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After reading numerous bestselling management books, Ann Crittenden noticed that the advice was shockingly similar to that found in parenting books. After more than one hundred interviews, Ann also discovered that everyone felt the skills they learned as parents made them better, more effective managers...
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After reading numerous bestselling management books, Ann Crittenden noticed that the advice was shockingly similar to that found in parenting books. After more than one hundred interviews, Ann also discovered that everyone felt the skills they learned as parents made them better, more effective managers and workers. Illustrating the countless lessons learned from raising a child that are directly applicable to the workplace, with insight from prominent women in a number of fields, Crittenden discusses how child-rearing:
-Calls for multitasking and sharpens focus in the midst of constant distractions
-Enhances interpersonal skills, including win-win negotiation
-Develops the ability to motivate and empower others
-Requires a keen sense of fair play and integrity
Full of positive, real-life stories and exploring whether corporate culture has begun to recognize the value of parenting, If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything is a groundbreaking book that validates what working mothers have known all along.
"In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman." -Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of Great Britain
Madeleine Albright, whose career trajectory went from stay-at-home mother to Secretary of State of the United States, has described multitasking as the essential parenting skill, the "ability that comes from having one eye on the child while you try to talk to the plumber and worry about something else (like your doctoral dissertation) at the same time." Multitasking is the only skill mothers are universally credited with possessing. Almost everyone acknowledges that the person who can run a household and raise kids, not to mention hold down a paying job at the same time, is an expert manager of life.
A rundown of all the things most life managers have to do could never be fit into a seven-second sound bite in response to the question, "And what do you do?" Ric Edelman, a financial services executive in Fairfax, Virginia, has calculated that mothers' responsibilities include components of at least seventeen different professions, making mothers, along with chief executives, the last nonspecialized generalists in the skilled work force.
Here's my own list of the dozen or so most important tasks of a life manager (bound to be incomplete).
1. Supervise child development: emotional, intellectual, and physical. This includes daily psychological support; listening to and resolving family problems; assuring and maintaining proper school environment; assisting with homework; nightly reading; interceding with teachers and school officials; responsibility for routine medical care; attending meetings at schools, sporting events, and neighborhood functions; and constant reassuring, supervisory presence.
2. Maintaining a home environment for family, including housecleaning, upkeep, and repairs; shopping for household items, from furniture to light bulbs to toothpaste to gifts to toilet paper. This effort to make sure the family is never out of X, Y, or Z involves a constant mental inventory of all the countless things it takes to keep a household stocked and in order.
3. Assuring family nutrition, including food shopping, preparation of meals, school lunches, cleanup, kitchen maintenance and repairs, and research to keep abreast of latest food trends and alarms.
4. Laundry and ironing, purchase and repair of clothing, from gloves and mittens to sporting equipment, new shoes, and back-to-school outfits to wardrobe monitoring to keep spouse as well as children presentable.
5. Crisis management, including handling accidents, fires, floods, auto accidents/repair, thefts, insect infestation, and calls from school principal.
6. Financial management, including managing the household budget; getting quotes and contracting for home improvement projects; investing the family's savings; budgeting for major expenditures, such as Christmas.
7. Project planning and organizing, including birthday parties, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, graduations, funerals, school events.
8. Provide transportation to school, afterschool sports, and other appointments, weekend sporting events, and so on.
9. Care for pets, from daily feeding, vet appointments, and delousing treatments, to repair of damage to household by puppies, cats' claws, and incontinent animals.
10. Maintain the family's social ties with friends, relatives, other supportive adults, and children's friends, through gifts, cards, thank-you notes, regular calls, and emails, and weekly planning of get-togethers with friends.
11. Nursing care for sick and injured family members, from doctor's appointments to emergency hospital visits to staying home from work to make chicken soup for laid-up children.
12. If married or in partnership, provide emotional support, business advice, psychological counseling, entertainment/toleration of business associates, and so on.
