Getting to Yes, And

Alyssa Westring: Parents Who Lead


Alyssa Westring

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In a pre-quarantine interview, Kelly talks to professor Alyssa Westring about her new book that looks at the link between business leadership and parental leadership.

One of the fascinating ideas in the book is that it’s not always that bad parents make for bad leaders or that even good parents make for good leaders?

“We found in the book that a lot of our readers are pretty enlightened leaders at work. They understand how to inspire people, how to have a vision, how to be these sort of creative leaders, the kind of bosses that we want to work for. And then they get home and they act like these obnoxious micromanagers that they would never want to work for. Right? They say to their kids: ‘Are you doing it the way I wanted?’ ‘Why are you doing it not fast enough?’ So this idea of knowing a principle in one part of your life and then taking it and kind of forgetting about it in another part of your life is something that we’re pretty familiar with.”

You also found that couples who had been together for a long time simply never considered their partner’s point of view on parenting.

“So in the writing of the book, we worked with about 30 dual career couples with children that volunteered to go through these exercises. They would have these conversations: ‘Here's what I think you expect of me. Here's what I expect of you.’ And you know, sometimes they were really surprised that this person they'd been living with for 20 years actually thought things quite differently than they expected.”

You write about values and vision being important and this made me think of how we use the term ensemble at Second City to talk about the things that are important to us in the present and what we want to achieve in the future.

“So the values are describing what you care about now. And then a vision is a picture of a better future. So we're sort of drawing on the organizational literature on the importance of having a company vision statement, because it helps people envision where we are, where we want to go, and then we can all sort of work together to direct our attention and our energy towards achieving that vision. But if the sales team has one vision and the marketing team has another and purchasing has another, you're going to really be working at odds with each other. So think about a family. Now if you can come up with a shared vision, then you can make choices as an ensemble, I'll use your word, to work towards that. You can all have this sort of shared picture in your mind. And we really pushed people to be as vivid as possible when they're coming up with that vision.”

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