The Business School of Motherhood

Book Chapters: A Quick Snapshot

There’s nothing worse than wondering whether the chapters inside a book will actually be for you. I get it. I, of course, hope my book won’t be one of those “I wish I had never spent my money on this” moments, but to be sure it’s for you check out the chapter snapshots below to get an idea of what you can expect to find within.

Every chapter follows a pretty simple format (listed below), with the goal being to give you a handbook for success that doesn’t take long to read, makes you laugh along the way and is easy to refer back to when you need it.

Chapter format:

  1. An entertaining (and often embarrassing) story of how I built the skill
  2. An outline of the skill itself
  3. An explanation as to why it is an effective skill to use at work
  4. Answers to 3 frequently asked questions

Snapshots

The Drive For Self Education - Chapter 14 by Leticia Cavallaro
A man and his muse.

Chapter 1: Focus Through Mayhem
There was a time when being interrupted by a crying baby or a demanding toddler could totally throw you off your game. And then, you learn to focus through the chaos so that you can finish a conversation with another adult or complete a task regardless of the ‘Muppet Meltdowns’ unfolding around you.

Chapter 2: Teachable Moments
If you had very little idea of how to be a teacher (of any kind) before children, you won’t be lacking the skill afterwards. Your little human sponge requires you to be on the ball and in the ‘classroom’ 24/7. You will never work as hard to get things right as you do when you are gifted with the role of developing another person’s life.

Chapter 3: Building Resilience
There are times during every parent’s life when it seems like the task at hand will be your undoing. Sometimes it all just gets too much. But the stakes are too high to just turn the other way. Like nothing else, parenting teaches you the art (and benefits) of persisting in some of the bleakest situations.

Chapter 4: Accounting for Life
If it wasn’t your thing before, there’s every chance some form of basic accounting will be now. Depending on how long you were/are on maternity leave and the health of your total family income during this time, making every dollar stretch, balancing budgets and financial planning quickly becomes a priority and a skill.

Project Management on Steroids - Chapter 5 by Leticia Cavallaro
Putting your people to good use is imperative for achieving success.

Chapter 5: Project Management on Steroids
Your capacity to prioritise a list of needs and demands explodes exponentially after becoming a parent. If it didn’t, you would never get anywhere. Ever. And nothing would get done. Ever. Parenting is, at its core, project management on steroids: leading and monitoring a series of small to large campaigns on any given day with the desired outcome being to feed, clothe, entertain, discipline, chauffeur and of course love the children.

Chapter 6: Please. Oh, and Thank You!
Have people completely lost their manners or are there just more dictators entering the workforce? Maybe I’m just getting old and cynical. In any case, I’ve asked myself this a few times in recent years because it seems like the basics of social etiquette have disappeared. And respect. Goodness me, where has that gone as well?

Chapter 7: Fake It Till You Make It
In the first hours, days, weeks, months, years of parenting there are times when you have absolutely no idea what you are doing. None! Thinking on your feet and adapting to increasingly demanding (and sometimes alarming) situations becomes an imperative skill.

Forgive and Truly Forget - Chapter 8 by Leticia Cavallaro
Moments of pure joy.

Chapter 8: Forgive and Truly Forget
Having children really tests your patience. From the time they get up until the time they go to bed there is a need that must be filled. It’s enlightening, exhilarating and also exhausting. Amongst it all, kids know exactly what to say to remind you they are a little person who just wants to be loved and forgiven, for their hideous sins.

Chapter 9: The Power of the Star Chart
Kids can be ruthless mind fuckers who act like they would prefer to be parentless and run riot, but deep down really need a set of strict rules and benchmarks, by which they can strive towards success. I introduce to you the magic of the star chart: a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) by which they will be rewarded for good performances and fired from the family if they underperform (well not really, but sometimes that would be a nice reprieve).

Chapter 10: Leading from the Front
As a leader you have to have strength of character, be able to inspire those around you and above all else you need to have a commitment to doing the right thing, for the right reasons. This means building trust by doing what you ask of others before you expect them to reciprocate. Kids teach you this time and time again, as they will be the very first ones to shamelessly call your bluff if you don’t.

The Power of the Star Chart - Chapter 9 by Leticia Cavallaroi
Nose picking and inappropriate use of goggles should have been a star chart thing.

Chapter 11: The Day Negotiator Became My Middle Name
Having kids is hectic. From the moment they can string a sentence together your sanity will be pushed to its absolute limit as they attempt to negotiate their way to childhood nirvana, and challenge you on every damn thing. If you can master the art of negotiation and beat them at their own game, then surely world domination isn’t out of reach.

