What’s in a Word? How to Plant Seeds – Not Weeds

Whats-in-a-Word-How-to-Plant-Seeds--Not-Weeds

In business we like things to be forecast – facts and figures, spreadsheets, bottom line and top growth. And as humans we get great pleasure from knowing the simple thing, like where we sit, the hours we work, what the office etiquette is around the coffee machine, and how well we are performing.

Still, unpredictable things happen in the world of work. Benchmarks move and expectations change. It can be a sign of healthy growth, or that we’re capable of more. Either way, it must be spoken about – and well.

When things change, especially unpredictably, communicating well is not just best practice, it’s the growth stimulant that will keep your garden green. If you’re keen to keep your healthy workplace eco-system flourishing, your employees engaged and your people passionate, choose your words well.

As leaders, despite our best efforts, we don’t always get the balance right. One day we’re awesome. The next we fumble something, our reputation suffers and our brand takes a hit.

Here are two occasions in which a misplaced word or a communication blind spot can plant weeds instead of seeds:

 

1. DON'T SAY TOO MUCH

Recently a major Australian retailer made a very public announcement that they were in the midst of a billion-dollar corporate restructure. Every media outlet published a headline and details about ‘tough decisions’ being imminent.

So many words, so much newspaper print. Most ordinary Australians went on with their lives – all except the corporate staff of the retailer. “The first we knew of the re-structure was through the headlines,” one senior manager relayed to me. “That fuelled office banter and speculation. Everyone was talking about it, everyone except management. It was the worst time, disastrous for all of us working in the team.”

What created a disconnect for this gentleman was the world knowing first, whereas his team, the people at the coal face, were left with speculation, unpredictability and uncertainty.

Keeping staff engaged and helping them understand new directions encourages new growth. Saying too much, and not to them, is dangerous if you want to keep your people passionate.

Or as John Wayne once said, “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.” It’s not the winning maxim of a headlining CEO, but it’s pretty snappy.

 

2. KEEP IT CRYSTAL CLEAR

Recently, I met with an Account Director from one of the largest and most respected professional service networks in the world. The company has supported her career from graduation, providing her with international roles and flexibility when children took her out of the office. She has many reasons to love her employer and it’s evident that her employer appreciates her loyalty and dedication.

However, she came to me feeling a little baffled. “I think I have just been blindsided,” she said. For months she had been squeezing what was really a full-time job into her agreed-upon three days. Naturally this took its toll on her usual cheeriness, and her astute senior manager picked up on this. He agreed that her workload was beyond three days and suggested that she should be paid for four instead, to compensate the growing demands of her role. Brilliant, she thought, reading this as a straight pay-rise for the same commitment.

A week or two later, HR met with her to confirm the new terms – three days in the office and one day working at home with the children. It wasn’t what she understood had been communicated to her. Nor was it what she wanted.

Meaning and clarity can get lost in translation, especially when there are different departments and individuals involved. Fail to spell out the details clearly and you can end up with a compost of uncertainty, confusion and mistakes. One party assumes the other knows what they mean. The other draws the wrong conclusions.

Napoleon Hill put it succinctly, as one might expect. “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” Besides being an impresario and author of the world’s first personal success books Hill was an advisor to two American Presidents, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D Roosevelt. His book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ has sold 20 million copies worldwide.

Good communication is like photosynthesis. Get the words down pat and the conditions right, and we all keep reaching for the light together!

 

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Three Ways to Keep Your Workplace Ecosystem Flourishing

rsz_startup-employees

A collaborative workplace is like an ecosystem in full swing. An interplay of organic and productive relationships. People are friendly, and kindness is in natural abundance. They make genuine connections and are encouraged to do so. Even quirky differences have a place, accepted with grace and a celebration of diversity – in thinking and style.

It’s a natural habitat for engagement and a mutual sense of easy accord – a place of abundance, oxygenated and breezy with energy.

Enjoy rich moments like these and relish the journey you’ve been on. A flourishing workplace is no small feat. It’s most certainly a milestone you should enjoy - and handle with the utmost of care. 

