Performance-Based Management

Once upon a time I was a manager.  And, in my humble opinion, I was a pretty decent one.  I didn’t LIKE being a manager, but I did it because that was what was required of me.

Today, in the dressing room of a store, I had an epiphany.  Raising small children is actually rather similar to managing disgruntled employees who would rather be at a bar, or the park, or the movies, or really anywhere but at work.

So I bent down to the level of my children, who were in the process of trying to squeeze UNDER the dressing room door and failing miserably, and announced: “Our goal in this store is to find mommy a dress so you can play with the babysitter on Saturday night.  In order to achieve that goal, you need to follow the golden rules, or else we will leave and there will be no dress and no babysitter.  The rules are: No crawling on the floor.  No whining.  No hitting your sibling.  No hiding in clothing racks, no touching things that do not belong to you.  In addition, at the end of the shopping trip, if we achieve our goal and you follow all of the golden rules I set forth at the beginning, there will be an orange scone with your name on it, to split.  Do I make myself clear?”

Both kids nodded and slowly climbed up onto the bench.  I continued to try on dresses that were either too big or too small or too short or too long.  The children sat blinking.  A decision was made.  The children began to squabble quietly.  “Remember the goal and the rules…” I admonished.  A truce was quickly reached.  We headed to the register.

We paid for our purchases, and headed next door to the coffee shop.  On the way I praised them for following the rules.  When we reached the door of the coffee shop I bent down again and explained the rules of the coffee shop.  “Our goal is to have a nice and pleasant snack.  In order to do that, there will be no whining, no touching, no running.  You will use your please and thank yous.  You will use an indoor voice.  If the rules are not followed, we will leave the coffee shop immediately and throw away the remainder of the snack.  If the rules are followed, we will be able to come back again sometime.  Do I make myself clear?”  Both children nodded again.

We enjoyed our orange scone in peace.  I made sure to praise them for their good behavior.  We left the shop quietly.  Life was good.  I wonder if they are old enough for self-evaluations…



  1. Yay for you! I’ve always felt that motherhood is excellent preparation for managing in a work environment. After all, adults are really no better than kids. 🙂

    I found that setting out expectations ahead of time saves a LOT of headaches later, and that’s exactly what you did. (Not that I always remember to do that, but when I do remember — it works.)

    Isn’t it great to know they CAN control themselves when they want to?!?

  2. Good for you! You are my idol. I must try this sometime. And, mmmm, orange scone.

  3. way to go!

  4. Will you come manage my kids? I will bake you scones.

  5. I agree! 🙂 Sometimes kids are even easier to manage as opposed to employees 🙂

    I do the same type of rule setting with my kids every time we get out of the car to go someplace. I even ask if they have any suggestions for rules, which most of the time they are more strict than me !

    Way to go- I hope you have a great night out this weekend

  6. granolasusan says:

    Hope you enjoy the event-that-needs-new-dress while the kids are playing with the babysitter!

  7. Hmm you are really on to something there.

  8. DUDE… way to go.


  9. One of my son’s friends (a kindergartener) has been repeatedly in trouble for hitting, and that’s exactly what they’ve done with him — self-evaluations. Every day after school he does a 15 minute “reflection” on good & bad behavior… It seems to work. Or at least it works better than anything else they’ve tried.

    I would LOVE to hear your kids’ self-evaluations!

  10. Brilliant! And…did you find a dress??

    (But is there anything worse than trying on clothes in a dressing room with your kids? Ack!)

  11. Clearly, we now need to institute semi-annual performance reviews along with annual compensation (er, allowance) adjustments. I’ll develop an Excel spreadsheet that evaluates 9 components of behaviour and add importance weightings. I think a score of 3.5 or better should be required for an anual bump above COLA.

    Now, about that 360-degree evaluation…

  12. I just learned more from you then all my hours (days? years?) in management seminars.

    “Our goal is…”

    I’m totally using that. Awesome.

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