Archive for March, 2012

Professional Working Mums

How to big-up your language to show you mean business

As a professional working mum you need to be visible and cannot afford to be humble. Make sure you remove the words small, only, kind of, just and little when talking about your achievements. Dismiss phrases such as I only work part-time when you work three days a week.

Read more Female Breadwinners, March 2012, Suzanne Doyle-Morris

Work-Life Balance for Professional Working Mums

Is Work-Life Balance a Pipe Dream for Professional Working Mums

If you looked up to working mum Kate Redding as role model, I suspect you’d come to the conclusion that work-life balance is a pipe dream. Kate, the mum played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the film I Don’t Know How She Does It, does a fantastic job taking on responsibility for everything and everyone, leaving little time to do anything for herself. Just watching the film tired me out! But does it have to be that way? Are there no alternatives if you decide on a career AND a family?

At a recent women’s networking event I was horrified when I heard that one of top tips for getting ahead was to “work harder than your male colleagues, partner, husband, or brother.” Really? Is this what we are teaching the up and coming women in business? Aren’t we creating this burden for ourselves by promulgating such superwoman behavior? It’s not about working harder. It’s about working smarter and doing the keys things that matter in building a career. Since we’re not superwomen, we’re only humans, setting that as goal surely results in a lack of work-life balance.

Work-life balance is NOT a pipe dream, but there are 3 key ingredients which are often overlooked in making this aspiration a reality:

1. Keep yourself motivated and challenged revealed in a survey that the number one factor in determining whether a working mother was happy and felt she had balance was job satisfaction. Once we lose the buzz we get from our careers, the whole work-life dynamic falls apart.

How many women do you know who come back from maternity leave, feel side-lined, and subsequently give up. “What’s the point?” they begin to wonder. If they’re going to leave precious little ones in someone else’s care, the job has got to turn them on. I remember bumping into a neighbor on the train home from work. Her and her husband were amazed to see how chirpy and energetic I was at the end of a long day. The secret? I felt challenged in my corporate career – the things I was learning made life very interesting.

2. Map out a routine for maximizing your individual level of performance

Organize your easy and tough tasks and challenges around those peak performance times. Tackle the tough challenges when you feel at your best. For me it’s the first thing in the morning. My confidence and patience levels are up and my head is clear.

I learned this by trial and error and being aware of how productive I was (or not as the case may be) at which times. But, a key ingredient needs to be added here. In order to be at your peak at work, you also need to figure out how much exercise and other activity you need to do to keep your enthusiasm up at work. And not just that, you need to find strategies to make them really happen too. Take time to consider and experiment with what you really like to do in your personal time that re-energises you.

There’s so much focus on time management. However, it’s misplaced. We need to be focusing on managing our energy rather than our time.

3. Think Like a Business Owner

Point 2 leads really nicely into this point. At the end of the day, what does a good manager really care about? That’s right, performance. I recently gave a talk about how important it is to invest and enrich in both the personal and professional dimensions of our lives, highlighting that it’s having both parts that can help you achieve optimal performance in each. Huh? Simply put, by having a varied life you avoid getting burned out, whether it’s caring for an elderly parent, over-active children or a demanding career.

Dipping in and out of both lives makes you appreciate each part of your life and the benefits it brings. At the end of my talk an eager member of the audience asked, “But Christine, if I tell my boss how important my personal life is, he or she won’t get it, they won’t care.” I replied, “Well, your boss may or may not care, but that’s not the point. As your manager, your boss expects you to organize your life so you can be at your best. That’s YOUR responsibility. Your boss wants to know where you are on your projects.”

The best rule of thumb to use when thinking about how to blend our increasingly complex professional and personal lives is to think like a business owner. A business owner wants you to be as productive as you can and to manage your life to achieve this. Working 24 x 7, losing your enthusiasm, creativity and motivation isn’t good for you and it’s not good for the business.

Work-life balance is not a pipe dream. Like anything though, you’ve got to be strategic and focus on the most important parts or you’ll get lost in the detail.

Author: Christine Brown-Quinn. As a former managing director, wife and mother of 3, Christine Brown-Quinn shares her 20+ years experience in banking (as well as recent experience as an author and entrepreneur) and offers practical strategies on how to get the most out of your work & life. Christine’s recently published book Step Aside Super Woman… Career & Family is for Any Woman offers professional women time-tested advice on how to create work-life balance. She is also co-founder of the Women in Business Superconference series.

This blog is Part 4 of a 5-Part Series: ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’. Sign up for our monthly update to receive them directly into your mailbox – just enter your name in the top-right-hand box to sign up. 


Starting your own business? Redefine success

Starting your own business? Redefine success

If you are a working mum and have left a corporate life to start up your own business, have you redefined your criteria of success?

If you were working for a company for many years chances are your success criteria were defined by your role, your departmental objectives and the company’s targets. Or maybe not…..maybe you defined your own success based on job title, salary and benefits package, overseas trips, class of business travel and number of staff reporting to you.

So what happens when the constructs that we defined our success (and sometimes ourselves) by are no longer there?

Does this mean we aren’t successful?

Starting up your own business means redefining many things, finances, working location, tax status but often we forget to redefine how we will judge ourselves to be successful.

From my own experience and working with many Corporate Crossovers®, (women who have left corporate to start their own business) not redefining our success criteria can leave us with that nagging doubt wondering if we made the right decision to leave. And I believe this is even more so for working mothers. If left unchecked, it can also grow into vacillation about whether to stay self-employed or to go and get a ‘real’ job again.

Personally, I went through an 18 month period of wondering if I should ‘get real’ and get a job again and it wasn’t till I took stock and thought about what success meant to me now in my own business, did I realize how successful I was!

Taking stock for me involved:

  • examining what was REALLY important to me about the life I wanted to live (my values)
  • how much time I spent working now vs. before (daily hours and vacation)
  • my income
  • comparing my stress levels with now and before
  • focusing on myself and not comparing myself with former peers

After my period of reflection those years ago – I was stunned! Stunned at how much I was earning with low stress and lots more time. That was the real turning point for me to grab hold of my business with both hands and fully commit!

So whether you have just left corporate to start up your own venture or you have been doing it for some years, take some time to reflect deeply on what your success criteria are for you now.

Your say: I would love to hear how you define success now you have left corporate! Just leave a message in the comment box below.

Author: Wendy Kerr runs Corporate Crossovers, offering mentoring and training to those who have started their own business after a corporate career. Check out her website for more tips, resources and advice for business start-ups

How do mums returning to work find the right Executive Coach?

How do mums returning to work find the right Executive Coach?

Returning to work is a big step and an executive coach can certainly help you with this transition. But how do you find the right one for you?

Plenty of people claim they are a coach. The boundaries between life coaches, business coaches and executive coaches can often be blurred. As the profession itself is not protected, anyone can claim to be a helping mind – finding the right coach can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

An executive coach concentrates on you operating within a business context. A good executive coach should take a systemic approach taking all relevant factors – departments, business lines, business contexts, interacting organisations and your family background and current situation – into consideration. In the particular situation of return-to-work mums, it is also very useful to have a coach who can relate to the struggles you face with the balancing act of having children and pushing your career.

An executive coach supports you to achieve specific professional goals with the objective to enhance your corporate career. These include performance management, career transition, developing an executive presence, interpersonal and professional communication, organizational effectiveness, managing career and personal changes, dealing effectively with conflict, and building an effective team within your organization.


So what do you need to look out for when selecting an Executive Coach?

Industry Experience and Background

To help you get back into the swing of your career it will be helpful to work with a coach who has actually worked in a similar environment. The person should be able to relate to your business challenges, have an understanding of internal politics and corporate dynamics. The coach is there to help you develop a strategy for your career and navigate through the potential pitfalls. Not necessarily does a coach need to have worked in the exact same industry but certainly experience that is somewhat similar does help.

Credentials, Credibility and Professional Development

The training for becoming a coach can vary from a few days, which clearly is not enough, to a few years. Choose a coach who is fully accredited with one of the main coaching bodies. This will give you a reassurance that the person you work with has got a sound understanding of how people behave and change in a business environment. Also try to select someone who has a quality reputation in the industry, referrals or client testimonials can be helpful. If they are a good executive coach they are likely to be active and visible and belong to the right coaching bodies. For a coach it is also vital to ensure they continue their own journey of learning. You may want to check if they work with a supervisor and what training opportunities they have made use of recently.

The coaching bodies provide more information on finding a coach, and have a (searchable) directory of coaches in your area:

Logistics and Process

Some coaches insist that you come to their office, others are happy to travel to where you are, meet you in a coffee shop or even work by phone or Skype. There are pros and cons of all of these: a change of scenery can help you open up and find a new perspective to the issues you try to grapple with, while meeting the coach at your office can help you save travel time. You need to work out and discuss what works best for you.

The average length of a coaching assignment is between 3 and 6 months. Meetings are usually between 1 and 3 hours and it tends to be most effective to have them every 2 to 4 weeks. Most coaches offer a free introductory session with the purpose of establishing that both sides are comfortable to work with each other. Once you have agreed working together you then discuss in the next session your goals and objectives and possible length of the assignment. The exact process varies between coaches and goals you wish to achieve, so you need to discuss how you want to work with your coach.

Fees and payments

Depending on what you have agreed in terms of logistics – specifics of the assignment, where and how often you meet – fees can vary greatly. For an experienced executive coach you may get a discounted fee for a privately paid assignment starting from £150 pounds per hour, for a senior executive coach working with a CEO of a large organisation, rates per hour can be over £1000. This may sound extortionate but needs to be taken in context: one hour of coaching translates into three to four hours of work for the coach which includes preparation before and a review after each session as well as travel times. Also an experienced executive coaches who brings along a wealth of industry experience seeks to be paid in line with other activities they could undertake.

Data Protection, Confidentiality and Transparency

You are likely to discuss very private issues with your coach. Check your coach has a clear policy on how they treat and protect your information. Along with the rest of the process it should be transparent to you how your coach works and what approach and methods they apply to help you.

So there are a few things you may want to look out for when choosing the right executive coach. However, the bottom line is: you need to feel comfortable with the person who is supposed to help you in this important phase of your life. Ask yourself: do I trust the person, do I like her/him, can I see myself opening up to this coach and really sharing the way I feel? Only if you can build a sound rapport and trust with your executive coach will you both be in a position to challenge each other and provoke the necessary changes in your life which will help you move forward.

Author: Ulrike Dadachanji is an experienced executive coach. For over ten years she has been successfully coaching and mentoring senior leaders in banks and other large corporate organisations, entrepreneurs and high-potentials. Over the years working in large and small corporate organisations, Ulrike realised that the biggest obstacle to success tends to be a lack of understanding: of oneself, of one’s colleagues, or the business situation. Her mission is: help people and companies to work together better, raise their awareness and be more effective.


Are you looking to become a coach?

iPEC is now offering a course on becoming a coach in London. The programme starts 8-10 of March 2013. If you book using this link, you will support Mum & Career AND can bring a friend for FREE to the first weekend (value £950,-)