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Chris Efessiou's Blog
Thursday, 05 September 2013 20:45

Back to School Butterflies?

So, now that a new school year has just started, how do you feel? Yes, I am talking to you Moms and Dads. Are you happy that your kid is finally out of your hair for the next nine months, more or less, or do you feel a sense of loss and perhaps some nervousness as to how your child will weather the new beginning. Whatever your reaction, happy, nervous, concerned, or a mix of the above, it is normal. In my case, the story always ended with "I waved back, got in my car, and wiped off tears."

Published in Family & Parenthood

August 27, 1976, seems so long ago but it feels like yesterday. It was on that day that I took my first steps on American soil at JFK airport determined to make a life on my own.  I had left my loving family in Greece to join a host family in the Boston area as an exchange student, in search of a future that I hoped I'd have a hand in influencing instead of accepting what was served to me by the status quo.  So without language skills, or knowledge of people or culture, I set out to prove to myself that I could.

Published in Leadership

Another school year just started or is soon to start, and you along with your children are looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time. New school year means new beginnings, but it should also mean different beginnings, avoiding mistakes or irritating situations of years past, and establishing new habits that will serve as the platform to your child’s character formation. As the new school year commences, here are 3 Things to adopt that will have a great impact on your life and your child's character in the future.

You can never expect team members to invest in the team more than you do. A true statement that applies equally at work and at home. When a team leader invests in the team, the members will follow suit and reciprocate. While this applies in time of calm, its application and diligent execution is crucial in time of turmoil.  So, when you find yourself in a challenging situation, go to this P.L.A.C.E™.

Published in Business Topics

In some cases children have become more independent but, studies show that they have regressed in social skills and in the “people skills” necessary to establish and maintain relationships with other children and adults. Several years ago the concept of “group dating” was unheard of.  Today, group dating is a way to boost one’s self-confidence so as to feel more comfortable in a setting where most people are unknown to them.

Published in Leadership

Leadership is a concept, not a person.  It becomes a physical entity when one chooses to embody the characteristics of leadership in the way they influence, motivate, teach and train organizations to emulate their own example.  “We all know that leadership —  whether you are the CEO, or the manager, or the mom — is about the ability to influence the thoughts, emotions, and actions of other human beings” wrote Tony Robbins in a recent blog post.

Leaders are not born, they are made.  Whether you are creating a leader at work or at home, no leadership ingredient is more important than mentoring.

Mentorship is an ancient art. In earlier generations, young apprentices would be mentored by skilled craftsmen to learn a trade. They arrived eager to learn and left with the skills, expertise and experience to make a living. This art continues today in many trades and professions – including medicine.

A mentor’s job isn’t to boss people around, to tell them what to do or how to do it; it is to pass on knowledge, skills and experience, and guide his mentees to their desired outcome. Put another way, a mentor doesn’t dictate how to get to the destination, but instead helps to read the map and delineates the waypoints along the charted course. The mentor knows the terrain and is a good guide in times of uncertainty.

Mentoring works at the office and it works at home. This is the way in which I developed each of the key members of my team in the past 20 years, and more importantly, this is how I parented my daughter as a single dad since the age of seven. “Personal strengths and interpersonal skills that are essential to exercising effective leadership also apply to being an effective parent,” said Dennis E. Coates, PhD, a teenage brain development expert.

P_learning to read 1990In fact, my experience in building and growing a business, as well as leading and mentoring my team at work served as the blue print for parenting my beautiful daughter as a single dad.  Now at 25, a loving, emotionally healthy, responsible, un-entitled, thriving adult, she‘s become a contributing author to CDO Chief Daddy Officer: The Business of Fatherhood, a book I recently published explaining the seamless transfer of business skills to personal relationships and parenting.

Those in my dad’s generation approached parenting like a dictatorship: “What I say goes”. It is certainly true that any organization needs authority and structure, and a family is no exception. I discovered, however, that authority at work or at home does not need to be expressed in a dictatorial fashion.

