How Parenthood Made Me a Better Leader
Like many parents these days, I became a parent later in life (mid-30s). Most people wait because they want to establish a career or they just haven’t found the right partner yet. For me, I just wasn’t ready and I really didn’t have a desire to start a family. I had established a fun and exciting career early on. I met and married my husband when I was in my 20s so we spent several years just enjoying being married. We travelled, entertained, and slept – a lot! By the time we decided to have kids, I had been managing employees and coaching others how to manage their employees for over a decade. I had led huge corporate projects and taught leadership skills to Managers and Executives across the country. I was confident I could handle a couple of kids – not a problem. Needless to say I had no idea what lay ahead of me. After having two adorable yet active and independent little boys, this is what I have learned.
Nothing requires more patience than small children. Dealing with a stubborn 2 year old after being up all night with a newborn will test anyone. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and move on. I noticed an immediate shift when I returned from my first maternity leave. I don’t know if children just put things in perspective but I didn’t stress over every little detail anymore. My team felt more relaxed and I didn’t feel the need to give my opinion on every little task. It was invigorating for me and my employees.
Having more patience allowed me to step back and let my employees figure things out for themselves. Once they felt empowered (and didn’t have to worry about my criticism!) they became incredibly creative. My oldest son experiences the same thing. He can listen to a story I tell him but if I give him some time to create his own, it’s much better and gives him (and I) a great sense of pride
My boys love having a “job” to do. Some days they actually fight over who will do the dishes. Whether it’s vacuuming or feeding the dog it gives them a sense of accomplishment to know they are contributing to the household. I truly believe this is something that continues into adulthood although our contribution needs to evolve. I don’t expect my sons will be fighting over who gets to do the dishes when they are teenagers! As adults we need challenging tasks that give us results. As a leader, we sometimes need to show employees how their roles impact the business objectives of the organization.
The only thing my son likes more than doing the dishes is when I thank him for doing the dishes. He has a smile from ear to ear when he giggles and says “your welcome Mommy”. I had always valued my employees’ contribution to the team and while I spent years coaching managers on how to recognize their employees (even spent 6 months developing a national recognition program) I realized I wasn’t great at doing it myself. I then implemented specific mechanisms to ensure I identified successes and showed genuine appreciation to those on my team.
Obviously as parents we care about the wellbeing of our children. I have had many a sleepless nights and even a few trips to the emergency room. We also have to show genuine concern for our employees. Whether its becoming a true coach in their professional development, being an advocate for them in the workplace, showing interest in their home life, or becoming active in causes that are important to them, as leaders we must not only care about our employees but we need to show we care about them. At the end of the day those needs we develop in early childhood carry with us throughout our lives and can be applied to workplace relationships as well as personal ones. They are the foundation of who we are and how we obtain true happiness. It doesn’t matter how rough the day has been, when I snuggle down with my boys at the end of the day, reflect on all the fun we had, and share our “I love yous” I know I am doing something right.
Sarah Mullins is the founder of uptreeHR, a Halifax based human resource consulting firm that is passionate about helping business owners manage their people, set clear expectations and increase performance. We truly believe you can treat your employees well, create an amazing culture and not break the bank.
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