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Good Mother Does Not Equal Good Boss

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Shari Storm: Suzy Welch recently cited "trying to be the Good Mother" as a common mistake women in management make.

mom and daughter smling coyly

She defines "Good Mother" as the boss who tries to be everyone's friend.

While I agree that getting too cozy with your staff is a dangerous move, Welch has the definition of Good Mother wrong.

I remember in high school the friend whose mom wanted to know all the details of her personal life. I remember them giggling together on the night she lost her virginity. Her mom reveled in being told everything.

I remember the mom who bought us beer when we asked.

I remember the mom who helped us paint graffiti on a bridge one night.

None of those were my mother. I could not dream of having a mom like that.

No, my mom made it clear that she was not my friend.

"You have plenty of friends," she once told me. "You don't need any more friends. You need a mom."

And she was right.

My mom didn't snicker about sizes and messes when it came to my sexuality. She spoke to me like an adult, discussing safety and consequences.

My mom didn't supply me with beer, but she made it clear it was safe to call her if I ever needed a ride home.

My mom didn't think vandalism was funny and she let us know, in no uncertain terms, that we best not break the law.

That is how a good mother acts.

Good bosses are the same. Good bosses can have fun with and care about their staff. They can talk casually with them and get to know them on a personal level, but at the end of the day, they must make the distinction between boss and friend.

A good boss is there to help their employees succeed and grow and flourish. Sometimes that means difficult conversations, or unpopular choices, or un-friend-like decisions.

Often it means acting like a boss and not acting like a friend -- in other words, acting like a good mother.

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4 comments so far | Post a comment now
ejwin June 15, 2009, 12:29 PM

And vice versa!

Jessica (@It's my life...) June 15, 2009, 3:08 PM

Great post! It’s when the friendship lines get blurry that people get hurt.
Kids need parents and employees need guidance. Nothing works if everyone is hung up on being pals.

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