I am not married and do not have children. I provide this caveat because by the time you finish reading this, you may think, “She doesn’t understand.”
However, wisdom is universal. You must take what makes sense to you and then, leave the rest. So here’s my story.
I am the child of a high achieving woman. In her lifetime, my mother ran four businesses at different points while raising six children. This came at a significant personal cost. And so, this post is directed at female CEOs, executives and entrepreneurs. I would like to share the lessons from my mom.
You Will Always Be Busy
As an executive, you will be stretched. This is because your nature is to step in when there’s a need and to be useful. So, accept your fate and focus on managing your busy life well.
Nature abhors a vacuum. Your time will be filled regardless of whether you’re in a relationship or not. That’s why the unmarried end up running key operational roles in churches. The time they would have spent on children is given to God.
It’s why if your income moves from $5,000 to $10,000, you will inexplicably spend it all by month-end. Your tastes will change based on what you can now afford. The number of people who want to spend the money with you will also increase.
So, make strategic choices as a female executive based on your availability. Be bold enough to design your life and to not feel the need to explain yourself to others.
Here’s what my mother did. While her kids were young, she set up small shops. As they grew older, she ran a hospital, built a house and became an itinerant evangelist. Dear CEO, you can become many things in a single lifetime. So, embrace seasonal customizations and roles.
Do Not Marry Someone Without Money (or who isn’t Comfortable Spending Yours)
As an executive, it is no longer in your DNA to look at prices at restaurants or to fly coach. Your spirit will reject it, if you have to go on vacation with someone who can’t afford a great hotel. And if you are famous, you will need security so there are some places you will not be comfortable in.
Whether it’s your money that is being spent or your significant other’s or both, just be with someone who can afford it or accept it.
The idea is to use money to reduce friction. You cannot be hardworking at work and then also be stressed at home. You deserve ease and do not have the extra bandwidth for domestic problems. So, if someone has an issue with toothpaste being pressed in the middle, buy two. If you like symmetry & order, purchase a big enough house for two home offices – yours and theirs. As a female CEO, use money to secure peace, where possible.
Outsource Everything Except Relationships
Presidents have one of the most demanding jobs in the world, and that’s why they don’t do laundry. They don’t even know where the washing machine is. They show up for work and leave everything else that’s non-essential.
As an executive, do not accept a role that can’t pay you enough to outsource your domestic needs. This includes hiring a high functioning assistant.
Free up your time and then do dinners with your kids and loved ones. Take spontaneous vacations with friends by private jet and skip the airport queue. Create qualitative pockets of time for love and relationships.
By the way, stop feeling guilty about outsourcing manual labour (unless you enjoy it, of course.) Look at it in terms of your per-hour value. You earn more from an hour at work than from spending time vacuuming. It costs less to pay someone to do it instead.
The only thing you must never outsource is relationships. Prioritize them at all costs.
You are Not the Only Emergency Contact
Learn to switch off your phone so your mind can rest. Designate someone as your emergency business contact. This may be your COO or Co-founder.
If you’re unavailable, life will still go on. Invest in a competent team and trust them with responsibility.
My family knows to call 911 in an emergency, and not me at certain times of the day, because I will be unreachable. That time is spent on relationships – with myself and with God – until such a time as I have a husband to share it with. The world will not collapse if you’re not around. You are not indispensable.
As a Female CEO, Know your Limits
Don’t take on more than you can chew. I’m 45 now and have no desire for children any more. In this season of my life, I only have so much emotional capacity left. I’m also on a sabbatical from volunteering with NGOs. I may have more room to serve in future.
As a female executive, stop saying yes to everything. You are not Superwoman. You will break.
Insist on Excellence and Results
Don’t let your staff kill you. Insist they do their work well, so they take the burden off you. Stop accepting mediocrity or shoddy output. Give your team room to fail (with risk mitigation back ups in place).
A significant cause of your headache, is having to redo what someone else should have done well in the first place. Don’t accept this as a pattern.
Seek Help and Other Perspectives
Whether it’s by retaining consultants or a business coach, you should never be the smartest person you know. You will limit your growth otherwise. Deliberately hire people who challenge you and call out your BS.
Capitalize or Use Profits Wisely
Diversify your cash flow early or capitalize sufficiently to grow your existing business.
One of the greatest burdens of an executive is running a business with shrinking capital. Give up some equity to raise funding for exceptional talent and to stop worrying about operational expenses.
Remember to appreciate yourself. You are fabulous and have succeeded where many have failed. Celebrate the uncommon person that you are. And remember, just because you’re achieving doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be kind. Keep your heart soft always.
For more, please read Management Culture
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