Duty. Are you Mister or Mrs Responsibility?

Duty. Are you Mister or Mrs Responsibility?

Last week my six-year-old son received the ‘Responsibility’ spotlight award. Apparently, it is a big thing when you are a first grader at his elementary school.  I was proud but also a little bit worried. Perhaps it is too soon to be responsible. The word that I heard many times as a child was: ‘Duty’. Duty was a trendy word in 1986 in Eastern Europe, but now it is completely out of fashion. It is responsibility the word that a first grader in the US is taught.

So where are you, my dear reader when it comes to Duty and Responsibility? Do you like it, do you hate it, does it drive you?

When it’s 6. 15 0 am and the alarm goes off, do you jump out of the bed? Why do you do that? There is one answer to it: Duty.

As many parents and working people do, I also get out of bed at 6.15. When I enter the room of my 6-year old (Mrs. Responsibility) there is yawning, screaming, sleep- walking towards the washroom and sometimes rejection of every T-shirt. There is complaining about my taste in socks, but after 15 minutes we manage to get to the kitchen for breakfast.

I don’t like my mornings and I even wonder whether raising kids with a strong sense of discipline and duty from such a young age is a good think. We are no different than the communists who were preparing the five-year old children like me to become pioneers. But what else can we do?

The society rules are clear – the school is offered but the discipline comes with it. I hate to say it, but in the morning, I am not the patient leadership coach who gives clients the time to think. In the morning with the kids, I am a tough soccer coach with a whistle and a timer in my hand. I am cheering them up and ushering them towards the front door to catch the school bus.

In leadership training, one of the most often question we pose when it comes to the life’s purpose is: What gets you up in the morning? I always struggled to come up with an intelligent answer to that one – the truth is there are only 2 things for me: the alarm clock or one of my kids showing up next to my bed.

In fact, what lies behind the alarm clock is the word Duty. …the duty towards the employer who pays you salary or the client you serve, but ultimately it is the duty towards your family or even the future family if you are planning for one at some point.

In this new world of purpose driven mission statements, duty is a world we don’t like. To me it felt old-fashion, it reminding me of the communist propaganda from the first 10 years of my life in Romania. To a lot of my friends from The Netherlands, duty sounds like attending the extended family birthday parties or even worse like the catholic church.. Here in America duty is associated with army and patriotism.

But, still if we were to give ‘Duty’ the credit it deserves in the world, we would soon realize that Duty is what makes the world move.

It did so ever since humans started to organize themselves in social units called families.  As the social forms got sophisticated Duty became the driving force behind churches, armies and countries, it is what makes the 7. bil people on this planet subdued, obedient and compliant to the order of things. Duty is often hidden in words such as Love, Dedication, Loyalty and Patriotism.   Still, Love without duty is simply a fleeing affair, loyalty without duty is an empty word and Patriotism without duty is hypocrisy. 

Despite our reluctance to admit it, for generations and generations the primary duty of any girl was to become a woman and bear children. It will take years of feminist movements to remove that predefined norm in so many of our societies. As early as the age of 3 we start observing our mothers who dutifully attend to our feeding and nurturing needs and without realizing we learn why is it important. Later, in school we learn to practice duty in small steps, by learning to obey rules and doing our homework.

There is still a short period of our life, when we are ultimately free of that clenching gasp of Duty – the teenager rebel time. We think that we escaped it  but when we are not paying attention, a new duty might come into play and that is the Duty to our GANG of friends.

Later, as a young adult you go to work in an organization and you learn duty to your boss and to your team, in order to get the monthly salary to feed your family. The Circle is complete and the next 30 to 40 years until your retirement, you are driven by this invisible force that makes you do things you don’t want. While Responsibility and Duty for the others is important, where is the DUTY to ourselves? What kind of responsibility do we have to keep our health and mind sane until the end? What kind of responsibility do we have towards our childhood dreams.

How can we keep our eyes open to see duty for what it is. When we turn 80 or even older and we look back on our life – what will we think it’s important and  what will be our regrets?

👍Steliana van de Rijt-Economu, the author ‘Mothers as leaders‘ is a leadership and positive intelligence coach.

