In honor of moms (and dads) out there

I try not to get too personal in these blogs, but in honor of the upcoming Mother’s/Father’s Day, I felt I had to write this.

All of the role models in my life have exhibited critical skills in an unwavering commitment to who they are and what they do. In this case, I’m talking specifically about my mother. There were goals that were set, paths that changed, discomfort, detours, heartache. And yet, she stayed the course. She was not always in full alignment or agreement of choices and performance but was full of support and advice for those in her life. NO. MATTER. WHAT.

It takes that kind of commitment to really reach all human beings, whether your “real family” or your professional family. As a mother, role model, leader, my mom provided a space of concern, passion, guidance, and continuance to serve as the roadmap for the journey you’re on.

In 2018, on the eve of my mother-in-law’s death, I realized that the moms* in my life presented a type of role model and mentor for leadership skills.

People often ask me if I grew up in a business family. No, I didn’t. But everything I know today started with the seeds planted by my motherly influences. See if you have the same experiences or know of women or men that shared these same values, or taught you similar life lessons:

  1. Always do your best

As a single mother of five children, there was no way my mom could do everything for all of us all the time. At an early age, we learned we all had to pitch in to make things in our household flow as seamlessly as possible. By devising a weekly chore list, my mother required that we own various responsibilities each week, whether it was doing laundry, emptying trash, doing dishes, dusting, etc. Mom instilled early on that we were a team and we each had things to do to support that team.

 – Mom (Fran) taught us that owning our work and if need be, asking for help or delegating to others is what got work done and doing YOUR best makes it easier for others to do THEIR best.

  1. One or two good friends is all you need

Diane, who is a favorite past-mom and grandmother to my daughter Elizabeth, knew at an early age that she wanted a large family. After having her first son, she went many years without being able to have other children. As a result, she and my former father-in-law decided to adopt. Diane and Bob thought about the family structure they wanted to create and set about doing research and locating children who were available for adoption. They found two sisters to become their new daughters. Integrating these children into their lives wasn’t always easy. It involved seeing the “whole team”, learning what was important to these new “team members”, setting clear expectations, establishing goals, providing feedback, coaching, and a balance of being firm with compassion.

– Diane demonstrated how to find and engage new team members and how to integrate them successfully into an established culture.

  1. Stand up straight and speak clearly

Anne ran her family with love … and by being clear and firm. She was incredibly transparent about expectations and boundaries. With every interaction, she shared her smile and her clear words about what she was willing to support and tolerate. She also followed up with everyone in her family with encouragement, praise, and, on occasion, an unexpected reward. The great thing about Anne was that she was clear about what she wanted and 99% of the time, she got it.

– Anne showed me how to set my goals and boundaries and how to communicate effectively when an expectation is not being met.

  1. Be quiet and listen to what I’m saying

My friend Deb married into a family where the mother ran the show. It was her way or the highway. After years of resisting and trying to buck the system, Deb learned to adapt and play nicely. She discovered there were pretty good reasons for why things got done the way they did. She found out the adage “with age comes wisdom” was true and as she learned to bend. So did “the general”. They each began to see things from the other’s point of view and soon there was a collaboration and earned mutual respect.

– Deb discovered that while new ideas might be needed, there’s a lot to be learned from those with experience. Sometimes it’s better to fit in so you can one day stand out!

  1. Be prepared

Sue had a lot of irons in the fire. She worked, had three children, two dogs, and a husband who traveled and worked a lot of hours, so he wasn’t home much. She was also working towards her master’s degree at night. She was a pro at making sure everything was done ahead of time to avoid the chaos that usually occurs in such circumstances. She made everything look easy. She wasn’t always this organized though…she slowly learned to schedule each segment of her life to make it easier on her … and everyone else, as well. Grocery shopping before work. Laying clothes out the night before bed. Making lunches right after dinner the night before. Weekly meal preparations on weekends. Arranging carpools, study groups, etc. a month in advance.

– Sue’s leadership style (and magic power) was to show others how to perform what they needed to in order to get everything done on time; better … easier … and with less stress. She showed us, by example, what can be accomplished if you make the best use of the time you have.

  1. Have fun along the way or don’t take yourself too seriously.

Anne (AKA my sister from another mother), was never my mother role model, but she was a true friend with an amazing spirit. She was an elementary teacher by trade (talk about an influencer in the lives of young minds), master gardener, volunteer extraordinaire, and board member of the Denver Dumb Friends League for 10 years. She was also the woman in my life who not only gave me sage leadership advice (along with her inspiring husband) but modeled how to have fun and to see life from a very curious and different lens. She was always interested in what I was learning, how I was growing, and how I was having fun. These amazing qualities she exhibited inspired me to be the best version of myself, including laughing at myself along the way.

-Anne’s inspired those around her to balance the seriousness while having fun finding ways to grow through curiosity versus certainty and integrating fun along the way.

  1. You can become anything you want

As a single mother, it was clear my mom, Franny, wanted to provide the best for our family. She had a clear vision of what she was creating and set up the roadmap for our success. At times, mom had three jobs, which modeled an incredible work ethic for me. She wanted the best for all of us, even if that wasn’t what we had at that very moment. She dreamed big, supported passions and goals, encouraged us to stretch further, strived for more, and required us not to “play small.” And she often put us in front of her own needs so that we could grow and develop.

– She inspired us and made it clear that anything worth having is worth working for.

After my revelation on how it was moms that started my leadership wheel rolling, it became apparent and is truly remarkable how business and life are so closely relatable. One tends to think that we get our professional savvy from our education, our professional life experiences, etc. But in fact, we get our business smarts from how we started. We get it because of our values, how we were taught to communicate; how we were expected to treat others; how highly we are motivated to succeed by what was expected of us. We learned – and owe – a lot to our mothers and fathers!

…One last word of advice from me: Don’t forget to call your mom on Sunday, May 9 … and your father on Sunday, June 20.

This blog is written in honor of my mother, Frances Esther Neavill Smith Rovlenchik (12/18/33 – 11/10/79), mother-in-law Betty June Schulenberg Hibdon (10/11/27 – 5/29/2018), former mom role models: all my Aunts (Pat, Mary, Kay, and Jeannie), Anne Gonzales (who was my ‘mom’ from 1982-1985), and Diane Teklits (who was my ‘mom’ from 1994-1997). My dear friend Anne Rackerby was in my life far too short (9/3/43 – 3/17/21).

* Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for dads, too. I just didn’t have an active one in my life from the time I was seven years old.  What I did have; however, was a slew of men who demonstrated amazing experiences to help me understand the value of dads. There are several favorites in my life and for now, in my blended family, I’ll mention my husband Dennis who is the father of our oldest Allyson, and Kirk who is the father of our youngest, Elizabeth.