Being a leader of others is hard. Manager, boss, supervisor, ‘coach’…if someone reports to you in some fashion, you are being watched. What you say, how you say it and what you do becomes even more critical if those watching you are about to go through the life-altering, emotional rollercoaster of being a parent.
At TiLT we spend our days studying, supporting and working with companies and leaders of all shapes and sizes who are navigating parental leaves.
Here’s our top 5 list of things to do as the leader of a soon-to-be parent:
(1) Don’t think your journey to parenthood will be the same as your employees
People are unique beings and the path to having mini-humans is just as unique. Don’t project your assumptions, expectations or beliefs that you experienced x, y or z and so they will too.
(2) 70% of communication is non-verbal
No, really. How are your facial expressions, mannerisms, and reactions when discussing your employee’s leave or leave related topics? Be careful! Emerging parents’ ‘spidey sense’ is in overdrive and perception is reality.
(3) Don’t assume….ever
The greatest term we ever heard used for this phenomenon was, ‘benevolent discrimination.’ As a thoughtful, empathetic leader you may think to remove key work assignments that require long hours, travel, or stretch in some way from an expectant parent. You don’t want to stress them out or cause conflicting priorities ‘in their state.’ Stop yourself there. Ask them, don’t discount and never assume parenthood is synonymous with reducing drive.
This is a critical time in an employee lifecycle, much like a new hire’s first 90 days. Therefore, great managers should check-in, often. What are your expectations before, during and after the leave? And what are theirs? What is the backfill plan and how can you support that?
(5) Don’t stick to the status quo
Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is insane. This definition of insanity is a very real thing in the world of parental leave. Women are a long way away from gender parity in the workplace and if we continue to perpetuate ineffective practices and approaches to work-life integration, we will not see that progress accelerate for our daughters and granddaughters. Therefore, I beg you, think outside of the box, challenge your bias (we all have them), try something new when supporting your next expectant employee.
Last but certainly not least, let’s all recognize that parents are men and women. The division of maternity vs. paternity leave is antiquated. Level the playing field, encourage, require, role model- whatever you need to do in your organization to have men take their full parental leave. We beg you because we know, without question and backed by research, that increasing the utilization of paternity leave will be the single largest contributing factor to breaking down the maternal wall in the workplace and leveling the playing field for women.