It’s funny how change in one part of your life can have an impact on everything else. In the last few years I’ve gone through some pretty significant changes both personally and professionally. I’ve switched careers and swapped continents. But the biggest change by far has been in becoming a dad.
Everyday, in both subtle and substantial ways, I see my two boys change. Physical development, levels of comprehension, personalities, palettes and yes, sleeping patterns. It’s all in a constant state of flux. Just when you think you’ve got into a rhythm, or that you’ve cracked it, BANG! It’s all change again.
But it’s this rate of change and the rewards that come with it, that help put everything else into perspective. Seeing your child take their first steps? Squeals of delight come as standard. First words spoken? Melting heart mode activated. Having your child read a book to you for the first time without any help? Mind blown emoji times a thousand.
Ain’t no successful brand project, promotion, professional achievement or positive comment on Brand New that can bring that kinda pure, unadulterated joy. And whilst it’s obvious, it’s taken me a little while to fully appreciate that.
As a strategist, I’m in the business of change. I (try to) change perceptions and perspectives to affect change in people’s lives (sounds fancy right?). In reality though, I spend most of my time trying to change a client’s mind about a value proposition, positioning or brand purpose. Same, same but different.
Six years into this parenting gig I’ve come to realise that strategy and parenting are in many ways very similar. To succeed at both you need to listen attentively (at all times), speak assertively (when appropriate), show empathy (most of the time) and set boundaries (very early on).
You need to be perceptive, communicate clearly and be consistent, the latter of which funnily enough is the antithesis of change. It’s that paradox however - the constant act of balancing consistency with inevitable change - that makes parenting (and strategy) fascinating and challenging in equal measure.
I’d like to think that being a parent has helped bring a certain pragmatism to the way I think and a bit of play into the way I work. Of course that strategy deck is important, but it’s most certainly not a matter of life and death. Yes, I do my best work later on in the day (and well into the night in fact), but eating dinner with the fam and putting the boys to bed is way more important.
Being a parent or a strategist isn’t about having absolute control. It’s not about being the smartest or most experienced person in the room (I don’t think I ever have been), or about dictating how things should be (no one listens to me anyway!). I’ve learnt, and I’m still learning might I add, that it’s about listening, guiding, reasoning, understanding, training and supporting.
Whilst the parent in me tries to chill out and go with the flow (tiny vegemite fingerprints on white walls is a trigger for me but I’m working on it), the strategist in me is forever thinking ahead and problem solving. Every so often I catch myself interrogating my boys the way I do a client to get to the bottom of an issue. And the other day I nearly put together a keynote to take the family through our new operating principles (just found out this isn’t normal).
Yes, the struggle of being a parent and a strategist is real and that’s one thing unfortunately I don’t think will ever change.