I’m grateful for many things about being a parent, not the least of which is having three adorable little ones to come home to every day, but I’m also so grateful for what they taught me about leadership. Looking back, I wasn’t as great a manager and leader in my early and mid-20s. I was still trying to figure it all out on the job and I frequently prioritized work ahead of my personal life. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I really started hitting my groove in terms of leadership skills, and motherhood taught me some important lessons that prepared me to run a successful business.
Efficiency is key
Being a mom is a time consuming responsibility – so is being the boss. The early days of motherhood, when sleep was a luxury and I was on duty 24/7, taught me a lot about overcoming distractions, prioritizing my most important tasks and organizing my day to get everything done. Moms can’t get caught up trivial details and they can’t do everything all at once – neither can effective business leaders. While the kids are awake, I know my focus needs to be on them, which means I need to plan ahead for things like household chores, paying the bills and taking care of myself while there asleep or when I have help. When I’m at work, I need to prioritize my most important tasks and provide my team with what they need to be successful. This means cutting out the distractions and fit my most important tasks into the work day so I can be home on time and provide my full (or almost full) attention to my family.
Patience is a virtue
Success doesn’t happen overnight in parenting or in business. Some days are going to have more setbacks than others, but if you keep at and remain focused on your goals, positive results will follow. Sometimes being a parent makes me feel like a broken record, repeating the same things over and over, but if you provide consistent feedback the kids will catch on. Many times in business, our initial attempts aren’t successful, but a consistent, focused effort usually yields the right results. Being a parent is also a lot like managing a team in that way as well. Often times, I’ll think I provided thorough instruction and asked for exactly what I need from my team, but I don’t always get exactly what I was looking for. Taking the time to provide specific feedback and trusting my team to get it right the second time often brings out the best in each member.
Empathy is an essential skill
Each person on my team has individual strengths, values and passions, so in order to lead I need to learn how to tap into each person’s unique talents and empower them to do their best work. Each of my kids is unique too, and I need to adjust my parenting style to set each of them up for success. One kid might need to be told exactly what to do, while another only need simple instruction to run with it and genuinely surprise me what they’re able to do. This experience as a mom showed me how to learn about each member of my team’s strengths and know when I can tap into them. Some tasks might need a little more management, while others might only require a quick conversation about the problem or challenge and the team member can use their expertise and creativity to develop solutions I never would have considered.
Applying these lessons in the workplace allowed me to create an environment where my team can thrive, each person contributes their best work and everyone knows they’re valued. It’s allowed me to grow my company in ways I only dreamed of when we first started.
Harriet Mills is CEO and Co-founder of Wine & Design.