Leadership & Productivity
How having kids made me a better manager
6 min read
29 March 2019
"Becoming a mum is the best thing I have ever done. Setting up my own business is the second." Here's why Petra Smith, founder of Squirrels&Bears believes being a mum makes her better in business.
It’s true what they say – nothing can ever prepare you for parenthood. You can read all of the parenting books and listen to all of the advice other people have, but the reality is that you will have to experience it and learn as you go along. There are good days and there are bad days, but each of them will make you see and experience something new. Just like in our professional lives.
I learn from my kids each day. They teach me to look at things from a different perspective from every-day life to work and I very often notice the correlation between balancing a family and running a business. Comparing a board room to a kids’ room might sound unusual, but there are many skills that we learn as parents which can be translated into business success.
As a parent and in any management role, you will be wearing many hats – some of them at the same time. It’s still work-in-progress, but here are some of the management skills I learnt whilst wearing those many hats at work and at home, and I thank my business and my little girls for teaching me how to wear them:
Storytelling doesn’t just mean reading books before your kids go to bed. It’s about telling stories to continuously motivate them by giving them the bigger picture and teaching them consequences. Telling a good story and telling it well can not only make others to listen, but they will remember the message and the person they heard it from. So, whether it’s your children, clients or team on the receiving end, it’s a very effective skill that will help you connect with others and get your message across.
Life sometimes gets in the way. And you might have the best plans, but there will be times when you have to change them. It can be very disappointing for your children, and for you, having to change plans and not being able to keep your word, and this is where communication and the ability to adapt can make all of the difference. People don’t like change, especially if it’s significant and can impact their lives and careers in ways they didn’t expect it. But by getting them involved in making alternative arrangements and considering their feelings and concerns, whilst openly sharing the reasons and circumstances, can help to balance the new situation.
Creative problem solving
Kids are curious. They ask many questions, as soon as they learn how to speak, and they will ask you more questions than you can answer. Giving answers to questions you can’t or don’t want to answer requires the ability to think on your feet and quickly adapt by providing an alternative response that they can accept. Both in the home and work environment, you will often face situations that you haven’t experienced before, and they might make you feel uncomfortable, but nothing ever grows inside comfort zones. Trusting your judgement at any given time is the best thing you can do.
Time and energy management
Being a working parent can be exhausting. It’s a never-ending cycle, that occupies you both physically and mentally, and it requires a lot of advanced planning. I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s not just about how you manage your time and your to-do list, but how you maintain your energy levels. Setting expectations and saying no in appropriate times can make your home and professional life easier. You don’t have to be perfect and aiming to please everyone – it’s you who needs to be in control and happy, so you can be there for everyone else who rely on you.
Crying kids and sleepless nights make us all more tired and emotional, and it sometimes seems that it will never end. We can’t avoid being stressed, but we can work on ways of managing the stress levels, so it doesn’t take over our lives. Juggling all of the parenting and work roles will lead to stressful situations where it might seem that things are out of our hands and we can’t figure out what to do next. I find it helpful to take a step back and have a look at things from a distance whilst a take a few deep breaths. Even if it doesn’t help, at least you’ll be giving yourself a short break.
Petra Smith runs a small business marketing consultancy Squirrels&Bears in London.