You wouldn't think you'd learn lessons about being a better mother from an executive. But that's exactly what happened when I met Alan Mulally at the 100 Coaches seminar run by Marshall Goldsmith. Alan is the legendary Ford Company CEO who was responsible for turning the auto giant from the brink of bankruptcy.

Here are 3 sets of lessons, one from Alan's mother I've since adopted; one from Alan's own corporate vision, People First; and the last set from his family rituals.

Lesson Set #1:

Alan Mulally said that his mother repeated 3 things to him every day, over and over again, like a mantra:

  • The purpose of life is to love and be loved, in that order.
  • To serve is to live.
  • It is nice to be important, but more important to be nice.

When Alan shared these simple but profound sentences with us I took them home and told my children I learned these three lessons from a friend. I now repeat them to my kids so that they will be ingrained in their minds and hearts. But honestly it is as much for them as it is a reminder for me.

These mantras are all interconnected. You need to be nice to be loved. Success comes from being at the service of others. And to be at the service of people, you need to love them. That brings me to what Alan taught us next:

Lesson Set #2:

People first. This is the first line from the Principles and Practices section from Alan's Working Together Management System. Everything else flows from this essential principle. In other words, nothing else matters if you don't put people first.

For Alan People first is embodied in his leadership behavior in different ways--

  • As a leader, you need to enable people to learn
  • You let everybody know the plan
  • If everybody knows the plan, you're showing vulnerability, authenticity and trust
  • Be clear, because if you don't understand it, neither will they
  • Talk less and listen more
  • Ask people what they think of you, because you can work with those gems
  • Be consistent

It is intuitive for me to put people first for my family. Having said that, I know I can be a better mom if I practice each of the above consistently. Especially talking less and listening more! Having everybody in my family know the plan makes so much sense yet I have to admit we often don't talk about the plan. And asking my family what they think of me takes courage but it also means I am willing to change. These are things I will be working on.

Lesson Set #3:

Alan, who has 5 kids, also shared how he applied his famous Business Plan Review (which he credits for his ability to turn around Ford Company) with his family. Consistently, every Sunday, he, his wife and their kids had a routine:

  • Put everything back in your room
  • Do laundry and sort socks for 7 people!
  • Review everyone's schedule for next week and what they need schedule it in your work schedule
  • And he gave this valuable tip for parents of teens--"if you're going to do something that will affect the whole family, let's talk about it!"
  • Pass out allowances.

My goal for 2017 is to apply this with my family. I love the consistency of the review (and for my family the hardest part will be the consistency of doing it every Sunday but I will try); sitting around the table to plan our week so that everyone knows the plan (which reinforces Everyone knowing the plan from lesson set #2), and reinforcing the idea that we're all interconnected and that one thing that you do can effect the whole family.

Thank you Alan Mulally for being a hero to me and sharing your life lessons. And a shout out for my friend Marshall Goldsmith, author of the Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Triggers, who introduced me to Alan and brought us together. Lessons I have learned from Marshall will be next!

Do you have lessons you've learned as a leader that you're applying in your family? I would love to learn from you.

Design the life and work you love!