Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Exec Mums Advice on Managing Perceptions When Returning to Work from Maternity Leave

Last time the Exec Mums Forum met, we had a new member join us who is just about to return to work after the birth of her (first!) baby.  We had a really productive co-coaching session.  It is always hard to coach someone who is facing a challenge we ourselves have already faced.  It is even harder to coach someone who presents a problem we identify with in the present!  But coaching is about helping the client to work through their challenges themselves; the client is more likely to succeed in implementation.


Be clear about what matters to you 
and the value you bring to the organisation. 

We therefore contracted with our new Exec Mum that we would together help her work through her concerns about returning to work, recognising that the situation is slightly different for each of us, depending on our ambitions for career, our family, and the environment at work.  The result was a rich co-coaching discussion in which our new Exec Mum discovered what she wanted for herself, how she would involve her husband, and how she would approach her boss and her company.

We also contracted with our new Exec Mum that after the discussion, each of us would give her top piece of advice on what has worked for her personally.  Here it is...

On Managing Perceptions When Returning to Work After Maternity Leave:
  • Be clear about what matters to you and the value you bring to the organisation. 
  • Make your choices based on what you want (now and in the long-term).
  • Remember that others at work aren’t actually doing more than you.  They are doing it at work, and you are no doubt doing some of it after hours.
  • Those who have tried to be flexible have found that it just causes confusion for others.  It is better to have a clear schedule of when you are available.
  • Have a discussion with your manager to convey what is important to you and the value you bring, and outline specifically how you will make motherhood and career work, including when you will be in and when you will be leaving. 
  • Be strong in your boundaries from the beginning.
  • Know your leaving time, and don’t sneak off.  Say good-bye to everyone and leave on time.
  • We have found out how much give there is, especially from male colleagues.  Unfortunately, there is typically less give from female colleagues.  But you don't know until you ask.
  • When a new boss comes in, think of ways to make it work with him or her, and put this into practice early on.
  • A schedule won’t solve it all.  You also need to allow yourself to feel what you feel, and then move on to the next day.  If you find one day particularly hard, choose a date in the not-too-distant future to review the situation. 
  • Even if it IS working, having a periodic review date on how it is going is a good idea.


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