What does a parent do?
A parent’s main mission is to help kids transition into responsible adults, with values that are going to make us proud.
A mother trusts her kids. She establishes rules clearly. She explains them, sometimes in a written form, but ensures that they’re both well understood and transparent. Kids know they have to follow the rules and that they’re not negotiable. They also know that if they decide to go against them, there will be consequences.
A mother will challenge her kids. She’ll be a bit stern at times, simply because she won’t accept mediocrity or semi-accomplishments. She’ll push them to give their best and won’t allow anything below excellence.
But she will encourage her children, and anytime they successfully accomplish what they’ve undertaken, she’ll always be there to praise them.
A mother will supervise her children’s grades, but will never do the homework for them.
A parent will set an example. We do not tell a kid to read when we don’t read ourselves. We do not tell a kid not to eat sweets to binge on them later. Knowledge goes through actions and precedents rather than words.
A mother doesn’t lie to her kids. She does what she says and says what she does… otherwise, refer to the previous paragraph.
A mother will admit when she’s wrong and do her mea culpa. She will accept that her kids may not agree with her and will be open to discussing and questioning her opinions, but she will always have the final say.
These are a few ground rules – we can obviously switch the word mother with the word father. The topic of the article is not to discuss mother vs father roles, but skills developed when raising children.
Now, we play. We read the article again, but replace the word mother or parent by the word leader or manager. We replace the word kids by employees, and we see what happens.
The purpose of the exercise is not to say that employees are kids…but to show that being a parent entails the same qualities as those of a leader.
The parent-kid relationship isn’t that different from the leader-team one.
So why is it so difficult to go back to the work environment after a “raising kids” break? Why do women think that being a parent and a manager is incompatible? But also, why doesn’t our society acknowledge the experience acquired by being a parent?
Why do we believe that a woman needs to act as a man to become a manager? She already has all the required skills and has tested them on her own kids.
I myself have always considered that being a parent and manager is the same thing and I have always applied the recipes at home and at work.
I’ll end this article with an example of the parallel between work and home, specifically how I handled a conflict between two people from my team. A disagreement arose, email exchanges were getting heated, and each person was accusing the other of “treason” – and forwarding the emails to direct and functional hierarchy. Both had their rights and wrongs – as it’s often the case.
I called them both into my office and said: “My daughters are 10 and 12 years old. When they fight, I send them to their room to solve the issue on their own and tell them not to come back until they’ve reached an agreement. And they always do. Now, tell me if you’re capable of doing what kids do. I don’t want to see another email, other than the one signed by both of you, where you tell me that the you’ve solved the conflict and let me know what conclusion you’ve reached.”
A few days later, they came back to my office telling me “Boss, we’re happy to announce that we are back in the adult world” – end of the story.
So mothers, go update your CVs, put forward all the qualities you’ve acquired during your maternity leave, and get back in the game.