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If you’re a parent, you probably remember very distinctly the first time you heard your child saying something completely inappropriate. Just as you start to respond, you stop yourself – startled by what you’ve just realized… Oh my goodness, she heard me say that. That’s where she learned it.

It is in that moment you see, with new eyes, the gravity of your role as a parent. They are watching everything. Everything — for better or for worse. The realization that you are their most important role model hits you, and hard.

My oldest daughter, Victoria, who is heading off to college on the opposite coast in the fall, recently allowed me a look in the mirror at what she has learned from me, giving a beautiful speech at a school event last week.

There’s no one I can thank more than my mom. Between trips around the world for work, my mom is an incredibly selfless, loving, and strong woman and mother. She works so hard each and every day to provide for my three siblings and she does this while also playing an active role in each of our lives. She involves herself in our sports, schools and extracurricular activities – supporting us in everything we do and pushing us to be the best we can be. She has been the most incredible role model as I’ve continued to grow, develop, and find myself. She has pushed me when I didn’t think I could go any farther, believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and loved me unconditionally when I couldn’t find something in me worth loving. And I don’t say it enough, but thank you mom, I love you. Thank you for everything you do for our family, but most importantly thank you for being you.

Life-giving words for a mother to hear. After catching my breath, I began to reflect on what motherhood has taught me about being a business leader:

1) Different people need you to lead them differently. My kids are not all the same, and they need different things from me to help them be the best that they can be. The workplace is no different. Be aware of your team and creating the right environment for each person to succeed in order to benefit the organization as a whole.

2) People are watching what you do and not just what you say. This is true of kids, but also is a reality at work. It is important to recognize that, as a leader, you are also a role model. People see everything that you do and they will take a message from those actions. If you are on your iPhone in the middle of a presentation, how can you expect other people to be engaged in the discussion if they do not think it is critical enough to demand your attention? People are always watching your verbal and nonverbal cues. Make sure you are setting the right example.

3) Be present and show your support. Everyone is busy, but be present when you are there with your team. Showing up matters. Your team needs your vision, your energy, your enthusiasm — not just your dictates. If you want to get the best out of your team, then show them that you care and that they matter.

As parents I think we all have moments where we question whether or not we are making the right decisions in raising our children. To second guess is a tendency of mothers everywhere. Yet, sometimes the lessons you hope to be teaching your kids pale in comparison to the lessons they are teaching you. My daughter wrote a few words but the lessons that she gave me through it were clear — even through my tear-filled eyes.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Victoria & Kathy Gersch

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