Have you ever thought about the transferable skills involved in being a parent?
While many mothers suffer a confidence setback after taking time out to look after children, Payal Gaglani-Bhatt says the opposite is the case. She has started up a blog which aims to show the synergies between being a parent and being a manager and to make the point that the transferable skills people develop through looking after children should not be underestimated.
Payal is Head of Events at SOAS University of London and is leading SOAS’ centenary celebration, public engagement and recruitment events. She has two children, aged three and nearly two.
It’s a full-on job, involving some travel and evening work, but it is also fairly flexible. She can work one day a month from home, has flexible start and finish times and gets time off if she does any evening work.
Payal is keen to encourage other women to take the step to senior positions and to realise they have many of the necessary skills.
Last year she started to write her blog, School of Mumagement. Initially she wanted to see if the idea had legs and she could sustain the parallel between being a mum and being a manager for several blogs. She found the process stimulating and says there was no shortage of ideas so she started publishing and promoting the blog in March.
Topics she has covered so far range from managing children who are sick/managing sick team members to potty training/managing change.
Payal is doing two blogs a week and plans to incorporate videos – one being targeted at managers and potential managers and the other at parents. “It’s early days so I am still experimenting,” she says. “It needs to be useful material and get people to engage.”
The challenge will be appealing to both audiences without alienating one or the other and to get out to the growing number of dads who may be facing similar confidence issues. For now, though, it is still mainly women’s careers which are held back by perceptions about parenthood and working, she says.
“I went to a women’s leadership programme which was full of really powerful women, but many of them said they wouldn’t apply for a job further up the career ladder. I was interested in why this was and the mental blockages women have about themselves and the different hats they wear,” says Payal. “Women are half the population of the world. I wanted to show that they can be both leaders at work and mothers.”
One issue, she says, is that there are not enough role models around of senior female managers with kids.
She would like to see women being more confident about how their parenting skills increase their management potential rather than the other way round. She cites examples around negotiating with colleagues/toddlers and change management/managing the different phases of children’s lives. With regard to the former, she believes treating children/colleagues as individuals is the best approach. “Treating children as individuals rather than as children changes how they respond and what you expect of them,” she says. “It opens up communication channels.”
She adds that she treats her young team in a way as she would her children. She wants them to develop and progress. “I see them as individuals with their own goals,” she says. “It’s what I also do as a parent.”
Payal, who commutes to work from Bedfordshire, believes she has become a better manager as a result of being a parent.
She cites parenting skills such as pre-planning, prioritising and resource and time mangement as vital in the workplace. “They become ingrained as a parent,” she says. “You do it naturally, but many people do not recognise this. It is not acknowledged. A lot of mums think they are just looking after their kids, but these soft skills they are developing make a big difference in the workplace.”