“Ensure that you are able to support each child in the way they need” with Naeem Arif and Chaya Weiner

I think its hard to define what is a good parent, as each situation is different. I think the most important thing is to ensure that you are able to support each child in the way they need. Not every finger on a hand is the same, similarly each child has different needs and you […]

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I think its hard to define what is a good parent, as each situation is different. I think the most important thing is to ensure that you are able to support each child in the way they need. Not every finger on a hand is the same, similarly each child has different needs and you have to learn to be the kind of parent that they need at that time. As they grow, so must your parenting change.

I had the pleasure to interview Naeem Arif, a highly accomplished business leader with a formidable reputation for success over the last 24 years in an array of industries including Retail, Hospitality, Public Sector, Manufacturing and Consulting. He has extensive experience in business transformation, working with a wide range of organisations to help them achieve their objectives. He is known for developing relationships and building strong teams through my flexible communication style and have delivered over £1bn of success for clients in my career. Naeem Arif is the author of 5 best selling books on Business and Business Transformation. He is also a Director at United Carpets, a national Flooring business that has won many awards. Managing difficult clients and running your own business is difficult, especially when you also want to have an active family life. In his last book he wrote a dedication to his children ‘I hope this book inspires them to play their part in the world’.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

Growing up was tough for us, my parents were children when they came to the UK and although they were schooled in England they both took jobs (Bus Driver and Hospital translator) that had limited prospects. They had ambition though and realised the only way for them to achieve a better life was to go into business. Retail & Restaurtants were the easiest option and they did both. My father did retail in the day and still worked the nigh shift on the bus for 10 years, until the business was stable enough for him to give up the night shift.

There is a saying that ‘people who break bread together, stay together’ and Asian families do everything together. There was no surprise then when as a 12 year old I started working Saturdays in the family business. This initially was a bit of fun, but the reality was I was learning skills that have taken me to where I am today. My parents wanted all their kids to get education and we all went to University and took professional jobs, whilst still working in the family business on the weekends. Whereas my friends would look forward to the weekend, It was normal for us to work hard and to work 6 days a week. This created a working ethos and also a reason to save more money as we had less time to spend it!

Now this didn’t mean we only worked, as a child I played cricket and hockey for the district and also was involved in a number of clubs and societies.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I was lucky to get a job as a Mangement Consulting with Pricewaterhouse early on and the experience was the foundation for where I am today. In my professional career I was very successful, I wrote 3 best sellers and was regularly invited to speak at conferences around the world. As I got into my thirties, I started questioning where my life was going, I didn’t just want to be a hired gun, a consultant, who worked for big clients around the world. By now my parents had retired, but being home for 2 years was not fulfilling for them and as a family we took an important decision to go back into Retail. The challenge was, did we really want to start a small retail or restaurant business from nothing and build it up? Instead we took a franchise from a national retailer with the excitement that we could work with a national brand. Although we struggled in the first few years, subsequently, once we learned the business we have had year on year growth for the last 10 years. We did this by evolving the business model that was given to us and bringing in the experience we had previously. We really focused on Customer Service and treating our Customers so well, they would not want to go anywhere else. We now run a 5000 sq ft site, with a total of 19 people who work us. This thinking was back in 2006, nowadays everyone calls this focusing on the Customer Experience. We have been challenged a few times by competitors, but each time we have focused on doing what we do best. We do use promotional pricing and upgrade offers for sure, but what we don’t do is sell ourselves short, we expect to provide a great service at a reasonable price.

If you can get good staff and create a great culture, everyone can adopt the same approach, you do not need to be there all the time to ensure that your strategy is executed. I went back to consulting part time and worked on some great projects. At the same time, I had helped a number of my friends who had businesses on an ad-hoc basis, giving them the benefit of our experience in Business.

5 years ago the Concept of Business Basics First came into play and in particular Customer First.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

So I work 6 days a week and take 2 holidays a year.

If It is a corporate consulting day, I like to get to client site early, so I like to be there for 8:30 and get my day planned ahead. For 1 particular client we will often have a stand up very early (7:45am) to talk about the plans for the day, so we can hit the day running. On average I spend 3 days a week with corporate clients.

If it’s a smaller client (SME) then it is often a half day consulting and this is a little more relaxed.

If it’s a retail day, I will get in early, have a walk around the store with 1 of the 2 managers we employ and we have a chat about the day. I find this 5 min chat at the start of the day is great, so I am up to speed and also know where I need to pay attention or support during the day. What I don’t do is turn up a few days a week and start dictating how we should do business. My trust my team to know their jobs.

Non-Corporate days are also opportunities for me to drop off the kids or pick them up from school. These are the days also when I can go to school performances, or watch them play sports.

I will also try and squeeze in lunch my my wife or my parents, so we can catchup.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

So my oldest child is graduating this year from university and I think that she is a very example of a well-rounded young person;

· She is confident socially and can speak to people at different levels — I find young people can be shy talking to adults, especially in a professional manner.

