One thing that being a parent has taught me is to live in the moment. At home that is borne out in many different ways, some positive and some negative. A positive; watching my 3 year old daughter fast asleep clutching her much-loved teddy. A common but repeatedly frustrating negative; could you get your shoes on please guys? Guys can you get your shoes on now please? Guys get your shoes on – please! Right shoes on…NOW! That moment which I’m sure every parent can relate to, is not one of my best.
What’s that got to do with my work? Well it has to do with how it has shaped me and influenced how I approach my work. Part of what I do at CFR Global Executive Search is to facilitate feedback with candidates about their Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ). Before I became a mum I considered myself to be a fairly confident, relaxed and energetic professional. I loved my job (I still do) and my career was very important to me. Almost 6 years down the line and my career is still important to me but my family is so important to me. When I reflect upon my previous OPQ and my OPQ now, there are some significant changes that I feel can only have been influenced by this massive, life changing event. For example I am now incredibly organised and forward thinking – I have to be. Many of my waking moments at home are spent asking myself what next? Who is picking my son up from school today or who is taking my daughter to ballet? What are they going to eat tonight? How will we manage to get tea/homework/bath done and still get them to bed at a reasonable time? I am also much less ambitious and competitive – I am still very driven but I certainly feel that the ambitious goals that motivated me previously can wait a little.
Less surprisingly I am more of a worrier now, and sadly a little less conscientious as I learn to juggle my responsibilities and to quickly switch from one priority to another; not necessarily always to the standards I would like and to which I would have achieved previously. I suspect many parents can relate to this. Having said that, becoming a parent has definitely helped me to develop aspects of my own behaviour. When I’m talking a candidate through their OPQ feedback I plan differently for the session and I am 100% focused on that moment. Their OPQ feedback is so important and for some it is a time of anxiety, and can evoke strong feelings. For some it is nerve-wracking – for those who are particularly modest, or who feel awkward when meeting somebody for the first time it can be a cause of concern and worry. For others who find it difficult to trust others it can be difficult to place your faith in a complete stranger and if you prefer working with data over people then this can all seem very abstract. So I make it my business to get to know our candidates. Before a feedback session I will consider how they might feel – if they have identified a preference for work that involves routine over variety then I will add more structure to the session; if they are less comfortable talking, and dislike being the centre of attention then I will ask questions in such a way to make this easier for them; if they’re data driven then I focus on the numbers. I try to understand how they will feel being asked to open up to a complete stranger about themselves and use their own reported strengths to plan the most appropriate session for them. I focus 100% on the candidate throughout their session and switch my brain off from the noise in my head associated with being a parent. I would like to think that this has made me better at delivering feedback. On a personal level I get a real sense of satisfaction in helping somebody to understand themselves better and to talk about how this relates to their own job satisfaction. For some, this is a journey in itself.
So becoming a parent has no doubt changed me, and no doubt at times it is a bit of a hindrance as I juggle my work/family/social life but ultimately I believe it has helped me to become better at my job.