It’s kind of amazing, and I feel like I should smack myself silly. I haven’t written about my mother, Betty, in years. Sure, I’ve mentioned her here and there in regards to other stories, but the only time she got her own post was back in 2009 when I wrote A Lesson I Learned From Mom. Time to rectify that, especially since I wrote the last piece about Dad.

Mom and me

Today is Mom’s birthday, and she turns 77. Mom’s been in my life longer than anyone; of course that makes sense. lol But even when Dad was alive, he was gone often so it was just her and me. I owe her my life and other things, but of course I’ve learned some leadership lessons from her, good and bad. To whit, I’m going to share 5 of them:

1. If you’re going to be in charge, you need to be ready to do it for the long haul.

That’s what most mothers do and yet it’s an important lesson to learn for anyone looking to be a good leader. You don’t get to turn it off and on when you’re in the workplace. You don’t get to be someone’s best friend at one moment and then their superior (by position) the next. It just doesn’t work well.

2. You need to keep your eye on people, even when you don’t think you need to.

We lived on military bases most of my young life. My mother figured there was nothing that could happen to me since we were on base.

She was wrong. Not that I ever hurt myself but I literally challenged death multiple times without her knowledge. Before the age of 6 I had climbed up multiple buildings from the outside, then slid under barbed wire because I was small. There’s other things I did that she didn’t know about until I was in my mid 30’s; she was mortified.

Even if you feel you have the most competent staff ever, if you take your eyes off things too long you’ll almost always find that something’s gone wrong, and even if they knew about it they might have thought you’d just take care of it. Never get caught off guard on something you should know about.

3. Always learn the truth, then be loyal.

I’m not going to say I never lied to Mom about anything, but usually it was for things like whether I ate cookies or something like that. Whenever it was something critical I always told the truth, even if something might have been my fault… which it never was. lol

Both my parents had always told me that when it was critical I should tell the truth because it was the thing to do, and I believed it. So, when I broke this kid’s teeth with my elbow, I told them as well as adding it was an accident because we were playing football. Thus, when his mother came to my mother demanding it be paid for, my mother knew the story from my mouth and held her ground, knowing that if the mother took her kid to the dentist on base (which she didn’t want to do) it would be paid for automatically.

Many employees feel that the person they report to won’t take their side when things get tough. I’ve never done that to any of my employees, though if they were in the wrong we’d address that situation in a proper way. I’ve always been loyal to the people who work for or with me, as long as they exhibited the same for me.

4. Sometimes you have to use the Spidey senses to know when something’s wrong.

Like any adolescent, I had periods where I’d be quieter than normal because of things going on in my life. I’d feel like I had no one to talk to, and being an only child that was true more often than not.

Mom always seemed to have a sense of something and she wouldn’t be afraid to bring it up to me. I might have hesitated here and there but eventually I’d get it out. She never reacted badly to anything I said, which was a major comfort. Sometimes she offered advice; sometimes she got me information I could learn on my own, since she knew I was a big reader.

As a manager and leader you have to sometimes be available to those who work for you and at least listen to their stories. If you notice a change in behavior, sometimes you might have to initiate the conversation. After all, it’s part of what you signed on for when you accepted the leadership position.

5. Sometimes you have to tell people things even if you feel they’re not ready for it.

My parents have sheltered me from a lot of things, even as I’ve gotten older. Neither of them told me how serious my dad’s situation was until 8 months before he passed away. Over the years Mom would have episodes where she’d have to be taken to the emergency room, yet it was information that neither of them told me.

I’m the only child; I needed to know what was going on during those times, just in case. Now I’m the one watching over Mom and I’m always asking her how she’s doing. I’m the one asking her about her medication and when she’s going to doctor’s appointments and such. Since she lives alone now I’m the only one she’s got.

As a leader, when someone’s messing up you need to tell them. When things are bad with the company you need to tell them. If something bad is happening with them you have to deal with it, and if it’s on your end you just might have to say something as well.

Thanks for the lessons Mom, both good and bad. As this post goes live, I’m with Mom and we’ll be having lunch together. That should be a nice time.

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