In the classroom or in the office, we all want our kids and staff to excel. There are two approaches. Which is yours?

Recently, I was fortunate enough to catch a Sunday morning radio talk show featuring an interview with Cornelius Grove, author of, The Drive to Learn: What the East Asian Experience Tells Us about Raising Students Who Excel.

While the interview (and book) focused on two different methods for raising children, I couldn’t help but hear two different management strategies.

Grove compared the two parenting styles with coaches and cheerleaders on a sports team.

East Asian parents, according to Grove are coaches were American parents are more like cheerleaders.
American parents are involved early in a child’s education, actively read to the child, and molding them.  However, when the child begins school, they turn everything over to the teachers and start to act more like cheerleaders.  They are encouraging but comparatively do little to actively affect the child’s educational development.

In Grove’s words:

“The American approach is facilitative. (Children’s) potential must be identified, then developed.”

For this to happen, he must be nurtured, protected from danger, and introduced to a wide range of experiences. As facilitators, his parents marshal resources, arrange opportunities, and watch for emerging interests and abilities, which they then foster.

Most American parents do not authoritatively direct and mold their offspring. They facilitate their offspring’s emergence into adulthood.”

Conversely, Asian parents work as a coach. They are authoritative, they focus on discipline, on helping to identify problems, trying to teach the child how to practice to get better every day, playing a leading role in the educational experience.

“The East Asian approach is supervisory. (Children present) an unformed and malleable being over whose final shape her parents can, and should, have major influence. They feel that it’s imperative for her to learn how to be a person who fits into the family and maintains, or (even better!) increases, its standing in the eyes of others. Of little or no concern are her inborn potentials. Of intense concern are her connectedness with the family and her learning how to learn, to complete tasks the right way, and eventually to excel on her own.

So, the parents take charge. They supervise her development. They authoritatively mold her values, her behavior, and her capacity to excel. But in what way should she excel? The child’s wishes may play a role, but the decision is made by her supervisors. They know what’s admired in her community; the foresee what’s likely to serve her well as an adult. So, the parents shape her, actively and deliberately.”

My wife is a high school teacher, so I’ve seen this for decades. Parents hand their children over to schools and are happy to take a backseat role I education. They may passively ask if homework is getting complete (well or not)  – or worse yet, doing the homework for the student, but most parents do little to teach the child the skills that they need to become better learners.

Think about what we hear on the news. When we talk about fixing the US education system, we focus on testing and curriculum, when we’d get a hell of a lot more done by getting parents more involved.

So, what is the management style at your office?
Do managers marshal resources, arrange opportunities, and watch for emerging interests and abilities, which they then foster? Are staff encouraged, cheered on? Is work facilitated enough to make sure it is getting complete (effectively or not) – or worse yet, being done for staff who are incapable?

Or, does management take charge? Supervising the development of staff. Authoritatively, telling them exactly how to do tasks. Is management concerned with the teams connectedness with the company? Are staff shaped actively and deliberately?

It is easier to loosen up a tie then to learn to tie one.
I am not a fan of micro-managing. But the Asian way doesn’t sound like micro-managing to me. It sounds like assuring success by actually … well, MANAGING … and not simply facilitating.

During the interview, an interesting statement was used, “It is easier to loosen up a tie then to learn to tie one.” Meaning, if a parent is more involved in the child’s education early on, they can loosen up as the child learns good habits. This is what Asian parents tend to do, to loosen up when a child reaches middle or high school and allow the student to fall back on the good habits that are engrained in them.

American parents are often happy putting everything in the hands of the teacher, until there’s a problem.  It is not until AFTER a child has already learned bad study habits, fallen in with the wrong crowd, when the grades fall, that the parents get involved and by then, it’s often too late.

Compare this to work. We are setting employees up for failure if we wait until they have taught themselves the wrong way to do thing. Until they are frustrated and have convinced themselves that they are professional disasters.

When a manager invests the time, early, with new staff, teaching employees the basics. Being a coach and providing the tools for them to get stronger at their jobs. Then, they can eventually “loosen the tie.” To let-up and allow the team member to grow and flourish on their own. Much like Asian parents do with their older students.

When staff understand the “right way” to do the job, they can eventually provide value on improve upon it.

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