If we keep our goals in mind – raising emotionally healthy, responsible, un-entitled, functional adults – we see that the best approach to parenting is hands-on, deeply involved mentorship. Children are like sponges, ready to absorb everything we say and do. Our goal is for them to absorb the information and skills needed to care for themselves and make the world a better place.  We ultimately want to guide our children on their journey, not travel it for them. In the end, the parenting process is about guiding and supporting our children on the journey from dependence to independence.

In business we must cope with the reality of limited resources and prioritize what gets our time, attention and funds. As mentors to our children, we need to decide which values and skills are most important to us. If we want our children to be respectful and polite, we need to begin to monitor those behaviors early in their development. The same goes for being hardworking, responsible and kind.

As you begin mentoring your children, here are a few things to consider.

  • Give thought to situations you want to expose them to, that will help develop compassion and empathy.
  • Ask meaningful questions that draw out thoughts, concerns and ideas, instead of asking trivial questions that go nowhere, such as “How was your day?”
  • Teach them about money management so they know how to handle finances and stay out of debt.
  • Make time to be there physically and emotionally so they know they can count on you.
  • Offer encouragement and praise when their behavior is consistent with your plan.

As we set our priorities, we must keep in mind how children learn. They learn by watching us, not just listening to us. The way you act and react is how your child will learn to behave. So lead and mentor by example and explanation both at work and at home and I promise you will meet with success on both fronts.

This is my opinion.  It worked for me and it can work for you.  You just have to try it


Published in Leadership
Friday, 16 March 2012 09:41

Avoid the Buddy System

Let me address what I believe to be a prevailing myth in parenting today: that to truly empower your child you must prematurely become his or her “buddy” or friend. I say prematurely because I believe that our children can become our dear friends when they are fully grown adults. Indeed, this is one of the greatest rewards of successful parenthood. But in the meantime you do not need to be your child’s buddy to empower him. In fact, you may unwittingly do just the opposite. 

The Buddy System of parenting did not exist in the culture in which I grew up. I got to know it as I watched the parents of some of my daughter’s friends, and frankly, I found it disturbing.  

The essence of parental mentorship is modeling and teaching how to be a responsible adult. If you become your child’s buddy too soon, you will in effect lower yourself to her level. You will not be modeling adulthood, but instead will be acting like a child yourself. How is this possibly helpful?

As the parent, you must be their trusted, honest—often constructively critical but never judgmental—mentor to whom they can feel comfortable to turn with any issue. You will not hold their hands every step of the way. You will not simply tell them what to do or how to do it, but you will give them the tools and the guidance of your experience and insights that will enable them to choose the right course of action for themselves.

Remember that kids naturally think they know more than they do. Empowering them means giving them opportunities to gain knowledge and experience so they will actually know what they are doing, not pretending they are as clever as they think. You wouldn’t hand a teenager the car keys if he had no driving experience and call that empowerment. You would make sure he passed his driver’s education class and take him for behind-the-wheel hours. The same instruction and mentorship goes into every part of life.  Too many parents are so concerned with their children liking them that they shy away from giving clear instructions or enforcing rules which all children want and need.

Think about how this plays out in a typical office environment. A boss who is so eager for all his employees to like him will rob himself of his ability to lead and will soon lose their respect. Before long, all the workers are doing whatever they want and chaos ensues. It is OK not to be liked sometimes. Not being respected is never acceptable, and trading respect for popularity is always a losing proposition.

The same goes with our kids. Every child is born wanting to please his parents. You do not have to win your child’s approval, but you can never risk losing his respect. Even a grumpy teenager wants your love whether she admits it or not. So stick to the rules you have carefully established for your family, keep a good sense of humor, and don’t forget to tell them that you love them. Next time I’ll share with you a personal exchange with my daughter which will illuminate this point.

This is my opinion.  It worked for me and it can work for you.  You just have to try it!


Over 2,500 years ago, Socrates demonstrated a way by which teachers, employers and parents could instruct and empower their students, employees and children at the same time.

The Socratic method of teaching requires debate. It forces both student and teacher to back up their hypotheses with supporting evidence, and trains the mind to search for inconsistencies. It demands much more in-depth thinking than the “instruction and regurgitation” method popular in schools today. It does not require that the teacher and student disagree: indeed the teacher will often take the opposing position in a debate to help the student develop a more firm sense of her point of view. 