Check out  Mothers as Leaders for our coaching and training offer for parents, leaders and organizations

It’s ok to feel alone, even when you are not alone

It’s ok to feel alone, even when you are not alone

When someone tells you, ‘I feel alone’ , your heart breaks and every human bone in you wants to save him. Still, is that the right thing to do?

Loneliness is one of the strongest emotions. It can be the cause of dangerous self-harm decisions or even depression but, when harvested properly, this strong emotion can lead to some of the most innovative pieces of art, music or creative writing. Did you know that during the isolation from the plague Shakespeare wrote ”King Lear’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’? Sir Isaac Newton was quarantined when he devised his Theory of Gravity and his law of motion, while Mary Shelley wrote ‘Frankenstein’ during a massive volcano eruption.

In a 7 billion people world that invests heavily in digital social platforms, hybrid communities, clubs, dating aps, festivals and overcrowded campuses there seems to be no space for feeling alone, just with your thoughts and feelings… for feeling the pain of loneliness, digesting it, without having to talk about it or needing reassurance. The more we postpone the need for ‘loneliness’ and the need for deep self-reflection, the more we deprive our inner artist and the Sage within us to create and to make sense of the world around us.
The pandemic and lock-downs made loneliness taboo.

If you are feeling alone there is no rational argument that is going to convince you otherwise. Loneliness is an emotion not a rational thought. Still, people around you will try to cheer you up. Family, friends, team-mates and even nice neighbours will jump in the saviour role when hearing the word: ‘alone’.

The only time when loneliness seems to be accepted in modern society is when people get older and they retire or loose their partner. Unfortunately that’s when they need other people most.There is an expectation that children, teenagers, young people and even middle-agers need to spend every minute of their life learning, having fun, socializing or being productive. There is no time for being lonely.

The best time to get comfortable with the emotion of loneliness is when you move from childhood to puberty and young adulthood

I grew up in a large family and we did a lot of fun stuff at the farm. I was always surrounded by people and animals but my most vivid memories, when my view of the worlds got shaped, were the lonely moments when I was hiding under the dinner table during the day while everyone else was outside. It was during those moments that I started to draw, write poems and dream about the world.

Because I learned not to be afraid to be alone, I took my time in choosing a partner. After being happily married for more than 10 years, my husband still jokes about my need for space and my right to be left alone.

As a parent I wonder how much time do I allow weekly for my children to be truly free to experience loneliness and the company of their own person.We tell our kids about unconditional love and self-acceptance, but how can you develop compassionate love for yourself, if you didn’t take the time to fully experience and enjoy loneliness.

There is a way to harvest loneliness. You can transform it from being the emotion that drags you down a hole of inertia into being the emotion that awakens your creative side of your brain.

Try these simple habits:

1. Allow your body to notice and fully experience the inner lonely emotion.

2. Stop judging and blaming yourself for feeling lonely – it’s ok, you are not alone in being alone.

3. Reframe loneliness into a positive outcome by asking yourself:

– What am I Iearning about myself and the world during these moments of loneliness?

– Which inner power am I developing as I am going through this?

– What do I feel inspired to initiate because of my pain and loneliness?

4. Start keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings during the moments of loneliness and during the moments of happiness – by reading its pages, in time, you will demystify the feeling of being alone and give it the right place.

A recent 2020 study shows that when you get lonely, that’s when you can become incredibly creative. The part in your brain involved in memory and social recognition goes through changes when you experience loneliness and the part of your brain involved in developing imagination expands.It’s almost as if you create space for innovation.

Next time when you feel lonely intercept the voice of your inner judge who might tell you that you are a victim of circumstances, or of the other people.

Instead, allow yourself the opportunity to grow the creative genius in you.

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Steliana Economu is the author of Mothers as Leaders and a leadership coach specialised in positive intelligence and EQ. If you liked this article and want to enjoy more of this type of resources do follow mothersasleaders.com

The busy ‘hybrid’ life! What can you cut-back on?

The busy ‘hybrid’ life! What can you cut-back on?

Time management is the number one issue quoted in most of my coaching sessions. Moms are famous for ‘to do lists’  instead of ‘cut-back’ lists.  The best lessons in prioritization I took during our move from Europe exactly a year ago – we had 30 days to use that one-entry exception visa. When the Mission is clear and the boundaries specific, you find creative ways to cut-back on energy wasting activities.

What is your ‘crisis’? What will motivate you to cut-back on non-adding value activities in your job? 

