Obviously having a baby is a huge event which changes your life forever but aside from the insane personal benefits, I’m convinced that there are professional advantages as well. Of course there will be challenges to overcome around balancing work and family life which should not be under estimated but even this, once accepted, can help to develop a number of management and leadership skills.
A few years ago, I was doing some coaching with someone looking to take the first step into management and I encouraged her to consider how she would usually get her children to do things they don’t want to do. At first, she couldn’t see what I was getting at but when she started talking me through, she could see how the techniques she used with her children could be adapted and used in the workplace. Things like explaining the problem, what needs to change and how they are going to do that; making the children realise that this needs to happen quickly; checking their understanding of the situation; empowering them to take an active role in the process; and praising them when things go well all fit within Kotter’s 8 step process of successful change.
There are lots of other aspects of leadership that I believe will be strengthened too. Here are just 5 things I think will be different when I get back:
1) I’ll be a better role model – I know I’m already a role model within the organisation and in the industry, however, at the minute it’s a responsibility that I take seriously but maybe don’t demonstrate at all times in the way that I should. From the second my baby is born, I can never be off duty, instead, I will be constantly be aware of how my behaviour impacts on those around me and the responsibility I have to live within my values at all times.
2) My organisational skills will be second to none – my colleagues perceive me to already be very organised but whilst at the minute, I can add appointments into my calendar and make sure I’ve got the right paperwork, I manage to hide my inner chaos beneath a professional façade. Once there’s a baby in the mix, I won’t be able to leave anything to chance. Already, I’m making sure we’ve stocked up on essentials at home and all manner of bags are packed, ready for a multitude of eventualities. In a blog published by Motherly on what new mothers want everyone in the office to know, they put it like this: ‘I now prioritise like nobody’s business, I will prove to be more efficient than anyone else in the team’. If you thought I was efficient before, you ain’t seen nothing yet!
3) I’ll bring increased compassion & understanding – the Motherly article puts it as being able to ‘anticipate the needs of others’ which is certainly an aspect but there’s more. I’ll understand pregnancy and maternity in a way that you can only if you’ve been through it and whilst I already make sure my staff prioritise the school play, swimming gala or sports day, I’ll understand even more why that matters. I also think I’ll be even more kind and compassionate, noticing the subtle signs that tell me someone is not ok.
4) I’ll be so much more resilient – I’ve kept going throughout this pregnancy, walking the dog twice a day, every day; flying to give a presentation at 35 weeks; ad making the most of the pregnancy insomnia to get ahead during a busy period – me and my baby already know resilience but I certainly am going to develop so much more! In my Mumsnet group for August babies, I asked some of the already new and existing mums for any tips for sleep deprivation. One mum offered two words ‘survival and endurance’. It’s going to be tough but if I can get through this, I really can do anything.
5) My perspective will change – over the years, I have learnt to put the challenges into perspective and try not to stress about the things that don’t matter overall. If I haven’t mastered it already, this change will surely remind me that life is the main goal and that it is always rich in experiences, good and bad but all to be cherished and enjoyed as much as possible.
Do you notice any positive changes when you returned to work after having a baby? Do you have further thoughts on my suggestions above? Share your experiences in the comments below.