The benefits of applying this method in business are obvious. When we employ it in parenting, we are showing our kids that we believe our point of view can stand on its merits, not just our authority. This becomes increasingly important as our children grow older.

In the spring of Persephone’s junior year of high school, she had a boyfriend whom I’ll call Troy. Troy was not a bad kid, but he was not particularly motivated. He was a couple of years older than my daughter, and was taking a few classes at the local community college while working. By my evaluation, his choices in life had been consistently less than ideal. Needless to say, I was not thrilled with the relationship. Persephone was not quite an adult; however, I knew that insisting that she end the relationship would do no good. I also knew she was not anxious to leave him to go away to college and that their attachment to each other might become a real obstacle to Persephone’s future success. I pondered all this on a daily basis while saying very little.

One morning, after all her college applications had been submitted, Persephone approached me tentatively. “Dad,” she said, “I think I want to take a year off before going to college.” “Why?” I asked.  “Well, I’m just really stressed out with my work at school. I feel like I need a break from being a full-time student.” I knew she just didn’t want to leave Troy behind, but I did not say this.  “Persephone,” I answered, “I think that’s a marvelous idea. This is probably the only time in your life when you can take a year off without worrying about it.” I said nothing more, observing that she was surprised by my response.  “OK,” she continued. “I was thinking that I would take a few classes at community college and work part-time in retail.”  “I see,” I replied. “But, that’s not really an option for a year off. This is a wonderful opportunity for expanding your horizons by serving others. I propose you decide between joining the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps.”  She was stunned. She looked at me as if I had grown a second head!

When she protested, we entered a brief discussion of the merits of her plan versus mine. She could not say that I was being inflexible, because I fully supported her idea of taking a year off.  She was forced to defend her plan against a better one, instead of preserving her right to forgo college for a year.  In the end, she went off to her four-year institution quite happily, leaving Troy behind.

Now, I am fairly certain if I had just ordered Persephone off to college without listening to her reasons for wanting a break, she would have found a way to rebel. Certainly, she might have complied with my wishes, but her heart would have been eager to be rid of my authority and influence at the first opportunity. On the other hand, if I had allowed her to waste a year of her life with a boy going nowhere, I would have set her up for innumerable further mistakes.

The Socratic method of debate and instruction helps build a long lasting relationship with your child. It teaches them to support their beliefs with evidence, as well as thoughtfully consider the evidence presented by others. We need to remember that our kids will not always have to listen to us: active debates and discussions can help them want to listen to us. Often these kinds of discussions, as long as we remember to be mature and controlled, will help us find common ground even in a seemingly insurmountable disagreement.  And like you, I have frequently experienced the benefits of applying this method at the office.

The fact is that most teenagers know when they are being ridiculous. They often want to test the waters to see if we will call them out. I’m happy to say that Persephone and I have laughed many times about her “year off” proposal, now that it is far behind us.

This is my opinion.  It worked for me and it can work for you.  You just have to try it!


Bill Gates said of the information technology revolution, “There’s a basic philosophy here that by empowering…workers you’ll make their jobs far more interesting, and they’ll be able to work at a higher level than they would have without all that information just a few clicks away.”

We can readily see how this philosophy is applied in the business world. Empowered employees aremore invested in their jobs and bring their best to what they do. Good managers understand that imaginative problem-solving is far preferable to mindless compliance.

The principle can be a little trickier to apply to parenting. What does it really mean to empower your child so that he or she is deeply invested in your family? You are not going to hand the car keys over to your 10-year-old, nor are you going to hand your teenager a wad of cash and tell her to spend it on whatever she likes. Empowering your children means giving them the wisdom and skills they need to make good decisions for their current stage of life. If you do this for long enough, they will be ready to make decisions as an adult.  In fact, the process of parenting can be seen as the transition from taking care of your child to empowering him to take care of himself. 

The Whys

Remember all those “why” questions we talked about earlier? I found that answering my daughter’s endless “whys” was vital to empowering her to become her own person. When we do not take the time to thoughtfully answer our children’s questions, we can be unintentionally dismissive. We are sending the silent message that they do not need to know more than they already do, or that they are not important enough for us to bother explaining something.

