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 your experiences and thoughts below. Let’s learn from one another and celebrate each other’s successes.
Thanks for reading!