Thinking

5 lessons from a working mother in leadership

Bisha Chakravorty shares her learnings from being a mother of three and working full time as a Clarasys leader.

5 lessons from a working mother in leadership, featured image, clarasys

The Office for National Statistics states that "almost 3 in 10 mothers (28.5%) with a child aged 14 years and under said they reduced their working hours because of childcare reasons."1 Working and being a mother is simply not easy. Everyone's scenario is different and unique. In my eight years as a working mother, I have fielded a range of revealing questions. For example:

  • Can you really have a consulting career and be there for your children?
  • You must be the parent that skips sports day or doesn't attend the music concert?
  • Do your clients really allow you to work flexibly or part-time? 
  • How can you be a leader in your organisation and still make time for your children?

Don't get me wrong, some of these questions have made me stumble and I haven't quite got the answers to all of them yet. But over the years, I've learned five things that I would like to share with you: 

1) Leading my team vs leading my children

Leading my teams at work is far far FAR easier than leading my brood of three children who are eight, five and one. Luckily, my teams do not have my genes! Building excitement and encouragement are crucial to great leadership. I love to learn about my team as a whole, including their non-work selves. This helps me guide and tailor my leadership to suit the individual or group more effectively. Some may need more empathy, some may want lots of feedback, and some may even need coaching. Listening to your teams is crucial. They may know the answers but just need guidance to take them on a journey. This advice may not always work with getting my children out of the house on time for school. They need a lot more ushering (rather than guidance) and empathy, but we are still working on it!

2) Mother's guilt

There is endless material surrounding mother's guilt written by academics, all the way through to psychologists. The way I have managed my mother's guilt is to share the load. Asking for help was really hard at the beginning. I wanted to do everything myself. I've realised over time that in order to be my best as a working mother, both as a leader at Clarasys and a mother at home, I need to share and divide. This can include opening up to my team about sleepless nights or that my daughter hasn't been settling into nursery. Also having a support network outside of work has allowed me to feel empowered and that I don't need to make all the sacrifices. My husband and I equally share school runs and juggle all their activities. My calendar combines both my work schedule and my 'mum schedule'. There are some weeks when I consciously need to tip the balance but ensure I rebalance my priorities to my preferred harmony as soon as possible. Our culture at Clarasys allows me to be open and share if I am experiencing 'mother's guilt', and I have a huge support network from my People Partner, my coach, and my team who all help me keep my preferred balance.

3) Time management is a working mother's superpower

Pre-motherhood, I used to think I was the most efficient, hard-working consultant I could ever be. That was until I returned to work after my first child eight years ago. I then realised how much I could actually cram into a day, before and after the nursery runs. My productivity and efficiency were higher and I was making a huge impact and adding value faster to my clients; all within my set working hours. I had open conversations with my clients about my time commitments and regular check-ins to ensure the balance worked for us both. Now a working mother-of-three and a leader, I truly believe my superpower to be time management. Setting weekly goals and prioritising based on value and the impact I can deliver has allowed me to focus my attention where it is needed. Empowering and upskilling my teams on activities they can manage and lead on has freed up my time to coach and support. This approach has therefore allowed me to have time for school runs, attend sports days and parent's evenings, as well as go to client offices and meet people face to face.

4) Being authentic and transparent

Over recent years, I have gravitated my leadership style to be more authentic and transparent with my teams and clients. I want to inspire working mothers and encourage the next generation of female leaders. There are days when I feel like I’m at the top of my game. I've had a great day; my teams are happy, my clients are happy, and I've made the kids happy (they are the trickiest of customers). However, there are also days I am not doing my best and something is likely to have slipped. I may be emotional or stressed and that's ok. Being authentic has allowed me to show everyone around me that I may be a superhero at times, but at the end of the day, I am human, just like everyone else. This resonates not only with my team but with clients too. 

5) Empower your team (or child)

Leadership at Clarasys encourages us to empower and grow others. This aligns perfectly with my own values of helping others and teaching. Coaching and developing my teams and clients allows them to build confidence and skills but also allows me to free up my time to focus on my interests and passions. I can support the learning and growth of our consultants but also manage my time to work flexibly or prioritise the needs of all those around me. It is such a proud moment when you take your client through an empowering journey to achieve their own potential or see your team deliver a challenging outcome. As a true consultant, I have attempted these techniques at home with the kids to encourage independence and growth. Let's just say the results have had mixed success.

 

Juggling both work and children is a challenge whichever industry you work in, regardless of whether you work part-time or flexibly. Identifying your priorities and 'non-negotiables' lists are essential when trying to find your own balance. Sharing the load with your support network, whether that's at work or at home, is crucial for your own individual success. The final lesson I'm still learning as a working mother and have not quite mastered yet is to be kind to yourself. You are doing the best you can. Give yourself some 'me time' and get as much sleep as you can!

 

In this video, Bisha explains more about being a working mother as a consultant at Clarasys: 

If you'd like to join the Clarasys team, check out our current vacancies and apply today.

References

  1. Families and the labour market, UK: 2019
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