Mothers use a myriad of management skills throughout the day. Make those skills work for your career, too.
How many times have we heard mothers are the true superheroes in our world? Multitasking masters, proper prioritizers, consummate communicators and let’s not forget purveyors of snacks… we may have made up some of those words, but you get the point. Being a great mom, like being a great manager, is about much more than simply telling people what to do and when to do it.
Great managers, like moms, are natural leaders. They build a culture of trust, candor and accomplishment. They have teams of people that love their jobs and feel lucky to go to work everyday.
And, when seen in action, they seem a little magical. Rest assured though, it isn’t magic. A large part of their success as leaders is that they work hard on developing appropriate soft skills. And, in fact, many of the same soft skills that lend themselves to being a great mother are also what makes a great manager.
And the data backs it up: According to a report by WerkLabs, the presence of moms in the workplace results in a 23% more positive employee experience, as well as greater workplace inclusivity, heightened productivity and an increase in retention. All of these positive work environment points go hand-in-hand with highly developed soft skills.
What exactly are soft skills?
Soft skills, defined as personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people, are related to our attitudes and intuitions—which mothers are well-known for. These skills are valuable because they enable people to function and thrive in teams and organizations as a whole. In fact, a productive and healthy work environment depends heavily on managers with great soft skills. After all, the workplace is an interpersonal space where relationships must be built and fostered, perspectives must be exchanged and, occasionally, conflicts must be resolved.
What soft skills do mothers cultivate that are useful in the workplace?
You don’t have to be a mom to learn how to manage like one. So whether you’re here to hone your own mom skills into management skills or just learn from the masters, let’s take a look at the soft skills that can help you manage like a mom:
Adaptable people are able to respond effectively to their conditions, even in situations where things do not go as planned. Think about it in a professional scope—you’re ready to give a large presentation and your computer dies on you with no sight of being fixed that day. Or, you have a deadline looming over you and your work partner comes down with the flu, leaving the last minute tasks completely in your hands. What do you do?
Any mother who has had a child decide they aren’t actually going to change out of pajamas for the day when you are already running late or that they no longer enjoy bananas after asking for, and receiving one, understands that having a flexible approach to unexpected situations helps ensure that everyone involved has a better experience and outcome.
Being adaptable to challenges showcases your ability to be resourceful in many situations, a key skill to success in any workplace. It also demonstrates your leadership skills, analytical abilities and determination to succeed. Employees and leaders who are adaptable typically work well on their own and with team leaders. Adaptability is a highly valued trait for these reasons and more, and one that mothers have learned over years of parenting trials.
Experience is gained. Information is taught. But, having a great work ethic—being reliable, punctual, accountable and capable of working through hard situations—is a skill that surpasses both.
In fact, there is very little that can outweigh the importance of a good work ethic. With this trait you show that you are interested in performing in your role to the best of your ability and in upholding the values and goals of your team and company. Having an upstanding work ethic is an important part of any successful endeavor, professional or personal.
Think now of the dedication of a parent of a newborn—someone who gets by on snatches of sleep and still manages to lovingly care for another person’s every need. The qualities attributed to a strong work ethic are things mothers naturally tap into.
And once you are aware of what that strong work ethic looks like it’s easy to incorporate it into your work experience. It might look like taking on tasks that aren’t as interesting because you know it’s something that needs to be done or doing a short sprint to meet a deadline at the sacrifice of something else in your life. Tap into a strong work ethic to help you realize success at work, just as parents have done since the dawn of time.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use and manage your own emotions in positive ways to empathize with others, communicate effectively, defuse conflict and overcome challenges, among other things. High emotional intelligence can help you navigate the social complexities of the workplace, lead and motivate others and excel in your career.
Why is that? Well, mothers have figured out that when it comes to happiness and success in life, emotional intelligence matters just as much as intellectual ability. So how can you tap into this superpower of moms? Take a look at these four attributes that make up most common definitions of emotional intelligence to start.
Common attributes of emotional intelligence:
- Social awareness
- Relationship management
If you are able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors you are engaging in self-management. You’ll also want to manage your emotions in healthy ways, learn to take initiative more often, be sure to follow through on your commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances in pursuit of this trait.
Being self-aware is a very powerful ability. If you can recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and/or behaviors you are a step ahead of the game. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, how you are working on them or using them. And have self-confidence that you are doing the work to be the best version of yourself.
Social awareness is also known as empathy. With social awareness you pick up on emotional cues from others, you are socially comfortable and you can see various power dynamics in groups or organizations. You also can understand the emotions, needs and concerns of others, even if they are dissimilar to you.
Lastly, if you know how to develop and maintain good relationships; if you communicate clearly; if you inspire others you know the importance of relationship management. Working well in a team and addressing conflict before it spirals out of control are hallmarks of a manager that cares about positively managing relationships.
