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Heather Deason Zynczak Headshot

Lessons From Motherhood: Better Than an MBA

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WOMAN WITH THREE SONS
Betsie Van der Meer via Getty Images

Motherhood is humbling. I think my experience has been compounded by the fact that I did not become a mom until I was 35 years old. At that point in my career, I thought I had learned most of the more important lessons on management. I was wrong. Attempting to "manage" my three sons has taught me a lot. And many of these lessons are applicable in a career setting. Here are a few I'd like to share:

Don't cater to temper tantrums. When my toddler throws a full-fledged temper tantrum, it only escalates if I show extreme emotion as well. It is the same principle with coworkers and "diva" executives. Don't add emotional fuel to an already escalated situation at work. Be the calming agent. Sleep on a response to an inflammatory email. Don't get defensive when attacked in meetings. Being calm under duress will earn you the respect of your peers and management team.

Set achievable goals to foster self-confidence. I love watching my 5-year-old's face light up when he reads a book or solves an addition problem. His pride in his success has made him self-confident and excited to tackle the next challenge. I use the same rule with folks that work for me. Set challenging goals that are achievable -- otherwise everyone gets frustrated with the outcome.

Encourage autonomy. One of my 2-year-old's favorite phrases is "Me do it" (said very loudly). After three kids, I got tired of fighting. I typically let him try things himself. The result: we both learn. He is learning new skills as well as his limits (lemons are sour, the big kid swings are too tall, the cat will scratch you if you pull his tail, etc.). I am learning a whole new way to approach tasks (who knew M&Ms were more easily eaten with a spoon or that you can still run in shoes on the wrong feet). This approach has also been successfully implemented with my team. Team members are stepping up and accomplishing things I did not think they could. And I am learning about hidden talents in my organization.

Be exact. My kindergartener is constantly correcting me when I am not precise with numbers. "Mom, I am 5 and 1/2, not 5" and "Mom, you said we could watch TV for 10 more minutes...it has only been eight minutes". It is the same when presenting statistics in executive meetings. Be sure of your facts. One wrong piece of information could kill all credibility.

Motherhood is constantly teaching me something new. My oldest son just celebrated his seventh birthday, so the good news is that I have a lot more lessons in store.