The Father Factor

7 Practices That Will Help You Serve Dads Effectively

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Aug 14, 2018


In my post last week, I discussed the importance of focus in creating an impactful mission statement for your fatherhood program or organization. I chronicled how National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI) created a more focused mission statement several years ago to reflect our role in building the capacity of organizations and communities to serve dads.

Focus is vital to many effective endeavors, and that includes your role in serving dads. In fact, according to ground-breaking research conducted with 5,000 managers and employees across many industries, it’s the most vital practice of top performers in any job.

Morten T. Hansen, a management professor at UC Berkeley, led the research team that studied the practices of top performers. His 2018 book Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More provides details on how to apply the seven practices below to your work with dads. The first four are about you. The final three involve work with others.

  1. Do Less, Then Obsess. This is the practice of focus. Choose a few priorities in your role that will have the most positive impact for dads, then dedicate your efforts to excel at them.
  2. Redesign Your Work. Identify the most effective ways you can bring value to dads—how you can most benefit them. Then redesign your role, if necessary, to deliver that value with the highest quality possible.
  3. Don’t Just Learn, Loop. Apply the Learning Loop—Do, Measure, Feedback, Modify. Experiment in your role. Try a new way to serve dads, for example. Measure the effectiveness of those new ways—the outcome(s). Get feedback from dads and from your manager/supervisor. Modify your approach, if necessary. Continue the loop until you land on a way to be more effective.
  4. Find Passion and Purpose. This is the second most vital practice that predicts performance. It’s not enough to be passionate about serving dads. You must combine passion with purpose. Passion is about doing what you love. Purpose is about contributing. You can have passion for serving dads, but if your role doesn’t contribute in the way that it should—it doesn’t bring any or enough value—you won’t be effective.
  5. Be a “Forceful Champion.” Be an advocate for dads. Inspire others to serve dads, persevere in the face of opposition within and outside your organization to serving dads, and use smart tactics to overcome that opposition.
  6. Fight and Unite. Encourage vigorous debate (“fighting”) in meetings that involve service to dads. Challenge each other, listen to minority views, raise and evaluate assumptions, and create an atmosphere for everyone to feel safe sharing their views. After vigorous debate, everyone must commit to the decision(s) made and to implement it without second-guessing or undermining it. If you’re a one person show in serving dads, use the Forceful Champion practice to form a team.
  7. Avoid the Two Sins of Collaboration. Avoid “undercollaboration” and “overcollaboration” through “disciplined collaboration.” Disciplined collaboration involves assessing when and when not to collaborate. There’s a tendency in organizations, especially in the social service world, to collaborate on everything. You must have a compelling reason to collaborate; otherwise, don’t.

As Hansen points out, if you do only one of these practices, make it “Do Less, Then Obsess.” I’ve applied this practice for many years. In fact, I would add this phrase to it: “Then Reassess.” I focus on no more than three primary activities in my role, and I obsess about them. Currently those activities are:

  • Talk with our partners. I might talk with them about their work with dads in general or their use of a specific product or service of ours.
  • Conduct marketing activities. I connect with leaders of other organizations, and in communities, to identify ways we can inform their constituents about the importance of serving dads, build their capacity, and collaborate (if collaborating makes sense, of course).
  • Create a new or update a current product or service. I always work on a new product or service or to improve a current one. That’s because NFI exists to help organizations and communities address their primary pain points in serving dads. We want to help them do their job as effectively as possible.

I reassess my focus several times during the year to ensure that my role adds the most value possible to the organizations and communities we serve. Sometimes I modify an activity or drop an activity and add a new one. Other times, I leave things alone. Regardless, I use “bring value” as my compass.

This book is excellent. I encourage you to read it to learn more about each of the seven practices and how to apply them in your service to dads.

Are you too scattered, unfocused in your role?

What have you done to be more effective in your role—what you do alone and in work with others?


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