8 April 2020
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What do we have to do to create old-fashioned extraordinary Aussies?

I have to share this story with you because it’s not only true but it’s absolutely inspirational. But don't think this one comes from my arsenal of great true stories garnered from nearly three decades of revealing the secrets of the best business- and wealth-builders from Australia and the rest of the world!

A mate of mine, who is a pretty good business builder in his own right, talked about a time when he had to wind up an operation and had to inform his staff. He was particularly concerned about Sophie, who he said, was on about $30,000 a year. He knew her husband was an unskilled labourer on not much more than her and he was worried about how the layoff might have hit them.

Taking her into his office, he started with his regrets about the circumstances that had led him to have to close the business and let her go. However, when he asked how she would cope, given she was in her 50s and might be hard-pressed to find work, given the economic environment at the time, Sophie was more serene than he expected.
“Don’t worry Sam,” she said. “Harry and I have five properties, so we will be alright.”

Sam was blown away and had clearly underestimated the goals, the resolve and the determination Sophie and Harry had to get ahead.

They clearly had second, and maybe third, jobs and had hatched a plan to become serious suburban property investors and boy I wonder what their property portfolio would be worth nowadays?

On Thursday night I recorded a ‘live’ version of my Money Talks program at BT’s theatre in Barangaroo in front of an audience — that was a first. The subject was super strategies ahead of the end of the tax year on June 30.

One of my panelists, Liam Shorte, from Verante Financial Planning, was an old fashioned Irishman, who lamented that we, as parents, had let down our 30-somethings by being too soft on them when it came to money and their education about building wealth.

He pointed out how our grown up kids have made a modern day habit of staying at home longer than previous generations and that there seems to be a pattern of being clueless about money and excessively dependent on their parents’ willingness to bankroll their uninspiring lives, when it comes to money.

Of course, not all 20- or 30-somethings fit this characterization but I have known financial advisers and accountants who have given financial advice which started with: “Get your kid to leave home!”

At a time when most Australians are worried about our political leaders, it might be balanced to think about us as parental leaders. I have always argued it was harder to lead and inspire my own kids because they knew my weaknesses, as well as my strengths. While in the workplace, on TV, on a website, in a newspaper or with radio, my shortcomings might be less observable!

That’s not to say that I haven’t led my sons to explain their creditable achievements but I have been helped by a ‘someone’ with less weaknesses — my wife!

Doing some research to find out how we can all lift our parenting/leadership performance I stumbled on leadership expert Dr. Tim Elmore who is a best-selling author of more than 25 books, including Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future and Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenges of Becoming Authentic Adults.

Tim has fingered seven mistakes we parents can make, which will simultaneously make us better leaders with better quality kids/followers.

1. We don’t let our children experience risk: we are so scared of misfortune hurting our kids we wrap them in plastic. However, psychologists in Europe think outside playing and skinned knees all help to fight phobias in adults. We have to let them learn that shit happens and excessive physical protection policies actually leave them more vulnerable to the more scary mental problems in the future!

2. We rescue too quickly and Tim says it is parenting for the short-term. As leaders we are suppos ed to equip our young people to do it without help. This is how he sums it up: “If I fail or fall short, an adult will smooth things over and remove any consequences for my misconduct.” The world does not work like this, and therefore it disables our kids from becoming competent adults.

3. We rave too easily and the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ mentality means eventually victims of this kind of support start to realize that only mum and dad think they are great. Tim says it creates a world of unreality that leads to cheating, exaggeration and lying to avoid reality.

4. We let guilt get in the way of leading well and Tim says “your kids will get over the disappointment, but they won’t get over the effects of being spoiled. So tell them “no” or “not now,” and let them fight for what they really value and need.”

5. We don’t share our past mistakes but we should reveal to them the relevant mistakes we've made when we were their age in a way that helps them learn to make good choices.

6. We mistake intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity. Tim says observe other kids and if they are more independent you have to evaluate whether your parenting/leadership is delaying your child’s independence.

7. We don’t practice what we preach! “To help them lead a life of character and become dependable and accountable for their words and actions,” Tim advises. “As the leaders of our homes, we can start by only speaking honest words – white lies will surface and slowly erode character.”

The parents of today might be over-compensating for their parents who were too hands off and over-preoccupied with the future, rather than today and their kids in the here and now. It is like the parenting pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other but great parental leaders, like those in business need to strike the right balance.

A business leader cannot let mistakes and immature behaviour go unchecked or it could mean revenue and customer losses and even business failure. Parents have not got financials to see if their leadership is winning or failing but I suspect they know their results via their gut feelings.

There is nothing wrong in knowing that your family leadership needs work, but it is a crime to ignore it and not to do something about it, because the biggest sufferer ends up being the kids you love more than anything.
Two good websites to help you lift your parenting game are:

One final point, as a former school teacher and University lecturer, the greatest revelations I had about myself and my students were when objective tests told us that we were not as good as we thought we were.

In a recent episode of the TV show, Silicon Valley, a high-powered chief operating officer of a start-up hi-tech company said he was into “ridiculous candour” and he advised a very neurotic, over-caring Richard, who is the lead character, to give up his “ruinous empathy”! It was a very amusing take on life and being successful, but gee he made a point worth considering.

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