Recently my wife and daughter went to New Hampshire to take care of my mother-in-law as she recovered from surgery, leaving my son with me for 11 days. I was excited and nervous to wear her shoes for such a long period of time and the results were eye-opening for me.
- – My mother-in-law is awesome
- – My son is one of the easiest kids to take care of
- – My wife is a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) and has been since the kids were born
Those notes are important because it shows that I had it pretty easy. It was a great opportunity to step into my wife’s shoes for almost 2 weeks and see what she deals with on a day-to-day basis. We often refer to our household as Widner Family Incorporated where I’m the CEO, she’s the COO and we try to operate like a family business when it comes to chores and projects.
I’m a big fan of “managing up” and believe that all leaders should do what they can to understand what it’s like to be in their people’s shoes. I’m not advocating for doing it all yourself or job swaps, but understanding enough of their reality helps you empathize with their struggles and celebrate their successes more genuinely.
So with my COO out how did it go?
I’ll start by saying that it went really well. My son was awesome and nothing of significance happened. That said…. HOLY CRAP!! My job requires me to have focused time where I’m not distracted, so being a SAHD for 11 days was quite the adjustment.
- – My wife’s job as a SAHM requires her to be on 100% of the time. Not 95%, not 99%. Seriously, 100% of the time. I now understand why she’s so happy when I get home.
- – There is so much that moms do that goes unnoticed until it’s not done or you have to do it yourself.
- – The job is never completely done. Now I know why she loses her keys so often.
- – Kids should be viewed as “in training” for every second they’re awake.
- – Kids never shut up.
- – The fact that she hasn’t gone insane is a testament to how amazing moms are.
- – I’m glad I experienced all of this.
- – I’m glad she’s home.
How This Applies to Leadership
- – There’s a big difference between knowing and understanding. Knowledge comes from seeing. Understanding comes from experiencing.
- – If we’re good leaders, our people do so much more than we are aware of. Assuming we could do their job in less time or better is laughable. We need to trust them more on due dates and outcomes but continue to challenge them. Challenge them for their sake, not ours.
- – When possible we should ask for a task that they do that is miserable and we should do it ourselves for a week. This allows us to support them, shows we want to understand, and allows us to see things with fresh eyes.
- – There’s a good chance that they can do their job better than we ever could. Letting them know that they’re better than you at their job is important. Right seat on the bus is important.
- – Family life will almost always affect the performance of those we work with. A sick kid is a big deal to them and should be to us.
- – Be sure to thank your people frequently (but genuinely).
So would I do this again? Sure, if I needed to. Would I ever want to do it again with both kids? Well, I’m glad she’s home.