Motherhood and Leadership

OctopusHotDogs

In honor of Mother’s Day later this week, I feel compelled to let you all in on a little secret. Motherhood is great training for becoming a nimble leader. The resourcefulness, patience, and big picture perspective it takes to raise (relatively) well-adjusted children is really not all that different from leading a diverse staff toward achieving identified strategic goals. Let me give you a few examples of what I’m talking about . . .

  • “It’s a good thing you’re such a tough kid.” My boys heard this fairly often when they were little and would take a tumble. They would agree, sometimes while wiping away their tears, and before you knew it they were picking themselves up, dusting off their backside, and getting on about their business. The self-confidence my kids gained by knowing I believed they could handle a few scrapes is the same confidence your staff needs to step out and try something new . . . they might occasionally trip and fall, but sometimes your best move is not to jump in and rescue them, but to let them know you believe in them and know they will figure things out.
  • Fair does not mean equal. The chorus of “he got a bigger piece” does not necessarily stop when a person reaches adulthood. (I know, I really hoped that one would go by the wayside, too). Unfortunately, every organization has those who hold firm to the concept that fair means equal, and it is nearly impossible to help them see the fallacy of this concept. Most frequently these are individuals who put a great deal of stock in rules and following procedures. You absolutely need these people in your organization, but recognize that making accommodations to allow someone to come in at 8:30 when work “starts” at 8:00 will drive them crazy. Sometimes in leadership (and motherhood) the goal is simply acceptance. You might get understanding in hindsight, but don’t count on it at the time. Make flexibility a rule . . . the detail people still won’t like it, but they will likely accept it.
  • Sometimes the “octopus philosophy” is the best approach. Occasionally even the most agreeable children (staff) will dig their heels in and resist doing something you really need them to do. Did you know that a hot dog shaped like an octopus (cut the hot dog halfway up into 8 strips, spread them out like legs and the top half sits up like the body of an octopus. A couple ketchup eyes and you are good to go!) tastes much better than a plain old hotdog? Now I could get into a power struggle about the need to eat lunch, or I could just find a way to make the task more appealing and watch them gobble it up. You get the picture, right? I have much happier staff, and get to my end goal more quickly, if I can find a way to make a task appealing to them rather than try to force-feed them something they are resisting.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Find the most creative, efficient mom you know and watch how she handles one or more tired/bored/cranky/wired kids. Take notes. And at the top of the page, you can call it Leadership 101.

Photo Credit: Everyday Mom’s Meals via forumlamom.com

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