When I reflect on my 25-year entrepreneurial career the #1 mistake I made was acting like a mom when I should have been a leader. For many women, parenting becomes a default mode in business because we care about our employees, our clients, and our community. But parenting can be a BIG problem in business if it’s not balanced with a healthy dose of leadership.
What does inappropriate parenting look like in business?
For me acting like a mom looked like this:
#1 – Taking on others’ problems as our own: I’d envisioned creating a family-friendly work environment in my business. I didn’t want it to be a place where you checked your personal difficulties at the door. Unfortunately, I became overly invested in my employees’ problems; I worried about the older single woman who was embroiled in an estate dispute with her sister. I lent her money and gave her way more leeway in her work performance than I should have.
It wasn’t just my employees either. I had one client with what likely was mental illness and I just didn’t know it at the time. I patiently took his calls. I listened to his angry rants and tearful apologies about everything from his family to his own clients. I even intervened with HIS employees to keep them from quitting!
I was behaving in motherly ways, and it just wasn’t my place.
#2 – Acting like Mother Teresa: I was also prone to hiring charity cases. Operating a business in a small town, where qualified prospects were lacking, I hired people who displayed clear signs of unemployability from the get-go and didn’t fire them until performing employees almost rebelled. Like the young man who kept falling asleep at his workstation or the intern who stole from the canteen petty cash. I believed I could save them, but as a business owner, that simply wasn’t my job.
#3 – Mothering vs. parenting: Good parents lead by example and keep their children accountable consistently. That kind of parenting is different from the mothering and coddling I believed a family-friendly work environment requires. When I finally realized I was the worst HR manager, I delegated that role to my partner. Though I still tried to butt in because I felt he sometimes was being too harsh, he showed me how clear boundaries and accountability could create an even better, family-focused work environment.
Learning to stop acting like a mom was a hard but fundamental lesson I learned in my business. What are some life lessons you learned as an entrepreneur? Please share!
What Do You Think?
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Thanks for reading!