“Women seem to have an edge on executive level skills. I’m amazed at everything my wife does to keep our household humming, the kids schedules coordinated and our family budget in the black.” This was my statistics prof assuring the several of us in the small contingent of women in my graduate program. Condescending? Maybe, but at the time, he was making a bolder statement than many of his male colleagues would venture to make.
I have revisited this sentiment several times over my years climbing the corporate ladder and reaching the corner office as CEO. An executive level skill set is clearly necessary to reach a leadership position, whether that position is as a C-level leader in a humongous multi-national company or running one’s own one-person consulting business.
But, back to my prof’s assessment, do women have an edge? Or, was he merely acknowledging the range of skills necessary and the ability to multi-task often associated with running a household?
My experience as a wife and mother, who also had big jobs that took a large chunk of my waking hours, and often disrupted my sleep (perhaps more than my children ever did) tells me that it is tough to balance all of the demands of these roles.
So, is multi-tasking— the ability to perform more than one task, or activity over a short period of time— the solution? Of late, multi-tasking seems to be taking a hit in the popular consciousness. Rightfully so. Think distracted driving as a case in point.
The verdict is evidently still out on whether ‘context switching’ is more successful if one is proficient at one activity, while performing another that may require fewer little gray cells. Could be. Think of the superwoman whipping up dinner during the ‘hour of peak family performance’ after coming home from a long day in the office while trying to have meaningful connection with her partner and kids, and then trying to respond to a crisis text from the office.
When I was distracted by a crisis at work, I don’t recall feeling sure I was giving my A game to any of these tasks, but they did get done. But I do recall that my children could tell, even if I was reading a story to them, when I was distracted by something else. Little mind-readers….
As a mom, you have to constantly monitor your kids emotional lives by paying attention to the everyday routine and LISTENING to what’s going on in their lives.
Imagine a hard drive in your head skimming the surface of the incoming data, picking out the relevant details, and moving on to the next stream. You’re paying attention, but only partially. That lets you take in other data, across a wider spectrum, but doesn’t allow you to really study any one data point. Sometimes, going deep on one data point makes a huge difference.
As a leader, you also have to constantly monitor your clients, board, employees….lots of analytics to review…to say nothing about keeping a relationship going with your partner.
The parallels are there. And, today, there is no end to how much data comes your way.
Data fatigue is real. And, that isn’t just a risk for women, of course.
So, the pat answer is “unplug” regularly. Good advice. Take a vacation! You need it!
In my novel A Better Next, Jess Lawson, the protagonist, advises a pregnant colleague to hire the best nanny she could find, prepare a management plan for her household as a prerequisite to motherhood and stay on the partner track at her law firm.
Delegation is the necessity of a larger span of control, at home and in the corporate office suite. Embrace it. Nobody can go it alone. Clearly an executive skill required early in the journey.