When everything is flourishing, it’s the best time to let your dynamite team forge ahead. Make some assumptions – about what they’ll generate and create. You’ve planted the seeds by putting best practice in place. Now watch them reach for the light!

If you’ve faced some challenges and had the productive flow stemmed in recent times, enjoy the refreshing change and the blooming scent of success. And work on teasing more of it into life. 

Don’t rest on your laurels too long. Just as natural disasters can sweep through without warning, businesses and ecosystems must always safeguard against any coming storms. After you’ve thanked your staff, take a moment to review these helpful strategies and checkpoint your management style.

 

CHOOSE YOUR WORDS WELL

The words you choose influence the way you are perceived. They’re a vital factor in the decisions people make about you - and your brand - and can build or destroy a relationship.

Mohammed Qahtani, the Saudi Arabian security engineer who won the 2015 World Champion Toastmasters title with his inspirational speech  The Power of Words, tells us, ‘A simple choice of word[s] can make the difference between someone accepting or denying your message.  You can have a very beautiful thing to say, but say it in the wrong words and it's gone.’

Take the time to think about what you’re going to say. And we’re not just talking about grand speeches. A few simple words carefully chosen and passed in a thoughtful tone are memorable to those around you.

Words have power and it’s worth reflecting on how your chosen words helped you get to where you are. And tweak. Your words will be listened to, and noticed.

 

MIND YOUR EGO

The ego-centric self, and we all have one, can be one of the biggest barriers to success. False pride and its antithesis self-doubt both have the capacity to cast a blight on healthy growth.

It’s crucial not to forget that you can be competent at something but not necessarily the best at it.  Sometimes it’s important to acknowledge that what you’re good at might never get any better than that – good.  To be truly great at something takes a deeper level of mastery. This doesn’t have to come from you. It could be someone specialized and supremely well resourced.  Recruit such a person on merit, and satisfy your ego with the company of a fellow clever-self to join your friendly, increasingly accomplished and ever-flourishing team. 

'Every company would like to be the best at something, but few actually understand with piercing insight and egoless clarity- what they actually have the potential to be the best at and, just as important, what they cannot be the best at.' - Jim Collins  

 

THE ONE THING

Steve Tobak, management consultant and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow, says ‘Picasso painted. Henry Ford made cars. Einstein was obsessed with light. They excelled at what they did because they focused their passion and attention on one thing at a time. Bill Gates had Microsoft and now the Gates Foundation. Mark Zuckerberg has Facebook.’

The more seeds you plant, the more time you need to nurture them all.  Generating ideas, growing plans, putting in place multiple strategies, will spread you and your time thin.  So choose carefully and know when it’s time to thin out your seedlings – or bring in extra hands, minds and capability. 

'People think focus means saying 'yes' to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying 'no' to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.' - Steve Jobs 

Three powerful ideas brought to us by the best minds. Stay focused on one thing. Keep a check on your ego. Use the power of words to be kind, gracious and memorable. 

Create the temperate conditions your business needs, achieve that delicate and delightful balance and watch the energy flow!

 

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Trying to Balance on a Tightrope of Complexity

Trying to Balance on a Tightrope of Complexity

Complexity in the workplace is brought about by just one element: us. If you’ve got people, you’ve got complexity. Employees, customers, peers, colleagues, leaders. Our unpredictable and occasionally thorny nature and dynamics between us can test our leadership in a different way from other operational challenges.

There’s no denying it’s a tightrope walk!

And if your own personal talents don’t extend naturally to managing the complexities of your people, well it can feel like a highwire act with a troupe of monkeys.

What’s worse, the dynamics we enjoy with family and friends differ enormously to those we have in the workplace, so you can’t fall back on natural intuition. It’s best to understand the distinction between interactions inside the workplace and out - and then develop meaningful strategies to deal with them. That way you encourage productivity, a healthy culture and a love for your brand.

People issues can nosedive really quickly, but these three simple strategies are guaranteed to help you stay aloft.

