During our coaching session Peter (not his real name) said: “The highlight of my week was picking up my six-year-old son from school … but he had to be quiet in the car on the way back because I had a weekly call with my boss at 15.30 and I was worried my boss would think I wasn’t working.”
The next week Peter’s boss told him he picked up his daughter twice a week and how important it was for him to be involved. Peter now had the confidence to ask his boss to change the time of their weekly call. His boss told him he didn’t mind what time the call was. Problem solved.
So often I find we are making assumptions about how work gets done. One of the most enduring is the notion that if you aren’t present (often physically) and responsive (particularly to emails) you aren’t working.
If you still belief in the Harder, Faster, Longer mantra you will probably feel guilty if you pick up your child during the working day. You’re also less likely to be explicit about it to those with whom you work. The result? It perpetuates a norm that does not result in better work or higher motivation of employees. Everyone loses.
Among those who do commit to being more involved with their children I notice much higher degrees of motivation and productivity. This is because they use a simple rule of thumb that works like this: “I need to get X and Y done today which I have already decided are important. So if I do A and B too that wastes my time and reduces how long I have to, say, help my daughter with her maths homework tonight.”
This approach lends itself to naturally questioning all the unnecessary ‘busyness’ to which so many of those I coach are addicted (for instance, the 50-page PowerPoint presentation which is presented once).