LISTEN TO MOM

As my mother once said "Don't do anything you wouldn't do if I was there." Ouch! Now that was a great way to keep me on the straight and narrow, instead of looking for trouble as a teenager.

I've often thought about that advice since then and generously offer it by thought and gesture to others. Especially those dangerous drivers flying by on the highway - "Does your mother know you drive like an idiot!?"

Mothers are an important influence to guide our ethical conduct in business too. That was apparently understand by the jeweler in Cranbrook BC who had a conspicuous sign posted next to the cash register stating "We give instant credit to all our customers. If they are over 90 and accompanied by their mother." Good credit guideline!

Most entrepreneurs and executives probably don't often think of their mothers on the job, unless she's the boss – like Ma Boyle at Columbia Sportswear. Maybe they should. We would probably have fewer issues of corporate misconduct if their mothers knew what was going on. Perhaps instead of all those current management courses on ethics and corporate responsibility, we only need to remind decision-makers to ask themselves "Would my mother be proud of me if she knew what I was doing?"

My Uncle Ralph persona is partly inspired by my father and his unique character and style of dispensing wise advice, punctuated with easily remembered one-liners (“Always do good work and charge like Hell!”).

But my mother also had a strong influence on my personality and management style, although it was more subtle and less frequently stated than demonstrated. Quiet, hard working, good humoured, responsible and respectful of others; those are the characteristics that immediately come to mind. Things we all learned from her example, simply by being around her. Of course, she was also good at reminding us when we forgot those important principles or our behaviour was not up to her standards. And it's still a pleasure to make her proud.

That's why I recommend you use the test "What would Mom think?" before your actions and decisions in business too.

Thanks Mom. And Happy Mother's Day every day.

On the other hand, “I am not your mother.”

Now I am suggesting that we might have better decision-making if managers asked themselves what their mother would think of their actions. But what about those employees that expect you to act like their mother?

What is the right level of caring and compassion before it becomes more personal than a working relationship should be? Is there a reasonable limit? Is it appropriate to get involved with issues that are strictly personal? Do employees become part of your extended family with all the additional obligations that implies?

Some recent exposure to business owners dealing with their employees' personal issues has caused me to be more cautious about getting involved. Once the managers start lending a sympathetic ear and then a shoulder to cry on, it soon becomes more time consuming on and off the job and creates a relationship that is difficult to steer back to business only. It also becomes a distraction for other employees and creates new concerns about employee favouritism.

My guideline for these situations would be to decide whether you would do what's being requested for every employee in the same situation. Personal advice? Time off? Cash advances? If not, then say no to the first request. Don't start a precedent that you're not prepared to write into the policy manual.

And don't be afraid to clarify the relationship, "I'm your boss, not your mother".

Those are my thoughts on Mom's influence on your business.  Do you agree?  Any comments?

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