Shining the light on working parents

Fiona Hewitt outlines some of the leadership skills she has learnt from being a mother and working with mothers.

Every parent is a working parent – whether you’re working inside or outside of the home, and I salute every one of you that have our next generation under your wings.

This isn’t about fuelling the ‘working mum’ versus the ‘stay at home mum’ debate, I’m a working mum which is both of my choice and an economic reality from living in Auckland. This also isn’t about taking away from the amazing working dads and all that
they do.

I’ve parented through separation, cancer, restructures, redundancies, and the GFC. This is about me sharing some of the leadership skills I’ve learnt from being a mum, working with mums, being true and leading from the front.

Mums are phenomenal multi-taskers
Washing, lunches, more washing, cooking, hair-ties, book bags, white slips, missing shoes, cleaning and feeding and “please put your shoes on” for the (insert number of times asked) time, and driving, dropping off, picking up, working through logistics for gym, ballet and rugby, more washing and holy Santa Clause I’m tired. And it’s 9 a.m. Mums do it – every day.

Mums have a United Nations approach at managing conflict
If you’ve ever tried reasoning with a four-year-old who wants a cupcake and/or puppy at 5pm then you already know what I mean.

Mums make great managers
Mums are constantly teaching their children, so are well suited to mentor junior members of the team.

Mums make great team players
Raising independent, unique individuals can come with its fair share of stakeholder engagement! I’ve found mums to be ace team members.

Mums are mindful
Finding calm in the chaos – leading with truth and clarity. When children are little, they can sometimes* misbehave. As their mothers we need to show them the way with the behaviour we want to see in them from the behaviour we example. One way of encouraging our children to learn is to have them sit and reflect following behaviour that could’ve been better – more commonly known as time out, the thinking spot, thinking chair etc – it’s used in schools too.
[* approx a million times.]

Applying a business lens, taking a small amount of time following challenging and conflicting periods can help enormously with processing information in the most pragmatic and forward focused way.

It’s sometimes impossible to think as clearly as we’d like to when we’re in the midst of urgent white noise – but to simply take a few minutes to breathe deeply and think about the issue and paths to resolution – a higher level of thinking can come from a calmer mind.

Both journeys focus on a cycle of acceptance and continuous improvement. Doesn’t that sound good? Both journeys can also promote an outcome that includes colouring in, well that’s just the icing.

Not sure we’d get much buy-in if we were to call it the ‘time out’ for work, but you know what I mean. The exercise here is to try and stay focused on the moment you are in. Something as simple as being aware of your own breathing can help with this.

We can only ever be ourselves and at some point that has to be good enough.

I think, as a mum, I want my children to live a life that is true to them and as a leader I focus on the cycle of continuous improvement and understand that being better never stops.

I also think that you cannot underestimate the power of a good network. There is something amazing that happens when like-minded minds from different sectors gather and meet – it’s one of the things I love about hosting events and training sessions at IMNZ.

I’d like to finish on a couple of great quotes from Sheryl Sanberg’s book Lean In which I think ring true on how we lead and how we are led. It’s an excellent read.

“We must raise both the ceiling and the floor.”

“Done is better than perfect.”

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