Chapter 12: Standing Your Ground
I have waged a mental war with myself a few times over the years, navigating my way through the trauma of not being certain if I should be more flexible or stand my ground, both as a parent and in life. It seems to come and then pass and then come again. A cycle of growth, if you will.

Chapter 13: Self Evaluation and Diplomacy
Kids change you. Life is not the same. The way you view the world is not the same. Thinking about work, and when to work is not the same. As a parent your life is no longer just your own, you are the living force behind the growth of someone else’s. This is a hugely powerful force, and a daunting one. In the face of such a harsh reality you have to polish the necessary life skill of evaluating both yourself and your actions on a regular basis, because soon enough the kids will want to be just like you.

Chapter 14: The Drive for Self Education
As soon you get the ridiculously happy news you are pregnant you want to know everything there is about having a baby. Your appetite for knowledge can be insatiable. You might not realise it at the time but you have just developed a skill for research and self-education, something that is always highly coveted in the workplace.

The Power of a Group Hug - Chapter 15 by Leticia Cavallaro
Everyone needs a hug, sometimes.

Chapter 15: The Power of a Group Hug
Joining the ranks of motherhood can (and usually does) immediately open the gates to a very powerful and previously inaccessible fraternity of women, from varying backgrounds and professional experiences that are bound together by one common and unifying challenge – parenting.

Chapter 16: Communication: child do you read me?
Having children teaches you to go back to basics when it comes to communicating. Suddenly your whole life becomes a farcical game of charades which makes you look like a giant moron 24/7. But it’s necessary in order to keep the game of learning alive.

Chapter 17: Identifying Behaviours
Honestly, sometimes having kids is really like having wild animals. For seemingly no good reason they become enraged and act like complete maniacs. In the end there is so much crying and screaming and kicking and hellish, revolting things happening that I don’t think they even remember why it all began in the first place. But there is usually a rational reason, if you search deep enough to find it.

Accounting for Life - Chapter 4 by Leticia Cavallaro
Busking for money. In the hallway. Well done, kids. Well done.

Chapter 18: Creatively Solving Problems (big and small)
Finding missing clothing, coordinating multiple schedules, keeping the kids entertained on long car rides, getting them to sit at a table in a restaurant without destroying everything in sight, finding a bathroom when there are none — parents are always solving problems. And you have to get creative to do it.

Resources
At the end of my book there’s a list of podcasts and books that I highly recommend, as well as my afterword that explains in more detail why this journey has been so important for me, and many other mothers who have struggled to find their feet back in the workforce after being on leave.

x Leticia
Jax, Leticia, Rylee

 

 

Don't just plan. Live. Leticia Cavallaro

Be in the moment. 

Countless times in the last few months I have told my mother not to stress about an outcome, to worry more about what lies in between the thought of a plan and the actual outcome. Because, so often the plan and the outcome don’t end up being the same thing.

I learnt this the hard way eight years ago. I stressed myself into oblivion about something that I was certain would happen, and then never did. I wasted time planning for the impossible and panicking about what it would all mean. I lost moments, beautiful moments that I can never get back. Simply because I was worried about the outcome, rather than the daily steps that would contribute to choices… that would end up as an actual outcome. Good or bad.

A moment doesn’t have to represent one second, or a minute. It could be a series of hours or weeks that over the course of your lifetime only represent a moment of all that you have been and done. If you aim to do everything in a way that means a little piece of you is lit up by the time spent, you will live an illuminating life. Sometimes this will hurt… but mostly it will be magical.

On so many occasions in the last two weeks I have truly breathed in every moment. Change is coming, and it wasn’t the change I had expected. It will be incredible and incredibly hard. For so many reasons.

Most importantly though, I have lived it. All of it.

Don’t forge to stop. To breathe. To live. To mark moments in time and let them touch you. You will never regret truly living.

Just be.

 

There Is Beauty In the Uncomfortable - Leticia Cavallaro

Choose the hard way.

As often as possible I try to be productively uncomfortable. It might sound like a ridiculous thing to aim for. Shouldn’t we try to be as comfortable as we possibly can?

I don’t think so.

You learn so much more when you’re not. This is true of everything. You learn the most about yourself, new situations, people, technology, places. If you don’t push yourself to the next big thing, the unknown, then I truly believe you are capping your capacity to grow.

This has to be a mindset, a mantra if you will. The belief that not knowing something is better than knowing everything. That you should be trying to learn as many of the things you don’t know as quickly as possible so that you can be a more rounded, successful and increasingly ambitious and educated person. That you need to put yourself out there to grow at a trajectory that creates real change.

For the last 5 weeks I have been away from my husband and two children. When they dropped me at the airport to leave, I didn’t want to go. I was that woman at the counter checking her bags through tears, being assured that it would all be fine and that I should just enjoy it.