· She knows a little about managing people, as over the last 4 years she has worked for me on some projects.

· She also knows a little about responsibility of her actions, so I feel confident that when she starts her first graduate role she will be lacking confidence.

People learn from formal education, but also by absorbing their environment. If their environment is limited, for instance just to family or just friends, then they will only ever experience that. The early years especially are important for kids, they need to have fun, but also know that you as parents have their back. For me, as a parent, I want my kids to develop in a way that they have an eye on the future. That future requires them to understand the things that can be possible for them — this is for all things, education, sports and of community. I go back to my earlier quote ‘people who break bread together stay together’ and having a sense of community and family is important, at a time where I see more youngsters becoming secluded from society as a whole.

I want my kids to know that there are many, many things possible for them.

I quote I love is ‘Inspiring Potential, Fulfilling Dreams’ (this is the tag line for a charity ‘Birmingham Youth Sports Academy’) and I see this is my job. I think nowadays, many parents pass this responsibility onto teachers and I do not think this is right. Teachers are educators and we can all remember a teacher who was inspirational for us — but not all of them are inspirational. Unfortunately many are focusing on getting through the day or following a career as it fits into their own lifestyles. Also, they could be with your child for a limited time only. You are in the nest position to know your child.

I also want them to understand, with confidence to try things, knowing that failure is a part of life. I see youngsters sometimes scared to try, for fear of failure. I also see them fail and then not try again. As a parent, I need to be there as a support blanket for when they do fail, but also to encourage them to try.

I also want them to be able to talk to me about their ambitions and their fears. It is very common nowadays for adults to have a coach or a mentor to talk to, you are that person for your kids. Like a good coach or mentor, you need to be careful not to limit their beliefs and also not to impose your thinking on them, you have to understand what they want and where they need help.

These things can only be possible, if you have some time with your kids …. I don’t believe in smothering them, i.e. spending all your time with them, but there needs to be the right balance. Sometimes an hour spent watching a great movie together, can be more valuable than a half day in a shopping center.

Give them a chance to learn themselves also, from their own friends. Learn to make relationships, learn to love and lose as well.

All the emotions influence the eventual person they will become, especially if they are to go on and working a customer facing role.

I think there is a cultural thing here as well — I think certain cultures are still more traditional than others and as such, there is more investment by parents in family time and in their kids. This should not be lost, as these are important foundations that kids need. Some people may hear this and worry about kids not having their Independence, but modern day parents know how to give independence without removing that support network.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

This is a simple question to answer. I see it all to often, unfortunately;

· I see young people growing up with a lack of confidence or support

· I see kids regularly told they are not good enough, either directly, or because their parents could not make some time to support them

· I see kids not dreaming of what is possible and instead being limited to their parents insecurities or failings

· Most regularly I see kids try and fight for themselves …. Kids who had ‘the privelege’ of support from their parents find themselves in a better position

If you do not spend time with your kids supporting them …. You could leave potential unrealised.

You have to find a common ground on which to meet them, it could be the garden or be the Cinema, or on a Sports Field, or even in a Shopping Mall. By this I mean, you cannot try and meet them like an adult, you cannot try and deal with them like an employee. They are going to be less organised, more needy and definitely less mature. They are going to more comfortable in situations or surroudings where they are on an equal footing than you. So your office is not a good place to spend time with them!

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

In principle, I agree wholeheartedly with the concepts that Brigid Shulte talks about, if you spent all Saturday with them, but dragged them around the shopping mall, it would be as valuable as a shorter period of time where you have given them your full attention.

My kids know I work long hours, but they really appreciate it when I pick them up on a night or drop them off to school when it happens. They also love it when I come into school when they have a performance — these short interactions are seen as high value.

My boys especially love it when I find 20 mins to play in the garden with them or give them a game on the Playstation. The playstation match-ups are easy money for me, I can easily come home late from work, go straight up to their bedroom and play a match with them. I remember when the younger boy was not very good at FIFA (football) I used to let him beat me, but give the older a tough match … the younger would always brag ‘how come you can’t beat dad, but I can beat him?’ The elder boy knew inside (because I would tell him) what I as up to, in doing this, he was also getting a family lesson.

My daughters are little different, as they are older and I may not have as much in common with them. Its difficult to know how to deal with moody teenagers. In their situation, I tend to be ‘present’ more than be ‘active’ like I am with the boys. The right thing here for me to do is be prepared to take them shopping or to the cinema and they are old enough for me to just be the chauffeur — their mother can be more active than me.

The girls need their support so they know that girls do not have less potential than boys do. We do this by sharing chores — for instance, boys and girls both set the table and clear the table. Both know how to make toast and other simple things, its not just a girls job. I think the right parenting is to ensure there is some equality in the house, as my wife also works, so we all chip in. This can also be good quality time as well, all chipping into doing household chores.

