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The life of a Consultant – my first year

12 months ago life looked very different to what it does now.

I knew I was about to leave my big grown up job, but others didn’t.  I knew that it was time to enact my vision, a vision that I had worked on for two years prior.  And fundamentally I knew it was time.

My vision was risky.  It entailed me leaving a career that I had built over 20 years.  It meant losing aspects of my identity.  It meant stepping into who I am, fully, deeply and honestly.  It provided the opportunity to more deeply connect with the role of being a mother on a level previously unknown to me.

The learning curve was steep.

I was setting up a business for the first time.  I became the marketing, IT and finance department.    

I had to balance the excitement with pragmatism, the fear with courage and the doubts with optimism.

I tried many different strategies.  Some worked and some didn’t.  And that was just fine.  Because in my first year, I set out to try lots of different things.  My measures of success were not about making lots of money.    It was about feeling fulfilled as an individual.  My view on money and success is that it will come if you enjoy what you are doing, and you do an outstanding job.    

Having my vision, meant that when I had the opportunity to try something different, I knew what I was moving towards and I could focus on this rather than what I was leaving.  This felt extremely empowering.  I had put the time into really thinking about what I wanted, and I had control over when I enacted it.

The practical things I learned:

  • Treat your time as the most precious commodity you have, don’t waste it
  • Take time for self-care and integrate this as part of your life, daily- not as a one-off event
  • Keep a routine, just as you did when you were at work – this helps treat time respectfully
  • Ensure you have people to connect with regularly – being self employed can be lonely at times
  • Be generous with your advice – what you give you receive back in abundance
  • Have a vision with clear goals – this keeps you accountable and on track when boredom and procrastination hovers – and it does
  • Be honest with yourself – it’s the key to living a fulfilled life

I am thankful for the decision I made.  It ultimately allowed me to step into who I am, unencumbered.  It has enabled me to define who I am without the shackles of a job or career.  It has allowed me to integrate work and life fully and on my terms.

Let’s wear red

We are enticed to experience shock and frustration when a high-profile female leaves a senior role.  As females we are told that we can and should pursue careers, follow our dreams and raise children in the current system of work.  A system of work that was created for men with partners at home to manage households.  It has been in existence for over 100 years, with some changes, but just dents really in the context of making it successful for today’s families.  The latest high-profile female to quit her job is politician, Kelly O’Dwyer but many have gone before her on a similar path such as Em Rusciano, Jessica Rowe and Maddi Wright, all leaving media roles citing family reasons as one of the main catalysts.  Let’s not ignore the many, non-high-profile folk, including myself who have made the decision to step away from careers when we have been at the pinnacle, after having built what we perceived as “futures” for 15-20 years. 

“Having it all” is not really having it all.  Something always has to give.  The give often varies from family to family and individual to individual.  Combining work and parenting is exhausting, relentless and most of the time, sad as it is, we hurry and wish the years away in search of reprieve from the exhaustion and the very full calendars and schedules.  We seldom discuss the reality of working and parenting publicly though, as we post the most glorious 30 seconds (if that) of our day where there are smiles, beautiful meals and holiday snaps in our perfectly curated social media feeds. 

In the current system of work we are largely expected to work in structures and systems as if we don’t have kids or other commitments and responsibilities.  Hours in a senior role, hover around 60 hours per week, with workloads spanning across the entire 24 hour period of a day, because now they can.  We are under an illusion that because we can negotiate to arrive later or leave earlier we have “flexibility”.  In theory we do, because we have at least in some workplaces broken the back of being physically present for 38 hours per week in our workplaces, however waking at 5 am to get a couple of hours work in before the family wakes or logging back on at 9pm with a glass of red in hand has elongated the 8 hours per day into 18 hours.  It has made us more tired, irritable, overweight and disconnected from anything other than work.  We work whenever we can grab a moment, whenever the laptop, tablet or phone is nearby, and whenever we have distracted loved ones for long enough, so we can punch out another few emails. 

It therefore comes as no surprise whatsoever to me and many others who have also made the decision to walk away from all that comes with being a working parent when a female in a high-profile role quits.  The feeling of never having focus on one thing at a time, the guilt that permeates every single experience we have every day, because we got there late, we missed a personal or work milestone or we had to apologise for leaving early.  It’s the feeling of never being enough for our partners, our kids, our work, and above all ourselves.

It is now up to us to change the system of work.

It is up to us to work in a way that suits us.

It is up to us to ask why we would continue slogging away every day in the way we do, when there can be an alternative.

We can have a system of work where we are engaged to fulfil objectives of a role on our terms, in the hours and days we want, no questions asked.  Where sharing the same role with a colleague is as normal as having one person in the role.  Where if job sharing is a problem for your boss, it’s their issue to work through rather than yours. Where the working relationship consists of the objectives and outcomes of the job to be done. Where useless, time-wasting activities that currently constitute so much of the working week are abolished and real work is done.

