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Wednesday, 07 March 2012 09:39

Respect and Foster Independent Thought at Work and at Home

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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!


Chris Efessiou

About Chris Efessiou:  Chris Efessiou is an entrepreneur, business leader, educator, mentor, international speaker, radio show host, and best-selling author of CDO Chief Daddy Officer: The Business of Fatherhood  based on his own experience from raising his daughter as a single dad by applying his business knowledge to the business of parenting.  Listen to Chris’s weekly Radio Show Straight Up With Chris:  Real Talk on Business and Parenthood on Voice America Radio.  You may connect with Chris on Facebook, follow on Twitter and visit