HR Director of The Salvation Army and Strategic People 2020 workshop leader Jo Mosley reflects on leadership and parenthood in this guest blog.
I’m a leader who never needs to know. Are you?
I missed my daughter’s prize giving and graduation to Year 9 because I had my team away day and couldn’t miss it. Is ‘couldn’t’ too strong a word? I didn’t miss it – I’m the Director, their leader, the away day had been in the diary for months, and my team was travelling from all over the UK and Ireland.
I woke that morning with familiar feelings of guilt and resentment. Guilt, because I’d have loved to have been there for my daughter. Resentment because in 2019, schools still organise events at very short notice, typically during school hours presuming at least one parent can attend.
As a parent for 21 years, this is an all too familiar situation for me. I have 3 children and 3 step children, and was a single mother in a leadership position for 7 years – I am the expert on guilt. But I am also a leader with choices, and my team would have understood if I’d have opted to be with my daughter instead of them – and that makes a huge difference.
So, I am writing this to the many leaders who feel they don’t have choices, and to those leaders who can give choice to others.
I made the choice to put my team ahead of my daughter on this occasion. But there have been many other times when I have put family events first, openly and with pride. I have learned that unless I am upfront and transparent about my choices, how will anyone else be honest with me? As leaders we need to be role modelling that it’s okay to choose.
And we have to learn to trust people to make the right choices. The late great Toni Morrison said ‘If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.’ Trusted and empowered employees have a greater sense of well-being and are more productive. I have an exceptional senior team, all working different hours from different locations. Eleven children between us and one on the way. None of us could have taken on a 9-5 London based role but by giving choice and starting from a position of trust I have a talented team who give 110% with amazing results.
Trusting your people to choose is not just about supporting working parents, it opens the doors to a diversity of talent and backgrounds, allowing people to flourish and not feel constantly the need to justify their life outside of work.
I let out a collective sigh of solidarity when I read Ian Sohn, CEO of Wunerman’s Linked In post to his employees:
I never need to know you’ll be in late because of a dentist appointment. Or that you’re leaving early for your kid’s soccer game… I deeply resent how we’ve infantilized the workplace. How we feel we have to apologize for having lives. That we don’t trust adults to make the right decisions. …… I never want you to feel horrible for being a human being.
So are you a leader who needs to know?
Footnote: In case you were wondering my daughter, Daisy, was cheered on by my husband, her wonderful step dad, and received her prize with pride.
This blog originally featured on the Windsor Leadership Trust’s blog.
Jo Mosley will be speaking at our Strategic People 2020 conference on Thursday 12 March. Don’t miss her workshop on ‘Realising career potential on returning to work – creating an environment to enable it to happen’, book your place now.