CAREER: Do working moms make great managers? YES!
I read in USA TODAY a very interesting article about if working moms make better managers. Some of it was interesting, and some of it got me pretty peeved. It began with the results of a study in which "A survey last Mother's Day by the professional women's networking organization WorldWit found that 69% would rather work for a mother than a non-mother, and only 2% prefer a non-mother. They say mothers have patience and listening skills, and understand when others encounter family demands." The article goes on to interview a few CEOs, many that were women, who go on to say that hiring working moms has many issues. This was the stuff that got me peeved. It was as if the study said one thing, but business managers want to stick to their own preconceived perceptions what working moms bring to the table when it comes to management. A lot of their past experiences with a few moms were bad, so they made blanket statements about all working moms. Its the "one bad apple spoils it for the rest of us" kind of scenario.
So lets get into what working moms DO bring to the table based on what they bring to their own dinner tables and see how they align from a management perspective. After all, aren't managers just parenting a bunch of grown ups with varying temperaments and personalities?
Patience: Any mom trying to coax their child to get dressed or do their homework understands patience. Now fast forward to the workplace and imagine trying to get your team motivated for a new business pitch or to take on an extra assignment. You learn really fast what my Grandmother always told me, you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. Mothers find out quickly that losing your temper just escalates a situation or causes complete shut down, whether it is a 5 year old or 30 year old. You learn quickly what I call "the art of the velvet hammer" to motivate others. For some, it takes years to learn. For moms, about 6 months.
Mentoring and Growing: This is pretty much the definition of being a mom in my book. And if you as a manager don't have this as a focus for one of your goals, you are doing yourself and your people a disservice. Subordinates are in their career to grow and learn new things, move up the corporate ladder, become better and get recognition doing so. Managers need to make sure their people are on the right path. Sometimes that has to do with gentle discipline and sometimes rewarding the behavior you do want. It also has to do with constantly communicating to your staff about changes or directions in your department or company. You do this so there are no surprises. So they feel safe, focused and able to grow under your supervision. A great management article I read regarding managing creatives (which is what I do) was titled "Keep 'Em Safe and Warm" showing a picture of a dozen eggs. The article talked about the feeling of safety and being cared for being particularly important for creative people, who need that environment to feel good about sharing their ideas openly –and to come up with more. It is the same for children, and it is our job as mother's to create that environment for them. So creating it in the workplace is second nature to us.
Time Management: If you ever came to my house in the morning before school, you would understand the meaning of time management (or birth control!). If you are a working mother with a full household, you are juggling many schedules and many house chores all at once. If we as mothers don't do this, the household would fall into ruin. There would be no food, no clean clothes, no clean dishes, and the children would be in disarray. No one would get anywhere when they were supposed to and with what they were supposed to bring. It would be a complete mess. Time management IS our life. We could not survive without it. In the article, a CEO talks about one working mom that stayed up all night working on her child's halloween costume, and missed her business flight. That was not because she was a mom. That was just poor planning. But that CEO was using that incident as a way to make blanket judgments against all working moms. Most working moms live by timelines and set routines. Managing not just their timelines, but their household's timelines is part of their DNA.
Budget Management: This goes hand in hand with the above, but a household with children gets very expensive. I am amazed daily how much money I am shelling out for school alone; $5 for a hot dog lunch, $15 for book order, $7 for the field trip, $50 donation to the art program. Most of these are unexpected costs that come up. Then when you add groceries, gas, child care, nights out, bills, you better hope you have enough for that iced mocha you were craving to get you through the day at Starbucks! Budget management is part of a mother's daily life. It is a talent that is developed out of necessity and could be put to work in any career.
Multi-Tasking: Any high pressure job includes needing to multi-task. Juggling timelines, staff needs, meetings, new business prospects, day to day work, administrative duties all need to be done every day. To do your job well, your mind needs to be able to think about many things at once. A working mom's brain has had to go through this transformation already. For instance, one trip to the upstairs means picking up some toys, delivering laundry, bringing up more toilet paper and garbage bags to change the cat litter while up there. Running a household means being very efficient with every step you take. It's asking yourself, "If I am making a trip to another room in the house, can I cross off more things on my mental list of things to do?" It's setting things out at night for the morning rush, folding laundry while watching your child on the back deck, making calls on the commute in, running to the pharmacy or getting groceries on your lunch hour. Working moms have very few hours in the day to GET IT DONE, but we GET IT DONE.
Seeing the Big Picture: There is something to be said for the perspective being a mom gives you when looking at the bigger scheme of things. Before I was a mom, I would just have a heart attack if a client did not like a layout or I made a mistake on something. I was very stressed out all the time about my job. Don't get me wrong, I still am stressed! But work is not the be all and end all of my life anymore. Creating and nurturing another human being kind of puts that in perspective. I guess I do have a more important job, at the end of the day. It does not make me any less dedicated to my paying job, but I can see things from another place-–a place with more understanding, compassion and steadiness. I think this is why many people in the survey said they would prefer to work for a mom. They mentioned that moms had better listening skills and understanding. Why wouldn't these CEOs want those qualities in their leaders?
Commitment: The common theme in the article that jumped out at me was the feeling that moms that work have a lack of a commitment. I would argue that they have MORE of one. First of all, if they leave their beloved children every day, they better make it be for something worthwhile and make a difference, right? I don't think that doing their job at 50% is part of that equation. Yes, do working moms have schedule issues at times? Yes. But all that warrants is creativity with time and dedication. The workplace has changed and technology has allowed it to– America needs to get on board. Work does not all have to be done between 9 and 5, and no one knows that more than a working mom. A working mom would not think twice about working on Sunday if she can get to her child's baseball game by 6 p.m. on a Tuesday. As I said before, WE GET IT DONE. So if it means answering e-mails at 11:00 p.m. while waiting for the dryer to finish so you could get out early for a parent teacher conference, than what's the big deal? Its getting done, and on a mother's personal time. That's commitment, time-management and flexibility all rolled into one. Wouldn't you want someone like that working for you?