Ironically, the greatest lessons I ever received in Leadership occurred when I exchanged my career as a Learning and Development Manager, for the privilege of raising children. You wouldn’t think that being home with toddlers (and now tweens) would provide many opportunities to practice those theories, models and strategies you have discussed in leadership development programmes. But it does. It sure does.
Having spent the morning in a frost covered garden, picking up after our three-year-old bullmastiff (surprisingly, having a dog also offers new angles to leadership and management), I have had some time to reflect on my revelations on the life of a Mum-Boss.
The biggest lesson I ever learned in Leadership is that life has stopped being about you. What you need. What you prefer. What you love. Or where you’re heading on the corporate ladder. None of that is on top of the priority list anymore.
You, now have a team. You are there to serve them, not the other way around. Each member has a different way of communicating. They are motivated by different things. They all have their own career goals. Goals that you will have to manage in order to ensure that you’re all working toward the same, corporate goals.
This is not much different to when you arrive home with your new born. Your needs are no longer at the top of the priority list. When they need your attention, you will need to let go of your need for warm food. It doesn’t matter if you get your shower in the morning, their demands come first. And just when you think you have it all sussed, you have a second child. You quickly learn that nothing you know about raising children applies anymore. This new one needs different communication, motivation and reward strategies.
The best Mum-Bosses adapt their leadership style to their team members. Their is no one-style-fits-all. You have to know your team. That is the first secret to successful mum-bossing.
The Situational Leadership Theory.
Kenneth Blanchard is my favourite author on the topics of leadership and management. His theory on Situational Leadership made my life so much easier, when I had my first job as a Training Manager. When I realised that each member of my team is at a different level of competence and I had to manage them accordingly, it changed the game dramatically.
As my kids have grown and developed, I have also learned that there are times when I have to change the way I manage them. Because they are changing all the time, at a very rapid pace!
I am the pound mum of a quintessential pigeon pair. My son is two and a half years older than my daughter. They both are so very different in their approach to… well, pretty much everything! I could almost have started delegating my to-do list to my daughter as soon as she came out of the womb. My son on the other hand, needed a lot of directing and still does in certain situations. But they’re both growing in competence and as time goes by, need less of my input. Except when we’re getting ready for the school run. Then we all revert back to toddlers. Me included!
Great mum-bossing requires constant reassessment of changing needs and adapting strategies accordingly. Having said that, maybe if I kept up feeding and dressing them in the mornings, we might actually get to school on time! But I digress…
The Art of Delegation.
Often, many leaders will fall into the trap of thinking that it’s better to do certain tasks themselves, than taking the time to stop and train a member of the team to do it. There are two things that make managers avoid the art of delegating: a lack of time, and the need for perfection.
In truth, if you stop and take the time to train your team, it will actually save you a lot of time in the long run. Time, that could be put to valuable use. Not everything has to be done your way, either. So what, if the report isn’t printed on scented paper and filed in a glitter covered folder.
Oops! I think I might be getting the mum-boss-thing mixed up a little. But the art of delegation is one to apply to home-life too. Taking the time to show your little ones how to do things for themselves, will save you loads of time. Time, where you can finally get to do your taxes, or pay your bills, or maybe even make a cup of tea? Who am I kidding?! Let’s just say, it will save you time. And does everything really have to look perfect? So what if the crayons are put back in the box in the wrong order, or upside down? At least they’re not on the floor anymore.
This is where all the wheels fall off the wagon! Communication is at the root of all problems at work and at home. From experience, I can tell you that the main problem is that we don’t listen to each other. Our heads are so filled with our agendas and to-do lists. We’re running at a hundred miles a minute without stopping to really listen to each other. We assume and think we know what our team members need. But actually, we don’t. Because we haven’t asked them. And we haven’t listened.
Sometimes, I start responding to what my kids tell me, because I have already taken the first three words they said, added my own interpretation and come up with a solution, before I even heard what the exact problem is. I just need to sort it out, so I can move on to the next thing. I have learned this the hard way. Sometimes, especially when they’re going through a tough time, you have to stop. Focus. And listen. You have to hear, before you respond. I still have a lot to learn in this area. Which brings me to the next point:
Love to learn from those you lead.
Whenever I have walked into a training room to deliver a course, I have always adopted the attitude that there will be someone in the room, who knows more about my subject than I do. I am not there as the fount of all knowledge. I am there to facilitate a learning experience and in the process I have learned so much myslef.
Likewise, there have been moments when I have had to confess to my children that I don’t have all the answers. And there have been times when their unfiltered wisdom has left me awestruck. It’s surprising what you can learn when you humble yourself to receive wisdom from those around you.
Continuous Professional Development.
You are never going to know enough! Things are always changing. The corporate world. The parenting world. There aren’t enough books written on both topics. So make sure you find time to learn. To study. To read. To reflect.
When I was working in the corporate world, it was surprising to see how few leaders actually take the time to reflect. To think about how they are leading. Many of them were telling me that there is just simply not enough time. Few managers were happy to sit through a development programme at the cost of productivity on the shop floor. They just didn’t see the value in it.
Taking five minutes a day to think about how you are leading and managing is a great habit. It will help you improve and become more efficient in the fanatastic work you are already doing, whether you’re a mum, a boss or a mum-boss.
Thank heavens I have not had to lean on my own, limited understanding! It is awesome to have access to supernatural help and wisdom. If nothing else, having children has given me this revelation: I need God! And the great thing is, he is always on call with boundless wisdom, when we need it most.
“He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.”
Isaiah 40:11 NLT
Motherhood has been one of the hardest callings I have ever stepped into. I have worked harder, much longer hours, with much less gratitude or benefits, than in any corporate position I have occupied. And there are times I wonder who in their right mind gave me this job? No interview. No qualification. No experience. No references.
I am ao thankful for a God who leads us with gentleness and patience, who carries us close to his heart. Sometimes, we need to remember to not just be gentle and patient with those we lead or raise, but also be gentle and patient with ourselves.
So whether you have been “mumming” like a boss or “bossing” like a mum. I salute you! You are awesome. And you have my permission to go have a cuppa and put your feet up.
But only for five minutes!
Those dishes are not going to do themselves.
Today, I hear the Father saying: “Beautiful, strong, Mama! You are doing an amazing job. Lean into my wisdom and strength, I will make you dance on top of the mountain of your daily responsibilities. There are treasures to unearth in the mundane routines of life. Listen out for my voice, I am here to lead you perfectly, with boundless energy and great joy! Learn from me. I know how to lead with gentleness and patience. And with unconditional love.” ❤