Together, we can change the system of work.  The tipping point where they need us, rather than us needing them is almost here.  The war for talent is here. Our world is now a lot smaller, creating opportunities for us to work nationally and internationally without leaving our cities.

I would like to see a sea of red on Monday 18th February 2019.

I would like to see everyone that cares about changing the system of work so we can live healthier, more fulfilled lives in red.

If we really change the system of work, we will see a greater gender balance in senior roles across all industries in our country, we will achieve gender parity and we will increase the respect for women in our society. 

Julie Bishop started it, Kelly O’Dwyer has continued it and now I would like to see us all stand in red to demonstrate our commitment to changing the system of work for good.

18 February 2019

National “Change the system of work” Day

#wearred

New Year… Different approach to goal setting

New year

New goals

Progress

Movement

Bigger, stronger, faster, better

But what if it wasn’t?

What if a new year brought something different?

Smaller, slower, calmer, better

If you were feeling pumped about your big goals yesterday, and today you are feeling less enthused, perhaps take a moment to consider what you’ve set out to achieve.

I am all for setting big ambitious goals and working hard to achieve them, but sometimes we need to set big ambitious goals and work hard to achieve something different.

More time to stop, reflect, consider and move slower.

The expectation and anticipation that accompanies new year goals can be overwhelming, like you’re setting out to climb a big mountain.  At times we can feel exhilarated by this, but sometimes we don’t.  And that’s ok.

If you can, just pause in January.  There’s a whole year ahead. And on that topic, I’ve been thinking about 12-month goals… I prefer seasonal goals.  For a few reasons:

  1.  I like to adjust my goals to the seasons.  In the warmer months I’m drawn to different things than I am in the cooler months, so it makes sense to adjust my goals to the seasons, so I can feel optimal in mind and body
  2. I like to measure progress regularly, so I can adapt as I go… agile in practice
  3. Circumstances and feelings change – and so can my goals
  4. Minimises boredom of feeling “locked in” for 12 months

January is a great month to reflect and consider your vision, your story, your path.  In the quiet and calmness of reflection, our creativity and ideas tend to emerge.    Allow yourself time and space to feel this, so you can have clarity about what you want and need.

I wish you a fantastic year ahead, where you take big intentional deep breaths often and be calm knowing that all that you need, you already have within you. 

The leaky pipeline

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When I started my Phd research in 2014, I was introduced to the concept of the leaky pipeline.  No, I wasn’t engaging in further study about plumbing.  This leak was referring to the vast amounts of women that enter university, graduate, obtain roles and commence working at the same rate as men, but for different reasons, end up leaking out of those perfectly linear career trajectories.  You know the ones where you experience minimal if any career disruption?!

Organisations here in Australia and internationally are generally quite focused on trying to find ways to keep women in roles to avoid them leaking out.  We have sophisticated campaigns and comprehensive policies, so, if we are spending lots of time and money trying to fix the leakages, why are women still so underrepresented particularly in executive level roles in Australia?

There is a substantial body of existing research on the topic of working mothers, the impact of motherhood on careers, gender quotas and targets.   However, the research lacks a focus on the real reasons that women are under-represented in Senior Executive and Board roles.   There is limited research that analyses why women make the decisions they do in relation to their careers.

Only this week the Australian Financial Review published an article with three key female leaders advising on what we should do to “get ahead”.  The advice consisted of “setting goals, having confidence, being collaborative, being resilient and having a mentor”.  All good sound advice.  But high-level advice too.  It could apply to anyone really.

How about some advice on extreme fatigue, the lack of an ability to focus, smashed confidence, 24/7 guilt, having to take on more junior roles if choosing to work less hours, disingenuous flexibility entitlements or being overlooked for promotions due to working part time ?

These are the issues I hear in my coaching practice.

The question for all of us is what are we going to do about it?

I believe that real action in this area needs to involve a dramatic change to the system of work.

We still largely work in the same way that was set up at the start of the industrial revolution.  Why?  Do we need to?

I don’t think we do.

I think for many roles we could scrap the notion of “employment type” and measure people on output, not hours.  People should have the option to work where ever they like in non-customer facing roles.  It would be refreshing to have more executives that work different hours; not your traditional 50-60-hour weeks.  Imagine how productive workplaces would be if we engaged in actual work more often and had less unnecessary meetings which make up the huge hours we work.

We are slaves to the current system of work.  And we are no better for it from a physical and mental health perspective.

I congratulate organisations that are genuinely trying to address the issue of an underrepresentation of females in senior executive and board roles.  However, I think we are pushing the proverbial uphill until we turn the system of work on its head.

Everything else has largely been disrupted. It’s time to disrupt this.