My mother wasn’t a businesswoman. In fact, she did not even graduate from high school. Given her lack of business acumen, one might think she didn’t have much to offer in terms of business wisdom. I beg to differ!
My mother was a fireball with great common sense. Her advice has served me well throughout both my professional and personal life and has been a guiding force behind my management style. Here are seven lessons I learned from mom that I apply every day in my role as a CEO of a national case management organization:
Mind your manners
Of course, courtesy always matters when working with customers, but it’s also essential for building a company culture that’s supportive and inclusive. Always take the time to assess every business situation, remaining above the fray and resisting the urge to pontificate on every point. Then, when you do offer your judgment, it’s well considered and authoritative.
Play nicely with others
Being collaborative isn’t just good manners – it’s also good business. Demonstrating how well you work with different personalities, quasi-competitive companies and even customers with divergent priorities shows that you’re an attentive partner. A “difficult to work with” reputation is nearly impossible to overcome and will cause future customers and employees to go elsewhere.
Call home more often
In business, it’s not always what you know, but who you know, so stay close to the people connected to your business. Work hard to stay in touch with employees, peers, clients and even vendors to foster healthy professional and personal relationships that could bolster your business. Remember that professional organization you joined? Go to the next meeting, conference or event to get back into networking.
Pick your battles
There’s no sense fighting just to be right. Consider which priorities are most important for your business and put strenuous effort behind achieving them. Remember, a great strategy is often choosing which good option not to pursue. Letting the little things “slide” will earn you the respect of your team, but it also will allow you to focus on what’s really important. It’s simply not worth the collateral damage to fight for insignificant victories.
This too shall pass
Nothing in business is insurmountable. Even the biggest perceived failures represent key learning opportunities for management as well as the rank-and-file. Empower your teams with an understanding that no mistake is too great that it should sidetrack your organization from its ultimate goal. Taking risks is a huge piece of what makes businesses successful, and you can’t be afraid to fail once in a while.
Practice makes perfect
As a corollary to “this too shall pass,” business success often comes from repetition and replication. Creating patterns of predictability – in business and in life – can allow leaders a clearer view of the big picture, becoming more knowledgeable and efficient in the process. Establishing a “muscle memory” for achieving the outcomes you expect can help you reproduce those results on a recurring basis.
If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything
Negativity is a momentum- and culture-killer for both internal and external business stakeholders. Addressing challenges head-on is productive, but over-emphasizing problems and inefficiencies to the point of eye rolling can turn off your customers and employees. If you must criticize, then make sure you do it tactfully and move on immediately by re-casting the discussion in terms of solutions, not problems.
I learn something new almost every day in my role, and I am often reminded of how my mom was right about so much – in business and in life. It’s clear to me that even the most well-worn leadership tropes and business management bestsellers can’t match the sensible wisdom mom gave me, and I share this insight with my fellow owners and employees every day.