No, this isn’t a “your mom” joke post. Today I’ll share some thoughts on how to lead like your mom. I’m picking this topic today because it’s a gift for Mom’s birthday (and it’s cheaper than flowers… have you seen FTD’s prices lately?!?). That’s one of my favorite photos of her over there on the left.
I’d like to share some leadership lessons based on things Mom taught me. Last time I did a post like this, I covered leadership lessons from my dad for his birthday and it was really well received so I’m going to stick with something that works. So Mom, Happy Birthday! I love you! Thank you for all the things you’ve given me and taught me.
So here’s what Mom said…
Do Stuff You Don’t Like Because Other People Do Like It
We hate doing things we don’t like. Watching movies we hate. Going places we hate. There’s a reason we hate those things. The thing is, other people like them. When I was growing up, I used to play Dungeons & Dragons (if you’re under 25, go look it up on Wikipedia). I loved that game. Unfortunately I was a bit of a dork (Shocker! I PLAYED D&D!) and didn’t have tons of friends to hang with. We didn’t have teh interwebz then either. But you need two people to play the game.
Enter Mom. She created a character (a cleric – a healer… hmmm…). She named her Nomannic (she had made French toast that day so cinnamon was fresh on her mind). She played the game with me one afternoon. I loved it. I’m sure she didn’t exactly have a blast (what mom enjoys fighting basilisks and shambling mounds?). But she played because it was important to me. She put the person she was leading first. I’ve tried to emulate this with my own kids. I actually go to the mall with my 13 year-old daughter for several HOURS (and I actually go INTO the stores with their perfume spraying, bone jarring music, and disinterested staff). I don’t always do it well but I have been trying more frequently to do a better job of it.
So for you… when is the last time you set your interests aside and did something the members of your team wanted to do even though you really didn’t want to do it? Believe me – they’ll notice. They know what you hate. The fact that you suck it up and do it for them speaks volumes.
Get Mad in Public and Laugh in Private
Huh? That seems backwards, doesn’t it? One day my sister and I were home alone. We were about 11 and 9 at the time. We made mashed potatoes. We put Velveeta in them. It congealed. Mashed potatoes plus Velveeta plus congealing plus unsupervised children equals softball-sized ball of cheesy mashed potatoes being used for a game of catch. After catch got boring, my sister threw the potatoveeta ball at the ceiling. It stuck. It left a GIGANTIC grease spot that we couldn’t get off. We freaked out. I informed my sister I would be throwing her under the bus when Mom got home.
Mom got home. I didn’t even need to say anything. She looked at two innocent children being well behaved at the kitchen table and knew something was amiss. She immediately looked up and asked “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!?!?” Needless to say, the throwing under the bus commenced immediately. We both got punished and Mom was PISSED with a capital PISSED.
After the fact though, I’m sure she cracked up with Dad when she told him the story. How could she not? But for the sake of discipline, we needed to see that it was an egregious transgression. Had she let us in on the giggles, we wouldn’t have taken the act as seriously and could have done worse the next time. Sometimes people need to get in trouble and be punished.
So for you… when your team members mess up, do you let them off easy and laugh about errors when in fact you should be stern? Is the lax disciplinary environment and buddy-buddy nature of your relationship causing problems on the team? Might want to buckle down…
Be Affectionate. Uncomfortably So.
Moms are awesome at showing us love. My Mom is always going on and on about how much she loves me, gives me super-long hugs, tells me she misses me, and generally shows large amounts of affection. Sometimes it’s like “geez Mom, stop… I get it. I get it.” But on the inside it feels good and I’m happy to know she’s there. Mom is never too embarrassed to share her feelings and let me know how she feels about me regardless of who’s around. And that love and affection means a lot.
So for you… are you a stoic or do you let the members of your team know you care about them, value them, are proud of them, and want to be around them? Do they truly know how you feel? If not, you might want to consider sharing some of those things. It will make them feel more valued and more comfortable being a part of your team.
So Mom, Happy Birthday. Thanks for all the things you’ve taught me over the years and all the love and support you’ve always provided. I love you!
– Michael (or Michael Leon if you’re mad at me)