To go back to the office, to take time out on parental leave, to take on a new job, take a career change or retire?
I spend a lot of my day talking about exactly this, from the perspective of the individual making or taking these transitions, while also from the perspective of business’, leading teams and individuals through these transitions.
Take 1- Taking time out
My reflection kicks off in 2013 when I took 6 months out for parental leave. This was really tough, as at no point before had I ever considered I would be expected to walk away from my job, hand it over and be totally okay with this.
This made me questions what was happening for me? I should be elated to take some time out, bond my baby and have the opportunity to learn how our new family would now work. The challenge was I had grown up with an ambitious drive to succeed. To work hard and enjoy the success that comes with that.
The only transition that I was really aware of, was at some stage, I’d retire and this was so far off, I had never considered stopping work at all.
On my first parental leave, I really kept in touch with the company, my team and what was going on. I attended parent and toddler groups, where I felt I didn’t fit, as so many people were so glad to have all this time off work, as they didn’t enjoy their work. I loved my job, my team and enjoyed the company culture.
I returned to work and carried on with my previous role, but so many things had happened in my 6-month absence. The business, people, leadership, process and culture had all changed. Discretely in some ways, but I could feel it. Had I made a poor decision being so engaged on my leave, should I have done something different, perhaps the friends at toddlers were on to something? I was true to myself and my knowledge at the time, no regrets.
Take 2 – Taking time out
In 2015, I went into my 2nd parental leave with a totally new mindset. I knew what was happening here, I had experience of how things change, no matter how much control I perceived I had. The best route for me this time was to totally disconnect, to step away from all calls, updates and I preferred not to hear about any changes. My parental leave felt longer, we celebrated the time we had together and when the time came, I went back to work in a new role.
Despite taking time away, I was no less committed, passionate or ambitious. I was more so, but now with a fresh perspective of what being wholly present in the moment meant. This was a lesson I hold to this day.
On the day I returned from parental leave, I attended a leadership programme, where I was asked, ‘what do you really care about?’ The timing was perfect, what I really cared about was what I learned on my leave. To be present, to enjoy the moment and connect with those around me. My aspirations changed, I counted ahead 5 years and wondered what would I be doing in 2020. To my delight in January 2020, I was doing exactly what I had aspired to do, start my own coaching business. Did this all happen by chance, or was there some strategic decisions and wisdom involved?
I am very clear there was a plan, some things happened by chance and there were plenty of opportunities for the plan to change. The difference in 2020 to 2013, was I had thought of an alternative. I had new experiences that informed what is now possible.
What is your transition now?
I spend a lot of time coaching executive leaders reaching the end of their career, who experience the same feelings I did on parental leave. Many have strong feelings about their future, these include: Will I retire; work part time; lecture; volunteer; pick up a hobby; buy a renovation project; make new friends or connect with old friends. The list is endless.
The challenge is considering this in advance of suddenly finishing work. As we plan our pensions, take some time to consider who you want to be in the stages of your life after work and how you want to spend your time.
While I talk about parental leave and retirement transitions, a lot of workers find themselves at a transition point now, as offices re-open and the work dynamics change again.
Take an opportunity to slow down, consider what works for you and what you want to get from this stage of your life, career, team, business and future. Imagine working on what you love, having time to do the things that are important to you and also looking ahead to your future, whether in work or in your next phase of life.
How can Coaching help?
For leaders of teams, imagine everything I shared, but looking though a kaleidoscope, consider how many experiences you teams have had, and now how they can be at their best for the next transition with offices re-opening.
Executive Coaching offers 1:1 and team development to explore, identify, act and lead for the future of the business, teams and individuals.
Facilitated Executive Leadership Team Sessions, can explore team and business opportunities which provides clarity, engagement, improved relationships and business return with immediate effect.