I admit it, I have been career driven since I was 13-years-old when I ordered my first set of designer business cards to advertise my babysitting services. Rarely did a weekend go by that I wasn't booked solid by neighborhood parents who themselves needed a night off. My passion for business and entrepreneurship has never waned in the 27 years since then. I enjoy competing, winning, and growing big business. When, three years ago at the age of 37, I gave birth to my daughter, my first two thoughts were (1) I love her more than anything in the world, and (2) What will this mean for my career? Now, three years into motherhood, what I have learned is that being a mom offers me a whole new perspective on business. Motherhood provides authentic, hands on training in leadership with concentration on communication, time management, negotiating, and humility. Worried that mommyhood will knock you down the career ladder? Have no fear, I'm here to tell you otherwise. Here are four reasons why moms make remarkable leaders.
Time IS the essence: Sure, as a leader I've always felt that time is of the essence in everything I do. Moving forward requires action daily. Sit on something too long and your competition will run with it faster than you. I remember about five years ago I was looking to move one of my offices to a new location. I went and looked at the space, met with contractors to price the fit up, and told the management company a week later we would take the space. Too late, my competition was interested in the space too, and they acted, faster than I did.
One of the first things I learned being a mom is that time is not just "of the essence," but rather time IS the essence. It is all we have. Not only must you live by strict schedules and deadlines, as any business must, but mommyhood also dictates that there is nothing more valuable and precious as your time. In mommyhood do you know what your kid wants more than a cool new toy? One hour of uninterrupted one-on-one time with mom. Time IS the essence. Your time is valuable to your kid, and also to your employees. When was the last time you had coffee or lunch with your team members? They too, appreciate that one-on-one alone time with you.
Negotiating: I have been in sales and entrepreneurship for more than 20 years. I always fared well when it came to negotiating for what I wanted, until I met my match, a toddler. She has taught me more than I could have ever imagined about negotiating and getting what you want. Unfortunately, I lose more sessions than I win at home, but the invaluable lessons learned make me stronger as a business leader. What I have learned from her is that if you are passionate about something, negotiating doesn't stop until you get what you want, or really close to it. Negotiating may be put on hold, thereby giving the other side a temporary reprieve. However, if the subject you are negotiating about is really important to you, don't drop it, come back to it in the future and pick up your negotiations where you left off. The party on the opposite end may think they won when you temporarily back off, which is an advantage to you as they stop preparing their case, making the negotiations that much easier when you return. This is where my toddler usually wins. When I think I have won, she knows that it is a temporary reprieve to which she will come back to again shortly.
Empathy: Prior to being a mom, I saw little room for empathy in business. I felt showing a soft side was akin to exposing a weakness. Now I see things a little differently. Prior to being a mom, if an employee called in sick and admitted that it wasn't really that they were sick, but rather their kid, I would think to myself, "And how is this my problem?" I couldn't understand why someone else couldn't just handle the sick kid so that I wouldn't be out an employee. Now, having my own sick kid at times, I get it. I get that most people, if they had to choose, would take sick time just for when their kids were sick and would suck it up and go to work if it were just him or her personally feeling lousy. There's enough guilt that goes along with leaving your perfectly healthy kid each day so that you can go earn a living. The guilt quadruples when you have to leave behind your sick and suffering kid so that you can go to work. I no longer see empathy as a weakness, but rather a strength. Most people would prefer to work for a company where someone actually cares about them and their circumstances. Leadership is about seeing that your company is not about you, but rather it's about the people who work collectively to make the wheels move, and about the clients and marketplace you serve. Mommyhood has taught me that when it comes to pretty much everything, it's so not about me.
Communications: Motherhood hones your communication skills. Children listen with precision and they hold you accountable to your word. If, as you rush out the door with wet hair and papers hanging from your briefcase, you say that you will play Lincoln Logs tonight after dinner, you better believe that your kid will be digging out the blocks the minute the plates are cleared from the table twelve hours later. We must live up to our word as often as possible, because we are setting precedent for how our kids should follow through on their own commitments. The same is true in business. The very best business leaders are the ones that are clear, precise, and accountable. They say what they intend to do and then they do what they say. As a business leader, like in motherhood, you are setting precedent with your people in every action you take. The way you communicate with your team is a good predictor as to how your team communicates with each other and with your customers. In business and in motherhood, you are a role model above all else.
Every leader, entrepreneur, employee, mom, dad, or child, has a unique set of experiences they bring to every relationship and job they pursue. Having been a single, career driven, woman for most of my life, I can attest to the enormous advantages I had over others like me who had families. Now that I live life on the other side of the equation, I see the enormous value that having a family brings to my career. Here's the point: Know what makes you unique, better, and different than the competition and you will always have the leg up.