Leadership Lessons Taken From Motherhood


Huone Singapore’s Joewin Tan says good managers should take a cue from good parents.

Joewin Tan

Hiring and retaining talent has got to be the greatest pain point of entrepreneurs and managers. Many have asked me what makes a good leader. The truth is, I am still learning.

To summarise what I know, the art of leadership is being able to show the team what is possible, to lead by example, and have the ability to hide your panic even when things go wrong (yes, this is extremely important). Throughout my journey leading the Huone team, I have often asked for advice from mentors who lead much bigger teams — and when it comes to leading newcomers, the advice I’ve received is often likened to the role of a mother with her newborn.

“Umbilical Cord” Detachment
An umbilical cord is like the handholding that needs to be done with your newcomers —you feed them nutrients daily (knowledge, skills, and company culture) for many months to get them healthy and ready to excel in their position. No matter how long we “handhold” the team, if we do not let go, they will always remain on the ground.

Once you’ve let go, always be nearby to catch them when they fall, so they will find the perseverance to pick themselves up and try again. Sometimes when we recruit a candidate who performed well during an interview, we forget that we still need to guide them. Instead, we force them to run even before they learn how to crawl.

I’ve come to realise that work performance has very little to do with abilities. Jack Ma once said that the best team is the team you train.

Nappy Rash Syndrome
Often, when bad things (or nappy rashes) happen, people are quick to point fingers. Focus on why nappy rash happens and not who made the rash appear.

As a leader, finger pointing is the worst. Your company culture is determined by the actions you accept in your company. When you start to point fingers, or condone finger pointing, this nasty behaviour will embed itself into your company culture. Address the nappy rash objectively.

Embrace Teething
Every baby experiences teething. It is like the inevitable pain that new employees go through as they stumble through the first few months of their job. In the beginning, it may seem baffling that your super-motivated employee has now turned into a stressed-out individual who looks miserable. Do not try to prevent this. Let them go through the pain and provide support in the form of encouragement and solutions.

As managers, we are often quick to offer solutions for damage control. Doing that will make new employees even more reliant and needy. Instead, offer tips, ask them for their opinion, and don’t be too quick to judge their answers. Be sure to hear them out before guiding (not giving) them to the best solution.

As a mother knows, you must remind yourself that your child may not reciprocate your love and that is okay. The skills you embed in them today may benefit a future employer. Always remember Givers Gain. If you train and invest in your team with a sincere heart, that’s good enough.

Joewin Tan is CEO of boutique event venue Huone Singapore. This article was compiled by staff at Untangled, a Singapore-based content, marketing, and business strategy consultancy.

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