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productivity and leadership

If I asked you to name a famous cow, odds are you’d name one of these three:

  • Bessie – the most popular cow name
  • Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow – the one who started the Great Chicago Fire
  • Those annoying “eat chikin” cows from the Chik*fil*A ads

That’s all nice and fine, but unfortunately, you’d be neglecting the biggest unsung hero of all cows.

Her name is #289.

Cow #289 lived through the disco era of the 1970s and 80s. She and The Bee Gees reached their respective peaks at the same time. But whereas the brothers Gibb cranked out hits, #289 cranked out milk.

In fact, her milk productivity far surpassed any other cow in history – and that record still stands to this day.

#289 was the most productive cow that was ever milked. She was a workhorse, if you’ll excuse the expression.

Throughout her life, she produced a whopping 233 tons of milk – 9x more than the average moo cow. In fact, every day #289 produced 60lbs of milk compared to the 55lb average of her compadres, and she ended up doing it for 2x as long as her bovine buddies.

Oh, and she also had 13 kids.

Yes, amidst it all, she sired 13 calves AND maintained a level of productivity more than any other cow in history.

With the risk of being destroyed by every woman that reads this, let’s get closer to my point.

productivity and leadership

The Mother of Productivity

If you want to know what it means to be hugely productive, pay attention to mothers. Especially mothers of multiple children.

Women with children have the most productivity of any workers. Period. Hard stop.

Sure, I generalize. But in general, it’s true. In fact, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis did a study about this. They discovered that, over the course of a 30-year career, mothers outperformed childless women in productivity at almost every stage of the process.

Mothers with at least two kids are the most productive people of all.

When it comes to leadership and growth, mama knows best.

    A Model of Productivity

    Michael Mankins, an expert on productivity and a leader at Bain Consulting, has found that the greatest companies are the ones that are obsessed with productivity. In fact, he discovered that most employees want to increase productivity but feel like their organization gets in the way of accomplishing that (hashtag change management).

    My point being, that if you want your company to be more of a productivity powerhouse like #289, you best be paying attention to the behavior of mothers of young children.

    There are 4 important lessons to learn from Mother Leaders.

    productivity and leadership

    1. Planning and Prioritization

    In order to plan you need to prioritize.
    In order to prioritize you need to plan.

    I’ve seen many leaders who look at their schedules and prioritize what’s there.

    ❤️ Mothers know better.

    They don’t prioritize what’s on their schedule, they schedule their priorities.
    (thanks Stephen Covey).

    There’s a difference between the two. A big difference. And it is best said through this needlepoint pillow.

    most important thing prioritization accountability


    First and foremost, it is critical that you understand the most important things that will impact growth.

    Too often people will prioritize tasks without a clear understanding of how they impact the most important growth goals.

    Mothers don’t do that. Being clear on the most important things and prioritizing them is the most important thing. In fact, it’s a survival necessity.

    👉🏼 Motherly Tip: Lay your clothes out in advance

    You’re growing older. It’s now time for you to prepare what you’re going to wear

    ✅ Here’s how:

    Every Sunday, determine your priorities for the week. What are the 2-4 most important things you need to accomplish that will have the greatest impact on growth?

    Do not plan your days until you plan your week.

    Once the top priorities for the week are planned, only then should you prioritize your daily goals to accomplish your weekly growth plan.

    2. Accountability and Encouragement

    There’s an accountability crisis in the US workforce. It’s one of the top issues negatively impacting employee happiness and company growth. It’s also one of the primary areas I focus on with my business consulting clients.

    According to Anne Loehr, 85% of leaders aren’t providing clear direction and accountability to their teams.

    ❤️ Mothers know better.

    Every person has a role in helping the organization reach its ultimate goal. Each one of them must clearly understand their role and be encouraged and supported to do their best.

    They must also understand the importance of responsibility, which is probably best said through this needlepoint pillow inspired by Josiah Stamp:

    accountability and productivity

    👉🏼 Motherly Tip: If you don’t understand, ask. If you don’t do it, consequences

    Ok, little buckaroo, it’s your job in this family to take out the trash. If you don’t take out the trash, it piles up and becomes stinky and creates a miserable experience for everyone else living here.

    Your actions impact others.

    Unless everybody knows their role and how to do it, stuff isn’t going to get done.

    ✅ Here’s how:

    It’s imperative for leaders to make sure everybody knows the what, why, when, and how of their most important goals:

    • What they need to do
    • Why it is important
    • When does it need to be done
    • How will it’s success be measured

    When people fail to do what is expected, there must be consequences. Here’s what I do:

    1. Mistake #1: embrace the failure and make it a learning experience
    2. Same mistake #2, confirm they understand, and warn them
    3. Same mistake #3, consequences (PIP, firing or whatever is appropriate)

    As any mother knows, a house doesn’t run effectively without accountability and encouragement.

    productivity and leadership

    3. Resourcefulness and Resilience

    Life is not linear. Progress doesn’t happen in a straight line.

    We all encounter obstacles on the path to our goals and distractions in our daily life. It’s easy to throw up your hands in frustration.

    ❤️ Mothers know better.

