Paul Butler | Parenting children and leading people at work 

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile

We were blessed with two children, although during those early teenage years, we questioned that blessing! Joking aside, they are both now young adults in their late twenties with good careers.  

Brodie, our daughter, is a director of programs for a nonprofit entity in downtown L.A. that helps young adults who’ve aged out of the foster care system. Henry, our son, is a senior financial analyst for a Japanese company in New York. 

As I reflect back, I see so many parallels between parenting children and leading people in the workplace. If you’ve also been blessed with children, come walk with me down memory lane and see what we did at home that helped them at work. 

Two words innately in a child’s initial vocabulary are “Me” and “Mine.” We had to teach our children to share by introducing new words such as: “Ours,” “Together,” and “Us.” In the workplace, rarely does the work of a lone genius surpass the work of a team striving together toward a common goal.  

We taught our children to look people in the eye when they speak and to play well with others. In the workplace, the ability to get along well with others is given such grandiose titles as “emotional quotient” (EQ), but this they should learn before their heads reach the kitchen table.  

We gave our children responsibilities that were their own to manage. This was their bedroom to keep clean and tidy or chores to do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Slowly (and sometimes very slowly), children begin to realize they too can make a contribution; they too must share the load, and they must take care of what is theirs.  

Likewise, effective and efficient employees realize their output must yield more than the cost of an employer putting a roof over their heads, (metaphorically speaking), by way of wages, sick pay and other benefits. 

We never gave Brodie or Henry an allowance. Instead, we gave them opportunities to earn money by volunteering to do tasks around the house. They learned the value of time. They learned if they gave up a unit of their time putting in effort at some task, we’d give them a unit of our currency in exchange.  

We also encouraged them to occasionally buy assets with the income they earned. Brodie collected Disney pins, and Henry collected classic toy cars. We’d revalue them on a periodic basis. They soon realized that assets grew while they slept and that there are only so many hours in the day to work for money rather than having money work for them. 

Likewise, in the workplace, wise employees take some of their income and redirect it into buying retirement assets, which, like a snowball that keeps rolling downhill, generally gather mass over time. 

We taught them the sweetness of saving and the downside of debt and so while we sweated and toiled to save to get them through college, they worked part-time while in high school to pre-pay for four years of books and supplies while at college. They each even purchased a laptop for cash! As employees now, they understand an organization’s money-making model must have income higher than expenses, and assets larger than liabilities.  

As young adults they don’t need us so much now and we believe that’s a good thing. We were never the proverbial “helicopter parents.” We always gave them breathing space to tumble and fall and yet more often soar and succeed. They’ve flown the nest now, never to return permanently — well, we hope!  

Isn’t that just like the pattern of a good leader? During onboarding and orientation, we supervise. We monitor. We correct, but we never should micromanage. A great leader brings out the best in others, and the fruit of their labor is when the direct report no longer needs our direction.  

Yes, I see many parallels between parenting and the workplace: Today’s working work is helped or hindered by the job completed across all those yesterdays by parents.  

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

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