The universal concepts that are most critical for managers, whether in a corporate or small business setting, revolve around maximizing qualities such as productivity, effort, buy-in, accountability, and discipline. Any manager who can figure out the methods to consistently get his/her employees on-track with one, two, or even three of these assets could be considered a successful boss. Yet, when these managers (or anyone, for that matter) try to replicate this desire for maximizing with their own teenage children they are met with less-than-successful outcomes. Why is that?

Any good manager begins with clearly defining the expectations of the employee’s position. For teenagers, this is impossible. Aside from general sentiments like “be kind”, “work hard”, or “get good grades”, the life of a teenager is far too dynamic; 

their pre-frontal cortex development is happening in real-time, therefore every day is different, specific goals have to be more fluid, (test and grade) numbers do not always tell the whole story, and the general pressure to perform often takes a backseat to coping with the social pressures of adolescence

In other words, managers know their desired outcomes, while teenagers are focused on the process and how it impacts them, personally. Therefore, any specific outcome is not at the forefront of their thoughts. Again, this is not because they choose to be this way. This is human physiology; it is brain development.

These social pressures have always been present because that is how the teenage brain views the world (as being all about them and how others perceive them). Yet these (social pressures) which now come from social media, competitive university admissions, high performance high schools, win-or-go-home sports programs, unrealistic parent expectations, to name a few, are all tremendous contributing factors to the increase of this issue that has always been at-hand: teenage brains (the pre-frontal cortex, specifically) are sorting and developing faster than at any other time in the human life cycle. 

What they need around them, then, is stability, not conditions

They don’t have perspective

They don’t have an idea of wellness

They cannot see the forest for the trees with regard to keeping their eye on long-term goals even when short term ones seem to pass them by. 

In fact, they have trouble grasping the concept of long-term anything because the brains of teenagers are SUPPOSED TO MAKE a young person short-term oriented, self-interested, and vulnerable (more on these three qualities in the next post).

Those three qualities, though, are not revered by anxious parents or people who function as professional managers. Conflict is guaranteed if you choose to approach the adolescents around you as individuals who need management. People who are managed know everything in that dynamic is conditional, whereupon they do good work and they get something in return (payment, time-off, more responsibility, better title). 

To have teenagers believe that their relationships- and the affection that comes from them- are conditional is the EXACT OPPOSITE of how we create stability and inspire a sense of wellness in our kids. 


  • Brady Norvall

    Founder and CEO of education and life counseling firm, FindaBetterU™

    Brady Norvall is the Founder and C.E.O. of FindaBetterU™, an education life coaching firm with clients across the U.S., Central and South America, and Europe. Norvall has served, for the past 9 years, as a global resource for the Young President's Organization (YPO) and consults with corporate partners including banks and executive coaching firms. Norvall mentors teenagers and helps families navigate the processes of education and goal-setting. He empowers students with the right information and a healthy sense of friendship so that they can become their best selves. He speaks on higher education, the transitions families undertake with adolescents, how to create positive communication around the process of education and, specifically, college planning, including the influence of expectation and pop culture in the way we approach the concepts of success and happiness.