If you’re a working mom, it’s time to recognize that what you do at home while parenting your kids is valuable outside your home as well within your home. And if you’re a stay at home mom, it’s time to bolster your confidence by realizing that your parenting skills are also teaching you valuable leadership skills.
In fact, Eleanor Roosevelt once said that managing a home requires the same tact and executive ability required in managing any business. And since she made that statement, research has shown that moms make very good leaders.
What great news! Parenting is like earning your MomBA.
When you capitalize on your motherhood skills by turning them into a business advantage, you’ll not just survive—you’ll thrive. You’ll manage better at home, you’ll manage better at work, and you’ll become more joyful in your life. Wouldn’t you like that?
Let me give you a snapshot of five working moms and share with you the skills they believe have made them successful and effective—both at home and at work.
1. Nancy is the publisher of a very successful magazine. When I asked her what her greatest strengths as a leader were, she replied very quickly: compassion and understanding. These are skills she learned when she became a mom to her now 17-year-old son. People love to work for her because they know she cares about them. She says she treats her employees with respect and allows them to work on a schedule that fits their style. It requires trust, but she believes that when you make people feel good about themselves, they go on to accomplish more on their own.
2. Ann is the director of a large non-profit. She says her greatest leadership skill is listening. She believes it’s critical to take the time and effort to listen very carefully to the people in her office so that she can understand the issues from their perspective—before she makes conclusions and before she responds with solutions. She learned this skill from parenting her two kids. She says she listens to them with great intent to get inside their skin and see things from their point of view. She realizes it’s fairly easy to just listen to the words that they say. But to really listen means that you listen to their body language and the expression in their faces, to what their eyes are saying and the tone of their voice and to get to the feelings underneath. It’s a skill that makes her a good mom and also a successful leader at work.
3. Mary is the senior vice president of a bank. She believes her greatest leadership skill is being able to look at people realistically and help them do the best job they can do. I think we’d call that empowering. It’s what she does with her three sons. One of her sons is almost deaf, has double vision and ADD, so she doesn’t expect the same things from him as from the other two. At work, she says, it’s the same thing. You have to get to know each employee and know what to expect from them and how to talk with them. One might not be doing the job because he’s lazy—but another is really challenged by the same job. So you give them the job they have the skills for because you want to bring out the best in them.
4. Carol is a dermatologist with two offices and a staff of 23. She believes her greatest leadership skill is being able to communicate clearly the goals of her business to her employees and then getting both of her staffs involved in the vision of her practice. We call this the skill of envisioning. She uses it with her two children. Whenever they have an activity, a project or even a dream, she sits down and discusses with them how they can reach their goal. Then she helps them create action steps to make sure they stay on track to make their plan and their dream a reality.
5. Lorrie is a real estate broker and owns her own firm. She believes her greatest leadership skill is multi-tasking. She told me that she remembers when she first started her business. She was feeding her two-year-old in the high chair. She had the phone at her ear negotiating a contract. Her four-year-old was tugging at her shirt that his toast was ready. Her husband was trying to get her attention about something he’d lost. And she was literally dealing with all of these things as one. When she got off the phone, she thought to herself, “Wow! I never knew how to do so many things at once before I had children.” She also realized it was a skill that made her successful at work.
You see, these are all aspects of interpersonal skills. They’re skills that nurture, inspire and show caring to others, and they’re more important today than ever before. They’re not hard skills like marketing, accounting or analysis. And yet these working moms believe these are the skills that have made them successful leaders.
I encourage you to make a list of your own leadership skills. There are so many, and you may surprise yourself with a long list. Start with skills that are effective with your kids and then make the transfer into thinking how you can use those very same skills with adults. It will bolster your confidence and allow you to feel great satisfaction in your accomplishments.