‘Parenting’ and ‘career’ are two terms often placed in opposition. How can you excel at one without underperforming at another? How can you successfully lead both at work and at home? Is it even possible to achieve that coveted state of work-life balance?
These were some of the questions I was asked at a recent Omniwomen event about parenting.
As more and more people shared their stories, what became clear is that contrary to popular belief, far from hindering you and your position in the workplace, being a parent enhances your skills in so many ways and makes you aware of leadership skills you never knew you had:
- Efficiency – being a parent makes you super organised and good at aligning schedules. If you can plan meals and write school-run timetables for multiple children, you can do anything!
- Empathy – parents spend a long time listening to their children, working out why they’re behaving a certain way. Doing so teaches you to empathise with employees, rather than get frustrated or lash out.
- Perspective – a work emergency is rarely a real emergency. Being a parent gives you perspective on what actually matters in life and helps you to be more zen in times of professional crisis.
- Pragmatism – parents are busy people and learn to do what they can in the time available. This ‘good enough is sometimes good enough’ mindset can be helpful when prioritising on work-heavy days.
- Clarity of communication – raising children often involves parents setting very defined boundaries and giving clear instructions, which is of course crucial when managing expectations in a professional context.
- Conflict management – having dealt with tears and tantrums from the playground, parents are often better equipped to deal with childish behaviour in the boardroom!
- Flexibility – there is no steadfast work-life balance and that’s okay. Sometimes the scales tip towards work and at other times, towards family. This ability to be reactive is helpful when dealing with the daily challenges client teams can encounter.
- Fostering a high performance culture – Whether it’s teaching toddlers to walk or encouraging teenagers to do their homework, parents naturally root for their children to achieve. In an office context, this makes them well placed to focus on their employees’ personal development and create a culture of success.
- Self-care – raising a child can be tough, tiring and time-consuming. Parents have to learn to refuel and re-energise themselves, a skill that is equally crucial when in a position of professional responsibility.
- Setting an example – with their little ones looking up to them, parents are more aware of the impact of their own behaviour. This self-awareness lends itself to a desire to be a role model for colleagues and set examples for the rest of the company.
As well as being managing director of Porter Novelli London, Fenella Grey is a member of Omniwomen, an initiative from global advertising and marketing group Omnicom, designed to increase the influence and number of women leaders across the network
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