Interview by Ellen Bari
Shari Storm’s new book, Motherhood is the New MBA: Using Your Parenting Skills to Be a Better Boss, offers wise, funny, practical advice on how to take basic mothering skills and translate them into successful management in the office. Shari is currently the VP, Chief Marketing Officer at Verity Credit Union, a $400 million financial institution. She has an MBA from Seattle University, teaches at the University of Washington’s Experimental College and mentors graduate students at Seattle University. In addition to work on her own blog, www.sharistorm.com, Shari contributes online to Working Mother Magazine, MomLogic and her company’s blog. Shari lives with her husband and three young daughters near Seattle, Washington. Ellen Bari, Co-Founder of Momasphere (Hip Slope Mama's sister site) took the opportunity to ask Shari a few questions about her new book and how she manages to do it all.
Q. Ellen B. In reading your new book, Motherhood is the New MBA, I couldn’t help but feel : Now why didn’t I write this book. It seems so obvious, but the truth is, it’s never really been framed quite this way. What inspired you to write the book?
A. Shari S. I knew I wanted to write something about how great motherhood is. When I became a mother, I felt more creative, more effective, and more energized at the office. But what I found to read on the topic of working and motherhood was more about how hard it is. There is a lot to read about the challenges of work life balance, the unfairness of the wage gap, the dangers of post-partum depression. All of these are of course, real and important issues. They just are not what I was experiencing personally.
Q: Ellen B. I know that sometimes we have an idea rolling around in our heads, until one particular experience brings the concept front and center. Was there a specific incident at work or at home that sparked the writing of this book?
A. Shari S. One day, when my oldest daughter was about 2 years old, we had some drama going on at work, and I suspected a co-worker of something. When I asked her about it, she started to answer me and it occurred to me that she was giving me the same type of answer I got from my two year old when I ask her, “Did you put your sneakers in the toilet?” It’s the look she gives me when she is lying!
It occurred to me at that point that human nature is human nature, whether we are 2 or 62. We are basically hard wired the same way and parents get in-depth, long term practice in human nature. We learn quickly, through parenting, how to get others to act in a way that we want them to.
Q. Ellen B. Not to give it all away, because our readers should first plan to come see you in your only New York appearance on November 5th at the Park Slope Eye, and then they should read the book. But in the interim, can you share the four most important things a good mom can bring to her role as a good manager?
A. Shari S:
- Don’t try to be everyone’s friend. Moms and bosses play a very unique role. It is our duty to guide people. That sometimes means having difficult conversations or making unpopular decisions. It’s tough to do that if you are buddies with your kids or your employees. You can be kind, personable and likable, but be clear on boundaries.
- Set a good example. Good parents know they are always on stage. Managers should remember this too. You can tell your employees how to act until you are blue in the face. But if your behavior doesn’t match your words, they will follow your example, not your verbal mandates. If you tell your staff to work with urgency and then you come in late and leave early every day, you will not get the results you want.
- Remember the magic words. Saying “please”, “thank you” and “I’m sorry” are one of the fundamental things we teach our children. It’s amazing how often these simple acts of kindness are forgotten at the office. Never underestimate the power of good manners.
- Keep your house in order. Good parents don’t tolerate behavior that endangers their children or others. When your kid runs out into the street or throws a golf ball at their siblings, you take care of it – immediately. Good managers act with the same swiftness when an employee is acting disruptively and compromising the effectiveness of the team.
Q. Ellen B. It seems to me that many of the practices you talk about in the book can relate to people other than moms…and even other than parents? Is there also a message here for managers who don’t have kids?
A. Shari S. My entire career I’ve heard sports analogies when it comes to business and I’ve heard war analogies when it comes to business. These are metaphors that are not relatable for most women, and for many men, frankly. The family dynamic is a framework that many people intuitively understand, whether they have children or not. Surprisingly, I’ve had tremendous support for the book from men and from non-parents. One journalist who interviewed me for the book said, “I just enjoyed reading the stories and the concepts all made perfect sense to me.” She does not have kids.
In light of all the talk days about work/life balance, I just can’t resist asking you how you manage to juggle everything so effectively. You have a full-time job as an executive at a credit union , are raising three young children under the age of seven AND manage to write a book? What’s your secret?
I’ve got a few secrets. The first is, there are lots of things I don’t do (like keep a clean house, write thank you notes, pay my bills on time or paint my fingernails).
Secondly, I dedicated one hour a day to this project. It took four years. It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do something for one hour each day. I committed to working on it from 4 am to 5 am every day.
Thirdly, I’ve got amazing support from my family, friends and co-workers. My husband, sisters and mothers help a great deal. My job has a 37.5 hour work week and I work from home on Fridays. It’s been a godsend for the crunch times on the book.
Momasphere events is hosting Shari’s only New York appearance on Thursday Nov.5th at the Park Slope Eye. Find out more about the details at Momasphere Events.
Ellen Bari, a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, mom and creative consultant, curates and produces award-winning programs and exhibits for children and adults. She is the Co-Founder of Momasphere, a organization based out of Park Slope, Brooklyn, that creates innovative evening events for moms of all ages, while also giving back to the community. Her upcoming children’s book Jumping Jenny (Lerner Publishing) is about a passionate little girl whose bouyant bounce, truly knows no bounds. Ellen’s ‘creative compass’ navigates her life as a mom, globe trekker, and designer of one-of-a-kind ceramics and jewelry- her necklaces are on display at Proteus Gowanus Gallery. She is also a regular contributor to Hip Slope Mama. Current exhibits in NYC include The Future Beneath Us @ the Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL/NYPL), Transit Museum Gallery @ Grand Central; American Express Tower in the World Financial Center lobby.