My jaw dropped in disbelief. I sat wide-eyed across the table as the leader of a prominent company spiraled into an outright tantrum. Our organizations were collaborating on a large-scale project. It was not going well. Fists clenched and red faced, he hurled one irrational comment after another. His persistent obstinacy was stalling any rational conversation.
Then, it occurred to me. I’d seen this kind of behavior before—from my 3-year-old kid. From there, it seemed to make sense to try a similar approach that I would use to calm my child’s tantrum. If anything, it couldn’t make things any worse. So, I gave it a try. “It appears you’re upset,” I said, interrupting the executive’s fit. “Let’s hit the pause button for a second. Is there something you’d like to be heard about?”
With a heavy sigh, he nodded “yes” and relaxed his shoulders. “Actually, there is. I should have been consulted on the last key decision.”
There it is, I thought to myself. I asked him to tell me more. And as the words tumbled out of his mouth, I read between the lines and understood that his ego had taken a hit. Once he felt heard, we were able to move the conversation forward.
In short, my tantrum-diffusing tactic worked like a charm. I began to contemplate what other motherhood skills I could leverage in business. It turns out, there are many. Raising children is a training ground for running a successful business. I’ll share five game-changing principles to take on a CEO role—like a mom.
Rise to any occasion with focus
Ask any mom about her birthing experience and the story will likely start with a harrowing ride to the hospital, usually involving an adrenalin-filled driver white-knuckling it the whole way. What unfolds after that is anyone’s guess. No mother knows exactly what will happen once she arrives at the hospital. Yet, every mother knows that whatever it is, she’ll rise to meet it. She’ll draw upon a well of strength that she didn’t even know existed. Because whether you’re birthing a baby or a new iteration of your business, there’s one simple truth: it takes what it takes.
And what it takes is an immense amount of focus. Hence, this same will and determination is always in our back pocket, waiting and available for us to call upon. Most of the time, we don’t. It’s often uncomfortable, and it can be difficult to summon up this level of focus amidst life’s daily demands.
Here’s my suggestion: Plan to tap into it every half a year or every quarter, in order to jump-start innovative ideas. Further, plan a time of rest afterwards to celebrate and honor your accomplishment. After this period of fine-tuned focus, you’ll be amazed at the life you’ll have injected into your business.
Create a level of certainty
Creating a level of certainty is something that mothers do innately. In a mother’s mind, it’s not “if” her child will meet the next milestone, it’s “when.” For example, you won’t often hear a mother say, “oh well, my 2-year-old Johnny still isn’t potty-trained, so I guess he’ll never get it.”
No, this phrase simply isn’t part of a mom’s vocabulary. Instead, mothers keep trying different approaches. They check in on the timing. Consult others for advice. No matter what, the desired outcome remains fixed.
In business, the same approach prevails. If you believing a goal will be attained no matter what, this creates an atmosphere of certainty. It expands our thinking. It forces us to ask the better questions like: How could this happen? What resources do I need? Which approach should I try next? It opens us up to consider possibilities, alternatives, and innovations. Stay committed to the goal and flexible with the approach. Certainty is a powerful tool. Put it to use and watch your success skyrocket.
Trust your gut
There is plenty of debate over whether or not maternal instinct actually exists. Regardless of the research, it’s hard to deny that moms have a keen awareness and connection with their children. In my own experience, I knew every slight variation of my son’s cries. I experienced instinctual hits when something was “off.” As a mom, I relied on my intuition and trusted my knowing. Similarly, it’s important to know when to trust your instincts in business, too. Often referred to as “business IQ,” intuition is a CEO’s intangible skill that combines an elite sense of awareness, anticipation, and vision in your field.
Business can be driven by tangible measures of success: profit margin, number of clients. Tapping into our intuition allows us to see what’s possible. It lends the CEO the freedom to consider opportunities from a place of “what feels right.” I challenge you to go a step further. Bring your intuition to every board meeting, client pitch, and new project. Try to set an intention before each interaction. Consciously create from a place of alignment in your business. The results you encounter may pleasantly surprise you.
Mothers adapt their parenting based on the needs of their child, and, actually, these needs evolve. For example, a baby graduates from milk to baby food to solids. You would never attempt to teach your toddler geometry. Nor would you take your 10-year-old out for driving lessons. Rather, a mother assesses their child and nurtures accordingly.
Being a nimble leader has a direct and profound application in business. Too often CEOs treat their business today the same way they did 10 years ago by investing in the same areas again and again. This is the equivalent of feeding your teenager pureed pears when they’ve clearly outgrown them. So try to meet the needs of the business now, particularly by expanding on the strengths and developing the weaknesses. Zoom out and make an assessment from that fresh perspective. If you’re having trouble getting a clear picture, bring in an outside resource who can objectively provide feedback. From there, you can allocate resources in a way that propels the company forward.
Keep your ultimate goal in mind
Years ago when my son was a baby, we went to a friend’s house for a play date. As my friend and I chatted over coffee, her older son came bouncing down the stairs with a laundry basket in tow. “What’s he doing?” I asked.
“Laundry,” she said.
“Really? At eight years old, he does his own laundry?”
“Yes, I am, after all, raising a child to be independent one day. If I continue to do it for him, he’ll never learn. And someday, his wife will hate me.”
My friend’s blunt explanation stuck with me. Needless to say, when my son turned eight, I taught him to do his own laundry.
As CEOs, our primary job is to lead. Yet, too many CEO’s are so busy working in their business that they do not have the bandwidth to set a clear direction and implement a plan to get there. A business that is dependent on the CEO’s involvement in day-to-day operations is going to struggle. If this is a place you find yourself, work to create systems and processes that can be managed by talented people. Then, hire talented people. Because your company needs you to spend your time driving results and creating opportunities.
The trenches of motherhood provide a treasure trove of effective business tactics. Skills honed from years of caring for tiny humans have turbocharged the results I’m able to generate as the CEO of a successful company. These are just a few. I hope you found them helpful.
Amy Pocsik is the CEO and a cofounder of the Women’s Business League, a networking community for women in business.