Emotional intelligence helps you build stronger relationships, succeed personally and professionally, and achieve your goals. It can also help you to connect with your feelings, turn intention into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to you. This connection that mothers bring to their relationships can be learned if you are willing to work on it.
Have you ever had the pleasure of trying to communicate with a toddler on, well any topic really—why they have to wear shoes, why they can’t live on candy alone or why you have to leave for work? If so, then you understand how clear and concise communication skills are not only necessary, but they greatly benefit everyone involved. If not, then you can learn a few things from the tools used in these conversations.
Successful communication involves multiple points—listening and talking, yes. But also reading body language, negotiation, persuasion and storytelling. A good communicator understands the importance of maintaining good eye contact, tailoring your language to your audience, and presenting your ideas in appropriate ways.
The power of communication is in a mom’s skillset and the benefits spread far and wide for companies and teams that tap into that advantage.
Responsibility for one's actions, words and performance is crucial for success in the workplace. Responsible people take credit for successes but also take blame for their failures and learn from their mistakes. And when you conduct yourself responsibly, you build integrity, trust and the respect of your coworkers and direct reports.
As any mom can tell you, a big part of being responsible is doing the right thing even when no one is watching—especially when no one is watching. It is one character trait we hope to instill in the future generation we are raising and something we strive for as parents regularly. And, as parents, we are always in charge of doing the right thing when no one else is looking (or appreciating the efforts.)
Professionally, this means doing things like working hard to minimize resources and supplies or completing your job on time without repeated requests. As a professional, no one has time to babysit you and you shouldn’t expect that, even if your manager is a literal mom.
Problem solving as a manager is a key skill to master. What do you do if you have an employee that doesn’t work well with another? Or someone who gets upset if their suggestions aren’t used for a project? What if an employee is always late and it’s starting to affect other people on the team? Problem-solving skills require quickly identifying the underlying issue and implementing a solution.
So the first step to success in this skill is awareness. You know that saying about how moms have eyes in the backs of their heads? We obviously know it’s a joke, but it became a joke because of how much awareness moms have of their surroundings. This awareness seems intuitive, but it’s honed by simply paying attention with all your senses and noticing what is happening but also what is absent.
The second step of problem solving is identifying a solution, sometimes even multiple solutions. This requires elements of communication, creativity, dependability, decision-making, leadership and comprehensive analysis. Finally, a great manager will monitor progress of the solution(s) and make adjustments as necessary.
The best part of this soft skill? Problem-solving soft skills usually allow an employee to prepare for problems before they happen, saving time, energy and aggravation on all sides.
Ability to work under pressure
Working under pressure means having grace when dealing with constraints outside of your control. It is a super strength and something most mothers are well versed in. As a manager you might face resource or time constraints, a more difficult task than anticipated, insufficient knowledge or an unforeseen change or problem that arises when working on a project or with an employee.
When this comes up, look to the grace under pressure moms exhibit for a way to succeed. Somehow moms manage to stay calm in situations that seem supremely stressful. They are able to adjust the frame of thinking and quickly change priorities on the fly, all without getting flustered. How do they do it?
Take a page from a mom’s book—practice taking deep breaths and counting to ten to calm down. Moms also know when to take a physical break and walk away for a short period of time, anything from one minute to longer works, when things feel overwhelming. And they preplan—fuel your bodies with good food, plenty of rest and exercise to help yourself be in the best mindset possible before the pressure ever starts. Whether you are thinking about handling pressure before it happens or as it’s occurring, you can use some of moms’ best practices to get a foot up on dealing with it in a more positive manner.
Time management is about working smarter, not harder, something every mother can appreciate. When you have time management skills you can enable yourself or other people to get more and better work done in the same or less amount of time because you are maximizing the effectiveness of an individual’s efforts.
Mothers are excellent at prioritizing tasks and always build in buffers for responsibilities so steal these two points to increase your own time management capabilities. If you can do those two things and also learn how to say no to too many requests you’ll be well on your way to managing time like a pro.
Moms are boss
Soft skills are the difference between adequate managers and ideal managers, between the manager that tells you what to do and the leader that inspires you, between a manager of a workplace that suffices to pay the bills and one that makes you glad to jump into your job everyday.
And mothers around the world are already excelling at them.
Moms know how to guide and support people they are in charge of instead of demanding a job gets completed or just doing tasks themselves. They are excellent cheerleaders and supporters. They have an abundance of patience. And they work hard to build trust.
At the end of the day mothers care deeply. They care about their work, the world and the people around them. They care about making things better, as fair as possible and worth doing. And those are qualities anyone should want in a leader.
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