I had a conversation with a friend who has recently been promoted to chair of an academic department.  “My job is now 10% teaching and 90% babysitting,” he said.  “And I have no managerial training.”

Most of us in management positions could say the same thing — at least about the lack of training.  It would be ideal to think ahead to the job skills required for the job you eventually want and do more to prepare before they are needed.  It doesn’t always work that way so we start out feeling like babysitters instead of managers.  What can you learn from those who tend to toddlers?

Think about the good babysitters you had when growing up.  You may have cried when your parents left, but they ignored that and you got over it.  They gave you some options about what to eat or what to do.  They played games with you for awhile, but eventually they let you watch movies or do things on your own.  They may have told your parents about some of your behaviors, but they let you get away with a few things too.  They made you do some chores and didn’t do everything for you.  They made you some popcorn when you were good.  There are lessons from babysitting that don’t involve chasing screaming kids around the room all evening!

If you find yourself supervising people for the first time, you may feel like a babysitter, but try to move toward being a coach.  Provide clear expectations and some training up front.  Keep your staff informed as much as you can; knowledge and feeling as if their voice is heard is more motivating than money.  Be fair.  Empower them to make choices, changes, mistakes and grow.  Listen.  Share the context for decisions.  Say “good job”.  Let them play at different positions.  Provide some different strategies after you lose.

We all grow out of the need for a babysitter. Work toward helping your staff outgrow their need for a monitor by becoming a coach.  Even the pros need one of those.

— beth triplett

Thanks to the one who will stay anonymous for the idea — hope you’re feeling better!

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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