Who is the greatest superhero? Batman? Hulk? Superman? Someone else? I’d argue that single parents are by far the greatest superheroes, the things they do never cease to impress me. A single parent faces some of the toughest situations on the planet on a near-constant basis, often with little to no help. At least the other superheroes get some down time! Usually when someone meets a single parent, one of the first questions is, “How do you do it?” For many, that’s essentially a rhetorical question, but business leaders can learn a lot about lean management from single parents and the unique challenges they face.
Operating on limited funds – A single parent knows all too well about limited resources. There are many ways that single parents conquer this challenge; they might work multiple jobs, they might take steps to limit expenses, and they are proactive in making and sticking to a budget. An organization can take similar steps; a business can locate multiple income streams and diversify its services, it can identify ways to reduce operating costs through lean management, and of course, make and stick to a budget.
Knowing when to get help – The vast majority of single parents have to choose how they spend their time and energy, usually split between their careers and their home life. In order to juggle their responsibilities, they form a support system. That support might be a babysitter, nanny, friend or family member; it could be teachers and school staff; it could literally be a single parent support group. Likewise in business, there often comes a point when leaders realize that they need help because there are things the business just isn’t able to handle. At those times, it can be a lifeline to have a good consultant on speed dial, and a list of respected peers and industry leaders who can help.
Making the big decisions – Single parents rarely have the luxury of brainstorming big decisions with a partner, so it can be a struggle for them to be sure they’re making the best decisions. To cope with this, they do their research to get as well-informed as possible, and they may turn to their support system, as previously mentioned. Business leaders can also gather information and seek the counsel of experts. To that end, it is important to keep current on changing legislation, industry best practices, and once again, to form a solid base of experts whose counsel can be relied upon.
If there is one common thread throughout all of these challenges, it is that the most important thing business leaders can do is to build a solid support system. Use networking such as LinkedIn or local groups to make connections that you can rely on to help identify and solve your most challenging problems. Subscribe to newsletters and updates that will keep you current in industry trends and issues. Don’t be afraid to admit you need help. And if the help you need is in lean management and employee engagement, a great place to start is Lean Support Solutions. And the next time you meet a single parent, tell them how amazing they are!