All moms are CEOs. Chief Everything Officers, that is. From the moment our kids enter the world, we feel responsible for everything. We worry about whether they eat or sleep enough or too much. We obsess over when they will crawl, walk, and talk. We work to put food on the table, pay for health care, and save for college. We cook, clean, shop and chauffeur.
And we keep track of who pooped and when. And what color it was. According to my friend Jen, when you become a mom, you become CEO: Chief Excrement Officer. Let me say that before I had my first child, I thought Jen was being kind of crass. Two kids later, I get it. Totally.
Last night’s rebroadcast episode of Undercover Boss featured “Mama Wolf” Kim Schaefer, CEO of Great Wolf Resorts, North America's largest family of indoor waterpark resorts. Schaefer, the first woman to be featured on Undercover Boss, posed as a stay-at-home-mom returning to work. She helped kids make pizzas in the Cub Club, shadowed the safety supervisor in the waterpark, and waited tables in the restaurant.
And she cleaned up an AFR (“accidental fecal release”) in one of the pools. Now that’s the kind of dirty work any mom can relate to. It’s gooey. It stinks. You didn’t make the mess. And you have to clean it up.
Even my military knowledge did not prepare me to understand THAT acronym. Leading Man and I were laughing out loud when the staff explained what it meant. And Schaefer earned my respect when she cleaned it up without cringing or shuddering in disgust.
I’m sure Schaefer learned a great deal from her undercover experience. She seemed to be profoundly affected by the stories of the women and men who work at Great Wolf. If nothing else, she came to more deeply understand the reasons people work, the challenges they face, and the dreams they cherish. She got in touch with her people as people. She internalized their struggles and let them touch her heart.
As a mom, I wish I could go undercover to see what it feels like to be one of my kids. I know I would confront glaring inconsistencies. Why is it okay to eat pancakes but not okay to eat cupcakes for breakfast, anyway?
Obviously, there’s no magic machine that can make me a kid again. I’ll have to get down on my hands and knees and play with my kids instead. When I play with my kids eye-to-eye, I stop thinking about what’s for dinner and whether we’re saving enough for college. I tune in to them as people. And that’s the kind of insight every CEO – and mom – needs.