Giving your children a sound explanation for why you do what you do gives them a reason to follow the rules even outside of your presence. It also forces you to think more deliberately about the rules you set.

Of course these “whys” begin very early—usually at the ripe old age of 2 or 3. Certainly there will be times when children use the “why” as a stall: “Why do I have to go to bed now, Daddy?” The key is to give younger children a true but succinct answer and move on. As the child grows, however, you will need to set aside real time to answer his questions thoughtfully.

Often your children will question why you are making a certain decision or the reasoning behind a certain rule. It is easy to feel as if this is a challenge to your authority. However, keep in mind that it is far easier to accept a ruling if you understand the reasoning behind it. As we discussed previously, giving your children a sound explanation for why you do what you do gives them a reason to follow the rules even outside of your presence. It also forces you to think more deliberately about the rules you set.

Be prepared for your children to ask you “why” about other things too. Once again, remember that all children are different and therefore curious about different things. Do not allow yourself to see this as a nuisance. This is your opportunity to share your knowledge and experiences with them. If you don’t know the answer, offer to help them look it up. If your children see you as a reliable source of information from a young age, they will continue to seek your advice as they get older.

From her late teens to the present, my daughter has consulted me on personal and business matters far more frequently than I could have ever imagined, which has been an honor and joy.

This is my opinion.  It worked for me and it can work for you.  You just have to try it!


Published in Family & Parenthood

Only weak leaders view questions as an attack on their authority, and it is their loss as well as their employees’.  Noting that weak leaders are no leaders at all, the fact remains that stifling creativity and discouraging alternative perspectives on problems leads to the kind of myopic decision-making that drives entire industries out of business.

Embracing the ingenuity of your employees brings out their best and the best for your company. The same is true at home. Two-way communication with our kids not only strengthens our relationships with them, it also nurtures their imagination and confidence. If we think their viewpoints are important, they will too. By discouraging questions and squelching independent thought, we are telling them that they do not have anything valuable to contribute

A boss that rules with an iron fist will lose every independent-thinking employee who can find a better opportunity, leaving him with the “rubber stamps.” In the same way, the quiet, compliant child who never does or says anything to displease you may be an easy 6-year-old, but she may not make a very strong adult.  The parent who runs a house that way will either lose his child when she’s old enough to leave or will raise an adult utterly dependent on a stronger person to tell him what to do.

As a boss or as a parent, you don’t have an obligation to give them the answer they think they want, but you do have a responsibility to listen and help guide their thinking.  Allowing your children to speak their minds in a respectful manner encourages them to develop the thinking skills they will need for the rest of their lives. Don’t shut them down like a tyrant, but don’t let them become dictators. Remember that power cannot persuade the heart.

In business, the most valuable people are those who can solve problems creatively by introducing fresh ideas and solutions. Those who never ask “why” may be too willing to comply with the status quo and are less likely to proffer new solutions. Others are simply not invested enough in the company to care. Understand that it is not your authority that persuades. It is your reasoning and your care.

Expect pushback and welcome it. You are not wasting your time by doing so; you are investing in your child. My daughter often commented to me: “You put me in my place after letting me push back at you. I have always respected you for that.” Seize push back as an opportunity to converse with and motivate your child. I always tried to create an environment where my daughter and her friends could ask unusual questions, and I would try to give thoughtful answers. I was shocked at how many of her friends—friends with loving, supportive parents—responded to this like someone getting a drink of water after a day in the desert. These children craved the opportunity to ask serious questions of adults, such as “How do I navigate through life’s challenges?” “How can I honestly talk with my parents without being judged?” and my personal favorite “How did you and Persephone develop this kind of relationship?”

If all this communication sounds like a lot of work, it is. However, the reward is greater than you can imagine. One day you will look at your child and see a mature, confident adult who is taking care of himself and making a contribution to society. You will also have a strong relationship built on years of talking and listening. I would not trade that for anything.

This is my opinion.  It worked for me and it can work for you.  You just have to try it!


Published in Family & Parenthood
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ChiefDaddyOfcr Congratulations to my colleagues William Storms and @JudiMiller2010 on their latest publication
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