 

KNOW YOUR STAFF – BUT KEEP YOUR DISTANCE

Keep your interactions professional from the onset and set reasonable workplace boundaries. This helps eliminate distraction and keeps everyone focused on completing tasks. It’s true that some workplace relationships develop into personal ones over time. But as a rule of thumb, interaction between co-workers, supervisors, clients and customers should stop at the end of the working day.

Having different boundaries for different individuals or within the hierarchy creates ambiguity and misunderstandings too, so stay the line. Keep it clear for everyone at all times and don’t go swaying in the wind.

Knowing your staff means knowing how they stay on track and perform their best. Getting through the working day is a balancing act for them too. Notice the small things about their performance. Generally, people perform their best at specific times of the day; they get distracted by the same things; and they get back on task by consistent means every time. Know these things. What makes them teeter and what restores them?

In understanding these nuances, you’re able to plan and benchmark expectations. By being upfront and showing you understand how they best keep their heads up and their gaze frontwards, you’ll both be clear about the end-goal and relaxed about the journey.

 

GET TO GRIPS WITH NATURAL DIFFERENCE

Value the differences between individuals. We don’t all think the same way nor perform at the same level. (See a previous blog post on why this is a strength in your team!) Why is it you can email one employee with a list of tasks which they immediately jump to, but another needs more direction, dialogue and input from you?  For one the journey is a swift trot along a tight zipline. For the other it’s a wobbly affair requiring a safety net.

In Debra Worthington and Margaret Fitch-Hauser’s book ‘Listening: Processes, Functions and Competency’ (page 78-79), they discuss Cognitive Complex.  This is the means by which we perceive incoming messages, organize them and use them to interpret what is being said.  One individual may require information that is detailed, specific and complex. Another may need only high-level facts for the same task. This cognitive complexity is not related to smarts, say the authors, but rather our mental agility in organizing elements and making sense of tasks.

By adapting your leadership style to suit individuals, you create enormous opportunity to minimize performance based issues and variances in productivity. Some just need a longer balancing pole than others.


 

PERSUASION 

Building agreement when points of view differ around the table can be tricky. Sure, sometimes an authoritative approach or executive decision may be required, but simply insisting it’s your way or the highway without bothering to get buy-in from your team can be really unsettling.

To get others to buy into the way you see things, you’ll need to ask the right questions. Asking your colleagues to think about things - by asking the right questions - allows them to arrive at the same conclusion themselves. This is the art of persuasion. 

Management consultant Dan Pink says, 'The key here is that we tend to think that persuasion or motivation is something that one person does to another.' In fact, he says, the trick is to get the person to persuade themselves.

So pre-plan. Arm yourself with the right questions to build dialogue - and employee engagement.  Keep the conversation on track but be flexible in your approach. You may be surprised at the outcome, and perhaps even find a new way to complete the journey which you hadn’t even considered.    

Despite our complexities, there’s one thing we all share. We like to feel valued! Thank your staff often.  It’s an easy and cost neutral habit that genuinely encourages engagement and builds your reputation as a leader.

These simple strategies help avoid complexities in the workplace. Take the trouble to measure your leadership style against them and tweak it accordingly. It takes time, skill and effort to manage the skywalk that is running a business. So balance your complexities, stay smart, fleet of foot, and don’t take a tumble! 

 

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No Act of Kindness, No Matter How Small, Is Ever Wasted

No Act of Kindness, No Matter How Small, Is Ever Wasted

Okay, so Aesop was an ancient Greek story teller rather than leader of a multi-national conglomerate. Even so, his words resonate with us in the business world today.

That’s because we know, in the deepest darkest corner of our corporate hearts, that they’re true.

The tricky part of management is the capacity to inspire, engage and teach resilience.  Leadership doesn’t spring from one single quality.  It needs a bucket full of authentic attributes for a standout leader to, well, stand out.

But one or two things are key.

In a previous blog, Virgin says get friendly. So let’s get friendly!, we looked at a very simple but effective leadership attribute.  Friendliness.  Let’s keep things amiable, and look at the power of kindness as well.   

Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval made it to the top of the advertising industry by means of a simple but powerful philosophy: it pays to be nice.  They believed, contrary to current wisdom, that nice people finish first. They wrote about it in their book, ‘The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness’ and continue to campaign on the enormous impact of small gestures.

They cite six powerful principles for engaging employees and stakeholders with niceness. Here are the two which stand out to us.

 

YOU NEVER KNOW

Strangers are important, and niceness shouldn’t be reserved for those you know. ‘You have to treat everyone you meet as if they are the most important person in the world - because they are. If not to you, then to someone; and if not today, then perhaps tomorrow.’

Thaler shares a personal story of a deal she secured - $40million worth of new business. The source? An act of kindness to a junior colleague 25 years before.  Just a simple act, in a single moment, created a significant and lasting memory for this person. Over two decades later with their careers having moved in different directions, they sought Thaler out. Ultimately because they knew no better person to trust their brand too. 


 

YOU WILL KNOW

Kindness has to be authentic, and you will know when you mean it, and when you don’t. What’s more, so will the person you’re dealing with.

Our clever selves already know that engagement isn’t about a single moment.  It’s a collection of moments that dictates your style. That’s why authentic and consistent kindness is a truly powerful thing. Your people know they can depend on you.  

Grow the ability to be nice without expecting something in return, or calculating the leverage you’re gaining. Kindness has to be habitual - authentic and firmly felt.

Nowhere will this pay off more for you, and all those around you, than when the pressure is on.

Mark Horstman author of The Effective Manager says, ‘You can deliver tough messages with kindness.  You don’t have to be mean, short, or disrespectful to challenge people.  You don’t have to be brusque, or rude.  You don’t have to act like the boss.  Nor do you have to sugar-coat hard messages.  Be direct and be kind doing it.  That takes love.’

Deborah Khoshaba, Clinical Psychologist and Director of Training and Development for the Hardiness Institute, is of the same mind. ‘Authentic kindness is a decision to respond to the needs of others, rather than a compulsion to act good.’ 

Delivering outcomes with kindness takes mindful, authentic leaders. Khoshaba believes that those with the capacity to feel compassion and appreciate suffering have a much greater footing for a favourable reputation – which translates to their brand.

Here at #HR, we agree that kindness is a strength, often underestimated and easily undervalued. The effects may not be obvious or immediate. It requires biases to be put aside and a code of behaviour which is less about leverage and more about nourishing relationships.

But we’ll let Branson have the last word. He’s used a few key philosophies in building his eight billion-dollar businesses, but one of them is running a large business the same way as a small one – by being responsive and friendly.

‘If you aren’t making a difference in other people’s lives, you shouldn’t be in business – it’s that simple,’ he says.

The difference to make is a kind one – at every stage of the game.

 

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How to Keep Your New Recruits Dancing Your Brand

How to Keep Your New Recruits Dancing Your Brand

If you hired someone to be a senior executive in your retail business, you wouldn’t have them stacking shelves on their first day, would you?

One national high street retailer did just that to a newly appointed senior manager, who spoke to us recently about his strangest on-boarding experience ever. The company was trialling a new initiative, he was told. Although his first day would be spent at head office meeting and greeting, the rest of the week was an ‘in-store experience’. 

For ‘in-store’, read ‘supermarket’. And for ‘experience’, read ‘shelf stacker’.

Never mind the impressive resume which was a roll-call of well-respected retailers, and forget about the six figure salary he was on. This gentleman spent his first few days juggling the pet mince, shining the Granny Smiths and donning freezer gloves to replenish the frozen berries. His most fervent hope was that he didn’t have to follow the other newbies onto the check-outs.

Each day he worked a respectable eight-hour shift, taking regulation tea breaks and wearing all the appropriate personal protective gear that came with the task – including the hairnet.

Initially he felt quite up-beat about the initiative. By the second day he was questioning his career move.  It was clear the rest of the intake was struggling too. Each day brought one less face at the morning briefing.

