After finishing my MBA at 28, reaching my career and income goals, and marrying my husband at 29 I decided to start a family. What I soon learned was something that shocked me. Parenting has taught me 6 lessons that have made me a better leader, teacher, mentor, and person.
If you're childless you can stand to read this too. You may even see yourself in these stories.
The Importance of Time Management
Looking back on my life before kids I have no idea what I did all of the time. I'm assuming it involved binge-watching TV and sleeping but it's a far-off distant memory now that deserves no special place in history. The bottom line, I wasted a lot of time.
After children, my time is time blocked, every last second. This may seem like overkill to the childless person who also works in a corporate job where projects are handed out like candy and downtime is for Game of Thrones. But to the career-driven entrepreneur parent, this is the only way things get accomplished.
I can get more done in 30 minutes than my former self could in a week. This includes exercise that I didn't pick up until after I had children.
Takeaway: The more time you have the more time you waste. Children take up time, forcing a person to become a productivity machine.
The Importance of Saying Exactly What you Mean
I am quite sarcastic, to the point that sometimes adults aren't sure if I'm serious or not. When I was a kid I got in the habit of ending almost every sentence with "just kidding" because my parents honestly believed the sarcasm I spouted.
While I'm still sarcastic I have curbed my tongue significantly since having children. Why? Well, first it confuses the hell out of them. Everything in a child's world is factual and straightforward. Throw sarcasm at a child and they will cry (trust me, I learned this the hard way).
This made me realize that when we are introduced to new people they too are like children, they don't know the first thing about us, and sarcasm is best left at the door so your first impression isn't as a raving lunatic. The bottom line, it isn't professional.
Takeaway: Say what you mean, you never know who you could be offending. Wait to get to know people before using sarcasm.
I used to be the type of person with a million ideas brewing before 8 AM. The minute I fired up my laptop I was shooting emails off left and right for data, action items, details, and reports. You may be wondering why I'm talking about this in a negative light. Let me give you an example.
Please send me the On-Time Shipping Report with your findings ASAP.
That's literally what I used to send people! Doesn't that sound like I'm angry? I never stopped to think about the tone I was throwing out in the world. I probably ruined poor Sally's morning with this urgent angry note when really I was excited and loved Sally.
Enter children. Try barking orders at children and see how far you get. They don't yet understand silent hatred (that I'm sure Sally is now feeling for me) and will outright cry instead.
Respecting your employees' time and caring about their needs is key just as it is with children. With this in mind, let's revisit an email I would have sent after children.
How was your weekend? Did the girls' trip go as planned? I bet you had a blast.
I had a crazy idea this morning for a project to reinvent our on-time shipping methodology and wanted to bring you in on it as you're an expert. Could you stop by my desk so I can pick your brain on this topic? We could create some magic here!
This is literally how I talk to people, it may not be your style and that's fine but now Sally understands how much I value her.
Takeaway: Adults and children need to understand how much they are valued. Encourage before rushing in with demands.
Let's continue with my amazingly horrible first email to Sally. This type of email would also scare Sally so badly she wouldn't feel comfortable asking questions about my vague note. I then would be upset when she sent me half-baked information, not at all related to what I was looking for.
Another thing about children, they love and need detail. They need the why the how and what otherwise they will be lost as to what you're asking. "Stop that" is my favorite parenting vagary. You've just told your kid to stop what they were doing with no clue as to what they are supposed to be doing instead. It's almost like you've started a game of freeze tag to a child. Be Specific!
Going back to the 2nd email example, Sally receives more insight as to why the information is needed. Just like children adults need to see understand the end game to provide the right responses.
With my children I find myself saying things like "I'm afraid you're going to break your arm doing that, why don't we sit on the floor and play a game". (This doesn't always work, my son is destined for broken limbs but I can at least say I tried.)
Takeaway: Be as specific as possible on what outcome you are looking for and why.
The Importance of Patience
My patience level slightly terrified me for children. I am one of the most impatient people who can, on rare occasions, be a good thing. Let's be real, it's never a good thing. No one says impatience is a virtue. It's quite rude actually.
Well, guess what, having kids is one long patience marathon, an ultramarathon if you will. We're talking LONG. Try to get a pair of shoes on your child to leave the house and you'll see firsthand what I'm talking about.
In the working world, patience needs to be just as long. Every person learns at a different pace and in a different way. Also, every person is motivated differently. A higher paycheck may motivate one while another is motivated by more challenging work.
Meeting employees and children where they are by finding how best they learn and what motivates them is key to moving forward with either party. BUT, you still must be patient as time is still needed for the results to happen.
Takeaway: Learn to be patient, otherwise you will lose employees and have children that hate you. Find what motivates and how best each party learns and you're halfway there. Now you have to wait, and wait.
The Importance of Delegation
There's a reason I put this one last. You also need patience, detail, caring and to say exactly what you mean in order to delegate. This is the Super Bowl of important lessons.
At work, if you don't delegate you will end up stuck in the same job because no one will be able to fill your shoes. That's right, without delegating you will be, as they say, cutting off your nose to spite your face.
With children, this is a little easier to describe. Picture your perfectly capable college-age child not knowing how to shop for groceries or do his own laundry. You better start delegating household chores at some point or this will be your child. My children are currently 5 and 2 1/2 but they know how to put their nightclothes in the laundry hamper and how to throw away their own trash. It's small but it's a step on the delegation ladder to complete freedom and satisfaction in about 13-16 years. (my freedom, their satisfaction)
If you are terrified at work of delegation you may have unresolved issues of feeling needed. Spoiler alert, the more you delegate the more needed you'll be.
Takeaway: Delegation is key to your survival and the key to your employee's and children's satisfaction at work and home. Everyone wants to feel valued and accomplished.