In our enthusiasm of getting back to normal after 2 years of pandemic, we can open the gate to a new suite of activities that were not there before: networking events, face-to-face meetings, social engagements or obligations. These new agenda items get added to our previous virtual meetings at 6.30 am. Building social connections is important but how can you choose to what to say ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ to.

Instead of the traditional Importance/ Urgency time management matrix, trying using 2 other dimensions:

  • What gives me/drains my energy?
  • What adds value to my business  or my personal  goals…and what doesn’t?

How much family-chores do you do comparing with the rest of the family? Can you share more with your partner? Can you convince your kids to do more? What training and incentives do they need?

In today’s hybrid work of working 2-3 days in the office and 2 from home, we can find ourselves working all the time. Because when you finish the meetings and other networking events you still find yourself with all the follow-up emails and tasks that end-up being completed Friday night or even worse during the weekend.

At home you still have your family, partner, pets .. and there are still the little house chores. Even the most privileged among us that can afford a regular cleaner and fresh ready made-meals delivery end up with weekly chores.  That’s life when you have children… or pets, or other family members to care for.

My wake-up call came few weeks back when I had to quarantine from my family  – at the end of the 5-days there was a disaster zone. I realised that I never taught my children of 7 and 10 how to do the ‘basics’ when I am not there. Dirty dishes were left on the counter and socks on the floor. The crisis showed me that I need to train my kids to do house-chores and to execute their daily ‘beauty’ routine without me.

Together with my husband we made a Family Weekly activities list and ‘invited’ the kids to choose age appropriate task they can execute for an appropriate incentive. We had three-points tasks, like ‘preparing breakfast for the entire family’ and one-point tasks like unloading the dishwasher. I am not saying we are jedi-parents, we only completed week 1 successfully and we have some traction for week 2. The kids were happy to receive their incentive (weekly pocket-money) despite getting minus points for not making the bed, but I was even happier.  I found myself tracking the time I spent and  mentally giving myself: 3/2/1 point when I finished a task. It made me value my time and to see the small tasks not like a chore but a learning opportunity for a 7-year old boy to learn survival skills.

What will motivate you to share and delegate the family chores with the entire family? What incentives are you willing to put in place? How much time are you willing to invest in tracking and training? 

The secret to creating the family-team spirit when it comes to house-chores is to invest enough time at the beginning with your partner to frame  it as an opportunity not as a chore. Every family is different. I know my kids need to have an element of choice and incentive in everything they invest their energy in. They also appreciate fairness and honesty.

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Steliana Economu is an executive leadership coach specialised in positive intelligence. If you like this  article and you want to enjoy more of this type of resources follow  mothersasleaders.com 

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Why do women trust men less and viceversa

There is  a worldwide gap of trust at the moment and it is making me sad.

 It is not only the divide between Russia and the rest of the world, it’s not only the divide between the BlackLivesMatter and the whitesupremacy in the US , it’s not only the immigration versus nonimmigration in Europe, it is a much bigger divide and with wider implications. 

It  is a growing  worldwide deterioration in trust between women and men. 

The rise of the feminist movement and the me-too campaign had many positives but they also brought with them some side effect: women and men start trusting each other less. The impact is most visible in the teenagers, young adult and singles.  

In this apparently danger littered world people rely on the dating apps algorithms more than they rely on their brain, their heart or  on their hormonal impulses. As a teenager, how can you rely  on your judgement about trusting a boy or a girl when you discover everything you need to know on google, tiktok or tinder. 

How can you fall in love, when you are not vulnerable?

Beyond the obvious dating impact, I noticed the deterioration of trust in the entrepreneurial sector as well. Ever since I wrote the “mothers as leaders’ I have been ushered towards Female networks, mumpreneurship, women financial grants, women mentors and so on. Even within the well-respected International Coaching Federation I kept being matched with other women coaches. In the last reciprocal coaching round I wrote in my application that I want to be matched with a man to make the diversity happen. Bud has been a wonderful executive coach because he didn’t label me as a mumpreneur.

Maybe you work in a global corporate company and you don’t see the issue. You are part of a global gender diverse team and you trust your male colleagues as much as you trust your female colleagues.