With complete candour, he told me that it wasn’t about feeling demeaned or unstimulated. On the contrary, he met some great people and still pops into the store for casual visits.

But the experience fell far short of adding value to his role within the company. ‘One size does not fit all’, he said. 

The value gap between what he gained from the experience and the cost of using a senior management resource in this way, signalled particularly poor thinking, he said. As an initiation, it was meaningless. ‘When I finally got to my own desk in the office, I felt like I was having my first day all over again.’

Maybe the company had its own agenda for leading their new corporate recruits such a merry dance in their on-boarding practice. Possibly the initiative was the result of an impressive thought-shower or blue sky session. Way cool.

In the real world, it poses the question: how far do we need to go to get the most out of our new starters?  

In her white paper on on-boarding, Professor of Management at Portland University Talya N Bauer asserts that an alarming fifty percent of all senior outside hires fail within eighteen months on the job. The on-boarding experience you offer a new executive or worker are critical in making transitions smoother – and resulting in better retention rates.

While it’s less wacky, a natural blend of professionalism, compliance and branding is a pretty good place to start, for a healthy transition from a previous employer to a new one – and a longer turn round the corporate dance floor for all concerned.

No one really expects fireworks on their first day. And you shouldn’t be looking to light up the skies. Following these few simple best practice principles helps promote new employee engagement, and adds value during this period where their productivity is inevitably a lot lower than it will be, once they’re in the swing of things.

 

1. BUDGET

Set one! Think about when you need the new starter to be up to speed and on the job.  This will help you plan the induction schedule and prioritise tasks. 

 

2. EASE THEM IN

Locking a newbie in for back-to-back meet-and-greets might seem like a great starting point, but over-whelming them with a day full of names, technical detail and data really takes the shine off things.

A start date should always be assigned to an empty calendar day in the line manager’s diary.  That manager doesn’t have to be devoted to this employee for the entire day, but it’s always best to offer complete availability to the new starter.  Things like hosting them at lunch and checking in with them regularly, go a long way. Play this by ear though: maybe they’d like a breather and some downtime over lunch.

 

3. MAP OUT THE DANCE FLOOR

Give the new starter a floorplan - a candid sketch of all the important office stuff. Like who sits where, the closest printer and where the stationary cupboard is, the fire exits, and most importantly the facilities! Meaningful information gives the new starter their independence, to move around the office with confidence, and takes away the awkwardness of waiting around to ask simple questions.

 

4. GET THE DETAIL DOWN

Provide an information sheet with payday details, IT passcodes and important email addresses like payroll and administration. You could even go the extra mile and add local eateries and coffee houses.  Detail like this creates a big impact – it’s professional, it’s welcoming and it’s free!

 

5. PRIORITISE THE DANCE CARD  

Think about the key players this person will need contact with.  Who will they benefit from meeting on their first day, and who could wait until they have more time to settle in?  Be strategic - less is sometimes more with these situations. Consider the benefit of scheduling meetings with key contacts when they have specific tasks to work on together.  Of course, casual banter is just as important in these early days. But it’s more constructive and value adding if it follows a morning briefing. Let them eat cake and talk strategy!

 

6. COMPLIANCE

There is a very boring part to on-boarding, which should not be ignored or delayed.  It’s the most formal part of the induction, the first few all-important steps of the employment journey. The new starter must be familiarised with your company policies, safety regulations, confidentiality requirements, harassment prevention and departmental procedures.

It goes without saying that asking an employee to sign off on their understanding and acknowledgement of this is paramount best practice. It’s also the time for you to answer any questions they have arising from compliance documentation.

Later down the employment track you might be called upon to answer questions on how well this was executed, so best be thorough and concise, without cutting a single corner. This might just save you a buck or two in litigation or mediation costs - which are rarely budgeted for.

 

7. GET YOUR BRAND STORY RIGHT

You can bet your new starter has made some assumptions about you and your company before walking through the door. More than likely they have stalked your social media accounts, googled their new colleagues and possibly even driven past the office to check for parking, dress codes and true hours of operation. They might well arrive with a head full of pre-conceived ideas!