The next example I want to give is an obvious one — I have said eating together is important — but I am going to say is finding those times when you are together and there are no devices. We sometimes will play scrabble or monopoly together — it is fantastic if we can find a regular TV show to watch together, this often needs the parents to compromise and watch something the kids want to watch.

My final example is holidays, you sometimes see parents compensate by spending a lot of money on gifts like expensive holidays. For me, the best holidays have been when we have gone exploring either on foot or in the car. We have had some fantasic breaks and trips where we have been in the car a lot, sung songs together, played eye-spy and things like that. These confirm that it is not the quantity but the quality of the time spent together.

This study focuses on Working Mothers, but I think it is equally relevant for both parents, in a time of equality, there is value for fathers and mothers taking their share of being present for when their kids need them. I think it is important that responsibilities are shared, because a child will need different things and sometimes they will need them from a father or a mother.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

I think technology is helping us here, many people say technology is spoiling our families.

– Diaries, a common complaint is scheduling conflicts we have a family calendar and all events are put into the calendar. This is not just events, dinners or occasions, but also reminders to us that something is going to happen. We make sure that we plan family dinners, or days that we need to leave early.

– Devices, all our devices are interconnected, so everyone can see when I am in the office or when I am not. A regular issue used to be ‘We don’t know where you are, or what time you are coming home’ so being able to Find my iPhone works for me and for my kids. They can see when Daddy is in the office, or when Daddy is playing golf. With this information they can decide to call me or text me and they know they can remain connected to me. I think if they did not know where I was, then they would feel disconnected from me at some points.

– Facetime — technology like Facetime and Video calling means that I can watch live an important event and not miss out on it. If there is a birthday that I have to work away, then we can jump onto a video call. If there is a school performance, we can watch it straight away and I am able to say ‘I saw you buddy and you were fantstic’ and they will believe me on it. This allows us to be present more at occasions, even though we may not be in the same room. This is true for events and also things like TV Shows, being able to watch a TV show that we all want to, from different locations, but to share the emotion and feedback immediately after is great

– Two Phones, I am one of many business owners who has 2 phones and when I genuinely want family time, I will simply switch off the work phone. This works wonders, because only family has the personal number, so there is no danger of anyone else contacting me and there is no temptation for me to check an email or respond to a text. I can be fully in the moment. In addition to this, when the personal phone rings, I know it is important.

– WhatsApp group — I think most families nowadays have a whatsapp group, I find this is a great way for the older generation and younger generation to share jokes and opportunty to chat. We use ours to share videos and updates to each other and it gives them the chance to tell us something great they have done and we can collectively celebrate success and or support each other. This is all part of the need for more information, more sharing and immediacy … i.e. we need to connect and share immediately and we want to have a response quickly as well.

Something that you can never replace … is to talk to them, maybe 1 on 1, with no distractions and see their reactions, facial and tone of voice). Sometimes you can learn a lot from your child, even when they don’t say much.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I think its hard to define what is a good parent, as each situation is different. I think the most important thing is to ensure that you are able to support each child in the way they need. Not every finger on a hand is the same, similarly each child has different needs and you have to learn to be the kind of parent that they need at that time. As they grow, so must your parenting change.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

I am personally someone who leads by example and like to inspire by doing things and then telling them, they can beat me. So for me the way I like to inspire my kids is to do things and then ask them a soft question. I believe often competitive spirit brings out the best in people. As an example, I challenged my eldest to beat me in her university coursework and exams and she is on her way to out scoring me.

This does not work for everyone though, my 2nd child, my daughter is not competitive at all and for this is not effective. It is a real challenge for me with this child and the way I am trying to get her to dream is to try different things until we can find something that she likes and then support and encourage herm at her own speed to see what she would like to do.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

Success is so difficult to explain, it has to be a personal thing. For me it is as simple as leaving an effective legacy — my children are my legacy. If I can bring them up well enough to be good human’s then I will have been successful. I believe being a good human is being able to balance business, family and community, so I set standards in each so that they can do the same.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

None really … I take parenting lessons from around me … I think my parents did a great job and I learn from them, but I Importantly take immediate feedback from the kids on what works and what they don’t like and adjust accordingly. I also talk to other parents of a smilar age or who have kids at the same age or in the same class and take their feedback on.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Difficult to pin it down to a single quote.

My father says — Never be reliant on anyone else, so you don’t have fold your principles to theirs.

There is a culture thing here, we believe in pulling together as a family because they are most likely to b there for you when you need them. Its something that certain cultures believe in and preach from a young age, so it becomes part of their upbringing.

Blood is thicker than water — so somewhere your family will feel or care for you.

Of course my earlier quote is still true — ‘families that break bread together, say together’.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think the breakdown of family values is something that needs to be looked at, I believe that society is much worse off for this. Families breed respect and collaborative working, you cannot be selfish, because you are part of something bigger. I believe that reminding society that family is important and family does not stop at the people who live in your house, but should extend to your community is also important.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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