Agency life is all-consuming. Everyone knows that, and secretly the demands and the busy-ness are part of the appeal, part of what draws us to the profession in the first place. But how do agency life and family life go together without collateral damage?
We have to ask ourselves whether we are addressing changes in the lifestyle landscape appropriately. Do we fully understand the demands on our team members, both junior and senior, female and male, conventional, and non-traditional?
Becoming a Parent, Handling Life Changes at the Agency
I am the single parent of teenage twin girls. They are wonderful, truly the most important part of my life. But I am also a PR executive, which is the most demanding part of my life. (Yes, even more, demanding than two teenagers at home!)
I always knew I was going to be a parent. In my case, it was in a non-traditional way, but there are truths and challenges for anyone thinking about starting a family. Being a single parent, in particular, has its own special challenges. It’s all the stuff we know about but there’s more to it than that and while planning is key, not all of it can be planned.
A great example of planning is the safety net you need when you do client travel, have to stay late, or come in early. The way agency leaders can best respond to challenges like this can be to allow the employee to self-identify. Don’t assume the single parent can’t make the trip or can’t handle the load of a promotion or increased responsibility or accountability.
I’ve been blessed with wonderful and supportive bosses throughout my career but would like to see agencies do a better job promoting work-life balance. At Padilla we understand that as employees we have more to offer a client if we have rich lives outside the office.
Flexibility to have a life
Today’s agency business is very different from when I entered the field. Many agencies offer flexibility, which is in part due to employee demands, but also required by the always-on nature of our work. Employee empowerment has grown and employees bear the onus for communicating to employers in a mature, timely productive manner; playing the victim doesn’t benefit the employee, the agency nor the client.
This new flexibility requires proving oneself as a trusted, reliable employee at the agency. Flexibility and empowerment are earned not just handed to you. Because Padilla was an employee stock option company, we all proudly carried the responsibility as owners. Today, we still have some of this built in on a systemic basis, and that sense of ownership is key to creating engaged employees at all levels.
Senior leaders need to avoid conscious and unconscious bias
Don’t ever assume that someone can or can’t do something. Whether this is about kids or some other aspect or change in his or her life. Open conversations, in a mature, and respectful manner, are critical.
Failure to do so may not just be unfair to the employee about whom assumptions are being made but may result in an over-burdening of those employees who don’t have the same readily apparent bias sources.
Young talent should bring flexibility and curiosity
Don’t come in set on what you want to do. Come in with an open mind, flexibility, and a desire to explore. My own experience was broad from the very start of my career, and I think that’s been a benefit. Employees coming in with a belief that they do one thing, or want to do one thing, makes them less powerful, and less interesting. Be a sponge. Learn everything.
An employee is only as interesting as what they bring in to the office. Lead a rich life outside the office, pursue a broad base of experience inside the workplace. Be a communicator- advocate for yourself and earn the empowerment you seek. Laying this good foundation will serve you well when you add kids to the mix.
Finally, plan every aspect of your transition to parenthood. You know what they say about the best-laid plans but at least you’ll have a roadmap with clear objectives.
This blog post first appeared as part of “Agencies of the Future,” the PR Council’s initiative to help Members future-proof and grow their agencies. It was also recorded as an episode on the Agencies in the Future podcast. Listen to it here.
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