Amidst the overwhelming evidence that parenthood is a blocker to career advancement for women, we’re setting out to bust the myths and highlight the reasons why we should not be talking about parents taking ‘time-out’ from their careers, but rather we should be celebrating that parenthood is brilliant training for leadership.
Sandy Griffiths talked about this at The Marketing Society launch event for the Wonder Women book. Here are just some of the marketing and leadership skills she has learnt as a parent.
When I first became a mother, I believed I had to place parenting and career in opposition to each other, thinking one had to suffer. Fortunately, over the years, this philosophy has changed. Parenting does not take away from your skill-set – it further builds your skill-set.
Sandy went on to highlight three area in particular:
When you have a child, nothing goes according to plan, nothing goes right, there’s no handbook on perfect parenting, and you can’t give the kids back and you can’t give up. It’s trial and error.
This teaches you to be more flexible and agile, how to change course quickly, how to always have a contingency plan, because if Plan A does not work, you better have a Plan B.
Building resilience is a massively important skill in marketing and leadership success.
LEARNING REAL EMPATHY
I always thought I had empathy – I did have empathy! But since becoming a parent my empathy has grown. Babies and young kids can’t articulate how they are feeling, so you have to be patient, tolerant, listen, dig a little deeper, to understand what the problem is.
With adults it is no different. When a team member is not performing, it is highly likely that there is something affecting this. As a leader, you need to be open to the conversation, listen and seek to understand what the problem is – empathise – you won’t know what their story is until they’ve told you what their story is.
So parenting taught me to listen deeper, read people better, learn, and see the nuances around behaviour. There is always a solution to the problem if you’re prepared to listen and learn the reasons why.
BEING A ROLE MODEL
Being a good role model as a parent is vital. It’s not ‘do as I say’, it’s ‘do as I do’ – kids mimic and learn from their parents. Whenever you ask a kid to do something, and they ask you 200 times – why? why? why? – it can get frustrating!
It’s the same in the workplace. If you are a leader and you’re not living the values and being a role model, you’re never going to be credible. People mimic good leaders, then they become the leaders of the future. Today’s millennials and Gen Z will not take anything at face value – so if you’re going to put values and behaviours on a wall, it’s best that you’re living those values yourself.
Post covid, we all want and need to build back better – so think about building in flexibility, designing jobs around parents and their lives, and appreciate the skills and experience that parenting brings to the workplace.
Watch out for tomorrow’s post in the motherhood and parenting series this week when Giles will be talking about Motherhood and his Journey of Discovery.