 But let’s look a little bit under the hood. During the pandemic and you even now during the   hybrid working culture, you learned to build trust with your colleagues via the virtual channels, Zoom or MSteams has been your meeting place. You do  build trust but you build what I call:  the Intellectual level trust. 

Which means, you trust someone to ping you or message you if something doesn’t work out or if there is bad news. 

If you have a great amount of intellectual trust – you might even trust her to pick up the phone unexpected. In the corporate world that it is a big step – a phone call without planning a meeting it’s a big thing. 

Intellectual trust works well for normal circumstances but when you want the psychological safety type of trust that breeds innovation and higher performance, you need to be able to pop by her desk unexpected. When you really care about someone and you have a deep mutual trust you need to be able to ring his doorbell when he doesn’t show up at work or answers the phone and you need to not feel hugely uncomfortable about it. If you are his boss or the HR manager it might even be part of your job description.

If you think you are part of a great team, ask yourself: How many people in your team would do that for you?  From those, how many are of the opposite sex?

Trust is the noble bloodstream that flows through our veins and arteries providing the essential ingredients for our heart and our brain.  It is like oxygen for our society ability to cooperate and thrive. As a leadership coach and consultant, I spend a lot of coaching hours listening to interpersonal issues around trust and emotions.

Based on my 43 years of experience of being a woman and on 20 years building trust within global organizations, here are my 10 tips for building trust with women, both in business and in the private life.

  1. See it as a Partnership – if you see yourself as superman, she sees herself as wonder woman, no one likes to be saved
  2. Keep your promise and hold your Duty – reliability is what gets you the meeting nr 2, 3 and so on
  3. When you can’t keep your promise say it in time – nobody likes a cover-up and when women smile it is not always a sign of approval
  4. Don’t walk away from Responsibility and commitment – when she talks about her family it’s a good sign, even in business relations 
  5. Cherish open communication – if she wants to share about her day, it means she likes you.
  6. Invest daily in keeping up the GOOD Spirit – Humor and positive thinking is what makes a man desirable not money or muscle
  7. Recognize and appreciate effort not just results – when a woman puts time in something she wants to be appreciated  for it, she doesn’t only do it for fun.
  8. Listen until the end and don’t jump to solutions – it is your ability to listen that will get you closer to a business deal, not your brilliant solution
  9. Develop common goals, dreams and plans – your willingness to collaborate and cooperate shows you are self-confident and that’s women want from men
  10. Embrace the Word: TOGETHER😊

It’s time to start reinventing the trust between men and women working together. It’s not enough to recruit gender diverse teams, you need to invest in building trust across genders.

When structures are lost, when we become informal, when we don’t know others well enough we tend to hang around with people like us.It is a famous likeability  bias.

What would it take to step out of the  imaginary gender bubble and trust equally  both men and women you just met.

It starts with a small step: be aware of who do you talk to during the coffee breaks and make a change.

What have you learned in 2021?

What have you learned in 2021?

As we come to the end of 2021, the optimist in me is somehow surprised that no miracle has happened. How come nobody came to save us from this new reality of living with the COVID pandemic. I belong to a generation that was brought up   with numerous ‘end of the world’ type  movies with a strong hero and a happy ending. If you work hard and play our small part, eventually things will get better, I was told.  Well, this time each of us has to step up and be a hero in his or her own  way, it seems.

The battle is not out there with the rest of the world, but it is with our own mind and our own soul.

If you are forced to spend Christmas at home alone, in self-isolation or even worse in the hospital how do you keep yourself motivated to fight and to hope for a better future?  A friend who returned home after a month of hospitalization told me that it was a vision of himself in a future moment that kept his hope. He is now appreciating life and the wonderful people in his life with a renewed gratitude.

 

After the shock and drama of 2020, this year proved to be in some way predictable. As with any dramatic change, we moved from the shock of 2020 lockdown, the anger a of street demonstrations and anti-vaccine campaigns to the acceptance of the fact that we have to live with the reality of changing pandemics and climate change. One of the most influential books I read in my youth is Steven R. Covey’s ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people’ brings up the difference between Proactive focus, when positive energy enlarges the circle of influence you have and the Reactive focus, when negative energy reduces the circle of influence.

 I think 2021 has finally given us the chance to reconsider our Circle of Influence and to make conscious choices about how we let our positive or negative emotions to influence us.

