Leadership Development News welcomes Jamie Woolf, author of Mom-in-Chief: How Wisdom From the Workplace can Save Your Family From Chaos.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: We are very excited to have Jamie Woolf on the show with us today, as you can tell by the tone of my voice and it’s because about a year ago I was introduced to Jamie just as the Obama’s entered the Whitehouse. It was very exciting to know that another leadership guru, like Jamie, was out there trying to help leaders establish not only their best personal profile in the workplace, but use it on the home front as well. Jamie Woolf has over 20 years of experience consulting to business leaders. Based on her work inside of dozens of public, non-profit, and private organizations Jamie helps parents apply business best practices to enjoy more success at home and at work.
Jamie founded the Parent Leader to help mothers and fathers gain the self awareness and leadership skills to transform their daily parenting challenges into desired results. She also co-founded Pinehurst Consulting, an organizational developmental and training consulting firm. We are so excited to have Jamie Woolf on the show with us today.
She enjoys a lovely, and happy, fulfilling life in Oakland, California with her husband and two daughters. Welcome to the show Jamie.
Jamie Woolf: Thank you Cathy. Nice to be here.
Dr. Relly Nadler: Jamie, we are going to start off with what we always like to ask our folks. Who has been the most influential people or thinkers in your life or your career that have really shaped your thinking about work?
Jamie Woolf: I know your work around emotional intelligence. I too am so inspired by all of the work that Daniel Goleman has done and I think there are countless studies that point to the correlation between self-awareness and leadership effectiveness. I think that applies to parents as well. That certainly has been an influence for me. Then, in terms of the book; a really strong influence was Jim Kouzes and Tom Peters. I worked for the Tom Peters Group for a short stint and just became completely enamored of the way that they have taken transformational leadership concept; the kind of leadership that brings out the best in others. To me that is why I got into this field, it’s to really find people where they spend most of their time, in the workplace, and help leaders to bring out the best in others and bring out the best in themselves. So that has certainly been a very big influence.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Jamie, one of the things that I’m very interested in obviously, and I hope our listeners are too, is how you started a company focused on helping parents use their business and leadership skills at home.
Jamie Woolf: You know, Cathy, like you had said, I had been working just in the business world for two decades then I had my first child. There are a few reasons that I decided to start this company and to write the book. One is that for me bringing leadership skills to parenting not only made perfect sense, but it’s a survival strategy. When I feel completely at my wits end at home, I remember that there are leadership strategies that I can use at home and at work that really help me to elevate my thinking, become more purposeful. Second, I was also so frustrated with the way media depicts mothers; depicting mother-parenting as menial, as not work at all. I really believe that parents demonstrate acts of leadership every day.
I think third that this is a job that we say matters the most and yet we spend more time and energy honing our work skills. We get coaching, we get training, we read leadership books; but I didn’t see a lot out there that really focused on the connection of leadership and parenting and acknowledge that if this truly is a job that matters the most, why not, without the guilt, really focus in on how to hone our skills and be the best parent we can be?
Dr. Relly Nadler: Well Jamie, that certainly resonates with me. I have tow children so my wife and I are right in the midst of all of this.
Jamie Woolf: So you need all of the skills you can get.
Dr. Relly Nadler: Exactly. Often when I’m doing coaching with folks around management, I have that little voice saying, “oh, I should do that more with my son,” whether it’s around accountability or talking about the impacts of something. So I’m really excited to hear about what you have to say. Maybe you can tell us just briefly before our break a couple of things that have inspired you to write this book.
Jamie Woolf: I think like you, I had countless clients even before I had kids, telling me that the strategies, the skills that they were learning and applying at work were helping equally at home with their kids. So that really inspired me even before I had kids to make that connection. I just saw over and over that the skills that really bring out the best in adults can be translated to bring out the best in kids, whether it be listening, conflict resolution, knowing ourselves so that we can catch ourselves when our leadership is running amok, is backfiring, and bring it back to a more effective place.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: One of the things that I would love for you to talk a little bit about is your background in leadership development and what you have been doing actually, prior to the book and then what you have been doing since the book. I think there are so many things that we can apply to our personal life from the work world and vice versa and I think you have made that connection nicely in your own experience.
Dr. Relly Nadler: Jamie, let’s talk about some of your background and some of the things before you wrote Mom-in-Chief that allowed you to take some of the insights from the business world and tie it into parenting.
Jamie Woolf: You know, one of the areas that I focus on in business is on fostering accountability. Mark Samuel is a consultant that I have admired for a long time and I have borrowed heavily from his work. It really helps business leaders to shift from a kind of victim attitude where you are stuck in excuses and you’ve got a work culture where people are pointing fingers and blaming and rationalizing their mistakes rather than a more accountable stance which is around seeing what role we play, learning from our mistakes, continually growing. Even forgiveness, being something that I talk about in the workplace; letting go of those conflicts that keep us stuck and ultimately focusing on our big picture goals and connecting our actions every day to those big picture goals.
That’s something that I think is really pertinent to parenting. If we don’t look at ourselves and look at the role that we are playing in our kids lives, which can be daunting and almost too profound at times, we should continually focus on what are we trying to do here. Are we trying to raise kids that are compassionate, responsible, and confident? If we remember those big pictures goals I think we can rise above the niggling details that can keep us exhausted and not as purposeful and instead bring our actions, bring our every day behaviors, more in line with those big picture goals.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: When you were thinking about becoming a parent, I’m curious how you started to think about your own leadership style and how you would apply it, if you will, to your personal life and what helped steer you in that direction?
Jamie Woolf: Well, one of the things that I’ve been doing in the workplace is assessments so that people gain self-awareness. I know myself to be what I call a connector in the book Mom-in-Chief. I have three mom modes. One is connector which is really about nurturing and building relationships. The second is achiever which is about setting stretch goals and continually guiding people to reach higher. Then the third is liberator which is more around stepping back and allowing the full unique individual to emerge.
Me being a connector, I was great at building the connection, building relationships, trusting relationships as a manager and as a leadership coach. But where that can run amok for me and others is in then being over-accommodating, perhaps over-involved, and over-emotional. That was a big aha for me when I became a parent because I thought, okay, now as a parent in this emotional landmine of parenting, this is really getting in my way that my strength is being undermined by the emotion of the job. So, I started to really figure out strategies to get back on track when my strengths, being a connector, was backfiring.
Dr. Relly Nadler: That is really interesting. I would also resonate with being a connector. I know in my family when things get more emotional my first place is thinking, why do we need to do this—let’s all be happy. It is interesting from the accountability standpoint. I just have to laugh how both of my kids want me to discipline the other one and be consistent, not necessarily for themselves, but with the other one. So one is a boy and one is a girl but they demand consistency for their other sibling, not themselves.
Jamie Woolf: Yah, I have that same problem in my house. I think that it’s so difficult to hold firm on discipline as connectors, because we want to just sometimes smooth things over, make everyone happy. Yet, if we are thinking about those higher order goals, we really want to teach the lessons behind the discipline. It’s not just discipline for disciplines sake, it’s holding firm to chores because we are fostering responsibility, for example.
Learn more about the connector, the achiever and some of the other descriptions of the leadership styles that Jamie talks about in Mom-in-Chief. You can listen to the complete interview above.