Making Parental Leave Work

Babies = Improved Teamwork (Wait, What?)

Bad news headlines get clicks. I get it. Well thank you for being a rebel, as this is a true story of a woman whose team was thrilled when she got pregnant…because she had an awesome plan.

Alex was the VP of Marketing expecting her second child in the midst of the busy season at her retail technology company. She wanted four solid months of baby-bonding time with no conference calls, no emails — and no guilt.

So how did she meet her hopes as a parent AND keep her team from feeling left with an “empty seat”? Instead of feeling it was a mini crisis, she saw her leave as an opportunity for developing her team. Here was her easy two-step plan:

1) First, to fill part of her role, Alex tapped Brian, her trusted high performer, who was hoping for both more access to the executive team and a step up in responsibility.

2) Alex asked my team to find an interim Marketing Director/VP who could take on Brian’s “old” job, and a few key areas of Alex’s job where Brian would need more support while ramping up.

Results? Crushed it! With just a small amount of planning, the team hit their business metrics and, when Alex came back from leave, she said the team was performing “better than ever” and she felt grounded in her solid time off with her baby. The win/win/win is totally possible, as:

  • The team hit their key goals;
  • Brian got executive exposure and challenging work, while feeling supported in the stretch role;
  • Alex felt terrific about her company’s support of her during this life changing time;
  • and Alex returned to lead a team that wanted to follow her leadership — at work and at home!

Of course you don’t need my team or any team to help you figure out the interim solution side…it’s a simple exercise of assessing your team strengths, and “designing for the fluid workforce of the future” (an idea I love to share in my talks), because breaking jobs down into projects, and rotating people on those projects is a win/win.

There is always a way to do what matters most to people — once personal and professional priorities are clear. Get creative when it comes to making interim development assignments and providing support during transitions.

What positive stories will you tell, oh, about nine months from now?

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