YouNoodle COO Adele Burnes.
This is the second part of a two blog series on motherhood and entrepreneurship. To read the first part click here.
Benjamin Franklin famously said “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.” and trust me, being a working mother makes you the busiest person around.
Having said that, I’m not leaning back, I’m stepping up my game by becoming a mom. To all those young women out there that are worried that having a kid will negatively impact your career – I am here to report the opposite. In becoming a mother, I have been forced to cultivate a skillset that has become an advantage in my startup life.
Prioritize and Focus
I am lucky to have launched into immediate family chaos by giving birth to twins – they are now 2. At any given moment, there are so many different people and things that need my attention and it has forced me to take stock of everything and to prioritize and focus on what is really important. I once learned a great family framework at a Women in Tech event with Leslie Fine and she shared that in her family they have 3 priorities – spending quality time with kids, making money, and having fun, and if there is an activity that does not fall into one of those buckets, she works to outsource it. I think this is a brilliant framework, but most importantly, it is a clear definition of the priorities.
In a startup, there are a million things you could be working on at any time, and you need to decide the priorities and really focus all efforts on those primary goals. Take the time with your team to brainstorm, analyze and decide on those goals and then make the tough decisions with your time and resources to work towards those goals. This sometimes means delegating work to others, and sometimes it means that some things don’t get done. My house may not be perfectly tidy, and I may not make it to every after work happy hour, but I have learned to focus my energies on the top priorities and work with the team towards the goals. Having clear priorities and focusing is such an essential skill to succeed as a startup, and being a mother has forced me to sift through the chaos, prioritize and then follow through with the focus, whether that focus is on making my kids giggle or growing revenues.
Cultivate talent and let go
Early in my career, I sucked at letting go. When things did not go well with a team at work, my approach was to take on the work myself and make everything perfect myself. But guess what, if you want to work and be a mom, this approach will sink you so fast! I love my startup and I also love my kids, but I know that in order to thrive they need a variety of skill sets and a team to help them grow and be awesome. Therefore I have learned to invest time in helping team members learn the practicalities of the role, get excited and motivated by the mission of their work and then stepping back and letting those people make the amazing impact that I know they are capable of.
In cultivating talent, establishing the core skill set and an alignment of values is the most important and with that base, if you can step back as a manager or parent, then the magic can happen. As a parent, it can be really hard let go because it is scary to leave your most precious being with anyone. But investing the time to train caregivers not only on the practicalities but also on my values as a parent, has led to so much happiness. I think some managers never develop these skills, but being a working parent I have cultivated this skill set and immediately brought it to bear at work. I am always available as a resource to my team and I try to create structures to invite team member to come to me with problems, but I have really worked hard to let go and so far the results have been fantastic. I consider this a critical managerial skill set that parenting has forced me to develop much more quickly.
When I was childless I could just work harder through everything, but in becoming a mom I have gained a practical wisdom which I did not realize would be so applicable at work. I encourage all working women out there not to be afraid of having kids, but rather embrace it and learn and grow through it. I have and I believe it has made me a better entrepreneur and executive.