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  • Kelsea Koenreich

Potty Training & Business Growth: Lessons from a Female Founder

It’s Monday morning, and I wake up excited to say goodbye to diapers forever. It was time for my third baby to learn a new skill that she may or may not have actually wanted to learn.

For months she had been telling us before, during or after she went so I thought this one, mixed with my experience from potty training two others would be easy peasy. You can probably guess, it didn’t quite work out that way.

Our first day of potty training, can you guess how many times she went in the potty? If you guess zero, you are correct.

We went to bed basically questioning if we are good parents and our entire plan but knew that the only way out was through so committed to keep going. Our philosophy is to take diapers away and don’t go back, so that’s what we were going to do.

As the days went on there were markers of progress but by the 5th day we were still concerned that she just wasn’t getting it, the problem wasn’t getting her to go in the potty, it was getting her to go AT ALL.

Her resistance was turned all the way up, holding her pee like a camel for hours and hours.

I knew something had to give, and I stepped back out of the situation to think from a different perspective. Maybe we weren’t the shittiest parents of all time, maybe we just needed to adjust to the situation instead of trying to dig in and control everything.

And of course it was in this break away from the potty madness that I started thinking about what I was learning and how much it applies to running a successful business.

Leadership Lessons from Potty Training

It’s pretty frequent that my thoughts about parenting and leadership collide, overlap and intertwine, raising three kids and doing my best to mess them up as little as possible while navigating entrepreneurship isn’t exactly a cakewalk.

Truthfully, I learn from my kids as much, if not more, than they learn from me.

As mothers in business, we have the added hardship of problem-solving and decision- making not just in our businesses but also as we raise humans. Double the dose, or quadruple depending on how many kids you have right?

As our first week of potty training comes to an end and we are miles from where we started, I reflected back on how much this experience has taught me in accordance with leadership - that’s what I am sharing with you today.

So here’s the leadership lessons you didn’t know you needed, brought to you by Emmy:

1. There’s a fine line between micro-managing and encouraging confidence.

Our biggest mistake during this process was not trusting her. The thing about people is, they’re (mostly) smart, and they can tell when something isn’t right. As parents who give our children space to be independent, the fact that we were all up in her space was unusual.

Constantly hovering, over-asking, re-asking… “Are you sure?” makes people feel like you don’t trust them. As leaders we have to be able to trust people to do what they say they are going to do, until they give us a reason not to, and even then, we need to give them another chance. If you don’t give your team space to execute and come up with their own processes, you are capping their potential and making them less confident by unconsciously showing or believing that you don’t believe they can.

Be encouraging, communicate you are available for questions and support, and then let them fly.

2. Resistance is a sign that something isn’t working.

I’ve never seen someone do the pee dance so quickly as if they are going to bust and then sit down to finally get the relief and decide to HOLD it longer. Our brains could not understand why if you have to pee that bad you wouldn’t just…go… (How many moms are singing Frozen right now?)

She didn’t let go because it was the only thing she could control in this process, resistance was her way of saying - you need to do something different.

If you are experiencing resistance from your team, your partner, or anyone really, it means that something needs to change. Let me be clear, resistance and fear aren’t the same. Resistance is when someone is digging in their heels or something feels like you are dragging 800 lbs of stuff you don’t want to carry. Fear is when you aren’t sure, it feels big, or you think you might fail.

As leaders, if there is resistance, we must dig in and find the reason - this is an opportunity to course correct and find a new path forward.

3. Accidents are a necessary part of the process.

As we moved to the next step of potty training by putting shorts on and rolling commando, there was pee, lots of pee. BUT I noticed when she would pee, she would respond and say “Ew, yucky.” and so I chose to see this as progress. She doesn’t like or want to wear wet pants, this will make her not want to pee in her pants.

If I didn’t let her have accidents and only accepted perfection, not only does that put a tremendous amount of pressure on her - but it’s completely unrealistic.

Accidents and failures are where we learn, in fact too many people are held back by their potential because they are too afraid of failing when that failure might hold the lesson you actually need to succeed.

As leaders we have to have the expectation that we will fail, our team will fail, we will learn and we will get back up and move forward again.

4. Fun makes hard times easier.

On the 5th day when I thought about turning in my parenting title, I dug deep to get my head in a different space. We had been trapped in our house for days. Did I mention that we had a hurricane and my two older kids' school was canceled for two days? Luckily we are safe but that really threw a curveball we weren’t ready for.

In the midst of my negative spiral I decided, fuck it - we are going outside. I decided that the worst case scenario is that she has an accident but that would be better than stewing in this negative energy. We got a pee in the potty and then trekked down to our neighborhood park. The kids laughed and played, the boys threw the football and it was just what we needed.

When we are running businesses, stressed out by our full calendars and the continuing responsibilities there is this tunnel vision that happens that creates a life of suffering. We forget that we have so much power over our circumstances. When things are hard, don’t make them harder by bearing down, give yourself the fulfillment your heart needs in the form of FUN.

5. Consistency trumps perfection.

I’m sure many Instagram moms potty train their kids perfectly in 12 hours or something, but that’s not me. What I do though, is I keep going. Even when it sucks, even when I feel like a bad mom who has no idea what I am doing. I’d rather focus on our philosophy of not going back to diapers after we get rid of them than quit because we didn’t get it right away.

If there is anything I know about success in every single area of life, whether that is business, health, or wealth - consistency is better than perfection every single time. You lose an incredible amount of progress when you strive to get it perfect and quit when you don’t.

Leading a business with the expectation that you will get things to a place where everything is perfect is unrealistic, but if you are consistent in showing up and rising to the challenges - you will always learn. And when you do what’s necessary to keep showing up (i.e. taking care of YOURSELF) you can run a business that is rooted in sustainability.

At every level, from $0 to multi-millions - my clients have had problems, instead of expecting that they shouldn’t, they learn how to become better problem-solvers and handle the root causes in the business so it’s not recurring.

What Success Really Looks Like

As I write this we are on our 7th day of no diapers and it’s quite a difference from where we started, as we would hope, but this is a new skill that has to continue to develop over time.

I don’t expect my 23-month-old to stop playing, run to me, and tell me she has to pee - YET.

I do expect that most times we will make it to the potty, and sometimes we won’t.

But more than anything, we’ve been successful in this because we didn’t quit when it got hard, we took a breather to get ourselves in a better headspace and she is finally letting it GO!

Your success as a leader isn’t going to look like everyone else’s, and it shouldn’t. As a leader, you should be taking the opportunity to rewrite what success looks like instead of passing that down to your team and your children.

Overworking and continued overwhelm as measurements of success are invalid, an abundance of stress and never having time for yourself or your family because you are working so much isn’t success.

Success is a feeling of waking up excited every day knowing that you get to take steps to fulfill your purpose further, knowing that the process, while challenging at times, is making you and your life better. Your business success should enhance your quality of life, not take away from it. And it is absolutely possible to scale your company beyond where you are while enjoying your life and being present for your relationships in the process. I can teach you.

Make sure you share this with another female founder who’s in the throes of motherhood and business to remind her she isn’t alone.

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