It was very uncomfortable. Not because I was crying, but because I had never been away from my children for so long. I was scared of what I would miss, but also excited about the opportunity ahead of me. I had chosen to be uncomfortable and I had to own it. The start of the 5-week journey was hard.

I had to adjust to a different time zone and settle into a ‘new’ life for that period of time. I knew people where I was going in the U.S. and I had work to do, so I wasn’t completely and uncontrollably uncomfortable, but it was a journey. Five weeks later, I am home again and I can tell you that I have changed, just by the smallest amount, but in a very significant way.

I was put in plenty of situations where I had no idea what to do next. I met plenty of new people, each of which has enriched my life in ways that I am grateful for. I learnt to be on my own after years and years of being convinced I couldn’t do it. I learnt to further appreciate technology and the chance it offered me to see my family every day, from the other side of the world. I was reminded that by having an open heart and an open mind almost anything can happen.

I learnt a lot of things are easier than they once seemed. And that some things were much harder. All of which have changed me, just a little bit. For the better.

If you are not willing to be uncomfortable, strategically and predictably, then there’s a chance you will never awaken so many opportunities and get to the core of who you are.

Next time you let someone else be the driver of your life, or you fall into an old habit because it is easier… choose the hard way. You never know where you will end up.

The image at the top of this post was captured while running on a freezing day in Northern Virginia. The leaves had started to change and the river was a small, hidden vitory that I didn’t know was there. It was uncomfotably cold, but it was beautiful!

Swallow a light bulb. 

There are days when I’m not really into shining brightly. Usually, when I’m sick or I have had no sleep. But I still give it an epic crack.

Why?

Because it’s part of the reason people remember you. Maya Angelou famously said: people won’t remember what you did or said, they will remember how you made them feel. 

This is the truth, people do. We all feed on energy and our demeanour has the opportunity to change not only the interactions we have, but also the opportunities we are given. If you’re a dead fish about it, they’ll remember that instead.

Kids are balls of energy. People love to be around them because it “keeps them young”. I also get the old favourite, “we should bottle that energy and sell it”, when my two boys are running amuck. No need. We all have it – even us tired, old adults. We just have to be willing to share it with everyone, the way kids do.

When you meet someone for the first time there’s a transfer of energy. It is usually positive or negative, and the experience cannot always be controlled by you alone. But the best foot forward is always a warm hug. Not necessarily literally, more in the sense that inner joy will always trump awkward, angry, shy, rude, fake, impersonal, dull.

This is especially true in business.

When you write an email try not to write it like you would rather be doing anything else. Focus on the importance of the message and what it means to the person you are sending it to. Do you know them well? Could anything be misinterpreted? Have you thoughtfully read your note before sending? Energy.

When you look your kids in the eye and listen to their weird stories about dragons and cars, give them a thumbs up and smile excitedly, just as they do, every time. Energy.

When you bump into someone you know, don’t look down and hope they didn’t see you. Genuinely smile from the inside and out, and then simply wave if you don’t have time to talk. People like to be seen and feel recognised. Special. Energy.

When someone you don’t know starts a random conversation, make sure you give something in return… for what if you’re the only person to care enough that day to have a kind heart and listen – and it changes everything for them. I feel this way especially about older people on buses, alone. Energy.

You don’t have to give it all away. Keeping some for yourself is just as important. But truly listening and giving more than a granule of energy to everything you do will be remembered. Because people don’t like dead fish, unless it’s severed up as part of a delicious meal (no offence to the fruitarians, vegetarians and vegans of this world).

Seed your dreams in action. 

It’s hard to wish and wish and wish, only to feel like you are the unluckiest wish maker that walked the earth. Why is it that some people seem to have all the luck?

But is wish making really about luck? Or is it about your ability to crystallise one thing worth wishing for, and then find a way to go after it?

There’s a simple beauty in making a wish. Birthday candles, dandelions and wishing bones. All times that offer pause to pinpoint that twinkle in your eye.

If you look closely though, in the breath of a dandelion you’ll find hundreds of new wishes born and ready to be discovered. By the sheer momentum of action, your wish fragments into millions of tiny little pieces that seed the next steps to be taken.

Some people are naturally lucky. Annoying fact. Most people need to rely less on luck and more on themselves. For in the days spent waiting for your lucky stars to align you have lost time and potential defining moments that you can never get back.

Next time you make a wish you should still absolutely aim for the stars, but be willing to then make a plan that relies only on you working your booty off to get there. Then, and really only then, is the sky the limit.

Nothing remarkable is achieved without a sprinkle of fear and risk. 

