I am so not a morning person. But when Seattle Pacific University invited me last spring to their annual business breakfast to hear Carly Fiorina speak, it was enticing enough to make the sacrifice.
I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. and drove into Seattle to eat a fruit compote and listen to the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. I am sometimes suspicious of hype and fame, and had certainly read a bit about the controversial Carly—consistently Fortune’s #1 most powerful business woman in America.
Carly exceeded my expectations. She was articulate, intelligent, intuitive, and insightful. She spoke about the humiliation of being ousted from HP; she talked about staying relevant in the business world; she discussed her current efforts with micro loans to women in the developing world. But it was her discussion of the differences between managers and leaders that intrigued me.
Managers, Carly said, are those who keep things going in the business world. They ensure that teams meet their targets; policies are followed; products are created to meet consumer demands. Leaders, however, have different roles. They focus on leading indicators rather than lagging indicators—trends and new directions instead of last quarter’s financials.
Under Carly’s definition, leaders should anticipate the future, and prepare and shape the workforce to be ready to handle the changes and challenges on the horizon. (Were the leaders at Polaroid considering the shift from film to digital photography?)
Her presentation certainly made me think about my role as a manager and a leader at work, but it also made me think about my role as a manager and a leader at home. My household needs a manager: someone who pays the bills, makes the beds, prepares the meals and essentially keeps things running like a well-oiled machine. But frankly, if I’m just handling “manager” duties in my home, I could probably hire competent help to handle most of these chores. My children need more than Mom-the-Manager. They need a Mom who thinks like a leader—a parent who looks into the distance and ensures that day-to-day moments are informing their character, shaping their values, and preparing them for the future.
As a mom, I tend to over-focus on management and less on leadership. On any given day, when I’m not working outside the home, I spend the bulk of my energies on chores and preserving order. I like to rationalize that organization—a place for everything and everything in its place—allows me to be super spontaneous with the kids. Wanna go sledding? I know exactly which labeled storage bin contains mittens, hats, and snow clothes. Wanna head out of town for the weekend? I have pre-packed toiletry kits for everyone.
Don’t compliment me on this stuff. It’s a serious disorder. Telling me I’m uber-organized is akin to telling an anorexic person that she looks lovely. I took 10 weeks off work when the twins were born. When I wasn’t feeding, burping and changing Ryan and Paige, I was re-organizing the kitchen cupboards and cleaning closets and organizing my socks. The week I returned to work, I asked Megan, 4 at the time, if she was sad that I wouldn’t be at home as much. “Well,” Megan said, “the house has been really, really clean while you’ve been home, Mommy.” Ouch.
So there’s a constant voice in my head prodding me to align my goals and values with my time and action. Ask me what I want my kids to be like when they grow up, and I’d answer that I want them to be caring, compassionate souls. I’d love to see them passionately engaged in work that makes a difference. I’d like them to be fun, joyful people who know how to play well and work hard. I want them to know God intimately and be able to love deeply because they know they are well-loved.
At the Q conference in New York last year, I received a terrific book called, Every Monday Matters: 52 Ways to Make a Difference. The idea is that everyone loves Fridays and dreads Mondays. Why not turn Mondays into an amazing, incredible day to do something meaningful? The book suggests 52 activities to engage in each Monday: Write a note of gratitude. Mentor a child. Learn CPR. Pick up litter. Help the hungry.
Four years ago the kids and I came up with backward dinner night on Thursdays. It’s crazy but fun, especially when friends come over or when the kids get to explain to waitresses at restaurants that we’re having dessert first.
This year, with the gnawing sense that I need to re-evaluate my priorities, we’ve started celebrating Every Monday Matters. The kids helped me shop and make cards to welcome a neighbor’s baby and then walked over to their home to deliver the basket. We made dinner together to deliver to a sick friend. We mailed a care package to the cousins this week.
It’s not just that I want my kids to think outside of themselves, though I certainly want that. I’m hoping that it helps them form an everyday habit of gratitude for what they have and a sense of pleasure and fun for doing things for others. Problems like world hunger, AIDS, war can seem daunting, but I’m hoping my kiddos will get a glimpse of what can be accomplished or changed by their efforts.
I’m grateful that Friday is here. It’s a great day heralding the weekend ahead. But looking further down the lane at those “leading indicators”? Well, I hope my kids will one day remember Every Monday Matters.
[You can check out Every Monday Matters at: www.everymondaymatters.com