Guerrilla (adj) referring to actions or activities performed in an impromptu way, often without authorisation
(Oxford English Dictionary)
In this blog I write about my 51 hour stint looking after my 13-week-old EBB (exclusively breastfed baby) grandson, Fraser, and introduce you to the strategic approach and guerrilla tactics I deployed. Outcome: 10 hours of sleep (for me), innovative methods of feeding and bathing, one happy and contented baby and grateful mum and dad. There are also some key business leadership lessons.
My daughter was a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding, which was scheduled to run over three days. She and her partner debated long and hard about taking the baby with them, but on balance we all decided he would be better off staying with his grandparents. One condition was that his auntie would also visit and help out. This additional help meant we were able to give him a bath and take him out for a walk.
Leadership Lesson #1: pull together a reliable team and play to individual team members’ strengths.
Since my own parenting experience over three decades ago, the rate of change has been exponential, with some guidelines feeling almost counter-intuitive. “Back to sleep”, feeding on demand, do NOT overheat the baby, to name but a few.
Leadership Lesson #2: keep up to date with the latest research, and make sure you implement best practice.
As I mentioned, Fraser is exclusively breastfed, so the bottom drawer of my freezer was stocked with a plentiful supply of milk in specially designed plastic bags. Or so we thought. The feeding on demand schedule meant that some feeds were bigger than expected (requiring two bags) and the supply of milk began diminishing quicker than anticipated. Crisis time struck when I discovered some of the bags were leaking when defrosted. This called for some innovation with the key priority of preserving milk while keeping bottles and milk sterile. At 11 pm on Saturday night, having discarded 5 leaking bags, I managed to decant frozen milk straight into a sterile bottle ready for warming when needed. It was certainly a new take on an ice pole. By the time his mum came back on Sunday we were down to 2oz of milk.
I won’t dwell too much on the next event. He has been sleeping through the night, but on Saturday night an unscheduled 4am feed, change of nappy, vest, babygro, and sleeping bag were required. Think magnified jet-lag. Fraser found this extremely entertaining and his squeals of delight lifted my aches and pains and tiredness. Clothes etc were left steeping to be washed and tumble dried in the morning.
Leadership Lesson #4: ensure your business has adequate supplies in reserve and can access services and facilities so that tasks can run smoothly in the event of unexpected events. Do you have a crisis management plan in place?
During my early parenting days, I discovered that routine was critical to keep baby and mother happy and healthy. Over the course of the weekend, (even with feeding on demand) I ensured a good routine was in place. A mix of experience and instinct helped me determine when Fraser was hungry or tired or windy, (or all three!) and I was able to respond accordingly. Preparing ahead minimised any distress for the baby, and he was settled and contented.
Leadership Lesson #5: draw on your experience, skills and knowledge to successfully tackle new or unknown situations. Follow your instinct – it is rarely wrong.
So, what are my conclusions? Apart from the obvious joy and love of having a little person around, I was very conscious of the heavy responsibility which meant being constantly careful and vigilant. My daughter and her partner had also placed complete trust in us to look after their precious little bundle.
And therein lies the final Leadership Lesson #6 – trust must be earned.
My daughter’s parting shot was that I could keep the box of water wipes which had arrived by post on Saturday morning…so that we had plenty for the next time.
It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living. F Scott Fitzgerald