Peanut Butter and Jelly Management
Tales from Parenthood - Lessons for Managers
by Chris and Reina Komisarjevsky

This new book truly is a "heartwarming guide to business management," and it is filled with so very close-to-home and familiar stories of the challenges of parenthood and the very relevant learning for leadership in business. 

I think we all accept that being a good leader requires many of the same skills and capabilities essential to being a good parent. Chris and Reina Komisarjevsky, the proud parents of nine children and authors of the book have a very clear insight -  “More often than not, if we carefully listen and watch children at home - think about what they do and how we bring them up - we can greatly improve our chances of being successful in leading adults in the workplace.” 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Management draws upon the Komisarjevskys own stories from the parenting trenches and Chris’s experience as president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, a leading global public relations firm, to help Moms and Dads see the parallels between managing employees and raising children.  As the authors make clear, the most successful managers are “people persons.”  And the skills required for the people-related parts of a manager’s job are all sharpened at home with children. 

As accomplished co-managers of a dynamic, caring, and occasionally clashing family filled with children - six kids together plus three from Chris’s previous marriage - the Komisarjevskys know the importance of open communication, personal involvement, setting standards of excellence, keeping one’s cool, and encouraging independence.  With honesty, affection, and humor, they relate true stories from their lives with Vera, Katrina, Ted, Michael, Angelica, James, Nicholas, Matthew, and Stephen that illuminate truths about managing people - whatever their age. 

Whimsical and practical, Peanut Butter and Jelly Management uses slices of real life with kids to show managers how to guide, motivate, and inspire grown-ups.  The Komisarjevskys begin each chapter with a personal tale from home that teaches a lesson, then goes on to spotlight that lesson and how it can be applied at work.  They wrap it all up with concrete tips to help managers put fresh, people-focused ideas into practice. 

Here’s a sampling: 

  • Teamwork.  Watching brothers and sister pitch in and pull together during a clean-up crunch yields insights into creating common objectives on the job.
  • Leadership.  The example of a small but bold hockey goalie makes clear: managers should support those people willing to step forward and take chances. 
  • Employee empowerment.  A father’s struggle over letting his young son ride a bike without training wheels teaches lessons in delegating with responsibility - and finding the courage to let go. 
  • Crisis management.  A frightening trip to the emergency room with a bleeding child demonstrates the vital need for the person in charge to stay calm and focused on getting the facts and reassuring others. 
  • Thinking personal.  A child’s cherished shoebox of mementos illustrates the benefits of inviting employees to bring a bit of their home life to work. 

I judge a great book by "impact" and "insight" and in the number of underlines, scribble notes, and dog-earred pages I create when I read it. As a parent, the Komisarjevsky's vignettes of life with children ring very true and hit home. I smiled and laughed with them. I shared the anxiety and the agony.  And I re-experienced the pride and fulfillment of being a parent. As a leader, I see insights and gems of wisdom - and my copy of the little book is mangled and scribbled beyond repair. 

Here are three more "gems" from this work:

1. The Shared Qualities of Leaders

  • True leaders are self confident.
  • They lead from up-front, not from behind.
  • They have self-esteem.
  • They are intelligent.
  • They can communicate well.
  • They work hard and have always worked hard.
  • They are passionate about what they are doing.
  • They have strong values.
  • They are inquisitive and always on the lookout to learn more about almost anything, but especially in their area of expertise.
  • They learn from reading - and they learn from other people.
  • They listen.
  • They don't hesitate to make decisions but they also encourage others to do the same.
  • They are willing to take risks.
  • They are respectful of subordinates as well as superiors.
  • They engender trust.
  • They don't have to yell to get attention.
  • They give people a chance to prove themselves by giving them responsibility.
  • They believe in the power of people to do the right thing, to work hard and to create results - they empower others and they cheer them on.
  • They are instinctive people. They trust their instincts. They trust their gut.

2. Insights for Family and Business

  • Be a leader first - and a manager second.
  • Be attentive - watch, listen, observe, think about what is going on - remembering always that you and everyone around you are only human.
  • Communicate, communicate, and communicate more.
  • Create a fabric of strong values - and live then yourself every day.
  • Don't ask anyone to do anything you wouldn't do yourself.
  • Build self-esteem in others.
  • Create a team - work with and through others; delegate and give them the skills and tools to do their job.
  • Focus your energy on those things that are really important.
  • Have confidence in yourself.
  • You're on center stage - everyone is watching.

3. One Thing For Sure

In their preface, the authors talk about parenting and leading both being works in process. No one has all the answers at home or at work - we all know we have very much to learn. But as the authors state, there is one thing we know for sure. "Without our children, we would have missed one of the greatest experiences a human being can have - the joy of helping another person learn to stand, to walk, and to run ... on his own."

Peanut Butter and Jelly Management - it's a great work - highly recommended!
R. S. 


About the Authors
Chris Komisarjevsky is a full-time Dad and president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, the leading global public relations firm, whose clients include Andersen Consulting, Citigroup, and Sun Microsystems.  Reina Komisarjevsky is a full-time Mom who always hoped she would have at least six children.  The Komisarjevskys live with their children in Atlantic Beach, New York.

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