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Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
May 2003

My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.

    In this issue, you'll find:
  1. Leadership lessons Moms Learn
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. Up and coming workshops
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1. Leadership lessons Moms Learn.
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This has been a special Mother's Day for our family, the first we celebrated with our daughter as a new mom and with me as a new grandmother. Around Mother's Day it is natural to think about the advice we all got from our moms but have you ever thought about the wisdom you have learned from your children and from those you nurture? Whether you are a birth mother, adoptive mother, step mothers or someone who nurtures others in your life roles, you have learned much about yourself and others from those life roles and from the process of nurturing others.

When I started doing leadership development 20 years ago, I noticed how often women who were competent in their home roles discounted those skills in the workplace. They summarized years of their lives by saying, "I'm just a mom." What if our work resumes included some place for "Life lessons" the way we include "special skills" like speaking a non-native language?

To get some reflections on motherhood, I interviewed new mother, Christine Gray, who is learning lessons on life everyday from parenting her six week old son. Here are some of her observations on the lessons of motherhood and some of my reflections on the application of these lessons to our other leadership roles.

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Taking Risks
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Christine: Birth moms are aware they put their lives on the line to be pregnant and to give birth. That risk taking needs to extend throughout our lives. A woman in restaurant ladies room commented on my son as I was changing him, "He must be your second, you are out so soon." I didn't realize that as a first time mom, I should stay home. Sure it is a hassle to get my son and all his equipment out the door but this period is a beginning of a new phase of my life not the end to everything else. Many parents should pretend their first born is a second and parent as though they already have the confidence.

Susan's Leadership Lesson: The only way we grow is through change. Change is hard because it involves courage - not always the kind required to jump out of a plane but the ordinary kind of trying new things. It takes courage to return to work or school after being home with small children. It takes courage to cut back on a strenuous work schedule to spend more time with your family. It takes courage to leave corporate life and strike out on your own.

Do you continue to take risks to develop new products or services? Have you signed up for a course to learn new skills such as how to hire, fire, and supervise staff? What are the next set of risks you need to take and what is holding you back?

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Everything Takes Longer
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Christine: The first practical lesson I learned from being a mom is how long things take. I used to get myself ready, fed, and out the door in a 45 minutes. Now that I have another person who has to be changed and fed, it takes double the time to get out the door especially to allow for the extra burping - the baby's not mine. My new responsibilities are forcing me to learn more about how to manage my time and about concentration of power - like how to work on my research when the baby naps rather than doing routine household tasks I can do when he is awake.

Susan's Leadership Lesson: Time management experts say that people consistently underestimate the time it takes to complete a task.

  • If you have done a task before, multiply your time estimate of how long it takes by a factor of 1.25 and you will have enough time to get ready, do, and clean up from the task.
  • If you are doing an unfamiliar task but know how long it takes someone else, multiply that number by a factor of 1.50.
  • If you have no estimate of the task time, guess anyway and multiply it by a factor of 2.
  • Keep track of your predicted and real time. The results will confirm how badly you estimate time and will lead you to more accurate guesses in the future. This tip is especially good for professionals who work on billable hours so you can give clients more accurate estimations of a job.
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Humor
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Christine: Babies arrive prepared to entertain the adults around them. Their sounds and facial expressions are hilarious. As we laugh at them, they see their own silliness and develop a sense of humor. Our kids help us see the incongruities of life. Our family tells a story about me that I don't believe for a moment. Supposedly, I asked when I was two, "Why is it when you sneeze, everyone says 'God bless you,' but when you pass gas no one says anything?"

Susan's Leadership Lessons: Humor is one of the healthiest coping strategies humans have. The funniest stuff of life is not in canned jokes that start with, "So this guy walks into a bar..." It is the everyday silliness and incongruities that make us laugh out loud. Children are natural humorists unless someone talks them out of seeing the world with the eyes of a child. Can you still see the silliness of life especially in yourself? I recently told a friend when I had no new thoughts on a subject that I was thoughtless. She agreed.

