The 3C’s – cakes, culture and CEOs

Thank God it’s Friday.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my work, but this week has been one of those where work and family seem to grapple for my attention like a couple of sparring boxers in a ring.  In one corner were client meetings involving significant travel, fabulous work to deliver, some high profile speaker opportunities and a panel debate where I was alongside some of the most inspirational CEOs I’ve worked with, all of us talking about culture and the impact people strategy has on performance.  And in the other corner is my daughter, who decides at 5am as I try and sneak past her bedroom door to catch the train, that she really doesn’t want mummy to go to work, thank you very much. Cue the guilt downpour – there’s people waiting in a room for me at the breakfast panel event so I can’t miss my train!

This was the day before the wonderfully worthwhile MacMillan coffee morning – the one that I’d also promised my support to, in the form of baked cakes as well as showing up and giving moral support to a dear, dear friend.  The school coffee morning also needed cakes and support in the form of showing up there.  Cue a rearranging of diary so that client calls can fit in pre and post said coffee sessions.  So it’s been an interesting week.

If this is ‘having it all’, I sometimes wonder why I don’t settle for a little bit less! Of course, it’s not just me who has to juggle the proverbial work-life balance.  I’ve got a big network of wonderful working mums who astound me with their own super-balancing skills. We’re all doing the best we can and that’s what struck me this week, as I frantically scanned my cupboard for baking powder whilst mentally running through my speech, is that as we jostle our way through the working week, we somehow seem to find the resourcefulness and creativity needed to get our work done in the best way possible.

It comes down to grabbing opportunities where we can for that quick catch-up call or shuffling our diaries to free up twenty minutes here or an hour there.  And it also comes down to being determined to make it work because we know that time well spent at work – in the most productive way –  means a little more time with our loved ones or supporting what matters in life.

Interestingly, at the panel debate yesterday, I met a senior leader who’s had an incredible career in the city. She thinks that, slowly but surely, there is a gradual tide of people turning their backs on big pay cheques with killer hours to match. She believes people are willing to walk away and instead do something they love, something that makes them want to get up and go to work in the first place.

When I reflect on that, I think every moment of juggling and organising is worth it to be doing something I’m passionate about every single day. I’m lucky, but there are still far too many employers out there who won’t step up to their work / life balance duties fearing loss of continuity and even productivity. Flexible working for some is just not accepted yet my experience shows an employer gets so much more back than they would imagine.  If the working mums that work for and with me are anything to go by, they actually represent an incredibly dynamic and resourceful workforce that are highly productive and deliver more than I expect.  And what employer doesn’t want that?

*Jane Sparrow runs a management and leadership consultancy and is author of The Culture Builders. Check out Jane’s blog here – it has tips and advice for managers and her website has tools, including video footage of leadership role models.

Picture credit: piyato and www.freedigitalphotos.net





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