Motherhood and management might as well be siblings separated at birth. Despite some differences, they tend to share the same basic characteristics. In fact, plenty of moms in leadership positions lean on their maternal instincts to own the corporate world.
After all, organizing meetings and arranging family calendars are two sides of the same coin. The same holds true for mentoring, whether you’re working with a group of eager Girl Scouts or onboarding new hires.
Among the vast line of mom-preneurs is Alison Gutterman, president and CEO of Jelmar. To mothers who haven’t recognized their personal connection between home and work life, Gutterman offers this advice: “Map out all the tasks you perform on a daily basis, from budgeting to the last penny to negotiating affordable piano lessons for your budding virtuoso,” she suggests. “You’re probably already capable of handling more leadership duties at work than you realize.”
This recommendation is a good starting point, especially for those who never thought of themselves as having leadership street cred. If you fall into that category, consider the many ways your journey through motherhood can enhance your ability to guide a successful team.
1. You stop sweating everything.
It doesn’t matter if you have an only child or a house shaking with the laughter of half a dozen kids: You pick your battles. Hey, it’s just not worth it to get worked up or panic every minute of the day. When you’re a member of the C-suite, this ability to differentiate what matters from what doesn’t can make all the difference.
For example, one of your employees may rush to you with a supposed do-or-die situation that must be urgently fixed. But must it? Rather than reacting with a knee-jerk response, a mom would likely ask questions to determine whether the crisis is honestly that bad. Being able to disengage from others’ sometimes flawed assumptions can halt bad decisions before they turn into sometimes public snafus.
2. You develop a tendency for empathy.
Empathy isn’t just about understanding other people’s feelings; it’s about valuing those feelings as well. Moms who want to build trusting relationships with their children cultivate empathy, which leads to honest communication and a deeper, more personal relationship.
On the career front, empathy is a huge differentiator between respected and disliked managers. Leaders who empathize with workers — and that doesn’t mean giving in to their every whim — enjoy higher standing than those who expect team members to be robots. Empathetic managers put themselves in a stronger position to promote change because they make decisions based on how those decisions impact people.
3. You roll with the punches.
The first time your son grinds food-color-dyed slime into a cream-colored carpet, you may overreact a little. By the third time, you’ll roll your eyes and maybe even laughingly shake your head. In other words, you know the best-laid plans — and the best-appointed living rooms — can always go awry. Mom managers can easily switch gears; they’re doing it from the moment they wake up until they collapse onto Lego-laden sheets at the end of the day.
Every day is a new opportunity for something unexpected to pop up in your business or department. Truthfully, unpredictability is sometimes the only thing you can depend upon. The easier it is for you to adjust to whatever comes your way, just as you would when your child “loses” a frog in his bedroom, the easier it will be for your employees to do likewise.
4. You mentor like a pro.
The qualities of a good mentor include listening well, letting people make choices (even when they might fail), and providing constructive feedback. Sounds a lot like what you do as a mother, doesn’t it?
Children and team members deserve strong, caring mentors who will hold their hands when necessary, back off when appropriate, and — figuratively — push them when they need a shove in the right direction. Although you shouldn’t treat workers like children, you can still use the mentoring attributes you’ve learned by dealing with the younger set.
Moms’ contributions aren’t relegated to what happens inside the home; they can have a lasting impact in the workplace, too. The sooner more mothers realize that fact, the sooner they can sell their abilities to snag powerful leadership roles.