Imagine this: Your business is growing. Your team is growing. You’re putting in the blood, sweat and tears every day — then you blink, and the years start rolling by. In that time, you’ve also managed to start your own family. You’re no longer just a single entrepreneur responsible for yourself.
Last month, I celebrated my company’s eighth birthday and simultaneously welcomed my third child into the world. It’s been a whirlwind to say the least.
They say parenthood is never what you expect it to be. Your priorities become fluid; sleep is at a minimum, and routines become harder and harder to keep. You are forced to take a good, hard look at how you spend your time and often end up making changes that require more discipline when it comes to time management.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a parent to benefit from the lessons of parenthood. Here are some business tips I’ve learned that have helped me to become a better CEO along the way.
1. Be present (at home and in the office).
Before my first child was born, I wasn’t the poster child for work-life balance. Frankly, I was happy to be at the office at all hours. It was fun for me at the time. But when family constraints become a reality, you learn to treat time with more respect.
When I’m home, I devote 100% of my attention to being with my kids and wife. When I’m at work, it’s no different. More than ever before, I put down my phone in meetings, cut out distractions while I’m working and reserve time to check in with key stakeholders. Commit to being present, and you’ll realize you have more time than you thought.
2. Work smarter.
Let’s take that concept a step further. At home, I’ve learned to create rituals that help me commit to spending quality time with my family. I have shared calendars with my wife for personal and childcare events so we can align digitally. I block off “free time” to dedicate to deep work that requires more in-depth creativity and isn’t task-based. At home, I commit to a few rituals, and I make them count. I take my girls to the park every weekend. I make it home for dinner every night.
The same concept can be applied to the office: I try to show up to meetings on time now (still a work in progress). Take a look at your calendar, and cut the number of meetings in half. Merge multiple meetings into one weekly review and commit to being there.
We use Asana to identify key stakeholders to track and report on actions required out of meetings. Working smarter isn’t about “working less;” it’s about working on what matters and cutting out the fluff.
3. Delegate to the right people.
In more ways than I had imagined, fatherhood has made me a better CEO. Being a better leader is often more about listening than dictating. One key way I’ve been able to do this is through the empowerment of my team.
First, I had to hire and train the right people for the roles. After being the sole C-level executive on our team for seven years, I brought on our first-ever COO. I was able to promote from within for this role, and the decision has allowed me to be removed from various company initiatives, while still trusting that we have strong leadership in place to accomplish our goals.
We also expanded our leadership team to go beyond VP-level employees and have seen the positive impact of empowering and trusting midlevel decision makers to take ownership over their areas of the business.
4. Reevaluate your goals.
Parenthood inevitably makes you reevaluate everything — including your business — and I’ve learned that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I’d argue that reevaluating your mission, vision and goals is something leaders should be doing more often.
Take the time to step back and make sure you understand and believe in what you’re doing. Give yourself the opportunity to assess what is working and what is not.
5. Be OK not having balance.
Kids or no kids, everyone’s concept of “balance” is different. As a father, that sense of balance will always be shifting. When I had my third child, I took three months out of the office working part-time remotely to focus more on my home life. It was the first time I’d shifted my sense of balance that drastically.
Inevitably, there will be an instance down the line when I’ll need to focus heavily on the business for a period. That’s OK, too. Your life priorities can shift: It might be 70-20-10 one week and 90-5-5 the next. The best thing you can do for yourself is be OK not having balance and riding the ebb and flow.
As CEOs, it’s easy to get caught up in our businesses and let other aspects of life fall to the wayside. But sometimes it is those other aspects of life, whether that’s having kids, running a marathon or traveling, that can feed your drive as a leader and visionary. Don’t be afraid to dip your toes in both, and soak in every lesson along the way.