 

Through my executive coaching practice,   I had the honour to support the personal learning journey of numerous  clients who chose to invest in training their positive intelligence and mental fitness. Being of service for their learning  and being a witness to their career achievements that followed was the most rewarding present of this year.

 

2021  has been a year of resilience. It has certainly been a year of change and resilience  for me. In January I was growing my new business in The Netherlands and at the end of May I was joggling several speaking engagements with packing and moving  my family to Texas, Houston.

 

What I learned is that you need to expect the unexpected and  to stay focused on your Circle of Influence, day after day. We managed to settle in the new house  in  45 days and the kids adapted easily to the new school. My coaching practice transitioned to the new realities  and I got used to waking up really early in the morning. The hardest work was to make sure I keep my negative thoughts in check while waiting for things to fall in their place.

 

Throughout the move to a new country and a new social reality, the one thing that became clear to me is how lucky I am to share this new adventure with a husband that enjoys parenthood, changes and cultural differences as much as I do. When you can’t visit your family and old friends anymore being able to laugh and have fun together is a non-negotiable. That’s how the idea for my new book was born : Families as Teams (spoiler alert).

 At the end of the year, let’s not forget to raise a glass and thank the person who was our companion  throughout the hard-working year of  2021.

 

 Happy Holidays !

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Steliana Economu is an executive leadership coach specialised in positive intelligence. If you like this  article and you want to enjoy more of this type of resources follow  mothersasleaders.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do women and men define (fun) partnerships?

How do women and men define (fun) partnerships?

Women and men appreciate humour differently, we all intuitively know that, but what does it mean for doing business. What does it mean for building partnerships and preserving trust?

In my experience the topic of trust and loyalty comes up after several rounds of team coaching with gender diverse executive teams. Why? There is this expectations that when you grow-up you  are not allowed to mix fun with work. ‘In business we are not boys and girls, we are business professionals. ‘  That’s what our Inner critique would say. When you surrender to gender neutrality you loose your secret weapons, your super power, the strengths that made you the responsible grown-up that you are right now.

When you were six year old and playing in the school yard you were sometimes given the task to choose the team for your next play. What an honour, that was. But who would you choose? Did you ask for the school statistics on who was the fastest runner? No, you first looked at your group of friends and you choose some of them, because…you had fun with them. Then, you looked around and you chose some kids who could run or catch well. It was all a’ fast think’ type decision, full of biases, but …real.

We don’t have the luxury to choose our team like this anymore, but that innate desire to have fun and experience joy  with your team is still in us. Let’s not ignore it just because we are now doing virtual working.  The Sage part of your brain, the one who brings creativity and innovation is stimulated by positive emotions not by ‘must do’ commandments.

Why is humour important in building partnerships?

Well, imagine eating your favourite omelette without salt and pepper.

Beyond, written contractual terms, partnerships are no less than human interactions based on the trust that together you can achieve more than alone. However trust is quite subjective to the one who offers it, so how does someone knows how to trust that you are not going to ‘stab  him in the back’. Well, in middle ages you left the sword and knifes at their feet. Now you need to show vulnerability through your choice of humour. It is risky, they might not like it but that’s exactly the point. You are taking a risk to be vulnerable and that’s what creates trust, both with men and women.

‘It takes two to tango’ – Why partnerships? 

How many times have you struggled on your own with a  project when it would to partner? How many times have you done an extra chore in the house  when you knew well that it was your partner’s turn?

I must confess I was guilty of both and that’s what triggered me to write this.  You only need to watch two tango dancers to realise the beauty of partnership between a man and woman.  The complimentary traits that build harmony, power and beauty. That’s why, study after study show that diverse teams perform so much better than homogeneous teams.

What are the secret tips for successful partnerships at home and at work?

There are many business books on building partnerships and as a young Business graduate I went through all those trainings while in University. Still, the wisdom of ones who spent more than 10,000 hours on a skill is what we should be looking for. I interviewed a business expert on deal making and partnerships and this is what we came up with.

Five Key Ingredients

  1. SEEK TRANSPARENCY – What does this partnership mean to each of you? Are you the small fish or the big one?
  2. DON’ T ASSUME – How can you keep the lines of communication open all the time?
  3. MAKE SURE YOU BOTH HAVE SKIN IN THE GAME – What does she/has to loose if this fails? How about you?
  4. UNDERSTAND EACH OTHERS MOTIVATION – What drives you to succeed in this partnership? Is it different?
  5. DON’T CROSS THE LINE  – What are partner most important values? How do you make sure you don’t cross the line?

