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In honor of Mother’s Day I was reflecting on the leadership lessons I learned by being a mom. Of all the jobs I have held motherhood has been the most humbling and the most rewarding. My children have taught me some very valuable lessons and have acted as an excellent training ground for leadership in the workplace. The following are some of the most important lessons I have learned from them.
Give Clear Directives but Leave It Up To Them to Get It Done
Autonomy has a strong effect on performance and attitude both at work and at home. Allowing subordinates to work in ways that both accomplish directives yet allow them the freedom to work out the details gives them the ability to grow in their roles and achieve a sense of accomplishment when they meet those goals. Conversely, if they fail they also have the ability to learn from their mistakes within the confines of a safe environment. Simply allowing subordinates the freedom to meet directives on their own schedule and in their own way demonstrates to them that you have faith in their abilities and confidence in them as a strong member of your team. Additionally it trains them to be responsible and succeed within their environment; allowing them the opportunity to develop skills that will serve them well in their careers.
Lead By Example
Leading by example is not a “pie in the sky” theory but has been proven to be a large motivator (or demotivator) of subordinates. When asked what traits are most important in a leader, integrity is often at the top of everyone’s list. Integrity has a strong influence on the development of respect by subordinates and peers. Employees prefer to work for someone that works hard themselves and isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and work alongside them when needed. Leading by example also sets the standard of conduct of your team members and has been shown to more clearly communicate to others what your expectations are than by verbalizing them.
Learn to Apologize
Everyone makes mistakes. Period. Learning to apologize and accepting the apologies of others not only is healthier for you but creates a stronger, more productive environment for the entire team. It has also been said that the heartfelt apology also develops loyalty by team members and establishes stronger relationships. I for one also think it teaches others to be more self-aware and less fearful of mistakes in general which is a good thing; especially when some mistakes turn out to be life altering inventions. (ever heard of electricity?)
All work and no play makes leadership a very dull job indeed. Even in the busiest and most productive of work environments people need a little room for fun. You may be surprised to discover that studies show that having fun at work both increases loyalty and productivity. With the rise of the dot com era some companies like Facebook, Zappos, and Google have created alternative work environments that focus on increasing creativity by toning down the ‘business’ environment. Even if your workplace is a traditional business environment ‘lightening up’ at work is more acceptable than it used to be. While professionalism is still expected it is very possible to have fun while you perform your respective roles. Although not everyone is fond of extracurricular activities on their personal time, incorporate an occasional team lunch or outing that allows your subordinates to be themselves and interact on a more personal level. By bridging that gap you will likely find that your team will have more cohesive work relationships in the office. The family that ‘plays together – stays together’ and so does the work team.
While these are not the only lessons I’ve learned by being a mom, they are the ones that I feel have made the biggest impact on my life and my career. I’d love to hear from you about the lessons you have learned from motherhood that have made you a better leader at work or in your community. Please leave a comment below to share with me and the other readers.
Happy Mother’s Day!