I've held many jobs in my day and learned lessons from every one of them. People who wait tables are the most fun people on the planet. Cubicles can steal your soul. And telemarketing is fun if you give yourself a fake name and have plans to find a new job ASAP.
But no job taught me more than when I coached business leaders for a large company. It turns out effective leadership principles are not only effective in corporate America, they work for moms too.
I didn't always look at my mom job this way. I mostly tried to survive each day drinking in the sweet moments and enduring everything else. I turned into a grumpier, unhealthy version of myself when I was living that way. Then I discovered a way to thrive while still being a mess. Here are three basic leadership principles that made me a better woman and a better mom.
1. You must have a way to evaluate your effectiveness
Employees need to know when they are winning at their jobs because winning feels good and employees who feel good do better work. It should be clear, measurable and within the employee's control
It can't be company profits because unless you're the CEO, that's not within your control. Instead, it should be behavior-based measurements that will most likely lead to success for the department or organization.
For example, when I waited tables, I was successful if I offered dessert to 90 percent of my tables. If I'd been judged on dessert sales and there was a Paleo convention in town, I would have failed. But if I just offered it to most tables, odds are there would be plenty of my kind of people who know that there's always room for cake, and I would sell desserts.
When I ask women how they know whether or not they've done a good job each day as a mom, they usually give me some version of, "If my kids are happy I did well." So we talk about how kids get to choose how they're going to feel and they will sometimes choose unhappy for no reason. They're kids.
And what if your child is upset because you won't let him play on the highway? It's OK to want happiness for your kids, but it's not the right measure of your effectiveness as a mom and because most of us don't think about it, it's the main one we use.
I use "I'm all here" time to evaluate my own success as a mom. I'm not allowed to multitask during this time. No phone, computer or housework. Instead I'm focused on really listening to their ridiculous stories, playing a game or even doing homework with them. And I require a minimum of 30 minutes daily. Side note: I don't do trampolines, anything related to the movie "Frozen," or board games that lower your IQ like Chutes and Ladders or Candyland.
I'm all here time is where I believe I will get the best result in my mom job because it's whenwe connect and I show them they are important to me. When I do it, I congratulate myself on a good day. When I don't do it I consider how I can do better.
I don't judge my day on the condition of my house (usually messy) or the state of my kids (moody at best). Those are things I still strive for, but they don't define my success as a mom.
2. The best jobs provide ongoing development
Most companies realize that the safest way to get an employee to do a job the way you want it done is to provide training. Ongoing development not only helps increase skill level, it can be motivating to the employee and increases job satisfaction. It sends a message about the value of the employee. Training costs money and companies don't invest money in people they don't value. You send your best employees to conferences and classes because you'll get the biggest return on your investment from them.
So mom, how do you invest in yourself? And parenting classes barely count. Your emotional health has a bigger impact on your kids than anything else. Studies show that whether mom stays at home or works is less indicative of a child's well-being than whether mom is emotionally healthy and happy. Focus on developing yourself as a whole by learning about the things that you are most interested in.
I read a lot of books, but I know that if I really want to learn something, I need a teacher. I enroll myself in at least one coaching program, class or conference every quarter to ensure I am getting the development opportunities I need to improve and to feel excited about myself and my life. There are a lot of opportunities to learn in today's world. Pick something and invest in yourself. You are worth the investment.
3. Work/Life balance is essential to avoid burnout
If you push employees to work harder and longer, you might see an increase in performance initially, but it is not a sustainable model of leadership. People will eventually burn out if they don't have work/life balance.
Moms are no different except that the line between "work" and "life" is blurry because your job is your life. If taking a shower is your only escape and nap time is so precious you can't decide what to focus on first, you may need more balance. Your mind is going to tell you it's impossible. It will tell you "there is nobody to help," or "I can't afford it," but if you remind yourself that you're capable of figuring it out, you'll find a way.
I have someone watch my kids at set times every week so I can have a break from that part of my life and focus on something else. I used to think I couldn't afford that, but now I know I can't afford not to and I figured out a way to pay for it. It's worth every penny. I want my kids to remember me as a happy healthy person, not as the burned-out, resentful, tired woman I am when I don't have balance.
In the end, I am my own boss. Nobody else is going to figure these things out for me. When I am a good boss to myself, I'm willing to do all sorts of tasks that aren't on the top of my list of favorite activities. When I neglect myself or don't pay attention to how I'm doing, I become a problem employee to myself and my family.
You can do this, mom. You're the most valuable employee on your team. God sent those kids to you because you are the one he wants doing the job. Apply these basic leadership principles and you'll find your success and your happiness on the up and up.