May 11, 2015  • Musings

2015_05-11_Managerial Moments from MotherhoodI love mother’s day, but not for why you think. Oh sure, reading the entire Sunday Times with two full cups of coffee from a new French Press while aromas of blueberry muffins and spring lilies wafted through the kitchen was nice… Epic in fact. I’m already ready for next year.


But until then, I’m looking forward to applying the lessons I’ve learned from motherhood to managerial roles.


Play a Long Game.

Patience is a virtue, even though it is kind of an annoying one. There is nothing fast and rewarding about management or motherhood. Both are full of excruciatingly small steps that eventually add up to something magical and wonderful if well done. Prenatal vitamins don’t have an immediate payoff.  Neither does nursing or hours spent reading to a baby.  (Mine enjoyed Pride & Prejudice during maternity leave.)  But the benefits become clear as you witness physical and emotional growth as a baby becomes her own person.  And those benefits continue to grow in unexpected ways.

It’s also possible to both manage and be maternal without being excellent. But it is much more fun to be excellent.


Enable Others to Excel.

And speaking of excellent, excellent managers enable excellence in those around them. The same is true of mothers. If we aren’t inspiring confidence, we aren’t enabling others to excel. We’re all better when we achieve our personal best, when we articulate clear goals and establish the means to accomplish them. Sometimes this is delegation.  Often it is simply instilling confidence.

The most wonderful managers and mothers around us enable that through empowerment, encouragement, and a generous dose of humility.


It’s About More Than Birthing.

All the education and preparation in the world cannot make someone a good mother. Nor can it make a great manager. It doesn’t matter what we study or what we do to prepare, or even how we become managers or mothers. What matters is what happens once we’re there. Failure is guaranteed – at least occasionally. How we respond to challenges, internalize the lessons, and improve along the way is infinitely more important than the starting point.

That’s not to say there is no value in education or literacy.  Quite the opposite is true.  But neither education nor literacy is a guarantee of success, just as the process of childbirth is no guarantee of maternal prowess.  Managing and mothering is about infinitely more than the starting point.


Bad News Is Never as Bad as No News.

You know you are doing okay as both a manager and a mother when those around you are comfortable sharing bad news with you. You are fostering a supportive environment of trust. You’re doing even better if those around you share bad news coupled with a coherent plan to solve the problem.

Failing to share less-than-good news, whether the failure comes from fear, lack of trust, intimidation, or frustration rarely leads to the right result. And as long as you’re playing a long game, the little shortcomings – the mini failures that breed long-term learning – won’t be able to derail long-term success. But ignorance coupled with false bravado certainly can.


Don’t Forget to Pause for the Little Things.

Celebrate the small victories. Appreciate the found moments of enjoyment every day. Not every moment can be pleasant, particularly if you are managing well, but long-term fulfillment is found through spotting joy in unexpected places, recognizing your own sources of joy, and seeking joyous moments.


I’m certainly not the first to connect managerial skills to maternal ones. There are plenty of other articles on this subject. Cheryl Conner and Roberta Matuson have shared some of my favorite thoughts on the subject.  There’s plenty of reading to carry you through until next year around this time when you can join me for French Press coffee and a leisurely reading of the Sunday Times.


Until then and along the way, let’s celebrate the incredible women around us, whether the serve in managerial roles, mentoring roles, or maternal ones. Some of the best women I know aren’t mothers. Some of the best mothers I know came to the role unexpectedly. All of the best managers I know do these five things.


Happy Mother’s Day.


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