17 March 2010

Toot Toot!

I’ll start with some good old British modesty and self-deprecation, then I’ll put it aside, just for today. I feel uncomfortable blowing my own trumpet, particularly as I can’t play the trumpet. I’ve got a feeling this post is going to be tricky to write, but for reasons that I hope will become clear, it is important for me to write it, as a reminder.


I’m an excellent manager.

In my well-paid job, that I gave up to become a stay at home mum, I was a financial controller or financial director.  This means I managed the accounts departments of companies. I was usually responsible for all aspects of finance within a business, most often reporting directly to the managing director. I was trusted implicitly by those managing directors and became their right hand woman.

As a fully qualified accountant (before children, my proudest moment was qualifying with first time passes in all my exams) I competently produced full sets of accounts accurately and on time.

I was organised and never missed a deadline. I introduced new operational and accounting software systems. I performed audits, ran meetings and training sessions and was usually the office expert on Excel.

I think the reason I was so successful in my career however, was the way I dealt with people. I was an excellent manager because I treated people with respect. I was kind to them. I cared about them. I made sure everyone in my department was fully trained and knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing.

When I asked one of my team to do something, they did it. This was the skill that set me apart from other less accomplished managers. To them it was like I had a magic wand, they asked how I did it. I told them, but they went back to their teams and either ignored them or shouted at them.

The secret of running a successful department is to remember that being a manager is your top priority. All of your other tasks must wait, your team is more important. This is why people have cried when I’ve announced I was leaving or clapped and cheered when I’ve been promoted.

None of this happened over night. I learned my management style over many years and by managing spectacularly badly to start with. Eventually I discovered that if your team performs well, you look good. It’s simple really.


So what?

You may well ask.

The question I'm asking myself is why oh why haven’t I transferred these skills to my new job?

Managing a team of thirty-six adults (some of whom could be big kids) in my last job was a piece of cake compared with looking after two toddlers!

No corporate job can prepare you for that!

This post was written as part of the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop. This week I chose prompt no.5: Tell us about something, or show us something that you do really, really well and are proud of.




  1. I can so relate to this! First of all--well done in your career, sounds like you'd be great to work for (why didnt I work for more people like you??). Second, toddlers dont think like the rest of us!!! Transferable skills? I think patience is the only one that has any effect here, and that is mostly only for the mother's sanity... ;)

  2. You have every right to blow your own trumpet, you have a fabulous career and sounds like you were one of the top in your field. Toddlers on the other hand, don't take to well at being managed or orders or tasks or being asked to do anything. In fact they pretty much do what they want. I loved being a stay at home mum when I was on Mat leave but knew I had to go back to work. Sometimes you just feel like you are chasing your tail all day long :) Great post. xx

  3. Being a good manager is very tough, and it sounds like you were great, likley because you actually genuinely cared about the people who reported to you. In my field, science, we get some truly terrible managers, because a lot of scientists are not "people people" at all. I'm a manager now, and I love working with people, I adore my team, so I hope I am as a good a manger as you were, I certainly try.

    I do think some skills are transferable to toddlers, or at least to preschoolers, and as your kids get older you'll see it more and more.

    Empathy. Active listening. Giving feedback. Being available. Seeing things from the other persons point of view no matter how bizzare.

    Actually sometimes I feel that managing and parenting are so similar that I run out of empathetic energy, and just want to spend one day a week being a miserable b*tch to everyone!

  4. Oh I so agree with this. 2 toddlers is way harder than any career job. I've found myself more stressed, more exposed and more pushed to my limit than I ever did in my career when I had huge amounts of authority, ability to commit my company to enormous sums of money and could have a cup of coffee when it all got a bit frantic. Great post. x

  5. I have to agree it was easier to relocate 600 people than go on our first trip out as a family of four. Well done you

  6. Great post Sandy! It's so ironic that there is no job that can compare to the mental and physical challenge of bringing up children and yet it is completely taken for granted by so many.

