“For a long time, I felt conflicted by the fact that I changed. I can still work to be the best. But the way it happens, is very different. I might have a couple of weeks that are really intense and I’m doing more work than life. But then, I have a couple weeks where I’m doing more life, and less work. Measuring ourselves on every day or hour is exhausting. We have to look bigger. Like over the course of a quarter or year. And I challenged my team to do the same thing. If you have one bad, foggy or slow day, that’s okay. Because in the grand scheme, you’re going to deliver incredible things. So, it’s about acceptance, some grace and forgiveness,” said Jess Podgany, Entrepreneur, Future of Work Advocate and Expert.
We’re taught that good work equals hard work. And long hours. Which puts pressure on how we show up. Although we work differently, to deal with wild schedules, it doesn’t mean we’re less effective. Countless studies show parenting builds new competencies and leadership skills. So, even if your manager doesn’t see that, meaningful work rarely happens in isolation. Artful collaboration with colleagues, partners or clients, can be your key to growth. So, how can you effectively enlist support, within a team?
Open Up. If Possible, Start With Your Manager
Okay, it’s probably not a surprise that Mothers lack psychological safety in most workplaces. In our pandemic study, only 3% say they can ask for what they really need from their managers. This is in part because representation for women in leadership still isn’t there. And few corporate cultures tolerate the messy reality of caregiving. So, how do you honor yourself? Jess explains, “If you have some wiggle room, say ‘here’s what motivates me about work. So, if you’re trying to get me to do something, this is why I’m here. This is why I want to work, and what I want to learn. So, give me opportunities to learn those things.’ That also helps the organization.”
Paint Your Ideal Work Picture
Most workers want more time and location choice. And at this stage of the pandemic, leaders need to be prepared for conversations about flexibility. Jess said, “Think of a few statements to share with your manager. One is, if you can dream for a minute, what would be the ideal schedule for you? That includes hours of the day when you’re unavailable and where you want to be working.”
Sharing your desires as a ‘dream sequence’ isn’t as weighty or formal as an ask. And helps reduce possible friction from the response. She added, “If they respond like, ‘I don’t care about any of this’ then start looking for a new company. Because clearly, they have closed their minds off to the idea of being a people first leader.”
Allow Yourself to Think Big
Jess said think through your setting-of-choice, “Is it at home? Is it in an office or is it some combination? Or is it working from a coffee shop or a coworking space? And frame it as, ‘if I could dream, and somehow, we could implement what the whole company was going to do, this would be perfect for me. And here’s why.’ You don’t go into that conversation with the expectation you’re going to get that. But go into that conversation, with an expectation, that your manager will understand you more. Because you expressed that information.”
Be Transparent About Who You Are
Transparency is among the best ways to advance inclusion. Because it liberates people from having to guess the answers. But it’s still rare for leaders to be clear about what they expect and why. But remember, work is happening in community more often. On project teams, in departments, employee resource groups and committees. So, you don’t have to play that way. And can build stronger communication with your peers.
Jess’ company has digitized the concept of the personal operating manual. To make disclosing preferences, easier, and more actionable. Because people bring much more than their titles into what they do. And we bond on all sorts of non-work topics. She said, “Profiles include things like hobbies, favorite food, pets and communities, that are important to you.” So open up about what you like, when the opportunities present themselves.
Understand Different Communication Styles
We need to feel heard. And whether it’s formal or informal, finding your path to impact within a group, can feel daunting. Jess explained, “You may have a team of very direct communicators. And maybe it’s one or two people who have said they’re passive in terms of the way they communicate. You can take that at face value and make it a negative thing. But we highlight it as a positive. Because people who tend to be more passive on the team listen more intently and thoughtfully. So, if someone is an outlier with this strength, capitalize on that.”
And How it Matters
There is no ‘best’ communication style. What works, depends on the context or possibly your mood. Jess said, “So, you might need to watch out if you have a team of passive communicators when you need to make a rapid decision. With that awareness, you can say ‘alright, some may prefer to listen here. But we need to talk this out and we need to get to a decision point.’ But if you know, then you’re able to take action on that.” Amen.
And optimize your connection, as a group member or leader. She added, “There’s a way here to lean into the differences as strengths. So, people can feel like, ‘wow I’m adding something to this team. I’m a part of this team and feel great about that because I am different.’ Everyone in an organization is there for a reason and we want to amplify that.
And Advocate for Better Outcomes
Jess said, “I think changing the way we look at work will be very grassroots. So, we need to keep challenging the status quo. Because organizations like having policies, standards and knowing that everyone is plugging into the same set of rules. And it’s not realistic for where we’re headed. So, we need employees to help push the bounds of what’s possible. And to demonstrate that it can be a win/win on both ends.”
There’s so much tension trying to manage human difference. Especially in the workplace, where we are often tasked to make things happen, with people that we barely know. But many of us are super collaborative and caring, which are traits of strong leaders. So, go on, bring your gifts into each conversation. Whether you manage people, teams or projects, directly or indirectly. There’s an opportunity to shine and do meaningful work.
Many thanks to the talented Jess Podgajny!
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Jess Podgajny is a mom, culture curator, podcast host, and the co-founder & CEO of LLUNA – the TeamOS for hybrid and remote employers, combining personal user manuals and smart team dashboards to optimize how teams work together. Her passion for people and business fuels her mission to personalize the future of work. Jess and her family live in suburban Philadelphia.