It’s quite possible my children have taught more than I’ve taught them. Here are four ways becoming a parent made me a better leader.
I was a smart, ambitious young lady with the C-suite on my radar. While working at an international consulting firm, I put off starting a family so I could work my way up from Associate to Consultant. It never happened. Instead, my practice area was closed in our location and my boss and I were ‘packaged out.’ I realized I had wasted time precious time. Family was more important to me, but I hadn’t made it a priority. As a leader, I understand there are times when my employees will have priorities outside of work and when I give them the flexibility to attend to these, they will be more loyal.
2. Being a woman in the workplace has challenges
While unemployed, I got pregnant. I attended job interviews carrying this secret. I was offered and accepted the job and set out to prove they made the right decision before I dropped the baby bomb on them. I knew legally, I was not required to disclose this information. When I did, about a month after I started, I was treated poorly. My boss was fantastic but the woman in HR treated me like I had withheld a criminal record and was out to defraud the company. I understand how a maternity leave can be a challenge for an employer. However, I also understand that women have babies and when they have time to care for those babies, we have a better society overall. The better we understand the unique challenges women face in the workplace, the better equipped we are to address them.
When I had my baby, she was diagnosed with trisomy 13 and passed away when she was only a week old. It was clear to me that very few people could understand what that was like. However, some could, and they shared with me their own stories. I realized there are so many things going on in people’s lives that we don’t even know about. Everyone is facing their own challenges outside of work. When we accept them as whole people and are empathetic, we demonstrate that we care about them. People want to know their leaders care.
4. Lead by example
I now have three children and I know they are watching me. I know, because I see my behaviours reflected in them—the good and the bad. When I think about what I want for them, I make sure to demonstrate those things. For example, I want my children to work hard to achieve their goals, so I work hard and achieve my goals. I want them to give back to the community, so I give back to my community. It works the same with employees. They watch you and they follow your lead. If you work yourself into burnout, they will too. Or they’ll leave your team. If you treat them with respect, they’ll treat you with respect.
Parenthood teaches us many lessons. These are just a few I’ve learned along the way.