I’ve been a dad for nine years and some kind of creative manager for ten, and yet it’s taken me this long to notice the similarities between the two tasks, at least to the extent that I thought it’d be worth a blog post.
1. Retaining/releasing information.
This situation extends all the way up to government, but it certainly applies every single day in parenting and managing: what is the point at which letting people know what’s going on becomes harmful or counter-productive? As a parent you tend not to make breakfast more interesting by explaining how mummy and daddy are about to miss a mortgage payment or why that planned brother or sister is on hold because daddy can’t get it up (obviously these are fabricated example situations that have nothing to do with my own life – smiley face made out of punctuation). There are simply some things that kids don’t need to know, at least at certain ages. Younger kids won’t understand and older kids can end up extrapolating too much from whatever they’re told.
Similarly, it’s probably not the best idea to explain every knock-on effect of an account loss to a junior copywriter. Sure, if it means you have to let him/her go, then blab away, but if you’re having to downsize the HR dept or stop serving Fox’s biscuits at client meetings then that info is not going to help. Even at higher levels you might be having a row with the holding company about making 8% cuts instead of 11%, possibly resulting in redundancies, but putting the shits up everyone by giving them daily updates on the situation is not going to help anyone.
2. IT’S NOT FAIR!
Another one that continues through the rest of your life. Why did he get that when I only got this? Why does Andy get a lollipop while I only get a penny chew? Why did Mike get a raise when I didn’t? Managing comparative rewards and punishments is bloody hard. You might not even have two lollipops; you might have forgotten how many raises happened and when; you might be planning a big raise next month… Dave Trott once told me he went to a parenting advice thing where he was told that the two things you have to be are positive and consistent. I find positivity much simpler to default to, after all you can find the positive in pretty much anything if you look hard enough, but consistency is a bitch because your definition and perspective on it will never be the same as someone else’s.
3. It’s 24/7
There are times in the day/week when your kids and job are much more front and centre than at others, but they’re always there, lurking in the back of your mind. Another aspect of this is the feeling that you’re neglecting one when spending time with the other. Of course, you feel guiltier when you’re working instead of parenting, but if you’re working on an email that really needs to go out but your daughter wants to play Barbies then the temptation to break her little heart can be greater than you’d like.
4. You’re nurturing a big project that has plenty of ups and downs
Managing a dept: you win a few, you lose a few, but you keep heading in the right direction looking at the bigger picture and shaping things to be in a better place as you learn to improve together. You feel a compulsion that drives you through the tough times to the highly rewarding moments on the other side.
Bringing up a kid: ditto
5. You’re having a huge effect on people’s lives
Of course there’s the practical stuff, like whether you’ve given your kids dinner or given your middleweight creatives a nice office, but the touch points of your effects are constant and significant. For example you might make an off-hand comment that your son will never become a footballer because he spends every evening dancing. Your son might then read more into that, perhaps thinking that you don’t consider him tough enough, or believing that he’s somehow let you down, or indeed that you’re delighted by this and he should now try to join the Royal Ballet. Similarly, someone in your department might see you walk right past them without saying hello and wonder what they’ve done to anger you, fretting about it for days. You might simply have been deep in a thought about how on earth porn shops stay open when it’s all free on the internet, but he just saw the slight and it ruined a chunk of his life. So the actions of a manager can have great but unintended consequences, just like the actions of a dad.
You can resign from a job and, in much the same way, drown a kid in a canal.