Tuesday August 19, 2008
By Jessica Cain, business development manager, learnpurple
When thinking about my next blog, I searched the room for inspiration, then "ouch!" another kick from my baby to be, the future 'Charlie Nicholas Mungeam Martin Cain' (Yes I am mean I know - but it's a parents duty to embarrass their little ones). I looked back to the previous debate on changeboard about motherhood and the workplace and it got me thinking about how lucky I have been.
I am 6 ½ months pregnant, unmarried, 25 and about to become Managing Director of learnpurple Bristol. This new branch opens in Jan 2009. Even to me that sounds a little unbelievable, but at the same time I would never let the 2 things I want most compete with one another. I, along with millions of other totally normal woman out there am passionately ambitious and driven in both my desire to be a successful business woman and a porridge - making - pta - going - mother.
Telling my manager...
When the line on the test slowly turned into a cross my heart skipped a beat. The plans to open learnpurples first Franchise had been made, this wasn't meant to be happening to me now. I had wondered why at my first coaching session, whilst discussing forecasting, I had had to run out the room to be sick... Oh well, at least I now know it wasn't an adverse reaction to spreadsheets as I had previously suspected!
I sat down - hands shaking - to tell my MD; after only being with the company for 6 months. And to my surprise instead of the stern look and shaking of the head I had predicted; I received a huge hug and a grin from ear to ear. Jane told me she was delighted for us, she told me encouragingly that there was nothing more motivating to drive you to succeed than the knowledge that you have a new little tummy to fill on the way, not to mention designer trainers to buy for the next 18 years minimum and university fees to cover.
Morning sickness and motivation...
I had terrible morning sickness for the first 3 months and could hardly move or speak without rushing to the loo. As a business development manager this is not ideal; but the learnpurple directors (Jo Harley and Jane Sunley) as well as all my colleagues created an environment in which I had flexibility, support and understanding. I was given a laptop and my internet connection was paid for so I could work from home whenever I needed to - avoiding the dreaded tube journey - which was an absolute life saver.
Within those first 3 months, at a time when I feared letting down my team and my department, in fact the absolute opposite happened. I managed to produce over 7 times the businesses than the previous year because of the understanding and flexibility I received. I am 100% loyal to learnpurple the brand and Jo and Jane as leaders because they have engaged me in the most amazing way. They live their core values in all they do and this experience has been no different. They truly want to transform the people they work with and allow them the opportunity to grow and this has been the perfect example.
Leading and engaging...
I would love for all leaders (including the oh so wise and understanding Sir Alan) to stop and think about how they currently deal with the issue of motherhood. In this competitive market place; organisations pay huge sums of money to attract and recruit their people. Why not think about retaining and engaging them as well. Parenthood is just another way, in fact one of the easiest way of engaging your people on a personal level.
Women and men should be treated as individuals, with varied strengths, weaknesses and needs - many of whom will at some point choose to start a family and will require some support from you as a leader in this. These people still often want to climb the career ladder to success which in turn usually means making your organisation lots more profit, so support and guide them through. Where there is a will there is always a way. When you give people the opportunity to show you what they can do. They often surprise you.
Creative and modern leaders should be optimistic when looking at pregnancy, maternity and paternity leave and think about - out of the box - ways of engaging with their people while they are out of the business. (We know a company that pays for a babysitter for company meetings and other company events, a company that gives grandparents a couple days a year to spend time with their family and another that provides day care facilities - its cheaper then replacing ones valuable staff after all). You could give them access at home to be involved and allow them the opportunity to decide what they need and how much they want to continue to do. In all honesty I would see it as a punishment to be sent off work for 6 months with no targets to achieve, and many others will feel the same.
Nappies and notepads...
My life at the moment consists of maternity tights and elasticised waist bands, as well as financial targets and presentations to the board. I wouldn't want it any other way and I can honestly say I have never been happier or felt more productive (no alcohol probably has some effect on this!).
The sky really is the limit when you work with and for people who believe in you as a career person and not just another young mother needing maternity pay! I see this whole experience as just another challenge. I am now even more excited about my 'to do' list. Just below 'start a business' there is a line which reads '29th Nov - Meet Charlie.' I can't wait to tick both off!
Does your company implement any creative ways of engaging your people during this special time in their lives?