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Neela Seenandan, managing partner of Hanold Associates, a retained search firm, says that mothers have many skills that make them good leaders. Being a mom can be instrumental in helping a woman develop patience, confidence and flexibility; traits essential to be successful in leadership roles.
Seenandan’s background in recruiting, talent management and Diversity & Inclusion gives her a unique take on women in the workforce. Before joining Hanold Associates she worked with McKinsey & Company, Aon Corporation and The Nielsen Company. Here are her thoughts.
What are three skills that make mothers good leaders?
Patience – Children require a great deal of patience, and not everyone is blessed with this skill from the beginning. (Have you ever waited for a four-year-old to get dressed and get in the car?) For most of us, patience takes time and practice to develop, and there are few things that can provide that practice better than parenting. The same patience can be applied in the professional world. Practicing patience in the workplace, like at home, requires you to be a great listening and ask questions. It demands that we take a deep breath to help solve a problem. It reminds us to not always be in a rush; and to respect and embrace the process
Confidence – A first-time parent receives a lot of advice, is very confused, second guesses every decision, takes many trips to doctors, worries all the time and wonders whether she will ever understand her new baby. With more children and time, we grow more confident. We learn more, we really on our instincts, we are confident in our decisions, we know our children better than anyone else – we still worry all the time! That confidence and maturity, and general ability to trust our judgment and rely on our experience and skills, is a huge attribute in the workplace.
Flexibility – Have you ever discovered that after you and your toddler are dressed, fed and ready to head out that it’s suddenly diaper-changing time (again!)? Children are always full of surprises, and staying flexible is a necessity we quickly learn in order to maintain sanity. Most days are full of challenges and interruptions, and if there is one thing that is consistent about parenting, it’s that there’s never a dull moment. Being inflexible is not an option for moms, nor does it serve us well in the business world. Colleagues can be indecisive, situations can change and even your role can evolve. Having the flexibility to gracefully manage the unexpected is a skill that can serve executives well in an office setting.
What are the biggest work/life challenges that women in the workforce face?
Having the time to meet all your conflicting priorities, wanting to make sure that you are visible and open to new roles, responsibility and travel, and make sure that you spend time with your family
Having the ability to be open with your boss about personal schedules and making sure you have the flexibility to make sure that your work responsibilities are met, as well as your personal ones
Being seen as an equal to a male counterpart, in terms of roles, responsibility and compensation.
What advice would you give to women reentering the workforce after staying home with their children?
Stay current on trends in the workplace. Read literature from your field and understand what is going on in your industry. Talk to friends and colleagues and recruiters about the climate and take your time to find a role which will allow you to use your skill set and utilize your experience.
Do not feel the need to explain your “decision to stay at home” this was also a learning experience and in many ways will prepare you for your reentry.
Do not feel that you need to take a lesser role or compensation due to your time out of the workforce. You are still smart, experienced and qualified.
What is one piece of advice you would give to all women?
Don’t use your gender as an excuse for not being recognized in the workplace. If you find the right environment and work with the right boss, you will thrive. Your gender is an asset and many companies are looking for talented females who can climb the corporate ladder.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Go back to school at a later age (when I really know what I want to be). Look for great companies and great leaders in the work place who recognize and develop talent. ( I have been lucky enough to have this!!)