By Kellie Davie, APR
Over the past few months, I have been reading a lot about leadership and management to prepare for the Strategic Communications Management Professional™ (SCMP) Exam. One of the books I’m currently reading has been Building The High-Trust Organization. This research-heavy book discusses how trust shapes us as individuals and the ripple effect it from top to bottom. “High Trust” organizations and leaders share five key traits: 1) Competence (you know your stuff); 2) Openness and Honesty (self-explanatory: don’t lie) ; 3) Concern for Stakeholders (you care); 4) Reliability (you can be counted on), and; 5) Identification (shared values).
These traits impact us from a very early age, and we learn them from our first “supervisors”—our parents. With Father’s Day happening this Sunday, I am reminded of how my dad exemplified these traits. Now retired, my dad had a successful career in medical equipment/pharmaceutical sales that required him to travel frequently and work long hours. Despite this, he always made it a priority to spend time with me: trading tee times for tea parties and golf clubs for Barbies. Being the nerd that I am, I compared my dad’s parenting style, to the five key traits of high trust I’ve been studying:
- Competence – Dad is always my “Phone-A-Friend” when it comes to topics like car maintenance, home improvement advice, and random medical knowledge. He’s also an incredibly smart person and holds a master’s degree in management from SDSU.
- Openness and Honesty – You always know where he stands on an issue, even when you didn’t ask for his commentary.
- Concern for Stakeholders – He checks in daily to see how Max (my son) and I are doing. He genuinely cares about us.
- Reliability – Whenever I have been in a jam, he’s been there in a jiffy!
- Identification – He taught me the core values of decency, work ethic, strong communication skills, and kindness.
A 2019 Indeed survey, released for Father’s Day, highlighted that it’s not just moms who have work-life changes after having a child: 88% of dads said having a child changed how they viewed their career, with 87% citing different career goals and 77% saying they had new views on corporate culture, especially on trust.
In celebration of Father’s Day, I reached out to five local professionals who share their insights on how fatherhood has impacted their leadership styles and careers. These fathers, some of whom are also grandfathers, range from senior-level executives to retired freelancers. Despite being industries and life stages, these fathers have had to juggle working full-time, raising children, coaching little league, or attending dance recitals, while trying to squeeze in personal time and growth (and maybe an occasional football game). Here’s what they said.
What phase of fatherhood are you currently in? I have a three-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter, so for me, I am currently teaching and introducing new elements of life every day. Now that my children are a little older, I have the responsibility to raise my children to be kind, disciplined, and accepting of all people.
How has fatherhood changed your management approach in your professional life? I have certainly grown to be more patient. You can’t expect someone to know a subject matter immediately or get it right the first time. I also place a bigger emphasis on relationship building and connecting with people. It helps to build trust and a common bond.
What are the challenges you face with work/life balance that you wish others would understand? I started with a new company recently, and onboarding remotely presents its own challenges. When you throw in having two active children in the house, there is a significant blending of work and life. I wouldn’t consider my schedule normal. Some days, I will work during the evening hours because I am helping with the kids around meetings.
What is your most significant piece of advice for other working fathers? Be present. In the past, I have been guilty of “zoning out” while spending time with the family…thinking about a presentation or work hanging over my head. My family deserves my full attention, and we have better relationships because of focused presence.
How can colleagues help understand and support working parents, especially during this period of working from home? I hope that the forgiveness of daily distractions continues while working remotely. At any given moment, my son can sprint into the room yelling about Batman or wanting another snack. This is a unique situation for all. Understanding fluctuating schedules or sharing resources of productivity tips while working from home are ways that I have felt supported.
What phase of fatherhood are you currently in? Right now I am in the sweet spot of fatherhood. My boys, Xander (10) and Liam (7) look up to me with respect and admiration. “Daddy” can fix anything and solve any problem.
How has fatherhood changed your management approach in your professional life? Focus is definitely on family first, making time for the boys and their activities. Before they were born and when they were babies I worked long hours with the focus on furthering my career. Now I am at a point where they are the focus. I attempt to be there for everything from Basketball to Cub Scouts.
What are the challenges you face with work/life balance that you wish others would understand? Some of my past colleagues spend little time with their families. Long days in the office and weekends on the golf course make it difficult to foster that important relationship with your wife and children. These fathers need to understand how important it is to spend time with their children because they can never get it back. Their children will only remember them as the absent father always working or golfing.
What is your most significant piece of advice for other working fathers? Make time for your children. Time is the one thing you can never get back. Sit down and listen to them. They have important things to say, whether they are talking about their favorite toy or telling you about their day. Sometimes their innocent insight is eye-opening.
How can colleagues help understand and support working parents, especially during this period of working from home? Colleagues need to understand that to the kids when Dad is home he is supposed to be available to them. It’s hard for them to not interrupt a Zoom meeting to ask for help with homework or to fix a broken toy. To them, that’s what Dads do.
What phase of fatherhood are you currently in? I would say “early-late”. My two daughters are now finished with their undergraduate degrees. One is now heading up a special program for the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability (TCAD) and the other has now completed her first year of graduate school at Kent State in Ohio.
How has fatherhood changed your management approach in your professional life? Fatherhood has changed my approach to management in two ways. For one, I now envision my role more as a mentor to the next generation of communications professionals. I am in hopes that my experiences can help to elevate others. Secondly, I am more open to accepting advice from my team about new technologies and approaches. Father may know best, but he doesn’t know everything.
