I caught up with the very excellent Bev Lockwood today, Bev is a former colleague from Big 4 consulting days and now a fantastic executive coach motivated to help women and men thrive in organisations by being authentic and getting the fit between career and, well, life that they want.
So apart from shamelessly promoting Bev as a great coach (particularly if you are based in Yorkshire and 'above', although she will travel South, with encouragement!) our catch-up made me think about how a bit of independent support to work through the kind of work/life you want at pivotal career moments can be a very good thing.
I'm not coming over all 'Lean-In' here (by that I mean in the Sandberg-esque sense of 'women, fix yourselves, all that's holding you back is your own ambition') a position that I am not wholly comfortable with - more on THAT another time - but I can see how getting a bit of independent support to talk through what life you want to lead, what career you want to have is useful particularly around maternity and paternity leaves and negotiating flexibility.
What makes that 'bit of support' turn into something really useful is if it is informed and intelligent about the realities of how your upcoming temporary absence might be interpreted by bosses and co-workers. It's not all good news there I'm afraid, the maternal body does still send a bolt of anxiety through even the more enlightened manager - will they be coming back? who will do the work? will they want part-time? So support that goes 'if that's what you want, you just have to say it' with all the confidence that strategy requires, falls a bit short in my book.
But as the workplace continues to change and a more diverse range of views and experiences are around the top-table those difficult work/life conversations will get easier, but for now, they aren't always as easy as they might be. From April 2015 it is prospective dads AND mums who will need to have those conversations because fully flexible maternity leave will be here. Watch this space!
So I think a bit of intelligent support to work through how to manage those conversations such that you gain a sense of control over your work and life, and that you remain optimistic rather than anxious about your impending leave or change of work pattern can be a good thing. Whether you get it from a partner, a parent, friends, mentors, or indeed a coach.