Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Parents make better leaders in business

Parents make better leaders in business....I have been thinking about this little statement for some time now. Yes, it is probably a controversial one, but the more I think about it, the more I find it to be true. I am sure some readers will take offense and might  completely disagree with me, but give me a chance and hear me out before deciding for yourself. I am not saying childless leaders are bad leaders, I am saying that leaders with children are better at their jobs.

Before I became pregnant, I was an absolute workaholic. I did not know the difference between home time and work time, or how to switch off my mind after hours and actually led a very unhealthy, unbalanced lifestyle. During my pregnancy, my husband urged me to take it easy and to start thinking and acting for two instead of just myself. I found a perfect way to get all my daily work done before going home and was able to fully concentrate on myself, our baby and my health at home. In the beginning, I did not really have a choice in the matter as any pregnant person will know, that staying up and awake past 21h00 in the first and last trimester is almost impossible :)

This did not mean that I worked less hard, with less passion or did not enjoy my job as much as I did before. Not at all! But there are 7 things one does learn during pregnancy and actually more once the little one has joined your world, that cannot be taught elsewhere:
  1. Empathy -  While all people can display empathy, there is nothing more genuine and sincere than someone that actually does understand the situation you are faced with. Whether it be another runny nose and the little one that does not want to settle at daycare, or perhaps lice {{still have not had this yet, thank goodness}}, or yet another infectious bug of sorts or that necessary pediatrician appointment or your baby's next scheduled vaccinations. People with children cannot understand the same way and show the same emotions associated with taking care of children. As a mother in a leadership role myself, I have come to find myself similarly showing more compassion and understanding for my employees and their situations, hopefully making that heartfelt difference. 
  2. Efficiency - This goes back to the point I already touched on. Previously I would plan my day in an open fashion because I could always go home and finish things there, but as a mother you learn that you can no longer do this, and so you learn to work in a much more effective, structured and efficient manner, ensuring all is done before home time.
  3. Multitasking - Oh yes, any parent that says they know how to multitask before children has no idea. Making a coffee, lunch, washing or anything for that matter with a baby on the hip, with only one hand becomes second nature. I might go as far as calling it an actual form of art. And this frame of mind is easily brought into the workspace. I can do ANYTHING and all at once at work too :)
  4. Fast Paced - Yes, nothing will ever be the same again. No late sleep ins, lazy brunches, slow reads, well not for now anyway. And that is absolutely OK and I would not change a thing. But what it does teach one is to adapt, to do things quick and fast and plan one after the other.
  5. Work Life Balance - Yes, finally, one is able to find a well balanced and rounded life. It is so vitally important to work at work and live life at home. And you will be surprised once you do apply this, how much you actually work more when working less hours. Less is more, and more is less. Ever heard that famous saying? I certainly learned that 10 years into my career. Encourage your employees to do the same and you will find much happier and healthier staff. 
  6. Delegation - This one has always been a difficult one for me. A personal point of development for years already. {{And why would I want to take a risk in my employees, probably not delivering the same standard that I deliver and have a low quality output? }} Well, if it is one thing you would have learned from reading the above by now, time is limited and a real luxury so delegation becomes essential in the process of continuing a successful career. And can I tell you, it is so very rewarding! Yes, it might be a little labor intensive, but the job satisfaction you create for your direct employees is phenomenal. There is nothing better than to see your team grow and develop and receive a thank you for the opportunity too. Indeed, there is no I in Team.
  7. Learning to say no - Again something I was not able to do before parenthood. I took on everything and anything and ended up with a huge pile of additional work. I love projects and getting involved in background work and it is possible to continue doing so, but one needs to be selective and just cannot except all of it. Learning to say no when no more is possible is not as hard as I thought and instead of having 10 uncompleted tasks, I am now able to start and finish tasks, one after the other. 
  8. Learning to cope - Once a parent, especially of a newborn, you learn to cope with little sleep, sometimes even to a stage of sleep deprivation, you develop maternal instincts, you become tougher, you are selfless, you learn to COPE with all  situations. This is a life skill that no one can teach and these instincts only develop and appear once you have children. So no matter how tough it gets, you will cope in every given situation.
There are in fact many more, negotiation, patience, understanding and the list goes on and on. I am sure many of you will now wonder why these skills are uniquely learned with children and I am trying to think how one can best describe it to non-parents, for the lack of a better word. And it is actually very simple. Some things can be learned, some things can be read up on, some things can be learned via You Tube or Google, but nothing can be incorporated better into one's life in both work and home situations then instincts and real live learnings. Learning by doing.  

Having said that, I also do know that there is always the very small exceptional case to every sure thing and rule. I for one can say that I am blessed with a boss that, although does not have children yet, really is extremely supportive and understanding. She was the the next person we told we were pregnant after our parents and sister and best friend, and this tells you just how much trust and what an awesome relationship I have with her. We shared our news already at 3 weeks of pregnancy and kept it a secret until month 3 thereafter! 

And at the end of the day, I do think its a pivotal moment when you start drawing from your own pool of knowledge, strength and advise, instead of dipping into what you can read up about, for it is then that you realize how much being a parent has taught you. Parents do make better leaders because of that.  ♥ 

Blog Photo Attribution: By Corey Seeman, cseeman
Blog Photo 2 Attribution: By @Doug88888
Blog Photo 3 Attribution: By LN
Blog Photo 4 Attribution: By  Natt Muangsiri, Two Steps Behind