10 leadership lessons to learn from working mothers

Having a Working Mother Works for Daughters
Having a Working Mother Works for Daughters

Two busy female executives share the ways their work and families are better off because of what they've learned at home and on the job.

While it might not seem obvious, mothers and business people have a lot to learn from each other. At least that's according to two executives at Chicago-based staffing and recruiting firm LaSalle Network who shared with me how their careers have taught them to be better mothers and vice versa. Here's what Chief Revenue Officer Maureen Hoersten and Chief Recruiting Officer Krisi Rossi O'Donnell have to say about the subject.

1. Moms should have mentors, too.

Most business people understand the importance of finding someone who can lend advice, connections and advocacy. This person should be successful, and not just the person sitting in the next desk. It's the same when it comes to parenting. "Look at mothers whose kids you respect and want your kids to be like," says Hoersten.

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2. Respecting people's time is important at work and home.

Anyone who looks at a phone during one of Hoersten's meetings has to throw $5 into a jar. She thinks staying present in the moment and respecting others' time is so important that she keeps the same rule at home. Whether it's at the park with her two young daughters or sitting around the dinner table with the whole family, phones are off limits when family members should be paying attention to each other.

3. A positive demeanor primes a person for success.

This applies to both work and home. No one wants to be around a complainer or someone who tends toward negativity. In business, positivity and a smiling face help a person get ahead. Within a family, laughter equates with bonding and healthy relationships. "There is even a TED talk that pointed out kids who smile in their school pictures tend to be more successful," Hoersten says.

4. There's likely a reason behind bad behavior.

Just like a tired or hungry child may act out, there may be a non-work reason someone on your team is being difficult. "If someone is off, there might be something going on in his or her personal life," Hoersten says.

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5. Adept managers and good parents use a unique approach with team members and children.

Just like two children within a family often are completely different, employees in an organization vary in terms of personalities and motivations. Whether they're visual or auditory or respond to time spent with them or praise, Hoersten says the best way to handle kids or workers is to take the time to understand what makes them tick.

6. Time management is critical for success.

Anyone who's ever gotten a couple of little kids dressed and out the door to arrive on-time somewhere knows the value of focus and organization. "Being a mother has made me appreciate getting my ducks in a row and being conscious of other people's time," Rossi O'Donnell says.

7. Prioritizing attention is a critical skill.

Imagine two children are throwing a fit, yelling or otherwise demanding your attention. Who do you handle first? Understanding who needs your focus first is a valuable skill in the office, as well. If you're talking with one coworker and another approaches waiting to cut in, Rossi O'Donnell acknowledges the second person while making sure to stay tuned on what the first person was saying. "It's important to communicate that you're paying attention to both people, but the second person just needs to wait," she says.

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8. Usually, there's more than one right way to do something.

Just like her children don't always agree with Rossi O'Donnell's plans, people at work often will have a perspective different from your own. Successful people, she says, aren't stubborn about the specific means to reach an end.

9. Remaining calm within a storm is the best way to have a good outcome.

Reactionary behavior is never the best way to handle a crisis, whether it involves drama on the playground or an unhappy client. "It's important to remain calm while figuring out how to find a solution and make it happen," Rossi O'Donnell says.

10. Families can be better because of a working mother.

Rossi O'Donnell says she appreciates that her own mother stayed home while her father worked, but a working mother can be an asset to a family, as well. Not only is she setting an example for her daughter as a busy executive who prioritizes spending high quality time with her children, her son sees his father helping in the kitchen and with other household matters. "It' a partnership in everything we do," she says. "My family is better because I work."

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Originally published