be less distracted when you come back knowing that your kid is well.” I’d rather have someone at 110% rather than at 50% – doesn’t do anyone any good. It always surprised my staff that a boss would understand the balance with work and family.

    And, of course, my time management skills learned from the office sure made it easier to juggle my children’s expanding schedules as they were growing up. Heck, 40 years of entrepreneurship later, I still have a lot to learn.

    Being a good parent involves both quality AND quantity time. The old story of spending the best quality time with your family is BS. I would often find myself telling other parents that if you were to ever go to your boss and tell them, “You know, I’m going to start coming in around 10:30 every day and leaving before 3:00. But the time I’m here at the office will be absolutely the best quality time you’ll get from me – that’s a promise!” You already know what the boss will tell you.

    In many ways, some of Dr. Spock’s ideas may have seemed good for the time but nothing beats common sense for great parenting. And leading by example works both in parenting and in management. If you want to set a good example for your children and your employees, make sure you don’t follow a double standard.

  4. Hi Linda,

    Thanks for blogging about the book and passing it onto Cory Doctorow as well.

    I teacher a “Parenting Bootcamp” which attracts a lot of professionals who tell me that the course material on parenting was actually really helpful in their workplace too.

    I do speak in the workplace on parenting, and I hear this sentiment from the corporate attendees too.

    Ultimately these are social institutions and I see similarities in:

    * the need to share power effectively and properly
    * the presence the human dynamics
    * the social environment that fosters or hinders our motivation to learn / grow / contribute etc…

    plus more.

    I would be excited to talk to you more about this or possibly collaborating if that appeals to you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: