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Parenting skills spill over into the workplace
By ANITA BRUZZESE Gannett News Service
As Mother's Day approaches, take a minute and ask a mother what she spends most of her day doing. Some things you're likely to hear: consensus-building, recognition and reward, negotiation, planning, organization, collaboration and of course, helping others reach their potential.

All are valuable skills needed in the workplace -- along with a mother's daily admonitions to do the right thing.

Lyn Turknett, who develops programs to promote women's leadership, says the skills a mother brings to her children every day are the same ones that are needed now more than ever in a workplace struggling to overcome business leader scandals.

In fact, Turknett says that even men's leadership skills can grow after becoming a parent, because the experience adds ''breadth'' to their understanding of human nature and how to deal with others in a positive way.

But Turknett says that it's because women in general -- whether they are mothers or not -- are more ethical leaders that more companies should be doing more to foster the rise of females in the executive ranks.

She said studies she and her husband, Bob, have done for their Atlanta-based company that focuses on ethical leadership show women are often more engaged with those in an organization, an important characteristic for top executives.

''Women go out into the field more than men, and people (employees) know who they are,'' Turknett says. ''They also tend to give more feedback, both positive and negative. And that is helpful for the long-term survival of an organization.''

In a survey of businesswomen by the Simmons School of Management and Hewlett-Packard, 95 percent of respondents said the most important way they pursue power is through producing results, or by forming critical relationships from teams, co-workers, or other business allies.

Further, 80 percent of those women said they liked what they could accomplish with their executive power, and were comfortable with it.

''I do think women are ready to step up and lead, and it's what we need more of these days,'' Turknett says. ''Probably the only area they still need to work on is being willing to engage in conflict.''

Still, even though women are ''well represented'' in midlevel management ranks, only 11.2 percent of corporate officers are women, says Turknett. But, women continue to head their own companies, with women-owned firms representing 38 percent of all companies, reports the National Foundation of Women Owners.

''When we look at our research, women do significantly better in a number of areas, including integrity. The one thing that men always score higher on is self-confidence,'' Turknett says. ''What often holds women back is their extreme humility.''

Turknett says that any organization wanting to build an ethical and strong leadership must foster an atmosphere where any employee is willing to challenge the ethics of any action. When employees are made to feel responsible for the success of a company, then a climate of decency and respect is more likely, she says.

But how, exactly, can a leader -- male or female -- show greater respect on the job for others? Turknett suggests:

  • Meeting with employees a level below for ideas and feedback.

  • Using cross-training and job swapping to develop employee understanding for other workers' duties and perspectives.

  • Moving frontline supervisors to other departments for an entire year to fully experience the challenges of that position.

  • Putting fun and creative rewards into place to recognize outstanding employee effort and achievement.

Anita Bruzzese is author of “Take This Job and Thrive,” (Impact Publications). Write to her c/o: Business Editor, Gannett News Service, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, Va., 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.