Post by Frances Cole Jones, contributing Women On Business writer
I get frequent emails from Moms who have been out of the workforce for a while and consequently have concerns about their ability to re-enter the fray. I also hear from Moms who are working, but have concerns they still don’t have the “right” skill set. Having no kids of my own, I’ve been able to give some business-y advice in the past, but haven’t been able to speak from first-hand experience. This past week, however, I took over the role of Mom for a friend’s three children, two girls and a boy, ages 10, 7, and 5. While my primary sensation has been one of exhaustion (Seriously, you people do this every day?? You should have golden, bejeweled altars built to you in town squares) I did make notes on a few things you really aren’t giving yourself credit for – skills that are invaluable in the work trenches:
You’re already a quick-change artist:
Everybody makes so much of Superman’s ability to switch from Clark Kent to Superman by popping in a phone booth, or Batman’s ability to switch from Bruce Wayne to Batman in the time he slid down a pole. After my week on Mom-patrol, I’m thinking this was made much of because they were men. (Notice please, this is not a superhuman skill for any female superhero.) Why? Because Moms are rocking these kinds of lightning-fast changes all day, every day. You go from short-order cook clothes, to school-drop-off-wear, to exercise togs, to cooking/science project sweats, to date-night dress without batting an eyelash. How is this helpful in a business context? Well, advice along the lines of “Keep an extra white shirt at the office in case of a food spill, ink explosion, or unexpected business trip,” is second nature for you. You’re likely to be both prepped for disaster and thinking two outfits ahead.
You’ve experienced the value of quiet time:
One of the big conversations right now is “What are the constant interruptions technology inflicts on us doing to our ability to concentrate?” The general consensus is that the result is poor. Any Mom who has instituted regular quiet time for her kids—time to play with a puzzle, read a book lie in a hammock and stare at a tree– knows this already. You’ve experienced first-hand the rejuvenating power of an interruption-free hour on your kids—not to mention yourself. Consequently, setting aside that hour for yourself, or instituting it as a policy with colleagues, isn’t going to be a big deliberation for you. It’s already a tool in your toolbox.
You’re a prime intelligence-gatherer:
If I were running the CIA, the first thing I would have my operatives do is spend some time watching the intelligence-gathering techniques of any Mom as she drops off or picks up her kid from school or camp. The fathers I observed tended to focus on actually looking for their child—a big loss in terms of updating their information on others. The moms, however, use their scan vision to keep an eye out for their kid, all the while gathering data on everything from what supplies are necessary for tomorrow’s field trip, to which kid bit their teacher. How is this helpful in a business context? I guarantee you’ll be the first to figure out what’s needed to get tomorrow’s off-site presentation on its feet, not to mention who’s on the short list to get promoted or laid off.
You’re a wily negotiator:
Any parent worth their salt knows a yes-or-no question is likely to net you the response you don’t want. For example, you don’t ask, “Do you want milk?” as the answer’s likely, “No!” Therefore you’re used to giving options. i.e. “Do you want milk or water? Do you want a saltine or a graham cracker?” etc. How is this helpful in a business setting? Because option giving is critical to the negotiation-process: it keeps the conversation alive, and allows everyone involved to maintain their dignity. You get that. You already knew you wanted that graham cracker yourself—and you knew offering that stale saltine was the way to get it. Now you just need to sub in money or line items for foodstuffs.
You’re a master storyteller:
Another frequent business conversation is, “How can we make our brand story compelling?” Too often, however, the people coming up with these plot lines have forgotten the timeless appeal of “Once upon a time…” They lead with what they want you to remember—they don’t make you want to remember it. But let’s face it, “The 3 Little Pigs” never would have gotten off the ground if it began, “Here’s why you should build your house out of bricks instead of straw.” You, however, get the power of “Once upon a time…” you’ve seen it engage the troops time after time. Applying it to whatever brand you’ve been put in charge of? Piece of cake.
I hope reading these has helped you remember, or reinforced, just a few of the extraordinary skills you hone daily.
Thank you for letting me be part of your ranks! You amaze me.