In the last few years, I have spoken with many women who successfully climbed the corporate ladder before becoming mothers. They now have the desire to re-enter the workforce but are afraid that they don’t have a worthy corporate story to tell. Contrary to their beliefs, a mother’s resume can encompass a wide set of leadership skills that can be described in a two page resume. I understand that after routinely managing the lives of their kids and husbands, it’s very easy to forget what competencies allow them to maintain a successful marriage and household. The same happens to people who remain in the same job for a long time. At some point they feel stuck and unable to communicate their value. As a coach, I have worked with mothers by listening to their stories; uncovering their leadership traits and helping them craft a personal value proposition that is delivered with confidence in job interviews. I’ve boiled them down to six masterful leadership skills nearly all mothers carry:
- Systems Thinking
Mothers running a household are not fixed on small things; rather they focus on the big picture. They understand that their family’s success depends on an intricate web of relationships among various systems and use this knowledge to successfully leverage relationships. To keep relationships intact, mothers utilize an indirect approach to communicating with others so as to avoid ruffling any feathers. On many occasions, mothers are leading PTA meetings, managing sports teams, church groups and social events which require skills that are transferable to the boardroom.
- Modeling & Accountability
Mothers learn to model the expected behavior and set clear rules for their children about what is accepted or rejected. On a daily basis mothers are performing checks and balances with their kids to teach them how to be responsible and accountable for their own behavior. As a mother of a two year old daughter, I intentionally model emotional self-regulation by labeling my emotion. In an act of defiance, my daughter decided to throw all her crayons on the floor. After I kindly asked her to pick them up, she tossed the pencils. As I felt my temperature rising, I had to exercise patience and regulate my emotions so as not to allow them to control me. So I took a few deep breaths, told her I was upset and counted to three. After a calm request to pick them up did not work, I put on my creative hat and made up a game for her to pick up the mess. After she cleaned up, I expressed to her that I was upset and needed to breathe and count. She nodded her head and blew out a long breath. Oh the joy! Now stay calm while you hold your business team accountable and creatively provide opportunities to learn when things heat up.
On a daily basis, mothers engage in negotiation tasks as children begin to choose for themselves what to wear, eat and play. As every mother can testify two year old children have fixed mindsets and are unable to display cognitive flexibility, a skill that gets develop later on in life. To get things done, we offer choices in this way respecting our child’s need for autonomy and maintaining the ability to accomplish what we need to do. To keep a position of leverage and at the same time accomplish the most basic tasks, some options presented are tempting while others are not. Managers are constantly negotiating with their team, clients and supervisors. Good thing you’ve got years of experience crafting situations such that you have the upper hand.
- Managing Stress & Prioritizing
Mothers move seamlessly from getting kids ready for school, prepping meals, doing chores, chauffeuring and running the household finances. The daily to-do list can run farther than a roll of paper towels. To effectively check off their lists, mothers ask themselves what is most important and intuitively change priorities to accomplish their main goal, which is having a healthy and happy family. Many mothers run to the grocery store not to shop but to decompress in an attempt to manage stress. Others enroll in exercise groups that allow them to bring their children because they know the importance of having a balanced life. As a business leader you guide the priorities of your team and turn stress management techniques into habits.
- Developing Others
Every mother is focused on helping her children grow and invests countless hours supporting their learning. Whether at home or in the community, mothers learn to see what is working well for their kids and focus on strengthening their skills. Mothers see the potential in their children. They plant the seeds for their children to achieve the unimaginable, because they connect heart first and mind second. Secure leaders give power to others and allow their potential to flourish.
- Conflict Resolution
Mothers who manage households with more than one child find themselves in the role of a referee. They quickly learn that breaking up every fight between their kids will drain them. Therefore, they learn to teach their kids basic conflict resolution skills and guide them to solve problems on their own. Many times mothers model this behavior while resolving conflict with their spouses with the hope that children pick up the lessons and implement them in their own way. As the effectiveness of every organization relies on their employees’ ability to constructively deal with conflict, you are equipped to mediate with poise.
At work and at home, mothers are masters of these leadership skills because they possess a growth mindset. If you have the desire to rejoin the workforce, take some time to jot down the core competencies needed for your future job and use your experiences to illustrate your points. This exercise can serve as a jump start and give you the confidence needed to communicate your value proposition. Remind yourself that you went from employee to CEO while running your household.