Be transparent and candid from the onset. The way you interact personally makes all the difference.  If you project well, they are more than likely to love your brand.

Set the tone for open engagement. There’s no harm in chatting through company information they might already know, or their feelings about joining your team. Why not ask how they felt on their last day with their previous employer? Their answers could reveal the knowledge and energy they bring to the table and how seamless the transition might be into your workplace. Enjoy their company! As Samuel Beckett puts it: ‘Dance first, think later. It’s the natural order.’ Although we recommend you’ve done all your thinking in advance.

 

8. KISS!

Finally, the on-boarding process should not be complicated.  Keep it simple, but meaningful.  Sure, there are many cool induction initiatives happening in larger organisations, but they have the revenue to cover this process, where a small business typically does not.  The lack of fireworks will be forgiven, if you can offset that with a nice balance of professionalism, compliance and branding!

As we saw at the start, the kind of high kicks those larger corporations engage in might do you an injury anyway!

 

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Keep Achieving! One Thing at a Time - Here’s Three Ways How

Keep Achieving! One Thing at a Time - Here’s Three Ways How

Cast your mind back to 1991, when Billy Crystal and Jack Palance went head to head in the blockbuster movie City Slickers.

Not many of us are mustering cattle in the wild west twenty-five years later, and our behinds probably still hurt just watching the movie, but its central drama still has huge resonance. And raises a chuckle.

Gary Keller, author, entrepreneur and cofounder of one of the world’s largest real estate agencies, recalls a pivotal scene from the movie in his bestselling book, The One Thing.   

Curly: Do you know the secret of life?

 Mitch: No. What?

Curly: This. [He holds up one finger]

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing.  Just one thing …

Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the one thing?

Curly: That’s what you have to figure out.

Keller reflects on why this struck a chord with him. ‘Where I had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had too.’  Concentrating on just thing at a time, even those itty bitty ordinary things, can make extraordinary things happen.

Best-selling author, global presenter and Smallville founder Andrew Griffiths and co-presenter Bree James ran a podcast recently on ‘Becoming More Productive in Business’.  In it, Griffiths observes that we are all time poor. The trick is to slough off all the things that are a distraction – and identify the one thing you can do right now at any given moment which will lead you on to success.

Keller and Griffiths both believe that good business is about investing your time and energy wisely and precisely – keep things moving, but don’t create a stampede.



Distractions can be hard to ignore – they’re made that way! Some of the biggest names have achieved success by designing the digital space to be deliberately inviting. No wonder we get distracted.

According to Keller, when we stay focused on exactly what matters the most at any given moment, that’s when real success becomes obtainable. If all your energy is channelled in one direction, things are achieved sequentially – one thing at a time.

So saddle up and let’s keep achieving with 3 key strategies:

 

1. BLOCK TIME

Schedule a regular appointment with yourself in which you prioritise and tackle the most important task on your list.

‘Think of it like going to movies. You’re there for ONE Thing—to see the film. Because you’re really clear about that, you turn off your cell phone, you grab snacks in case you get hungry, and you probably even make a pit stop before you go in. All this so you can have an uninterrupte experience.’

 

2. USE FIVE MINUTE WINDOWS

"Over the course of the day, I can get literally a hundred or more little tasks done in those five-minute windows," says Andrew Griffiths. Develop two lists - tasks which require a block of time, and tasks which need just a few minutes – before a meeting, between phone calls, before the teleconference, or when you’ve got a spare quarter hour.

 

3. SIMPLIFY

Make sure things get done efficiently.  If your computer takes 15 minutes to load, consider an upgrade.  If your interruptions are always for the same reason – approvals, social media management – think about automation.   What can be can be delegated? Is your five-minute list so long that a new resource is needed? 

Let’s finish on a high, by looking at one company that has done ‘One Thing’ really well.  Keller writes, ‘From 1998 to 2012, Apple’s ONE Thing moved from Macs to iMacs to iTunes, to iPods to iPhones, with the iPad already jockeying for the pole position at the head of the production line.’ Apple stand out. Their drive to deliver just one outstanding product at a time has changed the game. Sure, they brought out other popular gadgets, but those hummed along in the shadows.

 

Or as Curly would have said, ‘This cow’s having a baby. Now reach in and pull out the calf!’

 

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Keeping Career Savvy When Parental Leave Takes You ‘Out of the Office’

Keeping-Career-Savvy-When-Parental-Leave-Takes-You-out-of-the-Office

Many years ago in my BC days (Before Children), I had a gold nugget moment with a good friend. We were discussing the inevitable shift that comes with being a stay-at-home parent. Flying around were phrases like ‘career suicide’ and ‘bottom of the ladder’.  How we laughed at the folly of those who stopped scaling the corporate heights and went off-piste into the nursery.

Ultimately, we decided that you don’t actually deliver your brain with your baby. But years later, as one moves back into the workforce after an extended period ‘out of the office’, it seems that your potential new colleagues appear to believe you did just that!

As a society we talk a lot about gender equality and support for working parents. We have many services for outsourcing the kiddies, as well as in-house employment programs such as part-time roles, job sharing and flexible hours. This is a good thing – for those who want to get back into the swing promptly. 

However, there is a cohort that just doesn’t fit this profile – those who decide that sacrificing one income indefinitely is actually manageable. They want to enjoy being at home for longer - wearing clothes crusted over with banana, watching Playschool, going to baby yoga at the community centre.

They leave their blossoming career for that other kind of labour, the kind that’s paid only in love. They do it because they want to. And they have no regrets.

What happens to this cohort when they are ready to re-enter the workplace? Do they risk their professional credibility by taking a longer gap in service? Is there a fallout in their capacity to keep up with industry trends and technical developments? Has their career been sucked up the tubes like so much stray Lego?

Unfortunately, being proficient at domestic duties isn’t a skill most employers are looking for.  What happens time and again is a return to a junior role, and having to prove one’s worth on the job – all over again.

So here are a few strategies to fit in between Kinder Gym and Kids’ Cooking Class – things you can do while ‘off the job’ which can look really favourable when you want to jump back in. 

 

#1 - PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIP

When you’re in the thick of a career, you may not have the need or the inclination to join an industry body. Or maybe you do because it’s subsidised by your employer?  Don’t hesitate to join an institute when you’re ‘out of the office’ and if you’re already a member, don’t even think about letting your membership lapse! Most Institutions offer discounted training seminars, events and regular magazines.  Keep an eye out for the occasional course that you can fit into your schedule, or an article that takes you on a nice journey.  Stay open to professional development during this time. 

 

#2 - SOCIAL MEDIA

I don’t mean posting images of your deliciously creamy latte or status updates from the park - these are important but best left for your personal account.  Be smart, choose a platform and open a professional account.  There you can follow chosen intellectuals, read interesting updates and re-post them to gain followers and fellowship.  Set aside 5 minutes a day to check in or 1 hour a week to focus on your profile. It’s manageable, intellectually stimulating and best of all, free!

 

#3 - LINKEDIN

The platform for staying connected.  Keep abreast of any movements and changes in your industry.  Congratulate your connections when they are promoted or make a move.  Make a point of reading posted articles. Take the time to perfect your profile and keep it updated with any of those industry courses you’ve fitted in.  Years down the track you will thank your clever self for staying current in this way. 

 

#4 - NETWORKING GROUPS

Yes, you can forge new connections outside of playgroup. Networking is a great way to do this and keep your skills relevant.  If you can’t find a network specific to your industry in your local area, join a general business group that meets quarterly or biannually. That’s not hard to fit into a busy parenting schedule – and it will pay dividends. Sure, you won’t be representing an actual business, but keeping in touch and even offering valuable advice and recommendations to new business contacts keeps your mind engaged, and can be just as rewarding!

In short, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and don’t throw the brains or the career out with the baby either!

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