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Navigating Leadership as a Working Mom: Are You Enabling or Empowering?

If you’re leading a team and you feel like you’re not doing enough to help the team move forward and advance, you can look into motherhood for some lessons.

Sometimes, to help your team be better, you need to help them less.

Let me tell you personal stories about my kids.

One night, I was lying in bed with my kids trying to calm them down and they fell asleep on me. They’re 3 and 5 years old and they’re so sweet and cuddly and that moment was so warm and nice. I had two choices at that moment: 

One, pick them up and carry them to their beds. I know when they sleep on their beds, all of us are going to have better sleep.

Two, just let them sleep on our bed until they wake up. I know they will probably wake up in the middle of the night because they will be unknowingly kicking each other while asleep, but I also want to cuddle with my kids.

Option one is the better one, but option two is just so tempting!

As a leader, what you eed to be doing is empowering your team, not enabling them.

I did choose option one and carried them to their beds, and it took everything in me to make that happen, but this mindset helped me:

I am responsible for making sure that they had a good night’s sleep.

I’m responsible for making choices that encourage their well being, even when it’s uncomfortable.

If I had not put them in their beds, then we probably all would have had a worse day the next day. It would have been my fault. 

Here’s another story about my kids cleaning up (I promise I’m coming to a point!)

I wasn’t as strong as I should have been this time. I was excited about watching a movie with my kids a couple of weekends ago, and to watch the movie, they had to clean up first. They were taking a long time to clean up, and that started eating into the time to actually watch the movie. 

So I had two options. I could help them clean up or let them keep dilly-dallying, continuing to play around, and possibly don’t get to watch the movie at all.

I chose to help them clean up. I stepped in. I started cleaning up and got it done so we could watch the movie. 

I don’t feel great about that choice reflecting on it because they didn’t have the opportunity to learn the consequences of their actions. If you dilly-dally, then you don’t get time for the great thing that happens at the end of the night.

I removed the ability for them to learn and grow by stepping in and doing the work for them. 

Serve your team better by actually serving them less.

You can experience this too as you’re leading your team.

You are responsible for ensuring that they have great outcomes. You are also responsible for ensuring that they have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. 

It’s a practice I had to consciously put into place because it’s so easy to step in and over-help and over-support.

That might look like finishing out an Excel sheet and updating equations that they didn’t do right. It might look like finishing out research or speaking on their behalf in a meeting. All of these things are more enabling than empowering. 

As a leader, what you need to be doing is empowering your team, not enabling them. 

It’s not the easiest thing, but it is what you need so that your team can level up or advance. It is a question of whether or not you as the leader can step out of the way and let them fail. Give them enough rope so that they can get so close to going over the edge but you can always kind of pull them back. 

Take action.

Think about the interactions that you’ve been having with your team with the perspective of taking accountability.

Are your methods actually causing the problem? Are you enabling them rather than empowering them? 

If you want to get more insights on how motherhood helps us be better leaders, please check out my podcast, The Savvy Working Mom, where we talk all about how you can find joy, advance your career, and really love your life as a working mother. 

Don’t forget to sign up for my free resource library. You’ll get free printable worksheets, workbooks, and checklists to help with goal setting, time management, and self-care for busy moms. 

Let’s makeover your routine at How To Get Unstuck.

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