It’s one of the great debates of our time and has been for decades: how can one successfully balance both a career and parenthood?
And while some might say that dealing with tiny humans all day doesn’t prepare you for the business world, especially if you want to earn an MBA or start a business, the fact is that parents are often exceedingly well-prepared for either path. Many of the skills that make someone an excellent parent are transferrable to business, and it’s time for parents to stop selling themselves short and start recognizing that they have what it takes to succeed in any arena.
But First, the Bad News
While it’s more than possible to apply similar principles of leadership to both your family and the pursuit of an MBA or a new business venture, no one will ever claim that it is easy. Even those without significant family responsibilities will tell you how hard it is to get an MBA. There will be sacrifices, and you have to become an expert in time management. The most successful people recognize that they can’t be all things to all people and get help when they need it. This might mean budgeting for babysitters or housekeepers or delegating certain tasks to older kids or a spouse. You’ll also need to set clear boundaries. When you’re meeting with a project team, establish a firm ending time, and focus on staying on track so you don’t end up running behind. As a student, creating these habits early on allows you to develop the traits that you’ll need as a CEO. As a boss, your example will create a culture that values balance, something that many people want from their employer.
But What Does Story Time Have to Do With a Board Meeting?
If you have spent the last few years focusing on being mom or dad, you might be wondering how your in-depth knowledge of “Sesame Street” episodes or your ability to quell a tantrum in 3.2 seconds is applicable to the business world. But when you stop and closely assess your skills, you’ll see that you have what it takes. It’s just a matter of using them in a different setting.
For example, parents who are great leaders generally:
- Have great listening skills. Parents are adept at clearing through the noise (the endless descriptions of Minecraft) to uncover the most important details (a kid at school is being a bully, your son is struggling in math, etc.) These listening skills allow you to ask the right open-ended questions but also understand what employees need, whether it’s a chance to vent or some guidance on how to handle a tricky problem.
- Are excellent problem-solvers.Whether it’s lost homework or a fight with a friend, parents spend a good portion of each day solving problems. They are constantly looking for creative solutions, while also teaching their kids to solve their own problems — or avoid them in the future. As a leader, your role is much the same, only on a larger scale.
- Are good at setting and adhering to expectations. Great parents establish clear expectations of their children, as well as the consequences for failing to meet them. They create the culture of the home, and when expectations and consequences are clear, everyone thrives and things go smoothly. As a business leader, you’re a driving force in the culture of the organization, and it’s up to you to establish expectations — and yes, hand out consequences when necessary.
- Challenging and cheering for others. A parent’s number-one job is to help their children develop into functioning, well-adjusted adults. This means creating situations in which they can learn and grow and changing their approach if needed. They are also coaches and cheerleaders, supporting and encouraging their children along the way. It’s no different in business. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to develop your people to their full potential and provide support and encouragement to keep your team on track.
These are just some of the skills that overlap between parenting and thriving in the business world. It’s not even getting into the financial management, interpersonal communication and organizational skills that go into raising kids in today’s busy lifestyle. So, before you dismiss the idea of going back to school for an MBA or launching your own business because you think you don’t have the skills, or you’ve been out of the game for too long, think again. It’s very possible that you can excel at both.
About the Author
Jackie Roberson is a content coordinator and contributor that creates quality articles for topics like technology, business, entrepreneurship, home life, and education. She studied business management and is continually building positive relationships with other publishers and the Internet community.