It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day

Photo of sunrise
Photo courtesy of my friend Sherry Page, who took it on an early morning walk in Sausalito, California. © 2013 by Sherry Page.

Sometimes when I write, I find myself singing a song over and over. Often it’s just a refrain, loosely connected to the topic I’m thinking about. Today, it’s the refrain from “Feeling Good” by Muse, which includes “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day….for me.” (For those of you who are fans of Nina Simone or Michael Bublé, yes, they recorded this song as well.)

My son loves Muse, and he’s been learning to play “Feeling Good” on the piano. So, I’ve been hearing it a lot lately, and I’m not surprised to find myself singing it as I go about my day.

What is my new dawn, my new day? Turns out I entered a new phase of parenting recently: mentoring my teens about how to interview for jobs.

On Saturday, my son had an interview to be a teaching assistant for a summer program for kids from under-resourced communities. Before the interview, I told him to be prepared to ask some questions and to share why he was excited about the program. And, because the teaching assistants can propose an extra-curricular activity to lead, I asked my son what he would say in the interview if this came up. While I half expected him to say “Muse Sing-alongs”, his answer was even better: “Improv.”  How fun!

The next day, my daughter wanted to talk about her upcoming interview for a summer internship at a non-profit that supports women computer scientists. What should she wear?  I said to stay away from ripped jeans and hoodie sweatshirts. (We live in Silicon Valley where workplaces tend to be very casual, but I think it’s nice, even for a high school student, to look pulled together for an interview.) What should she bring? I told her to leave her heavy school backpack in the car, and bring in just a purse and a notebook. We also made sure she had driving directions, her contact’s phone number, and a list of questions to ask about the internship. Check, check, and check!

This experience made me think about what lies ahead for me as a parent. Will I rely even more on mentoring and other leadership skills to be the parent my kids need?  I hope so. I feel I have a lot to share with my kids as they become adults, and so much more still to teach them. I’m thrilled they respect me enough to want to learn from me. And (humming along to the Muse tune), it fee-eels goo-oo-ood…

For those of you with college-age or adult children, I’d love to hear about the parenting skills that are important to you today. How much do they overlap with your leadership style? Please post a reply in the comments.


© 2013 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

When did you learn to drive the tractor?

Photo of a tractor
© Copyright Dave Fergusson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

I don’t know many farmers. But, when I meet someone who was raised on a farm, I like to ask how old they were when they learned to drive the tractor. Turns out it is a significant rite of passage—the day that they felt responsible for their family’s property and were expected to contribute to their family’s income.

Rites of passage take on many forms in different cultures: Bar and Bat Mitzvah rituals, quinceañera celebrations, religious confirmations, graduations, marriage ceremonies, drivers license tests, and so on. All of them mark a significant change, many come with increased responsibility, and they often include a celebration. We prepare our children for the rites of passage that are in keeping with our family’s values, religious traditions, and other cultural norms, and we are so very proud when they reach them.

In the workplace, rites of passage are often tied to promotions, increased responsibility, or changes in responsibility that come with lateral job moves. Just like parents, leaders play an important role in helping employees achieve these milestones. I love this quote by Jack Welch: Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

However, growing others isn’t just making sure that employees can learn the skills and check off the accomplishments needed for promotion. In the companies I’ve worked for, there have always been more nuanced expectations. For example,

  • Does this person take initiative?
  • Do they take appropriate risks?
  • Do they mentor others?
  • Do they have what it takes to work with customers?
  • Do they care about the success of the company?

As leaders, we need to know about these unspoken qualifications and make sure our employees have opportunities to demonstrate them.  We need to coach them and ensure that they are prepared for the next steps in their careers. And, just like a proud parent, we should feel a sense of accomplishment when our employees achieve these corporate rites of passage.

I believe that all of us want to make a difference and feel that sense of responsibility that must come with learning to drive a tractor on a farm. What is the equivalent rite of passage in your family? In your organization?  What are you doing to help prepare your kids or your employees? I look forward to learning from you.


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© 2012 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.