“Family managers are accustomed to being surrounded mostly by people who are clearly dependent, unable to function fully on their own."
"Spending quality time with people with limited vocabularies doesn't hone complex strategic thinking."
These are just two statements Professor Kanter from the Harvard Business School made in a recent essay she wrote. She is a leading authority on issues pertaining to leadership, management and innovation. I understand the context in which she was writing this because she was attempting to convey that the ability to manage a household and family dynamics doesn’t always guarantee that the individual will be a great manager in an office setting.
True. But I have worked in various office settings and have been surrounded by people who are clearly dependent, unable to function fully on their own. I am not referring to colleagues who are new to the organization or those who are in a new role. I recognize that there is a learning curve that could take up to a year. I think of those who are still asking the fundamental questions of what the organization does or how essential tasks are performed because they haven’t taken the time to learn it on their own.
At home, Lexi strives to be independent so she has tremendous initiative to practice and fail a new skill so that she doesn’t have to rely on someone else to help her. But I’ve been at work and shown a colleague how to perform a task numerous times without effectiveness because she had no desire to learn it. She figured that because so many other people knew how to perform the task well, she didn’t need to master it.
Professor Kanter also commented that spending time with children who have limited vocabularies doesn’t hone complex strategic thinking. I think just the opposite. Motherhood requires my most complex level of strategic thinking. At work, I’ve been asked to develop strategic plans that impact the team or organization in five years, ten years, etc… As a mom, I’m required to make decisions daily that will impact my daughter for a lifetime. Strategic thinking at work is often being able to solve complex problems with limited information and consideration for known and unknown challenges.
Doesn’t that aptly describe parenting? Especially when Lexi was too young to verbally communicate, I my strategic thinking was regularly being honed because of the limited information I was able to gather about how she was feeling. This required me to be more observant of body language and facial expressions and the tone of her cry. I became better at planning logistics and expecting the unexpected because children can be unpredictable and throw off the best laid plans. I allotted more time for everything while also maintaining flexibility should the plans need to be altered.
And while children may have limited vocabularies, they communicate with much more candor than most adults I know. At work, I’ve had a much tougher time planning strategically when key players have hidden agendas, withhold information or refuse to communicate using the extensive vocabulary they have!
I agree that managing a family and a household full-time doesn’t guarantee that a woman will be effective as a manager of people at work, but I have no doubt that when it comes to strategic thinking, she can run circles around most of her colleagues.