How We Can Apply Proven Lessons from Business to the Family
This is a summary of part of the talk I recently gave at the Southern California Catholic Home Educators conference in Costa Mesa, California. You may watch the entire talk in three parts in the videos embedded at the end of this summary.
Responsibility of Fathers
In his book Lifeline: The Religious Upbringing of Your Children author James Stenson observed:
“Your children’s souls are forever. Where will your children’s souls be when time has passed away? This question should haunt you, press on you daily, drive you to surpass your limitations. Your children will exist for all eternity in one of only two states: everlasting happiness with God in heaven, or everlasting pain and sorrow in hell. Your children will freely live and die in God’s friendship – or they will freely cut themselves off from His love while they live, and then suffer the ‘second death’ for all eternity.
“You, as a loving parent, must never lose sight of this horrendous threat to your children. There is a hell. Hell exists, and all its evil forces are poised at the souls of your children. Our blessed Savior warned of hell repeatedly, more than a dozen times in the Gospels. He warned each of us, all of us, of the dreadful fate awaiting those who reject His love and forgiveness.
“He calls upon you, as His loving servant, to save your children and lead them to Him. He calls on you to love your children as He loves them, to the point of sacrifice.
“He will hold you answerable for the eternal destiny of your children. After your death, when you pass to judgment, He will ask you: ‘How well did you teach our children – yours and mine – to know me, love me, and to serve me?’”
Although written by a modern-day Catholic lay man rather than a canonized saint or Apostle, Mr. Stenson’s premise is true and Biblical. Pondering it or the many Bible references it brings to mind (Revelation 21:8, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, and Matthew 13:49-50 to name a few) should fill us parents with speechless awe at the tremendous responsibility God has given us.
It must be emphasized: GOD HAS GIVEN US PARENTS A TREMENDOUS RESPONSIBILITY.
This one word, responsibility, should be ever-present in our minds as fathers, and should guide our every decision and action with respect to leading our families and raising our children.
This great responsibility requires leadership in the home. Each family must have a leader or the family will drift with no aim toward Heaven and away from Hell. Like it or not, gentlemen, whether in the well-known Ephesians Chapter 5 or countless other Scriptural references, God has placed husbands and fathers in a position of leadership within their families. Believe me, I know it would be a lot easier if that weren’t the case, but….
FATHERS HAVE THE GREATEST RESPONSIBILITY of anyone in the family.
The Father’s Leadership Role
Pondering this in the light of my occupation in business, has helped me to better understand my role in the family, and I hope that it will help you too.
If we liken our families to a business, say “Smith Family, Inc.,” what would the leadership structure look like? We would have a Chairman of the Board who chooses the Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) and the Chief Operating Officer (“COO”). The CEO is the senior leader in the business, while the COO is the senior implementer in the business. In a family, these roles are filled by God as Chairman of the Board who chose you and your wife as CEO and COO of your family.
In case there’s any doubt as to the need of a leader in a family, we can learn from Fifth Century B.C. Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu: “If the general is weak and not disciplined, his instructions not clear, the officers and troops lack discipline and their formation in disarray, this is called chaos.” (from “The Art of War”) Based on my experience in business, if there is chaos in an organization, that organization is doomed to failure. And, recalling what James Stenson wrote (“Hell exists, and all its evil forces are poised at the souls of your children.”), if our families fail in the very real battle for salvation, we as fathers will have a grave price to pay.
What is Leadership?
Noted business expert and author of “The One Minute Manager” Ken Blanchard says: “Anytime you use your influence to affect the thoughts and actions of others, you are engaging in leadership.” Put another way, leadership is engaging with your organization (your wife and children) to influence their thoughts and actions. First and foremost, this requires us to live in a godly way as a real example for our family to follow. But that example will only bear fruit if you are actively engaged with your family.
In Paragraph 55 of his most recent Apostolic Exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis says: “The absence of a father gravely affects family life and the upbringing of children and their integration into society. This absence, which may be physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual, deprives children of a suitable father figure.” We are sadly all too aware of the absent father in today’s culture of broken marriages; however, Pope Francis makes a keen observation that a father may be absent in more ways than just physically. Emotional, psychological, and spiritual absence can deprive your children just as harmfully as physically leaving.
So, are you at home as much as you can be when you are not at work? When you are at home, are you emotionally and psychologically engaged with your family? Are you spiritually engaged with your family in prayer, study, worship, and the sacraments? If you are not, you are not exercising your responsibility of leadership.
Raising your children is not “just my wife’s thing.” That goes doubly if your wife homeschools your children. Like a business, this enterprise we call the family requires active and engaged mothers and fathers.
