When I first got the news that I was expecting my third child, I was a mix of thrilled and terrified. After all, it's been almost eight years since I last gave birth, and I'm running a company that's in high-growth mode. But strangely enough, I've found that becoming pregnant actually helped me focus in ways that I couldn't before. Don't get me wrong--I'm not suggesting everyone go out and get pregnant to become a better leader, but I do think there are some lessons to be learned from entering a situation that, once begun, is somewhat out of your control. Here are three ways in which pregnancy has made me a better boss.
Forced Timeline: The pregnancy came at an interesting time. I was feeling bored with our current business model, we weren't growing fast enough, and competitors were swooping in quickly. I felt stuck. At just a few weeks pregnant, I knew that in about eight months, I'd be out of the office for at least a few months. If a change was going to happen, it had to happen now. I immediately spent time thinking about what makes us different and how we could truly create a model that would help speed up and direct our growth. I revamped our positioning, refreshed our website, and focused our services--all in a few short months. Why? Because I knew that, as the leader, I was the only one who would direct the team to make such fundamental changes --and my time was limited. Sure, I could have stuck with the status quo this year, but I knew that would leave us simply running in circles for another year, with competitors gaining steam. I found that the forced timeline of knowing that I'd be out for a while really helped me move out of inertia.
Forced Delegation: As entrepreneurs, we tend to experience "super hero syndrome." We think that no one cares as much as we do about our business, and therefore no one will be better at doing what we do. But that's simply not the case. As you grow and hire a team, make sure you're delegating as much as possible. For me, I have a really hard time letting go of sales and marketing. But when I became pregnant, I found that focusing entirely on vision allowed the rest of my team to show me what they were made of. After all, hoarding all your favorite parts of the business can result in you being a true bottleneck, and that hurts more than it helps.
Forced Prioritization of Self Care: I often have to remind myself to put myself first, but there's no time where I'm more comfortable doing that than when I am pregnant. I guess it's because caring for me means caring for the small human growing inside of me, so it feels much more natural to say: "Nope, that's not going to work for me right now." I found myself suddenly able to prioritize what worked for me and delegate what didn't to key team members. And the amazing thing was that I found that the areas that didn't work for me did seem to work for other people. My chore was their challenge. My stress was their savior. I took better care of myself, and they got more challenging work that mattered to them.
I'm now eight months into my pregnancy and our business (and my belly) is growing rapidly. While my choice may not be the choice for every leader, I ask you to consider this: Act as if you're leaving in six months. What needs to change to make your business the most successful that it can be?