Last Sunday, I couldn’t help thinking of my mom, Dorothy Fulton. She lived a glorious 92 years before passing away last spring. Besides all of her amazing maternal qualities, it occurred to me that she also knew a thing or two about small business.
Maybe her entrepreneurial mindset came from being the daughter of a small-town family doctor in Upper Michigan who delivered every baby in town. Or maybe this came from an Ivy League education at Barnard College/Columbia University, where she majored in home economics. Possibly, at least some of this knowledge came from being married for 25 years to my dad, who ran a very successful tire distribution business in Florida.
Whatever it was, my mom turned out to be my best coach as a small business owner and then as an executive coach. Here are a handful of my learnings from Mom:
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood. While Steven Covey might have first written this in his best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, my mom was the poster child for great listening. All it took for her was to ask several right questions and off I would go sometimes for hours at a time. She would just sit there and nod, smile occasionally, and allow me to keep talking.
- A great question is far more powerful than a good answer. Complimenting my mom’s amazing ability to listen was her innate curiosity. She asked fantastic questions. I never felt like I was being interrogated. I never felt defensive. The questions were soft and yet caused me to think much harder. I rarely felt any judgment attached to the questions. Just a genuine interest and the love of a mother.
- Emotional Intelligence. My mom got along with anyone and everyone. Her EQ (Emotional Quotient) was off the charts. She had a way of making anyone feel important or special. She was highly empathetic and could always sense how I was feeling.
- Problem-solver. My favorite definition of marketing is as follows: solving customer problems profitably. Mom was a professional problem-solver. I would often share issues or decisions that I might face and then I would return to see her the next week and she would not only have a solution but sound reasoning or logic to accompany her decision. In her later years, Mom lived in a retirement community and I would marvel at the ease with which she would deal with problems she encountered in that facility without raising a stink or causing an uproar.
I once read best-selling author Jim Collins’ description of leadership: The art of getting people to want to do what must be done. I’m not sure my mom ever read that book or took that class, but she was very good at getting family members, friends, and colleagues to do things we didn’t always want to do or know how to do. She never raised her voice. I never felt threatened or manipulated. I just did what I was told. I was terrified of disappointing her.
So on Mother’s Day, I raised my glass and toasted Mom for all she taught me about small business and life. On this special day, and always, moms MATTER.