How He Does It | Yannis Kanoutos

There are Months that ask questions, and Months that answer.

June flew by. Like a summer tornado, a mountain developments kept overturning my days (and some of my nights). Travelling at full speed ahead, life as a solopreneur working tirelessly to establish my business has been fulfilling (and a bit crazy!). When you have no manager on your side but the extents of your own dedication, when you set the pace and call the shots, two things occur: you feel deeply empowered, and you experience a new level of freedom; one you never thought existed. Or, at least, this is how I look upon this new phase in my life.

June has been a revelation. A slow yet steady internal shift is taking place. I am more confident in managing operations. Even though I am still thrown away by that feeling of not being able to predict future workload (or income!) I do feel vindicated by the new support system I have surrounded myself with. I have people to trust, people who have my back, and people to share my dreams with. And I am conscious enough to acknowledge that this, it itself, is half the roadtrip ahead.

This June I feel like take a step back to do something I rarely do: celebrate! In only a couple of months’ time, I have completely redesigned my daily routine. I now have a schedule that actually works. My days are deliberate about self-care, allow uncontested room for my family, are filled with productive creativity, and come with so much less guilt. I still identify with the tribe of overwhelmed working parents navigating yet another surge of the pandemic, and not all days are made equal. Still, I am a calmer, more centered and empowered individual. A truer version of myself. When I don’t sign new contracts, I plan birthday parties. And if this doesn’t deserve a big kudos, I don’t know that does.

This month, as a tribute to my support system, I have decided to ask a very special person to share their working fatherhood experience with our community here on Project Mamager. This person is my closest friend, and someone I admire and love. This person has my back, and has been supporting me every step of the way, since the first day we met many many moons ago. He knows his way around many disciplines, but being a true friend is his signature one. Here’s to Yannis Kanoutos.

Yannis Kanoutos, Head of Change Management and Operational Models Design & Head of the Design Thinking Center of Excellence at Eurobank

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hello I am Yannis, and I am 47 years old. I am the Head of Change Management and Operational Models Design Unit and the Head of the Design Thinking Center of Excellence at the IT General Division of Eurobank. I am a firm believer of humans. I feel that we all need to start solving social problems rather than business ones. I believe that humans, not users or customers, deserve products and services that truly fit their needs. Towards this direction, I often go about asking teams “why”, as a means to deepen their understanding of needs before addressing challenges.

I live in Athens with my family, which consists of my wife Chrysavgi and two girls, Katerina 8 years old and Sia 1,5 years old. We are both working parents with demanding careers in terms of time and effort investment required. As you can understand, and probably relate, our daily routine is a constant chasing game of time in order to be able to fulfill our multi-dimensional roles as a mom, a dad, a son, a daughter, a professional, a wife, a husband, a friend, a relative and so many others I fail to recall right now.

Stemming from your personal experience, what is the toughest part of being a Dad, and how do you manage it?

The toughest part for me is engaging the admittedly challenging situations you are going to face, with the right mindset. The way we experience the difficulties and how we connect these moments to the broader picture, is key for me. At times where the tiredness, the disappointment, the sheer volume of things to do prevailed, I found it extremely useful to think that, through this experience we are progressing and bonding as parents and as a family; that the connections built through these difficulties are going to provide a valuable asset to my daughters’ lives; that my actions will have a significant impact on their lives later. Most importantly, I kept reminding myself that that this is just a phase: this is not going to last forever. Obviously this is easier with the second child: you have your own set of experiences and lessons learned to rely on from the first one.

Another tough part of being a dad is that you have to knowingly acquire a supporting role. Especially in the very first years when the children are very young, mothers are leading the “raising a child” campaign. Mothers are the most empathetic persons I know: they fully adjust all conditions to their babies’ needs. In this case, the supporting role of a dad is very demanding. Through their own stakeholder analysis, they identify two important players: the baby and the mother. A dad needs to be able to provide all the support to the mom in terms of energy, strength, balance, mentality and psychology, while also ensuring that the baby’s needs are met. To me, dads are the unsung heroes. They see the whole picture and, with a servant-leader attitude, they remove obstacles (sometimes literally) out of the way.

Who is (are) your go-to person(s) when you need support as a Father? What type of support are you mostly in need of?

I personally believe that every parenthood is unique. I am not a fan of one-size-fits-all
solutions. Naturally, I collect a lot of information by asking friends and colleagues to share their experience in similar instances. Since most of them are close to my age with comparable family profiles, I very often find their advices very useful. However, all offered solutions and approaches need to be customized to my own reality, my own belief system.

The key for me is to be able in each case to make an assumption for the course of action, to test it, and to build on that. When I need to decide what to do, I normally go back to my own experiences as a child, I try to remember how my own parents reacted in similar situations. I then try to identify and remove the biases that might distort my memory. As an adult, I am in a better position to assess if the actions of my parents fit the purpose and the situation I am facing now. However, this is only the first step. The most important thing is to decide what to do, let it play out and then re-visit in retrospective and adjust it accordingly.

I would obviously be lying if I said that I am not making the usual internet strolls to find solutions to my questions and needs. Much like everyone else, I seek answers to my questions online (social media excluded). However, I try to pass everything I read through my own lens, to assess and adjust what I read to my own reality. Furthermore, I am very cautious when seeking online answers due to the vast amounts of incredible sources that exist out there.

What’s the No1 Skill (or Ability, or Knowledge) you have found handy in your role as a Father?

Undoubtedly, being a dad is the most important and the most challenging role I ever had to play. In order to manage, I use something that Stella, the founder of Project Mamager, likes to highlight quite often: I “transfer” my professional skills and rely on them to play my role:

  • I am constantly in agile mode, since the backlog of things to be done as well as
    “customer needs” are rapidly changing
  • I use empathy to truly understand the needs and challenges I need to address. I make naïve questions and constantly ask why in order to get to the root of the problem
  • I always revisit my actions and build on the feedback I collect from my family
  • I try to identify the right individual motives
  • I use negotiation skills (especially with my oldest daughter) to reach an agreement on day to day activities
  • I try to maintain a holistic view of things, to be able to connect the dots
  • I actively listen when discussing with my family even for daily matters

Needless to say that the mental and physical roller-coaster experience we live as parents, does not always let us use these tools as much as we would like to. There are a lot of times that the constant blur in our minds won’t let us think straight and respond the way we would like to, let alone use a professional skill to calm a screaming child. However, I think that the more we knowingly use our professional skills as parents, the more we make them habitual.

I have to admit that the benefits from using my professional skills as a dad, apart from the fact that they have allowed me to cope with such a difficult role, they have also made me a better professional too.

What advice do you have for a new Dad?

This is a tough question; dads are not the best at expressing their feelings and talk openly about fatherhood. They have not received any training whatsoever in being a dad. They don’t know if what they are doing is right or wrong. I am here to tell you that in essence, it is not a matter of being right or wrong. It is a matter of being yourself. You have all the tools you need from your own belief system and the experiences you had as a child and adult too.

I can assure you that being a dad is a rejuvenating process. It gives you the opportunity to see the world with new eyes, to make you more complete as a person, to make you become a better person through your children’s eyes. I strongly believe that things like a “father instinct” exist. We just don’t know where to find it and how to use it.

It is a difficult role to play, however it has helped me a lot to find harmony and balance in my life and the same I believe for all you, dads, out there. You have nothing to worry about, you are doing enough. Just continue being the unsung hero!

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