    But I think the worst thing is that amazing women like you take 'time out' (oh,hahaha!) to look after their children then lose the confidence needed to go back to their careers, or are disregarded by the recruitment pool. Our economy is crying out for your management skills yet at the same time rejecting those that could supply them in favour of the old boys club.

    (rant over!)


  7. I used to be regional administrator of 2000 professionals, organizing and running their training, plus wrote and dt published a glossy newsletter every 3 weeks...BUT I found it so much more stressful and tiring looking after my little girl when she was a toddler - and I only had one at home at a time!

  8. It's just not possible to manage toddlers, ever!

  9. Well, good for you for being such a good manager! I see so many people ending up in my surgery with stress-related problems that have been caused or worsened by lousy managers, so it's satisfying to read about a good one, especially from her own point of view!

  10. Hrm, what does it say about me that upon reading the intro to this post I immediately thought it was about trumping (i.e. farting?).

    You sound like a fab manager. A few years ago when I was fairly fresh in the job market I had a year of hell courtesy of a very bad manager. I didn't really know it at the time but looking back on it, crikey she was out of line with the way she treated her team. I feel stronger having gone through that experience but it really wasn't nice.

  11. Hi Sandy! I bet you were good and ARE good! A good manager is rarer to find than a good employee. I've had a fair few with varying degrees of success. I shall remain silent about my present boss. Silence can often speak volumes.

  12. But you put your managerial skills to excellent use planning this week's carnival. Managing tots is the hardest thing I've ever done - makes those boardroom presentations which used to make me quake in my boots seem like a breeze now!

  13. Ha! I love it. You sound like an excellent manager - I would have loved to work for you (and I am hopeless with authority so you would have had your hands full).


  14. Great post - I wish I could transfer my work competence to my mummy life, at the least I wish someone had told me at 18 to learn to wrestle professionally, so much more use than a degree !

  15. What a great question ... you really hit the nail on the head with this one. So many professional mums are great at their careers, and then they have kids and become a bumbling mess (me not you). You could write a book about it!

  16. Great post and so true. Kids are just so, well ... unpredictable!

  17. Michelloui, thank you. Yes, patience, patience and more patience!!

    Susan, I had done pretty well in my career, but with my toddlers I've met my match! Yes, I spend my whole day chasing my tail! x

    Geekymummy, I'm sure you're a great manager, because you care. There are so many managers that don't care, for them management is a power trip. Yes, being available is so important x

    Fraught Mummy, I'm glad it's not just me that finds motherhood a challenge! I still get to look after the family budget. Harumph! x

    The Mad House, we haven't gone on a trip as a family of four yet. Not looking forward to it!! x

  18. Paula, oh rant away! I know that when I go back to work (possibly after a five year break), I'll have to start at a lower level and try to work my way up again, probably earning 50% of what I was on before and always overlooked for promotion because I leave on time to pick up my children. Grr!! Oh and NOTHING can prepare you for motherhood. Having said that, I imagine I'll be going back to work for a rest! x

    Diney, I'm glad it's not just me! x

    Ella, perhaps I'll get on better if I accept that!! x

    Dr Sarah, thank you. I never made a secret of my management style/techniques. You catch more flies with sugar. Poor managers (and I've worked for a few) can make you dread going to work. Such a shame.

    Alice, I'll write about trumps at some point, don't worry! I just can't understand people who want to make other's lives a misery!

  19. Mummy Bear, hearing you loud and clear! I try to be good at my current job, but it's hard!

    Hot Cross Mum, I know, I think I'll be fearless when I go back to work!

    Josie, I'd have worked out what motivates you and let you get on with your job - we'd have been fine! x

    Muddling Along, oh yes, wrestling and selective deafness!

    A Modern Mother, oh I can be a bumbling mess too! Hmm, a book, now there's an idea. Too bad I don't have any of the answers!!

    If I could Escape, yes and that's the problem - particularly when you're a control freak perfectionist!


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