    They know how to make the most of their situation, whatever the situation may be. They know how to juggle many balls and they understand that every now and then, one of those balls may fall on the ground or get swept away.

    That doesn’t mean you throw up your hands and let all the other balls bounce into oblivion.

    They keep going forward despite the challenges.

    👉🏼 Motherly Tip: Complaining won’t make it better

    Life throws us curveballs – that’s its favorite pitch. There will always be unexpected things that happen on your road from here to there. You have a choice:

    You can let it overpower you and complain how it’s not fair, or,

    You can be resourceful and resilient, being the best you can be despite what’s thrown your way

    ✅ Here’s how:

    Remind yourself that growth only happens when there is discomfort. The road to achieving your goals will always be filled with obstacles.

    This seems like a good time for another needlepoint pillow:

    accountability and productivity


    Life is not about the size of the obstacles you encounter, but your behavior when you encounter them.

    If you want to succeed you’ve got to recognize that those obstacles will make you stronger.

    It’s your choice.

    productivity and leadership

    4. Purpose

    Purpose leads to motivation.
    Motivation leads to productivity.

    Without purpose, people flail.

    There have been many studies about the link between purpose and motivation – one of my favorites is by KPMG.

    Of their 29,000 employees, 66% claimed they loved working at KPMG. So they decided to do a test.

    KPMG had half of their leaders maintain the status quo with their management, but the other half were instructed to tell their employees that their work was improving the world. They wanted these employees to feel as if they had a greater purpose with their work.

    The result?

    The status quo group didn’t change (66% job satisfaction). But the purpose-driven group rocketed to a stunning 94% job satisfaction.

    Purpose is critical. Still, very many leaders don’t outline a clear purpose.

    ❤️ Mothers know better.

    Most often, a mother’s motivation is to raise happy, healthy and good human beings. Their purpose is to improve the world by teaching their children to be good leaders.

    👉🏼 Motherly Tip: When somebody is on the ground, lean down and pull them up.

    Your job as a leader is to teach others how to lead. Your job is to give motivation and inspiration.

    There are few things more intoxicating than empowering others. It’s why we are so ecstatic when the baby first begins to walk. And it’s why we are clapping and encouraging. All your hard work has led to that baby being able to stand on their own. You want to celebrate them and motivate them to keep moving forward.

    You want to give them purpose and a belief in the future.

    That is leadership.

    ✅ Here’s how:

    • Share a vision of what a successful future looks like
    • Explain what that future means to each person
    • Help them understand the importance of their role in achieving that future
    • Create a culture of celebration and appreciation

    Like your mother knows all too well, it’s not about you. Your purpose is to help others grow and give them their own purpose to do the same.

    Mother Leaders

    Yes, I started out this diatribe with a story about a cow. But I’m not calling your mother a cow. Let’s be clear on that.

    Cow #289 was an unsung superstar who kept hundreds of thousands of people nourished. And she did it with no desire for fame or fortune or recognition. She just did what she knew she had to do.

    She exemplified everything that is awe-inspiring about motherhood. When you look further at what it takes to be a mother is when you learn what it takes to be a great leader.

    1. Planning and Prioritization
    2. Accountability and Encouragement
    3. Resourcefulness and Resilience
    4. Purpose

    For all my mother-leader readers out there, thank you for your model and inspiration.

    For everybody else, forward this to your mother, or any other mother-leader you know. If it weren’t for the unsung heroes, we’d never know what true leadership means.

      If you like this article, please share it

      A Somewhat Relevant Quote

      There’s no greater name for a leader than ‘mother’ or ‘father’. There is no leadership more important than parenthood.

      Sheri Dew, Author, publisher, celestialist

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      1. Marna June 20, 2023 at 11:42 am

        Hey, Jeff,

        Yeah, I’m one of THOSE 🙄 people. Cows can “sire” anything. Cows are female, sires are fathers.

        • jeffmatlow June 20, 2023 at 12:29 pm

          Oh Jeez.
          You are so right Marna. Now I feel like a complete idiot. I originally used the term “birthed” – which is correct – but in the last minute changed it all to “sired” because I like how it sounded. Clearly I wasn’t thinking of its meaning.

          Thank you!

      2. Claire June 19, 2023 at 9:10 pm

        Wow, Jeff — I needed to read this today. Motherhood has been my greatest gift and challenge, all at once. Thank you for writing this up! And no, we mothers didn’t think you were calling us a cow! ;) -C

      3. Sylvia June 19, 2023 at 5:04 pm

        It was a very good article. Yes, a real Mother should be a strong leader. She never look for a way to please herself but she does what is most productive for everyone concerned.

        • jeffmatlow June 19, 2023 at 7:17 pm

          Amen to that!
          Great mothers, like great leaders, are often very selfless. Their primary focus is on helping other people grow.

        • jeffmatlow June 20, 2023 at 12:08 am

          It makes me so so happy to see this comment, Claire. As my wife says “it’s the greatest and worst job all at once”.

          And thank you for clarifying that mothers don’t think I called them a cow. I’ve been waiting for the hate mail. ;)

      Comments are closed.

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