Shari Storm still recalls the day at Verity Credit Union when she was going through some "drama" with a colleague, when she noticed something about the expression on the other person's face. It was very familiar. Indeed, it was the same expression her young daughter used-every time she was lying.
It was the same day Storm learned something other than the fact an employee wasn't being honest-there seemed to be an awful lot of parallels between being a mother and managing people. The latter observation finally led Storm, VP and chief marketing officer with Verity CU, to author "Motherhood is the new MBA. Using Your Parenting Skills To Be A Better Boss," published in late 2009 by Thomas Dunne Books.
The experience with the colleague was not a singular event. "After that I started to see other parallels everywhere," explained Storm, who today has three daughters. She responded initially by launching a blog, building traffic with not just the content of her own making but with links to other blogs for working moms that, in turn, linked back to hers.
As any parent will agree, Storm said that being a working mom led her to becoming more of a "problem-solver." But as many parents might not agree, she said becoming a parent also left her with "more energy," but as she sought out books to read more from those with similar experiences, she found the shelves bare.
Anyone who has ever taken a crack at getting a book on that shelf knows there's a lot more involved than a keyboard and a pot of coffee.
"I was not interested in writing a book if I would not be able to get it published, so the first thing I did was work to get a book deal before writing it," Storm said. Getting that book deal required something of another book itself: a 60-page business and marketing plan as part of the book proposal. That was followed by querying book agents-and the resulting box of rejections-before an agent in New York agreed to take on the proposal. That process took some two years.
Storm dedicated one hour every morning over a four-month period to writing the book before completing the manuscript. The first person she asked to edit and comment on the manuscript was "brutal. You really have to have a thick skin," said Storm. It was then further edited by editors at the book's publisher.
As Storm noted, writing a book is just the first challenge. "Promoting the book is way harder than writing it," Storm said of the competitive book market-an estimated 500,000 titles are published each year. Margins at most book publishers are already thin, and budgets for promoting anything other than the front-of-the-store best sellers can be non-existent, leaving it to authors to hype their type. Fortunately, Storm knows a little something about marketing an undersized organization.
"I used my own network, I used social media, and I continuously slogged away at it," she explained. Using contacts in credit unions and even one bank who were willing to host her, Storm did book signings in Madison, Wis., Cleveland and New York. "It is really, really hard to get people to a book signing," acknowledged Storm. "To get people you have to do a lot of your own work."
Storm said that from the beginning she made the Seattle-based Verity CU's CEO, Bill Hayes, aware of the project, making it clear no work time would be involved. "He's been so supportive the entire way," said Storm. But what about co-workers who were, essentially, the models for the "parenting skills" parallels. "They've been excited for me. There's been no backlash," said Storm, who has an MBA from Seattle University. "Our people are in it and if you can tell who they are, I asked their permission. I tried to be kind to everyone."
Each chapter in the book, as publisher's publicist explains it, "takes a basic parenting rule and demonstrates how that advice can translate to successful management at the office." That includes:
• Speak Their Language. Study what types of communication work best with your co-workers and engage them on those itmes.
• Never Underestimate the Power of "Kiss It & Make It Better." If your employee needs your support, don't put it off and don't be afraid. (Note to managers looking to avoid litigation: this should not be taken literally.)
• Hold the Line on Tantrums. Watch out for signs of our staff looking overworked or bored, and if someone does let loose, take them aside and address the situation."
That mom-friendly advice comes even though the publisher wanted to change the title to "Parenting Is The New MBA." But Storm resisted.
"There were three reasons. There is a strong affinity among moms. In the credit union world, if I give a money management class, I may get 50 people. But if it's women and finance, we get many more people. Second, I'm not a writer and I wanted to stay close to what I know. And third, men are quite different as parents and as managers."
Storm, who said she hopes the book brings positive publicty for the credit union, added, "Human nature is human nature, whether you're 6 or 62. People want an environment that is safe and predictable. They want to know the people in charge are honest and will do what they say. And they want to know there are consequences when there is bad behavior."
Frank J. Diekmann is publisher of Credit Union Journal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.