One of the funniest tributes to this Herculean performance was written a few years ago by Shirley Kenny, a mother of five, former English professor, now president of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Kenny described a typical day during her teaching years at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.:
"Drag out of bed, get kids up, make breakfast and school lunches, pick up baby sitter, drive car pool ('My mom puts on her lipstick at the same stoplight you do'), hurry to campus for first class, teach, hold office hours.... sit on committee du jour, hurry home, return babysitter to home base, locate Hamburger Helper and fix dinner, supervise homework and lesson practice, give orders for cleanup and K.P. Duty, write notes to teachers, kiss kids, send big ones to bed, tuck little ones in, kiss them again, and again, drag out briefcase, grade papers or get back to research, stumble to bed in the wee hours, comfort Danny when he wakes up from a nightmare, sleep a little. Start over."
Can anyone be surprised that this woman ended up as the head of a major university? Or that once there, she would notice, as she later told me, "Administration really is like housekeeping, although men hate to hear you say it. Once I did make the comparison in an academic group and I got curious stares, followed later by a present of a can of Endust. But look at the similarities: hundreds of little chores that are never really finished; if you don't keep up every day it gets ahead of you; none of it is very important in the abstract; all of it is important in the concrete."
One of the first women to make this comparison between home and organizational management was Catherine Beecher, in her 1841 best seller, A Treatise on Domestic Economy. Beecher argued that running a household required the "wisdom, firmness, tact, discrimination, prudence, and versatility" of a politician and the "system and order" of a business. Domestic money management, she added, often surpassed the "desultory" practices of many businesses.
One hundred years later, Eleanor Roosevelt made the same argument, in almost the same language: "A home requires all the tact and all the executive ability required in any business."
The first serious conceptualization of business management as "multitasking," however, didn't appear until 1973, when Professor Henry Mintzberg published a now-classic book called The Nature of Managerial Work. At the time it was assumed that a manager sat in his splendid, isolated office thinking about the company's future direction and issuing commands to cadres of underlings. Mintzberg's data, based on time diaries of male executives, revealed that this picture was highly inaccurate. The executives actually spent very little time on planning or long-range strategy. What they really did closely resembled the day of a harried housewife: They answered calls, put out fires, reacted to crises, responded to people, and dealt with constant interruptions, all in a fairly incoherent pattern.
As Mintzberg put it, managerial work was characterized by "brevity, variety, and fragmentation." Any attempt by managers to stick to a task usually failed because of constant interruptions. Sound familiar? In the three decades since Minzberg's observations, managerial work has, if anything, become even more hurried and harried and more like a life manager's neverending day. The pace of action, around-the-clock economy, the constant juggling of projects, demands from different masters, rapid changes in technology, and frequent career reinventions all challenge managers and mothers alike.
Mothers today sew Halloween costumes, bake Christmas cookies, help with homework, and make major investment decisions, handle clients, teach courses, write reports. Mothers today include the executive at TIAA-CREF with triplets, an hour's daily commute into Manhattan, and a schedule that would put the Swiss railways to shame. They include her boss, who raised three kids, hosted a scout troop for eight years, threw regular Friday movie nights for preteens, did grocery shopping and meal planning and weekend chauffering while holding down a demanding job that required travel. (She left notes around the house when she was out of town, with messages like "I'm looking at you-don't forget to brush your teeth!") Mothers today include the divorced World Bank official with a young son. She arrives in the office at 8:00 A.M. with the sense that she's already worked a full day: up at 5:00 A.M., fix breakfast, pack a school lunch, plan dinner, clean up someone's mess, wrap two birthday presents, clean up dog poop, and answer emails. On her way to work one day, she spied a man coming out of his house in his robe to pick up his morning paper. Her thought: "That guy has no concept of what my life is like!" Mothers today include the former top Justice Department official whose typical weekend calender included:
Dan's soccer game
Sophia's birthday party with Dana
National Security Council meeting
Most people still assume that the birthday parties, the Halloween costumes, the soccer games, and the grocery store somehow detract from the performance at an NSC meeting. There is absolutely no evidence of that. On the contrary, female managers report that planning and prioritizing multiple tasks promotes efficiency, focus, and organization. As one female manager put it in a recent study, "Taking on all those roles ... being a mother, tending a household, working with an au pair, being a spouse, friend ... adds organization into your life so that you're much more efficient and organized at work."
Intriguingly, evidence is emerging that there may be a biological reason for this.
The Maternal Advantage
It is frequently assumed that the ability to handle multiple tasks at the same time is a female characteristic. In his wildly successful one-man show "Defending the Caveman," comedian Rob Becker demonstrates that focusing like a laser beam on a single goal is a guy thing, while taking it all in, doing a dozen things at once-gathering fruits and berries while chewing hides, nursing the baby and keeping an eye out for predators-is the female modus operandi. As one woman summed it up. "I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once!"