A final word on leadership. Unfortunately, too often in history and some cultures, leadership has been confused with the image of a dictator or “strong man.” In Spanish, they call it “machismo.” As noted business expert Peter Drucker says: “Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.” Ken Blanchard puts it this way: “Leadership is not about power. It’s not about control; it’s about helping people live according to the vision.”
Speaking of “vision,” every leader needs a plan.
Peter Drucker says: “Your first and foremost job as a leader is to take charge of your own energy and then help to orchestrate the energy of those around you.” To orchestrate that energy, you must have a plan.
The obvious question is “what should our family plan look like?”
To answer that, we need to understand what the primary “business” of our family is. Is our primary “business” about financial security, love, fulfillment, opportunity, success? While each of these things is, to varying degrees, good, the absolute answer is, “NO.”
To revisit a part of James Stenson’s quote from the start of this posting: “He calls upon you, as His loving servant, to save your children and lead them to Him.”
Furthermore, recall the good ol’ Baltimore Catechism:
“Why did God make you?”
“God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.”
Your children are entrusted to you for a short period of time to be formed so as to seek eternal life with God in Heaven. This is your first and foremost duty to satisfy your profound responsibility as a father – to form your children in the Faith. You must teach them, not “what to think” like robots, but rather “how to think” critically and in the light of the Truth so as to be firmly rooted in the Faith despite the inevitable attacks by the forces of Hell as described by James Stenson.
This must guide your family plan.
Steven Covey, noted author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” says: “A mission statement is not something you write overnight…. But fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.”
This is the same for a plan. It may or may not be formally written. What matters is that your family plan has been formulated with your wife (your COO who will help implement it day in and day out while you are at work) and that it becomes “the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.”
It cannot be overstated: every decision you make as the CEO of your family must be informed and measured by the criterion of your plan which must be founded on the formation of your children.
What are your goals? Have you ever thought about goals? Have you ever discussed goals with your wife?
Steven Covey says: “The bottom line is, when people are crystal clear about the most important priorities of the organization and team they work with and prioritize their work around those top priorities, not only are they many times more productive, they discover they have the time they need to have a whole life.”
The benefits of you and your wife agreeing on a plan will be time, peace, and success in what matters most.
So, as CEO of your family, you must put together a plan which must be based on your foremost priority which must be based on your foremost fatherly duty of leading your children to Heaven.
Leaders Care about Morale
“People who feel good about themselves, produce good results.” – Ken Blanchard
Remember that leadership is engaging with your organization (your wife and children) to influence their thoughts and actions. If they do not feel good about themselves, you will have little or no influence.
First, your wife’s morale. If you are a homeschooling family like us, it’s important for you as the father to understand and accept that your wife has a full time job. In fact, with an incredibly complex job myself, I can easily recognize that my homeschooling wife also has an incredibly complex job. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that your wife is “just a” stay at home mom. Because of this, you must give your wife the support she needs, especially emotional support. You must give her and the homeschooling “subsidiary” of your family “business” the time and attention she and it deserve.
One way to support your wife is by helping to maintain order in the home. This is absolutely critical – remember what Sun Tzu said about leadership and chaos. Again, this doesn’t need to be as a dictator (although some circumstances do require the father to “lay down the law”). Rather it is a matter of you as the leader a) modeling order, b) stepping in to redirect persons or activities back to order, and c) managing the many different personalities you have in your family.
Another way to support your wife is to properly set expectations – both yours and your children’s. For this, remember that your foremost priority must be leading your children to Heaven. So, all of the other distractions presented by the modern, worldly view of family (extravagant vacations and activities, never-ending sports or ballet, the single-minded pursuit of academic and financial success) are just that – distractions. Do not let them burden your wife because she feels like a failure due to her inability to “do it all.” Do not let your children become attached to these worldly expectations, and, thereby, burden your wife leading to poor morale.
Experience with friends over the years has proven that a homeschooling mom with poor morale inevitably leads to “burnout” which leads to the decision to “just put them all in school.” And, unfortunately, today, most schools (even many Catholic schools) are not conducive to your fulfilling your primary responsibility as a father – to lead your children to Heaven.
To briefly address the morale of your children: “Help people reach their full potential; catch them doing something right,” and “Catching people doing things right provides satisfaction and motivates good performance. But remember, give praise immediately, make it specific, and finally, encourage people to keep up the good work.” (both from Ken Blanchard)
Of course, this works for your wife as well. Have you ever told your wife that she’s a good teacher?
In my next posting, I will explore three other important aspects of leadership for Dads informed by a business perspective:
- Resource Management
- Reporting and Measuring Success
- Decision Making
For now, fellow family CEOs, let us resolve to pray for each other that we will take our God-given responsibility seriously, and work on our leadership skills for the good of our wives and children.
The entire talk may be watched in three parts below: