On Underhand Free Throws and Work Family Balance for Dads

Rick Barry shot underhand free throws. (creative commons)
Rick Barry shot underhand free throws. (creative commons)

Rick Barry shot underhand free throws. What we working dads can learn from this example.

One of the oddest things about world-class NBA players is that some of them are terrible free-throw shooters. Free-throws should be one of the easiest aspects of the game- the shot is always the same distance and no one is trying to guard you. Even so, some great players, mostly big-men such as Shaquille O’Neal, DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard, make less than 50% of their free-throws. This means fewer points and a reduced chance to win. In fact, opposing teams have made a habit of intentionally fouling poor free throw shooters near the end of close games, often resulting in the player having to be taken out of the game during crunch-time, hurting their teams chance at victory. The term for this was called “Hack a Shaq.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

In fact, there is a better way to shoot free throws than the typical overhead technique. And every player who makes less than 65% or so of his free throws should use it. But they don’t. Why?

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The Fatherly 50 List of Best Employers for New Dads Shows Progress (at the top)

Fatherly compiled a list of the best employers for new dads
Fatherly compiled a list of the best employers for new dads

Yesterday, Fatherly.com released its annual ranking of the 50 Best Employers for New Dads 2017. The list highlights large companies from many sectors that have implemented policies and programs supporting new dads and working parents.

(Disclosure: I serve as an unpaid subject matter expert for this project)

The list of best employers for new dads is especially important for showing what is possible.

  • For employers, this could lead to a “race to the top” in which they compete against each other for top talent by expanding their benefits and changing their cultures.
  • It can show the business community that there is no tradeoff between being a financially successful company and an accommodating employer. In fact, it makes a compelling argument that the two are self-reinforcing.
  • For dads, this list can give us an idea of what leading companies are offering. We can look for employment at companies with similar policies in our job searches. Similarly, we can share this information with our bosses and HR departments and advocate for the expansion of family-supportive programs.

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Small Ways for Dads to Signal the Importance of Work-Life Balance

There are many small ways to signal the importance of work-life balance while at work. By doing so, we advocate for ourselves and support our fellow working dads.

When I am interviewed about the challenges faced by working dads, one of my go-to lines is that, “in many workplaces, it’s not safe for men to ‘out themselves’ as highly involved dads.”

While this statement is sadly still true, I am encouraged by the increasing number of men speaking up about their family priorities while at work. When dads signal the importance of work-life balance, we take the conversation out of the shadows. Sending visible signals reinforces the fact that involved fatherhood important, normal and widespread. We need to ensure that it is recognized as such at our workplaces and communities.

I’ve spent the last few years working with dads and employers on work-family concerns. Many dads have shared with me how they to assert their work-family priorities while at work. Here are a few things they’ve told me. While I recognize not every dad has the security to do all of these, most of us could probably find small ways to support our cause by signaling the importance of work-life balance.

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Effective Advocacy from Al Horford and His Sister

Al Horford and his sister demonstrated effective advocacy for working dads in their response to Mike Fleger’s criticism over Horford’s paternity leave

A perfect stocking stuffer for a dad in your life!
A perfect stocking stuffer for a dad in your life!

I love professional sports.

I hate how so many fans take sports too seriously and how sports radio hosts seem stuck in the Stone Age when it comes to valuing fatherhood.

Two years ago, MLB star Daniel Murphy took two games’ paternity leave, using MLB’s forward-looking policy, and was excoriated by some of the most prominent sports radio personalities for doing so. Thankfully, there was a swift backlash against these radio hosts, with one ESPN poll indicating 95% supported Murphy’s decision.

Two years later, the same dynamic has played out yet again. Boston Celtics’ center Al Horford recently missed one game to be at the birth of his daughter. Boston sports radio host Michael Felger somehow found this offensive.

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Why I’m Excited About Amazon’s 30-Hour Work Week Experiment

Working a reduced schedule- something like a 30-hour work week- is often touted as a good alternate for working parents. Employees get reduced pay for reduced work, but keep their benefits. The employer keeps the employee, reducing turnover. What’s not to like? In practice, a 30-hour work week hardly ever works out well. The employee has “outed” … Read more

My Wrong Reaction to Paternity Leave (now put right)

How could I have such a wrong reaction to paternity leave?
How could I have such a wrong reaction to paternity leave?
I’ve long been an advocate for working fathers. Then why did I have such a wrong reaction to paternity leave?

My son just started middle school. He’s taking it in stride but I’m finding it hard to believe that my baby boy is now in 6th grade.

Our school district is great. One of the things I like about our schools is their attention to detail. For example, the 6th grade guidance counselor will move with the students and be their counselor in their 7th and 8th grade years. In this way, the counselor really gets to know the students and there’s more consistency from year to year. Really smart.

We were excited to make an appointment to see the counselor. Nick doesn’t have any major issues, but we wanted to get some tips to help him get and stay organized as he juggles multiple teachers/classes/assignments for the first time.

But the guidance counselor is not there.

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A Lesson for Future Working Parents

Looking forward to a new semester at FDU, where I'll meet a new crop of future working parents
Looking forward to a new semester at FDU, where I’ll meet a new crop of future working parents (apologies for the dorkiness of this picture)

Here’s a lesson for future working parents, and for those of us already in the thick of juggling work and life.

As a business school professor and an advocate for work-family balance, I feel a certain obligation to not only teach my students what they need to be great business leaders, but also help them gain a perspective that will help them lead a balanced life.

My semester begins today, and I’d like to share an appropriate excerpt from my book, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide, in which I share some advice for my students, most of whom are future working parents:

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We Should All Have a Boss Like Joe Biden

Yesterday, a friend sent this to me on twitter:

I think this is tremendous, and sets a great example. The message for managers and bosses everywhere is simple: If Vice President Joe Biden can support the family lives of his employees, so can you. I mean, is his job any less important than yours?

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