As I wrote this five ingredients down I couldn’t stop thinking about my own family and how do I partner with my husband or even with my 10 year daughter or 6 year old son on some projects. What I find is that with the kids is much easier to know when you crossed the line.

Unfortunately we adults tend to bottle the important emotions and that’s what makes partnership more cumbersome.

Turning the tables

Let’s take an important partnership you would want to improve now. How would you go about it?

  • What are the top 3 Factors impacting it ?
  • What are you Assuming about each factor?
  • What is the one thing you would do now to unlock it?

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About the author: Steliana Economu is an executive leadership coach specialised in positive intelligence. If like this  article and you want to enjoy more of this type of resources follow  mothersasleaders.com 

 

 

Wearing the same T-shirt doesn’t make you a team. But, what does?

Wearing the same T-shirt doesn’t make you a team. But, what does?

The Tokyo Olympics finally brought some positive news to report on. After a year dominated by COVID country statistics, we are now talking about countries winning medals. Humanity and what is good in people shines when we cheer for each other. 

 

In this picture, Jacquelyn Young, Stefanie Dolson, Kelsey Plum, and Allisha Gray of Team United States celebrate victory and winning the gold medal in the 3×3 Basketball competition on day five of the Olympic Games on July 28, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. What stood out for me, as I was reading about their victory was how their feminine leadership shined through in the humility and grace they showed as they accepted their prize. 

Plum led the early charge, scoring the team’s first five points in the final game and she also scored the most points for the America’s team in the tournament; her total tally was 55 points in nine games, and still this is her statement:

“I’m so proud of this team and myself too. We fought so hard to get here and it wasn’t always easy and we’re really happy with what we’ve done…’

Jacquelyn Young said: “I’m so happy to have been a part of this,” Gray,  dedicated the gold to her parents who “sacrificed so much” for her, supporting her dreams “all the way.” 

As a coach for business teams, I couldn’t help myself from drawing an analogy with the teams I have been part of in my corporate life or with the teams I had the honour of coaching. There is so much we can learn from sport teams, but ultimately the reason why everybody loves to watch sport teams is the emotions: joy, pride, happiness, tears, are all shared among players. This is what unifies them and this is what makes them perform in those last seconds when they need a win. It is not the pep talk of their team leader or their team coach that gets the adrenaline surging and it is not even the clarity of their common purpose.

 

In the past ten years of coaching leadership teams, I focused a lot on the importance of a shared team purpose. My sense is that ‘purpose’ is the most used word in the business slang nowadays. Too many hours have been spent on team workshops that eventually lead to a nice statement. And, if we learned anything from the 2020-2021 virtual business teams, is that people need human connection and emotions in order to sustain performance and team spirit on long term.  

The first team I ever experienced, it wasn’t a sport team or a school team. It was actually the multi-generational Economu family I grew-up in when living on a farm in Romania. My Grandma was the Matriarchal leader. We all had clear roles and tasks at the farm, even myself as a 7-year old girl I had to help with the animals. I got to play, but I also had duties. When we had good crops due to a good summer and lots of hard work, we all celebrated the win because we all contributed.

So what makes a real team, if not the T-shirt they wear?

For me it is a about a group of people with complimentary skills who share a common purpose and passion and because of that they are willing to do whatever tasks are needed to deliver and exceed on the expectations set upon themselves by their stakeholders and by their ambition. A real team shares emotions and players are comfortable with constructive conflict when if it serves the bigger team cause.

In a real team, players are humble, proud and grateful to be a part of a group, even when individually they scored the highest points. Just like Stephanie Dolson, of the USA 3×3 baseball team did.

If you were to compare your work team with a sports team or with a family team, what would you be missing? What can you learn?

And because it’s important to lead your team with empathy and high energy, even when you are not the formal leader, transformation starts with you.⁠

👍Check out our Mothers as Leaders offer for organizations to find out about our transformational programs for building positive intelligence and mental fitness.

What would be hardest today? To be a good mum or to be a good leader?

What would be hardest today? To be a good mum or to be a good leader?

