Great Managers Get the Unwilling To Accomplish Amazing Things

“Mommy, I’m writing a movie here…can’t you see?”

There is a difference between a great leader and a great manager. I, in my household, am both.

A great manager gets the unwilling to accomplish amazing things. A great leader sets the example for the unwilling to want to lift themselves up to join.

I love my family. I can say right now in this moment, I love them more than I did three years ago. It is truly at this point of my parental management career that I can say “I’m successful!”…however, the dark tunnel I’ve been in (and my leadership got me through it) has been a long and painful, and sometimes psychiatrically medicated one.  Everyone has a coping strategy, mine mixes relaxing medication with wine.

My children are no worse for the wear of my pain and anxiety. They can finally communicate to me all that they appreciate of what I do, and I finally feel secure in the knowledge that I did a great job (so far). That like George Washington leading the troops across the Potomac River, or Christopher Columbus taking the crew on the voyage of a lifetime, I know that my role as their mother is to lead them, and manage them, and most of all love and protect them.

I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t also say that I, as the leader and manager in my household am seriously overwhelmed. I just can’t keep up, get it all done, and keep it all going. Not only do I have to keep myself on task, and on schedule, but then try to make sure that the little ones are prepared for whatever their teacher has on her agenda (although I find it amazing that lesson plans aren’t shared with parents). My oldest son (3rd grade) has a literature project due…”Write a Mixed Up Fairy Tale.” He’s a smart kid, and has a wonderful vocabulary and imagination – he’s had two week to accomplish the task, and I think all in he’s spent about 12 hours on his story – writing the outline, writing his story map, and then he went to town on the story. Every hour or so, I’d ask him how it was coming along, and he’d read me some brilliant paragraph. I’d ask, “Is it done yet?”

“No. I’m about in the middle”.

Four days go by and my great author is busy in the pages of his story. The deadline is two days away and I say, “Okay, let’s work on editing this story and make sure the story meets the expectations of the Rubric”. I read the story. It doesn’t match the story map. No, it’s another story completely.

I ask, “Uh, where are we here?”

“Mommy, I’m writing a movie here. Can’t you see?”

“Baby, it needs to follow the story map!” And then, it all fell apart from there. My future screen writer bursts into tears, sobs, and says that “he’s just an idiot” as well as some other incoherent statements of ineptitude and failure that I didn’t focus on and just tried to figure out how we were going to turn this thing around in 24 hours so that his gunner of a teacher doesn’t circle the “not acceptable” portion of her evaluation of his work.

We wrote another story map – this time trying to meet what was in the plot of the fairy tale, that again, isn’t a fairy tale, but a tall tale of movie magnitude…

And then true creativity was destroyed.

My management sucked.

He was then so exhausted he finished the story with boring detail, and wrote in big letters “The End” and put it down on the kitchen table and went right to bed – a child that was truly excited for the story that he was telling was squashed by being confined inside of the box.

Great managers also need to learn to manage those in the way that allows them to be successful. I should have just let him go with it, and then filled out the story map when he was done.

Lesson learned.