What are the challenges you face with work/life balance that you wish others would understand? I am fortunate to work for the company I do. The Vincit Group is very respectful of work-life balance. Family is a core value of our organization. With that said, other organizations would best benefit from embracing the empowerment of their employees to do the right thing. When I worked for Marriott, one of the key management themes was to treat your employees as you wish your customers to be treated. Treat them right and your customer service will excel. J.W. Marriott is quoted as saying “We are not in the food business serving people. We are in the people business serving food”. This has always stuck with me.
What is your most significant piece of advice for other working fathers? I call it the three P’s: 1) Patience, 2) Persistence, and 3) Perseverance.
How can colleagues help understand and support working parents, especially during this period of working from home? We are communicators. We should remember the basics of bilateral communication. First and foremost, we must listen. All too often, it is easy to get involved in the “volley” without truly understanding the “why”.
Michael Deas, ABC, SCMP©, Senior Principal, Ideas Abound
What phase of fatherhood are you currently in? Almost done! The last of our crew of nine is the only one at home, a 16-year-old daughter. She has two sisters, two step-sisters, two brothers, and two step-brothers ahead of her, all adults. So you’d think by now I’d get the hang of this thing. (I’m also granddad times five.)
How has fatherhood changed your management approach in your professional life? People are different. Even within the same family, we see our kids having dramatically different views, beliefs, takes on life…even different ways of processing information, carrying out tasks. I can’t compare them; I can only contrast them.
The takeaway for me is: don’t assume that any group under a common identifier (like a company name) is homogenous. There are lots of ways to approach an issue—not just my way.
What are the challenges you face with work/life balance that you wish others would understand? Even though the diaper days are a distant memory (thank God), a kid at home still needs dad, needs stuff, needs attention, and answers. Recently I spent an afternoon running paperwork around town for my daughter’s first job. Afternoons are prime work time for me. But these are the “life things” I need to do, and I have to fit my work around them.
For too long I’ve operated the other way around, squeezing in family wherever the ogre of work allowed. I have to step back and remember what’s important: I’m a dad forever, and with each child, I only get one shot.
What is your most significant piece of advice for other working fathers? You’re good at mentoring and recognizing your employees. So make sure your children know you’re proud of them. Show up for their moments. Value them. Encourage them. Correct gently. Praise lavishly. These gifts mean more to them than any bauble you could buy them.
How can colleagues help understand and support working parents, especially during this period of working from home? If a colleague demonstrates integrity and contribution, cut them all the slack they need on schedule. If missed deadlines are an issue, or if work suffers, approach positively, working toward a solution. Most people, I think, are trying to make the best of trying situations, so a little grace goes a long way.
Philip J Matisak, ABC, Former IABC Nashville President, Retired
What phase of fatherhood and grandfatherhood are you currently in? Retired father of three grown children and three young adult grandchildren.
How has fatherhood changed your management approach in your professional life? It certainly made me more sensitive to people dealing with family issues — and that impact on their ability to focus on work. I always tried to emphasize with my workgroups that family comes first.
What are the challenges you have faced with work/life balance that you wish others would have understood? Focus on career advancement is not the end all – at all times. In my experience, advancement usually meant relocation. There was a period of years that I declined pursuing advancement so my children could stay in the same schools through high school – to have that stability. That created a reputation among some that I was not interested in the advancement, even after my children were through high school. Luckily, a friend in Corporate HR alerted me of my “reputation, ” after which I had a clarifying discussion with a Senior VP. A few months later, I accepted a promotion ….. and relocation!
What is your most significant piece of advice for other working fathers? Nothing is more significant than the family unit in raising well-adjusted children who will have the best chance for successful, happy lives. Keeping it intact should be priority #1. Be there for them. Find dedicated time for family; build family traditions. Work-life success will be meaningless if it comes at the cost of broken family relationships.
How can colleagues help understand and support working parents, especially during this period of working from home? Children will learn more now than ever about and from their working parents – they will potentially learn about integrity in business and life balance. It’s not just the teaching parents do purposefully. Children are seeing the “person behind the curtain” in all their glory. They’ll see and learn how their parents approach work, how they deal with people. Children will absorb and mimic. It’s “Bring Your Child to Work” on steroids. What pressure to be a good role model!
I am so thankful that these men shared their perspectives on fatherhood and career. To summarize, here are some key themes we can all take away, regardless of whether you have children or not:
- Time flies, so make the most of the people around you, especially loved ones.
- Trust is everything when it comes to relationship building.
- Know “The 3 Ps”: Patience, Persistence, and Perseverance.
- People are different, and there are many ways to approach an issue.
- Be present and actively listen to others.
For more resources on parenting with a career, I recommend checking out Fatherly, Parent Magazine, and The Professional Dad. For now, I wish all of the dads and father figures out there a very Happy Father’s Day!
Kellie Davie, APR, is the managing director and founder of Keycom, a marketing communications firm in Nashville dedicated to providing businesses with the creative strategies they need to reach their goals. Kellie also serves on the IABC Nashville board of directors as Vice President of Awards and Communications. At home, Kellie is mom to her almost 2-year-old son, Max. She credits much of her success and sanity to the two fathers in her life: her husband Alex and her father, Ted.