“This is too much ! You can’t be biased on your team member ? If working mothers gets all such special attention, then what about the spinsters ? Bachelors ? Men? Aint we supposed to get a supportive boss too ? ” – this might be your question too. Trust me, working mothers are different species. We are upgraded versions on the skills and we become old generation all of a sudden too.
We did not know that we had these skills , talents , multi-tasking capabilities , when we were spinsters. We never realised that we would be having challenges even to attend a team dinner party. We are different, a different stroke is needed to handle working mothers in the team. Clap at times and slap at times, both needed. So, it is important for the leader with working mothers in his / her team to know when to slap and when to clap. These simple tips will give some idea for leaders to handle the working mommyholics in the team :
- Understand their USP/ET : USP – Unique Selling Point. ET – Exclusive Talent. Every team member of yours will be definitely having their USP. That is the reason you and selected them in the team. So, before you see her as a working mother, before you listen to her time restrictions and family situations, ensure to ask, understand and explore her professional competencies and strength. This will enable a positive relationship between you and your sub-ordinate, else you might end up feeling like doing a favour for her.
- Allocate Ownership : Mothers are a responsible creatures. As girls, we might not necessarily be. Once we give birth to a life, we get very conscious of tiny things at home. Having a bag of hand towels – one for baby’s mouth, one for baby’s sweat, one for baby’s face, one as baby’s bib and one for mommy. This must be a woman who was wiping her sweat on her dupatta during her teens. Once she gets the ownership & responsibility, look what happened to her. Try to implement that responsibility at work. Give her a manageable target and ownership to the task. She will definitely enjoy it and ensure to give 100% seriousness in the task.
- Provide Flexibility : This is the only point, you would have already thought about. Yes, all said and done, she needs a lot of flexibility. Come what may, her children are first for any working woman. So, give the required flexibility, be the supportive boss, try to help wherever possible. Adjust timing. You can rarely find a working mother staying late evening for a coffee chat with colleagues. She might be tempted but she will never do it due to personal commitments, so when she requests for a flexible option, genuinely try to enable as much as possible.
- Be Flexible : What is the difference between #3 and #4 ? While giving her flexibility talks about assigning a laptop, WFH options etc, be flexible is , when there is a call scheduled between both of you, consider her preferred timing. If you want a call by 8 pm, try to check with her , it might be the dinner time for her family and she would be taking that call with guilt and stress. Be the flexible boss who understands your subordinate.
- Acknowledge them : This is applicable for every team member, and for someone who might have taken a decision to work and stay committed, with all responsibilities back home, she needs that little claps to extend the miles. If you are a boss, scared of appraisal, be the leader who appreciates over simple emails and word of mouth. Most important is to acknowledge her USP to the colleagues. This is not just for the individual to feel good. This is for her peers to also acknowdledge her.
- Help them to acknowledge : In this entire process of her life, a working woman MUST have a great interpersonal skills and a free-politics relationship with her colleagues. As a leader, please guide her on mentoring where ever possible. Acknowledging the peers over emails. Learning from a colleague. These are simple gestures for a great professional team. Educate and encourage her. Never use ‘acknowledging others’ against her appraisal.
- Trust : I have had many asking, “if there are so many challenges, then why work?”. This is ofcourse a provoking question. Everyone has challenges. In our society, a man has very less chances of NOT going to work. A spinster likes to work for her identity and just after the educational qualification. A mother has HIGH CHANCES of quitting her job. If she continues to work, trying to balance her personal and professional life, it shows her passion and commitment. This also means she loves the job and looks forward to enjoy working. It is ok if others do not understand and accept this fact of her life. But it is important for her family and her boss to understand that , yes she is a working mother, she has her constraints, yet she is talented and loves to work. So, understand that and trust her.
There are two leaders who play a very important role in me, being a working mother today !
- #2, #4, #6 and #7 – I have learnt from my boss observing how she handles every team member special and different, in terms of allocating roles, colleagues encouraging each other, and most importantly TRUST factor. When I become like my boss Vakula, the first quality I would learn to acquire from her is the trust and allocating ownership. Such a right combo is needed to enjoy working for a boss.
- My previous team had four out of eight members as working mothers. I can write a book about how my ex-boss Maria Geo upskilled and elevated each of our unique competencies, made us admire each other and also learned from each other. Leadership itself is an art. Knowing the constraints of your team members and making them successful is a crown for your art. That is why I have dedicated my book GET READY LADY, (a motivational book for women rejoining work after their career break) to my ex-boss Maria Geo. If she had not slapped and clapped me during right times, I would have quit my job long ago.
Having all said above, there is one common mistake which working mothers do. The chapter “EXCUSES” in my book GET READY LADY talks about common excuses we speak at office and home, which puts us on the defending side.
Looking forward to read your ideas on the Simple Seven Tips above ! Cheers !