Someone close to me recently asked what I would do if I removed fear from the life equation I was struggling with. Fear of failing, fear of disappointing people, fear of making money, fear of doing the wrong thing by my kids and family. Fear, fear, fear. She’s a friend and a very successful businesswoman who I trust greatly as a professional advisor. I found my instantaneous answer clear and enlightening.

I realised in that moment the power fear can hold over you, if you let it. I also realised that all of the things I feared were born out of the pressure I placed on myself to avoid taking too big a risk. If I removed that I was left with excitement, energy and a vision for the opportunities that were right before me.

If you’re weighing up a big decision, ask yourself what you would do if fear didn’t play a role and see where you land. It was amazing to me how quickly I was able to clearly see through the clutter of all the variables.

In the end, to be remarkable at anything I truly believe there needs to be an element of risk and fear. It’s there that you find the kind of greatness most people aren’t willing to be uncomfortable for.

Make it your business to know the person with the least power. Leticia Cavallaro

If you do nothing else, do this!

I have had the good fortune of working with some incredibly gracious, generous and inspiring leaders. They have meant more to my career than I can probably yet predict.

What I can predict is how important their guidance and operational style has been to my understanding of what really makes a good leader.

Time. Everyone is time poor. A good leader understands this and treats everyone’s time with respect, regardless of their position in the company. This includes giving time to those who need you, especially for mentoring or decision-making. There has been nothing more frustrating to me than a leader who demands something for urgent review and then takes a lifetime to review it. Without explanation, that’s just rude. Everyone is busy, including the people below you. It’s also been empowering to watch a select few inspiring people continue to treat those below them with the respect most leaders reserve only for the c-suite. It’s incredibly powerful to see what that means to the people in a business.

There are many facets, but at the core I truly believe one of the most important characteristics of a good leader has to be the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes… especially those beneath you. There you will find a group of ambitious, dedicated and hard working people who are at the forefront of your business and its ability to operate. They have ideas, often big ideas and they can understandably resent not having an avenue to share them. They also see the things that don’t work very quickly, simply because it’s their day-to-day jobs that are often affected by decisions at the top.

Understanding who people really are and what they really do should be mandatory for making good, sound strategic decisions. Without this understanding it is easy to lose touch with what makes the wheel turn and how long tasks really take.

No good leader is born at the top. I’m hugely grateful to all of my mentors for reminding me what matters, their endless graciousness and the time and experiences they have shared with me… even when I was the person with the least power.

Don't miss the art in smart. Leticia Cavallaro

Creativity creates value. 

I have always loved art. Words have been mine, but I’m a huge admirer of all forms, especially painting and music. Both beautiful and cathartic.

In the less literal sense though, you’d be smart to see the value of adding a sprinkle of art to everything that you do. It will make you more creative and more memorable. The artistry of your actions and choices is what makes you unique, what sets you apart.

What do I mean? It could simply be your outlook or the way you respond to things. Both of which have the power to change the situation and set you apart.

At home, parents naturally do it all the time. Counting pegs to keep the kids happy while hanging clothes on the line. Berries in a pancake to make eyes so that they actually eat, or racing to see who can get dressed first when you’re struggling to get out the door.

In the office your art could be reading body language to make better choices, or creatively handing out tasks to keep your team aligned. Even more subtly there is an art to understanding how to make best use of individual strengths to achieve the best results.

In any situation, if you can, be smart and be brave.

Perspective is everything. Leticia Cavallaro

Perspective is everything. 

Sometimes life gets tricky and the last thing you want to do is think about the person making it hard.

Over time though, I have come to appreciate the merit of trying to react to any given situation based on the ‘full’ picture. Taking 5 seconds to ask myself ‘if I were them, what would I have done?’ helps me to frame my thinking in a more balanced and positive way.

Balance and perspective are less regrettable than rage and hurt. As often as you can, walk away with your head held high.

What passion really means. Leticia Cavallaro

What PERFECT really means. 

I really don’t believe in perfection, only versions of it. In some circumstances the words might shift, but when it comes to work, parenting and love this is what it looks like to me.

Perfect is an important concept that you need to define for yourself, because it is often our barometer for success. If you’re relying on someone else’s definition of what that looks like you might not cherish your own victories quite as much, which can be damaging and unproductive.

Go with the first word that comes to your mind for each of the letters and then think about what that looks like as a group of words. You might need to swap a few out, or maybe you will nail it the first time. Don’t be too quick to dismiss what does first enter your thoughts – often this can tell you one of two things; what you know to be true, or what you know needs to change.

If you come up with a word that you think doesn’t quite fit, ask yourself why it popped into mind. The answer may be that it was just the first word you could think of with that letter… but sometimes it tells you so much more.

In the end, your definition should be something you can own and work towards, so that when you evaluate that “perfect” moment, it truly reflects who you are and what you are aiming to achieve.

How does your acronym read?