On May 9th, I launched a video for all the working mums out there. You can now watch it on YouTube.

On a usual day I would ask myself: What would be hardest today – to be a good mum or to be a good leader at work? Do you have that as well?

The good news is you don’t have to separate those roles, you can learn from both roles. You can become more effective with your team in business when you unlock the leadership skills you learn day-to-day as a parent and the other way around.

Ten years ago, I used to be an ambitious hyper-achiever living in London, traveling the world and on thrived on targets, but every time I reached them . I went running after the next one.

I had my first baby and all of the sudden I had to slow down. It was confusing because plans and targets didn’t match with the new role as a young mum… To be honest I felt a bit incompetent in this. Ten months later I went back to my job as Leadership Development trainer. I remember being in this room outside London, teaching a group of managers about influencing as a leader.. And that’s when I had my epiphany:

I realized that as a mother I am not meant to be just the care giver instead I am meant to lead my child and to prepare her for life. And this leadership role is shared with the father and we both grow as parents and leaders

I had a spark… I wondered : how do other mothers, from different cultures and professions experience this?

Using my expertise as a learning professional I interviewed 20 mothers from different ages, profession and from all over the world: from Mongolia to United States.

Those stories became the basis for the Mothers as Leaders book and for the leadership framework I now use when I help ambitious women like you enjoy both career success and family joy.

Because Leadership, of any kind, starts with taking charge of your life and driving your own bus.

Dare to dream! And don’t be afraid to ask for HELP.

P.S: I am here to help you take back the lead on your life. It’s ok to have fun …both as a mum and as a leader. Love, Steliana

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About the author: Steliana is a mother, a writer and a leader-coach on positive intelligence

Mothers and managers – AD Den Haag interview

Mothers and managers – AD Den Haag interview

This is the English translation of my profile interview written by the journalist Nicolette van der Werff  for AD Den Haag newspaper on 21 Jan. 2021  

 

Nine  years ago,  I stood in this big training  room at the Shell training centre near London, telling the participants (mostly male managers) about leadership.  The topic was about influencing behavioural change through  role-modelling. I remember saying  “Realize that the entire team  is watching you all day long. Therefore, you need to be consistent and always fair. You are seen. Discrepancies are always noticed, causing mistrust. Only when a leader is consistent and clear can a team thrive’. As I stood there in the middle of the podium, it suddenly hit me. ‘Gosh, that also applies to me, at home’. I didn’t have a department to lead, but I had a small child at home and I didn’t know how to cope with this new role as a mother, as a parent. Why don’t I use the leadership training in my home and make my family happier.

Cheese

I grew up in Romania, on a cheese farm near the Black Sea Coast. I was surrounded by a fair amount of sheep, chickens and other farm animals. As the youngest  of the three daughters in a extended family of 9, my family didn’t pay much attention to me. Which, was a great. I had more free time than my sisters and used that time to observe life and things. I watched my grandmother manage our farm. She did this with a gentle hand and with an eye for the well-being of the whole family and the 200 sheep we kept for the wool and cheese. Grandma kept an overview and set the rhythm on the farm and the  family meals. She was sweet and gentle but also consistent and clear, which made her not only a wonderful grandmother but also a good farmer and leader of our family.

Grandma

Grandma was sweet and gentle, but also consistent and clear: a good farmer and leader of our family. When my father got a job as an engineer in the big city, we moved from the farm to a flat. My mother stopped working as a teacher and took care of us. We loved it, but my mother had a hard time because we were three loud teenage girls who rebelled constantly. You see, you don’t have to speak softly for the neighbours when you live on a farm but you do when you live in a flat. My mother did not have an easy time with us.

My father earned a reasonable salary as an agricultural engineer for the government. But everything changed when the revolution toppled the communist Ceausescu in 1989. Due to the enormous inflation that followed, the engineer’s salary suddenly didn’t amount to much anymore. My mother acted immediately. Despite being a trained primary school teacher, she went to work for the best butcher in town as a sales lady and suddenly made more money than my father.

University

The nineties were tough years for our family financially. The whole economic system in the country collapsed and all that matter was the ability to sell, trade and manage your cash. As a teenager I realised that making money and being independent is hugely important for a woman, so when it was time to go to university, I studied Finance & Accountancy.  In my first student year I joined an international student organization, AIESEC, where, thanks only to my grandma’s matriarchal leadership genes, I was elected the first woman president of the local chapter. During my time in AIESEC I met this self-confident Dutch student, who visited Romania through an international exchange program. 

