MCLEOD: The one thing exceptional leaders and parents do differently

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

We're weird about paying for advice.

We'll spend time and money on relatively non-important areas, like tennis lessons. Yet we often resist seeking expert advice in critical areas like our career or parenting.

Ask your neighbors how many of them have paid a golf pro. Then ask how many of them have ever hired a business coach or taken a parenting class. I guarantee you the number will be much lower.

Which is a shame. Because after 20 years of coaching leaders and studying parents, I've learned that the one thing exceptional leaders and parents do differently from everyone else is to seek out and pay for expert advice.

They read, they take classes; they're always trying to up their game. They're constantly in learner mode.

I'd love to tell you that I'm a lifelong learner in both leadership and parenting. But it would be a half truth.

The full truth is I've been a student of parenting since before I had kids. But it took a few business setbacks for me to get serious about my development as a leader.

I made the classic mistake. I was proactive about improving my skills in the area where I felt the least confident -- parenting. But in the area that came naturally to me, work, I wasn't as diligent.

Most people do the opposite; they get training for work, but not parenting.

Parenting expert Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, says, "Most people don't come to a parenting class until they're in crisis and they're out of control. They don't know what to do and they've spiraled down."

The result is, you're trying to improve your skills in a high stress situation, which is the worst way to learn anything.

McCready's new book -- "If I Have to Tell You One More Time: The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Yelling, Nagging or Reminding" -- opens with a candid story about her own parenting stress.

After years as a successful corporate executive, she elected to stay home with her two boys and found herself turning into "The Yelling Mom."

In her video at www.AmyMcCready.com she says, "I had this aha moment one night when I thought, I feel like I'm getting sick. My throat was scratchy, it was hurting. I thought, I must be coming down with something. Then I realized, I'm not getting sick. The reason my throat hurt is because I had been yelling so much that day.

"I thought, how in the world did this happen to me? I love these little guys more than anything in the world and intellectually I didn't want to be the yelling mom, but that's who I had turned into."

McCready went on to study Adlerian psychology and create online parenting education programs to help parents break out of the reactive power struggles she once found herself in. She even offers free training for military families, see www.positiveparentingsolutions.com.

As for me? I became a student of parenting because I wanted to create a happier, more successful family than the one I came from. I'm not a perfect parent, but 18 years into the job, I can honestly say, I'm pretty good at it and I really enjoy it.

That's the thing about training, when you become more skilled, the job becomes more fun. Paying an expert doesn't mean that you're failing. It means that you've made a commitment to succeed.

Business strategist Lisa Earle McLeod specializes in sales force and leadership development. She is author of "The Triangle of Truth," a Washington Post Top 5 Business Book.