This Mother's Day looks a lot different from years past. In recent months, I (like many others) have been working from home with my two kids, as well as two boarders from their school who came to stay with us after their dorms closed. I'm a single mom and CEO, so with four kids learning from home, our house is constantly abuzz with activity.
As we spend our days together, our roles in one another's lives are evolving. We are all co-workers, classmates, cheerleaders. We've become a mini team, not unlike teams at work or in a classroom.
In honor of Mother's Day, I want to reflect on what we've learned from one another during this time, and the lessons business leaders can apply to navigating this new normal.
Flexibility is the rule, not the exception.
As any entrepreneur will agree, your company is like your baby. You've worked so hard to bring an idea to life, and sometimes things will be going well until, suddenly, they aren't. Right now feels like that, and honestly, at times that's been hard to accept.
When I asked my 16-year-old daughter, Jana, about this, she explained we've all had to adapt. Learning from home, working from home--it's all new. So we have to acknowledge one another's needs, especially as they shift, and be willing to adapt. As we do, it gets easier.
It seems so simple, but as a laser-focused entrepreneur, it's something you might easily forget. Being flexible in your approach, and even your goals, is not only key to getting through this time, but it also opens the door for innovation that may not have happened otherwise.
You're the driver of your own progress.
One of our family's core values is lifelong learning. But, if you're like me, recently you've probably found it difficult at times to focus on work. I again asked Jana how she was holding herself accountable without the structure of the typical school day. She reminded me that it's all about passion and structuring her day around the things she's really interested in to keep herself driven and motivated.
Once you adopt that mindset, it can be powerful. Remembering what drives you can make all the difference. And I've always believed that as a leader, if you can empower yourself, you can empower others. It's so cool to see that come to life with my kids too.
Plus, lifelong learning can come in different forms--not just sitting in on Zoom calls. While we're home, my kids are learning things that they wouldn't in a classroom. For example, I recently released my memoir, Girl Decoded, and the kids have helped me do my virtual book tour from home. My daughter moderated several of my livestreams and my son is our tech support. We're trying new things together in spite of this challenging circumstance. Even from home, you can still find ways to grow.
Know when to step up and step in.
When I asked Jana about what she's taking away from this time, she said something that has stuck with me: "It's a lifelong skill to be able to know when to step in and when it's okay to step back."
She was referring to the fact that, last week, she did a lot of things around the house-- stepping up as I had mild symptoms of Covid-19 and was self-isolating. But this week, she's stepping aside to let the other kids (and me!) take a turn cooking, cleaning, and motivating each other to go outside.
Knowing when to step in and when to encourage autonomy is one of the most important qualities you can have as a leader. Especially in these challenging times, not everyone on your team is going to be at their best every day, and that's okay. Sometimes, you should step in to help, but balance that with knowing when you can step back, too.
What can the next generation of leaders learn from us?
Learning goes both ways. This is a unique opportunity to share lessons of your own to the next generation of leaders--our kids.
Jana says that from spending each day with me, she's seen the ups and downs of leadership and that companies are having to make tough decisions right now. She's learning that that's what leadership is about--sometimes it's fun and rewarding, but other times it's not so fun, and you have to own the challenges, too. It's all about how you handle it. Even if we're not all CEOs, we're all leaders--in our families, our schools, our communities.