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Teamwork
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Christine: I am so glad that my husband and I are a good team. We have worked well together on many projects starting back in our student days. Now as new parents, our teamwork has paid off as we have had specific roles and duties to get through these first few weeks of diaper changes and nighttime feedings. One of our family friends said on her daughter's first birthday, "I don't know how single moms take care of a newborn. Even with the two of us, it's hard."

Susan's Leadership Lesson: Sometimes BossWomen feel they have to be Superwomen, being able to do everything to achieve balance between work and home. The best teamwork is to work from strength, doing what you do best and letting the rest of the team use their strengths as well. Do you know when you need help or do you have to struggle through everything by yourself? Do you have reliable help to support you in your many roles? Can you ask for help with a project and feel that it is ok? Are you able to define the roles and responsibilities of yourself and your team so that no one steps on others' toes?

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Mentors
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Christine: Mentors make any new role or job easier. We learn how to parent from our own parents but also from other sources as well, such as watching friends and siblings. My colleagues in the field of family science are always researching ways to increase the effectiveness of parent education programs, teaching skills to prospective and new parents that they might not have gotten in their own childhood.

Susan's Leadership Lesson: When you are taking on new tasks make it easy on yourself. Copy how other people do it until you have the experience to make it your own. You will need different mentors for different roles. Mom didn't know everything.

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Multitasking and Tracking
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Christine: I've always been a planner. One of my early career aspirations (inspired by Love Boat reruns) was to be a cruise director. My high school friends called me the "girl scout leader" because I was always the one making the calls and getting the rides for social occasions. As a mom I can see how I have to temper those natural organizational skills with flexibility to accommodate the unexpected feedings and last minute diaper and outfit changes.

Susan's Leadership lesson: Unlike Christine, I was not a naturally organized person. Suddenly, when I became a new mom, my usual work habits no longer worked. The distractions of childcare interfered with my concentration. The excellent memory that I relied on to hold multiple tasks simultaneously, turned to mushy baby brain. I had to learn a whole new set of tricks to combine good work and a good life. I tell my audiences and clients that my pain is their gain because I developed many tips and tricks to cut time off the learning curve for other busy women. For example, when I have to interrupt a writing task, I write a sentence or list of topics to come next so that when I sit back down to write, I will have zero warm-up time.

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Conclusion
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Much of what I know about motherhood I learned from mothering my child. There are many people in your life including children who can teach you what you need to know. I would love to collect the lessons of leadership you have learned from your mothering and caregiving roles. Send your stories to Susan@BossWoman.org.

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A Special Thank You
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To my daughter, Christine, for taking a moment out of the diapering, feeding, and burping to share her reflections on the challenges of being a new mother.

If you haven't done so already this month, take the opportunity to thank all of your moms:

  • Birth and adopted, step-moms, moms-in-law, grandmoms, and new moms.
  • And also to those who may not be anybody's mom but who mother us all: Including but not limited to teachers, health professionals, clergy and staff, bosses, administrative assistants, waitresses, civil servants like police and fire, and our military personnel.
Take care of yourself along with caring for others,
Susan Robison

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2. BossWoman Coaching
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About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach, speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who want improvement in:

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:
  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.
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3. Up and coming workshops
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Graduate course in "Leadership and Management of Non-Profits."
College of Notre Dame of Maryland
Susan Robison
Saturdays in the summer starting May 31, 2003.

"Transformational Leadership" The first in a series on developing leadership skills.
Susan Robison
July 14, 2003. 5:45- 8:00
Sponsored by the Executive Women's Network.
Place: TBA in northern Baltimore

"From Mother to Daughter: Wise Woman's Guide to Extraordinary Marriages."
Late July, 2003
Susan Robison and Christine Robison Gray
Place: TBA probably in western suburbs of Baltimore


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Copyright 2003 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without my permission.

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