Fast forward ten year and we were married, living in London and starting a family. In the first ten years after graduation, my career and life seemed very much in control: I was employed by multinationals such as Kraft Foods, Nike and Shell to do what I loved most, giving management and leadership training to executives. Everything seemed under control until October 2011, when I had a baby.  Finding my rhythm as a new mother turned out to be more difficult than having a responsible and well-paid managerial job in a corporate . 

“Mothers who do find the rhythm and enjoy parenthood are in fact great leaders and managers’

Parenting style and leadership style

I changed my mothering style when my second child, Thomas, was born,  in the first year back after our family moved in The Netherlands. I suddenly saw the parallels between parenthood and team management. Children, like your team, also watch you all day long. They really hear what you say, but they mainly watch what you do. You have to act accordingly. You need to give them feedback, just like you do when running a team.  You need to tell them what you feel and the consequences on others when they engage in a certain destructive behaviour.  It’s not always Joy and pride,  sometimes its is frustration, anger and sadness.

Kids needed to learn the language of emotions. I needed to learn how to name them.

My parenting style wasn’t the only thing that changed. I became a better employee. Motherhood taught me lessons that  benefited my workplace and my career. Being a young mother used to dealing with toddlers tantrums,  it had helped me develop more patience and focus more on the long term. After all, with kids you need to choose your battles. I became more creative, bolder, more confident and better able to set my priorities.

 The social pressure on Mothers

 

The pressure on mothers is great. Especially here, in the Netherlands. A child here must have a swimming diploma before the age of five. He has to go to tennis, he has to put on nice clothes, throw a great birthday party ( before COVID19) and have a great treat. At our farm house countries, the family as a whole was important. Here the kids come first. Even if the mother doesn’t always like it, even is she has her own personal dreams.

 I wrote Mothers as leaders because I wanted to show how women in other cultures deal with motherhood and  what they are capable of because of it. It has 20 stories of  mothers who had to overcome many hardships  to find the leadership role in their company, their mission or their family. The book is  meant to inspire and motivate you to take the lead in life and thus let the parenting guilt disappear. To make it disappear, not to be ignored because a feeling of guilt is an important red flag. It tells you that it is time to take a closer look at your life, at your parenting, at your career and to make a changes about it. That change could be about anything. In my case it was about my employment contract and the sacrifices I need it to make for a corporate career. I need it more flexibility, so I left the big business world behind and I now have  my own” boutique coaching & consulting practice: Ithaca coaching. Mothers as leaders.

 Family as a team 

Thanks to my Dutch husband and the nuns language school in Vught, in the past years I learned to speak fluent Dutch. It was important to integrate. My two children are raised trilingual. They learn Dutch at school and from their father. They pick-up English from the after-school and from home. On Saturdays I teach, with another mum, the Romanian school in our living room.  We have 3 small students. This is one of the main benefits of being an independent entrepreneur – flexibility.  I am more at home than before, and not just in back-to-back telecons. Time with my kids has gotten more fun and better.

The family is a team. Every member has wishes and every member has a role . Stressed out mothers are sometimes sold the term” quality time”. You don’t have much time with your kids but what when you have it is great. I believed it it at start too.  In practice, however, it doesn’t work that way. You are not alone. A family is a team. Every member has wishes and every member, even the child, has a role. Getting a grip on that together ensures that everyone in the team thrives.

I am aware that I am lucky and privileged to be able to start my own practice while dealing with the uncertainty of income in the early years. By writing the stories of other mothers, coming from different social backgrounds in the book, I gained perspective. I felt humble and in full admiration for the women who, despite being imprisoned for their political conviction and having  to flee their country , they were still able to  nurture and guide the life of their children back home. They did that with the help of a strong family.  Their children grew up respecting them as great mothers and fine leaders, seeing them as role-models of courage.

You don’t need to become a political activist to show your leadership as a mother or a father, it is the day-to-day actions you take both at home and at work, that are going to help your kids develop their own life values and self-esteem.

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About the author: Steliana is a mother, a writer and a leader-coach on positive intelligence