Psychologists have known for some time that the female brain is different from the male. Women tend to gather in more details of the world around them, and integrate that data into a more holistic picture of the world. Anthropologist Helen Fisher calls this "web thinking," and contrasts it with men's greater propensity for linear thinking and mental compartmentalization.
Now new research is linking the adaptability of the female brain to changes in hormone levels associated with maternity. It is beginning to appear that motherhood, and caring for the young, may actually promote enhanced brain functioning. A study done on mice at two universities in Virginia has found that dendrites, special cell structures which are necessary for communication between neurons, doubled in pregnant and nursing lab mice. The number of the brain's glial cells, which act as communication conductors, also doubled. The mother mice learned mazes more quickly, and were bolder and more curious than control animals. A subsequent study found that the new neural structures and pathways-and the associated gains in learning and spatial memory-were long-lasting, until the equivalent of eighty years in a human being. In one experiment on pregnant and nursing rats, the test animals were placed in the middle of a well-lit, five-foot-square open space, a nerve-wracking place for a prey animal like a rat, whose primary defense is to hide in the dark. The exposed mother rats were bolder, less fearful, more likely than the others to explore for food, according to University of Richmond neuropsychologist Craig Kinsley, who conducted the study with Randolph Macon psychologist Kelly Lambert. In another study at Monkey Jungle in Miami, Lambert and graduate student Anne Garrett found that marmosets who had experience caring for young were also more efficient than childless animals in foraging for hidden Fruit Loops. In preliminary pilot studies, male marmosets who were fathers were also better at remembering where Fruit Loops were hidden than childless animals.
Lambert, thirty-nine, is planning new experiments with primates, and she admits that her research is partially motivated by her own experience. The mother of two daughters, ages five and nine, she is writing a book, teaching, conducting research, and serving as chairman of the psychology department at Randolph Macon. To get it all done, she often works until well past midnight, long after everyone else has gone to bed. She says she feels smarter, more daring, more productive, and in less need of sleep than at any time in her life. "One of the most enriching things for our brains is novelty," she told a reporter. "New connections are made with novelty, and every day there's something new with the kids."
The measured gains in mammalian maternal brain functioning should hardly be surprising. By all logic, our relatively defenseless female ancestors would have had to have been extremely clever and brave to keep their infants alive during all the years of helpless dependence. If human mothers hadn't been more enterprising and creative than your average Flintstone, homo sapiens would have never have made it out of the Stone Age. Scientists are learning more every day about neuroplasticity, the adult human brain's capacity to keep on developing well past puberty. Imagine-we may eventually discover that busy, concerned mothers are to brain-building what Arnold Schwarzenegger was to bodybuilding!
Interestingly, several of the women I interviewed described their multitasking in almost physical terms, as if it were brain exercise. Film producer Sarah Pillsbury said, "There are times in film production when you have to think about so many things, in so many parts of your brain-the sheer range of thinking-that I don't even know if men are biologically equipped to do it. At the very least you get better at it by exercising all parts of your brain simultaneously-the creative side, the efficient, practical side, and the relationship side.... For example, when you're producing a film, you have to be simultaneously thinking of the story; the physical needs in terms of telling the story-how much crew, what about the sets, et cetera; how much time you have in the day to shoot; the moods of the different actors; how do you add something to the schedule; or how can you shorten the schedule to get out of an expensive location; and on and on." I was also struck by the comments of mothers who said that engaging in a variety of quite different activities actually enabled them to be fresher and more creative in their work.
Excerpted from If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything by Ann Crittenden Excerpted by permission.
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|1||Multitasking and the rise of the life manager||15|
|2||How to spot a baby when you see one||43|
|3||Win-win negotiating and the irrational no!||61|
|4||The importance of listening||75|
|6||Empathy : the e.q. factor||103|
|8||Growing human capabilities||127|
|10||Habits of integrity||151|
|11||A sense of perspective||165|
|13||The future matters||187|
|14||Where we stand now : the executive gender gap||191|
|15||Hide it or flaunt it : is the world ready for child-rearing on a resume?||201|
|Postscript : mothers are everywhere and times are changing||227|