Happy Mother’s Day you all! I wanted to take the opportunity to wish everyone a lovely day today. As I was thinking about that, I began to think of how becoming a mother also made me a better leader. There is a word for that but it escapes me… either tangential learning or experiential. If you can enlighten me, please do so. Anyway, here is what I learned about being a leader by being a MOM!
Sometimes they need to Struggle
They learn through doing and sometimes that is painful to watch. One day when Sydney was about 3 (or whenever they learn to tie their shoes) we were headed out the door. She was struggling to tie her shoes and being in a hurry I bent down to tie them for her. She put her little hand up (STOP) and said “Mommy! I’ve got this!’. It was that smack in the head that says “What are you doing? Leave her alone!”. She can do this, she is capable. Maybe not as fast or as adeptly but with time, she will become a pro. One day, she might even be BETTER at it than you! She will never become skilled if you always do it for her.
It is the same with our consultants. Yes we do it better, faster, prettier and more effectively. But it wasn’t that way in the beginning. Someone loved us enough to let us struggle until we became good… then great! Do not do for them what they are capable of doing for themselves. Do not let them use you as a crutch, they will never grow. Show them, watch them do it, mentor them with feed back and let them fly.
Sometimes they need to fall down and skin their knees
You can show them how to do it a million times and some people want to reinvent the wheel. You can give them wise council and they will not listen. You have to be willing to let them get hurt. Some people learn through pain.
Recently a little mean girl wanted to be my daughter’s friend. She had a falling out with her current friend which had deteriorated to name calling on the bus and ugliness in the play yard. Of course I told Sydney all the reasons that she shouldn’t accept this friendship, how it would go and how it would end. Sydney persisted… My inclination was to “put my foot down” and say NO you can’t be friends with her. I wanted to protect her. When this girl made up with her other friend, Sydney would be dumped and heart broken. This is a mean girl after all! I was 9 once, I KNOW!
If I forbid it, she would only seek to defy me. I felt like I would be setting up a pattern of defiance. But if I let her do it her way (in this small thing), perhaps she might learn that Mommy does have wisdom and may know a thing or two. This could be a teachable moment. Maybe this will serve both of us well in the larger issues to come.
I let her be friends with the mean girl. Eventually the other two girls made up and Sydney was the odd man out. I dried her tears and we talked about the kind of person she wanted to be and the kind of person those girls were. In the end Sydney learned that she could have saved her self the suffering by listening to my wisdom and life experience. Perhaps in the future my opinion will carry more weight. Maybe not, we have yet to hit the teenage years!
It is the same with your consultants. Offer them your wisdom and experience but be willing to let them fail early on. Arguing with them about it just sets up an adversarial process. This is still so hard for me. I know what I know… I know why what you are doing will not work.. I know I could quadruple your income in 90 days… but I can’t make you listen. I can let you do it your way and try and pick up the pieces for you. Again, some people learn through pain…
Don’t breed co-dependence
We LOVE to be needed! It is the Mommy in us! As they grow thy SHOULD need us less. It isn’t that they love us less, it is that we have equipped them well!
I used to drop my baby off and MMO and she would scream for me. Now she bounds out the door each morning to wait with the other kids for the bus with barely a backwards glance. Does it break my heart, yes! But I also know its because she can handle the day and she isn’t nervous.
Same with your team. Rejoice when they do things on their own and don’t be surprised when they don’t invite YOU! They are growing up. It is why we raise babies…to let them fly. YOU, turn around and start raising up the next one. A mother’s job is endless and often thankless. So is a leaders!
They emulate you so be careful what you show them
My daughter is my spitting image! She sits like me, talks like me, walks like me… she treats people like I do… she walks around the house while brushing her teeth.. she twirls her necklace.. she play with her hair. Here first imaginary friend was called “Babe”. Guess what I call her… Babe. She is EXACTLY what I taught her to be. Sometimes it is humbling when I see how smart, caring and great she is (also sassy with a bit of a fresh mouth!)
Anything you do in font of your consultants do as if you were teaching a class. Don’t go over board wit displays, decoration or food. They will do exactly what you do and it has to be duplicate-able or your team will shrivel. The bar you set can be so high that they give up.
This isn’t to say that you can’t do stellar meetings and event. They just need to be part of the planning and set up so that they know what goes into it. KISS (keep it simple sister) anytime you can and thank the production team any chance you get!
AND be proud when they excel! Be proud when they out shine you. Be willing to sit in the bleachers as they get the lime light. THAT is our immortality!
Being a Mother has definitely been the most rewarding and educational role I have ever played.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of our Moms AND Leaders!
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